Articles on this Page
- 08/03/17--08:33: _A smog-eating twist...
- 08/03/17--08:47: _7 earthquakes struc...
- 08/03/17--09:28: _The world's first f...
- 08/03/17--10:11: _Here are the stunni...
- 08/04/17--08:15: _The Trump administr...
- 08/06/17--06:18: _This explorer is go...
- 08/07/17--08:15: _Tiny mysterious sea...
- 08/08/17--08:34: _An expanding sinkho...
- 08/08/17--12:12: _Government scientis...
- 08/09/17--01:15: _A Kenyan company is...
- 08/11/17--03:33: _Engineers have crea...
- 08/11/17--09:53: _The planet's worst-...
- 08/11/17--13:01: _Driving an electric...
- 08/14/17--03:58: _Swiss researchers c...
- 08/14/17--07:03: _'Harry Potter' has ...
- 08/14/17--09:39: _Greenland continues...
- 08/15/17--07:59: _Dogs in India are t...
- 08/15/17--10:55: _ Scientists have fo...
- 08/19/17--13:00: _Deadly heat waves w...
- 08/24/17--08:17: _Harvard researchers...
- 08/03/17--08:47: 7 earthquakes struck Oklahoma in 28 hours for a disturbing reason
- National Geographic announced the winners of its 2017 Travel Photographer of the Year contest.
- There were three categories: Nature, People, and Cities.
- Here are the winning photos, plus some honorable mentions.
- Pen Hadow and a small crew are sailing to the North Pole with two yachts.
- Past explorers reached the top of the world on dogsleds or skis, but now the ice may be thin enough for small boats to get there.
- The team hopes to show the world the strange creatures that live in the region as a way to encourage people to protect it.
- Australian teen Sam Kanizay's legs were chewed up by mysterious creatures at a beach near Melbourne, Australia.
- Initial reports called the flesh-eating creatures "sea lice"— which refers to more than 500 species of parasites.
- The culprits are now thought to be lysianassid amphipods, scavenging crustaceans sometimes called "sea fleas".
- 08/08/17--08:34: An expanding sinkhole in Florida has swallowed 7 homes
- A leaked new government report that's part of the National Climate Assessment provides an updated look at what we know about climate change.
- It says the world is significantly warmer than it used to be and getting hotter, mostly because of human activity.
- The Trump administration needs to sign off on the report before it's officially released.
- From 1865 to 2015, the global average surface temperatures became about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit (.9 degrees Celsius) warmer. This can be seen in measurements of surface, atmospheric, and oceanic temperatures; melting glaciers; disappearing snow cover; shrinking sea ice; rising sea level; and more atmospheric water vapor. This can be said with "very high confidence," meaning that there's high consensus, strong evidence, and that this is well documented.
- With similar levels of confidence we can say that human activities, especially greenhouse gas emissions (largely the result of burning fossil fuels), are responsible for this warming. The authors wrote: "There are no alternative explanations, and no natural cycles are found in the observational record that can explain the observed changes in climate."
- We can say with 95-100% certainty that humans caused most of the global temperature increase seen since 1951.
- While natural variability from effects like El Niño exists, that variability only plays an important role on short time scales, not with larger climate trends.
- Gases that we've already emitted will continue to warm the world, meaning that more warming is already baked into the system, making it harder and harder to avoid levels of warming considered dangerous. The authors wrote that even if the world stopped emitting gases today, we could expect at least an additional .3 degrees C of warming.
- In the near term, the US can expect to see temperature increases of at least 1.4 degrees C over the next few decades (higher than the global average). That's pretty severe and could lead to more extreme heat waves, which kill more people than any other kind of extreme weather event. Record-setting temperatures of recent years will become common.
- With very high confidence, we can expect the frequency and intensity of weather extremes like heavy precipitation and extreme heat to continue to rise. For events like severe storms and droughts, the trends vary by region.
- There's strong evidence and consensus that oceans are absorbing more than 90% of the heat being trapped inside the climate system, which means that they are taking in CO2. There's suggestive evidence that because of this, they are becoming more acidic faster than at any point in at least the past 66 million years. Increased acidity can devastate marine life, especially coral reefs, which cover less than 2% of the ocean floor but are depended on by about 25% of marine species — including many key food sources for humans.
- Temperatures in Alaska and the Arctic are rising more than twice as fast as the global average temperature rise, something that can be seen in ice loss at the North Pole.
- There could be unanticipated tipping points we are approaching, caused by severely diminished ice sheets or severe extreme weather events.
- Since the last National Climate Assessment, we've become significantly better at being able to attribute human influence to individual extreme weather and climate events, some of which are identified in the report.
- There was no "global warming hiatus" between 2000 and 2013 and the planet has continue to warm at a steady pace as predicted.
- The authors wrote that there's "high confidence" that by later this century, US temperatures will be 2.8 degrees C warmer on a low emission scenario and 4.8 degrees C warmer on a high emissions scenario.
- While there's high confidence that at least 1 foot of sea level rise can be expected by the end of the century, different emissions scenarios could lead to vastly different levels. There's inconclusive evidence that at present we could still see a 4 foot sea level rise; but under a high emissions scenario the authors wrote that 8 feet cannot be ruled out.
- There's high confidence that we haven't slowed down emissions enough to stabilize the climate to the goals set by the Paris Agreement. Even under a mid-to-low emissions scenario, we'll have emitted enough to pass 2 degrees C in warming by some point between 2051 and 2065.
- If we don't cut greenhouse gas emissions, we'll see more deadly heat waves, acidic oceans, and rising seas.
- At this point, the planet will warm no matter what — but we can still prevent it from getting too bad.
- Environmentalist and author Bill McKibben told Business Insider that without intervention, the world would be: "If not hell, then a place with a similar temperature."
- Get multiple quotes from different installers and companies. Our local installer’s cost proved to be 25 to 30 percent lower than what such large nationwide companies as Solar City/Tesla, Sunrun, and SunPower offered.
- Be wary of the many publicly-traded solar companies now facing bankruptcy or under investigation by the SEC for cancelling contracts.
- If you have a time-of-use plan, your installer should not calculate the size of your solar system solely based on the electricity you’re consuming. The analysis should factor in your highest, on-peak usage to get an accurate overall cost per kilowatt-hour. In other words, include when you use your energy, not just how much you use.
- If you have a tile roof as we do, make sure your installer will fix and/or replace any broken tiles. Only the installer we chose specifically said he would fix and/or replace broken roof tiles and put that into our contract. He ended up charging us a price that was about 15 percent higher to take this into account. No other bidder even mentioned it, leading me to believe that if tiles were damaged, they would have left them like that—leaving us vulnerable to a leaky roof next winter.
- If your city is eligible to participate in PACE, I’d recommend taking full advantage of it against an outright purchase or taking out a loan. Not only can you deduct the interest portion of the higher property taxes from your itemized federal income-tax return, but if you sell your house before the term completes, the deduction and payments transfer to the next owner.
- Find out what brand of solar panels you will be using. Different photovoltaic panels can differ in quality and efficiency. Our LG panels, manufactured in South Korea, come with a warranty guaranteeing 85 percent of capacity over 25 years. SunPower has the most-efficient panels, guaranteeing 90 percent production over 25 years, but they cost more per watt.
- You may need to upgrade the electrical service to your home to install solar panels. We had to install a 35-amp circuit breaker in the main panel that connects to the inverter, as required by city code. Luckily, we already had 200-amp service in our newer house. Our previous house had only 100-amp service, so we would have needed a panel upgrade to add solar, which our installer said would be an additional cost of $2,000 to $4,000.
- 08/14/17--09:39: Greenland continues blazing after reaching record temperatures
- 08/15/17--07:59: Dogs in India are turning blue after swimming in a polluted river
- A new study of ExxonMobil documents shows the company acknowledged the reality of climate change in internal documents and academic papers, but promoted doubt about global warming in public.
- Exxon publicly posted internal documents to show they were consistent with how they talked about warming in public.
- A pair of Harvard researchers compared those documents to public statements from the company, and found major discrepancies.
A twisting, smog-eating tower is nearly finished in Taipei, Taiwan.
The skyscraper's facade, roof, and balconies will contain 23,000 trees and shrubs — nearly the same amount found in New York's Central Park. Inside, it will hold 40 luxury condos.
The plants are projected to absorb 130 tons of carbon dioxide per year — the equivalent of about 27 cars, lead designer Vincent Callebaut told Business Insider.
Called the Tao Zhu Yin Yuan Tower, or Agora Garden, the building topped out in July and is set to open by the fall. Take a look inside.
The 455,694-square-foot structure, a double-helix twisting 90-degrees from base to top, is modeled on a DNA strand, Callebaut said.
The 20-story skyscraper sits in the XinYi District, in the heart of Taipei City.
The top floor was completed in July 2017.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
In less than 28 hours, Oklahoma has been pummeled by earthquakes.
The wave started on Tuesday night, when five quakes struck the central part of the state, and extended into the early hours of Thursday as two more hit, according to the United States Geological Survey.
All of the earthquakes were between magnitude two and five and no significant damage was reported. However, the shaking is part of a troubling recent phenomenon. The disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking), appears to have spiked the likelihood of earthquakes in Oklahoma, potentially raising the state to the same earthquake threat level as California, according to a recent USGS forecast.
Until recently, earthquakes in Oklahoma were few and far between. In 2010, the state experienced just 41 tremors. By comparison, each year the southern California area alone has about 10,000 earthquakes.
But "seismic activity has surged in [Oklahoma] in recent years," reporter Joe Wertz of StateImpact Oklahoma told NPR on Thursday. In the last few years, Oklahoma has weathered hundreds of significant quakes each year, along with parts of several other Midwestern states.
"Scientists link the quake boom to the widespread oil industry practice of pumping waste fluid into underground disposal wells," Wertz told NPR.
The rise in earthquakes, in other words, can be attributed to the injection of large quantities of wastewater into wells deep below the Earth's surface. According to USGS, the majority of the underground wastewater comes from oil and gas operations — it is created when clean water mixes with dirt, metals, and other toxins below the Earth's surface during extraction operations.
The contaminated water becomes too dangerous to dump anywhere, since it could seep into regular groundwater, so companies shoot the wastewater deep into the earth, between layers of hard rock. That buried water can fracture and move previously stable rock, causing earthquakes under certain circumstances.
Much (but not all) of that wastewater injection is associated with the fracking boom, which has led the practice to become more common in recent years, especially in Oklahoma. Although the state isn't the only one experiencing a spike in wastewater injections, Oklahoma is full of eons-old fault lines that went quiet long ago. Wastewater operations seem to be shaking some of those faults loose, making the land especially vulnerable to earthquakes.
The 2017 USGS predictions for Oklahoma are actually less intense than they were in 2016, because earthquakes were somewhat less frequent there than expected last year. USGS scientists suggest that might be due to stricter regulations that have been put in place to control wastewater injection.
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt previously served as Oklahoma's attorney general, and has come under fire from some in the state for failing to take action against wastewater injection and fracking.
Rafi Letzter contributed to an earlier version of this post.
This summer five wind turbines are being towed out into the North Sea, where they will be the first ever floating offshore wind farm.
The turbines, built in Norway this year, have been dragged across the ocean to Scotland, where they will start working just off the coast.
The project — known as Hywind Scotland — cost a total of NOK 2 billion (£193 million, or $253 million).
It is expected to generate enough power for 20,000 households when it starts producing energy later this year, according to Statoil, the Norwegian state energy company behind the project.
Take a look at the slides below to see how the turbines work, and why an idea once dismissed as "crazy" is coming to life.
Here are the experimental turbines that will form the floating wind farm.
They are designed to sit on the surface, with about 180 metres above water and 80 metres submerged.
The turbines can drift in all three dimensions on the water's surface, and will be held in place by anchors on the sea bed. Long cables will carry electricity back to shore.
The wind farm will be in the North Sea, around 30km off the Scottish coast.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
The INSIDER Summary:
National Geographic's Travel Photographer of the Year contest brings together the top talent from around the world to share photos that inspire awe and wanderlust.
Editors at National Geographic selected this year's winners in three categories: Nature, People, and Cities. The grand prize winner received a 10-day trip for two to the Galápagos Archipelago, and a check for $2,500.
Here are the winning photos in each category, plus some honorable mentions.
Grand Prize Winner and First Place, Nature: "The Power of Nature" by Sergio Tapiro Velasco
"Powerful eruption of Colima Volcano in Mexico on December 13th, 2015. That night, the weather was dry and cold, friction of ash particles generated a big lightning of about 600 meters that connected ash and volcano, and illuminated most of the dark scene. On last part of 2015, this volcano showed a lot of eruptive activity with ash explosions that raised 2-3 km above the crater. Most of night explosions produced incandescent rock falls and lightning not bigger than 100 meters in average."
Second place, Nature: "To Live" by Hiromi Kano
"Swans who live vigorous[ly] even in mud."
Third place, Nature: "Crocodiles at Rio Tarcoles" by Tarun Sinha
"This image was captured in Costa Rica when I was travelling from Monteverde to Playa Hermosa. As you cross over this river, you can stop and peer over the edge of the bridge. Below, reside over 35 gigantic crocodiles, relaxing on the muddy banks of the river. I wanted to capture the stark difference between the crocodiles on land and in the water. In the murky waters, the body contours of these beasts remain hidden, and one can only truly see their girth as they emerge from the river."
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
In November, US Customs and Border Protection will start building the first part of President Trump's border wall through a Texas wildlife refuge and a 15-mile area in San Diego, using money it has already received from Congress.
But in order to do that, the Trump administration will need to circumvent a number of environmental reviews and regulations.
Under a law that grants the government the ability to waive legal requirements to expedite border infrastructure, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on August 1 that it will bypass dozens of environmental rules in California. In 2005, Congress also passed the Real ID Act, which allows the Department of Homeland Security to waive environmental regulations that would normally halt construction in any wildlife area along the US-Mexico border.
Since February, the CBP has been preparing to build a nearly 3-mile border through the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, according to The Texas Observer. The New York Times also recently reported that the US Army Corps of Engineers has started drilling and soil testing in California and New Mexico for the wall.
Some scientists worry that the wall, which would likely thwart some animal migration, could devastate wildlife habitats along the border. As Vox notes, the area is home to species including the bobcat, mountain lion, barred tiger salamander, Texas earless lizard, and Rio Grande chirping frog.
The 2,088-acre Santa Ana refuge, located along the Rio Grande south of McAllen, Texas, contains more than 400 species of birds. It's also home to two endangered wildcats, the ocelot and jaguarundi, and some of the last surviving sabal palm trees in South Texas, according to ProPublica. The Rio Grande Valley is one of the most biodiverse places in North America, and the migratory paths of several tropical bird species converge there.
Continuous noise and traffic from the Border Patrol, which can deter animals from migrating, could also the wildlife there, according tosome studies. Free movement is important for animal populations, especially after droughts, flooding, or other natural disasters. In April, NPR reported that some Mexican engineers are worried that the Trump administration's border wall, which could essentially act as a dam, will increase flooding in some areas as well.
In July, the House of Representatives granted $1.6 billion toward the wall. That would pay for 74 miles of barriers along the southwest border. Construction is not expected to begin until January 2017.
The DHS has estimated that the wall would cost approximately $21.6 billion in total. Over 650 miles of border fencing exists in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California.
Environmental experts told The Texas Tribune that the barriers make it harder for animals to find food, water, and mates. Many of them, like jaguars and gray wolves, are already endangered.
The research on the environmental impacts of the border fence are still new and limited in scope. The federal government has also provided little funding for independent studies, according to The Tribune.
Though Senate Democrats and some Republicans are expected to oppose the next spending bill for the wall, the Trump administration plans to start its construction soon, at least in San Diego and Texas.
"The sector remains an area of high illegal entry for which there is an immediate need to improve current infrastructure and construct additional border barriers and roads," the DHS said in a press release.
Picture the North Pole. What does it look like in your mind? Ice as far as the eye can see?
In the past, that is what the area looked like, even in summer. The first explorers that tried to reach the Pole traveled by dogsled in the early 20th century. But the next explorers to reach that iconic point on the globe may arrive in a sailboat.
The sea ice that covers the top of the world is always shifting — it gets carried by currents, cracks apart, and freezes again. There's no land below the ice to anchor it like there is in Antarctica. But satellite ice measurements suggest that since July 1979 — the first year such records were kept — the Arctic has lost an average of 28,000 square miles of ice each year, or 7.4% of the region per decade. And that loss is accelerating.
Until recently, overland treks to the North Pole were possible, though attempts by early adventurers were sometimes foiled when massive islands of ice split apart and they had to wait for passages to refreeze. In 2014, a group of polar explorers skied, floated, and swam their way to the Pole, towing 317-pound floating sleds.
However, the route over the ice is no longer considered traversable.
There are still huge ice floes many kilometers in length, but there's also a lot of open water and large areas where the ice has cracked into small islands. Even parts that appear solid may be nothing but slush.
To demonstrate just how dramatic the change has been, polar explorer Pen Hadow is preparing lead a team to the North Pole on two 50-foot sailing yachts.
Hadow became the first person to trek to the Pole solo without being resupplied in 2003. He plans to set off with his fellow expeditioners on the boats, called Bagheera and the Snow Dragon II, within the next few days.
Trying to be the first to reach that same destination in a sailboat is "bittersweet," Hadow told Business Insider.
"I am torn between the challenge of going further north than anyone has in a sailboat before and genuinely hoping that it is not yet possible," he said. "It's a very strange situation — I'm conflicted."
"The whole method of travel would have to change"
Of the 850 hours Hadow spent on his solo journey, he estimates that between 30 and 50 of them were spent in the water.
"That is when I really started to see that the relatively continuous frozen surface previous explorers had reported and experienced was changing, the whole method of travel would have to change," he said.
On that 2003 mission, Hadow brought an immersion suit that would allow him to swim across Arctic waters and an inflatable boat to hold his gear sledge. In September of that year, the month when sea ice hits its minimum, there was an average of more than 6 million square kilometers of ice. Last year, the September average was 4.72 million square kilometers.
For this upcoming trip, called Arctic Mission, Hadow's team will leave from their current location in Nome, Alaska. Each boat has two skippers trained in navigating sea ice. The crew also includes a marine scientist, doctor, journalist, photographer, and filmmaker.
They expect to travel between three-and-a-half to four thousand miles over about six weeks. The first half of the voyage will be relatively ice-free, then they'll hit the sea ice insulating the Central Arctic Ocean. Because of the time of year, the sun will shine for 24 hours a day, though the group expects to hit sleet and snow as they get farther north.
The team plans to coordinate with a group that's monitoring satellite footage to plot a route through the ice. When they hit what appears to be solid packs, the boat crews will have to try to determine whether they've encountered an ice floe or simply slush, which can look the same from above.
Hadow and his crew have been preparing and monitoring conditions in the region for two years and expect a particularly low volume of ice this year, making this a good time to try the voyage. The sea ice maximum this winter was a record low. The record low for the ice minimum was set in September 2012, and though this year's level may not hit that mark, it's tracking close so far.
"We just want to show people by taking a small sailing boat through there just how much there has been a physical state change from a solid surface to a liquid," Hadow said.
"It's open season"
Most people's knowledge of arctic wildlife doesn't extend past the polar bears that trudge across the ice hunting for seals. But Hadow and crew are hoping to document the extraordinary creatures that exist beneath the water.
That includes narwhals — mammals that weigh hundreds of pounds and have unicorn-like tusks that can protrude 9 feet from their heads — and Greenland sharks that drift blind thousands of feet below the surface. Some of those creatures may have been alive for 500 years.
There are also tiny organisms that have adapted to solid ice cover over thousands of years, like bacteria and viruses, as well as creatures like phytoplankton.
Hadow and his crew want to give the world a closer look at all of these creatures in order to spur international action to protect them.
Many arctic creatures are highly vulnerable, and are slow to develop, mature, and breed because of the freezing dark winters in the Arctic. Countries that border the Arctic have been trying to extend territorial claims in the region so they can fish its waters, extract resources, and take advantage of newly opened shipping lanes.
If the waters around the North Pole are open enough to be traversed by yachts, then "it's open season for commercial exploitation" as well, Hadow said.
Commercial fishing, for example, could quickly cause wildlife populations to collapse, since so many species grow so slowly. Even noise from commercial shipping vessels could be devastating, since many creatures in the Arctic rely on sound to navigate.
"If someone goes in and starts extracting protein to feed populations, in a short time they could make such an impact that [the region] just wouldn't recover for thousands of years," Hadow said.
Being covered in ice has essentially made the North Pole area a natural wildlife preserve for thousands of years — an environment that couldn't be exploited. Without legal protection, however, the region could start changing even faster as more boats attempt to travel through the area.
"We want to raise awareness of a situation that is upon us now and it's about to get worse," Hadow said. "Whether we reach the Pole itself is ultimately immaterial."
There are all kinds of strange, fascinating, and occasionally terrifying creatures in the ocean.
The latest to capture public attention — especially among people fascinated by Australia's long list of deadly animals — are the mysterious sea creatures that chewed and bloodied the legs of Sam Kanizay.
The 16-year-old went for a soak at a Melbourne-area beach after playing football, and reportedly emerged from the water feeling like he needed to brush sand from his legs. But his family quickly noticed he was bleeding profusely from what looked like hundreds of tiny pin holes. They rushed him to the hospital, where puzzled staff tried to figure out what caused the pools of blood to form around Kanizay's ankles. (A graphic photo of the wounds can be found near the bottom of this post.)
Initially, a number of reports referred to the culprits as "sea lice," a term that refers to more than 500 species of parasites that feed on fish.
But Kanizay's father decided to return to the beach to see if he could draw out the flesh-eaters again. He dropped little hunks of meat into the water, and saw that they were promptly swarmed by tiny scavenging crustaceans, as shown in the YouTube video below.
Marine biologist Genefor Walker-Smith of Museums Victoria identified the creatures as lysianassid amphipods, little scavengers that are sometimes called "sea fleas."
She said the creatures do occasionally bite, but not with the severity that was evident in Kanizay's case.
(Warning: the following image is bloody.)
The amphipods may disperse an anti-coagulant when they bite, which would explain why it was so hard to stop the bleeding.
"It was just unlucky. It's possible he disturbed a feeding group but they are generally not out there waiting to attack like piranhas," Walker-Smith said.
Still, the presence of these crustaceans in the water doesn't prove they are the ones that attacked Kanizay's ankles. People have often mistakenly blamed sea lice for bites by jellyfish larvae in Florida and the Caribbean. And the ocean is full of other animals that may occasionally decide that something sitting there looks worth a taste — though these incidents are rare.
Marine ecologist Alistair Poore gave Australian Broadcasting Corp. his best advice for avoiding these sorts of creatures in the rare event that they appear:
A sinkhole in Land O'Lakes, Florida destroyed two homes on July 14, and five other homes have since been condemned. At its widest point, the sinkhole stretches 260 feet.
The world is warmer than it would be without human activity and it's continuing to get warmer.
We, as people, are mostly responsible for that. And it's going to get worse — much worse, if we don't take significant action on greenhouse gas emissions.
That's the essential takeaway from the leaked draft of a major new report on the state of the climate, which The New York Times published in full (previous versions of the report had been available, though not the latest version released by The Times). Scientists from 13 different federal agencies — including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization (NOAA), the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and the Department of Defense (DOD) — contributed to the report, which is supposed to be part of the congressionally-mandated National Climate Assessment.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has signed off on the report. But before the report is officially released, the Trump administration — including EPA head Scott Pruitt, who disagrees with the scientific consensus about what's happening with the climate and doesn't believe carbon dioxide (CO2) contributes to warming — needs to sign off on it too.
Because of that, researchers told The Times that they fear the report could be suppressed or changed. (Presumably, that's why it was leaked to the Times in its NSF-approved form.)
Below, we've selected key findings from the 545-page report.
What government scientists say is happening with the climate
Perhaps most importantly, some predictions show that there's hope human action could make a difference:
Quite simply, climate change is real and the longer we wait in trying to slow emissions, the worse the consequences will be.
A company is manufacturing charcoal from human poo and sawdust collected around Nakuru, Kenya. Locals have embraced its use and are using the briquettes for cooking and other purposes. The project aims to help protect the environment and improve sanitation especially in poor parts of the town.
The charcoal is made through a process called carbonisation. First, the waste is collected and left to dry in a greenhouse for two weeks. It is then broken down and mixed with sawdust before being placed in a kiln. The carbonisation process ensures that there is no smell left over from the human waste.
The company wants to expand their venture to other towns in Kenya that have poor sanitation.
Researchers in the United States have developed what they believe is the world's first battery-free cellphone.
The phone is the work of a group of researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle and works by harvesting tiny amounts of power from radio signals, known as radio frequency or 'RF' waves.
At first glance it looks little more than a circuit board with electronics equipment connected to it, but it could be the next major technological leap for mobile phones, the team says.
"This battery-free phone is a major leap in terms of the capabilities of battery-free devices because now we have a streaming device that can continuously talk as well as receive data, which is basically a phone," explained Shyam Gollakota from the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering.
The prototype is made of commercial, off-the-shelf components and can receive and transmit speech and communicate with a base station. Its operation is currently very basic, and the caller must wear headphones and press a button to switch between talking and listening.
The team's first challenge was to develop a phone that used considerably less power to make and receive calls, according to researcher Vamsi Talla.
"If you look at a typical cellphone it actually consumes hundreds of milliwatts of power while it's doing voice calls and it's impossible to make a device like that to be battery-free. So what we did, as a first challenge, was to actually get that power number down by orders of magnitude," said Talla.
They achieved that by developing a method to harvest tiny amounts of power, just a few microwatts, from radio signals, known as radio frequency or 'RF' waves. This unseen source of power is everywhere, according to Talla.
"Ambient RF waves are all around us so, as an example, your FM station broadcasts radio waves, your AM stations do that, your TV stations, your cellphone towers. They all are transmitting RF waves."
Perhaps the greatest potential source of RF waves are Wi-fi internet signals, now common at work, homes and many public places.
The researchers say there are plans to develop further prototypes with a low-power screen for texting and even a basic camera. They're also planning a version of the battery-free phone that uses a tiny solar cell to provide power.
The team sees potential for reaching a wider market with the battery-free technology.
"We are really excited about this technology and the University of Washington has an IP for this and we are looking for avenues to basically commercialize and actually get this into peoples' hands and actually deploy this system more widely," he said.
The initiative is not the only one seeking to improve the way that mobile technology is powered. Researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Surrey in Britain are developing supercapacitors, which they believe will eventually allow devices to charge in a period of a few minutes.
The University of Washington team's research was published in the Proceedings of the Association for Computing Machinery on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies.
The world is almost certainly going to warm past what's frequently considered a critical tipping point.
A recent study pointed out that we have just a 5% chance of keeping the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius, the upper limit the Paris Agreement was designed to avoid. Beyond that threshold, many researchers say the effects of climate change — like rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and intense storms — will become significantly more concerning.
But how bad could it really get? What would the planet look like if we don't cut emissions and instead keep burning fossil fuels at the rate we are now?
Business Insider recently asked author and environmentalist Bill McKibben that question, and his description of what Earth would look like was sobering.
"If not hell, then a place with a similar temperature," he said. "We have in the Earth's geological record some sense of what happens when you run carbon levels up to the levels we’re running them now — it gets a lot hotter."
Extreme as that might sound, there's significant evidence that we're feeling the effects of climate change already. Unchecked, the planet will get far hotter by 2100 — a time that many children alive today will see.
"Huge swaths of the world will be living in places that by the end of the century will have heat waves so deep that people won't be able to deal with them, you have sea level rising dramatically, to the point that most of the world's cities are drowning, the ocean turning into a hot, sour, breathless soup as it acidifies and warms," McKibben said.
The evidence for how bad it could get
None of that is exaggeration. A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change found that 30% of the world is already exposed to heat intense enough to kill people for 20 or more days each year. That temperature is defined using a heat index that takes into account temperature and humidity; above 104 degrees Farenheit (40 degrees C ), organs swell and cells start to break down.
Heat waves are the deadliest weather events most years , more so than hurricanes or tornadoes. In 2010, more than 10,000 people did in a Moscow heat wave. In 2003, some estimates say a European summer heat wave killed up to 70,000.
Even if we drastically cut emissions by 2100, the world will continue to warm due to the greenhouse gases that have already been emitted. That would cause the percentage of the world exposed to deadly heat for 20 or more days to rise to 48%. Under a scenario with zero emissions reductions from today, researchers estimate that 74% of the world will be exposed to deadly heat by the end of the century.
Our oceans are at risk, too. A draft of an upcoming US government report on climate change projects that even if emissions are cut to hit zero by 2080, we'll still see between one and four feet of sea level rise by 2100. Without the cuts, it suggests that an eight-foot rise can't be ruled out. That report also suggests that oceans are becoming more acidic faster than they have at any point in the last 66 million years. Increased acidity can devastate marine life and coral reefs, which cover less than 2% of the ocean floor but are relied upon by about 25% of marine species — including many fish that are key food sources for humans.
The key takeaway here is not that the world is doomed, however. It's that if we don't dramatically cut emissions soon, we'll put the planet on course to be a much less pleasant place.
In some ways, progress towards emissions reductions is already underway. Market trends are increasing use of renewable energy sources, political movements are pushing leaders to enact new types of policies, and legal challenges to government inaction on climate are popping up around the world. The question is whether we'll act fast enough to stave off the most dire consequences of greenhouse gas emissions.
"In order to catch up with the physics of climate change, we have to go at an exponential rate," McKibben said. "It's not as if this was a static problem. If we don't get to it very soon, we'll never get to it."
The purchase of an electric car that plugs into the power grid to recharge its battery often gets drivers thinking about the source of their energy.
We haven't seen data from recent years looking at the overlap between electric-car drivers and home solar panels.
But early analyses in California indicated as many as four in 10 electric-car drivers were already using or considering the addition of home solar panels to generate electricity.
California has been at the forefront of emission reduction and renewable energy for decades, so those 2012 results may not reflect the national average.
Still, Green Car Reports reader and frequent commenter Shiva Singh, of Fremont, California, is one of the electric-car owners who have recently added solar panels.
What follows are his words about that process, lightly edited by Green Car Reports for clarity and style.
Looking back over the last two years, it’s amazing to see the changes and progress our family has made in lowering our environmental impact.
After purchasing our first electric car in June 2015, a used 2012 Nissan Leaf, we are now on our fifth electric car. We are looking to add our sixth, possibly even our seventh, by the end of next year.
You might logically ask whether we would add solar panels to our house to offset our increased electrical consumption. The answer is a little complicated.
Our utility provider in Fremont is Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), which offers a time-of-use plan for electric-car owners that we enrolled in.
It provides for cheap electric rates during off-peak hours (11 pm to 7 am on weekdays; any time before 3 pm or after 7 pm on weekends and holidays).
The cheap off-peak rate is about $0.10 per kilowatt-hour, which made it dramatically cheaper to run our cars against the current San Francisco Bay Area cost of gasoline at about $3 a gallon.
Today, we are actively charging and driving four cars: the Leaf, a Chevrolet Spark EV hatchback, and two Tesla Model S sedans. Our average monthly electric bill is $250.
Considering we drive our EVs an average of 13,000 miles a year and our house is close to 5,000 square feet, that's a low number.
The PG&E time-of-use plan has significantly changed our behavior, to the point that now more than 80 percent of our electric use is during those off-peak hours.
You might ask, then, what about the cleaner and greener aspects of adding solar panels to our house?
California has one of the cleanest grids in the entire country, and our local PG&E grid is cleaner yet: almost 70 percent of the utility's power is generated from carbon-free sources (nuclear is 24 percent, hydro is 12 percent, and geothermal, biomass, solar, and smaller hydro make up 33 percent).
So what changed that we just decided to install solar in our home at the end of June? It’s a combination of factors.
Fremont now requires all new homes to have solar panels and EVSEs installed. (We have already installed three 240-volt Level 2 charging stations in our garage.)
The city has the highest concentration of electric-car ownership in California, and likely in the U.S. Fremont is aggressively pushing EV ownership, as we also have the largest group of (non-Tesla) quick-charge sites here as well, at Lucky’s shopping center in Fremont on Mowry Avenue.
Of course, the huge Tesla assembly plant is right in our backyard as well.
All that means that Fremont residents will demand solar panels in their next house, and solar panels and electric-car charging stations will likely raise home values. Adding solar to our five-year-old house will make it competitive in the market and give it what people are demanding.
With that in mind, I found there’s a new funding program of local and state incentives called PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy).
We can add solar and other energy-efficient improvements to our home just by paying for them through an increase in our property taxes. It requires no loans or minimum credit scores, and we can choose payback terms of five, 10, or 20 years.
Because our property taxes will increase, we can lower the payback period for our solar panels by using the interest portion of the higher property taxes as an itemized deduction on our federal tax return.
We are not alone in our decision; several surveys point to a high incidence of electric-car owners having or installing solar at their residences.
A survey of more than 19,000 EV owners from 2013 through 2015 by the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Program showed that about 40 percent of EV owners have a photovoltaic system installed at their home, or are planning to install one. The survey was completed in May 2015.
A June 2017 survey by CleanTechnica similarly showed up to 40 percent of more than 2,000 surveyed owners have solar panels. Respondents were spread across the United States, Canada, and Europe. The entire survey is worth reading; it gives details about EV driver needs, desires, user experiences, and demographics.
Furthermore, digging down into our PG&E rates, I noticed that our rates (specifically off-peak) have increased by about 10 percent annually. Our 2015 off-peak rate after getting the Leaf was $0.0992/kWh, while today it is $0.1225/kWh: an increase of more 23 percent.
PG&E customers under the standard tiered E-1 plan may be shocked by the base rates: in 2007, the tier 1 rate was $0.11430/kWh, whereas now it’s $0.19979. That’s an increase of 75 percent or 7.5 percent a year!
Armed with this information, we knew we wanted to go for the solar. With the PACE program, it became a no-brainer.
We had a choice between several different brands/models (LG, Q-Cell, and two versions from SunPower). We ended up going with 330W LG panels.
Our total system output is 7.26kW, comprised of 22 panels for a final, after tax-credit (30 percent) cost of $2.45/W.
These were strategically placed and maxed out on the available space on the west and south sides of our roof to provide the most production during the peak hours of sunlight and the peak hours of our time-of-use plan: 2 to 9 pm for peak rates, 7 am to 2 pm and 9 pm to 11 pm for middle peak, on weekdays.
Since our roof has no shade and our two-story house has high ceilings, fewer factors lower the output of our solar system. Our system produces about 10 percent more electricity than the same installation on our installer's one-story house with some shade and the dust kicked up after his gardener does weekly maintenance.
Our system had already produced more than 1 megawatt-hour of electricity after just a couple of weeks. We consume about 1,500 kWh a month, so the system will easily cover that monthly amount and even produce a small excess credit.
In the unlikely event that we increase our electric use beyond what we produce, we remain able to purchase energy from PG&E at the cheapest off-peak rate. As of now, we are producing energy and selling it back to PG&E during their peak demand hours.
Considering our total cost, the 30-percent federal tax credit, and the PACE program with a 10-year payback term, our cost of production is now $0.06/kWh.
This is less than half the average cost we paid to PG&E on our most recent electricity bills: $0.14/kWh overall! (Although the off-peak rate that accounts for 80 percent of our usage is $0.1225/kWh, the on-peak rate is $0.45389, and the "mid-peak" rate is $0.24986/kWh.)
The entire system will have paid for itself in less than six years.
If you decide to install a solar system at your house, here are some tips:
As our system powers our home and our electric cars, we plan to track our energy production against our consumption.
The mobile app for our SolarEdge inverter tracks everything in real time, so I can see graphs of the energy produced in a given day or week, the kilowatt-hours generated at a particular hour, and more.
I hope to provide an update on our experience, as we now have a net-metering agreement with PG&E and will no longer pay monthly PG&E bills
Instead, the utility will conduct an annual “true-up,” at which point PG&E will look at what we produced from our solar system against what we consumed.
Researchers in Switzerland have developed a 4-foot-long pollution-tracking robotic water snake.
The "Envirobot" comprises several special-purpose modules, which constitute it's eel-like design, according to a press release on the l'cole polytechnique fdrale de Lausanne website.
The purpose of the modules are twofold. First, each has a small electric motor that lets the robot swim like a water snake. Secondly, each segment has a unique sensor for gathering different data and measurements.
More modules can be added as needed. The robot can swim on a route, or make its own way through a body of water to find the source of pollution, a researcher explains in the EPFL news release.
The success of "Harry Potter" has led to a surge in demand for pet owls across Asia — and it may be threatening conservation efforts, researchers have warned.
In the paper "The Harry Potter effect: The rise in trade of owls as pets in Java and Bali, Indonesia," Vincent Nijman and K. Anne-Isola Nekaris noted that the book and movie franchise has led to a surge in demand for the island country's owls, which are illegal to trade and in some cases endangered.
In fact, owls have become so popular as purchasable domestic pets that the birds, once known as Burung Hantu (Indonesian for "ghost birds") are now known as Burung Harry Potter ("'Harry Potter' birds"), the authors noted in their July report.
Indonesia is not the only country where links have been drawn between "Harry Potter" and a rise in domesticated owls. Other Asian nations, like India and Thailand, have also been criticized by environmental groups for engaging in the illegal trade of owls.
Domestic owl ownership is concerning primarily because most people do not know how to look after the birds, said Nijman, author of the Indonesia study. "They are alive and cute when you see them on the market, but realistically they are already dead,"he told The Mail on Sunday.
According to the researchers, owls were "rarely recorded" in Indonesia's bird markets between the 1980s to early 2000s, but since the late 2000s have become more ubiquitous. The researchers recorded 1,810 owls on sale across 20 markets between 2012 and 2016.
None of the owls found at the bird markets were on the country's protected species list, or listed as globally threatened. But many of the birds were discovered to be wild-caught, even though Indonesia forbids the trade of all such birds.
The authors of the study stressed, however, "Harry Potter" was not the only cause for a rise in pet owls. It cited "the emergence of pet owl interest groups on Java and Bali" alongside the rise of the internet and social media.
JK Rowling, the books' author, has not commented on the research report, but has spoken out against domesticated owls in the past.
She previously said: "If anybody has been influenced by my books to think an owl would be happiest shut in a small cage and kept in a house, I would like to take this opportunity to say as forcefully as I can: You are wrong."
Business Insider has contacted the author for comment.
Stockholm (AFP) - Police in Greenland warned people to stay away from western areas of the island as wildfires scorched swathes of scrubland.
In a statement, the police said it "still discourages all traffic — including hiking and hunting — in two areas around Nassuttooq and Amitsorsuaq."
"The fires are not expected to end within the next few days," the statement added.
Some of the blazes have been burning since July 31.
Denmark's meteorological service BMI said the island registered its hottest-ever temperature of 24.8 degrees (77 Fahrenheit) on August 10.
Last year was Greenland's hottest on record.
The Danish territory has lost about 4,000 gigatons of ice since 1995, British researchers said in June, making ice melt on the huge island the biggest single contributor to rising sea levels.
A number of dogs in India have turned blue after swimming in a heavily polluted river near Navi Mumbai. The area is surrounded by a number of different factories, and pollution levels in the river were measured at 16 times the safe limit.
Researchers have discovered what looks to be the largest volcanic region on Earth, revealing an invisible network of almost 100 unknown volcanoes lying hidden beneath the Antarctic ice sheet.
A remote survey of what's called the West Antarctic Rift System uncovered 138 volcanoes in total – 91 of which had never been detected before – and scientists say it's imperative we find out if any of these hidden peaks remain active.
"The big question is: how active are these volcanoes? That is something we need to determine as quickly as possible," geoscientist Robert Bingham from the University of Edinburgh in the UK told The Guardian.
"Anything that causes the melting of ice – which an eruption certainly would – is likely to speed up the flow of ice into the sea."
Bingham's team studied the rift system lying underneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, analyzing ice-sheet bed-elevation data sourced from a database called Bedmap 2.
What they were looking for were conical edifices protruding upwards into the ice across West Antarctica – pretty much the same thing we see when topside volcanoes extend out of Earth's surface.
Of course, we can't physically see these volcano peaks when they're hidden underground, but ice-penetrating radar signals can detect their basalt rock forms within the ice sheet.
Some 47 sub-glacial volcanoes had previously been found in Antarctica, but the discovery of these 91 new peaks – along a region reaching approximately 3,500 km (2,175 miles) between Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf and the Antarctic peninsula – suggests there could be many, many more than scientists thought.
"We were amazed. We had not expected to find anything like that number," Bingham told The Guardian.
"I think it is very likely this region will turn out to be the densest region of volcanoes in the world, greater even than east Africa, where mounts Nyiragongo, Kilimanjaro, Longonot and all the other active volcanoes are concentrated."
The identified volcanoes extend in height from 100 metres (328 feet) to 3,850 metres (12,631 feet), and while the researchers don't yet know if any of them are active, it's important we find out.
Because these volcanoes are buried under kilometers of ice, it's unlikely they could pose a direct immediate threat to anything on the Antarctic surface – but if one were to erupt, it could heat and melt the ice above it, potentially rising sea level.
Aside from that concern, the researchers speculate that the activity of volcanoes could in fact be linked to their level of ice cover – or rather, the lack of it.
"The most volcanism that is going in the world at present is in regions that have only recently lost their glacier covering – after the end of the last ice age," Bingham said.
"Theory suggests that this is occurring because, without ice sheets on top of them, there is a release of pressure on the regions' volcanoes and they become more active."
As the true, extended scope of the West Antarctic Rift System has only recently been detected, it could be some time before we know the real impact of this discovery.
But it's a part of the world already undergoing tremendous, unrecognizable changes – so we can only hope this amazing find doesn't portend ominous news.
If you are excited by the recurring monsoon showers in India and thanking the rain god, be warned.
If the scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are to be believed, almost the whole of South Asia, including the northern part of India would be uninhabitable, thanks to climate change.
If this rate of climate change keeps in pace, deadly heat waves will destroy India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The scientists have warned that in next few decades, key agricultural areas in the Indus and Ganges river basins will be affected, which will result in reduced crop yields and famine.
"Climate change is not an abstract concept, it is impacting huge numbers of vulnerable people," MIT professor Elfatih Eltahir told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"Business as usual runs the risk of having extremely lethal heat waves."
As of now, only 2% of India's population is exposed to extreme weather, but by 2100, about 70% of the people will suffer. As per media reports, around 3500 people were killed by heat waves in 2015.
Projections show the Gulf region will be the world's hottest region by 2100 as a result of climate change.
However, Gulf will be able to battle it out, thanks to its wealthy populations and oil rich status. While there is no verdict on migration, but the study suggests that millions of people from South Asia and mostly from North India and Pakistan will be forced to leave their homes and settle elsewhere.
The report has called for an immediate action plan that would help to keep the regions cooler for an extended period of time.
The study does not directly address migration, but researchers said it is likely that millions of people in South Asia will be forced to move due to blistering temperatures and crop failures, unless steps are taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Disaster experts from South Asian countries met in Pakistan last month to launch a toolkit to help city governments develop ways to manage the impact of heatwaves in urban areas.
Ahmedabad, in western India, has already introduced a heat action plan — South Asia's first early warning system against extreme heatwaves.
Authorities in the city of 5.5 million have mapped areas with vulnerable populations and set up "cooling spaces" in temples, public buildings and malls during the summer.
As the hashtag goes, #ExxonKnew.
Two Harvard University researchers said in a study published Wednesday they had collected scientific data proving Exxon Mobil Corp made "explicit factual misrepresentations" in newspaper ads it purchased to convey its views on the oil industry and climate science.
A significant body of investigative reporting has already shown that Exxon — along with other fossil fuel companies — has long been aware of the causes, consequences, and facts related to human-caused climate change. Harvard researchers Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes have gone a step further by demonstrating that Exxon acknowledged the reality of climate change in academic papers and internal documents while promoting doubt in public-facing communications.
In an article published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, Supran and Oreskes said they examined 187 documents, including internal memos, peer-reviewed papers by Exxon scientists and New York Times "advertorials" that Exxon paid to have published in the style of opinion pieces. The researchers said they used a social science analysis method to turn statements in the documents into data points that could be counted and compared.
The authors wrote: "Accounting for expressions of reasonable doubt, 83% of peer-reviewed papers and 80% of internal documents acknowledge that climate change is real and human-caused, yet only 12% of advertorials do so, with 81% instead expressing doubt. We conclude that ExxonMobil contributed to advancing climate science — by way of its scientists' academic publications — but promoted doubt about it in advertorials."
The controversy about Exxon's promotion of public doubt about global warming has plagued Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil. Tillerson has refused to answer questions about whether Exxon intentionally lied to the public and shareholders about the dangers of climate change.
The Harvard researchers wrote that their analysis of the documents makes the answer to that question clear.
"Given this discrepancy, we conclude that ExxonMobil misled the public," they said.
Tillerson may one day be forced to testify about the matter under oath, since New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is currently investigating whether ExxonMobil misled investors about the impact of climate change. According to the Associated Press, Schneiderman's office has said the investigation already uncovered “Exxon’s significant potential investor fraud.”
The investigation also forced Exxon to acknowledge that Tillerson used the alias “Wayne Tracker” in some internal Exxon email communications.
'Read the documents and make up your own mind'
Supran and Oreskes said Exxon scientists acknowledged that burning fossil fuels was adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and causing global temperatures to rise as early as 1979. But the company's position in newspaper ads consistently asserted doubt about climate science.
Exxon spokesman Scott Silvestri said the researchers' study was "inaccurate and preposterous" and that their goal was to attack the company's reputation at the expense of its shareholders.
"Our statements have been consistent with our understanding of climate science," he said.
In an interview on Tuesday, Oreskes said the impetus for the study came from Exxon's responses to reports in InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times in September 2015 and October 2015, respectively, that Exxon's scientists had long known of the dangers fossil fuels posed to the earth's climate.
"They accused the journalists of cherry-picking," Oreskes said of Exxon's responses. "They also posted a collection of documents on their website. They said 'read the documents and make up your own mind.' We thought that was an excellent opportunity."
Oreskes and Supran pointed to ads such as a 1997 Mobil article that read "Let's face it: The science of climate change is too uncertain to mandate a plan of action that could plunge economies into turmoil." A 2000 advertorial said a U.S. government report on climate change put the "political cart before the horse" and was "based on unreliable models."
In his statement on Wednesday, Silvestri offered two examples from New York Times advertorials that Exxon bought, both published in the year 2000, which he said showed the company did not try to cast doubt on climate change.
"Enough is known about climate change to recognize it may pose a legitimate long-term risk and that more needs to be learned about it," one statement read.
Yet even today, a number of experts say that money and misinformation campaigns by fossil fuel industry lobbyists are still slowing action on climate change. A 2013 study found that organizations connected to fossil fuel companies have spent almost half a billion dollars on "a deliberate and organized effort to misdirect the public discussion and distort the public's understanding of climate."
Environmentalist and author Bill McKibben recently told Business Insider that these companies are still hindering action on climate.
"It's still the fossil fuel industry — and a lot of what they do is corruption, that combination of constant disinformation and constant political influence — everyday it keeps us from going as quickly as we need to or as we should," McKibben said.
(Reuters reporting by Emily Flitter)