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The latest news on Environment from Business Insider

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    canada oil tar sands alberta reuters RTR46ZSC

    On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to revive and expedite two multi-billion-dollar underground pipelines that would snake oil through US states to centers of the petroleum industry.

    One is the contentious $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which would shuttle petroleum more than 1,100 miles, from North Dakota's Bakkan oil fields to holding tanks in Patoka, Illinois.

    The other is the Keystone XL pipeline — a new segment of the existing Keystone Pipeline system, which begins in the Alberta, Canada tar sands and ends in Patoka as well as points in Texas along the Gulf of Mexico. The XL segment, which could cost its builders as much as $10 billion, is partially built and would move larger volumes of oil in less time by shortening the route and burying larger-diameter pipes.

    Proponents of the pipeline say it will lessen dependence on foreign oil while creating jobs and growing domestic industry. However, many Americans, and primarily Native Americans, are furious about Trump's latest executive order.

    Barack Obama killed the Keystone XL pipeline in November 2015, stating it wouldn't have helped lower gas prices or create that many jobs. He also said the long-term contribution to climate change — possibly more than 22 billion metric tons of carbon pollution, according to Scientific American — wasn't worth the loss of America's global leadership on fighting emissions that exacerbate global warming.

    "If we're going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming inhabitable, if not inhospitable [...] we have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground," Obama said.

    Trump's televised revival of Keystone XL didn't mention its steep environmental costs, including the 54,000 square miles (140,000 square kilometers) of pristine Alberta wilderness that may be razed to feed it.

    "We're not saying the project is good or bad. We're just saying the scale and severity of what's happening in Alberta will make your spine tingle," Robert Johnson, a former Business Insider correspondent, wrote after flying over the Canadian oil sands in May 2012.

    Keep scrolling to see an updated version of Johnson's photo essay, which shows Canadian oil mining — a process in which tar-laden sand is dug from the ground and the oil is separated through a lengthy and messy process.

    This story has been updated to include details about in situ extraction, which is different from the mining method and makes up about half of Canada oil sands production.

    SEE ALSO: 53 of the most eye-catching protest signs we saw at the Women's March on Washington

    DON'T MISS: The Keystone XL Pipeline, which Trump just advanced, will carry the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet

    To get a look at the oil sand mines, we rented this Cessna 172, which the pilot was allowed to bring down to 1,000 feet. Through the open window we could see what really goes on in one of the most controversial places on the planet.



    The Alberta oil sands are spread across more than 54,000 square miles but we're taking a look at just a small part of it. The red line is an approximate outline of the entire deposit — the green is where we'll be flying.



    Thousands flock here to make real money in the oil sands, where creating synthetic crude begins in the strip mine.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Rag pickers collect recyclable material at a garbage dump in New Delhi November 19, 2014.

    India’s capital city, Delhi, has introduced a ban on disposable plastic.

    Cutlery, bags, cups and other forms of single-use plastic were prohibited by the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

    There is particular concern in the country about the amount of plastic waste it produces. According to the Times of India, it is responsible for an astonishing 60 percent of the plastic that is dumped in the world’s oceans every year.

    The ban affects the whole National Capital Territory (NCT) area of Delhi.

    It was introduced after complaints about the illegal mass burning of plastic and other waste at three local rubbish dumps, which has been blamed for causing air pollution. The sites are supposed to operate as waste-to-energy plants.

    Rag pickers collect recyclable material at a garbage dump in New Delhi November 19, 2014.

    The Tribunal said in a statement: "Each of these sites is a depiction of the mess that can be created for environment and health of people of Delhi.

    "We direct that use of disposable plastic is prohibited in entire NCT of Delhi.

    "The Delhi government shall take steps for storage and use of plastic materials."

    The ban came into force at the start of this month.

    "All the corporations …and other public authorities, including NCT of Delhi, are directed to take immediate steps for reduction and utilisation of dumped waste," the Tribunal added.

    After Theresa May visited India in November last year, analysts commissioned by Greenpeace calculated the air pollution was so bad it probably had slightly shortened her lifespan.

    She was exposed to air that was 36 times more toxic than in London during the three-day trade mission to Delhi.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Women are more attracted to men with these physical traits


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    Environmental Protection Agency climate change

    The Trump administration has told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take down its website with educational resources and links to climate change data, according to a Reuters report.

    The EPA, a federal agency charged with safeguarding clean, livable air and water, funds and conducts research into the impacts of climate change on public health, the environment, and natural disasters.

    Much of that data is available on its website, and is part of the toolkit scientists use to study the health, safety, and future of the planet.

    The White House has not put out an official statement confirming the order, just as it has not confirmed that it has frozen grants and contracts at the agency, that the agency is not allowed to communicate with the public, or that the EPA wil be banned from funding original science. 

    Reuters writer Valerie Volcovici reported on Wednesday that the news agency heard of the order to take down the website from two agency employees who were defying the gag order.

    Scientists are not resting easy. There was a significant effort before Trump took office to download climate data from government websites to private servers. It is not clear whether all of the key data on the EPA website is backed up elsewhere, and researchers encouraged each other over Twitter Wednesday morning to continue copying as much as possible:

     

    Update Wednesday, January 25, 2017, 12:15 pm: Inside EPA is reporting that the Trump administration has decided to "stand down" on the website removal plans, for now. 

    SEE ALSO: The EPA, which protects Americans from poison and pollution, has been frozen under Trump

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Volkswagen faces a possible $18 billion EPA fine for cheating on emissions tests


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    A woman prays in front of the North Dakota State Capitol building.

    President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed executive orders to advance construction of the Dakota Access pipeline and the Keystone XL pipeline.

    Activists had fought against both pipelines — the protest at the Standing Rock reservation over the Dakota Access pipeline that was led by Native Americans made headlines in 2016. In December, the US Army Corps of Engineers rejected the permit that the project needed for its completion.

    But on Tuesday, Trump signed a series of directives aimed at speeding up the pipeline's approval process. One of them ordered an end to what he called "incredibly cumbersome" environmental reviews. Those reviews are seen by many government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as environmentalists, as cornerstones to ensuring the environment is taken into account when new construction projects are ordered.

    #NoDAPL and what's to come

    aries yumul and friend from the Lummi reservation

    Beginning in September, thousands of protesters, including representatives from more than 100 Native American tribes, camped out in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, where they endured freezing temperatures and the powerful sprays of a "water cannon" to protest the pipeline's construction.

    The project is a proposed 1,172-mile pipe that would shuttle half a million barrels of North Dakota-produced oil to refining markets in Illinois. Proponents of the pipeline say it would lessen dependence on foreign oil while creating jobs and growing domestic industry.

    As proposed, the pipeline would pass through North Dakota's Lake Oahe, a burial site sacred to the Standing Rock Sioux and a major source of drinking water for the community.

    "The main reason it's such a big deal here is that it's going to affect our water supply," Aries Yumul, an assistant principal at North Dakota's Todd County School District and a self-identified water protector with the Oceti Sakowin, the proper name for the people commonly known as the Sioux, told Business Insider in November.

    So protesters, whose rallying cry on Twitter was marked by the #NoDAPL hashtag, were joyous when the Army Corps of Engineers, which was in charge of permits for the project, appeared to move against it in December. But as I reported in December, it may have been too early to celebrate.

    Here's why environmentalists and people who live and work near the proposed pipeline are so concerned.

    Contaminated water is a massive health problem

    Should the Dakota Access pipeline leak or burst, the effects could be devastating.

    And leak pipelines do. Since 1995, there have been more than 2,000 significant accidents involving oil and petroleum pipelines, adding up to roughly $3 billion in property damage, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration analyzed by The Associated Press. An average of 121 accidents happened in both 2013 and 2014.

    oil spill

    An in-depth report in 2010 from Worcester Polytechnic Institute that looked at the effects of three major oil spills found increased incidences of cancer and digestive problems in people who had ingested the oil directly (in drinking water) or indirectly (through eating the meat of livestock exposed to the oil).

    In addition, people who had used contaminated water for bathing or laundry appeared to experience more skin problems, ranging from mild rashes to severe and lasting eczema and malignant skin cancers.

    Most large-scale environmental projects require extensive legal review — and that is what Trump is targeting

    The Army Corps of Engineers must comply with several environmental laws in permitting the pipeline, including the National Environmental Policy Act.

    Passed in 1970, NEPA basically ensures that the government considers the potential environmental effects of any federal project, like a new highway or airport, before building it.

    The Standing Rock Sioux say that the Dakota Access pipeline's review process was not done properly. In a lawsuit it filed in July against the Army Corps of Engineers, the tribe said the permit process was rushed and undertaken largely without its input.

    If the pipeline were to leak or burst, it would send oil deep into the Missouri River, the Standing Rock Sioux's primary source of water, which the tribe relies on for everything from bathing to drinking.

    For that reason, the tribe says the Army Corps of Engineers could violate not just one, but two laws: NEPA and the Clean Water Act. The 1972 Clean Water Act makes it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a single identifiable source — such as a pipe — into certain bodies of water without a permit.

    Dakota Access oil pipeline UN Summit

    "The Missouri River is the tribe's only source of water,"Devashree Saha, a senior policy associate at the Brookings Institution, told me in November. "If this leaks, it is going to spill into the river. So the tribe's legal stance — that they were not adequately consulted, that there are potential water issues here — their legal concerns are strong."

    Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, responded to Business Insider's request for comment last fall in an email, saying: "Crude pipelines in the country have a very specific review and approval process that must be followed. Crude/oil lines are approved at the state level, which is why all of the review and environmental analysis was done by the four states through which this pipeline passes. The exception to that is the crossing of waterways and federally owned land, which are under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers to review and approve."

    That "specific review and approval process" is precisely what Trump's most recent directive appears to target.

    Trump also owned stock in Energy Transfer Partners, according to his most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission, The New York Times reported on Tuesday. The Times added that a Trump spokesperson said last month that Trump had sold all of his stock during the summer, yet Trump has failed to provide any documentation proving the sale.

    Signs left by protesters demonstrating against the Energy Transfer Partners Dakota Access oil pipeline sit at the gate of a construction access road where construction has been stopped for several weeks due to the protests near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. September 6, 2016.  REUTERS/Andrew Cullen

    The pipeline was originally designed to run much farther north — near Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota. But as Bill McKibben wrote in The New Yorker, officials rerouted it when people there raised concerns that it could jeopardize the community's water supply.

    But now, instead of risking Bismarck, the route could threaten the Standing Rock Sioux.

    "Our aquifers and rivers are fed by this river," Yumul said. "If it were to get contaminated, it would affect all of the tribal nations. The idea of that ... it would be a death sentence at this point."

    SEE ALSO: The Army is exploring alternate routes for the Dakota Access Pipeline

    DON'T MISS: The EPA, which protects Americans from poison and pollution, has been frozen under Trump

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Animated map shows all the major oil and gas pipelines in the US


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    trumpagain

    Under President Trump, the US Environmental Protection Agency has frozen all new grants and contracts and barred its employees from talking about it with the press or public, according to reports from ProPublica and The Huffington Post as well as information passed anonymously from EPA staff to Business Insider.

    Along with the EPA's core mission to protect Americans from poisons and other dangers in the environment, the agency maintains a page dedicated to disseminating knowledge and compiling scientific research about climate change, which Reuters recently reported has been threatened with removal.

    While all this is going on, here's a reminder of everything President Trump has said about climate change:

    1. Climate change is a Chinese Hoax

    In November 2012, President Trump tweeted that global warming is a Chinese hoax which is part of a plot designed to bring down US business and manufacturing.

    "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." 

    Trump has since backed away from what he said, calling his words a "joke" and sometimes denying he said them altogether, as independent fact-checking website PolitiFact notes. However, over the years Trump hasn't shied away from his skepticism about climate change, and he has referred to it as a hoax many times. A lot of these claims are on his Twitter feed.

    This tweet is from January 2014.

    "NBC News just called it the great freeze — coldest weather in years. Is our country still spending money on the GLOBAL WARMING HOAX?"

    A few days later:

    "Snowing in Texas and Louisiana, record setting freezing temperatures throughout the country and beyond. Global warming is an expensive hoax!"

    "Give me clean, beautiful and healthy air — not the same old climate change (global warming) bullshit! I am tired of hearing this nonsense."

    In reality there is irrefutable evidence that global warming is happening and has been worsened by humans. This is backed up by thousands of scientists and decades of research. 

    2. Climate change is bad for business

    In the past, Trump has said he wants to dismantle the USA's involvement in the Paris Climate Agreement — a pledge between world leaders to stop the Earth heating up more than 2 degrees Celsius — because it is "bad for US business."

    Last January he told Fox news show "Fox & Friends" that climate change was actually a very expensive form of tax, according to PolitiFact.

    "Well, I think the climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change. I'd be — received environmental awards. And I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China," he said. "Obviously, I joke. But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change. They burn everything you could burn; they couldn't care less. They have very — you know, their standards are nothing. But they — in the meantime, they can undercut us on price. So it's very hard on our business." 

    3. Wind farms (a form of renewable energy) are bad for people's health

    Trump also said that wind farms are "disgusting looking" and claimed they are "bad for people's health"— a claim which has since been debunked

    "Not only are wind farms disgusting looking, but even worse they are bad for people's health."

    The USA is the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide, so Trump's decisions will undoubtedly have a large impact on the rest of the world.

    Here are the facts:

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Science says parents of unsuccessful kids could have these 6 things in common


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    The Upper Tularik Floodplain in the Bristol Bay watershed in Alaska is seen in an undated handout picture provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Courtesy of Environmental Protection Agency/Handout via REUTERS

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Scientific findings by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staff will likely face a case-by-case review by the Trump administration before being released, a spokesman for President Donald Trump's transition team told NPR in an interview published on Wednesday.

    Doug Ericksen, who oversees communications for the administration's EPA team, said agency scientists were expected to undergo an internal vetting process but did not give specifics.

    He also did not say whether such a review would be permanent, according to the interview with National Public Radio taped late on Tuesday.

    "We'll take a look at what's happening so that the voice coming from the EPA is one that's going to reflect the new administration," Ericksen said.

    According to NPR, any review would violate the EPA's scientific policy published in 2012 that prevents the suppression of agency findings.

    Erickson's comments come amid reports that the Trump administration has moved to muzzle employees across a range of federal agencies, seeking to curb the flow of information from several government agencies involved in environmental issues.

    The White House also removed former Democratic President Barack Obama's climate initiatives from the website.

    Two EPA employees also told Reuters that administration officials have also ordered the agency to remove its webpage on climate change, leaving some workers scrambling to try and save related data.

    The moves have alarmed environmental advocates, who also criticized the president's move on Tuesday to clear the way for two controversial oil pipelines: the Keystone XL and Dakota Access projects.

    During his campaign, the Republican president called global warming a hoax perpetrated by China and has cast doubt on the degree to which human activity causes climate change. This week he told executives that while he is an environmentalist, related regulations have gotten "out of control."

    Some, but not all, of his Cabinet nominees have also cast doubt on climate science. Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson, the former chief executive of Exxon Mobil, said earlier this month that climate change did exist but did not say whether it was related to human activity.

    Earlier on Wednesday, protesters with the environmental activist group Greenpeace unfurled a large banner from a construction crane that could be seen from the White House that read "resist."

    An adhoc group of scientists is also planning an upcoming protest march in Washington, the Washington Post said in a report on Tuesday.

    SEE ALSO: The Keystone XL Pipeline, which Trump just advanced, will carry the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet

    DON'T MISS: The EPA, which protects Americans from poison and pollution, has been frozen under Trump

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Volkswagen faces a possible $18 billion EPA fine for cheating on emissions tests


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    On Tuesday night, Reuters broke the news that the Trump administration had instructed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to scrub its climate data (or at least its links to its climate data) from its website.

    Scientists and people interested in climate science reacted strongly to the news, stepping up efforts to download EPA data before any the apparent takedown.

    (As of this writing, the page is still up.)

    Environmental Protection Agency climate change

    The warning of a data wipe came from two anonymous EPA employees who leaked the plan to Reuters, and tracked with previous reporting from other sources like Inside EPA.

    But now it seems that the Trump administration has silently backed down, for now, from the secret plan to scrub climate data from EPA.gov.

    Inside EPA reports that the administration has decided to "stand down"— for now. 

    As we've written before, there's still plenty of looming questions concerning exactly what is going on within Trump's EPA.

    SEE ALSO: The EPA just delayed 30 environmental regulations created under Obama — here's what that means

    DON'T MISS: The Keystone XL Pipeline, which Trump just advanced, will carry the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This startling animation shows how much Arctic sea ice has thinned in just 26 years


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    Scott Pruitt

    The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published paperwork Wednesday to delay 30 environmental regulations created under Obama until March 21.

    All 30 regulations were written into the Federal Register before President Trump took office, and were due to go into effect before March 21. (Writing a regulation into the federal register is a step on the way to making it enforceable.)

    The new paperwork, which will also be written into the federal register, updates that schedule, citing Trump's freeze on all new regulations.

    The delay will offer the Trump administration the opportunity to review all 30 regulations, and potentially to take action to block some (or all) of them.

    One impact of the delay could be an immediate change to US greenhouse gas emissions policy. The renewable fuel standard, a rule designed to curb greenhouse gases and support renewable fuels, is among the 30 delayed regulations. 

    Typically, any new rule in the Federal Register requires a period of public notice and comment — which would apply to the new delay on existing rules. But the EPA cites an exemption for "good cause" in the federal rulemaking procedures. So the delay will happen without public comment.

    There have been instances where "good cause" exemptions have been successfully fought in court. In 2004, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated a Department of Energy (DOE) rule delay that cited the "good cause" exemption. The DOE wanted more time to review its fuel efficiency standard without public comment, but the court ruled that "an emergency of DOE’s own making" doesn't count as "good cause."

    The delay of these 30 regulations is a rare sign of life from an EPA that has largely gone dark and frozen under the Trump administration, and may no longer be doing science or even sharing climate data with scientists.

    SEE ALSO: The Trump administration has told the EPA to remove its climate change data from its website

    DON'T MISS: The EPA, which protects Americans from poison and pollution, has been frozen under Trump

    AND: Trump is taking advice on the future of the environment from a man who denies basic science

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Greenpeace activists scaled a 270-foot crane to hang a gigantic 'resist' banner in plain view of the White House


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    Tourists take pictures of a NASA sign at the Kennedy Space Center visitors complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida April 14, 2010.  REUTERS/Carlos Barria

    Employees from more than a dozen US government agencies, according to Reuters, have established a network of unofficial "rogue" Twitter feeds in defiance of what they see as attempts by President Donald Trump to muzzle federal climate change research and other science.

    Seizing on Trump's favorite mode of discourse, scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, and other bureaus have privately launched Twitter accounts — borrowing names and logos of their agencies — to protest restrictions they view as censorship and provide unfettered platforms for information the new administration has curtailed.

    "Can't wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS," one anonymous National Park Service employee posted on the newly opened Twitter account @AltNatParkService. "You can take our official twitter, but you'll never take our free time!"

    The @RogueNASA account displayed an introductory disclaimer describing it as "The unofficial 'Resistance' team of NASA. Not an official NASA account." It beckoned readers to follow its feed "for science and climate news and facts. REAL NEWS, REAL FACTS."

    The swift proliferation of such tweets by government rank-and-file followed internal directives several agencies involved in environmental issues have received since Trump's inauguration requiring them to curb their dissemination of information to the public.

    Last week, Interior Department staff were told to stop posting on Twitter after an employee retweeted posts about relatively low attendance at Trump's swearing-in, and about how material on climate change and civil rights had disappeared from the official White House website.

    Employees at the EPA and the departments of Interior, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services have since confirmed seeing notices from the new administration either instructing them to remove web pages or limit how they communicate to the public, including through social media.

    The restrictions have reinforced concerns that Trump, a climate change skeptic, is out to squelch federally backed research showing that emissions from fossil fuel combustion and other human activities are contributing to global warming.

    The resistance movement gained steam on Tuesday when a series of climate-change-related tweets were posted to the official Twitter account of Badlands National Park in South Dakota, administered under the Interior Department, but were soon deleted.

    A Park Service official later said those tweets came from a former employee no longer authorized to use the official account and that the agency was being encouraged to use Twitter to post only public-safety and park information and to avoid national policy issues.

    Within hours, unofficial "resistance" or "rogue" Twitter accounts began sprouting up, emblazoned with the government logos of the agencies where they worked. The list grew to at least 14 such sites by Wednesday afternoon.

    An account dubbed @ungaggedEPA invited followers to visit its feeds of "ungagged news, links, tips and conversation that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is unable to tell you," adding that it was "Not directly affiliated with @EPA."

    US environmental employees were soon joined by similar "alternative" Twitter accounts originating from various science and health agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Weather Service. Many of their messages carried Twitter hashtags #resist or #resistance.

    An unofficial Badlands National Park account called @BadHombreNPS — a reference to one of Trump's more memorable campaign remarks about Mexican immigrants — also emerged to post material that had been scrubbed from the official site earlier.

    Because the Twitter feeds were set up and posted to anonymously as private accounts, they are beyond the control of the government.

    SEE ALSO: At one end of Trump's revived Keystone XL pipeline, there's a scene you must see to believe

    DON'T MISS: The EPA just delayed 30 environmental regulations created under Obama — here's what that means

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: These stunning NASA photos show how the Earth has changed in the last few decades


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    sulphur3

    Ethiopia is home to some of the world's most beautiful scenery, including some striking sulfur — yes, sulfur — springs.

    Earlier this month, award-winning photographer Carl Court visited one of these springs, located at the base of the Dallol Volcano.

    The stunning site is roughly 370 miles (600 kilometers) north of the capital Addis Ababa, but many of the images don't look like anywhere else on Earth. 

    SEE ALSO: I went to the source of the world's best coffee — and saw firsthand why the industry is in trouble

    DON'T MISS: A brand-new species called the hermit crab caterpillar makes its own armour out of leaves

    Dallol is the Earth's lowest land volcano at 48 metres below sea level. Its last recorded eruption was back in 1926. The salt flats stretch for miles in all directions and in the far distance you can see high mountains, some of which are extinct volcanoes.



    The district holds the current record for the highest average temperature of any inhabited place on Earth, which can regularly exceed 46 degrees Celsius.



    Despite the heat, Ethiopian communities here continue the centuries-old tradition of mining salt from the ground by hand.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    pacific garbage patch

    Already, the ocean is filled with about 165 million tons of plastic.

    That's 25 times heavier than the Great Pyramid of Giza.

    By 2050, plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish, predicts a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum.

    macarthur graphic plastic oceansPart of the reason is that plastic use has increased 20-fold in the last 50 years, and it's continuing to rise.

    But we also don't reuse nearly as many plastics as we could, causing them to go into landfills that can then pollute the oceans.

    The report helps quantify just how much plastic this is: It's "equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute."

    But we could prevent this much plastic from ever entering the ocean.

    For example, only 14% of plastic packaging is recycled, and it's the biggest source of plastic pollution in the oceans, according to the report.

    If we reused more plastic packaging, and turned it back into other plastic products, the report concludes, we could significantly decrease the amount that goes into the oceans.

    plastic waste india oceans

    Recycling plastic packaging could help businesses, too. Today, they're losing at least $80 billion dollars a year because they have to make so many new plastics from scratch.

    Of course, decreasing our use of plastics can also help keep them out of the ocean, since it means they never even enter the waste stream.

    No matter what, we need to keep millions of tons of plastic out of our oceans. Or one day, we'll have more plastic than fish.

    SEE ALSO: Trump doesn't believe in climate change. Here's his platform on the environment

    DON'T MISS: Here's how much oil has spilled from US pipelines since 2010

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This is what happens when plastic is thrown into the ocean


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    A truck engine is tested for pollution exiting its exhaust pipe as California Air Resources field representatives (unseen) work a checkpoint set up to inspect heavy-duty trucks traveling near the Mexican-U.S. border in Otay Mesa, California September 10, 2013.  REUTERS/Mike Blake

    President Donald Trump's latest executive order will force government agencies to kill two regulations for every one they create — literally.

    The order, as listed on whitehouse.gov, reads: "Unless prohibited by law, whenever an executive department or agency (agency) publicly proposes for notice and comment or otherwise promulgates a new regulation, it shall identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed."

    Analysts are still scrambling to figure out exactly what the rule means and how far it will go. It's unclear, for example, whether it applies to 30 Obama-era Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations still awaiting approval — many of which are local implementation plans for broader environmental rules put in place by Congress.

    Here's what is clear: Trump's latest directive is likely to have a sweeping impact across the federal government, with especially strong ramifications for the EPA.

    Kenneth Kimmell, the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, put out a statement warning that the order could put the agency in an impossible position.

    "This executive order is absurd," Kimmell wrote, "imposing a Sophie’s choice on federal agencies. If, for example, the EPA wants to issue a new rule to protect kids from mercury exposure, will it need to get rid of two other science-based rules, such as limiting lead in drinking water and cutting pollution from school buses?"

    In his statement, Kimmell also raised the possibility that Trump may not actually have the authority as President to issue an order like this. As Washington, DC-based subscription news service Inside EPA notes, many EPA rules, such as air quality standards, must be in place as required by Congress. Many of the regulations the EPA creates are in fact instructions to local groups on how to abide by federal laws. It's not clear that the EPA, or the President, has the authority to roll those back.

    Business Insider reached out to the EPA but did not receive a response.

    Trump's order also requires that new regulations in 2017 have a net compliance cost of $0. That is, for any new rule the EPA (or any other agency) creates, it will have to cut costs by rolling back other rules. Again, it remains unclear whether the EPA can do so while also complying with the law.

    SEE ALSO: Mike Pence, the vice president of the United States, has said he doesn't believe that smoking kills

    DON'T MISS: One of the world's top scientific journals put out a color-coded scorecard for Trump's health policies — and there's a lot of red

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This NASA map shows the drastic disappearance of Arctic ice


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    Don Benton

    Even the head of the EPA's transition doesn't appear to know the Trump administration's plan for the EPA's future, according to an alleged email leaked Monday.

    In the leaked email, which was published Monday by Popular Science, transition head Don Benton allegedly tells EPA employees not to trust information from the media, because not even he knows what the future holds for the EPA.

    Benton, a former Republican state senator from Vancouver, Washington, has led the transition since January 23.

    "I cannot tell you today what the final decisions from the White House, from our new Administrator, and from the Congress will be," he allegedly writes in the email, according to Popular Science. "I can tell you that despite what you read and see on TV, no final decisions have been made with regard to the EPA."

    Benton then allegedly tells employees he can't "validate or reject" information or documents from former transition officials published in the press. This is an apparent reference to quotes from former transition head Myron Ebell, who has been quoted suggesting that the EPA's staff could be cut from 15,000 to 5,000, as well as a document suggesting the agency would no longer fund science.

    The EPA has not returned emails or calls from Business Insider since Trump took office.

    Read the full email over at Popular Science.

    SEE ALSO: Big changes could be coming to the EPA — but no one is sure what

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    More than a million acres of land have been ravaged by dozens of forest fires in the central-south regions of Chile.

    Fires started mid-January 2017 and have been described as some of the worst the country has ever faced.

    Firefighting planes arrived from Russia and Brazil to help combat the fires which have left several thousand people homeless. At least 11 people have been killed since the fires started.

    Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said the origin of the fires remains unknown and that arson cannot be ruled out.

    Produced by Claudia Romeo

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    When it comes to the amount of meat consumed per capita, the U.S. comes in 2nd place. This kind of diet is not only a concern for people's health but also the environment. To alleviate the problem, researchers are coming up with alternative foods that could change the way we eat in the future.

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    sea volcano

    When the Earth was new, there was one continent called Pangaea. About 175 million years ago this supercontinent started to break apart, and over millions of years the continents we know today were formed. 

    Scientists are interested in finding out more about these early continental movements, and they've been gathering evidence that old continental crust may be lying beneath some oceanic volcanoes. 

    A new study, which was published this week in the journal Nature Communications, suggests this crust is contributing parts of itself to some of those volcanoes. The evidence? Zircon crystals — some of the oldest rock fragments ever found on Earth — discovered within lava brought to the surface that are estimated to be between 2.5 and 3 billion years old.

    The research took place in Mauritius, where the crust underneath would have been part of the old continent Mauritia that broke away and formed Madagascar and India about 60 million years ago. The new findings could shed new light on the mechanisms of plate tectonics in these underwater hotspots, the researchers say. 

    "Our findings tell us that rifting and break-up of continental entities, driven by plate tectonic processes, is more complex and messy than we previously thought,"Lewis Ashwal, a petrology and geochemistry professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesberg and lead author of the paper, told Business Insider. "Fragments of continents of many sizes can be left behind in the new ocean basins, and some of them can be blanketed by younger lavas, and thus can be 'hidden' from view."

    Still, when it comes to predicting how tectonic plates will behave in the future, it's all pretty speculative, Ashwal added.

    "As geologists, we are much better at studying the past than predicting the future," he said. "We can expect that the former pieces of the supercontinent Gondwana, including India, Africa and Madagascar will continue to drift apart from one another, possibly for several tens of million years, but we cannot predict how the Earth will operate too far into the future."

    India and Asia will continue to collide, which will ensure the existence of the Himalayan mountains, but just how long for is a mystery, he said. Also, the entire continent of Africa appears to be starting to part, which would produce big volcanoes in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

    "We don’t know if this will eventually lead to full-scale continental break-up, with the formation of a new ocean in this region," Ashwal told Business Insider. "But our work implies that if this does happen, the break-up is likely to be messy, with many continental fragments, of variable size, some of which could be scattered across the new ocean."

    SEE ALSO: This Ethiopian sulfur spring is one of the hottest and most inhospitable places on Earth — and the photos are mesmerizing

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    NOW WATCH: There's only one place in the world where you can swim in the tectonic plates between 2 continents


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    electric cargo bike

    While Finland is busy giving thousands of people a free $600 a month in a social experiment, the government of Oslo, Norway has announced it will give out twice that amount — to help the environment.

    On February 1, Oslo's government began offering residents a $1,200 credit to be used toward the cost of an electric cargo bike.

    Plagued by worsening air pollution, the city wants to cut its dependence on cars and promote a cleaner mode of transit.

    The grants are designed to help people buy electric bikes that stow groceries, bags, and other personal items that one might otherwise put in the trunk of a car. Given the typical cost of e-bikes — around $2,500 to $6,400 — the credit will cover between 25% and 50% of the bike's total cost.

    Norway has set aside an impressive $1 billion nationwide for new bike-related infrastructure, including new bike paths and more electric bikes. Giving more people e-bikes would minimize the need for more expensive infrastructure like "bike elevators," which carry riders uphill on their bikes.

    Not all of Oslo's 618,000 residents will get the $1,200 for a bike, however. The budget only allows for 500 to 1,000 grants, City Lab reports, which means the program won't necessarily make a huge dent in Norway's smog problem. Some Norwegian news outlets have also characterized the grant as a subsidy for wealthy people, since they're more likely to have the means to buy one.

    In addition to promoting bike riding, Oslo has also temporarily banned diesel vehicles and set a goal to ban all vehicles from the city center by 2019. The federal government has also discussed the possibility of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and offering more widespread subsidies on electric bikes.

    If all goes according to plan, Oslo's greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 will be at least half what they were in 1990, with many more e-bikes buzzing around.

    SEE ALSO: Norway’s 450-foot-long ‘bike elevator’ is like a ski lift for cyclists

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    NOW WATCH: A ridge in Norway has one of the best views in the world


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    US President Barack Obama

    The most famous lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) right now are probably those 14 filed by Scott Pruitt, the anti-regulation Oklahoma Attorney General that Trump picked to lead the agency.

    But there's another category of EPA lawsuits that don't make headlines as often these days: those designed to force the agency to write stricter environmental rules, not relax the ones that already exist.

    And the first such lawsuit — concerning an Obama-era EPA decision — is already headed for a courtroom, as Inside EPA first reported.

    A lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club and a group of petitioners from California argues that the EPA has failed in its legal responsibility to regulate three air pollutants.

    The case, which heads to oral argument in front of the DC Circuit Court February 10, gets a bit into the weeds of procedures for EPA rulemaking. But here's what you need to know:

    • In 1990, Congress introduced a series of amendments to the Clean Air Act, which is the foundational law behind all those specific emissions rules that come out of the EPA.
    • Among other things, the amendments required that the EPA develop a list of emissions sources* for seven dangerous airborn toxins (Hazardous Air Pollutants, or "HAPs") that build up in living things and may cause cancer and other major health issues.
    • Once the list was officially recorded, it was the EPA's job to write regulations for those HAP sources that would reduce HAP emissions as much as reasonably possible.
    • For more then two decades, the EPA avoided going through the official process for writing the list it came up with into the federal rulebook
    • separate lawsuit in 2015 forced the agency's hand. So in 2015, under Obama, the EPA wrote the list into the Federal Register.
    • But the EPA never actually created regulations targeting the seven HAPs. Instead, it relied on regulating "surrogate pollutants." That is, it regulated pollutants that tend to get emitted alongside the seven HAPs, under the theory that reducing them would reduce HAP emissions as well.
    • In this new lawsuit, which began in June 2016, the Sierra Club argues that the EPA has therefore failed to meet the requirements Congress established in 1990, and thus must write new regulations to comply with the law.

    Obama's Department of Justice defended the EPA, arguing that the Sierra Club was attacking an established, accepted regulatory approach long after the legal period for challenging it ended.

    Now, if the EPA loses, Pruitt and the Trump Administration could find themselves forced to write new regulations, even after promising to reduce the total count on the books.

    *A technical point: The list didn't actually have to include all sources, but the sources on the list did have to add up to 90% of total emissions.

    SEE ALSO: Trump's latest executive order could impose an impossible choice on the EPA

    DON'T MISS: Even Trump's EPA transition head doesn't know what changes are coming to the EPA, according to leaked email

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    Donald Trump Paul Ryan

    In government, there are ways to make a splash and ways to quietly get things done.

    President Trump made a splash Monday with an executive order requiring that for every new regulation in the Federal Register, two get rolled back. The idea's got a certain rhythm to it, but its exact impact is still unclear.

    It's not easy for a president to simply roll back a regulation once it's made its way through a public "notice and comment" period and onto the Federal Register.

    Congress, however, has powers the president does not. And the Republican majority there is taking full advantage of them.

    Using a 1996 law known as the Congressional Review Act, Republicans are in the middle of rolling major Obama-era regulations with little in the way of public attention.

    The Congressional Review Act gives Congress the power to undo "recently finalized" regulations with just a simple majority vote in the House and Senate, and then the president's signature. Right now, that means the GOP can unravel any Obama-era regulation finalized since June 2016.

    Theoretically, as Brad Plumer notes over at Vox, that could put more than 50 regulations on the chopping block. But  it's rare for Congress and the President to use the law at all. In fact, it's only been used once before, under President George W. Bush, to repeal a Clinton-era ergonomics rule.

    Right now, Congress is targeting five. And there's good reason to think more might come later. But here are the rules set to disappear this week:

    SEE ALSO: The Trump administration could end up defending an Obama-era EPA rule in court

    The stream protection rule:

    This environmental regulation targeting coal companies has been a GOP target since before the election, and Trump singled it out on his website the day after he became president-elect. After a series of incidents where coal mines poisoned local water supplies, the rule was written to force mining companies not to begin new projects without first developing a plan to restore affected streams after all the coal gets hauled out of the earth.

    The idea was that if the companies were responsible for monitoring and later restoring the health of these streams, they'd be less likely to poison them in the first place. Coal advocates argued that it would put an unreasonable cost on the industry.

    The House voted 228-194 Wednesday to roll back the rule (which, like the other four on this list, had not yet gone into effect). The Senate agreed, voting 54-45 Thursday. Trump is expected to sign the rule, and once he does, it will go up in smoke.



    The Social Security gun rule:

    As part of the Obama administration's effort to tighten up background check procedures for people who want to buy guns, this rule enlisted the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the task of identifying people too mentally impaired to own a firearm.

    The rule requires the SSA to add people from its database who are too mentally impaired to handle their own affairs to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Critics argued that it unfairly targeted and violated the Second Amendment rights of people with mental disabilities who might not be dangerous.

    The House voted 235-180 Thursday to roll it back.



    The "resource extraction rule"

    This rule had an enemy no less powerful than the current US Secretary of State, and recent CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson. Created through the SEC under Dodd-Frank and the Consumer Protection Act, the rule required that oil companies and other resource extractors disclose payments to foreign governments.

    Tillerson, who flew to DC to lobby against the section of the law driving the rule in 2010, argued that it placed an unfair burden on US companies that their foreign counterparts don't have to deal with, requiring them to disclose trade secrets.

    After the vote on the rollback cleared the House Wednesday and the Senate early Friday, it appears this is a burden ExxonMobil won't have to deal with after all.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    The world's smallest porpoise is edging closer and closer to extinction.

    There are just 30 vaquita porpoises left in the world. Vaquitas are known as the "pandas of the sea" because of their distinctive ringed eyes. On average, they measure just 1.4 meters long.

    A report last year showed vaquita populations had suffered a 92% drop since a survey completed in 1997. The entire population lives in the Gulf of California, which is Mexico's most important fisheries region. The report warned that if Mexico didn't try and regulate fishing to save the species, it would be gone by 2022.

    Nine months later, populations have halved again, despite efforts from the Mexican government to put a halt to illegal fishing nets, according to a recent report by the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita

    In 2015, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto deployed the navy to stop illegal fishing, widened the vaquita protection area and imposed a two-year ban on gill nets. Drones also joined the effort last year, according to a statement, but the CIRVA report says that this was insufficient to control the sheer amount of illegal fishermen. 

    Vaquitas have very few natural predators, so their decline is entirely the fault of human intervention. They live in a small area in the Gulf of California where a lot of illegal fishing occurs. Gill nets are used by fishermen to catch the totoaba fish, whose bladder can fetch tens of thousands of dollars because it is eaten in soup in China for "medicinal properties."

    Scientists are having one final try to save the vaquita, and are seeking government approval to capture some of the shy mammal and put them in an enclosure so they can reproduce in safety. It sounds far-fetched, but animal populations have restored from tiny numbers before, such the northern elephant seal, which was nearly wiped out in the 19th century but increased from 100 individuals to well over 100,000 today thanks to conservation efforts.

    There will be challenges though. The report says that "capturing and housing vaquitas will be difficult, and perhaps impossible, and the species may not prove to be suitable for such conservation actions."

    It also states that one CIRVA member disagrees with the plan, "believing that there are too many unknowns and maybe some 'unknowables' surrounding the plan."

    Other marine mammals are in danger, too

    When scientists discovered the baiji dolphin was most likely extinct in 2007, vaquitas became the world's most endangered marine mammals, but there are many others in need of immediate help too.

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