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The latest news on Environment from Business Insider

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    sunblock sunscreen women

    • Hawaii is the first state to ban the sale of chemical sunscreens, which can be toxic to coral reefs and marine life.
    • The alternative to chemical sunscreens, with ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate, is mineral sunscreen; many consider it the greener option.
    • However, Hawaii has the highest rate of new melanoma diagnoses in the country, according to the most recent research from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
    • One dermatologist says the ban is a disservice to Hawaiians, while environmentalists and consumer groups are cheering the legislation.

    With Hawaii ushering in new legislation that will ban the sale of chemical sunscreens, which can be toxic to coral reefs and marine life, consumers might be putting themselves at risk.

    Chemical sunscreens, which contain ingredients such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, are effective because they block UVA and UVB rays, Dr. Darrell Rigel, a board-certified dermatologist at the Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, told INSIDER.

    Chemical sunscreens also don't easily wash off from sweat and water, unlike mineral-based sunscreens, which make it more effective for people who don't reapply sunblock.

    "We know that regular use of sunscreen reduces the risk for melanoma and skin cancer," Dr. Rigel said. "One in five Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime."

    Despite concerns from dermatologists like Dr. Rigel about cancer, mineral sunscreens are still safe to use and just as effective; they may just require a heavier hand during application.

    "We educate users on how to apply," Caroline Duell, founder of All Good, a coral reef-safe sunscreen line, told INSIDER.

    All Good sunscreen uses non-nanoparticle zinc oxide, which disperses UV rays as heat, Duell said. Unlike chemical sunscreens, mineral sunscreen like All Good does not absorb but rather refracts the light and creates a protection on the skin, she said.

    Duell, who is based in California and a member of the Safe Sunscreen Council, applauded the legislation.

    "It's a new wave of global awareness," she said, citing the potential damage chemical sunscreen has to both humans and the ecosystem.

    Ninety-six percent of Americans carry traces of oxybenzone in their bloodstream, according to the Environmental Working Group, a research and advocacy nonprofit.

    Oxybenzone, after all, is one of 21 FDA-approved sunscreen agents, Dr. Rigel said.

    However, it is contested whether those trace amounts cause damage internally.

    Dr. Rigel said he is skeptical of the effects of trace oxybenzone in the ocean causing coral reef damage — the main research that prompted the passage of Hawaii's new law — and cited global warming and rising ocean temperatures as the major causes of bleaching.

    "The science there is not really strong," he said.

    Sign up here to get INSIDER's favorite stories straight to your inbox.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This machine puts sunscreen on for you

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    Ben Lecomte

    • Distance swimmer Ben Lecomte plans to depart on Sunday from Japan to swim 5,500 miles across the Pacific to San Francisco.
    • He'll be swimming for eight hours a day and sleeping on a nearby boat. Lecomte plans to track his position with a GPS so he can resume swimming from the same spot.
    • He wants to raise awareness about plastic pollution, and has partnered with 27 scientific organizations to collect data while he's en route.

    If all goes according to plan, Ben Lecomte should arrive in San Francisco approximately six months from now.

    He plans to swim across the Pacific Ocean to get there.

    Lecomte is expected to begin his expedition from the coast of Japan on Sunday. His journey to the US' west coast will require crossing more than 5,500 miles of high seas, encountering marine wildlife including sharks and jellyfish, braving cold temperatures, passing through staggering quantities of plastic, and more.

    The first question many might ask him is: why?

    "It’s a very valid question, I am asking myself that question from time to time," Lecomte told Business Insider. "It started with a passion for the ocean, a passion for ocean water."

    After a 1998 swim across the Atlantic, which took 73 days, Lecomte said the Pacific just seemed like the next thing. Yet time, marriage, children, and various other factors delayed that trip for over a decade. Then about seven years ago, he began focusing on making the journey happen.

    Lecomte has partnered with Seeker and Discovery on the project, which they have named simply, "The Swim." The 51-year-old Frenchman hopes the undertaking will help him raise awareness for ocean health, particularly with regard to plastic pollution in the water. Throughout the entire trip, Lecomte and the boat accompanying him on the journey plan to collect samples and test the water, looking for everything from contamination from the Fukushima incident to the presence of microplastics in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

    "For me it couldn’t be a better opportunity to get the attention on the ocean and the state of the ocean by doing something crazy like this type of swim," he said.

    ben lecomte atlantic swim

    8,000 calories a day

    During the journey, Lecomte plans to swim for approximately eight hours per day. He'll spend the rest of the time resting, sleeping, and eating on a boat that will accompany him. The boat will be equipped with a GPS tracker so the crew can monitor where Lecomte exits the water every day and return to that spot for him to resume the next day.

    Lecomte will need to eat 8,000 calories a day to power himself through the journey. His meals will mostly consist of freeze-dried foods eaten in several sessions while he's on the boat, though he'll consume soup and other liquids while in the water. He said he doesn't eat sweets but does consume a lot of fat.

    For the swim itself, he'll be equipped with fins, a snorkel, and a wetsuit — which will be extremely necessary once he gets closer to the US, where colder waters could lower his body temperature to dangerous levels after hours in the water.

    "The most difficult will be the temperature," he said.

    But the waves, which could be up to 50 feet high, will also pose a serious challenge — especially if they start crashing, which could make it tough for Lecomte to stay near the boat.

    Another risk is attention from curious sharks. The boat is equipped with a means of broadcasting an electromagnetic field to keep them from venturing too close.

    "They'll be there," Lecomte said of the sharks, noting that the trip passes through an area where great whites are known to migrate. There will also be jellyfish, which he describes as painful, and dolphins, which he describes as "amazing to swim with."

    The Ocean Cleanup Great Pacific Garbage Patch

    Getting ready to depart

    Lecomte's physical preparation has been focused on getting his body accustomed to being active at about 60% of maximum heart rate for a full eight hours. He swims, bikes, or runs three to five hours per day, five or six days per week, and tries to keep his heart rate at 120 for the duration of those workouts. Recently, he's been doing six-hour open-water swims.

    From a mental perspective, Lecomte said he's been "working on disassociating my mind from my body."

    The trip has been planned in conjunction with various partners, which include 27 scientific organizations like NASA and Woods Hold Oceanographic Institution. The swimmer and boat crew will collect more than 1,000 samples as they travel, which will allow scientists to learn more about plastic pollution, mammal migrations, extreme endurance, phytoplankton, and other topics.

    This isn't the first time Lecomte has tried to start the cross-Pacific swim — previous attempts have been foiled by issues with boats or crew. But this time, on the verge of departure, he thinks everything is almost ready.

    Those interested in following Lecomte's progress can track the journey on Seeker, where there will be live coverage throughout the trip, along with short documentaries every two weeks and a documentary feature planned after the project's completion.

    "The big unknowns are really what will this be like for Ben, and how will this feat weigh on him in ways that we’re not yet predicting ... That could be anything from weather just to pure stamina," Caroline Smith, chief creative officer at Seeker, said. "We’re all hoping for the best for him."

    As for Ben, he's hoping the trip will inspire people to mobilize around the issue of plastic pollution.

    "We each need to take some action to alleviate the problem," he said. "A single-use plastic is something we can all decide not to use anymore."

    SEE ALSO: The giant garbage vortex in the Pacific Ocean is over twice the size of Texas — here's what it looks like

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This underwater jetpack lets you swim like Michael Phelps

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    Cape Town Sunset.JPG

    • Cape Town, South Africa, is experiencing a massive drought, preparing for "Day Zero," when the city's water supply is depleted.
    • Residents are only allowed to use 50 liters of water a day, meaning toilets go unflushed, showers are under three minutes long, and agriculture is suffering.
    • I visited Cape Town, and saw how the drought is having significant societal consequences, including a weakened economy and rising inequality.

    In South Africa, a tale of two cities dominates a society burdened by massive inequality, and a water crisis is driving the wedge further.

    I visited Cape Town for two weeks in May 2017 in the midst of a drastic water shortage, and saw how the city of nearly 4 million is on the cusp of becoming the first modern metropolis to run out of the natural resource.

    Environmental conditions have threatened Cape Town and sent millions into a panic. Clean water may have been taken away from people in Cape Town, but many poor blacks have never even had that human right.

    In 2010, the United Nations"recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights."

    While South Africa was one of the BRICS nations of emerging economies, the country has struggled to recover from the global financial crisis of a decade ago. Unemployment is 27% and the per capita income sits at $13,400. These numbers also hide the major issue of economic inequality in South Africa.

    "Inequity plays out in water very obviously, and what we're seeing in Cape Town risks becoming an example of that," said Giulio Boccaletti, the Nature Conservancy's global managing director.

    One reason that water is scarce is because of massive population growth, nearly double what it was 30 years ago. Residents talk about people moving from rural to urban areas, making resources in the cities scarce. Immigration— especially from other African nations — is also viewed as a large factor, and contributes to xenophobic attitudes, dispelling the myth of a united Africa.

    The water problem is not isolated to Cape Town. The US intelligence community published a report that predicted global water requirements will exceed supply by 40% by 2030.

    Here's what Cape Town's water crisis looks like on the ground:

    SEE ALSO: We went to the major South African city that's approaching 'Day Zero' of an unprecedented water crisis — here's what it's like to be a tourist there

    DON'T MISS: Income inequality is growing across the US — here's how bad it is in every state

    Cape Town, South Africa, is poised to become the first major city to run out of water. The coastal city had originally scheduled "Day Zero"— the day in which all water supply would be depleted — for April, but a decrease in usage and a successful increase of the supply has pushed the event back to 2019.

    Source: City of Cape Town

    Residents are limited to 50 liters (about 13 gallons) a day, and the city even offers a guideline on how to manage the allotment. For comparison, each American uses 80 to 100 gallons of water a day on average.

    Sources: USGS, Government of Cape Town

    The World Bank estimates that South Africa has the largest Gini coefficient, meaning it has the worst economic equality in the world. And the water shortage is increasing the divide between the haves and the have-nots.

    Source: The World Bank

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    great barrier reef endangered

    • The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most biodiverse places in the entire world, worth billions of dollars.
    • But it's in real danger of being killed off as greenhouse gas emissions warm the water and make it more acidic, which causes coral bleaching and can kill it.
    • There's a real chance the Great Barrier Reef could be killed within the next couple of decades, leaving a dead structure that could take thousands of years of recover, if it ever can.

    One of the most spectacular natural environments on the planet is also one of the most vulnerable, and if people aren't careful, there's a good chance it could be destroyed altogether.

    Located off the northeastern coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef — made up of more than 3,860 separate coral reefs, according to some measures — is such a massive natural structure that it can be seen from space.

    It's home to countless organisms and it's a huge draw for tourism. It's the most biodiverse of all UNESCO Heritage Sites and the most extensive coral reef ecosystem on the planet.

    But just like all coral reefs, it's vulnerable to human activity, which means that it's in real danger of dying off.

    It's not just local activities like fishing and pollution that damage the corals that make up the Great Barrier Reef, though those do have detrimental effects. The biggest overall threat to reef health — both off the coast of Australia and around the world — comes from the carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change.

    The broader consequences of reef loss are devastating, both for natural environments and for the people that depend on them.

    As a recent study in the journal Nature Geosciences explained, the Great Barrier Reef has come back from near-death experiences before — five times in the last 30,000 years. That shows recovery is at least theoretically possible, but in those cases, it took hundreds or thousands of years.

    Here's what's happening to make the Great Barrier Reef so vulnerable.

    SEE ALSO: The quest to save the fragile reefs Earth's oceans depend on

    According to one recent study published in the journal Nature, the Great Barrier Reef is made up of 3,863 coral reefs, with over 400 species of coral building up those reefs.

    Source: Nature

    Corals are animals — translucent creatures that form huge colonies and create a variety of structures.

    Certain types of algae populate the structures, which gives reefs bright colors and helps them derive energy from the sun as well as from nutrients and plankton in the water.

    The environments these creatures create are crucial — a quarter of fish species spend some part of their life cycle in reefs, which means their loss could have catastrophic effects on fish populations and the many people who depend on them for food or income.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Whiny, self-obsessed, not politically engaged enough — the accusations directed at millennials by older generations seem to be endless.

    Millennials, or anyone born between 1980 and 2000, often get painted as pampered do-gooders with a naive worldview, whose priorities extend only to getting sabbaticals and being allowed to work from home.

    Generation Y "has never been involved nor has it ever been engaged in politics," Edzard Reuter, former head of Daimler, said to Südkurier in 2016.

    That may apply to a few among the younger generation, but perhaps these generic criticisms are actually a little baseless and overlook the bigger picture — especially coming from the baby boomers, who will soon be reaching retirement having left their children and theirs in a world that's seemingly impossible to navigate.

    Decades of disregard for the climate, unfair policies, and structures being implemented between the generations and questionable ideas concerning success in the workplace have left 18 to 38-year-olds a heavy weight to bear.

    Twenty-one young people from Germany told Business Insider of the problems the baby boomers have created and perpetuated in Germany and how they can be solved:

    'Let's stop talking about what's gone wrong.'

    millenial felix

    We're hurtling towards the edge of a cliff at full pelt — it isn't for the sake of science that we're trying to figure out the quantity by which sea levels are set to rise; it's about survival.

    Together, with more than 67,000 other children and young people from our Plant for the Planet initiative, I've committed myself to combatting the climate crisis. And yes, perhaps the older generation is listening to us but are they doing enough?

    The climate crisis is the greatest challenge of our time. The CO2 clock is ticking. What must we do and what can we do right now? Well, we can massively reduce our CO2 emissions. And we can plant 1,000 billion trees to absorb a quarter of man-made CO2. I'd say to the older generations, to company bosses and to politicians: "Let's stop talking about what's gone wrong or what's going wrong — let's plant trees together and save our future."

    'It's older people who get to call the shots on pensions — yet they no longer have to cough up.'

    Sarna Röser (30), Chairwoman of Young Entrepreneurs

    Most baby-boomers will be retiring soon, which will put considerable pressure on our pension system. There's massive disparity between the number of working people and the increasing number of pensioners for whom those working people are footing the bill.

    I think a simple and logical solution would be if everyone had to work for a period of time during their latter years. And retirement should be linked to life expectancy. I'm sceptical about who decides what's what when it comes to pensions. You only find older people sitting on the Pensions Commission, who no longer foot the bill themselves. We younger people have to hand out payments but aren't given a say.

    'The biggest problem the baby boomers have left us isn't that they haven't grown out of their crap.'

    Kevin Kühnert (28), national chairman of the Jusos

    The biggest problem the baby boomers have dumped on us isn't that they haven't grown out of their crappy habits: it's the state they've in which they've left the future of our pension system. Pay-as-you-go financing, which has been successfully practiced for decades, will come under increasing pressure as more baby boomers leave the workforce and begin receiving benefits from the pension fund. This news comes as no surprise but politics has, so far, failed to make provisions for that day, when it comes.

    Fewer contributors and more beneficiaries means great challenges will be posed for the statutory pension for a good 15 years. How these challenges will be managed isn't just a technical question. In fact, some are taking the opportunity — through scandalous inaction — to slowly chip away at the principle of solidarity when it comes to pensions and to privatise them. If all employees became contributors, we could increase contributions slightly and, if necessary, avoid shying away from tax subsidies.

    'We've inherited the baby boomers' workaholic attitude and taken it to the next level.

    Stefanie Laufs, 31, Senior Communications Consultant at a PR agency  millenial

    The notion that Generation Y has no interest in professional success and think of the home office as synonymous with doing nothing is certainly not new — and unfortunately, it's firmly rooted in the minds of many among the older generation. I actually believe we've inherited their workaholic attitude — always better, always more, always higher — and that we've taken what the baby boomers did and pushed it much further.

    Whether among friends, colleagues or in reports in the media — no other generation linked with topics such as burnout or partly unpaid overtime as often as ours. The demands on our generation when it comes to starting a career are enormous. You're expected to have five years of professional experience after completing your studies as well as to nearly have finished your PhD. Of course, you can't solely blame the baby boomers, but they've always stressed the importance of establishing a career and reinforced that it was the key to a successful and happy life. Although we've taken on this attitude, we'd actually do a lot better to leave it behind. Generation Y continues to work a lot, but having a private life is much more important than money: leisure and downtime shouldn't be overlooked.

    Our generation is on its way to achieving the ideal work-leisure balance and to putting the baby boomers' workaholic madness to rest.

    'Too much emphasis on progress and performance is a key problem we've inherited from the older generation.'

    Jonathan Sierck, 24, author of the book

    A serious problem we've inherited from the older generation is this fixation on progress and performance. In our tireless efforts to push boundaries, whatever the cost, there's usually little room to address the often serious consequences. There's no doubt about it: constant growth and development does pay off and, as a species, we have to take certain risks every now and then in order to move forward and survive. But pushing boundaries mustn't become the objective itself nor must it come at the cost that it currently does.

    In order to steer us into a desirable future, we need those in decision-making positions to be sharp. They need both the courage to change yet the informed judgment to pick up on warning signs too. To ensure we don't continue to deplete our resources, we need a clear plan that takes into consideration the effects of our actions. Otherwise, we'll leave our future generations with more — possibly even more serious — problems than those we have inherited, whether they be nuclear waste, the bees dying off or climate disasters.

    'Our education systems barely differ to those of the previous generation — and neither has the emphasis on grades and targets in the world of work, unfortunately.'

    Magdalena Rogl, 33, Head of Digital Channels Microsoft Germany

    I'm firm on the notion that we owe much to the those who came before us. Especially the generation born in 1968, who revolutionised so much and helped break down so many structures.

    But one area in which far too little has happened in recent decades is education. Our education systems have barely changed from those of the previous generation — and neither has the emphasis on grades and targets in the world of work, unfortunately.

    At the age of 10, our children are still "sorted" into schools — not based on their individual talents, but purely according to their grades. Applicants are still assessed according to their qualifications on paper far too often, and not by what they actually know. And academic degrees are still worth more than emotional education.

    I still remember the look of horror on the faces of my first boyfriend and his parents when I announced I was leaving high school as soon as I legally could, to follow my heart and become a childcare worker.

    But I think I learned more life lessons through doing so than I could have ever done at university.

    And that's exactly what our generation so urgently needs: lessons in life. More and more tasks are being taken over by machines and artificial intelligence. The skills Generation Y needs in professional life today are not obedience, authority and academic knowledge, but empathy, flexibility and problem-solving.

    Our generation must adapt quickly to new circumstances, because the job you did yesterday may look quite different tomorrow. And the office is no longer about sitting at a desk from nine until five; it's about working at a time and place that maximises one's quality of work, based on the individual.

    That's why I'm committed to ensuring our future generations get better human and digital education, so they make our world more human and each individual person can be as he or she is — and thus achieve their own best performance.

    'Those who monopolise most of the power are, on average, much too old.'

    Daniel Krauss, 35, co founder and CIO of Flixbus millenial

    Today's prosperity is probably the greatest legacy of the previous generation. We should definitely be grateful for it. But it's not as though it's being passed down to younger generations without its drawbacks. The downside is that his focus on prosperity means few provisions have been made for the future and we haven't adapted to our current challenges.

    Those who monopolise most of the power are still, on average, far too old. Brexit or the falling investment rate in our current budget are demonstrative of this and show that our generation is still trapped in a gilded cage. At some point, young Germans are going to escape that cage and find that the country is no longer at the top of the list of industrial nations.

    This power needs to be handed over to the younger generation at an early stage. We're ready to take on the responsibility and to start restructuring things.

    'The older generation knows little about what constitutes a healthy and balanced diet.'

    Jörg Mayer and Nadine Horn (early 30's), vegan bloggers on

    Abundance in food and convenience have featured heavily in the kitchens of the post-war generation. Where meat had previously featured rarely on the dining table, it was almost a compulsory, everyday part of meals in the 1950s. But it had to be simple, fast and cheap.

    It's becoming increasingly clear that this kind of practice can't go on indefinitely for future generations.

    Due to this abundance and a lack of true appreciation for food, some among the older generation have little idea about what constitutes a healthy, balanced diet. What's more, over the years a lot of marketing-driven pseudo-science — which, simply put, is often wrong and sometimes even dangerous — has persisted.

    Questions like: "Where do vegans get protein from if they don't eat meat?" or the myth that milk consumption is good for the bones (when the opposite is true) are still firmly anchored in their minds and will only be shifted with a lot of effort.

    We try to set a good example and show that vegan life is anything but boring, that we don't just live off salad or tofu — that the kitchen can be a place to have fun. We're trying to show that cooking with friends, either alone or in pairs, is not another tedious chore; it's the best thing you can do.

    'Politicians must take us and our ideas seriously.'

    Ria Schröder (26), Federal Chairman of the Young Liberals millenials

    The baby boomers, our parents and theirs, have been instrumental in ensuring we grew up with high living standards. I'm grateful for that but we've also inherited a few problems, one of them being the pension situation. Like many in my generation, I don't assume I'll be provided for in old age. The level of baby boomers being paid for by us is ever increasing while there are fewer of us to foot the bill. It's great that people are living longer but the subsidy for the pension system is already the largest item in the German budget.

    At the same time, less and less is being invested in the future: for example, in education and in infrastructure. My generation is outnumbered. But those who focus only on large voter groups are putting the future of our country at risk in favour of short-term electoral success. Politicians must take us and our ideas seriously. Ultimately it will help not only one generation but the whole country.

    'We know humanity has power over the Earth's biophysical systems, thanks to our predecessors.'

    millennial Sina Leipold, 32, Junior Professor of Social Transformation and Circular Economy at the University of Freiburg

    For some time, we've known humanity affects and has control over the Earth's biophysical systems more than any other force of nature — knowledge we've attained only thanks to our predecessors. It is both a blessing and a curse for our generation.

    Never before have so many people been able to inhabit our planet and never before have commodities like regular holiday flights been so easy and readily affordable.

    At the same time, hurricanes, floods and heat waves have threatened to destroy (and, in many cases, have destroyed) the lives and homes of millions.

    My personal goal, through a more responsible approach than previous generations, is to help our generation ensure this power sticks around long term, instead of putting it at risk by inviting irreversible climate disasters.

    'Older generations aren't prepared to take risks.'

    Christopher Obereder, 26, series founder millennial

    Setting up a business in Germany is far too complex; it should be more straightforward. Other countries are well ahead and we should be moving on as soon as possible. The tax system in Germany is also massively outdated and makes it extremely difficult for those looking to get started with a business.

    Start-ups could be much better supported with tax reforms so the start-ups could focus more on taking care of their business. Singapore has attracted startups from all over the world with its simple control system and has become the hub of the crypto scene. Our political structures are also too slow to change and aren't able to keep up with innovation. Things have to change on this front.

    A recent survey by U.S. News showed Germany was in first place in the "Entrepreneurship" category, ahead of Japan and the USA. It's clear Germany is at the forefront despite the clear room for improvement.

    Work has also changed: people used to stay in the same job their whole life, which is why it used to be feasible to work without constantly developing and learning. Today we seem to switch jobs every year or two. I think it has a lot to do with the Internet.

    We always need to be ready to learn new things and take risks. And many opportunities and possibilities arise with the Internet, if you're open to it — cryptocurrencies are something I'm currently heavily involved in and open to, and I realise older generations aren't.

    There's conflict simply because older generations always advocate stability and safety over risk-taking, which they aren't prepared to do. I can only speak for myself but if I'd never taken risks, I'd never have learned. We have to learn through trial and error that you can't make money from anything and everything. Failure has become a valid part of working life, even if older generations still don't want to admit it.

    But older generations are starting to accept the start-up scene for what it is: it's fast-moving, involves risk-taking and isn't always lucrative.

    'The older generation has left European peace in a fragile state.'

    Lisa Badum, 34, Green Member of the Bundestag

    The rapid rise in greenhouse gases, the dramatically worsening climate crisis, the question of nuclear waste disposal, the irreversible death of countless plant and animal species — these are just some of the many consequences of failed climate and environmental policies from previous generations. Because they haven't relied on sustainability, they've dumped the consequences of and responsibility for their actions onto future generations. We're now having to face a mammoth challenge together: to keep global warming below two degrees to give future generations the chance to make mistakes.

    As for Europe, our younger generation has inherited the task of establishing European peace, a project which the older generation has left in a sorry state. The continually rising rate of youth unemployment within the EU, austerity policies, Brexit — all of these things have greatly weakened the notion of the "European community" and reinforced right-wing nationalist and populist forces in Europe. I myself have close ties with Greece, and over the years I've witnessed the destructive effects of austerity there, and have also seen growing disillusionment towards the EU. We have to stop this in its tracks and do it now, because lasting peace between us all is the most basic of prerequisites for taking on the many challenges ahead and finding solutions for tomorrow.

    Where justice and gender equality are concerned, the older generation have set us on a path of clear progress, particularly as regards legal equality between the sexes. While we have to defend this success, we also have to continue fighting for 100% equality between men and women, whether in family and work, pay or pension and the end of sexual violence towards women and girls.

    'Digitisation is largely a generational issue.'

    Barbara Engels (30), Economist at the Institute of German Economics Cologne (IW) millennial

    Being digital means being online, networking, being open to new business models — and being young. It seems to be a largely generational issue: older people are less likely to be online than younger people, which is a pity because digitisation opens up many new possibilities, especially for people who are aging. It can simplify and enrich everyday life. I hope people of all ages will greet digitisation with open arms and optimism, but obviously not without a healthy dose of scepticism. Networking is at the heart of the digital world, and could contribute to a better level of understanding between young and old. And it would help us learn much more from older people and vice versa.

    'Pension plans are a big disappointment.'

    Kristine Lütke, 35, Bundesvorsitzende der Wirtschaftsjunioren Deutschland millennial

    The subsequent drop in birth rate as a result of the rise of the contraceptive pill among the baby boomers is exacerbating demographic change. This has resulted in a shortage of specialists and labour in all areas of the economy. We young entrepreneurs and managers in particular are suffering from this as employers. Moreover, our country's pension plans are a huge disappointment for our generation and an attack on intergenerational justice, particularly in view of demographic changes. The question of b illions of funding for the "maternal pension" that's been proposed in Germany remains open.

    What can be done to increase employment rates and to mitigate the consequences of demographic change, as well as the pensions package? We need to look at options for flexible retirement. The statutory retirement age should be done away with. And working time law needs to be fundamentally reformed.

    'Climate change presents us with challenges that will dictate the opportunities of future generations.'

    Lukas Köhler, 31, FDP Bundestagsabgeordneter

    We've inherited a lot of problems to do with CO2 in the atmosphere. Climate change today presents us with a task — and how we manage this task will directly determine the opportunities available for future generations. That's why I'm fully committed to limiting climate change as much as possible. We will only succeed with a market-based climate policy in which politicians set clear targets for reducing emissions. Other bans and regulations are unnecessary and provide false incentives. I f we succeed in building a global emissions trading scheme with ambitious goals, which is as broad as possible for all economic sectors, I'm convinced we can limit global warming to an acceptable level.

    'We've been left with a society that revolves around profit rather than sustainability.'

    Sonja Oberbeckmann, 36, environmental microbiologist at the Leibniz Institute for Baltic Sea Research

    We have much to thank the previous generations for: no generation has grown up as carefree and with as many possibilities as ours. However, it's come at a price: we've been left with a society that revolves around profit rather than sustainability, where material prosperity counts more than individual happiness.

    My professional field, science, is set up for the short term: there are many temporary contracts, focusing on trendy topics. But this profit-focused society has left its mark everywhere. The environment is riddled with pesticides, exhaust gases, plastics and much more. People are stressed and it seems they would sooner pop pills than demand the time to live more healthily. Hardly anyone stops to breathe.

    We, all generations together, can define new goals and break out of this established cycle, that's exploiting human and environmental resources. Instead of sitting passively in front of the television and getting worked up about company bosses, we should all be taking responsibility and consuming both more sustainably and consciously. And we should be asking ourselves from time to time what actually makes us truly happy.

    'We're still teaching as though we're in the 19th century.'

    Nina Toller, Private Teacher millennial

    Living in the 21st century, teaching 19th century style: this is what seems to be at the core of our schooling.

    I've tried myself to fend this off with learning methods that combine critical thinking and communication with creativity and teamwork, as well as the use of digital media. My students shouldn't just be learning content and facts; they should be learning how to obtain new facts, how to share work effectively and efficiently, and how best to absorb and apply what they've learned. In this way they develop openness, a willingness to learn and also a certain degree of independence. The teacher becomes more of a companion for learning and a moderator.

    My school is open to digital media and supports me in my creative work. I almost always use QR codes or get foreign-language authors, into the classroom via Skype.

    Yet, due to a lack of technical support, training, time and security, few teachers can organise something like this on their own initiative. On my page "Toller Unterricht" I publish lots of my ideas as well as tried and tested lesson plans, with materials included.

    Politicians have made promises to digitise schools. In addition to the lack of qualifications teachers have, there also sees to be be a lack of equipment. I'm glad my school has some projectors and smartboards I can use for my lessons, but some don't even have Internet access.

    Data protection is currently being taken to ridiculous extremes: new data protection regulation makes the use of private computers difficult, so some are being advised to use paper and pen. This won't work within the frame of a digitisation strategy for Germany in 2018.

    Therefore, a comprehensive reform is needed. Only then can we equip all our students with the skills to prepare them for life and learning in the 21st century.

    'It's as if the parents think schools are responsible for raising children.'

    Franziska Hafer, 23, teacher

    The older generation has paid far too little attention to sustainable development. Sustainable development means empowering children to form their own opinions and encouraging them to act sustainably. Sustainable development means the current generation is developing, not compromising the next generation, but actively considering it. Children haven't been sensitised to this at all.

    I think there's a very different tone in schools now. I get the sense that kids are becoming less and less respectful. Manners are disappearing and, unfortunately, you rarely see a boy holding the door open for a girl. It's as if parents think schools are responsible for bringing children up.

    Some children are only interested in who has the latest, highest-end mobile. The children who do not have a say in this are outside the picture — and I think that the generation above us is responsible for instilling different values.

    'We've inherited a toxic political style from the generation before us.'

    Max Lucks, 21, Federal Spokesman of the Green Youth millennials

    We've not inherited generational conflicts; we've inherited a toxic political style from the generation before us, which has dealt little with political change or shaping the future, and has been more focused on how everything can remain as is. One only has to look at how Merkel's government has dealt with a climate crisis and how it's always been ignored and fought against by one commission or another. This political style has disappointed our generation and rightly so: it's clear to young people that a little isn't enough to answer the hard questions. For example, how can we still find well-paid and permanent jobs in 20 years' time in spite of digitalisation?

    'The older ranks of conservative politicians are afraid of change.'

    Akilnathan Logeswaren, 29, European Activist

    As an activist for a united Europe, I'm always reminded of how much of the older ranks of conservative politicians fear change. While young people are almost unanimous in their commitment to a united Europe, the older generation is still resistant to it, although though the United States of Europe has been on the agenda of previous German political figures such as Franz Josef Strauss himself .

    While old politicians are practicing against the left by remaining on the right, today's young people are already focusing more on the spirit of the European Parliament, namely by looking for solutions.

    In the 21st century, it is no longer about just having ideas, but about collaborating for a shared future. For example, the campaign #FreeInterrail — a free Interrail ticket for all Europeans as soon as they turn 18 — was devised by the youth for the youth. Ideas like these will secure our peace and cohesion in the long term.

    SEE ALSO: I was born in 1985 but I hate the 'millennial' label — here's why

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: How a $9 billion startup deceived Silicon Valley

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    california traffic

    How "green" is your city?

    WalletHub compared the 100 largest cities in the US across 22 "green" indicators to determine which cities are doing the best job saving the planet— and which cities could be doing more to protect the environment.

    They studied four main categories: "Environment,""Transportation,""Energy," and "Lifestyle and Policy."

    To determine each city's "Environment" rank, WalletHub examined factors such as air quality, greenhouse gas emissions per capita, and the amount of green space. For "Transportation," the share of commuters who drive, annual excess fuel consumption, and the amount of alternative fuel stations per capita determined the ranking. "Energy" rankings were based on solar PV installations per capita and the share of electricity from renewable resources. And for "Lifestyle and Policy," WalletHub calculated the number of community gardens, farmers' markets, and local programs promoting "green" energy use.

    Each of the 22 factors considered in the rankings were assigned a point value. Those points were combined to determine each city's total score. The lower the total score, the less environmentally friendly the city. As for the category rankings, they're on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the least sustainable.

    Here are the 50 least environmentally friendly cities in the US.

    50. Denver, Colorado

    Total score: 50.28

    Environment rank: 98

    Transportation rank: 13

    Energy sources rank: 26

    Lifestyle and policy rank: 10

    49. Aurora, Colorado

    Total score: 49.88

    Environment rank: 43

    Transportation rank: 73

    Energy sources rank: 34

    Lifestyle and policy rank: 93

    48. Durham, North Carolina

    Total score: 49.75

    Environment rank: 32

    Transportation rank: 54

    Energy sources rank: 77

    Lifestyle and policy rank: 55

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    san francisco

    With World Environment Day coming up on June 5, INSIDER researched the most environmentally friendly cities in the US. 

    To find the most eco-conscious destinations across the country, we consulted a range of sources, including Siemens' Green City Index for the US and Canada, which measures and rates the environmental performance of 27 cities in North America, and WalletHub's 2017 list of the greenest cities in America, which compares 100 of the largest cities in the US across 22 "green" indicators like median air-quality and number of jobs accessible by public transit.  

    Keep reading to learn about 25 of the most eco-friendly US cities, from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Chicago, Illinois.

    Honolulu, Hawaii

    Honolulu, Hawaii's capital, topped The Daily Beast's 2014 list of the greenest cities in the US. The site based its findings on government data and research conducted by Experian Marketing Services, a market research firm that has tracked the greening of America for more than 50 years.

    According to The Daily Beast — which analyzed several categories of data ranging from "The percentage of people who think and act in an eco-conscious way" to "The number of energy efficient commercial buildings per capita, as recorded by the Environmental Protection Agency"— 66.1% of Honolulu residents are very eco-conscious. 

    Given that Honolulu boasts numerous beaches, lush vegetation, and incredible volcanic landforms that make it one of the prettiest cities in America, it makes sense that the people who live there are dedicated to preserving natural resources.




    Portland, Oregon

    Portland earned the top spot on Travel + Leisure's 2015 readers' survey of the greenest cities in America. The magazine asked readers to rank destinations based on eco-friendly offerings like mass-transit options and restaurants that source ingredients locally.

    From vegetarian food truck eats to thrift store threads, Portland isn't just hip— it's sustainable, too. 

    San Francisco, California

    With a cumulative score of 74.24, San Francisco came in first on WalletHub's 2017 ranking of America's greenest cities. The personal finance website compared 22 eco-focused data points for the 100 largest cities in the country such as median air-quality index and number of jobs accessible by public transit.  

    In 2011, Siemens named San Francisco the greenest city in the US and Canada on its Green City Index. From a law that requires residents and businesses keep recycling and compost material separate from normal trash to widescale dedication to solar energy (including 60,000-square-foot solar paneling on the roof of the San Francisco Convention Center), the Golden City demonstrates how metros can do their part to save the planet.




    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    biking minneapolis minnesota

    World Environment Day, on June 5, is a day to think about the environment and do what you can to help it. A billion people get involved every year, making it the largest civic observance in the world, according to The Telegraph.

    But why stop there? You can make saving the planet part of your daily lifestyle. Here are 13 small things you can do everyday to live a sustainable lifestyle and help planet Earth.

    Walk or bike to work.

    If you live close enough to your office, walking or biking to work will prevent you from using a gasoline-guzzling car. You're also less likely to run into traffic, and you'll burn some calories in the process.

    Take public transport.

    If you're too far to take a bike, see if your local public transportation network is convenient enough to use on your commute. Cities upload their public transport data to Google Maps, which makes it easy to find out how long and convenient your commute would be.

    There are a litany of benefits to taking public transportation. It'll save you gas and money, and you can take the time to read on your commute instead of focusing on the road.

    Use a carpool service.

    If a bike or public transport aren't quite feasible, you don't have to sacrifice the comfort of a car: just use a carpool service.

    Some cities, like New York, organize their own carpools. You can also use an app, like Waze Carpool, Lyft Line, or uberPOOL.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    With scientists reporting that a sixth mass extinction is underway, it's more important than ever to pay attention to the impact we have on the environment.

    Keep scrolling to read about 15 animals that tragically went extinct, from a treefrog named Toughie to Martha, the world's last passenger pigeon. 

    The Bramble Cay melomys, a small rodent native to the Great Barrier Reef, is considered to be the first mammal species wiped out by climate change.

    Also known as the mosaic-tailed rat, the Bramble Cay melomys was endemic to a coral cay— a type of small, low island — off the coast of Queensland, Australia. 

    Last seen in 2009 and declared extinct in 2014, the rodent had the distinction of being the sole mammal native to the Great Barrier Reef. Researchers at the University of Queensland concluded that the species met its demise due to rising sea levels that destroyed its habitat. 

    The world's last Rabbs' fringe-limbed treefrog, a male named Toughie, died in 2016.

    Technically critically endangered, the Rabbs' fringe-limbed treefrog hasn't been seen in the wild since 2007 — two years after scientists discovered the species in Panama, where the population had already been ravaged by deadly chytrid fungus

    Toughie, the last known member of his species, died in 2016 at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Since he was already an adult when researchers found him, his age was unknown. He and another male were brought back to the US at the same time, but his fellow amphibian was euthanized in 2012

    Nicknamed the "loneliest frog in the world," Toughie — who was famous enough to have his own Wikipedia page— became a symbol of the frog extinction crisis. 





    According to folklore, a lighthouse keeper's cat named Tibbles was responsible for wiping out most of the Stephens Island wren population.

    We may think cats are cute and cuddly, but our feline friends have been detrimental to local populations of birds and other small animals for decades, killing millions each year. According to a 2013 study published in Nature Communications, free-ranging cats are "likely the single greatest source of anthropogenic mortality for US birds and mammals." 

    Due to land development and predation by cats introduced to the area, the Stephens Island wren, a bird native to New Zealand, was extinct by 1895. According to folklore, a lighthouse keeper's cat named Tibbles enjoyed preying on the birds and wiped out a significant percentage of the species.

    However, a report by the Ornithological Society of New Zealand suggests he likely he didn't act alone.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Mark Dalio and Ray Dalio On Stage 2

    • Bridgewater hedge fund founder Ray Dalio is a proponent of ocean exploration and has long been involved in ocean research.
    • Dalio has announced a new initiative, OceanX, that aims to explore the world's oceans.
    • 95% of the world's oceans are still unexplored, so Dalio told Business Insider that learning about that unknown is "like discovering the planet anew."

    Ray Dalio wants to know what's in the depths of the world's oceans.

    Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater, the world's largest hedge fund, and has been involved in ocean exploration for years. Using a crewed submersible (a deep-diving underwater vehicle) launched from his ship, the Alucia, researchers captured the first footage of a giant squid in its natural habitat in the wild six years ago.

    The team that filmed "Blue Planet II," one of the most remarkable nature documentaries ever, conducted a number of their shoots from the Alucia. These dives took filmmakers deeper under Antarctica than any person has ever gone and resulted in the discovery of new species. Just recently, a researcher from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution used an underwater drone owned by Dalio to discover a shipwreck off the coast of Colombia that may hold up to $17 billion in treasure.

    On Monday evening, Dalio and his son Mark announced a new initiative, OceanX, that aims to take ocean exploration to the next level.

    Oceans_ Our Blue Planet Mobula Ray

    OceanX is meant to be a mission like that of Jacques Cousteau, the French undersea explorer, inventor, diver, and filmmaker who introduced much of the general public to the wonders of the ocean, Dalio told Business Insider. The effort will combine scientific exploration of the ocean with the production of media designed to show people how exciting the underwater world is.

    More exciting than space

    Dalio has previously supported scientific research on the Alucia and contributed to the production of ocean-related media like "Blue Planet II" from the ship. Mark Dalio's OceanX Media (formerly known as Alucia Productions) co-produced the BBC Earth film "Oceans: Our Blue Planet."

    As a new philanthropic organization, OceanX is meant to unify and expand these ocean research, exploration, and media-creation efforts. 

    blue planet iiIn 2019, the organization plans to debut a new ship, the M/V Alucia2, which will be roughly 84 meters (276 feet) in length and have wet and dry labs for scientific research on board. The vessel will include a hangar for three submersibles that can carry crew members 1,000 meters underwater, along with a deployment bay for underwater drones, a helicopter deck and hangar, and a media center.

    Right now, OceanX is seeking ideas for missions that would benefit from being on board the new ship. OceanX already has a long list of partners to help fund research, conduct scientific expeditions, and create media, including BBC Studies, James Cameron, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the National Geographic Society, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and many more.

    As Dalio explains it, exploring the underwater world on our planet is more exciting than exploring space.

    "You go out to outer space and you get an interesting picture of what the Earth in outer space looks like, and then you go to Mars and you get a lot of rocks. I’m not saying it’s not interesting, but how many times can you look at the Earth from up there and say ‘wow,’ and how many times can you go to Mars? I think [the ocean is] far more exciting and I think it’s far more intimate in terms of affecting our lives," he said.

    Discovering the unknown

    Roughly 95% of the world's oceans are unexplored, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That means there's incredible potential for discovery underwater.

    "More than 50% of our air comes from the ocean, it affects our weather, it affects us in so many different ways, and it’s right there. Just go down, it’s cheaper to get to than going to Mars and so it’s more exciting and more important," Dalio said.

    He explained that OceanX plans to focus on a vast area of the ocean known as the twilight zone, which is considered to be particularly unexplored.

    "That’s the area where you start to lose light, below 350 to 500 feet down to a couple of thousand meters," Dalio said. "That’s where we’re particularly interested in exploring. We’re going to do that all over the world but we will initially start in the Indian Ocean."

    Oceans cover more than 70% of the planet's surface and are ultimately the support systems that allow life to exist here. Yet we know little about them in comparison to what we know about environments on land. That's why, for Dalio, the most exciting thing about this new exploration effort is the unknown.

    Oceans_ Our Blue Planet Coral Reef

    "Above the ocean’s surface, there are all of these worlds. There are different species, there are different terrains, there are mountains and plains and all of those things," he said. "Beneath the ocean, it is twice as large in terms of the worlds, the total area below … And it’s totally undiscovered. So to me it’s like discovering the planet anew."

    Through ocean exploration, there's potential to discover valuable minerals and chemicals, new species that could be sources of novel types of medications, and more. Plus, because ocean systems provide our oxygen and much of the food we rely on, it's important to learn about the underwater world so that we know how to protect these essential resources. 

    "Imagine continents that have never been discovered, species that have never been discovered, ecosystems that have never been discovered and they’re right there. It’s the not knowing that excites us," Dalio said.

    SEE ALSO: 'Do you like to breathe?': A group of scientists have figured out a way to regrow coral reefs and it could help save the oceans

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Octopuses are officially the weirdest animals on Earth

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    great barrier reef 2

    As humanity transforms the world, we're putting many of our most spectacular natural environments at risk.

    Threats to many of the world's natural wonders are growing, according to a 2017 report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which evaluates the threats faced by natural UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These sites include many of the most iconic wild places on the planet, including the Great Barrier Reef and snow-topped Kilimanjaro.

    Beyond being beautiful, these are important places both for nature and humanity. As the report's authors wrote, "[t]hey harbour unique ecosystems and species, support livelihoods, contribute to climate stability and buffer against natural hazards."

    Yet for more than a third of these sites, the outlook is critical or of significant concern. In places like Florida's Everglades where the threat level is critical, immediate large-scale action is needed for preservation. For sites like the Galápagos that have an outlook of significant concern, significant measures need to be taken to stave off deterioration.

    The biggest pressures on these critical sites — and on the rest of the natural world — include invasive species, climate change, tourism, human activities like hunting and fishing, and development. Looking to the future, climate change and severe weather are expected to become even more significant causes of harm, as will road construction and oil and gas development.

    These are far from the only crucial natural sites that are threatened by human activity. But they are some of the best-known, and it's worth remembering that if we can't protect these, we don't have much chance of protecting the rest of the world.

    Here are some of these spectacular places we could lose if we don't take action as soon as possible.

    SEE ALSO: The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most spectacular places on the planet — here's what it looks like as it dies off

    Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, Mexico

    IUCN Status: Critical

    Illegal logging, extreme weather, and climate change-related disruption to seasonal migrations are all causing severe threats for this site, where Monarch butterflies make the longest-known insect migration to spend the winter.

    Iguaçu National Park, Brazil (and Iguazu National Park, Argentina)

    IUCN Status: Threatened

    There are a number of threats to these falls at the border of Brazil and Argentina, including invasive species, hunting, logging, water pollution, dams, and climate change.

    Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, Indonesia

    IUCN Status: Critical

    Development and deforestation, especially by palm oil harvesters, has put the rainforests of Sumatra in critical condition.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    If it seems like the rain has been non-stop this spring, you’re not imagining things.

    In Seattle, it's been 30-40% rainier than normal, and locations on the Eastern seaboard from Miami to Washington DC have been pummeled with more than 10 inches of rain in the past 30 days — roughly double the norm.

    Researchers have found that when the sky opens up these days, it is dumping more water on all of us. Peak rain rates, which arrive when the fierce core of a storm is overhead, have increased 30% over the past 60 years, according to project scientist Andreas Prein from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR).

    Heavy, damaging storms are also becoming more frequent and more likely to flood people out of their homes — during those peak times, upwards of 4 inches of rain can fall per hour in some cases.

    "The bigger the storm, the better for flooding," Prein said.

    overflowing sewer

    This phenomenon is directly linked to what humans are doing on the ground: burning fossil fuels, which funnels carbon dioxide into the air, leading Earth's average temperature to rise.

    “Precipitation responds to global warming by increasing,” Angeline Pendergrass, a project scientist at UCAR, said at a conference for journalists last week.

    We're the ones making it rain

    As people create pollutants that throw off the atmosphere's delicate balance, those greenhouse gases trap more of the sun's heat, which raises the planet's temperature.

    Increased precipitation is a side effect of that process, kind of like a feverish sweat: the hotter the atmosphere gets, the easier it is for evaporation to occur on the surface of the Earth. More water evaporating and forming clouds leads to more precipitation. Warmer air can also hold more water, which prompts heavier rains and more summer floods. 

    "A future storm might cause a much, much bigger flood because it produces so much more water," Prein said.

    Scientists call this trend an intensification of the hydrologic cycle. The phenomenon has already made US storms between 10% and 70% wetter than they used to be, which is much higher than the roughly 7% atmospheric moisture increase that Prein's scientific models predicted.

    Mari Tye, who studies weather extremes at UCAR, estimates that the damage from more intense thunderstorms totaled to $145 billion dollars in the US last year, rivaling the $125 billion cost of Hurricane Harvey.

    Just two days of storms across the Midwest in November 2017 created a total of $275 million worth of damage, according to Aon Benfield analytics. 

    the wettest one percent of storms are getting much wetter map

    As the globe's temperature continues to heat up, that intensification will likely continue.

    "Over a city, this can be very devastating," Prein said. 

    But while wet places get wetter, dry places will continue to get drier. And when rain does hit those spots, there's a higher risk of catastrophic flooding because the ground will be more dry and impermeable to water.

    The Earth's temperature is on track to rise several more degrees before 2100, so we can expect to get caught in more wet, damaging storms more frequently.

    SEE ALSO: Hurricane season officially starts today — and you're at risk even if you live far from the shore

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: An 'atmospheric river' is about to dump a ton of rain and snow on the West Coast — here's what an atmospheric river actually is

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    hurricane harvey

    • Over the past 70 years, the speed of hurricanes and tropical storms has slowed about 10% on average, according to new research.
    • That doesn't mean storm systems have become less intense, just that they're crossing Earth more slowly, which actually gives storms more time to dump rain and lash an area with powerful winds.
    • Over land, especially in the North Atlantic and Western North Pacific, storms are moving 20-30% more slowly.

    When Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast on August 25, 2017, it made landfall as a Category 4 storm with 130-mph winds. 

    Harvey was the first major hurricane to hit the US since 2005, but it weakened to a tropical storm over land, which hurricanes tend to do when they are no longer drawing warmth and energy from the sea. But then the storm did something different.

    It stalled.

    For days, Harvey dumped unprecedented amounts of rain on and around Houston. It sucked up more water from the Gulf and even reversed direction, setting records and causing more than $126 billion in damage and economic loss.

    Tom Di Liberto described it on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) website as the "storm that refused to leave."

    Instead of being anomalies, storms like Harvey might represent a sort of new normal, according to a new assessment published in the journal Nature. The analysis, done by by NOAA researcher James Kossin, shows that hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical storms are moving more slowly over the Earth's surface, especially over land.

    That doesn't mean these storms are any less powerful — in fact, they may be intensifying and developing into powerful hurricanes in a shorter time span, according to other recent research. Instead, moving at a slower pace gives storms even more time to dump rain and whip coasts with powerful winds, making them more destructive.

    The storm slowdown

    Storms have slowed by an average of 10%, according to Kossin's research. Over the time period he studied — from 1949 to 2016 — the average global temperature rose 0.5 degrees Celsius due to climate change. A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture, so when you take into account 1 degree Celsius of warming, a 10% slowdown could double the amount of rainfall and flooding that an area experiences. 

    "These trends are almost certainly increasing local rainfall totals and freshwater flooding, which is associated with very high mortality risk," Kossin said in a news release.

    Kossin found that the amount storms slowed down varied by region across the globe.

    World Map Hurricane Infographic FINAL 1200 pixels

    In general, cyclones in the western North Pacific — where these storms are known as typhoons — slowed the most, by 20%. 

    But Kossin also looked at changes in the speeds at which storms moved over land: in the western North Pacific, storms slowed 30% over land, while in the North Atlantic, they slowed by 20%.

    Kossin thinks this cyclone slowdown is likely caused by changes in the circulation of Earth's atmosphere due to climate change. While the factors that drive atmospheric winds are complicated, one expected symptom of climate change — and something that's been observed over the time period Kossin studied — is that the atmospheric factors that drive cyclone movement are weakening.

    "Tropical cyclones tend to 'go with the flow,' meaning that the direction and speed at which they travel are guided by the winds in the surrounding environment," Christina Patricola, a climate researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, wrote in an article published alongside Kossin's new paper.

    She called current-day storms "sluggish." 

    That means that in a warmer world, we should expect storms to become more intense, dump more rain, and move more slowly, causing more damage.


    A devastating impact

    The peak rain rates of storms have increased by 30% over the past 60 years. 

    As we saw with Harvey, storms that move slowly can cause an incredible amount of damage. We saw the same destructive slow rainy patterns with Typhoon Morakot, which hit Taiwan in 2009, and Cyclone Hyacinthe, which looped by the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean several times in 1980, according to Patricola.

    One interesting wrinkle raised by Kossin's new research is that we don't know if storms like Harvey have been dumping more rain primarily because they're moving slowly or because they're holding more moisture due to atmospheric temperatures. It could be both.

    We need more research to know just how much more we should expect cyclones to slow in a warmer world, according to the new paper.

    But as hurricane season kicks off in the North Atlantic, slower storms are yet another thing to look out for.

    SEE ALSO: The most spectacular places on the planet that have the most to lose as humans reshape the world

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    the ocean cleanup plastic great pacific garbage patch

    • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a massive area measuring more than 1.6 million square kilometers, but it's just part of the North Pacific Gyre, an ocean region where currents collect plastic.
    • Researchers from the Ocean Cleanup foundation conducted a survey of plastic in the area, using planes to observe from the sky and boats to trawl the water.
    • They found that the amount of plastic there seemed to be increasing exponentially and that there could be 16 times as much as previously thought.

    There's far too much plastic in the world's oceans, and the problem continues to build up.

    Every little bit of plastic that gets tossed into the ocean or swept downstream out to sea either sinks or is picked up by currents. Much of it is eventually carried into one of five massive ocean regions, where plastic can be so concentrated that areas have garnered names like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

    While "garbage patch" might make you think of something you pass by on the side of the road, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Ocean is less like a patch and more like a massive swirling vortex more than three times the size of Spain and more than twice the size of Turkey or Texas.

    And it's growing and collecting more plastic rapidly, according to a study published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports by researchers associated with the Ocean Cleanup Foundation.

    There may be more than 16 times as much plastic in the vortex than previous studies have estimated, according to the researchers behind the study.

    An aerial view of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch might at first appear to be open water. But inside there's debris from all over the world — debris that traps or is eaten by marine animals, filling up their bodies to the point of being fatal and tainting our food supply.

    More than 320 million metric tons of plastic are produced every year — and a disturbing amount ends up in the ocean, with much of it accumulating in places like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

    SEE ALSO: A 22-year-old is moving ahead with a controversial plan to trap plastic floating in the great Pacific garbage patch

    DON'T MISS: A 51-year-old just began a 5,500-mile swim across the Pacific Ocean from Japan to San Francisco

    Much of the Ocean Cleanup foundation's data on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from a 2015 expedition involving 18 vessels.

    The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch organization started by a young entrepreneur named Boyan Slat, wants to launch a somewhat controversial effort to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and has conducted research about the scale of the problem.

    The ships trawled the waters using manta trawl nets outfitted with mesh to catch as much plastic as possible.

    The area they focused on is a particularly concentrated part of one of the five global gyres where ocean currents collect plastic from around the world.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Rainy day couple

    • The idea that it rains more on weekends because of weekday pollution is a myth.
    • But it is true that pollution can have a small effect on rainfall in highly polluted or dense areas.
    • That effect wouldn't make a big enough difference for you to notice it, however, and most scientists don't think the "weekend effect" is real.
    • Generally speaking, it is more common for rain to fall in the afternoon.


    If it feels like you're getting drenched every weekend, rest assured: the sky is not out to get you this summer. 

    Ever since the industrial revolution in England, scientists have worried that we might be ruining our own weekends by creating weekday pollution that leads to more rain on Saturdays and Sundays.

    The idea is that as people pollute the air with exhaust from cars and factories, we send more solid, rain-fueling particles called aerosols into the atmosphere. Those tiny pieces of industrial trash become building blocks for clouds, since water can condense onto them. But when lots of aerosols are floating around in the atmosphere, they can crowd each other out and create much smaller cloud droplets, leading to less rainfall. 

    "They take longer to grow big enough to fall out as rain," Angeline Pendergrass, a project scientist at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research who studies precipitation, told Business Insider.

    But she said any argument that this phenomenon makes weekend days rainier simply doesn't hold water. "If there is an effect, it's really small," she said.

    Some of the most recent research-based myth-busting on this subject was done by weather expert David Schultz in 2007. After studying more than 200 weather stations across the US, Schultz and his colleagues ruled that there was no discernible pattern of particularly rainy days in a week. 

    The processes through which aerosols form clouds are complex, and pollution is not the only thing determines when rain falls or how long clouds stay in the air. Aerosols can also build up from all sorts of natural solids like dirt and salt. Weather patterns also change based on other factors like the jet stream and whether clouds form over land or sea.

    The real reasons for your rainy weekends

    singin in the rain

    Pendergrass proposes a different reason why it can feel as though it's raining more on the weekends.

    "I think it's more psychological than meteorological," she said.

    When we're out of the office and want to be spending our days at the beach or in the park, it can be very disappointing to see rain in the forecast. Those strong feelings can make weekend precipitation more memorable, even though there's no true increase on Saturday or Sunday. 

    There may also be an additional reason why weekends seem extra-rainy this year in particular: portions of the US are much rainier than normal right now.

    It's been a wet spring across several areas of the country, especially on the East Coast and throughout the northern plains. Rainfall in areas around Washington DC has been 300% above usual in the last 30 days. Parts of Florida, Nebraska, and Montana have been equally soaked.

    Scientists like Pendergrass who study the global climate say people should get used to this: increased rainfall is part of a warming world. So are stronger, more damaging hurricanes. Think of it like the Earth's version of a feverish sweat.

    But if you want to know the best time of day to make plans based on the chances of rain, here's an evidence-based hack: stay inside in the afternoon.

    When the sun comes up in the morning and starts heating the surface of the Earth, warm air rises and clouds form. By afternoon, there's enough energy in the sky for a storm to form. So if it's pouring on you on a weekend afternoon, you can blame that hot ball in the sky, no matter what day it is.

    SEE ALSO: Rainstorms are now up to 70% stronger and wetter than they were in the 1950s — and this is only the beginning

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    NOW WATCH: Rainbows aren't just arcs in the sky — they're actually full circles

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    The Conversation

    Scott Pruitt EPA environment health Trump administration

    • According to 45 current and retired EPA employees, Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration are aggressively reorganizing the EPA to promote interests of regulated industries.
    • These efforts have come at the expense of its official mission to "protect human health and the environment."
    • Academics call this activity "regulatory capture," which occurs when an agency makes decisions based on the interest of a regulated industry, rather than public interest.
    • If passed, Pruitt's proposals would undo, delay or otherwise block at least 30 existing rules beneficial to public health, such as the Clean Power Plan.

    The Environmental Protection Agency made news recently for excluding reporters from a "summit" meeting on chemical contamination in drinking water. Episodes like this are symptoms of a larger problem: an ongoing, broad-scale takeover of the agency by industries it regulates.

    We are social scientists with interests in environmental health, environmental justice and inequality and democracy. We recently published a study, conducted under the auspices of the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative and based on interviews with 45 current and retired EPA employees, which concludes that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and the Trump administration have steered the agency to the verge of what scholars call "regulatory capture."

    By this we mean that they are aggressively reorganizing the EPA to promote interests of regulated industries, at the expense of its official mission to "protect human health and the environment."

    How close is too close?

    The notion of "regulatory capture" has a long record in US social science research. It helps explain the 2008 financial crisis and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In both cases, lax federal oversight and the government's over-reliance on key industries were widely viewed as contributing to the disasters.

    How can you tell whether an agency has been captured? According to Harvard's David Moss and Daniel Carpenter, it occurs when an agency's actions are "directed away from the public interest and toward the interest of the regulated industry" by "intent and action of industries and their allies." In other words, the farmer doesn't just tolerate foxes lurking around the hen house — he recruits them to guard it.

    Serving industry

    From the start of his tenure at EPA, Pruitt has championed interests of regulated industries such as petrochemicals and coal mining, while rarely discussing the value of environmental and health protections. "Regulators exist," he asserts, "to give certainty to those that they regulate," and should be committed to "enhanc(ing) economic growth."

    In our view, Pruitt's efforts to undo, delay or otherwise block at least 30 existing rules reorient EPA rule-making "away from the public interest and toward the interest of the regulated industry." Our interviewees overwhelmingly agreed that these rollbacks undermine their own "pretty strong sense of mission … protecting the health of the environment," as one current EPA staffer told us.

    EPA Scott Pruitt

    Many of these targeted rules have well-documented public benefits, which Pruitt's proposals — assuming they withstand legal challenges — would erode. For example, rejecting a proposed ban on the insecticide chlorpyrifos would leave farm workers and children at risk of developmental delays and autism spectrum disorders. Revoking the Clean Power Plan for coal-fired power plants, and weakening proposed fuel efficiency standards, would sacrifice health benefits associated with cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

    A key question is whether regulated industries had an active hand in these initiatives. Here, again, the answer is yes.

    Nuzzling up to industry

    Pruitt's EPA is staffed with senior officials who have close industry ties. For example, Deputy Administrator Andrew Wheeler is a former coal industry lobbyist. Nancy Beck, deputy assistant administrator of EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, was formerly an executive at the American Chemistry Council. And Senior Deputy General Counsel Erik Baptist was previously senior counsel at the American Petroleum Institute.

    Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show Pruitt has met with representatives of regulated industries 25 times more often than with environmental advocates. His staff carefully shields him from encounters with groups that they consider "unfriendly."

    EPA Scott Pruitt chart2

    The former head of EPA's Office of Policy, Samantha Dravis, who left the agency in April 2018, had 90 scheduled meetings with energy, manufacturing and other industrial interests between March 2017 and January 2018. During the same period she met with one public interest organization.

    Circumstantial evidence suggests that corporate lobbying is directly influencing major policy decisions. For example, just before rejecting the chlorpyrifos ban, Pruitt met with the CEO of Dow Chemical, which manufactures the pesticide.

    Overturning Obama's Clean Power Plan and withdrawing from the Paris climate accord were recommended by coal magnate Robert Murray in his "Action Plan for the Administration." Emails released under the Freedom of Information Act show detailed correspondence between Pruitt and industry lobbyists about EPA talking points. They also document Pruitt's many visits with corporate officials as he formulated his attack on the Clean Power Plan.

    Muting other voices

    Scott Pruitt EPA environment health Trump administration 2

    Pruitt and his staff also have sought to sideline potentially countervailing interests and influences, starting with EPA career staff. In one of our interviews, an EPA employee described a meeting between Pruitt, the home-building industry and agency career staff. Pruitt showed up late, led the industry representatives into another room for a group photo, then trooped back into the meeting room to scold his own EPA employees for not listening to them.

    Threatened by proposed budget cuts, buyouts and retribution against disloyal staff and leakers, career EPA employees have been made "afraid … so nobody pushes back, nobody says anything," according to one of our sources.

    As a result, enforcement has fallen dramatically. During Trump's first 6 months in office, the EPA collected 60 percent less money in civil penalties from polluters than it had under Presidents Obama or George W. Bush in the same period. The agency has also opened fewer civil and criminal cases.

    Early in his tenure Pruitt replaced many members of EPA's Science Advisory Board and Board of Scientific Counselors in a move intended to give representatives from industry and state governments more influence. He also established a new policy that prevents EPA-funded scientists from serving on these boards, but allows industry-funded scientists to serve.

    And on April 24, 2018, Pruitt issued a new rule that limits what kind of scientific research the agency can rely on in writing environmental regulation. This step was advocated by the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute.

    What can be done?

    This is not the first time that a strongly anti-regulatory administration has tried to redirect EPA. In our interviews, longtime EPA staffers recalled similar pressure under President Reagan, led by his first administrator, Anne Gorsuch.

    Gorsuch also slashed budgets, cut back on enforcement and "treated a lot of people in the agency as the enemy," in the words of her successor, William Ruckelshaus. She was forced to resign in 1983 amid congressional investigations into EPA misbehavior, including corruptive favoritism and its cover-up at the Superfund program.

    EPA veterans of those years emphasized the importance of Democratic majorities in Congress, which initiated the investigations, and sustained media coverage of EPA's unfolding scandals. They remembered this phase as an oppressive time, but noted that pro-industry actions by political appointees failed to suffuse the entire bureaucracy. Instead, career staffers resisted by developing subtle, "underground" ways of supporting each other and sharing information internally and with Congress and the media.

    Similarly, the media are spotlighting Pruitt's policy actions and ethical scandals today. EPA staffers who have left the agency are speaking out against Pruitt's policies. State attorneys general and the court system have also thwarted some of Pruitt's efforts. And EPA's Science Advisory Board — including members appointed by Pruitt — recently voted almost unanimously to do a full review of the scientific justification for many of Pruitt's most controversial proposals.

    Still, with the Trump administration tilted hard against regulation and Republicans controlling Congress, the greatest challenge to regulatory capture at the EPA will be the 2018 and 2020 elections.

    SEE ALSO: Lawmakers want FBI investigation into latest Scott Pruitt scandals, including Chick-fil-A bombshell

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    NOW WATCH: How to survive a snake bite

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    • IKEA has set the ambitious goal to be a fully circular business by 2030.
    • Bosses say IKEA also aims to be carbon neutral by the same year.
    • It wants to be a global leader in other megatrends like urbanisation and insecure employment.


    IKEA has announced a major strategic plan to make the furniture giant both circular and climate neutral by 2030.

    The move supports IKEA's new long-term strategy of adapting to a new future, marked by resource scarcity and urbanisation. As part of this initiative, IKEA has sketched out a strategy document called "Three Roads Forward", which outlines the furniture group's future direction towards 2025.

    The three roads are centered on accessibility, the environment and affordability.

    "It was worked out a little under a year ago and aims to make IKEA more priceworthy for people who can't afford it today, more accessible for those who aren't reached today and create a positive impact on people, society and the planet," Göran Nilsson, a concept innovation manager at IKEA, told Veckans Affärer this spring.

    In conjunction with the Democratic Design Days, IKEA's annual media event taking place in its headquarters in Älmhult this week, the furniture chain is detailing the the third road — People & Planet Positive 2030.

    IKEA wants to be circular and 'climate positive' by 2030

    Besides the usual corporate commitments to inclusion, equality and improving biodiversity, IKEA is making a pledge to transform the very resource use of its business.

    The goal is to become "circular" and entirely climate positive. This means the company aims to only use renewable or recycled inputs for its products by 2030.

    "Our ambition is to become people and planet positive by 2030 while growing the IKEA business. Through our size and reach we have the opportunity to inspire and enable more than one billion people to live better lives, within the limits of the planet" said Inter IKEA Group CEO, Torbjörn Lööf.

    The logo of IKEA is seen above a store in Voesendorf, Austria, April 24, 2017. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

    As part of the circularity pledge, the furniture company — already conditioned to living by near-religious principles since its founder Ingvar Kamprad nailed down IKEA's core theses in 1976 — has now outlined nine new circular design principles, which will be challenging some of the company's standard practices and will be fully in place by 2022.

    A preamble to that strategy came last year, when the company unveiled its "click technology" that makes screws redundant.

    IKEA pinpoints the importance of infrastructure and partnerships to support a waste-free and circular economy.

    "Change will only be possible if we collaborate with others and nurture entrepreneurship. We are committed to taking the lead working together with everyone — from raw material suppliers all the way to our customers and partners", said Torbjörn Lööf, CEO of Inter IKEA Group.

    From solar packs to veggie hot dogs

    To achieve climate positivity, IKEA said it will reduce the carbon footprint from its stores and other operations by 80% in absolute terms by 2030, with 2016 as the baseline year. The furniture retailer also aims to reduce greenhouse emissions by "at least 15% from the IKEA value chain in absolute terms compared to 2016."

    This measure translates on average to a 70% reduced climate footprint per IKEA product, achieved in part by strict requirements on suppliers, product materials and design and transportation. Even the company's upcoming "veggie hot dog" will play a part in reducing footprints.

    jesper brodin johan nilsson tt

    In conjunction with this, the company will be doubling down on consuming and buying 100% renewable energy by 2020, IKEA said in the press release. Having recently invested some $1,7 billion in renewable energy, IKEA its also looking to offset its overall consumption with renewables within this same time period.

    IKEA will also be enabling its customers to save and generate renewable energy in their homes, in part through the company's wall-mounted solar packs released in 2017.

    IKEA wants to set a corporate benchmark for sustainability

    Intensifying pressure from e-commerce giants such as Amazon and Alibaba has made traditional retailers increasingly aware of the need for fast transformation. IKEA, a global firm with 355 stores and 149,000 employees in 29 countries, knows this.

    Having taken big initiatives — from buying forest to announcing electric vehicle support — over the past few years, IKEA now seems to be taking sustainability into its core business practices. Its massive scale — IKEA consumes around 1% of the world's wood supply — will undoubtedly make a dent, and perhaps set a sustainability precedent for other global corporates in the coming decade.

    In order to become a fully circular business by 2030, more than investment has to be shifted: an entirely new mindset will be required.

    "IKEA has to ask themselves — is a loyal customer one that comes back often or someone that loves us but makes purchases less often", said Malin Sundström, associate professor at the University of Borås.

    How does the People & Planet strategy connect with the company's Three Roads Forward initiative from earlier this spring?

    Jonas Carlehed, who is head of Sustainability at IKEA Retail Sweden, said: "It's very much part of it. Now we are charting the course for the third road, that we'll have a positive impact on people as well as environment. But this action plan is also part of the two other roads around low prices and affordability. It's our new core business."

    But the company's third road will be all but straight.

    IKEA needs to go from selling just new items to providing a host of services in order to prolong the lifecycle of its furniture. An example of that is an initiative with Swedish secondhand marketplace Blocket, which lets IKEA's premium members advertise their used products without paying.

    "For example, we could help by selling different spare parts to furniture. We are going to communicate around that opportunity, but we'll also be looking at utilising our bargain sections better by, for example, accepting used items," said Carlehed.

    What have been the hardest parts of outlining the People & Planet strategy?

    "That has absolutely been the consumption bit. We have two things that we will be good at — to create products and to create a better everyday life for the masses. We need to do both in a sustainable way," said Carlehed.

    IKEA's sustainability commitments for 2030 include:

    • Designing all IKEA products with new circular principles, with the goal to only use renewable and recycled materials
    • Offering services that make it easier for people to bring home, care for and pass on products
    • Removing all single-use plastic products from the IKEA range globally and from customer and co-worker restaurants in stores by 2020
    • Increasing the proportion of plant-based choices in the IKEA food offer, like the veggie hot dog launching globally in August 2018
    • Becoming climate positive and reducing the total IKEA climate footprint by an average of 70% per product
    • Achieving zero emissions home deliveries by 2025
    • Expanding the offer of affordable home solar solutions to 29 IKEA markets by 2025

    SEE ALSO: Sonos and Ikea are teaming up to create a speaker that can act as a shelf

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    Miami king tide flooding

    Sea level rise is threatening coastal cities around the world.

    If you live in a city like Miami, New York City, or Charleston, the evidence is apparent if you head to the right neighborhood during high tides — especially those known as king tides. These are the highest tides of the year, and they coincide with full moons during spring and fall.

    King tides themselves aren't caused by sea level rise, but as the highest tides of the year, they show how sea level has already risen over the past century — the neighborhoods they flood on sunny days now didn't flood like this decades ago, even during high tides.

    In 2017, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that cities around the country experienced a record number of flooding events related to high tides, according to the National Climate Report. More than a quarter of coastal locations tied or set new records for the number of flooding days. And in 2018, flooding on the US coastline is expected to be 60% higher than it was just 20 years ago.

    Perhaps most importantly, high and king tides are a preview of what's to come as seas continue to rise. What happens during high tides now will happen on a regular basis in the future.

    As sea level rises, waters come back up through storm drains and wash over barricades. They flood houses and roads. And in many cases, they may be full of bacteria and potential pathogens.

    Most cities recognize the situation at this point and are doing everything they can to try to beat back the rising tides. But seas will continue to rise as warmer oceans expand and glaciers melt. It's likely that neighborhoods and even some cities will be uninhabitable far sooner than many think.

    SEE ALSO: Miami is racing against time to keep up with sea-level rise

    Annapolis, Maryland: Sea level is rising faster along the East Coast than in many places. In Annapolis, tides can cause the Chesapeake Bay to flood the city.

    Seattle, Washington: King tides sometimes cause Puget Sound to rise to discomforting levels in Seattle, as is shown here in 2011.

    Boston, Massachusetts: Boston set a new record for the number of flooding days the city experienced in 2017, with higher sea levels making high tide flooding more common, especially when storms were in the area.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    smog carbon dioxide pollution

    • The average concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere topped 411 parts per million in May.
    • In April — the previous month — the concentration hit 410 ppm for the first time in recorded history.
    • These are the highest CO2 levels in the 800,000 years for which we have good data.
    • This is expected to have a catastrophic effect on human health and the planet. 

    We have a pretty good idea of what Earth's atmosphere has looked like for the past 800,000 years.

    Humans like us — Homo sapiensevolved about 200,000 years ago, but ice-core records reveal intricate details of our planet's history from long before humans existed. By drilling more than 3 kilometers deep into the ice sheets over Greenland and Antarctica, scientists can see how temperature and atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels have changed.

    From that record, we know the atmosphere and the air that we breathe has never had as much carbon dioxide in it as it does today.

    For the first time in recorded history, the average monthly level of CO2 in the atmosphere exceeded 410 parts per million in April, according to observations at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. In May, that number climbed above 411 ppm, according to researchers from Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    The record is not a coincidence — humans have rapidly transformed the air we breathe by pumping CO2 into it over the past two centuries. In recent years, we've pushed those gas levels into uncharted territory.

    That change has inevitable and scary consequences. Research indicates that if unchecked, increased CO2 levels could cause pollution-related deaths to increase by tens of thousands, and lead to the slowing of human cognition (especially when you take into account the fact that CO2 levels tend to be higher indoors in cities). Carbon dioxide also contributes to warming that causes sea-level rise, searing heat waves, and superstorms.

    "As a scientist, what concerns me the most is what this continued rise actually means: that we are continuing full speed ahead with an unprecedented experiment with our planet, the only home we have," Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist, said on Twitter.

    thwaites glacier

    Breathing the air of a new world

    For the 800,000 years for which we have records, average global CO2 levels fluctuated between about 170 ppm and 280 ppm. Once humans started to burn fossil fuels in the industrial era, things changed rapidly.

    Only in the industrial era has the number risen above 300 ppm. The concentration first crept above 400 ppm in 2013, and it continues to climb.

    There's a debate among scientists about the last time CO2 levels were this high. It might have been during the Pliocene era, 2 million to 4.6 million years ago, when sea levels were 60 to 80 feet higher than today. Or it may have been in the Miocene, 10 million to 14 million years ago, when seas were more than 100 feet higher than now.

    In our 800,000-year record, it took about 1,000 years for CO2 levels to increase by 35 ppm. We're currently averaging an increase of more than 2 ppm a year, meaning we could hit an average of 500 ppm within the next 45 years.

    CO2 doesn't directly harm human health at these concentrations. But because it traps heat on the planet that then cranks up the global thermostat, it can have a very significant effect on health.

    Global temperature tracks very closely to atmospheric levels of CO2. The potential effects of higher average temperatures include tens of thousands of deaths from heat waves, more extreme weather events, and the spread of diseases carried by ticks and mosquitoes — something we're already seeing. (There's a full list of possible ways climate change will affect human health on an archived Environmental Protection Agency page.)

    Global annual temperature and CO2 levels, 1959 to 2016

    Higher levels of CO2 and the warming they cause also exacerbate ozone pollution. One 2008 study found that for every degree Celsius the temperature rises because of CO2 levels, ozone pollution can be expected to kill an additional 22,000 people via respiratory illness, asthma, and emphysema.

    Humans have never had to breathe air that's this polluted. Increased air pollution has been shown to cause lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and higher rates of allergies and asthma. A recent study found that 9 million people died prematurely from pollution-related diseases in 2015, accounting for 16% of all deaths worldwide.

    Other research has raised even more concerns. The average CO2 level doesn't represent the air most of us breathe. Cities tend to have far more CO2 than average — and those levels rise even higher indoors. Some research indicates that it may have a negative effect on human cognition and decision-making. 

    For these reasons, President Barack Obama's EPA ruled in 2009 that CO2 was a pollutant that needed to be regulated under the Clean Air Act. But the Trump administration is reevaluating that ruling.

    Pedestrians cross a road amidst smog on a polluted day in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, China January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

    Drowning in CO2

    The human-health effects of CO2 increases are just one part of the bigger story here.

    The change we've seen in CO2 levels recently has been much more rapid than the historical trends. Some experts think we're on track to hit 550 ppm by the end of the century, which could cause average global temperatures to rise by 6 degrees Celsius. For context, the increase in superstorms, rising sea levels, and spreading tick-borne disease that we're already seeing comes after a 0.9-degree rise.

    temperature and CO2

    Projections of sea-level rise will also get more extreme as CO2 levels continue to climb.

    Right now, carbon-dioxide emissions are still rising. The goal set in the Paris agreement on climate change is to limit the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius or less. But as a recent feature in the journal Nature revealed, we're on track for more than 3 degrees of warming.

    The latest measurements show that if we want to avoid that dangerous scenario, we need to make dramatic changes very quickly.

    This story was updated on June 12 to include the newly released data on CO2 levels hitting a new record in May and to clarify the means through which higher levels of CO2 affect human health.

    SEE ALSO: One of the scariest effects of climate change might already be happening — and it'd mean our projections are way off

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    NOW WATCH: The world is running out of sand — and there's a black market for it now

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    • Swedish scientist David Anderson created web-service 'Svalna' to track the environmental impact of your spending habits.
    • Svalna uses your transaction data to analyse the 'energy-per-krona' for your shopping behaviour.
    • The service aims to help you identify how and where you can decrease your environmental impact.


    The site 'Svalna' wants to help you keep track of how much your shopping happiness costs the earth. 

    The web-service is developed by scientist David Anderson, who has done a research in sustainable consumption at the Chalmers University of Technology.

    By creating an account at the site, you allow Svalna to connect to your bank account and extract transaction information from your bank. To provide a correct picture, you then need to fill out some information about your living situation, family and car ownership.

    According to the founder, the site is the first of its kind since it analyses actual transactions. This provides a more accurate picture of how much your consumption actually affects the environment.

    "We call the bluff," said David Anderson in an interview with NyTeknik. "I think that there is a huge risk that people forget how many jeans they bought last year."

    This is why the use of transaction information provides a more truthful picture of your consumption habits than if you would answer a questionnaire alone.

    Your transaction information is then processed through data on the energy consumption in different production steps within different industries. From Statistics Sweden doing so, the company provides a unit "energy-per-krona" for each sector and then applies it at the data you have shared with them.

    So far, it provides a rather rough estimate. The founder points out that the more people that use the service, the better the estimates will get.

    Currently, their main challenge is to make people feel comfortable sharing their transaction data. Until people feel comfortable with this type information sharing, the service comes in a less intimate alternative where you enter other information such as income and registration number on your car. This enables the service to extract other types of data through other channels.

    The purpose of the web-service is to increase awareness of your consumption's environmental impact, and ultimately, help you understand how you could decrease your impact and which measures that will do so most effectively.

    "We have realised that many want to know what plays a larger and smaller part in their environmental impact. Many are motivated and feel responsibility, but don't know where to start," explained David Anderson.

    SEE ALSO: Rising carbon dioxide levels could cause a malnutrition crisis

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