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The latest news on Environment from Business Insider

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    The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just put out a new and scary release on Sunday night, which detailed the impacts climate change has had and will continue to have on the world.

    You can read the whole IPCC report online, but here are the five main takeaways:

    Climate change is happening right now.

    When we talk about climate change we usually think about the future. But one of the most important points made in the new report is the idea that humanity's effect on the climate is having devastating consequences RIGHT NOW.

    "One of the most important findings is that we're not in an era where climate change is a future hypothetical," Christopher Field, the co-chair of the IPCC's working group II paper said at a news conference from Yokohama, Japan, on Monday. 'There's no question that we live in a world already affected by climate change."

    These impacts of climate change are currently hurting communities and ecosystems all over the globe.

    The report included this map of the current impacts of climate change on not just nature, but on human livelihoods, the economy, and in changing local weather systems:

    global impacts of climate change IPCC

    The risks will become greater in the future, and will be different in different areas of the world.

    The report broke down the risks for the different continents in simple charts. Here are the key risks to North America:

    key risks to north america

    Climate Change will destroy our food stability.

    All of these changes will negatively impact our ability to grow food. This negative impact will grow greater as the climate continues to change.

    IPCC report

    Climate change is destroying the oceans.

    Climate in the atmosphere doesn't stay in the atmosphere. It is absorbed into the oceans where it increases the acidity, making life hard on the animals and plants there. That means we will be catching fewer fish:

    Change in catch potential to world fisheries

    All together, these changes will bring conflicts over food and water, and will result in mass migrations of people around the globe.

    Humanity's greatest problem is a scarcity of resources, like water and food. Climate change will make these already precious resources even more scarce, causing more conflict.

    "Climate change has a tendency to act as a threat multiplier whatever the current range of stressors is," said Chris Field, co-chair of the conference."There are many things that make people vulnerable, and when you combine a climate shock with these factors, you can have bad outcomes."

    SEE ALSO: Shocking Before And After Pictures Of How Climate Change Is Destroying The Earth

    SEE ALSO: 11 Islands That Will Vanish When Sea Levels Rise

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    beesOSLO (Reuters) - Almost a quarter of Europe's bumblebees are at risk of extinction due to loss of habitats and climate change, threatening pollination of crops worth billions of dollars, a study showed on Wednesday.

    Sixteen of 68 bumblebee species in Europe are at risk, the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said. It is preparing a global study of the bees, whose honeybee cousins are in steep decline because of disease.

    "Of the five most important insect pollinators of European crops, three are bumblebee species," said the IUCN, which groups governments, scientists and conservation groups.

    "Together with other pollinators, bumblebees contribute more than 22 billion euros ($30.35 billion) to European agriculture a year," it said in a statement.

    Of Europe's bumblebee species, populations of almost half are falling and just 13 percent are increasing, it said.

    Often with yellow and black stripes and bigger than honeybees, bumblebees live in small nests of up to 200 and do not make honeycombs. Some bumblebees are commercially bred to pollinate tomatoes, peppers and aubergines in greenhouses.

    "Climate change, the intensification of agriculture and changes in agricultural land are the main threats" to bumblebees, said the report, the first Red List assessment of threats to bumblebees.

    The European Union's top environment official said the 28-nation bloc was taking action to improve the situation.

    "The EU recently banned or restricted the use of certain pesticides that are dangerous to bees and is funding research into status of pollinators," said EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potoċnik in a statement.

    "However, efforts clearly need to be scaled up," he added. The IUCN study was funded by the European Commission.


    The study did not mention the possibility that honeybee diseases were spreading to bumblebees.

    A study in the journal Nature in February said that deformed wing virus, for instance, was found in both honeybees and bumblebees in Britain. The virus was more prevalent in honeybees, suggesting it was spreading from them to bumblebees.

    "In general, we don't know a lot about bumblebee disease," Stuart Roberts, a member of the IUCN's global bumblebee assessment team, told Reuters.

    "Some of these threatened bumblebees are isolated, living in the Arctic or the Alps," he said. "In those places the chance of picking up a disease from a honeybee is almost nil."

    The Arctic species Bombus hyperboreus, living in the Scandinavian tundra and Russia, is vulnerable because global warming is shrinking its habitat, the study said.

    Populations of the critically endangered Bombus cullumanus, now found only in France, have fallen by more than 80 percent in the past decade, apparently because of a reduction in the amount of meadows with clover, its favorite forage, the study added.

    Only queen bumblebees survive the winter.

    Honeybees, living in longer-lasting colonies of thousands of bees, make honeycombs largely to ensure that the insects have food to survive months with no nectar-making flowers. ($1 = 0.7249 Euros)

    (Editing by Gareth Jones)

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    sea level

    A prototype app called Looking Glass brings the issue of climate change home, allowing smartphone users to see projected sea-level rise in their own town.

    The app is not yet ready for the public and currently only works for people in the coastal village of Wickford, RI. But creator Eli Kintisch is hoping to expand its reach. We definitely think this needs to be done. 

    The app seems pretty easy to use.

    First, hold up your phone just like you were taking a picture of something (e.g., a tree, a house, a town landmark).

    Looking Glass

    Then, select a date in the future (e.g., 2094).

    Looking Glass

    Choose the tide (low, medium, or high) and the strength of the storm.

    Looking Glass

    With the push a button, users can visualize their surroundings based on the projected sea-level rise through the screen.

    Looking Glass

    Watch the video below to learn more about Looking Glass.

    SEE ALSO: What America Will Look Like Under 25 Feet Of Seawater

    Climate change is a pressing issue: Anyone Who Eats Food Needs To See These Three Charts From A Massive Report On Climate Change

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Hillary Clinton and Rajiv Shah of USAID

    Yesterday, at the launch event for the U.S. Global Development Lab, the conversation was mostly optimistic. The goal of the lab is create a center for science and innovation focused on what the assembled leaders agreed was an achievable goal: ending extreme poverty by 2030.

    But there was one particularly sobering moment, when Rajiv Shah, administrator of USAID, asked keynote speaker and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to reflect on some the obstacles to that goal. 

    "You have repeatedly reminded people that we can end hunger, if we have the will to do it," he said. "Why do you feel that that's accurate, and what are some of the challenges you feel we're going to face?"

    "I really do believe we can end hunger," Clinton said. But then she went on to explain why climate change will be a major roadblock against such progress, a concern that is echoed by leading researchers.

    "I am deeply worried about the latest U.N. report on the effects of climate change," she said. "The impact will principally fall on food production and distribution. So although I'm still optimistic... I think if we look out 10-15 years," to end hunger, we'll need to "mitigate against or avoid the ongoing consequences of climate change."

    SEE ALSO: Anyone Who Eats Food Needs To See These Three Charts From A Massive Report On Climate Change

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    prairie voles

    It seems alcohol makes the heart grow fonder, if you're a female prairie vole. Researchers have found for the time that alcohol effects the brain systems involved in social bonding differently for males and females.

    The study was published Monday, April 7, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Because prairie voles are known to mate for life, both in the wild and the lab, the rodents are often used as a model to understand the neurochemistry in human brains that leads us to form lifelong relationships.

    The small fuzzy creatures also make useful lab models of human addiction behavior due to their social nature and taste for alcohol (they even prefer it over water). 

    A boozy encounter

    In this study, female and male voles were partnered up and given access to tubes containing ethanol and water or only water. After 24 hours of hanging out together, the paired prairie voles were separated and moved to different cages. Later, the researchers tested their "preference" for either their drinking mate or an unknown vole. 

    The alcohol effected the females differently than males.

    The authors found that the alcohol made the females more likely to pair-bond with their drinking partner than the females that only drank water. Conversely, alcohol made the males less likely to bond with their original partner after the boozy episode.

    These differences in behavior seemed to be dictated by changes in the brain to systems involved in social and anxiety-like behaviors — the same ones that dictate the formation of the voles' monogamous relationships.  

    The researchers note in the paper that the lower likelihood of males to pair bond when drinking is reminiscent of the negative effects of alcohol on long-term attachments and marital happiness in humans — suggesting that there could be a biological element at play. 

    "These findings allow us to understand the factors involved in regulations of social behaviors, and the effects of alcohol on them, better," the study authors wrote in their paper. "Identification of these factors can help develop better ways to prevent or teat the devastating effects of alcohol abuse on social relationships."

    SEE ALSO: The Most Badass Birds On The Planet

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    We have a winner, folks! A view of the Canary Islands took first place in a competition, run by NASA's Earth Observatory, to choose the best satellite image from 2013. The stunning shot got the most public votes out of 32 other finalists. You can see the original 32 here.

    The winning image was taken on June 15, 2013, by NASA's Terra satellite. The Atlantic Ocean has a silvery color due to sunlight being reflected off the water's surface, according to the Earth Observatory.


    See all the original contestants 32 spectacular images from Earth

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    Here’s something you don’t see every day: Video footage of the critically endangered Myanmar snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus strykeri), a species that was only discovered in 2010.

    You can count at least 23 of the rare monkeys, out of a total population estimated to range from 260 to 330 individuals for the entire species, in the video below.

    This first-ever video of the species was captured by Kaung Haung, a member of the local Law Waw tribe in Burma. He works with Fauna & Flora International (FFI), a nongovernmental organization, to monitor camera traps set up to photograph the monkeys. He was walking through the jungle to check on the contraptions when he heard something above him. Fortunately, he had a video camera with him. As an FFI press release recounts, “Full of excitement and with shaky hands he filmed the large band of snub-nosed monkeys leaping through the canopy up above him.”

    Frank Momberg, FFI’s Myanmar program director, said this few seconds of video provides critical information about this species. “From this footage we are able to determine that they clearly live in large groups, unlike other leaf-eating monkeys that have been shown to live in smaller family units,” he said. “This means their social organization and behavior is similar to other snub-nosed monkeys, which sets the entire genus apart from other leaf monkeys. It also means that larger groups require large home ranges and larger areas of contiguous forest need to be protected to ensure the survival of the species.”

    myanmar snub nosed monkey 600FFI team members discovered the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey four years ago, but the animals have only been seen in a few still camera–trap photos since then. The organization has been working to conserve the monkey’s habitat in northern Burma and establish a community ranger program and other alternative livelihoods for the people who live in the area and hunt wild animals for food. The species is also threatened by illegal loggers from China who are cutting down the forest habitat and have in the past engaged in armed combat with local peoples. FFI is trying to get the area where the monkeys live declared a national park, which could ease many of those pressures.

    Myanmar snub-nosed monkeys are geographically separated from other snub-nosed species, all of which are also endangered. It has black fur, a tail 140 percent the length of its body and an upturned nose that collects water when it rains, causing the animals to sneeze. Now if only we had that on video!

    Previously in Extinction Countdown:

    Twice a week, John Platt shines a light on endangered species from all over the globe, exploring not just why they are dying out but also what's being done to rescue them from oblivion. Follow on Twitter @johnrplatt.

    SEE ALSO: A German Fisherman Just Found A 101-Year-Old Message In A Bottle That May Be The World’s Oldest

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Ma YansongBeixinqiao district, in Beijing, is changing fast: The ancient urban tissue is being demolished as new high-rises are growing. Located in this environment, Ma Yansong’s office sits within an old and anonymous construction. In contrast to its exterior, the inside is characterized by wood, white walls and plants that transform the place into a sophisticated environment. International young architects are busy modeling new organic-shaped buildings on the other side of the world; meanwhile a golden fish swims in the eternal loop of the “fish tank” in the centre of the room.

    In the following interview, Ma, founder of the critically acclaimed MAD Architects, explains contemporary cities as environments that are out-of-scale with nature. He believes a new approach must be used, one that breaks the monotonous “chessboard” of contemporary Urban China and re-establishes the balance between human beings and the natural world.


    Pier Alessio Rizzardi: What is “Shan Shui City” (Chinese: 山水)? Recently you exhibited it in an ancient Siheyuan house here in Beijing

    Ma Yansong: “Shan Shui” literally means mountain and water but in Chinese culture it is more than that, it is more about how humans express their emotions in a physical world.

    Shanshui City Exhibition

    PAR: Where does this concept come from? 

    MY: If you look at ancient Chinese paintings, you see mountains but they are not real mountains, it is something the artists imagined. The garden with the rocks, the trees and the water – but they set up this scenery that only exists in their imagination. This term existed in traditional culture, but when you put this and the city together it becomes a new term: “Shan Shui City.” Not a city that looks like mountain and water, it is about a future-high-density urban environment focused on people’s emotions: what they feel and what they see.

    PAR: Why “Shan Shui City”?

    MY: I think that’s the next wave for urban civilization. Modern cities right now are too much about efficiency and capital power. It is just about environment, pollution, traffic. Every city has to deal with them, but it doesn’t mean that if you solve them you have a “good city”. You and I have a healthy body, but it doesn’t mean that we are mentally healthy. It is very much about mental issues! [Laughs]

    PAR: How can we translate this new concept to urban China? We can no longer think about this like in ancient times. How can we position this new nature in the urban environment?

    MY: When we look at Beijing city’s old town; we see mountains and lakes in the city centre, the neighborhood is integrated into the landscape, but all these natural elements were man-made, artificially. It was a grand project. They made mountains, they dug the water so people, citizens who live in the city, will feel they live in between nature and the city.


    PAR: What is an “environmental” design, from your point of view? 

    MY: We talk about environment, energy saving and sustainability but I think it’s too much about technology. You have better air conditioning, better glass, better solar panels, but it doesn’t mean those who are working in this building want to stay there forever! [laughs] They still want to escape every weekend and still go to the countryside because they still feel they aren’t connected with nature. That is the basics, the fundamental reason why we are starting to talk about nature now. If we say we want to be close to nature, why can’t we let the temperature be one degree less or more in your room, in the office? 

    PAR: How do you bring your “environmental approach” to modern cities? 

    MY: Modern cities are about efficiency, logic, traffic… benefits. So, how to produce a lot of massive spaces within a limited budget? Now if you want to make a garden in a high-rise you are not allowed. Not because it is a technical challenge, but it is just a question of: who is paying for that? When you plan a city you need a 30% green ratio; why don’t you put that in law? If you design high-rises, you have to put this percentage of green space there and that’s simple!

    PAR: Now that millions of people live together, density is a condition of large scale buildings. How can you talk about nature when buildings are becoming so big? 

    MY: When buildings become large, trees and mountains look very small. People say we need more green space, but when you have a certain density, the buildings just look so big that you cannot ignore it. When you treat a building as a landscape element, you can start to talk about the entire environment as a whole. In the traditional garden those rocks were artificial sculptures with grass and flowers beside them. Those rocks weren’t real nature, but they had a scale of real nature. There is a way to consider different scales, a garden is one scale, Beijing city is another. I think this philosophy can fit into different scales. I know future cities will be in large scale, but we cannot miss the human scale, to see things with a different eye, but we still need to talk about nature and the human scale.


    PAR: In your project in the CBD in Beijing there is a very unique relationship between logic and function.

    MY: In this area there are very traditional, conventional high-rises. We took the core out so the elevators are all on the outside under natural light. These elevators stop only every three floors, you walk through a bridge into the building. The core is out so that inside is empty. Then inside you have a lot of gardens every three levels. From there you go one floor up or one floor down walking! [laughs] This way you have fewer elevators. Twenty floors now become six floors. Walking creates a public central space where people from different levels meet. On every three levels there is a garden and social space. More importantly, this idea makes the building more invisible because it doesn’t create more square meters. This way, you don’t lower the efficiency let’s say! [laughs]

    PAR: What are the potentials of a curved and special shape?

    MY: When you throw a random curve into a modern city, it looks weird and out of place. We’re all criticizing modern cities, you need a statement, something to create conflict. It is purely an attitude or the position you take. You don’t have to. If I had the chance to design a whole new part of Beijing I wouldn’t do that, but if I had the chance to design one piece, I hope this piece would become a bomb to affect the area. So it’s a consideration at many levels: architectural and social levels. New York in the twentieth century was a great city. That’s something we are looking for in Chinese cities now. Here they take the American cities as a model; building a CBD and high-rises, but my question is : can we go a step forward?

    PAR: Can you?

    MY: I think that takes time and a lot of experiments. That’s why Shan Shui City I might say is an idea, an experiment. Now we are in this period and we should experiment. If we do all the right things, so called “good things”, then thirty years later we will have another Manhattan. I think that China has more reason to do big cities than America because of the density of the population! [laughs]

    PAR:  New York’s building shapes were based on density. Chinese cities are not dense. The concept of density that creates the logic of the building is not applicable here.

    MY: In Chinese cities the density is not enough, but more important is whether they are planning the city with ambition or not. I think old Beijing city was very ambitious, the traffic efficiency or the centrality was not a priority when they planned a building or city. They wanted to create an environment related to feelings … I think how you feel was more important and it is still now. 

    Beijing 2050, hutong model.

    PAR: How do you relate these concepts to contemporary architecture?

    MY: I think a lot of cities have a lot of existing conditions. New cities now they just clean everything up and make a very strict urban grid like a “chessboard.” Every city should consider their conditions, their context, or their settings on the master plan level.

    PAR: What about at the architectural level?

    MY: The building is not important because you need to give freedom to the diversity of buildings. Beijing now has a lot of new buildings. Somebody argued that CCTV is attacking the city. The Olympic buildings could have changed the strengths of the city but they didn’t – because the central part is very strong, the layout is very strong, so that’s the only reason why Beijing is still Beijing now. The layout is more powerful than buildings.


    Ordos Museum By MAD Architects

    PAR: In the Ordos Museum you didn’t know what was going to happen on the site, yet all around the city was going up. How did you deal with the non-context?

    MY: Somebody had to go first! [laughs]

    PAR: How do you design a building where there is no context? 

    MY: Ordos Museum looks like a very random bubble sitting on the landscape. In this project the present was absent so you had a landscape with reference to a desert that had been there forever, and then you have a building that looks so unfamiliar, an abstract form sitting on top of the desert. However nothing belongs to the present, so I wanted to create this dialogue between the unknown, between future and the timeless landscape. You don’t deal with the so called past… because sometimes there is no past and future.

    PAR: How do you deal with the design in these situations?

    MY: In any place, in any city and in any village, somebody has to go first with a master plan at the beginning. I knew a lot of ridiculous buildings would’ve been built around us [laughs]. I decided to focus on the internal space. 

    PAR: So, we don’t have to think only about the present?

    MY: When I was designing the building I was thinking about the absence of human artefacts, an usual landscape, the evanescence of the present and future. A time suspended like in a dream! The first time I went there, I said: “This is the Gobi desert and so this is the environment we have around our building! Afterwords many other constructions appeared, and some of them very close to our building! Now it’s completely different: you cannot control the next level of recent construction or do anything about it! [laughs] That happens a lot in different cities, even in a well-planned city. 

    ma yansong collage


    PAR: What is the importance of the iconic in your designs and for Chinese architecture in general?

    MY: I think we have to redefine the word “Iconic”, because iconic sounds very much like when you describe a memorial. You build an image to represent something, something we are against: for capital or power or other meanings. If we say that a building looks special, I can accept that but just as a result. A new concept can look the same as an old one, but I hope the result will be the content. The true result is the innovation from inside. I think what you call “Iconic” is a lot of the Olympic buildings in Beijing because they are all very big and very complete, perfect objects.

    PAR: People give a bad meaning to the word “Iconic”, but actually Iconic means literally: “representative symbol of something”.

    MY: Yes. 

    PAR: It doesn’t mean bad architecture.

    MY: I think we must change, we must do new things, then something new will happen. They will look different, they will look “iconic” [laughs] but there is an easy way to do it, or a difficult way. Being innovative or challenging on the planning, on the internal layout or arrangement is very difficult, but making images is very simple! So that’s why I think a lot of image-architecture happened in China.

    PAR: Why can’t they be both iconic and innovative?

    MY: You cannot innovate the content without changing the image. I think the value of CCTV is the context. Beijing’s CBD is high-rises going to the sky, but this building is so different from its surroundings. This makes you question the surroundings and their value. We can talk about a lot of bad things about this building [laughs] but still I think the positive side of this building is its context.


    bund shanghai

    PAR: The Bund area is considered by many in Shanghai to be a root to the past and an ancient treasure to be preserved. During the concession time many foreigners, especially the British, built up bank headquarters in art deco, rococo, and baroque styles, importing a wide catalogue of examples of western architecture… 

    MY: The Bund… the bund I think is a very strange example. The people call it the “World Street”, for its colonial origins… the banks and the power with their colonial facades. The funny thing about this place is that still now those buildings are banks, or high-class restaurants, anyway symbols of money, power and high class. They are pretty much how they look, so the relation between the appearance, what they represent, and what are inside is pretty much related.

    PAR:  I know that you have something that you would like to do with the Bund…

    MY: I see people walking on the bund and think: “Oh! This is our heritage!” At the same time behind those facades, a lot of ancient buildings with a real heritage are being demolished. The buildings on the Bund, instead, are protected and valued. What I would like to explain is that these buildings are not as nice or important as others, like the Louvre in Paris, these buildings on the bund are just old, and anyway they are not great architecture…

    PAR: Do you think the right thing to do is to eliminate or to preserve them?

    MY: I’m not saying to demolish them, what I’m saying is that it’s not necessary to preserve them and treat them as the image of the City of Shanghai. If we study the consequences of this behaviour, we can find many answers about the attitude of building colonial style villas and colonial residential towers.

    PAR: What are the consequences?

    MY: Everywhere, in China, you see them. People think that’s the good, that’s something we want to cherish, it means high class, it means expensive and it is considered a landmark. Many people are convinced that they want to live in a house that looks European. In Beijing you can see Italian gardens, you see Paris, you see a lot of Venezias. You can see everywhere in China these “architectural languages”. In the end, we don’t need to preserve the Bund, but we need just to leave it there, making its course.

    PAR: What would you do with them?

    MY: If I could buy these buildings and, demolish them, I’d do it. It seems drastic but if you think about Champs-Élysées you’ll see many new buildings. What I really think is that those buildings are not great buildings! When the British and the French people came here, they built these buildings, but they didn’t build at the same level as they built in Europe. The world already has these buildings in Europe, so why do we have another low quality and smaller version of these buildings in Shanghai? If you talk about the “Forbidden City” obviously you cannot demolish that because you only have one and that’s the grandest! But if you build another one, it’s at the same level as theme parks or Las Vegas! [laughs]

    Architect: MA YANSONG – Mad Architects

    IInterviewer: Pier Alessio Rizzardi (TCA Think Tank) and Zhang Hankun (TCA Think Tank), Edoardo Giancola (Zarcola)

    Location: Beijing

    Date: 29th August 2013

    Text Editing: Edna Gee

    Video Editing: Andrea Vertone / STUDIO13

    TCA Think Tank is an international research group founded in Shanghai in 2011 by Italian architect Pier Alessio Rizzardi and Chinese architect Zhang Hankun, with contributive thoughts from Joseph di Pasquale (head of AM Project),Yibo Xu Tongji University andRemo Dorigati (Politecnico di Milano). Through the production of innovative projects and research, TCA pushes our understanding of our present condition, exploring the TheoreticalCondition of Architecture. (Follow TCA on wordpresstumblrvimeotwitter,andpinterest)

    Pier Alessio Rizzardi / TCA Think Tank studied architecture at Politecnico di Milano (Milan, Italy) and at FAU-USP (Sao Paulo, Brazil), getting his Master’s Degree from Polimi at the end of 2012. In 2011 he founded TCA Think TankHe is now an Adjunct Professor at Polimi, writes for l’ARCA International Architectural Magazine and is a correspondent for STUDIO Architecture and Urbanism Magazine, and a collaborator on several art and architecture blogs.

    Zhang Hankun 张涵坤 / TCA Think Tank attained her bachelor’s degree in architecture at Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xi’an, China and at Politecnico di Milano (Milan, Italy). She practiced architecture in Shanghai, working in the fields of architectural design and urban development, and is now attaining a Master’s degree at Polimi.

    Edoardo Giancola / Zarcola Architetti graduated from Polimi and attended an exchange program at ETSAM, Spain. He completed several installations during workshops with Sami Rintala, Dagur Eggersston and Alejandro Aravena – Elemental.  After working at studio Albori in Milan, he’s now a member of the “Abitare Minimo” Team at Politecnico di Milano.

    If you’d like to learn more about Ma Yansong, don’t miss our interview!

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    dog licking dishwasher

    These 11 tweaks for greener living will make you feel not only more empowered but a lot richer, too. And none of them (except, okay, maybe No. 7) take any big effort at all!

    1. Follow a “BYOB” policy: That last B stands for “bag,” not “booze.” Just stash a bunch of reusable totes by your front door or in the trunk of your car, or better yet, attach a couple of Shopper Totes from Pier 1 ($4 each) to your key ring so you never forget them. Some stores, like Target, Whole Foods, and many grocery stores, will even give you a small discount on your purchase as a thank you.

    2. Don’t have a cow: Nearly 15% of greenhouse gas emissions come from farming livestock (mostly cows), according to a 2013 report from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. So try a cheaper veggie burger instead of a pricier (and greasier) hamburger once a week instead. And remember, vegetarian Monday doesn’t have to mean pasta. Amy’s, found in your grocer’s freezer, makes nine types of veggie burgers ($6 for four patties) and organic, heat-and-serve meals, including Thai Stir Fry, Indian Vegetable Korma, and Mexican Casserole ($5 each).

    3. Do fewer dishes: Rather than run a bunch of half-loads in your dishwasher, just wait until you can’t fit another plate, bowl, or spoon in it. According to the EPA, running only full loads will save the earth 100 pounds of carbon dioxide and save you $40 a year, plus you’ll avoid that horrible feeling that you’re always unloading the dishes. Same goes for laundry: full loads only.

    4. Shed a little light: The average American household has more than 50 light bulbs. If you swap out just five of your most frequently used incandescents for those curly Energy Star-certified Compact Fluorescent Bulbs ($29.88 for a 4-pack of 60 watts at Home Depot), you’ll use at least 75% less energy and save about $70 a year on your electric bill, or up to $135 per bulb over its lifespan. Not a bad return on something that costs just a few bucks up front. 

    5. Ride high: Ditching your gas guzzler and buying a 50-mile-per-gallon Toyota Prius ($19,000) isn’t the only way to help reduce your car’s carbon footprint. If you drive less than 68 miles a day, the 2014 Electric SmartCar ($12,490), which has been ranked the most efficient vehicle of the year, may be right for you. It takes no gas or oil and gets the equivalent of 107 miles per gallon. Plus, you’ll get a $7,500 federal tax credit. The only caveat other than its tiny size: You’ve got to charge it, but with an adapter, it plugs into any regular 120-volt outlet.

    6. Don’t drive like a jerk: found that not speeding, slamming on the gas, and braking like a maniac could improve your gas mileage by up to 33%. It also found that just properly inflating your tires could improve your gas mileage by more than 3%, saving you a dime a gallon.

    7. Roll with it: Leave your car in park and ride a bike instead. If you don’t have one, go to your local bike shop and get properly fitted, and don’t forget to pick up a helmet while you’re there. Nutcase makes some super-stylish ones ($50-$75; Pedaling will produce zero greenhouse gas emissions, and you’ll burn roughly nine calories every minute, which means you’ll feel hotter and the earth won’t.

    8. Go with the wind: Last year, the average U.S. household spent about $400 smackers on electric bills from June to August, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. To lower yours by about 14%, just dial up your thermostat by two degrees this summer and turn on your ceiling fan. Energy Star has rated the Haiku by Big Ass Ceiling Fans ($995; as the most energy efficient fan in the world. It’ll make you feel like you’re lying on a beach with a cool sea breeze blowing over you, or hopefully, you know, something like that. Just remember to turn it off when you leave the room.

    9. Don’t get bottled up: Every American drinks an average of 30.8 gallons of bottled water each year, according to a 2012 report from the Beverage Marketing Corporation. If you’re drinking it in 8-ounce portions that means you alone are personally responsible for nearly 493 plastic bottles every year, 87 % of which are now clogging up landfills, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Rather than muck up the planet, just get a reusable water bottle and fill it at the tap. Contigo ($9.99-$24.99 from Target) makes leakproof bottles in all sizes. And trust me, it’ll taste just as good.

    10. Clean Green: When it comes to keeping your house sparkly clean, avoid cleaning products that contain phosphorus, nitrogen and ammonia, as the EPA deems these to be environmentally hazardous. Honest ($5.99 for 26 oz. from Bed, Bath & Beyond) and Mrs. Meyers ($7.99 for 32 oz. from are non-hazardous and effective alternatives to chemical cleaners, as is good old vinegar and water.

    11. Score free stuffBefore you head out to the store to buy more made-in-China plastic everything, try checking your local Freecycle board ( The group, which is of course free to join, currently boasts more than 7.1 million members worldwide and allows you to search for free stuff that others want to just give away, including furniture, kids toys, computers and more. Freecycle is also a great way to get rid of all that unused junk taking up space in your basement. This is the best kind of recycling, and it’ll make you, and the planet, happy.

    SEE ALSO: 12 Ways To Stop Spending So Much On Food

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    The third working paper from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was released Sunday in Berlin.

    The report shows that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are accelerating despite reduction efforts and focuses on mitigation scenarios such as investing in renewable energy.

    Here are key charts from a report summary. The full report is here.

    Most CO2 emission growth comes from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes:

    Working Group IIIThis chart shows total anthropogenic GHG emissions by economic sectors. Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) includes land-based CO2 emissions from forest fires, peat fires, and peat decay.

    These land-based emissions and industry are the heavy hitters, accounting for 24% and 21% of GHG emissions, respectively:

    Working Group IIEconomic and population growth continue to be the two main drivers for increases in global greenhouse gas emissions:Working Group III Without GHG emission mitigation efforts (business-as-usual) global mean surface temperature might increase by 3.7 degrees to 4.8 degrees Celsius over the 21st century:

    Working Group IIIMitigation scenarios require major technological and institutional changes like the increasing the use of low- and zero-carbon energy sources.

    In the most ambitious scenario (light-blue), it shows that if we increase low-carbon energy sources, we can stabilize atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration at around 450 ppm, (the concentration now is 400 ppm). You can see that the more we invest now, the higher the payoff later.

    Working Group IIITo reduce emissions, new investment flow is needed in renewables, and nuclear power, improvements in energy efficiency, and carbon dioxide capture storage (CCS). The chart below shows the changes in annual investment that are needed from a baseline period of 2010 to 2029 if we want to stabilize concentrations of carbon dioxide within the range of 430-530 ppm by 2100.

    Annual investment in fossil fuel technologies will need to decline by 20% and annual investments in low-carbon technologies should be increased by 100%.

    Working group III

    SEE ALSO: 6 Scary Takeaways From The UN's Huge Climate Report

    SEE ALSO: How Climate Change Is Devastating The World In One Map

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Eight thousand is a perfectly arbitrary number. Yet, no other number looms larger for mountain climbers. Fourteen mountain peaks stand taller than 8,000 meters (26,247 feet).

    There could have been many more of these “eight-thousanders” if the French commission that established the length of the meter (in 1793) had made it just a bit shorter; there would be hardly any if they had made the meter longer.

    The decision to make a meter equivalent to one ten-millionth of the distance between the equator and the North Pole left the world with fourteen 8K peaks. All of them are found in either the Karakoram or Himalayan mountain ranges of central Asia.

    Fourteen is a number that pushes climbers to the point of obsession. It’s big enough that only the most ambitious consider climbing all of them, but small enough that doing so over a lifetime still seems possible. Even in the United States, a country where most people shun metric measurements, climbers dream of ascending the eight-thousanders. The “twenty-six-thousand, two-hundred-and-forty-seven-footers” hardly has the same ring.

    map1map2However you measure them, the world’s tallest mountains are treacherous. They have towering blocks of ice—seracs—that can crush climbers in seconds. They are prone to tremendous avalanches of rock and snow that obliterate entire expeditions. And they are home to spider webs of ice crevasses that swallow humans whole. Even during the summer, average daytime temperatures are frigid. And, hurricane-force winds are common.

    Then, of course, there is the lack of oxygen. At 5,000 meters (16,404 feet), the atmosphere contains about half as much oxygen as at sea level. By 6,000 meters (19,685 feet), the air is so thin that full acclimatization is no longer possible. No matter how fit, climbers begin to slowly suffocate. By 7,000 meters (22,966 feet), survival times plummet and lucid thought becomes difficult. By 8,000 meters—the so-called “death zone”—even the strongest climbers can survive for a few days at best.

    The three most dangerous of the eight-thousanders—Annapurna, K2, and Nanga Parbat—claim the life of about one climber for every four who reach the top. The fatality rate for Annapurna, the most dangerous mountain in the world, is over 30 percent. Bottled oxygen and guided climbs have made Mount Everest much safer than it was decades ago, but the world’s tallest mountain still takes lives regularly. Nine people died on the mountain in 2013. Ten in 2012.

    All this risk is for what, exactly? Reinhold Messner, the first person to climb all fourteen of the eight-thousanders, pointed to something he calls “overview” to explain the allure. “It is not the mountain but the view from the peak that suggests increased awareness,” he writes in the bookMountains from Space. “The person who stands on top of one comes back down with a new sense of the world.”

    Messner risked everything for fleeting views from the top of the world, ascending many of the eight-thousanders solo and without the aid of bottled oxygen. It took him 16 years (1970–1986) to climb them all. Only 31 other people—give or take a few because the records of some climbers are considered controversial—have done it since.

    While the summit of an eight-thousander may represent the ultimate view on Earth, satellites take Messner’s concept of overview to a whole new level. The summit of Mount Everest is about 8.8 kilometers (5.5 miles) above sea level. Most polar-orbiting satellites fly at an altitude of 705 kilometers (438 miles). So when viewed from space, the world’s tallest mountains become blotches of shadow, rock, and snow. Epic glaciers become narrow tongues of ice feeding glacial lakes that look like puddles. Deadly storms become mere tufts of cloud.

    Ground photography of Mount Everest and the other tall peaks are ubiquitous, but the gallery that follows—a collection of imagery acquired by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s EO-1 satellite—offers a less familiar perspective. The sensors on ALI looked directly down on the mountains, not from an oblique angle like a passenger on an airplane or an astronaut on the International Space Station might see them.

    map4map3In some ways, this top-down view makes the images difficult for human eyes and brains to interpret. Scenes appear strangely flat. Separating a mountain’s summit from the ridge is challenging. Vast shadows obscure features in adjacent valleys, and opaque snows blanket everything.

    Yet, in other ways, the view from directly above is the most valuable of all. Images like these make clear that the world’s tallest peaks are not isolated pyramids. Rather, they are part of long, sinuous ridges that stretch for such distances that it can be difficult to tell exactly where the summit lies.

    With structures as massive and complex as mountains, distance provides clarity. Faults, suture points, glaciers all emerge—helping geologists piece together the story of how physical processes created these extraordinary mountains and continue to shape them today.

    The geological story is one that began some 40 million years ago when the Indian subcontinent began a slow-motion collision with Asia, jamming the edges of the two continents into the massive ridges and valleys that make up the Himalaya and Karakoram today.

    “If you want to understand how mountains form, these ranges offer a perfect laboratory. These are the youngest, most dramatic, and fastest uplifting mountains in the world,” said Michael Searle, a University of Oxford geologist and a veteran of dozens of expeditions to the Himalaya and Karakoram.

    But it was journalist John McPhee who summed up the wonder of their geologic history when he wrote the Annals of the Former World, his Pulitzer prize-winning history of Earth’s geology: “The summit of Mount Everest is marine limestone,” he extolled. “This one fact is a treatise in itself on the movements of the surface of the Earth. If by some fiat, I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence; this is the one I would choose.”

    In other words, when climbers reach the top of Mount Everest, they are not standing on hard igneous rocks produced by volcanoes. Rather, they are perched on softer rock formed by the skeletons of creatures that lived in a warm ocean off the northern coast of India tens of millions of years ago. Plate tectonics transformed ocean bottoms into the highest points on the planet. It’s just one of many bizarre realities of the eight-thousanders, mountains that will continue to fascinate scientists and obsess climbers for as long as they tower over everything else.

    So, sit back and get ready to tour the world’s tallest peaks by satellite. No risk of avalanche. No threat of frostbite. No climbing boots required.

    1. Shisha Pangma

    map5The shortest and youngest of the eight-thousand-meter peaks, Shisha Pangma is the only one located entirely within Tibet. (Of the others, three are entirely in Nepal and one in Pakistan. The rest sit along political borders.)

    Though known today as one of easiest to climb, Shisha Pangma was the last eight-thousander summited due to restrictions on foreign travelers. A Chinese team reached the top in 1964, choosing a route that brought climbers up the northwest face along the northeast ridge. In the image above, much of the northwest face is cast in shadow. The steep, craggy south face—much more difficult to climb—rises more than 2,000 meters and has many areas with exposed rock.

    According to statistics compiled by Eberhard Jurgalski, co-author of On Top of the World: The New Millennium, there had been 302 successful ascents of Shisha Pangma as of March 2012. Twenty-five people had died trying to climb the mountain—a fatality rate of about 8 percent. Many climbers finish on the Central Summit instead of continuing to the slightly higher Main Summit, which requires about an extra hour of climbing along a narrow ridge. British mountaineer Alex MacIntyre described the view along the ridge: “The ridge grew increasingly narrow and sharp. The north side was powdery and steep, impractical and dangerous to traverse; the south side was steeper, vanishing immediately into a jumble of rock and sugary ice.”

    2. Gasherbrum II

    map3The four Gasherbrum peaks are the highest points along an enormous horseshoe-shaped ridge on the border of Pakistan and China. The ridge encircles South Gasherbrum Glacier, a bowl-shaped mass of ice that flows into Baltoro Glacier, the longest glacier in the Karakoram (62 kilometers, or 39 miles).

    Gasherbrum II, the thirteenth tallest mountain in the world and the second tallest in the Gasherbrum group, is on the northernmost section of the ridge and about 10 kilometers (6 miles) southeast of K2—the tallest mountain in the Karakorum.

    An Austrian team was the first to reach Gasherbrum II’s summit, following a route up the south face along the southwest ridge in 1956. The Austrian team pioneered a new approach to climbing. During the ascent, night overtook the climbers at about 7,500 meters (24,600 feet). Rather than turning back to camp, they spent the night huddled near a cliff with no gear other than what they were carrying—a technique known as bivouacking. It was the first time a team deliberately bivouacked the night before attempting to summit an eight-thousander.

    Today, Gasherbrum II is considered one of the safest and easiest eight-thousanders to climb. Over the years, climbers have skied, snowboarded, parachuted, and even hang-glided down from the summit. There had been more than 930 successful ascents of Gasherbrum II as of 2012, while only 21 people had died trying—a fatality rate of about 2 percent, the second lowest for the 8,000 meter peaks.

    3. Broad Peak

    map5Located on the border of Pakistan and China, just a few kilometers southeast of K2, Broad Peak is the twelfth tallest mountain on Earth and the third tallest in the Karakoram Range. Its name comes from its unusually long summit ridge, which extends for about 2 kilometers. There is a snow-filled, saddle-shaped low point—or col—that separates the main summit from another high point to the north known as the central summit, which is just 31 meters (102 feet) shorter (8,016 meters versus 8,047 meters).

    There is some discussion within the climbing community about whether the central summit deserves recognition as the 15th eight-thousander. Peaks in the Karakoram are only considered independent mountains if at least 500 meters of topographic prominence separates them from neighboring high points. If not, they are considered subsidiary peaks. While Broad Peak’s central summit doesn’t have enough prominence to be considered its own mountain, geographers think this could change in the future if the snow and ice that has collected in the col retreats enough.

    An Austrian team was the first to climb Broad Peak, following a route up the southwest face in 1957. The team took no bottled oxygen and carried all of their own equipment rather than relying on porters. There had been a total of 404 successful ascents of Broad Peak as of March 2012, while 21 climbers had died trying—a fatality rate of about 5 percent.

    4. Gasherbrum I

    dKnown until recently as Hidden Peak, Gasherbrum I is the eleventh tallest mountain on Earth. It is situated along the same horseshoe-shaped ridge on the border of Pakistan and China as Gasherbrum II, though Gasherbrum I is 46 meters (151 feet) taller.

    An American team made the first ascent in 1958, following a ridge on the southwest face. When Andy Kaufman and Pete Schoening reached the broad, snow-covered summit after battling through deep snow, they used small hand mirrors to signal their success to teammates at a camp below.

    There had been a total of 334 successful ascents as of March 2012, while 29 climbers had died trying—a fatality rate of about 9 percent. Gasherbrum I is the only eight-thousander that Americans climbed first. Austrians, in contrast, were among the teams to ascend five of the eight-thousanders first. Nepalese climbers were the first teams up four of them. French teams were the first up two eight-thousanders. And Chinese, Japanese, Swiss, Italian, German, New Zealand climbers were all among the first to summit one of the eight-thousanders.

    5. Annapurna

    eAnnapurna is only the tenth tallest eight-thousander, but it ranks as one of the most dangerous. The mountain is located in Nepal along a 55-kilometer (34-mile) ridge just east of the Gandaki River, which has carved one of the deepest river gorges in the world. The gorge separates Annapurna from Dhaulagiri, the seventh tallest mountain in the world.

    On June 3, 1950, the French climbers Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal reached the summit of Annapurna, making it the first eight-thousand meter peak ever successfully climbed. Herzog and Lachenal first attempted the northwest face—they called it the cauliflower face (shown in shadow in the image above)—then switched over to the avalanche-prone north face when they realized the northwest face was too rugged for their porters. The extremely steep south face, a wall of rock that rises 3,000 meters (9,800 feet), is said to be one of the most difficult climbs in the world.

    Annapurna is the only 8,000 meter-peak to be conquered on the first try—and Herzog and Lachenal did it without bottled oxygen. However, the feat came with a high price. Since they wore only thin, leather boots up to the summit, the expedition’s doctor had to amputate all of Herzog and Lachenal’s toes after extreme frostbite and then gangrene set in during the descent. Herzog lost all of his fingers as well. Lachenal had asked Herzog during the summit climb: “Do you think it is worth it?”

    The rocks that make up Annapurna’s summit—limestone formed at the bottom of a warm ocean—are a reminder of the powerful tectonic forces that pushed up the world’s highest mountains. Other eight-thousanders with limestone near the summits include Everest and Dhaulagiri.

    Only 191 people had successfully ascended Annapurna as of 2012, fewer than any other eight-thousanders. With a fatality rate of 32 percent, no other eight-thousander is deadlier.

    6. Nanga Parbat

    fNanga Parbat is the ninth tallest mountain in the world, but it is one of the most alluring for both mountain climbers and scientists. Located in northern Pakistan, Nanga Parbat is the westernmost of the eight-thousanders. Despite being geographically close to the Karakoram, it actually represents the westernmost part of the Himalayan range.

    Meaning “naked mountain” in Urdu, Nanga Parbat is a reference to the generally snow-free south face. Known as the Rupal face, this is the world’s largest rock wall, rising some 4,700 meters (15,000 feet) from its base to the summit. The other faces—the Rakhiot face and the western Diamir—are also extreme. In the image above, the Rakhiot face is in shadow to the north, the Diamer face is to the east, and the Rupal face is to the south.

    In the first-ever attempt to climb an eight-thousander, British mountaineer Albert Mummery ascended Nanga Parbat in 1895. Of the south face, he wrote: “The astounding difficulties of the southern face may be realized by the fact that the gigantic rock-ridges, the dangers of the hanging glacier and the steep ice of the north-west face—one of the most terrifying faces of a mountain I have ever seen—are preferable to the south face.”

    Mummery opted for the Diamir face instead, but disappeared, presumably killed by an avalanche. Subsequent expeditions fared no better, with an avalanche killing 16 men in a German team in the early 1900s and a storm killing another nine in 1934. Austrian Hermann Buhl was the first to make it to the summit, climbing solo and without oxygen in 1953. He followed a ridge on the Rakhiot face in what has gone down in mountaineering lore as one of the most remarkable climbs of all time.

    Just as notable as Nanga Parbat’s climbing history is its geologic history. “There is no other mountain in the world that is rising as fast as Nanga Parbat,” explained Mike Searle, a University of Oxford geologist.

    As of March 2012, there had been a total of 335 successful ascents of Nanga Parbat. Sixty-eight had died trying—a fatality rate of about 20 percent, making it the third most dangerous eight-thousander.

    7. Manaslu

    gManaslu, the eighth tallest peak in the world, sits about 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Annapurna in Nepal. While three long ridges lead up the mountain, the summit itself is a steep, sharp rock tower that can accommodate just a few people at a time.

    Manaslu includes the usual risks that make climbing any eight-thousander a challenge: freezing weather, thin air, and avalanches. But a team of Japanese climbers exploring the area in 1954 faced a very different kind of obstacle: a mob of angry Nepalese armed with clubs, stones, and knives. The villagers, from nearby Sama, were enraged because they believed that a Japanese team that attempted to climb the mountain a year earlier had upset a god that lived on Manaslu’s summit. They were convinced the deity had unleashed a destructive avalanche, as well as epidemics of smallpox and other diseases.

    The 1954 team was forced to leave without attempting to climb the mountain. Mediation by the Nepalese government improved relations a bit, and another Japanese team arrived in 1956. This group followed a route up the mountain’s northeast face, reaching the summit on a beautiful, windless day. It wasn’t the only Japanese success on Manaslu. In 1974, an all-female team from Japan reached Manaslu’s summit, the first women to successfully climb an 8,000-meter peak.

    Manaslu remains one of the more dangerous eight-thousanders. As of March 2012, there had been 661 successful ascents of Manaslu; sixty-five climbers had died trying—a fatality rate of about 10 percent.

    8. Dhaulagiri

    hKnown as the “White Mountain,” Dhaulagiri is the seventh tallest mountain in the world. It is located in Nepal near Annapurna, with the two peaks separated by a deep gorge that was carved by the Gandaki River. Dhaulagiri rises abruptly from the surrounding terrain, soaring some 7,000 meters (2,300 feet) from the bed of the Gandaki.

    Like Mount Everest, the summit of Dhaulagiri is geologically remarkable because it is comprised of limestone and dolomite rock layers that formed at the bottom of the ocean. Most of the other 8K peaks, in contrast, are composed of granites that formed deep underground.

    In 1960, an international team of Austrian, German, Nepalese, and Swiss climbers reached the summit, following the northeastern ridge up the mountain’s north face. There had been 448 successful ascents of Dhaulagiri as of March 2012, while 69 climbers had died trying—a fatality rate of about 16 percent.

    9. Cho Oyu

    hMeaning “Goddess of Turquoise” in Tibetan, Cho Oyu is the sixth tallest mountain in the world. The massive peak is located on the border of Tibet and Nepal, approximately 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of Mount Everest.

    Despite its size, Cho Oyu is considered the safest of the eight-thousanders because of the gentle slope of its northwestern face. There are few technically challenging areas on this face and avalanche risk is minimal. An Austrian team reached the summit via the northwestern face in 1953.

    Today, Cho Oyu is one of the most popular eight-thousanders. There had been 3,138 successful ascents as of March 2012, more than any other 8K peak except Everest. With a fatality rate of 1 percent, no other eight-thousander is safer.

    “I experienced a wonderful feeling, as one step took me into another world,” said Polish climber Jerzy Kukuczka, the second person to climb all 14 eight thousanders, upon reaching Cho Oyu’s summit. “The steep walls and the knife-edge ridges vanished. It was as if I had stepped out of a dark and dangerous canyon onto a plateau bathed in purple light.”

    10. Makalu

    iMakalu, the fifth tallest mountain in the world, is a pyramid-shaped mountain in Nepal, just 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Mount Everest. There is a sharp difference—284 meters (932 feet)—between Makalu and Cho Oyu, the sixth tallest.

    Makalu’s classic pyramid shape is the product of bowl-shaped cirque glaciers grinding away at the summit on all sides. Erosion left thin ridges, known as arêtes, which meet at the summit and form a shape that looks like an X from above.

    In Tibetan, Makalu means “Great Black”—a reference to the oft-exposed granite that makes up the mountain’s summit. The isolated peak is known for the strong winds that whip frequently around it and scour the snow away. The western and southern faces appear particularly bare in this image.

    Makalu proved difficult to conquer. The southeast face thwarted an American team in 1954. A New Zealand team led by Edmund Hillary—the first person to ascend Mount Everest—failed the same year. A French team succeeded in 1955, following a route up the north face. Nine members of that team made it to the summit—an unusual accomplishment. During first ascents of most eight-thousanders, just one or two members of a team generally reached the summit, while others provided logistical support.

    A total of 361 people had climbed Makalu successfully as of March 2012, while 31 had died trying—a fatality rate of about 9 percent.

    11. Lhotse

    iDespite being the fourth tallest mountain in the world, Lhotse is often overshadowed by its taller neighbor Mount Everest, which lies just a few kilometers to the north. The two peaks are linked by the South Col, a vertical ridge that never drops below 8,000 meters.

    Lhotse is 610 meters (2,000 feet) above the lowest point on the South Col—just enough for it to be considered an independent mountain. If Lhotse’s topographic prominence were less than 500 meters, it would be considered a subsidiary peak of Everest.

    Still, climbers often clump the two together. Lhotse is sometimes called Everest’s South Peak. A Swiss team made the first ascent of Lhotse in 1956, tackling the mountain on the same expedition that they logged the second-ever ascent of Everest. They followed a route from the South Col up Lhotse’s west face.

    Far more challenging than getting to the summit of Lhotse is arriving via the south face. This requires ascending a 3,300-meter (11,000 foot) wall of rock that is vertical at times. It wasn’t until 1990 that climbers ascended the south face successfully, a feat accomplished by a team from the former Soviet Union. A year before, Jerzy Kukuczka, the second person to climb all of the eight-thousanders, died trying to find a route up Lhotse’s south face.

    There had been a 461 successful ascents of Lhotse as of March 2012, while just 13 climbers died trying—a fatality rate of about 3 percent.

    12. Kangchenjunga

    jKangchenjunga, the third tallest peak in the world, is the most easterly of the eight-thousanders. Kangchenjunga is located on the border between Nepal and India, 120 kilometers (75 miles) southeast of Mount Everest.

    The structure of the mountain resembles a tent with four ridges radiating outward. The main and south summits are connected by a jagged north-south ridge that includes other high points well over 8,000 meters, though none have enough topographic prominence to qualify as separate peaks.

    There is no easy route up the steep, avalanche-prone slopes of Kangchenjunga. British climbers Joe Brown and George Band made the first ascent in 1955, following a route near the Yarlung Glacier to the foot of the mountain’s southwest face. The local Sikkam people believed that a god lived at summit and told the climbers not to go all the way to the top (to avoid upsetting him). In deference to this, the British team turned back a few feet short of the true summit.

    There were 283 successful ascents of Kangchenjunga as of March 2012, the second fewest of the eight thousanders. (Annapurna is the only peak with fewer successful ascents.) Meanwhile, 40 people died trying to climb Kangchenjunga—a fatality rate of about 15 percent. Kangchenjunga was the last eight-thousander to be climbed by a woman; British climber Ginette Harrison made it in May 1998.

    13. K2

    kLocated on the border of Pakistan and China, K2 is the jewel of the Karakoram Range. The tallest mountain in the Karakoram and the second tallest in the world, K2 is just a few hundred meters shorter than Mount Everest.

    K2’s unusual name originated with a 19th century surveying project led by George Everest—the Great Trigonometrical Survey—that mapped and measured many of the highest peaks. Surveyors simply catalogued the peaks by number, giving each the prefix K for Karakoram followed by the number peak it was. K2 was the second mountain they came across. What the surveyors called K1, another peak in the area, was later changed to Masherbrum, the name used by local people. In the case of K2, there was no widely used local name, so the alphanumeric name stuck.

    K2’s modern nickname is “Savage Mountain” because of the extreme risks it poses to climbers—frequent avalanches and harsh weather. The Italian Duke of Abruzzi led an expedition up the southeast face in 1909 but gave up at about 6,250 meters (20,505 feet), believing it was not possible to climb K2. After many other failures, another Italian team eventually succeeded, following a route up southeastern ridge on the southwestern face in 1954.

    There had been 306 successful ascents of K2 as of March 2012, the third fewest of the 8K peaks. Eighty-one people had died trying to climb the mountain—a fatality rate of about 29 percent, the second highest of the eight-thousanders.

    14. Everest

    xAlmost all who encounter Everest are awed by it. As the tallest mountain in the world, Everest is the standard to which all other mountains are compared. In Tibetan, the mountain is called Chomolungma, meaning “goddess mother of the snows.” The Nepalese name is Sagarmatha, “mother of the universe.”

    Glaciers have chiseled Mount Everest’s summit into a huge, triangular pyramid defined by three faces and three ridges that extend to the northeast, southeast, and northwest. The southeastern ridge is the most widely used climbing route. It is the route that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay followed in May 1953 when they became the first climbers to reach the summit and return safely.

    Climbers who follow this route begin by trekking past Khumbu glacier and through the Khumbu ice fall, an extremely dangerous area where ice tumbles off the mountain into a chaotic waterfall of ice towers and crevasses. Next, climbers reach a bowl-shaped valley—a cirque—called the Western Cwm (pronounced coom) to the foot of the Lhotse Face, a 1,125-meter (3,691-foot) wall of ice. Climbing up the Lhotse face leads to the South Col, the low point in the ridge that connects Everest to Lhotse. It is from the South Col that most expeditions launch their final assault on the summit, following a route up the southeastern ridge.

    Some climbers opt for the northern ridge, which is known for having harsher winds and colder temperatures. The northern ridge is the path that British climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine used in 1924 during what may, in fact, have been the first ascent. Whether the pair made it to the summit remains a topic of controversy, but what is known for certain is that the men were spotted pushing toward the summit just before the arrival of a storm. Mallory’s corpse was discovered near the northeast ridge at 8,160 meters (26,772 feet) by an American climber in 1999, but it still isn’t clear whether he reached the summit.

    Despite its reputation as an extremely dangerous mountain, commercial guiding has done much to tame Everest in the last few decades. As of March 2012, there had been 5,656 successful ascents of Everest, while 223 people had died—a fatality rate of just 4 percent.


    1. The 8,000 Meter Peaks. The World’s Highest Mountains.Accessed October 25, 2013.
    2. Dech, S., Messner, R., Glaser, R. and Martin, R. (2005) Mountains from Space(New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc.)
    3. Economist (2012, May 29) Stairway to Heaven. Accessed October 25, 2013.
    4. Gizmodo (2011, February 2) The Open Graveyard on Mt. Everest’s “Death Zone.”" Accessed October 25, 2013.
    5. GlacierWorks (2013) Everest Tour.
    6. Jurgalski, E. (2013) The 8000ers. Accessed October 9, 2013.
    7. Messner, R. (1999) All 14 Eight-Thousanders (Seattle: The Mountaineers)
    8. Peakbagger (2013) 8,000 meter peaks. Accessed October 9, 2013.
    9. Sale, R. and Cleare, J. (2000) Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Mountains(Seattle: The Mountaineers)
    10. Sale, R., Jurgalski, E., and Rodway, G. (2012) On Top of the World: The New Millennium (Gloucestershire: Snowfinch Publishing)
    11. Searle, M. (2013) Colliding Continents: A Geological Exploration of the Himalaya, Karakoram, and Tibet (New York: Oxford University Press)
    12. U.S. Geological Survey The Himalayas: Two continents collide. Accessed November 27, 2013.
    13. Weather Underground (2011, May 21) Extreme Weather of the Summit of Mt. Everest. Accessed October 9, 2013.

    SEE ALSO: 13 Reported Dead In Mount Everest Disaster

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    Mount Everest

    The icy slopes of Mount Everest have seen hundreds of deaths in the years since 1922, when seven people perished during the British Mount Everest Expedition.

    An avalanche today (April 18) claimed at least 12 lives, in what may be the single deadliest climbing event in the history of the world's tallest mountain (29,029 feet, or 8,848 meters). The death toll may rise, because other climbers are still missing, according to the BBC.

    All of the deceased were guides from the ethnic Sherpa community, who were securing ropes for the start of the spring climbing season. And many Sherpas insist that Mount Everest and other mountains in the area have become more dangerous because of climate change. [Ice World: Gallery of Awe-Inspiring Glaciers]

    "In 1989 when I first climbed Everest there was a lot of snow and ice, but now most of it has just become bare rock. That, as a result, is causing more rock falls, which is a danger to the climbers," said Apa Sherpa, a Nepali climber, as quoted inDiscovery News.

    "Also, climbing is becoming more difficult, because when you are on a [snowy] mountain you can wear crampons, but it's very dangerous and very slippery to walk on bare rock with crampons," he added.

    Avalanches and climate change

    Avalanches have been around for centuries, of course, and researchers can't blame any single event on climate change. Some evidence exists, however, that a warming planet and changes in precipitation may increase the likelihood of certain types of avalanches at certain times of the year. 

    A 2001 study from the Annals of Glaciology found that increases in temperature and precipitation could slightly decrease the risk of avalanches in mid-winter in France, but could significantly increase the risk of spring avalanches.

    Those findings were echoed in a 2013 report from the journal Applied Snow and Avalanche Research, which found that in Canada's Glacier National Park, an increase in rain (instead of snow) during the winter could result in greater instability in the snowpack, leading to more late-winter avalanches. 

    Glacial lake outburst flooding

    Apa Sherpa — who has conquered Everest more than 20 times — was once a farmer in the Himalayan region, but he turned to mountaineering after losing his home and his farm after a glacial lake outburst flood in 1985.

    Researchers have warned that glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) are a particularly disastrous effect of climate change. As glaciers melt, immense lakes form behind relatively weak ice dams. When the ice dams are breached, the resulting burst of water and debris can cause sudden, catastrophic flooding.

    "In the Himalayas, catastrophic risks of GLOFs have increased in recent years because most Himalayan glaciers have experienced remarkable downwasting under a warming climate," according to the authors of a 2013 study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

    The researchers found that between 1990 and 2010, more than 1,000 glacial lakes in the Himalayas expanded rapidly, increasing their surface area by more than 17 percent, presenting an immediate danger to climbers and residents. "An effective monitoring and warning system for critical glacial lakes is urgently needed," the study authors wrote.

    Water supplies under threat

    In another alarming finding, researchers from the University of Milan in Italy announced in 2013 that glaciers in the Mount Everest region have shrunk by 13 percent in the last 50 years, and the snowline has shifted upward by 590 feet (180 meters).

    The glaciers are also shrinking at a faster rate, as regional precipitation has declined since 1992 by nearly 4 inches (10 cm) during the pre-monsoon and winter months, the Los Angeles Times reports. The loss of these glaciers could be catastrophic, since they provide water and power for about 1.5 billion people living in Asia.

    The loss of glaciers in the region isn't uniform, however. A study published in the April 2012 issue of the journal Nature Geoscience found that glaciers in the Karakoram mountain range are holding steady, and some may even be growing in size due to changes in precipitation patterns.

    The future of Everest

    There's some concern in the mountaineering community that mountains like the iconic Everest may be unclimbable in the near future.

    "What will happen in the future I cannot say but this much I can say from my own experiences — it has changed a lot," Apa Sherpa said.

    In 2012, he completed a 120-day walk named the Climate Smart Celebrity Trek with the goal of raising awareness of climate change's impact on high-altitude mountain environments.

    "I want to understand the impact of climate change on other people, but also I'd like tourism to play a role in changing their lives as it has changed mine," Apa Sherpa said.

    Follow Marc Lallanilla on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescienceFacebook Google+Original article onLive Science.

    Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    SEE ALSO: 13 Reported Dead In Mount Everest Disaster

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    Earth is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind place.

    This is something we may forget, except when we're reminded on April 22, Earth Day.

    To celebrate the natural world, we've rounded up some of the most beautiful and mesmerizing pictures of our home planet from Reuters.

    Hopefully these images make you appreciate Earth and how important it is to continue to protect and preserve our environment. 

    Swans swim past changing autumn leaves in Sheffield Park Gardens in southern England.


    Migrating common cranes fly to their night roost at sunset north of Berlin.


    The colors of fall can be seen reflected in a waterfall along the Blackberry River in Connecticut.


    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    NASA Selfie

    Hope you're looking sharp today.

    NASA is inviting everyone to celebrate this Earth Day, April 22, by taking global selfies.

    What should you do?

    "Get outside and show us mountains, parks, the sky, rivers, lakes," NASA suggests. "Tell us where you are in a sign, words written in the sand, spelled out with rocks."

    Or, you can just print out this sign, which is available in many languages.

    GS_SIGN_English (1)

    After you snap a picture of yourself — wherever you are — post it Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Flickr, or Google+ using the hashtag #GlobalSelfie. You can also post to an event page on Facebook or Flickr.

    The event is part of the Earth Right Now campaign. NASA will use all the images to create "one unique mosaic of the Blue Marble." Sounds like something we should all participate in. 

    PHOTOS: 50 images that will make you realize how fragile and beautiful Earth

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    man bryant park

    You’ve probably done a lot of thinking about how to keep your carbon footprint small. Most of us are driving less, recycling more and getting rid of plastic water bottles, all in the name of preserving the planet.

    But have you ever considered whether using a credit card is good for the environment? The answer really depends on how you use your plastic. Take a look at the details below for more information on how to green your payment routine.

    Paying with credit can be good for the Earth.

    Using a credit card is a green move for several reasons:

    Paperless options abound. With the advent of the Internet, there’s no reason to receive a paper bill or receipt for your spending. You can swipe your card, get your receipt emailed to you, and pay your monthly bill online — no paper required. This cuts down on the trees that need to be harvested to create paper checks, bills and currency.

    Reusable. One credit card is valid for years, whereas paper money is constantly going in and out of circulation. This means that credit cards are the ultimate reusable item. What’s more, worn-out paper bills usually get shredded and sent to landfills. If more people adopted a plastic-only lifestyle, paper consumption would fall.

    Rewards can be donated to green groups. You can generate some pretty great rewards by paying with plastic consistently. One way to make that cash-back count is to donate it to a green organization, like the Sierra Club. Some credit card issuers allow you to do this directly. If not, you can make the commitment to dedicate your rewards to the planet-friendly charity of your choice.

    But there are drawbacks to consider.

    Credit cards have the potential to keep our environmental impact low. But credit cards aren’t all good for the Earth:

    It’s tough to recycle the plastic. One of the major drawbacks to credit cards from an environmental perspective is the plastic they’re made of. Most payment cards (debit, credit, gift cards) are made of PVC plastic. This is tough to recycle, which is why many expired credit cards end up in landfills.

    You’ll buy more stuff with credit. “Reduce, reuse, recycle” has been the motto of the environmental movement for years. But credit cards have been shown to encourage us to do just the opposite of “reduce.” We’re likely to buy more with credit cards, and all that stuff eventually gets thrown away. Plus, it’s difficult to buy secondhand items with a credit card — thrift shops and sellers on Craigslist usually only accept cash. All this means that shopping with credit makes it harder to cut down on waste.

    Going green with your plastic

    The upshot: Using a credit card can be an environmentally-friendly move if you take the right steps. Here are the Nerds’ top tips for swiping green:

    • Switch to paperless billing and paperless receipts
    • Stop credit card pre-approvals from being mailed to your home
    • Consider a mobile payment system to eliminate both paper and plastic from your spending routine
    • Be mindful of your credit card spending — only buy what you need
    • Shred expired credit cards and take them to a PVC recycling center in your area
    • Consider donating your rewards to an environmental organization

    The takeaway: Using a credit card doesn’t have to be bad for the environment. In fact, there are some built-in benefits to the Earth. Use our tips for making your credit card usage as green as possible!

    SEE ALSO: Why You Should Check Your Credit Score Every 3 Months

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    Yerdle Team

    Just because you need something, doesn't mean you need to buy it new.

    That's the mantra of Yerdle, a non-traditional e-commerce company that's trying to help empty our garages, attics, and closets of the trillions of dollars of discarded goods while simultaneously keeping old products out of landfills. 

    The company allows users to upload pictures of things they no longer need, which other users can then "win" by exchanging credits (every new user gets 250 Yerdle credits and you earn more when you share your own stuff). Once a deal is made, the buyer pays low-cost ($3 to $4), flat-rate shipping to wherever they live in the U.S.; making online sharing as easy as online shopping. Yerdle eventually plans to make money by offering a small number of credits for sale, so that users who don't have enough of their own credits from "selling" their goods, can still get objects that they want without waiting.

    Andy Ruben, Yerdle's co-founder, shared some big news with Business Insider: The company just raised $5 million to help it continue to grow. 

    Since launching about a year and a half ago, Yerdle has hit 50,000 members, shared 31,000 items, and seen over 2 million Yerdle credits exchanged. A new item is posted on Yerdle every minute, and Ruben and the team plan to use the new funding to help that momentum continue and the user experience improve. 

    Ruben himself has a long commerce history: He worked at Wal-Mart for ten years and led the company's sustainability efforts. But the entire retail system as he saw it was broken. People shell out money for new items that they could get for free from their neighbor's garage. They pay $30 for a new blender, instead of saving a slightly used one from winding up in a dump. The amount of waste in almost incomprehensible. The company focuses on sustainability and became a certified California Benefit Corporation to seal the deal (meaning it has to prove its positive social and environmental impact)

    On Yerdle, you can find almost anything, ranging from the completely practical (kitchen supplies and outdoor equipment are both big hits) to the quirky (I once found an amazing sparkly burrito wall-hanging). 

    "How many kids will be inspired by a single lego set?" Ruben says. "That's a really inspiring question for us."

    Besides giving people an opportunity to get things they need for free, Ruben says that he loves how the site fosters human connection. He recently got a record player off the site. Not only did he fulfill a need without going to the mall, but he loves the player more because it has a history. 

    "When people share items, it’s a connected experience and there's a special aura about those products because they came from someone else who loved them," he says. "There’s something beautiful about that."

    SEE ALSO: This New Fellowship Is Trying To Get New York's Tech Talent To Solve Some Of The City's Most Meaningful Problems

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    Reddit user wheatley_cereal has posted a factoid that we have no doubt is widely known among Mountain West residents, but of which the rest of the country is almost certainly unaware: It's possible for a fish to swim directly from the Pacific to the Atlantic without having to dodge Panamax ships in the canal zone.

    The area is commonly called Parting Of The Waters.

    There's even a point marking the divide, called Two Ocean Pass, located in Wyoming. At this pass the Atlantic Creek (which flows northeast to meet the Yellowstone river) with the Pacific Creek (which flows southwest to join the Snake River). The point actually sits directly atop the Continental Divide, where a raindrop has a 50-50 chance of flowing out to the Pacific or down to the Gulf.

    It's a bit tricky to follow the full route on Google Maps, but it goes something like this:

    Columbia River (Wa.) → Snake River (Ore.) → Teton streams (Wyo.) → Yellowstone Lake (Wyo.) → Yellowstone River (Wyo.) → Missouri River (MT) → Mississippi River

    The Reddit user made a rough map:

    two ocean passYou can read researcher Mark Miller's description of this incredible phenomenon on his blog »

    SEE ALSO: Take A Tour Of The Mongolia Of America

    NOW WATCH: 9 Animated Maps That Will Change The Way You See The World

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    It’s not often that we think about deep time. Lucky to live for a century, humans flitter like mayflies across Earth’s surface, our own epoch an eyeblink in a planetary history that’s largely hidden from everyday consciousness.

    Every now and then, though, that history punches right through into the present. And when it does, it’s often a history written in stone: the fossils Darwin found on a mountaintop, the sandstone formations that forced 18th century science to contemplate a world far more ancient than a few thousand Biblical years.

    And such is the sort of story told in the cliffs at Punta di Maita, Italy (photo below). Each band is a layer of seafloor sediment that accumulated long ago in 21,000-year orbital cycles, and was eventually pushed by tectonic activity into their current formation. They are time made macroscopic — and when microscopic fossils in the layers were analyzed by researchers from Australian National University, they told a climate tale stretching back 5.3 million years.

    RELATED: NASA's Stylish New $4.4 Million Dollar Spacesuit for Mars

    As described in an April 17 Nature study, the researchers used measurements of oxygen levels in plankton fossils from the Punta di Maiata formations to infer prehistoric water flows through the Straits of Gibraltar, which in turn reflect sea level changes caused by the melting or freezing of glaciers. The upshot: 5.3 million years of deep-sea temperature trends — graphed in the image above — which extend the deep-sea record by several million years and suggest that the current glacial period began 200,000 years earlier than traditionally thought.

    That insight aside, the new method could lay a foundation for a more fine-grained understanding of historical climate patterns and their relationship to sea level. As climate change looms, that could prove to be quite useful in our own precarious moment.

    SL timelin00

    More From Wired:

    SEE ALSO: How To Use Your Google Maps Offline

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    minke whales

    A mysterious duck-like sound recorded in the ocean around Antarctica has baffled scientists for decades, but the source of the sound has finally been found, researchers say.

    For more than 50 years, researchers have recorded the so-called "bio-duck" sound in the Southern Ocean.

    Submarine crews first heard the oceanic quack, which consists of a series of repetitive, low-pitched pulsing sounds, in the 1960s.

    "In the beginning, no one really knew what it was," said Denise Risch, a marine biologist at NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, Mass.

    Because the sound was so repetitive, scientists first thought it might be human-made, possibly coming from submarines. As time went on, people suggested a fish may be making the sound, but it seemed too loud, Risch told Live Science. [Listen to Mysterious Bio-Duck Sound]

    It turns out, Antarctic minke whales actually produce the duck-like sound, Risch and her colleagues have found. Years' worth of audio recordings will now provide a wealth of information on the abundance, distribution and behavior of these elusive cetaceans, the researchers said in their study, detailed today (April 22) in the journal Biology Letters.

    Mystery quacks

    minke whale antarctic whalingThe bio-duck sounds come in sets spaced about 3.1 seconds apart. The noises also occur seasonally, and have been heard simultaneously in the Eastern Weddell Sea off Antarctica and Western Australia.

    In February 2013, during the Southern Hemisphere's summer, Risch's colleagues tagged two Antarctic minke whales (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) off of Western Antarctica with suction-cup tags. The researchers meant to study the whale's feeding behavior and track their movements.

    The tags also contained underwater microphones, and Risch analyzed the acoustic recordings. She found they contained the duck sounds, as well as downward-sweeping sounds previously linked to the whales. The sounds "can now be attributed unequivocally to the Antarctic minke whale," Risch and her team wrote in the study. The researchers don't know for sure whether the tagged whales or other nearby minke whales made the sounds.

    What the sounds mean in whale-speak remains a mystery to scientists. The whales may use the sounds for breeding or navigation, Risch speculated. The researchers don't know, either, whether only males make the sounds or females also partake. For example, male humpback whales, unlike females, perform complex songs during their mating season.

    The fact that the sounds were heard off both Antarctica and Western Australia suggests that some whales remain in Antarctica year round, while others migrate to lower latitudes, as other whales do, the researchers said.

    Acoustic time capsule

    Now that minke whales have been identified as the source of the mysterious sounds in ocean recordings, researchers can use those recordings to glean information about the distribution, abundance and behavior of these vocal animals.

    "The fantastic thing about acoustics is you can go back in time," Risch said.

    The recordings will be especially useful in tracking these animals in winter, when visual surveys are impossible due to weather conditions. Researchers could put out buoys with microphones during the summer, and later retrieve them to learn about the whales' activity in colder months.

    The ability to track minke whales acoustically also offers an alternative research method to controversial Japanese whaling practices, Risch said. "It shows killing is not necessary."

    Follow Tanya Lewis on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook& Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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    SEE ALSO: This Mysterious Whale Can Hold Its Breath Longer Than Any Other Mammal

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    drought water climate change environment CSR ESG

    Shaun Lovejoy is a professor of physics at McGill University and president of the Nonlinear Processes Division of the European Geosciences Union. He contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

    Last year, the Quebec Skeptics Society threw down the gauntlet: "If anthropogenic global warming is as strong as scientists claim, then why do they need supercomputers to demonstrate it?" My immediate response was, "They don't." Indeed, in 1896 — before the warming was perceptible — the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius, toiling for a year, predicted that doubling carbon dioxide (CO2) levels would increase global temperatures by 5 to 6 degrees Celsius, which turns out to be close to modern estimates.

    Yet the skeptics' question resonated: Global Circulation Models (GCM's) dominate climate research to such an extent that (even scientists!) can be forgiven for thinking these computer-driven models are essential. So I took up the challenge, and my answer appears in the research described in a paper recently published in the journal Climate Dynamics.

    I started with a basic aspect of the traditional scientific method: No theory ever can be proven beyond "reasonable doubt," and anthropogenic warming is no exception. Climate skeptics have ruthlessly exploited this alleged weakness, stating that the models are wrong, and that the warming is natural. Fortunately, scientists have a fundamental methodological asymmetry to use against these skeptics: A single decisive experiment effectively can disprove a scientific hypothesis.

    That's what I claim to have done. Examining the theory that global warming is only natural, I showed — without any use of GCMs — that the probability that warming is simply a giant natural fluctuation is so small as to be negligible.

    Here's how I went about it.

    First, my study uses CO2 as a surrogate for all human effects. While it's true that humans have also changed land use and emitted other green house gasses (associated with warming) and aerosols (associated with cooling), these changes are strongly linked to CO2 via global economic activity. To a good approximation, if you double the economy, you double the emissions — and, therefore, you double the effects.

    It turns out that the resulting relationship between global temperature and the CO2 proxy is very tight: The proxy predicts with 95 percent certainty that a doubling of CO2 levels in the atmosphere will lead to a warming of 1.9 to 4.2 degrees C. This is close to the GCM-estimated range of 1.5 to 4.5 degrees C, which has been essentially unchanged since a 1979 U.S. National Academy of Sciences report. This new method also estimates that the temperature since 1880 has risen by between 0.76 and 0.98 degrees C, compared to an estimate of 0.65 to 1.05 degrees C cited in tthe International Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5, 2013).

    These ranges are so close that they help confirm the method. Beyond that, the differences only serve to fine-tune estimates of the magnitude of the 125-year temperature change.

    The key, second part of my study uses data from the year 1500 to estimate the probability that this temperature change is due to natural causes. Since I am interested in rare, extreme fluctuations, a direct estimate would require far more pre-industrial measurements than are currently available. Statisticians regularly deal with this type of problem, usually solving it by applying the bell curve. Using this analysis shows that the chance of the fluctuation being natural would be in the range of one-in-100-thousand to one-in-10-million.

    Yet, climate fluctuations are much more extreme than those allowed by the bell curve. This is where my specialty — nonlinear geophysics — comes in.

    Nonlinear geophysics confirms that the extremes should be far stronger than the usual "bell curve" allows. Indeed, I showed that giant, century-long fluctuations are more than 100-times more likely than the bell curve would predict. Yet, at one in a thousand, their probability is still small enough to confidently reject them.

    But what about Medieval warming with vineyards in Britain, or the so-called Little Ice Age with skating on the Thames? In the historical past, the temperature has changed considerably. Surely, the industrial-epoch warming is just another large amplitude natural event?

    Well, no.

    My result focuses on the probability of centennial-scale temperature changes. It does not exclude large changes, if they occur slowly enough. So if you must, let the peons roast and the Thames freeze solid, the result stands.

    In its AR5 report last September, the IPCC strengthened its earlier 2007 qualification of "likely" to "extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century." Yet skeptics continue to dismiss the models and insist that warming results from natural variability. The new GCM-free approach rejects natural variability, leaving the last vestige of skepticism in tatters.

    Within minutes of the Climate Dynamics study going live, the Internet started buzzing. The great majority of the pickup was professional, with embellishments from various news sites. However, I also received aggressive emails, many from the Watts Up with That? (WUWT) site, which comments on climate change from a skeptic's perspective. The majordomo of this deniers' hub is the notorious Viscount Christopher Monckton of Brenchley, who — within hours — had declared to the faithful that the paper was no less than a "mephitically ectoplasmic emanation from the Forces of Darkness" and that "it is time to be angry at the gruesome failure of peer review."

    Beyond the venom, however, the actual criticism amounted to little more than a disbelief in the quantification of error bars on estimates of century-scale global temperatures, even though this estimate was published a year ago and is of little importance to the conclusions.

    So, where does this leave things?

    Close to my home, it leaves an even greater disconnect between science and policy. The Canadian government has axed climate research (my research was unfunded) and shamelessly promoted the dirtiest fuels. Rather than trying to better understand and protect the country's fragile boreal environment, northern investment has focused on new military installations. The government has reneged on its international climate obligations.

    Globally, investment in fossil fuels has far outstripped those in carbon-free and sustainable technologies, and two decades of international discussion have failed to prevent emissions from growing.

    The world desperately needs to drop the skepticism and change course. Humanity's future depends on it.

    Note: The author has posted a related Q+A about his paper.

    Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — on Facebook, Twitter and Google +. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.

    SEE ALSO: These 6 GIFs Show How Drastically Planet Earth Is Changing

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