173 countries agree to slash shipping industry emissions in historic deal

April 13, 2018 by  
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Shipping was the sole industry excluded from the 2015 Paris Agreement , even though the sector’s annual carbon emissions are higher than those of Germany  — and countries now plan to address that. 173 nations just agreed to a historic, mandatory deal to slash shipping industry emissions . Related: World’s first autonomous shipping company launched in Norway One week of negotiations at an International Maritime Organization (IMO) meeting in London yielded this landmark deal. Envoys of 173 countries agreed to reduce emissions at least 50 percent from 2008 levels by 2050. Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United States objected. Shipping vessels tend to burn fuel oil, which is cheap but also one of the dirtiest fossil fuels . According to Bloomberg , the industry didn’t factor into the Paris agreement because each participating country presented its own plans to curb emissions, excluding the seas. University College London Energy Institute reader Tristan Smith told Bloomberg, “It is likely this target will tighten further, but even with the lowest level of ambition, the shipping industry will require rapid technological changes.” BREAKING: Commitment to decarbonise shipping is welcome – governments can no longer shirk decisions on how to cut ship GHG emissions https://t.co/7Bh4pWIO04 pic.twitter.com/mEp3t36zSM — Transport & Environment (@transenv) April 13, 2018 “Making new ships emit less CO2 is the most obvious way to decarbonize the sector because ships have long lifetimes, usually around 25 to 30 years,” shipping officer Faig Abbasov of European NGO Transport & Environment told Bloomberg. “If you don’t build ships more efficiently, those ships will still be sailing around in the middle of the century.” As with the Paris Agreement , some people are saying this new deal doesn’t go far enough. A statement from the Clean Shipping Coalition (of which Transport & Environment is a member) said the target set “falls short of the 70 to 100 percent cut by 2050 that is needed to align shipping with the goals of the Paris Agreement.” Transport & Environment shipping director Bill Hemmings said, “The IMO should and could have gone a lot further but for the dogmatic opposition of some countries led by Brazil, Panama, Saudi Arabia. Scant attention was paid to US opposition.” + Clean Shipping Coalition Statement Via Bloomberg Images via Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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173 countries agree to slash shipping industry emissions in historic deal

Study suggests the average person consumes 70,000 microplastic bits every year

April 10, 2018 by  
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“ Plastic: it’s what’s for dinner.” Plastics are polluting the world’s waterways – and they’re also found in abundance in the average person’s gut. Researchers in the United Kingdom have determined that the average British resident consumes, on average, 70,000 bits of microplastic every year. In a study published in the journal Environmental Pollution , scientists positioned sticky petri dishes next to dinner plates in several British homes. After only twenty minutes, an average of 14 microplastic bits gathered in each petri dish. The researchers then used this data to estimate that each dinner plate accumulates roughly 100 pieces of microplastic, originating from clothing, tires, carpets, and any number of plastic products encountered in daily life. The dinner plate study that produced these results was initially designed to test the level of plastic contamination in seafood. “These results may be surprising to some people who may expect the plastic fibers in seafood to be higher than those in household dust,” study author Ted Henry said in a statement . “We do not know where these fibers come from, but it is likely to be inside the home and the wider environment.” Free-floating plastic found in households also attracts other toxic pollutants. Meanwhile, global plastic production continues. Unless something is done, global plastic waste is expected to reach 12 billion metric tons by 2050. Related: First plastic-free supermarket aisle opens in Amsterdam Dinner plates are not the only medium through which microplastic bits enter the human body. The average glass of tap water in the United States contains 4.8 fibers of plastic, while the same amount of tap water in Europe contains 1.9 fibers on average. Bottled water actually fares worse in plastic content, with each bottle containing twice as many particles as the equivalent amount of tap water. Via Global Citizen Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Study suggests the average person consumes 70,000 microplastic bits every year

Stricter climate regulations could save 150 million lives worldwide

March 21, 2018 by  
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Researchers have calculated that stronger climate regulations across the globe could help prevent up to 150 million premature deaths. Much of the public health benefits of strictly regulating greenhouse gases would be concentrated in South Asia, with nearly 13 million lives spared in large Indian cities alone if air pollution is curtailed. Cairo, Egypt and Lagos, Nigeria would also experience more than 2 million fewer deaths under strong international greenhouse gas regulation. While the Clean Air Act has improved public health outcomes in the United States, hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved in the cities of Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta , Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and Washington if stricter greenhouse gas regulations were implemented. “Americans don’t really grasp how pollution impacts their lives,” study lead author Drew Shindell told the Washington Post . “You say, ‘My uncle went to the hospital and died of a heart attack.’ You don’t say the heart attack was caused by air pollution, so we don’t know. It’s still a big killer here. It’s much bigger than from people who die from plane crashes or war or terrorism, but we don’t see the link so clearly.” Related: Despite Trump’s rhetoric, US officials are still working to stop climate change To determine the public health benefits of stricter greenhouse gas regulations, the research team created computer simulations of future emissions and pollutants. According to a statement , they then “calculated the human health impacts of pollution exposure under each scenario all over the world — but focusing on results in major cities — using well-established epidemiological models based on decades of public health data on air-pollution related deaths.” However promising the benefits of strong climate change regulations may be, time is running out, says Shindell. “There’s got to be a significant amount of progress within the 2020s or it’s too late.” Via the Washington Post Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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Stricter climate regulations could save 150 million lives worldwide

Ryan Zinke claims wind energy contributes to global warming

March 15, 2018 by  
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Wind turbines kill up to 750,000 birds every year, according to Donald Trump’s Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. There’s one problem with that figure: it’s grossly overstated. Zinke also condemned wind power for its carbon footprint — which he said is significant. Zinke said he is “pro- energy across the board” at the CERAWeek energy industry event recently — but slammed wind power, according to EcoWatch . He said production and transportation of turbines contributes to global warming , but TIME said he overstated the case — especially when compared against other energy sources. They said scientists estimate that during the life cycle of a wind turbine, the typical plant produces “between .02 and .04 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. Even at the high end, that’s less than three percent of the emissions from coal -generated electricity and less than seven percent of the emissions from natural gas -generated electricity.” Related: New evidence shows oil and coal were central in the decision to reduce Bears Ears And it is true that wind turbines kill birds, but not as many as Zinke claimed. Take it from the National Audubon Society : director of renewable energy Garry George said wind turbines kill between 140,000 to 328,000 birds per year. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service , which is part of Zinke’s department, has a chart on “Top Common Human-caused Threats to Birds” in the United States with the median/average estimated figure for collisions with wind turbines at 328,000. Meanwhile, cats kill an estimated 1.85 billion birds, building glass 676.5 million birds, and oil pits 750,000 birds. (Those are the median/average estimated figures; see the minimum to maximum ranges on the chart here .) Zinke told his audience of people from oil-producing countries and energy companies, “Interior should not be in the business of being an adversary. We should be in the business of being a partner.” Vox sees it differently. In their view, Trump’s interior secretary spent his first year in the position selling off the rights to America’s public lands . Via TIME and EcoWatch Images via American Public Power Association on Unsplash and Wikimedia Commons

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Ryan Zinke claims wind energy contributes to global warming

This French art collective is building the world’s largest hanging garden

March 15, 2018 by  
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French art collective Les Machines de L’ile is embarking on plans to build the world’s largest hanging garden – which will be on the scale of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Nantes-based design team is currently working on what they are calling The Heron’s Tree – a massive interactive garden that will span more than 160 feet in diameter and 114 feet high. The “mechanical menagerie” will invite guests to climb the labyrinth-like branches and ride one of two mechanical herons on flights that provide a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding Loire Valley. The Heron’s Tree, which is currently under construction on the banks of the Loire Valley, is actually the third part of a massive artistic endeavor called the Island’s Machines, which the artists began back in 2007. Inspired by the works of Jules Verne and Leonardo Da Vinci, the artistic project includes The Grand Elephant and the Machine Gallery, as well as the Carousel of Sea Worlds. The concept revolves around a mechanical collection of giant wild animals that roam around the world’s landscape. The project will include a large steel tree, weighing about 1,500 tons and spanning 165 feet wide. Twenty-two wide branches will be built as walkways that will be accessible from a helix staircase inside the tree trunk. Jutting out from the trunk at various heights, visitors can explore the tree’s many greenery-lined paths, which create a lush ecosystem of hanging vegetation . Related: Calatrava’s Dubai observation tower resembles the Hanging Gardens of Babylon About 115 feet above the tree top, there will be two platforms where visitors can climb aboard two massive herons. The herons will take the passengers on a circular ride soaring over of the large tree, providing a stunning 360-degree view of the Loire Valley. Created by artists Francois Delaroziere and Piere Orefice, the interactive art installation will be located on the banks of the Loire River – a significant location for the artists. “Inspired by the worlds of Jules Verne and Leonardo Da Vinci, it is an unprecedented artistic project. After the Grand Elephant and the Machine Gallery in 2007, the Carousel of the Sea Worlds in 2012, the Heron’s Tree is the third phase of the Island’s Machines. Coming out of the minds of François Delaroziere and Pierre Orefice, it will be located along the banks of the Loire River, a few meters away from the house Jules Verne spent his teenage years in and where Jean-Jacques Audubon grew up and drew his first herons.” The Heron’s Tree is the latest phase in the art ambitious project, which is scheduled for completion in 2022. The 35 million euro project is being funding partially by public funds, but the artistic team behind the project is seeking additional funding through a Kickstarter campaign . + Les Machines de L’ile Via This is Colossal Images via Les Machines de L’ile

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This French art collective is building the world’s largest hanging garden

Trump fails to evade climate change lawsuit filed by 21 youths

March 8, 2018 by  
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21 young people have been taking on the United States government over climate change in the lawsuit Juliana v. U.S. since 2015, and President Donald Trump failed at attempts to dodge them. The plaintiffs just won a victory: the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the case can indeed move towards a trial, Bloomberg reported . 21-year-old plaintiff Kiran Oommen said in a statement , “The question of the last few years has not been ‘do we have a case’ but rather ‘how far will the federal government go to prevent justice.’ We have seen that they are willing to go to many lengths to cover up their crimes and maintain the status quo, but not even the Trump administration can go far enough to escape the inevitable tide of social progress.” Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Trump administration’s “drastic and extraordinary” petition for writ of mandamus in the landmark climate lawsuit, Juliana v. United States, brought by 21 youth supported by Our Children’s Trust. The Court ruled that the Juliana case can proceed toward trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon and that the Trump administration had not satisfied the factors necessary for an extraordinary writ of mandamus. #youthvgov A post shared by Our Children's Trust (@youthvgov) on Mar 7, 2018 at 12:13pm PST The 21 plaintiffs — mostly teenagers , according to Bloomberg — say the government, in backing a climate change-inducing energy system, has violated their rights to property, liberty, and life, and hasn’t protected vital public trust resources. Barack Obama’s administration first attempted to extinguish the case in 2016, according to Bloomberg, and the Trump administration said the case is based on “utterly unprecedented legal theories.” Bloomberg said they utilized a rare procedural maneuver to contend a federal judge overstepped her authority — in 2016, she refused to dismiss this case. But the three-judge panel at the Ninth Circuit was unanimous, deciding the issues the federal government raised are “better addressed through the ordinary course of litigation.” Jacob made a sign, had his photo taken with his sign, & now it's posted online. Be like Jacob. #youthvgov A post shared by Our Children's Trust (@youthvgov) on Feb 6, 2017 at 3:05pm PST Related: Trump tries to keep 21 kids’ climate change lawsuit from going to trial Julia Olson, co-counsel for the plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children’s Trust , one of the organizations supporting the kids, said the Ninth Circuit’s move signaled a “green light for trial.” She said they’ll ask for a trial date in 2018. The question of the last few years has not been “do we have a case” but rather “how far will the federal government go to prevent justice.” We have seen that they are willing to go to many lengths to cover up their crimes and maintain the status quo, but not even the Trump administration can go far enough to escape the inevitable tide of social progress. The Ninth Circuit’s decision affirms that we are on the side of justice, and for justice we are moving forward. #seeyouincourt #youthvgov #julianavsus #ourchildrenstrust A post shared by Kiran Oommen (@kiran_oommen) on Mar 7, 2018 at 1:20pm PST Oommen summed it up this way: “We’ll see you in court.” + Our Children’s Trust Via Bloomberg Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr

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Trump fails to evade climate change lawsuit filed by 21 youths

New hybrid solar panel harvests energy from raindrops

March 8, 2018 by  
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A team of Chinese engineers have created a new hybrid solar panel that can also harvest energy from raindrops. This new technology takes advantage of the triboelectric effect, the electrical charge of certain materials after coming into contact with a different material. Triboelectric nanogenerators (TENGs) deliberately create this charge through friction and may someday be used to capture static electricity as energy from a variety of materials, including clothing, car wheels, or touch screens. For the moment, TENGs are successfully being used to capture the latent energy of raindrops. To create a TENG, the team added two transparent polymer layers on top of their solar panel. The upper layer polymer is made from polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) while the lower layer is composed of poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene):poly(styrenesulfonate) (PEDOT:PSS). To increase the TENG’s efficiency, the polymer layers were imprinted with grooves modeled on the data side pattern of DVDs. When raindrops fall, they push the top layer into contact with the lower layer, which then acts as an electrode between the TENG and the solar panel . Related: The cost of high-efficiency solar panels fell 37% in 2017 Although the resulting electricity produced by the TENG-enhanced panel is relatively small, it nonetheless proves that such a device works and could be scaled up with further research. While this is not the first instance in which a TENG has been incorporated into a solar panel, the team describes their device as simpler, more streamlined and easier to manufacture than previous models. Theirs emphasizes the abundance of energy that exists all around us, which only needs to be harnessed to step closer towards a true clean energy economy. Via New Atlas Images via Depositphotos and ACS Nano

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New hybrid solar panel harvests energy from raindrops

Trump Administration decides to allow import of elephant trophies after all

March 7, 2018 by  
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The Trump Administration has decided to quietly reverse its ban of imported elephant trophies, instead stating the issue should be decided on a “case-by-case basis.” In November 2017, President Trump decided to publicly oppose the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to lift a ban on imported elephant trophies from certain African countries. Trump later tweeted that others in favor of lifting the ban would “be very hard pressed to change my mind that this horror show in any way helps conservation of Elephants or any other animal.” Apparently, changing Trump’s mind was not as difficult as he made it out to be. The decision on the big-game trophy import ban is only the latest instance of President Trump changing his mind — without explanation — on an important issue. His positions on immigration and gun control have also wildly oscillated, depending on to whom he had last spoken. Even as recently as late January, Trump defended his decision to maintain the ban. “I didn’t want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back into [ the United States ],” said Trump in an interview . “[The decision to reverse the ban] was done by a very high-level government person. As soon as I heard about it, I turned it around.” It is not clear whether Trump once again changed his mind or if his government slipped one past him while the President was distracted. Related: Trump bewilders scientists, says ice caps are “setting records” In a rare moment of agreement, both President Trump and environmentalists have expressed skepticism as to whether the elephant trophy fees raised by countries such as Zimbabwe actually fund the conservation efforts they are intended to support. “A lot of the money has been siphoned away by corruption,” explained Rachel Bale, a wildlife reporter for National Geographic, explained on NPR’s Morning Edition , “so there are serious concerns with hunting management in Zimbabwe.” “In that case, the money was going to a government that was probably taking the money, OK?” said Trump in an interview. Ultimately, that skepticism was not enough to maintain the ban. “The Trump administration is trying to keep these crucial trophy import decisions behind closed doors, and that’s totally unacceptable,” Tanya Sanerib of the Center for Biological Diversity told the AP . “Elephants aren’t meant to be trophies; they’re meant to roam free .” Via NPR Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Trump Administration decides to allow import of elephant trophies after all

New evidence shows oil and coal were central in the decision to reduce Bears Ears

March 2, 2018 by  
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Despite lip-service to the contrary, new evidence reveals that oil and mining played a central role in the decision to reduce Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke has repeatedly stated that mineral extraction was not a factor in drawing up the new boundaries for the monuments, but documents obtained by the New York Times show that this is untrue, and that Zinke – along with Utah Senator Orrin Hatch – encouraged removing protections from areas known to have oil, coal or uranium deposits. Documents show that in March 2017, Hatch asked the Interior Department to look at the boundaries of Bears Ears in order to “resolve all known mineral conflicts.” In May, Bureau of Land Management officials asked for information on a uranium mill within the monument. The resulting map, which was drawn to exclude protected areas that were thought to contain minerals, is almost exactly the same as the map Trump unveiled as he cut the size of Bears Ears. Documents also show that Zinke’s staff used coal deposit estimates when determining which parts of Grand Staircase-Escalante should be excluded from protection. “The Kaiparowits plateau, located within the monument, contains one of the largest coal deposits in the United States,” a Spring 2017 Interior Department memo said. Staff members were asked to research “annual production of coal, oil, gas and renewables (if any) on site; amount of energy transmission infrastructure on site (if any).” Minerals weren’t the only determination used in changing the boundaries. Cattle grazing and timber were also factored in. When Trump reduced the national monuments, the Bureau of Land Management started to ramp up for a practice known as “chaining” in Grand Staircase-Escalante. Chaining involves putting a large chain between two bulldozers, which then move through forests to destroy native vegetation and open the land for cattle – a devastating practice that decimates the local environment. Related: President Trump shrinks Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante monuments by 2 million acres Zinke claimed in December that he had recommended reducing the size of Utah’s protected areas because he wanted to take “an approach in which we listen to the voices of the people, not Washington, D.C., special interests,” citing the fact that Utah government leaders were opposed to the designation of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. While about half of Utahns want Bears Ears reduced , a vast majority oppose the break-up of Grand Staircase-Escalante. Local Utah leaders have sought to reduce the monuments since they were established in order to generate money by leasing the land – but even they were surprised by the size of the ultimate reduction. “Obviously they were looking at facts other than the ones we had raised, we assume,” said John Andrews, associate director of the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration. Despite Zinke’s language, it was clear early on that mining and oil extraction were the real focus for reducing the national monuments. In December it was revealed that large Uranium firms were lobbying for access to the areas . At the time, Zinke denied that energy extraction was a factor in the decision-making process. “This is not about energy. There is no oil and gas assets. There is no mine within the Bears Ears…” he said. Via The New York Times Images via Patrick Hendry and the BLM

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New evidence shows oil and coal were central in the decision to reduce Bears Ears

Solar and wind energy could meet 80% of US electricity demand

February 28, 2018 by  
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Fourth-fifths of the United States’ electricity demand could be met with wind and solar power , according to four researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science , University of California, Irvine (UCI), and the California Institute of Technology . UCI associate professor Steven Davis said in a statement , “The fact that we could get 80 percent of our power from wind and solar alone is really encouraging. Five years ago, many people doubted that these resources could account for more than 20 or 30 percent.” The scientists scrutinized global hourly weather data between 1980 and 2015 data to grasp the geophysical barriers to utilizing solely those renewable sources, and think if the United States were to draw only on solar and wind, they’d need to store several weeks’ worth of power to make up for those times when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing. According to Davis, the US could reliably obtain around 80 percent of electricity from wind and solar power “by building either a continental-scale transmission network or facilities that could store 12 hours’ worth of the nation’s electricity demand.” Related: Abundant solar threatens fossil fuel companies in Texas to the tune of $1.4 billion It wouldn’t be cheap to invest in expanding transmission or storage capabilities, but the researchers said it’s not inconceivable. They estimate new transmission lines required could cost hundreds of billions of dollars, while storing that amount of electricity with the cheapest batteries today could cost over one trillion dollars, but prices are dropping. Carnegie Institution for Science’s Ken Caldeira said, “Our work indicates that low-carbon-emission power sources will be needed to complement what we can harvest from the wind and sun until storage and transmission capabilities are up to the job. Options could include nuclear and hydroelectric power generation, as well as managing demand.” The journal Energy & Environmental Science published the research this week. + University of California, Irvine + Energy & Environmental Science Lead image via DepositPhotos ; others via Steve Zylius/UCI and Drew Hays on Unsplash

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Solar and wind energy could meet 80% of US electricity demand

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