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The latest news on Environment from Business Insider

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    Forests are disappearing at an alarming rate in Nigeria, Indonesia, and North Korea, according to a recent report by Maplecroft

    The Deforestation Index map evaluates 180 countries where high rates of deforestation occurred between 2005 and 2010.

    According to the report, forest degradation is responsible for about 20% of global greenhouse emissions and considered a key contributor of climate change. 

    The 9 countries where economic growth, poverty, corruption, and the increasing use of biofuels pose the greatest risk to the world's forests include: Nigeria, Indonesia, North Korea, Bolivia, Papua New Guinea, DR Congo, Nicaragua, and Brazil.  

    Particularly concerning is Brazil, a country that's home to 60% of the Amazon rainforest and the richest biodiversity on Earth. The country's amount of deforestation was at its lowest level in 12 years at the end of 2010, according to Brazil's National Institute for Space Research. Maplecroft, however, reports that figures from March/April 2011 show deforestation increased 500% since last year. Soy bean production, cattle farming, a rise in ethanol, and massive infrastructure projects are all to blame for the depletion of Brazil's rainforests. 

    Surprisingly, China and the U.S.—the world's first and second largest producers of carbon emissions, respectively—ranked in the bottom five (low risk) on the Deforestation Index. In both countries, heavy investments in reforestation projects have aided the return of forest cover since the 1990s.  

    Deforestation Index

    Don't miss: 15 Irrefutable Signs That Climate Change Is Real >

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    drought water climate change environment CSR ESG

    When the EU agreed to reaffirm its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions and combat climate change, scientists and environmentalists must have been relieved that at least someone got how important global warming was.

    But despite apparent good intentions, things seem to be going nowhere. The annual Environmental Performance Index (EPI), shows how certain European countries are not doing more to (literally) "save the environment".

    The EPI ranks 132 countries on ten policy categories -- from air pollution and water resources, to climate change and biodiversity. It assesses the global community’s performance with respect to established environmental policy goals, according to the report.

    With data from international organizations, research institutions, government agencies, and academia, the newly-launched 'trend' EPI measures countries' performance changes over the last decade. This number is then translated to a score from -50 to 50, where 0 represents no change, 50 is the biggest improvement and -50 represents the biggest decline. 

    Switzerland

    Rank: 89

    Score: 2.42

    (Source)



    The Netherlands

    Rank: 92

    Score: 1.98

    (Source)



    Malta

    Rank: 97

    Score: 1.24

    (Source)



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    San Francisco

    From the Golden Gate Bridge to the Big Apple, many of America's major cities are being recognized as trailblazers in the push to go green.  

    "Cities that rank high in any sustainability rating due so because they have a planned systematic approach that has a sharp focus on setting goals and creating projects that meet those goals," says Richard Kassel, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.  

    Last year, Kassel served on a six-member panel of experts that helped Siemens and the Economic Intelligence Unit rank the greenest cities in the United States and Canada. The survey assessed the environmental performance of 27 major cities across nine categories: greenhouse gas emissions, energy, land use, buildings, transportation, water, waste, air, and environmental governance. 

    "Ranking cities is always an exercise in comparing apples and oranges because every city has unique characteristics," says Kassel. "What matters is that you end up with a list that separates cities that are trying to do something in a data-driven, quantitative, comprehensive way from those that are not."   

    We've highlighted the top 5 green cities: 

    1. San Francisco, California 

    Strongest category: Waste

    The fourth most populous city in California has a long history of environmental activism. The Sierra Club, one of the largest environmental organizations in the U.S., was founded in San Francisco in the 19th century. Today, the Golden Gate city continues to be a green leader, in part because of its strong waste reduction policies. In 2007, San Francisco became the first metropolis in the country to ban plastic bags from all the city's grocery stores and pharmacies. The city also manages to divert 77 percent of recyclable material from the landfill — the highest in the country.  

    2. New York, New York

    Strongest category: Land use

    Despite being home to more than 8 million people (27,700 people per square mile), New York City is recognized as a leader in land use as it continuously seeks out opportunities to create more green space. In 2007, the City launched an ambitious campaign to plant one million trees across the five boroughs over the next decade. So far, MillionTreesNYC has planted more than 500,000 street and park trees. New York City is also lauded for having the highest share of workers commuting by public transport, bicycle or foot. 

    3. Seattle, Washington 

    Strongest category: Buildings 

    Twelve years ago, Seattle became the nation's first city to mandate that all municipal buildings over 5,000 square feet achieve a LEED silver certification. Today, the coastal city has one of the highest concentrations of green buildings in America. In 2011, thanks to a $20 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, Seattle announced its plan to retrofit more than 2,000 buildings with energy-efficient technology. The goal is to cut energy costs by up to 45 percent and reduce carbon emissions by 70,000 metric tons by June 2013. In February, 125 homes had completed energy upgrades or had upgrades in progress.

    4. Denver, Colorado

    Strongest category: Environmental governance 

    Colorado's capital is one of the few cities to provide subsidies or tax breaks for the use of green energy in homes and businesses. Citywide environmental programs are driven by the Greenprint Denver Office, which has executed several major energy-saving initiatives since its inception in 2007. In 2010, sustainable achievements included the installation of 2,000 LED bulbs in 200 traffic signals and adding four megawatts of solar PV cells to city and public school buildings. Denver residents are also encouraged to participate in Green Teams, community volunteers that go door-to-door offering energy-efficiency services such as free curbside recycling registration and free compact fluorescent light bulbs.   

    5. Boston, Massachusetts

    Strongest category: Water and Energy 

    Over the last decade, an aggressive water conservation program led by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority has helped Boston achieve its goal of keeping total water consumption below 300 million gallons per day. The city is also involved in a statewide goal to retrofit buildings with low-flow toilets. Since 2008, Boston has given grants to replace about 1,000 toilets and conduct water audits. 

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    Antarctic Seal Pup

    Changing weather conditions as a result of climate change could lower the survival rate of Antarctic seal pups by changing their energy requirements, according to a new study published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.  

    Newborn seal pups split most of their energy between growth, learning and thermoregulation.  

    But windier and wetter conditions predicted for Antarctica will require seal pups to devote more of their energy to staying warm. This means less energy is available for growth and picking up survival skills, which is key to preparing for a future away from their mothers, writes LiveSciences' Jennifer Welsh.  

    "Changes in prey availability and climate may lead pups to conserve energy by sacrificing the development of foraging skill or to wean at a lower mass or body condition, resulting in negative impacts on the ability to transition successfully to nutritional independence," Birgitte I. McDonald, a graduate student at the University of California at Santa Cruz, said in a release

    Young seals are particularly vulnerable to higher wind chill and heat loss because they don't yet have the protection of an adult coat.  

    SEE ALSO: 15 irrefutable Signs That Climate Change Is Real > 

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    carbon emissions tbi

    We might actually get something out of the Rio +20 Earth Summit in June.

    Citi's Meg Brown said she expects "peer pressure between leaders coupled with accountability to the public back home via 24hr media reporting" to strengthen climate policy and push renewable investments ahead of the conference.  

    Above all, Europe will have to respond to its failed carbon permits:

    The most embarrassing sustainability policy situation at present is the state of the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme. Unlike other participants at the conference who have not yet started pricing CO2, the EU acted early, opening its scheme in 2005. However since then the scheme has failed to deliver a price effective in stimulating low carbon investment. In fact the scheme has delivered windfalls to power generators, steel and cement companies that were allocated emission permits for free. It has been beset by problems such as stolen permits, reselling of offsets which should have been retired from use once submitted and IT problems delaying the integration of national registries. And any proposed reforms take years to navigate the bureaucracy of Brussels and survive powerful lobbying interests.

    We expect the EU’s embarrassment at home to result in measures to reform the market to be proposed before the conference. As we write, a review of the EU’s scheme is being fast tracked to report within 2 months (ie just in time for Rio).

    Don't miss: The World's Largest Island Made Of Trash >

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    garden, plants

    Ilargi: The following is a guest post by friend of TAE (and our kind present host) John Isaacs-Young, who is active in Transition Sunshine Coast, a region located about halfway up the eastern coast of Australia. There's a lot more wrong with Big Green Tech - and the Beyond Zero Emissions movement - than the specific points John addresses here (and he knows that too), but that's a story for another day.


    John Isaacs-Young:

    The Green House is that venue at our local folk festival here on Australia's Sunshine Coast where environmental and related issues are promoted and work-shopped. There was a new presence this year at Woodford, an organization calling itself Zero Carbon Australia 2020 - Beyond Zero Emissions. These folk seemed to be very organized and had been given the large booth at the entrance to the venue. They promoted their cause with vigor on and off the program and were actively seeking recruits for a grass roots army for their campaign. Their 'not for profit' outfit is an example of Big Green Tech in action.

    The session I attended, where Zero Carbon told their story, was conducted by a young lady who had learnt her stuff and she held our attention, delivering the blueprint for the transition to a completely de-carbonized Australian economy by 2020. Hundreds of experts are involved, she told us, and when the plans are complete, they will be handed over to corporations to implement. I was very impressed by the boldness of the vision, the quality of the research. And completely unconvinced of its legitimacy or the likelihood of its ever getting up.

    One of the key components of the plan involves the progressive replacement of all existing coal and gas fired power stations with large scale wind farms and solar thermal plants that involve vast acres of mirrors and the storage of heat energy in liquefied salt. These two, wind and solar thermal, are considered old, reliable and proven technologies. In the large format envisioned, they will provide base power in support of our national electricity grid into the future. The grid however will have to be upgraded and extended with the east and west coasts of the continent connected.

    The national grid - that darling of our centralist planners, big energy companies, investors and climate change activists - , works now, but how viable is it likely to be into the future?

    In his essay 'Money verses Fossil Fuel', David Holmgren, the co founder of Permaculture, sets out a position that challenges much of the strategic logic behind current mainstream climate change activism. He describes the moneyed interests supporting the alternative energy agenda as more problematic than the miners and polluters themselves.

    "The out of control power of money and markets is leading us more rapidly towards the collapse of human civilization than the short-comings and impacts of any specific activity or technology including the burning of fossil fuels."

    Climate activists are right to be concerned about the big polluters and about finding alternative, non polluting technologies, for generating electricity. But the cleanliness of the technology is one thing - size, resilience and who owns it turn out to be just as significant. Can we or should we, like the Zero folk, be attempting to maintain or increase our current levels of power generation? Should we continue to buy into the debt/growth based model that is part and parcel of big centralize systems? Can we afford to look at the world through a single issue window and hope to come up with anything like a clear understanding? David Holmgren:

    "And many environmental activists have failed to grasp the importance of energetic limits to the wider human project in the quest for politically acceptable solutions to the climate dilemma."

    Amongst the big operators in the global economy are those who accumulate wealth by exploiting the natural world directly and those who make it big-time by 'clever', more abstract means, in the market place. These two groups are mutually inter-dependent but also constantly at war with one another. Both of them are deeply committed to the debt based growth model and the creation of larger and larger systems with each jostling for the controlling high ground. But both groups are in fact losing control and both are now hell bent on self preservation. Only the big fish survive in the current economic climate and the path to survival is through merger and acquisition, financed by more debt.

    But as Ashvin Pandurangi points out at The Automatic Earth:

    "The largest institutions are clearly the least flexible to 'new and unexpected' conditions that will arise: and therefore are the most acutely vulnerable to "black swans" and systemic shocks on the tightropes stretching across every line of latitude from the North to South Pole. Look out below!"

    'Big' is increasingly vulnerable and economies of scale and the laying off of workers is increasingly, obviously, counter-productive. The very survival process is hastening the demise of the system as a whole. Of the two groups, however, David Holmgren sees the 'clever' group, those not involved directly in exploiting the earth for profit, as the more imminent threat to life as we know it. These folk are more involved with wild speculative bubbles and complex schemes involving massive leverage. Holmgren again:

    "Our money and markets are the most complex products of this deeply ingrained faith in human 'brilliance' (hubris). And just as their foundational beliefs are incomplete, so is their expression extremely dangerous."

    After the so called green shoots of recovery, the signs are here again of a liquidity crunch in the asset markets. In fact, the situation looks much worse than 2008, when there was still a store of faith to draw upon. That faith has been drained away by feckless regulators and authorities who failed to address any of the root causes of the crisis or bring anyone to account.

    Instead they have been spreading, layer upon layer, thin-as-air-funny-money, over the top of the symptoms. Anyone who has paid the least bit of attention knows that these 'magic money layers' have proved to be anything but magic. Not only are the root causes still with us (too much debt, vast regional financial imbalances) but they have grown steadily throughout the intervening period.

    As Nicole Foss explains at The Automatic Earth:

    "... our vulnerability to the consequences of debt is extremely high at the moment. The scale of that debt is staggeringly large. The global credit hyper-expansion has been decades in the making… we should be in for the largest economic contraction in several hundred years, and it will be global."

    The trouble with deleveraging is that once it gains momentum, money is sucked out of the system through massive debt default and falling asset values. There will be no money around to fund new projects and no one who has it will be willing to lend it. As demand falls, and with it prices, investment in the energy sector in general is likely to dry up.

    An effective transition to a big-system, carbon-free economy will no longer be possible under these circumstances. Because these conditions are already underway, the likelihood of realizing this 2020 dream becomes more and more remote. On the other hand, carbon emissions may well drop owing to reduced demand and without the help of climate activists or big 'green' corporations. Nicole Foss once more:

    "One of our consistent themes at The Automatic Earth has been not expecting solutions to come from the top down. Existing centralized systems depend on dwindling tax revenues, which will dry up to a tremendous extent over the next few years as economic activity falls off a cliff and property prices plummet."

    Hello Zero Carbon grass roots converts! You all seem well intentioned and genuinely concerned folk. I like your technology. How about bringing it down to my town? With your help we'll set up a small scale, solar thermal, molten salt plant in my back yard. What do you say? A community scale power plant and grid, owned locally, that supplies only its immediate locale is part of a very different story to the one that you are currently championing.

    Around here we are looking for a resilient decentralized system that is not owned or funded by mad bad corporations and does not want to grow beyond its means. The only problem I can foresee is that here on the Sunshine Coast, the sun does not shine all that often. I don't know how much salt we could melt.

    "Climate activists in particular", says David Holmgren, "tend to focus on the fossil energy industries as the 'enemy' (both for generating greenhouse gases and funding climate change denial), but naturally see any parties accepting the new climate agenda as allies. I believe that many of the global players promoting the climate agenda are as dangerous as those denying that agenda."

    One has to choose one's battles. Why go after big polluters, guns blazing, when deleveraging is already moving against them. Why make common cause with governments, central planners and corporations who sound like environmentalists but are really growth junkies, for whom our one earth is just too small. Step back a moment, allow deleveraging to do the fighting for you, then throw your weight behind a truly worthy cause - like community building and localization. Soon enough, the effects of peak oil will also be fighting on the side of the environment to lower carbon emissions.

    There are reasons why a smooth and easy transfer to a green energy economy is unlikely to happen merely because it's a good idea. One cannot, for example, overestimate just how psychologically committed we are to the context into which we are born and have lived. The age of cheap easy energy has been our age and whether it continues to advantage us or not, the underlying assumptions upon which it was built are fundamental to our lives and identities, almost like breathing. Only at the edges do some of us start to question the under-pinning stories. We are not converted so easily, even to sensible ideas; Intellectually perhaps, but not profoundly.

    Ilargi at The Automatic Earth:

    "It's high time we begin to understand to what extent the interests of the politicians and bankers and CEOs that we allow to make our decisions for us (read against us) differ from our own. But since our education system and media have denied the very existence of any such difference all of our lives, this understanding will be very hard to come by for 99% of the 99%."

    Even in the face of the disintegration of the world as we know it, we will tend to want to cling to our big-system world and demand that it be fixed. Most of us will continue to lend our support to those who claim to be able to bring it back. Those who enjoy or have enjoyed positions of power are even more invested and will be relentless in their efforts to rebuild the big systems. Time and again this will look like it is going to work, only to fail again. Eventually we will get the idea. There will be a shift in values and a different way of doing things.

    Nicole Foss: "We have already seen cuts to services and increases in taxes and user fees, and we can expect a great deal more of that dynamic as central authorities emulate hypothermic bodies. In other words, they will cut off the circulation to the fingers and toes in order to preserve the core. This is of course, a survival strategy, from the point of view of the core. But it does nothing good for the prospects of ordinary people, who represent the fingers and the toes."

    Transposing this general comment on the economy to the national electricity grid, you can see that when ordinary consumers have difficulties paying their accounts then there is less revenue and reduced capacity for grid maintenance. When sections of the grid are not maintained, outlying customers lose service. This is the nature of big systems. They work in orderly, abundant times but are otherwise loaded with inefficiencies and grave vulnerabilities. Not only that: big systems are sitting ducks for cyber or physical attacks on hardware.

    Nicole Foss: "The job of national and international politicians in contractionary times is typically to make a bad situation worse as expensively as possible, as they attempt to rescue the dying paradigm that has conveyed so much personal advantage in their direction. That paradigm is one of centralization - the accumulation of surpluses from a broad periphery at the centre of power."

    Anyone who is a little familiar with how the exponential function operates within our growth model or what complexity theory tells us about mature systems under stress knows that our current way of doing things is no longer working and all attempts to fix it can only make it less functional. The Zero Carbon plan for the national power grid is of course, one of many attempts to enliven, improve or save an imperial scale technology.

    Nicole Foss: "Such systems cannot be responsive within the time-frame that would actually matter in a financial crisis, where risk is cascading system failure, potentially in a short period of time. Everything they might do is too complex, too expensive and too slow to do much good. If we expect top -down solutions we will be disappointed, and more to the point we will be unprepared to face a period of rapid change. By the time we realize that the cavalry is not coming, it may well be too late to do anything useful."

    No, don't join a pie in the sky green effort to keep the growth cycle expanding when in fact it is already into its contractionary phase. It simply won't work.

    Nicole Foss: "Fortunately, other strategies exist beyond attempting to preserve the unpreservable. What we must do is to decentralize - to build parallel systems to deliver the most basic goods and services in ways that are simple, cheap and responsive to rapidly changing circumstances."

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    communication tower

    TV and radio towers kill nearly 7 million birds every year in North America, according to a recent study. 

    There are 84,000 communication towers on the continent, and those higher than 1,000 feet present the greatest danger, according to the study by Travis Longcore at University of Southern California. The birds often run into the cables that hold the towers up. 

    Building the towers at a lower altitude would save million of these birds every year, Longcore said: 

    The taller the tower the greater the threat, the study found. The 1,000 or so towers above 900 feet accounted for only 1.6 percent of the total number of towers. Yet these skyscraper towers killed 70 percent of the birds, about 4.5 million a year. 

    The study focused on the taller towers used for TV and radio frequencies. Cell phone towers are shorter and aren't seen as a threat. 

    The study said the Exxon Valdez oil spill killed 250,000 birds. 

    “This is a tragedy that does not have to be,” Longcore said. 

    Via ScienceDaily.

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    Glacier

    In 1980, the Columbia Glacier in Prince William Sound extended all the way to Heather Island.

    Since then, the glacier's snout, or terminus, has retreated more than 12 miles, exposing prominent rings of brown bedrock. The mountain glacier has also lost about half of its total thickness and volume, according to NASA.  

    The following images track the glaciers rapid retreat over the last two decades. They were captured by NASA's Landsat satellites using infrared scans. Snow and ice appear bright blue, vegetation is green, open ocean is dark blue and open rock is brown.  

    July 29, 1986



    July 15, 1987



    June 26, 1989



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    For years, researchers have known that large amounts of methane are frozen in permafrost soils, which may be released into the atmosphere as the climate warms.  

    But new research from NASA reveals that the Arctic Ocean itself may be a possible source of the potent greenhouse gas—and another potential contributor to global warming.  

    During five research flights, scientists detected concentrations of methane at higher altitudes than they had expected. Researchers believe that methane escaping from cracks in the sea ice contributed to higher-than-normal levels.  

    According to NASA:

    [Lead study author Eric Kort] noted that previous studies had detected high concentrations of methane in Arctic surface waters, but no one had predicted that this dissolved methane would find its way into the overlying atmosphere. Scientists are not yet sure how the methane is produced, but Kort suspects biological productivity in Arctic surface waters may be the culprit.

    The photograph below shows cracks in the ice cover of the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska:  

    Artic Ocean

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    Lost city

    For more than four centuries, the legend of Ciudad Blanca, a lost city in Honduras, has captured the imagination of archaeologists. 

    According to Chris Begley, who has done extensive work in the jungles of Honduras' Mosquito Coast — where the archaeological ruins are rumored to be found —  there have been many failed attempts to find Ciudad Blanca ever since it was first recorded by Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes in 1526.

    A few days ago, however, researchers from the National Science Foundation and University of Houston issued a press release saying they "mapped a remote region of Honduras that may contain the legendary lost city of Ciudad Blanca."

    "May," of course, is the operative word. It could also be some other long-hidden site, though that finding doesn't quite have the same allure.  

    The discovery was made using a method called LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, from an airplane. A plane shoots down billions of laser beams, which cut through dense tree cover to produce detailed digital images of the ground. It essentially gets rid of all the vegetation so researchers can map the earth underneath.

    Rosemary Joyce, an anthropology professor at UC Berkeley, confirms on The Berkeley Blog that researchers have found something, be it a new or excavated site. But there's absolutely no way to be sure that it is in fact Ciudad Blanca, a point that's been hyped-up by the media: 

    I have seen one of the LiDAR images (the work has not yet been published or subject to peer review). It is clear that there are archaeological sites in the areas surveyed by the LiDAR teamSo in that sense, this is good science. But where it goes terribly wrong is in the failure to involve any specialists in regional archeology before press releases were issued.

    (Joyce is referring to an even earlier press release by UTL Scientific, a company that provided planning and logistics support to the LiDAR survey project in Honduras, but did not involve any scientists). 

    She concludes:

    [LiDAR] can detect possible sites, but it cannot tell you what time period those sites were built or occupied, what the external relations of those sites were, what activities people carried out there.

    In sum, archaeologists have uncovered what appears to be ruins in a remote part of the rainforest (still cool); we'll just have to wait for people to actually hack through the forest to see if it's the fabled lost city  

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    steve schmidt

    New organisms discovered in the rocky soils of some of highest volcanoes in South America's Atacama region present the possibility of life on Mars. 

    Through DNA analysis of the soil on Llullaillaco, the fifth tallest volcano in the world, microbiologists from the University of Colorado Boulder  found bacteria, fungi and other single-celled microorganisms, called archaea, that were able to survive in some of the harshest conditions on Earth — which also resemble the environment on Mars. This includes thin atmosphere, rocky terrain, intense solar radiation (temperatures can swing from 14 degrees Fahrenheit at night to 133 degrees Fahrenheit during the day) and extremely low soil carbon and water levels. 

    "We think this is the closest Earth analog for Mars," researcher Steve Schmidt told us. "There is some evidence that there is water just below the surface of Mars in some places and the conditions may be somewhat like what we found on Llullaillaco. Mars is much more extreme even (mainly much colder with a much thinner atmosphere). But some astrobiologists think that Mars was milder millions of years ago and therefore Llullaillaco may be a better analog for ancient Mars." 

    The microbes also seemed to covert energy in a new way:

    ...the scientists couldn’t find any evidence that the microbes were photosynthetic. Instead, they think the microbes might slowly convert energy by means of chemical reactions that extract energy and carbon from wisps of gases such as carbon monoxide and dimethyl sulfide that blow into the desolate mountain area.

    The next step is to recreate the unfriendly environment in a laboratory so researchers can study how microbes survive under such inhospitable circumstances.  

    "Our goal is to explore the most extreme high elevation environments on Earth so that we can know the boundaries for life on Earth — that may give us a clue about where to expect life on other planets," Schmidt said.   

    The findings are published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Bioigeosciences.  

    SEE ALSO: This Incredible Plan For A Mission To Mars In 2023 Isn't A Hoax >

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    flood man

    In 1992, global leaders gathered in Rio de Janeiro and made a pledge to protect Earth's climate and biodiversity.

    Now scientists are lining up to explain just how badly that pledge has failed. Ahead of the June 20-22 Rio+20 conferencesignificant progress has been made on only four of 90 of the most important environmental goals set down twenty years ago. 

    Three recent reports from the The Royal Society's 'People and the Planet,' The World Wildlife Fund's 'Living Planet 2012,' and the UN's own Global Environmental Outlook argue that climate change, population growth and environmental destruction are driving the Earth toward an irreversible collapse.

    We've gone through the reports and chosen the most alarming charts and diagrams.  

    OVERPOPULATION: The UN estimates that human population will reach between 8 and 11 billion by 2050 (and two out of three people will live in a city)



    Most of that growth will occur in the least developed countries where food and clean water are already in demand



    OVER-CONSUMPTION: The WFF report found that the world needs 1.5 years to replenish the natural resources that humans consume in a single year



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Keith Olbermann tweeted this incredible photo of lightning zapping the Empire State Building this afternoon.

    An interesting fact: according to the National Weather Service, lightning hits the Empire State Bulding an average of 23 times per year

    Lighting

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    An experiment documented on liveleak.com shows what happens when you throw a bag of garbage into a volcano lake.

    The garbage thrown into the Ethiopian volcano lake is mostly food waste, according to the video description.

    Hint: there's an explosion.

    Check it out:

    DON'T MISS: See The World's First Experiment That Turns DNA Testing Into A Beautiful Art >

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    Lonesome George, a giant tortoise on the Galapagos islands believed to be the last of the Pinta Island giant tortoise subspecies, has died.

    Scientists estimate he was around 100 years old, which isn't particularly old for a subspecies that can live up to 200 years. 

    Edwin Naula, the director of Galapagos National Park, says they plan to embalm Lonesome George's body to keep the message of conservation on the Galapagos alive.  

    Here's video with Lonesome's keeper, courtesy of the AP.  

    SEE ALSO: Here's What You're Missing At The Galapagos Islands

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    In June 1912, the Novarupta volcano in Alaska spewed out about 520 million tons per hour of hot magma, ash and other debris over less than three days.  

    According to NASA, it was the largest eruption of the 20th century, "three times the size of the Pinatubo eruption and 30 times that of Mount St. Helens." 

    The explosion was so huge, ash from the volcano was found as far as Europe and the Greenland Ice Sheet.  

    Interestingly, scientists originally thought the eruption was caused by Katmai, a large, near-by volcano. The correct source was identified only decades later thanks to advances in modern technology. 

    The picture below shows Novarupta Dome and Katmai Caldera (just 6 miles away) on August 13, 2002.

    The browns are hardened ash. The roughly 650-foot-deep crater lake at the center of Mount Katami was formed during the Novarupta eruption when magma being drained away caused the summit to collapse.  

    Novarupta volcano

    eruption

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    Tropical Storm Debby is finally heading out to sea, but for two days it drenched Florida and southern Georgia, bringing up to two feet of rain in some places.

    The satellite animation below from NASA shows the movement of the storm from June 24 to June 26.

    The heaviest rains came on June 25, falling at a rate of over 2 inches per hour, according to the agency. 

    Debby is the the earliest fourth named storm on record.


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    NYC

    Arthur Tress is one of the hundreds of freelance photographers hired by the Environmental Protection Agency in the 1970s to document mounting environmental problems in America.  

    The following set of images shows the deterioration of the New York Harbor area in 1973.

    Scenes from Staten Island and Brooklyn depict refuse-laden streams, beaches covered with garbage and abandoned cars. 

    A sign warns of polluted water at a Staten Island beach. The recently completed Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is seen in the background.



    A sewer pipe is prepared for installation on new housing in Grant City, Staten Island — part of the building boom touched off by the completion of the bridge.



    This sign encourages Manhattan and Brooklyn residents to cross the bridge to find good living in Staten Island.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    shale gas plant, exxon mobil

    NEW YORK (AP) — ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson says fears about climate change, drilling, and energy dependence are overblown.

    In a speech Wednesday, Tillerson acknowledged that burning of fossil fuels is warming the planet, but said society will be able to adapt. The risks of oil and gas drilling are well understood and can be mitigated, he said. And dependence on other nations for oil is not a concern as long as access to supply is certain, he said.

    Tillerson blamed a public that is "illiterate" in science and math, a "lazy" press, and advocacy groups that "manufacture fear" for energy misconceptions in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.

    He highlighted that huge discoveries of oil and gas in North America have reversed a 20-year decline in U.S. oil production in recent years. He also trumpeted the global oil industry's ability to deliver fuels during a two-year period of dramatic uncertainty in the Middle East, the world's most important oil and gas-producing region.

    "No one, anywhere, any place in the world has not been able to get crude oil to fuel their economies," he said.

    In his speech and during a question-and-answer session after, he addressed three major energy issues: Climate change, oil and gas drilling pollution, and energy dependence.

    CLIMATE CHANGE

    Tillerson, in a break with predecessor Lee Raymond, has acknowledged that global temperatures are rising. "Clearly there is going to be an impact," he said Wednesday.

    But he questioned the ability of climate models to predict the magnitude of the impact. He said that people would be able to adapt to rising sea levels and changing climates that may force agricultural production to shift.

    "We have spent our entire existence adapting. We'll adapt," he said. "It's an engineering problem and there will be an engineering solution."

    Andrew Weaver, chairman of climate modeling and analysis at the University of Victoria in Canada, disagreed with Tillerson's characterization of climate modeling. He said modeling can give a very good sense of the type of climate changes that are likely. And he said adapting to those changes will be much more difficult and disruptive than Tillerson seems to be acknowledging.

    Steve Coll, author of the recent book "Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power," said he was surprised Exxon would already be talking about ways society could adapt to climate change when there is still time to try to avoid its worst effects. Also, he said, research suggests that adapting to climate change could be far more expensive than reducing emissions now. "Moving entire cities would be very expensive," he said.

    Legislation or regulation that would help slow the emissions of global warming gases would likely lead to lower demand for oil and gasoline, and could reduce Exxon's profit.

    DRILLING

    Tillerson expressed frustration at the level of public concern over new drilling techniques that tap natural gas and oil in shale formations under several states. He said environmental advocacy groups that "manufacture fear" have alarmed a public that doesn't understand drilling practices — or math, science or engineering in general. He blamed "lazy" journalists for producing stories that scare the public but don't investigate the claims of advocacy groups.

    Drilling for oil and gas will always involve risks of spills and accidents, he said. But those risks are manageable and worth taking because they are small given the amount of energy they produce.

    Drilling in shale formations, he said, only poses a small risk to those living nearby. It is neither life threatening nor long lasting and can be controlled in the event of an accident.

    Drillers force millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and some hazardous chemicals into shale formations. The technique breaks up rock and creates escape routes for oil and gas. If the drilling wastewater is not treated properly or if it seeps through cracked drilling pipes, it could contaminate drinking water.

    The industry's biggest challenge, he said, is "taking an illiterate public and try to help them understand why we can manage these risks."

    ENERGY SECURITY

    Tillerson made a distinction between energy security and energy dependence. He said that energy security — making sure that the economy has access to energy — is crucial.

    But he said access to energy is not in peril. "Some of the fears around energy security are not well founded," he said.

    The quest for energy independence, though, is misguided, he said. It doesn't matter where the U.S. gets oil because crude is priced globally. Even if the U.S. used only oil from North America, a disruption in the Middle East would increase global prices, hurt the U.S. and global economies, and force Americans to pay more at the pump.

    Even if the U.S. no longer needed Middle Eastern oil, it would likely want to play a major role in helping maintain the region's security, Tillerson said.

    ____

    AP writers Seth Borenstein and Dina Cappiello contributed to this story from Washington. Jonathan Fahey can be reached at http://twitter.com/JonathanFahey.

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    wolf

    Let's pretend you're out for a jog in the woods. Suddenly, you find yourself surrounded by a pack of wolves. There must be at least eight of them. Panic sets in. What should you do?  

    Oliver Starr, who has raised dozens of wolves and did field work for Yellowstone wolf reintroduction, provides a good answer on Quora

    Here are some of the key points (Starr gives instructions for the more likely scenario that you've entered a pen of captive wolves, but some of the advice can still apply in the wild).

    • DON"T RUN! This will make you look prey, which is a bad thing. Remember, wolves are HUNTERS
    • Don't "stare the animal down." This looks like a threat
    • Don't turn your back on the wolves 
    • Make yourself appear scary: shout, throw stones, raise your arms over your head
    • If you've entered an enclosure, back away slowly, moving toward the exit with your back against the fence
    • Don't look scared or fall, this will encourage an attack 
    • If things get really bad, curl into a ball and protect your face

    Read Starr's full answer below: 

    Let me preface this answer by stating that the likelihood of being attacked by wolves is incredibly poor. Not only because wild wolves are very fearful of people and try their best to avoid them, but also because your chances of being where wolves roam freely is also fairly poor.  Wolves require about 10 square miles per wolf but since wolves form packs this really means something like 7 wolves together somewhere in a 70 square mile territory.  If you are near wolves it's because you worked hard to be there.  

    A more likely scenario would be if you entered the enclosure of a captive wolf pack that had been habituated to people to some degree. With animals like this the risk of an attack is much higher. For the sake of accuracy, I'd prefer to use the second, much more likely scenario for my response.Let me preface this answer by stating that the likelihood of being attacked by wolves is incredibly poor.  Not only because wild wolves are very fearful of people and try their best to avoid them, but also because your chances of being where wolves roam freely is also fairly poor.  Wolves require about 10 square miles per wolf but since wolves form packs this really means something like 7 wolves together somewhere in a 70 square mile territory.  If you are near wolves it's because you worked hard to be there.  

    Whatever you do, don't run. Wolves are what is known as coursing predators meaning they take their prey on the run.

    If you watch wolves hunt you'll immediately see this in action.  Wolves will attempt to get the animals they prey upon to run. If they don't run wolves usually don't pursue the attack.

    Here's a video that demonstrates this with arctic wolves and musk oxen:

     In addition to not running I would suggest taking the following steps:


    Do not try to "stare the animal down" Wolves appear to regard a direct stare as a challenge or a threat

    Do not turn your back on the animal (s).  If multiple wolves are threatening you some of them may try to flank you as you can see the lead animal doing in the picture above.

    Try to make yourself appear large. If you have a jacket or shirt on, raise it above your head.

    Shout at the animals.  

    If you can do so without making yourself vulnerable grab a few stones and throw them at the animals.

    Back slowly away.

    If you are working in an enclosure, get yourself to a position with your back to the fence and then keeping your back to the fence move towards an exit.  Be careful not to trip. A fall could encourage an attack.  In any case if you're working with captive animals in enclosures you should be working in pairs or at a minimum be connected to nearby help via a radio.  This last advice holds true working with any large and/or wild animals.  When you need help, you need it immediately.

    If you are noisy, don't exhibit excessive fear and maintain control of yourself, this should be enough to get you out of trouble.

    However if things go downhill from there your chances become worse the more animals there are. I survived a wolf attack from a captive male wolf and wrote about that experience in detail in another Quora answer here: Oliver Starr's answer to Animal Behavior (Ethology): Would a lone adult wolf be able to take down an athletic adult human? 

    Given what I experienced with just a single animal I find it hard to believe a person could fend off two or more wolves for any length of time should they commit to an attack.

    At more than one wolf, I myself expect I would curl into the tightest ball possible and try to protect my head, neck, face and sides. Chances are, if the wolves really meant to hurt me, this strategy would only be effective for a very short time...

    So, there you go. Safe walking out there. 

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