World’s cheapest solar power to be generated in Mexico

November 20, 2017 by  
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Solar power set to be generated in Mexico will be the world’s cheapest — with prices as low as 1.77¢/kWh, according to data from Mexico’s  Centro Nacional de Control de Energía (Cenace) . Mexico’s Department of Energy recently announced the companies selected to complete new renewable power projects and the rates for which this electricity will be sold. The lowest price for solar in Mexico has been set just below that of Saudi Arabia at 1.77¢/kWh, and is expected to continue to decrease to 1¢/kWh in 2019 or sooner. In this most recent bidding round, 15 bids from eight solar and wind energy companies, including Canadian Solar, ENEL Green Power, and Mitsui, were approved in a sign that Mexico’s renewable surge is not slowing down. The clean energy projects recently approved by Mexico will be online and selling power by 2020. These projects and others are important steps towards meeting Mexico’s goals under the Paris agreement as well as regional goals established by Mexico, the United States, and Canada . In 2016, all three countries pledged to source 50 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025. Canada is on track to meet this goal while Mexico continues to build up its renewable portfolio. As it was when the regional pledge was made, the United States still lags behind in its transition to clean energy. Related: World’s largest solar plant in a refugee camp opens in Jordan Mexico’s achievement of cheap solar energy exceeds the expectations of skeptics who believed that such a price in a country like Mexico, rather than one like wealthy Saudi Arabia , would be highly unlikely. Despite its economic challenges, Mexico is proving that affordable renewable energy is possible around the world, brightening the prospects of the Paris agreement even as the United States refuses to participate. If current trends continue, the world may soon be faced with the prospect of plentiful, clean, affordable energy, the possibilities for which are endless. Via Electrek Images via Presidencia de la República Mexicana/Flickr   (2)   (3)

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World’s cheapest solar power to be generated in Mexico

17th-century farm transformed into amazing hotel in the hills of Norway

November 20, 2017 by  
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Communing with Norway’s incredible landscape won’t be hard when staying at the green-roofed Nordigard Blessom Farm . Tucked into rolling green landscape in the rural countryside of Vågå, this 17th-century farm was converted into a series of green-roofed guest rooms, complete with grazing sheep. Guests of the farm are treated to an atmosphere straight out of a fairy tale. Lush green hills surround the farm, which has its own gardens and orchards. There are three wooden guest rooms, each covered with a green roof . The rustic but sophisticated interior design includes solid log walls and old-Norwegian furnishings – some dating back to the 17th century. Related: Sheep farm deep in Iceland’s fjords transformed into luxury off-grid retreat Guests of the farm will enjoy scrumptious daily breakfast spreads that includes homemade bread and marmalades. After breakfast, guests can leisurely take in the farm’s idyllic surroundings or explore the activities in the area, such as hiking the adjacent mountain ranges and glaciers, horseback riding, caving, or strolling in Rondane National Park. + Nordigard Blessom Farm Via Uncrate Photography by Ingrid Blessom  

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17th-century farm transformed into amazing hotel in the hills of Norway

Elephants should be recognized as legal persons, argues Connecticut lawsuit

November 16, 2017 by  
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Should elephants be viewed as legal persons in the eyes of the court? A new lawsuit filed by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) argues yes. The group says three elephants, owned by a traveling Connecticut zoo, should have “the fundamental right to bodily liberty” and be placed in an animal sanctuary instead. Beulah, Karen, and Minnie are three elephants owned by the Commerford Zoo in Goshen, Connecticut. The animals give rides and appear in circuses, fairs, weddings, and movies. They’re between 33 and 50 years old, and the zoo has owned them for at least 30 years. But according to the NhRP, the United States Department of Agriculture has cited the zoo more than 50 times for not adhering to the minimum standards of the Animal Welfare Act. People have described the elephants as sick or sad, with one Yelp review describing facilities as a “stockyard of despair.” Related: New Zealand river world’s first to obtain legal status as a person NhRP filed the lawsuit with the Connecticut Superior Court, requesting the elephants be released to the Performing Animal Welfare Society’s ARK 2000 sanctuary, where NhRP says “their right to bodily liberty will be respected.” NhRP founder and attorney Steven Wise said the case isn’t about animal welfare, but animal rights , saying in a statement, “What they are doing is depriving Beulah, Karen, and Minnie of their freedom, which we see as an inherently cruel violation of their most fundamental right as elephants. If Connecticut common law courts truly value autonomy, as previous rulings suggest they do, they too will see their situation in this light and order the elephants’ release from captivity.” Commerford Zoo owner Tim Commerford told The Washington Post, “It’s not right to rip them from my family, from their home.” According to The Washington Post, legal personhood has been applied to corporations in the United States, a New Zealand river , and chimpanzees and a bear in Argentina and Colombia. But Pepperdine law school professor Richard Cupp told The Washington Post it’s better to help captive animals with expanded animal welfare laws. Giving legal personhood to animals could loosen the definition, he argued, which could harm vulnerable humans. He said, “It would not surprise me if these animals could be put in a better situation. But we should focus on human responsibility…Our expansion of animal protection laws has been dramatic over the last 20 or 30 years. I’m arguing that should continue.” Via the Nonhuman Rights Project ( 1 , 2 ) and The Washington Post Images via Joel Mbugua on Unsplash and Anne Zwagers on Unsplash

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Elephants should be recognized as legal persons, argues Connecticut lawsuit

A "giant leap backward for humankind" as CO2 levels rise after years of stability

November 13, 2017 by  
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Researchers had hoped global carbon emissions had peaked after three stable years – but a new projection shatters those hopes. The Global Carbon Project and University of East Anglia (UEA) revealed carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could grow by two percent in 2017. Future Earth executive director Amy Luers described the news as a “giant leap backward for humankind.” Researchers presented the information at COP23 in Bonn, Germany. They’re pointing to China’s activities as the main cause – CO2 emissions there are projected to grow by around 3.5 percent. Coal use is expected to increase in China and the United States in 2017 – after decreases since 2013. Related: Almost 200 countries gather at COP23 to accelerate climate action CO2 emissions are projected to go down in America and the European Union, by 0.4 percent and 0.2 percent respectively – both smaller declines than during the prior 10 years. India’s emissions are projected to increase by around two percent – but that’s down from more than six percent a year in the last decade. UEA’s Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research director Corinne Le Quéré said in a statement, “With global CO2 emissions from human activities estimated at 41 billion tonnes for 2017, time is running out on our ability to keep warming well below two degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees Celsius. This year we have seen how climate change can amplify the impacts of hurricanes with more intense rainfall, higher sea levels, and warmer ocean conditions favoring more powerful storms. This is a window into the future.” The researchers said there are uncertainties in our ability to estimate emissions changes – Glen Peters of the CICERO Center for International Climate Research and lead author on a study said it could take up to 10 years to independently verify a change in emissions based on measurements of CO2 atmospheric concentrations. The research was published simultaneously in the journals Environmental Research Letters , Nature Climate Change , and Earth System Science Data Discussions , with scientists from around the world contributing to the studies. Via Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research , the University of East Anglia , and the AFP Images via Dirk Duckhorn on Flickr , © Robert Castillo/ Dreamstime.com via the Global Carbon Project , and the Global Carbon Project

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A "giant leap backward for humankind" as CO2 levels rise after years of stability

The US is now the only country in the world to refuse the Paris Climate Agreement

November 7, 2017 by  
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Today the war-torn country of Syria officially signed the Paris Climate Agreement , leaving the United States as the only country to refuse the landmark climate deal. Though Barack Obama entered the US into the deal during his time as president, Donald Trump quickly withdrew the nation after his inauguration. The Middle East nation made the announcement in Bonn, Germany, at the COP 23 UN climate summit. Even though Syria is facing its sixth year of a brutal civil conflict, it agreed to limit its carbon emissions in an effort to prevent climate change from worsening. It’s not clear what has changed, and Syria has yet to submit its targets for cutting greenhouse gases . In December 2015, nearly 200 countries signed the Paris Accord . Until last month, Nicaragua was also a holdout nation. However, that was because the Central American country did not think the deal went far enough in putting limits on emissions and helping lower-income nations adapt to an already-changing planet. One of Nicaragua’s complaints was that top polluters — like the US, EU, China, and India — were not keeping their emissions levels low enough to prevent sea levels from rising and global warming under 2 degrees Celsius — let alone the more ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100. Eventually, parties to the deal signed – as the global climate change agreement was better than none at all. Now the US is the last country to sign. In the past, President Trump said that American workers (particularly coal miners) were being put at an “economic disadvantage” by the deal. And even though the US is the second largest emitter of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the world (second to China ), Trump remains committed to the idea that investing in coal — not renewable energy — is the way forward. Related: Edible schoolyards sprout across war-torn Syria “With Syria’s decision, the relentless commitment of the global community to deliver on Paris is more evident than ever,” Paula Caballero , director of the climate change program at the World Resources Institute, told the New York Times . “The US’s stark isolation should give Trump reason to reconsider his ill-advised announcement and join the rest of the world in tackling climate change .” The countries that have signed the Paris Agreement now seek to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Via The Independent , The Verge , BBC Images via Pixabay

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The US is now the only country in the world to refuse the Paris Climate Agreement

This Russian cottage is heated for free with Bitcoin mining

November 7, 2017 by  
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In the last month, Bitcoin — the biggest and best-known cryptocurrency — rose in value by 480 percent . The sudden spike spurred more people to invest in the currency, while others dedicate computers to the task of mining bitcoins . Siberian entrepreneurs Ilya Frolov and Dmitry Tolmachyov are engaged in the latter – and they’ve found that they’re able to heat a 20-square-meter with two machines while pocketing $430 per month. Bitcoin transactions require a lot of computer processing power, which in turn produces a substantial amount of heat . Most “miners” just release that heat into the atmosphere — but not Frolov and Tolmachyov. The Russian entrepreneurs built a cottage in the Siberian town of Irkutsk that is heated by two Bitcoin mining machines. Each month, the men make about $430. And, they pay $0 to heat the 20-square-meter abode. In the video above, Quartz details how this is possible. Related: Power-hungry Bitcoin could consume as much energy as Denmark by 2020 Because Bitcoin is relatively new, it is still considered a highly volatile investment . However it has provided gains exceeding those of any other currency in every year but one since 2010, according to The Independent. The process of “mining” Bitcoin determines which transactions are valid, and which should be added to the blockchain — an ever-expanding ledger that holds the transaction history of all Bitcoins in circulation. The blockchain lives in the thousands of machines on the bitcoin network. Mining also ensures the system cannot be gamed, thus, making the cryptocurrency more secure than the US dollar. Every ten minutes, mining computers collect a few hundred pending Bitcoin transactions and turn them into a mathematical puzzle. The first miner to find the solution declares it to others on the network. The other miners then check whether the sender of the funds has the right to spend the money. If enough approval is granted, the block is cryptographically added to the ledger and the miners move onto the next set of transactions. A miner who finds the solution gets 12.5 Bitcoins as a reward, but only after another 99 blocks have been added to the ledger. This gives all miners an incentive to participate in the system and validate transactions. It also provides protection; to double-spend a Bitcoin, digital bank robbers would have to rewrite the blockchain — that would require more than half of the network’s puzzle-solving capacity! Via Quartz , The Economist , The Independent Images via YouTube , Pixabay

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This Russian cottage is heated for free with Bitcoin mining

Trump administration wants to end uranium mining ban near the Grand Canyon

November 3, 2017 by  
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The Grand Canyon is one of America’s most beloved national parks , attracting over four million visitors annually — but President Donald Trump’s administration doesn’t seem to care about that. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently proposed lifting a ban on new uranium mining near the national park, as part of a broader effort, according to Reuters, to do away with regulations hindering development after a March executive order from the president. The Forest Service , which is under the USDA and manages the land that could be re-opened to uranium mining , prepared a report in response to Trump’s Executive Order 13783 titled “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.” They proposed lifting the mining ban, put in place in 2012 to protect the watershed around the Grand Canyon. Related: Big Oil celebrates Trump’s goal to open up drilling in national parks Uranium mining pollutes water, and impacts animals and plants as it removes water sources, according to Earthjustice . The Center for Biological Diversity reports past uranium mining in the Grand Canyon area “has polluted soils, washes, aquifers, and drinking water.” They said that according to nonpartisan polls, 80 percent of Americans and 80 percent of Arizona voters back permanent protection in the Grand Canyon region from new uranium mining. According to Reuters, global demand and prices for uranium are weak. The new report even says uranium mining doesn’t generate revenue for America, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Havasupai Tribal Chairman Don Watahomigie said in a statement, “This is a dangerous industry that is motivated by profit and greed with a long history of significantly damaging lands and waters. They are now seeking new mines when this industry has yet to clean up the hundreds of existing mines all over the landscape that continue to damage our home. We should learn from the past, not ignore it.” Via Reuters , the Associated Press , Earthjustice , and the Center for Biological Diversity Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Trump administration wants to end uranium mining ban near the Grand Canyon

Building integrated solar panels from Dubai produce clean energy and color

October 31, 2017 by  
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The United States could obtain 40 percent of its energy solely from rooftop solar (with sufficient political will). But what if solar panels could also boost architectural aesthetics? Dubai -based Emirates Insolaire hoped to do just that with their Kromatix technology, providing an alternative to the blue or black panels that adorn many roofs. Plus, their solar products aren’t limited to rooftops — they can also be integrated in balconies or facades. Emirates Insolaire, a joint venture of Dubai Investments PJSC and SwissINSO , is changing our vision of solar with their Kromatix technology, developed with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology . Emirates Insolaire offers Kromatix solar glass in gold, green, or terracotta, with an opaque finish that hides the power-generating technology inside. Solar transmittance varies among colors, but Emirates Insolaire said it is always greater than 85 percent. They also offer Kromatix modules manufactured with their solar glass that have an average efficiency of above 15 percent. Related: Discreet new SolarSkin panels completely blend in with their environment The company doesn’t use pigments to color their solar glass, but rather “a complex nano-scale multilayer deposition by plasma process,” and say the color will remain stable as time passes. According to Emirates Insolaire’s website, “The colored appearance results from the reflection of a narrow spectral band in the visible part of the solar spectrum. The rest of the solar radiation is transmitted to the solar panel to be converted into energy .” The thickness of the solar glass is between 3.2 and eight millimeters. SwissINSO says the Kromatix colored solar panels can be integrated on facades and rooftops of all sorts of structures, from private homes to high-rise buildings. Electrek also reported the Kromatix products are affordable; they estimated a 5.5 kilowatt solar system would cost between $1,300 and $1,500 per home. They said not counting tax credits or incentives, the system would cover the cost of coloring in a little over one and a half years. Emirates Insolaire’s products have been installed across Europe, including at this school in Copenhagen . + Emirates Insolaire Via Electrek Images via Emirates Insolaire

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Building integrated solar panels from Dubai produce clean energy and color

73 million trees to be planted in largest reforestation project ever

October 31, 2017 by  
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Conservation International aims to plant 73 million trees in the Brazilian Amazon as part of the largest ever undertaking of its kind. In what is being called the “arc of deforestation” in the Brazilian states of Amazonas, Acre, Pará, and Rondônia, as well as throughout the Xingu watershed, trees will be planted as part of a project that, in the short-term, aims to restore 70,000 acres of tropical forest. “If the world is to hit the 1.2°C or 2°C [degrees of warming] target that we all agreed to in Paris, then protecting tropical forests in particular has to be a big part of that,” said M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International, in an interview with Fast Company . “It’s not just the trees that matter, but what kind of trees ,” said Sanjayan. “If you’re really thinking about getting carbon dioxide out of atmosphere, then tropical forests are the ones that end up mattering the most.” Ceasing deforestation would allow for the absorption of 37 percent of the world’s annual carbon emissions yet scientists worry that 20 percent of the Amazon may be deforested in the next two decades, in addition to the 20 percent that was deforested in the past 40 years. To combat this rapid pace of destruction, Conservation International is utilizing new, efficient planting techniques that could be applied worldwide. “This is not a stunt,” said Sanjayan. “It is a carefully controlled experiment to literally figure out how to do tropical restoration at scale, so that people can replicate it and we can drive the costs down dramatically.” Related: Hurricane Maria ravaged the only tropical rainforest in the United States The planting method used in the project is known as muvuca , which is a Portuguese word to describe many people in a small place. In  muvuca, hundreds of native tree seeds of various species are spread over every inch of deforested land. Natural selection then allows the most suited to survive and thrive. A 2014 study from the Food and Agriculture Organization and Biodiversity International found that more than 90 percent of native tree species planted using the  muvuca method germinate and are well suited to survive drought conditions for up to six months. “With plant-by-plant reforestation techniques, you get a typical density of about 160 plants per hectare,” said Rodrigo Medeiros, Conservation International’s vice president of the Brazil program and project lead, according to Fast Company . “With muvuca, the initial outcome is 2,500 species per hectare. And after 10 years, you can reach 5,000 trees per hectare. It’s much more diverse, much more dense, and less expensive than traditional techniques.” Via Fast Company Images via Depositphotos (1)

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73 million trees to be planted in largest reforestation project ever

Climate change and volcanic eruptions could lead to years without summer

October 31, 2017 by  
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Scientists warn that if climate change continues at its current pace, oceans may lose their ability to reduce atmospheric effects from volcanic sulfur and aerosols as they have done in the past. This means that volcanic eruptions in the future may lead to “years without summer,” as occurred in 1815 after the April eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia . New research led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in the US both confirms that specific eruption’s role in altering the global climate and the role that future eruptions might play if the ocean’s temperature continues to be affected by melting sea ice and rising global temperatures. The researchers used data from Community Earth System Model’s (CESM) Last Millennium Ensemble Project, which provides simulations of Earth’s climate based on the geological record from 850 through 2005, to determine that the Mount Tambora eruption caused a notable cooling event on the global climate. Sulfur dioxide sent into the atmosphere became sulfate particles known as aerosols and reflected light away from the Earth. This resulted in a so-called “year without summer,” in which crops across North America and Europe suffered tremendous losses due to cold temperatures and blocked sunlight. Related: Two giant volcanic eruptions formed Yellowstone’s iconic caldera The oceans played an important role in returning the climate to relative normalcy through a process in which the colder water of the ocean sinks while warmer water rises to the surface, helping to warm the surrounding land and atmosphere . However, due to changing ocean temperatures resulting from climate change, if an eruption similar to Mount Tambora were to occur in 2085, the ocean would be less able to bring about climate stabilization. Study author Otto-Bliesner wrote, “The response of the climate system to the 1815 eruption of Indonesia’s Mount Tambora gives us a perspective on potential surprises for the future, but with the twist that our climate system may respond much differently”. + Nature Communications Via Alphr Images via Depositphotos (1)

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