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The latest news on Environment from Business Insider

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    Firefighters work to dig a fire line on the Rocky Fire in Lake County, California July 30, 2015. REUTERS/Max Whittaker

    (Reuters) - Firefighters rushed to contain a pair of fast-moving wildfires in Northern California on Saturday as they mourned the death of a U.S. Forest Service firefighter killed this week in the battle against one of the blazes, officials said.

    The largest blaze has forced hundreds of people to evacuate and destroyed more than a dozen homes. Experts have predicted a long and volatile summer wildfire season in California in its fourth year of crippling drought.

    Firefighter David Ruhl, 38, a married father of two from Rapid City, South Dakota, died on Thursday while on assignment at the Frog Fire in the Modoc National Forest near California's border with Oregon.

    No one else was with Ruhl when he was killed, and he was the incident commander on the fire at the time, said Modoc National Forest spokesman Ken Sandusky. It is common for a leader on a fire to travel alone, Sandusky said, but he declined to release more details on the death.

    The Frog Fire, which broke out on Thursday and is about 5 percent contained, has grown to 1,850 acres (750 hectares) and erratic winds have pushed it in all directions, he said.

    A red-flag warning, designating the threat of gusty winds that risk fanning flames, was expected to remain in effect until late Sunday in the area of the Frog Fire.

    The Rocky Fire, in the foothills and canyons on the inland flanks of California's northern coastal range in Lake County north of San Francisco, has also ballooned in size and now covers 22,500 acres (9,100 hectares).

    California wildfires fires brush fireNearly 1,600 firefighters are working on the fire, which broke out on Wednesday and is only 5 percent contained, according to a state fire information website.

    "It's making some good runs right now,” said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Captain Ron Oatman.

    In particular, fingers of the blaze were advancing on Highway 20 where firefighters built containment lines to hold back flames, he said.

    California wildfires fires brush fireThe Rocky Fire has destroyed 14 houses and 16 outbuildings, and it threatens 6,100 structures, said Lesley Smith, a volunteer in the fire information center.

    More than 600 people have been evacuated since it began, Smith said.

    Fire officials are preparing to tell more residents to leave their homes, issuing mandatory orders after earlier voluntary advisories, Oatman said. 

    (Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    dairy cows

    Global warming stinks.

    But researchers think they have a solution to alleviate some of the more literal stink.

    Enteric fermentation — the fancy way to say farts and burps — make up 26% of all US methane emissions, and most of that comes from dairy cows.

    Methane is a harmful greenhouse gas that is great at trapping heat in the air. It doesn't stick around for as long as notorious global warming gas carbon dioxide, but while it's there, it's 84 times more effective at heating up than CO2.

    Animal scientists at Pennsylvania State University found that when they fed a group of the animals a chemical powder specially designed to minimize the amount of the gas they emitted, they cut cut back on these methane emissions by 30%.

    The study, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, gave the 48 cows varying amounts of the inhibitor powder for 12 weeks. Afterward, those that had eaten the special powder let out 30% less gas than their peers who didn't get fed the stuff.

    Importantly, the scientists observed that the animals fed the inhibitor were still digesting their food as they normally would (they didn't have any problems eating, making milk or digesting fiber). In other words, the scientists observed that everything was running normally, they just didn't emit as much potent gas.

    The cows that ate the anti-methane chemicals ended up weighing more at the end of the study as well. The scientists suspect that's because the extra energy that would've made methane converted into energy to grow tissues in the cows' bodies.

    Researchershave tried to find ways to cut down on methane emissions for years, either by changing up what the cows eat, or adding chemicals in the hopes that methane production would decrease.

    This study is the latest in a push to get this inhibitor powder on the market. It was developed by a Dutch company called DSM. Its Project "Clean Cow" initiative aims to cut down methane emissions from cows by at least 30% over the next few decades, though the powder's long-term effects on the cows, and how it'll interact with other members in the food chain (for example, if the powder will have any effect on us when we drink milk) has yet to be studied.

    READ NEXT: Humans are adding hours of flight time to airplane travel every year

    CHECK OUT: These maps are the first to reveal what the world thinks of climate change, and it's startling

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: What Adderall is actually doing to your body


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    cecil the lion

    The internet erupted with outrage last week over the killing of a Zimbabwe lion named Cecil.

    But calls to ban all trophy hunting — killing wild animals to keep as souvenirs rather than for their meat — may actually hurt conservation efforts.

    The evidence suggests the way Cecil was killed was not only illegal but inhumane. Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer is accused of luring the animal off of a wildlife sanctuary before shooting and wounding him with an arrow. The lion was shot and killed with a rifle almost two days later and then skinned and beheaded.

    But as conservation experts Niki Rust and Diogo Verissimo point out in a recent post in The Conversation, Cecil's death should not make us rush to condemn all trophy hunting.

    "All signs point toward the illegality of the killing of Cecil the Lion, and I can only hope those involved are brought to justice and there are consequences," Verissimo, a conservation biologist at Georgia State University, told Business Insider. "But I don't think that single incident in itself is enough to dismiss the entire industry around trophy hunting."

    Money from trophy hunting can help fund conservation elsewhere

    Particularly in poorer countries such as Zimbabwe, trophy hunting can be an important source of funding for conservation efforts. Trophy hunters typically pay tens or hundreds or thousands of dollars for the right to hunt these animals, and some of that money can be put back into wildlife management, Verissimo said.

    The dentist who killed Cecil reportedly paid $50,000 to a professional hunter for the privilege. Last year, a Texas hunter set off a similar controversy when he paid $350,000 to kill an endangered black rhino.

    Other sources of conservation funding, such as ecotourism, can't really compete with the amounts from trophy hunting, Verissimo said.

    David Shiffman, a graduate student at the University of Miami who studies shark ecology and animal conservation, echoed this sentiment. "There are many times where [trophy hunting is] not well-regulated or well-done," he told Business Insider, "but right now, it can raise a lot of money that otherwise would not be there."

    Still, some people argue that hunting an animal purely for sport is always immoral, even if it's generating money that can be used to keep other animals alive.

    And certainly, many would consider Cecil's death — being shot with arrow and allowed to bleed for two days before being killed — to be inhumane. "The method of death and circumstances around it are questionable as hell," Shiffman said.

    SEE ALSO: The 'global failure' that led to the slaughter of a popular African lion says a lot about Western culture

    CHECK OUT: That Minnesota dentist has killed A LOT of big game — here are 13

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The tragic story of Cecil the lion and the American dentist who killed him


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    6382415523_05b9670464_o

    Living in leafy neighborhoods is visually pleasing. It also can make you feel healthier.

    In fact, the positive health effects of having an additional 10 trees on your block are equivalent to getting a $10,000 income increase or being seven years younger.

    That's the conclusion from a study published in the journal Scientific Reports and led by University of Chicago psychology professor Omid Kardan.

    To get their findings, researchers measured green space around Toronto using high-resolution satellite images and existing data on 530,000 trees. Next, they pulled relevant information from the Ontario Health Study, which has health data on the community gathered from short online surveys.

    When the researchers compared the two data sets (and controlled for variables like income and age), they found that an additional 10 trees on a block corresponded to a 1% increase in how healthy the respondents felt. While this correlation doesn't mean that the trees direclty impacted the respondents health, other studies have suggested that even short peroids of time spent outdoors or in nature have emotional benefits.

    The location of the trees also matters. People reap the health benefits when they live near tree-lined streets, but not near trees found in parks. According to the researchers this could be because "trees that affect people most generally are those that they may have the most contact (visual or presence) with, which we are hypothesizing to be those planted along the streets."

    However, the study also notes that the findings are based only on surveys taken by adults and "trees in parks may be more beneficial to children who spend more time in such locations."

    Whether in parks or along the streets, planting more trees wouldn't hurt — especially if it means fewer visits to the doctor.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why it’s so hard to get a good deal when selling used games at GameStop


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    Food

    The possibility of increased food shortages looms in a nearer future than we'd care to believe.

    Citing the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the latest Grantham Mayo van Otterloo (GMO) quarterly report noted, "humanity is risking ‘a breakdown of food systems linked to warming, drought, flooding, and precipitation variability and extremes.’”

    Those changes to the climate threaten the way food gets produced around the world, which can drive up the price of foods and lead to a host of other problems.

    A June report from the Global Sustainability Institute of Anglia Ruskin University found that by 2040, food prices will be four times higher than they were in 2000. Already, they're already twice as high as they were in 2000, the GMO report notes.

    "The results show that based on plausible climate trends, and a total failure to change course, the global food supply system would face catastrophic losses, and an unprecedented epidemic of food riots," the institute's director, Aled Jones, told investigative journalism project Insurge Intelligence. "In this scenario, global society essentially collapses as food production falls permanently short of consumption."

    Here's how the different climate changes listed affect our food:

    • A warming planet leads to less food. Climate changes affect how farmers plan for the upcoming year. According to the IPCC's report from 2014, every decade of warming that happens decreases the amount of food the world can produce by 2%, or 4.4 million metric tons of food.
    • Droughts cut back on the food produced. The California drought is an example of how the climate affects food and how much access people have to it. The USDA noted in June that "depending on its continued severity, the drought in California has the potential to drive prices for fruit, vegetables, dairy, and eggs up even further."
    • Flooding decreases the amount of available land for farming. If the Mississippi and Missouri rivers flood, the report points out, it would cut corn production in the US by 27%, soybeans by 19%, and wheat by 7%, according to the institute's scenario. That's about 3.8 billion bushels of corn lost, based on the amount of corn produced in the US in 2014.
    • More frequent extreme weather makes it harder to have a reliable crop yield. Tornadoes, torrential downpours, etc. cause damage to lands that otherwise contain crops. An increasing amount of these weather events — a result of climate change— makes it harder to rely on a steady supply of food, thus driving up prices on all that remains.

    All of these weather crises, in the GSI's scenario, could lead to food riots and increased global insecurity.

    CHECK OUT: 15 ways the world will be terrifying in 2050

    UP NEXT: Around the world, more people are eating one type of food — and it's bad news for the planet

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: How scientists uncovered a completely new world inside the tunnels of the most powerful physics machine on Earth


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    dry canal california drought

    People around the world are eating way more red meat.

    According to the latest Grantham Mayo van Otterloo (GMO) quarterly report, "The increasing middle class of the emerging countries, especially China, is rapidly increasing its meat consumption."

    On the one hand, that's good news, because it means people are eating more protein, an ingredient critical to healthy muscle and tissue development.

    But for the most part, it's likely bad news for the world for two main reasons:

    1. Eating more animals means a bigger strain on global supplies of water and energy.

    A big uptick in the amount of animals we raise for food can also put a strain on global resources of water and energy.

    It takes far more water, land, and energy (in the form of carbon and methane, two gases that contribute to climate change) to raise cattle that are slaughtered than it does to raise crops for people to eat.

    2. Wealthy countries — where people already eat too much protein — account for most of the recent increase in meat consumption.

    The countries that account for the majority of the uptick in meat consumption are wealthy countries, where people are actually eating more protein than they need.

    According to a recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch research report, developed countries like the US and the UK already eat about twice as much meat compared with the global average, and it predicts this trend will continue until well into the 2020s.

    And all those burgers and steaks require a lot of water. From raising the cows to washing and processing their meat, red meat uses a whopping 106 gallons of water per ounce. That's roughly five times the amount necessary to produce a handful of severely maligned almonds.

    In California, where the state recently entered its fifth year in a record drought, the problem is especially bad. 

    This chart of water use by California crops, from a presentation made by University of California Davis professor Blaine Davis, makes the difference pretty clear:

    skitched california crop chart water usage

    Those arrows point to "forages" and alfalfa — crops raised almost exclusively for feeding farm animals. In California, the largest milk-producing state in the US, the vast majority of these animals are cows. "Forages" include the fields that get watered for cows to graze on and the corn and other irrigated crops that later get churned into cow feed.

    All this data shows that the world's drought problems can't be nailed to one specific cause — be it almond enthusiasts, bottled water companies, or wealthy Californians over-watering their lawns

    However, the spike in meat consumption will only contribute to the world's water shortages. 

    UP NEXT: Devastating photos of California show how bad the drought really is

    CHECK OUT: People are furious that Nestle is still bottling and selling California's water in the middle of the drought

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The Dark Side Of Salt Farming On South Korea's Controversial 'Slave Islands'


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    airs_christmas_ice_storm_global

    It's no surprise that climate change is raising summer temperatures in many parts of the globe, but what you might not know is where most of that extra heat is going.

    Scientistsestimatethat as much as 90% of it is heading straight into our oceans, and that has major consequences not only for marine wildlife but for the world's economy.

    The average surface temperature around the world has increased by roughly 1.08 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 40 years, but that number would be a lot larger if it weren't for the oceans.

    "To date, the oceans have essentially been the planet's refrigerator and carbon dioxide storage locker," Hans-Otto Pörtner, who is a researcher at the Alref Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centra for Polar and Marine Research, told ScienceDaily. "For instance, since the 1970s they've absorbed roughly 93% of the additional heat produced by the greenhouse effect, greatly helping to slow the warming of our planet."

    Lesser of the two evils

    Pörtner is a co-author on a study published July 3 in Science that looks at which marine ecosystems — such as coastal habitats and capture fisheries — are at risk of suffering irreversible damage by the end of the 21st century. Depending on one of two potential scenarios that the researchers addressed, the risks for worldwide irreparable damage will either be moderate or severe by the end of the 21st century.

    Red Sea Coral ReefIn the first scenario, the researchers assume that humans get their act together, immediately, and drastically slash the rate of carbon dioxide emissions in line with the regulations set by the Copenhagen Accord— a document introduced in 2009 to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change that estimates how much 80% of the countries in the world should reduce emissions to prevent a total increase of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

    The second scenario assumes that carbon dioxide emissions continue on their current, upward trend, and that humans don't take extreme action to curb our emissions.

    In the first scenario, the researchers report that most risks will remain a moderate possibility. But in the second scenario, "if we just go on with business as usual," Pörtner told ScienceDaily, "by the end of this century the changes will hit nearly every ecosystem in the oceans and cause irreparable harm for marine life."

    It's hard to estimate exactly how much money these irreversible damages to the oceans' ecosystems will cost humanity, but here are some estimates the researchers site:

    • Coastal habitats, including coral reefs, oyster beds, and kelp forests, protect human infrastructure from storms saving an estimated $23.2 billion each year in the US alone.
    • Increasing oceanic temperatures and acidity will either reduce mussel production by 50% (scenario 1) or 70% (scenario 2) by the year 2100, which could cost the world over $100 billion by the end of the century.
    • Unfortunately, coral reefs face severe decline and mortality rates regardless of which scenario the researchers assessed. From tourism alone, this mass die off will cost anywhere between $1.9 to $12 billion and up to 69,000 jobs in Australia alone by 2100.

    Grabbing attention

    Numbers like these are starting to catch the attention of asset management firms like investor Jeremy Grantham, whose firm, Grantham Mayo van Otterloo (GMO), had a total market value of more than $118 billion in March 2015, making it one of the largest asset fund management firms in the world.

    MoneyIn GMO's latest quarterly report, Grantham sites eight factors that could be responsible for the "potentially slowing long-term growth" in US gross domestic product (GDP). And among these eight factors, Grantham includes "steadily increasing climate difficulties."

    Increasing temperatures and acidity in the oceans are just one of the climate difficulties that Grantham sites. He also addresses the drought, flooding, and precipitation variability that global warming is predicted to intensify around the world, according to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    If we do not make changes now, we will suffer the consequences in the future. And aside from the devastation to Earth's marine wildlife, people's finances would likely suffer as well:

    "We do a terrible job of planning for the long term, particularly in postponing gratification, and we are wickedly bad at dealing with the implications of compound math," Grantham solemnly concludes.

    "All of this makes it easy for us to forget about the previously painful market busts; facilitates our pushing stocks and markets on occasion to levels that make no mathematical sense, and allows us regrettably, to ignore the logic of finite resources and a deteriorating climate until the consequences are pushed up our short-term noses."

    SEE ALSO: Scientists found an ingenious way to cut down on a hidden source of one of the most harmful air pollutants

    DON'T MISS: Why Cecil the lion's death shouldn't make us ban all trophy hunting

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This animated map shows how different our oceans will be by 2050


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    Coastal cities could see a rise in sea levels by as much as 4 ft by the end of the century. To help put a visual to the number, artist Nickolay Lamm created this series of simulations of US city landmarks as affected by sea levels rising 5, 12 and 25 feet. Using Climate Central's sea level rise maps, Lamm imagines recognizable locales such as Venice Beach CA, Miami Beach FL, and Boston Harbor with catastrophic flooding.

     Produced by Rob Ludacer

    Follow TI Video:On Facebook

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    The Dead Sea sinkholes

    The Dead Sea is famous for its high salt content, and because salt water is denser than fresh water, it's easier for us to stay afloat in the Dead Sea than in an average swimming pool. That's why millions of tourists flock to its waters annually for the unique experience of feeling like they're floating weightlessly. 

    However, the Dead Sea is in danger of disappearing due to the lack of water coming in from its main source: the Jordan River. That, combined with the mineral mining that's taking place in the south portion of the Sea has created a detrimental situation.

    Sinkholes, some the size of a basketball court, are appearing around the now receding water, threatening visitors' safety and creating a ghastly landscape. Take a look at the almost unrecognizable recent images of the Dead Sea.  

    SEE ALSO: This Antarctic pond is 12 times as salty as the Dead Sea

    DON'T MISS: The frightening true story of the Florida sinkhole that swallowed Jeffrey Bush

    The Dead Sea is receding by about 3 feet (1 meter) per year.



    Dangerous sinkholes form when the Dead Sea's salty water recedes. From there, fresh groundwater bubbles up, dissolving layers of salt in the land, which creates large underground cavities.



    Sinkholes can open up without warning, making the shores especially dangerous.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

    NOW WATCH: Science says that parents of successful kids have these 7 things in common


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    A rap music video that criticizes Unilever's Indian business for allegedly dumping toxic waste in the country has gone viral.

    The star of the video is Sofia Ashraf, a former copywriter at advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. In her rap, set to the beat of Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda," she accuses Hindustan Unilever (HUL) of dumping mercury from a now-closed thermometer factory in a forest near Kodaikanal, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. She claims prolonged exposure to mercury "killed" workers, and that local children have been born "seriously ill."

    "Unilever came and left devastation as they exposed the land to contamination," Ashraf raps. The chorus implores Unilever to "clean up your mess."

    HUL, which produces products including Lifebuoy soap and Pepsodent toothpaste, denies any wrongdoing.

    In a statement on the HUL website, the company says it did not dump glass waste contaminated with mercury in the land behind its factory. The scrap glass containing mercury was sold to a scrap dealer, in breach of the company's guidelines. HUL said it immediately closed the factory once it found out about this in 2001 and launched an investigation.

    The statement continues: "There were no adverse impacts on the health of employees or the environment. This has been confirmed by many independent studies. There was limited impact on the soil at some spots within the factory premises which required remediation."

    In a statement given to Reuters, HUL says: "There is still work to do here — which we are committed to fulfilling — as soon as we have received final consent from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to start the soil remediation."

    The rap video, posted by campaign group Jhatkaa, has been viewed on YouTube more than 1.7 million times since it was uploaded last Thursday. A corresponding online petition, calling on Unilever to "take responsibility for Kodaikanal mercury poisoning" has garnered almost 50,000 signatures. 

    SEE ALSO: Vice is launching a women's channel — and Unilever is on board as a major partner

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Nepal Earthquake

    More than 8,000 people died in the April earthquake that shook Kathmandu, Nepal — the deadliest quake in the country's history.

    But researchers say the initial magnitude-7.8 earthquake was not nearly as destructive as it could’ve been. The fault line, which had been locked for at least 10 years, came apart relatively easily, destroying taller buildings but sparing smaller homes.

    Twostudies published Thursday show how the massive quake "unzipped" (geologist-speak for opened up) a major fault in the Himalayas, likely paving the way for even larger earthquakes in the future.

    Jean-Philippe Avouac, one of the lead authors of both studies and a geology professor at Cambridge University, explained that because of the previous quake, it's now far easier for the chunks of land beneath the region — which move during a quake like the teeth of a zipper — to "slip" during future quakes.

    "We can tell you that for sure this area where the fault has been locked will have to slip during earthquakes in the future," Avouac told Business Insider.

    Avouac also said that the April quake could have done far more damage than it did, because the land separated smoothly, without a lot of energy exerting friction on surrounding areas.

    "The onset was very smooth — not a very abrupt rupture," he said. "This is relatively soft compared to earthquakes that generate a lot of high frequency waves, which are more destructive.”

    Thanks to readings from geology instruments that had been in place in the region for the decade before the quake hit, researchers were able to get the clearest picture of what happened that they've ever seen, Avouac said. And it could help explain future quakes and possibly help them prepare for what's to come.

    "This is the first time we have had such a nice record of a megathrust," he said. "And it could be that what we've observed here would apply to the Himalayan megathrust elsewhere."

    So far, only a portion of the 1,200-mile fault that runs along the Himalayas has unzipped, shown here in yellow:

    Screen Shot 2015 08 06 at 10.55.59 AM

    Despite the severe damage it caused, the entire quake lasted just 50 seconds. Of course, when it happened, the entire fault line didn't move all at once — earthquakes happen like a zipper, so each piece of land only moves for a few seconds at a time. (Geologists estimate these fragments of Earth moved for about six seconds each.) These movements are called slips.

    What's next?

    Now that the fault is partially unzipped, it's likely it'll lead to more earthquakes more powerful than the ones we've seen.

    "Unfortunately we can't tell you when there will be other earthquakes in the Himalayas," Avouac said. " ... We can ... tell you that the kind of magnitude that you can have in the Himalayas is probably of the order of 8.5, the really large earthquakes."

    CHECK OUT: Another major earthquake just hit Nepal

    UP NEXT: Life on Earth will look dramatically different by mid-century

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Stunning video shows the earthquake damage across Nepal


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    CA forest fires

    For the past seven weeks, a series of relentless wildfires have sprung up in 15 counties across central and northeast California. 

    These wildfires have charred over 250 square miles of California landscape, which is already suffering from the worst drought in the last 1,200 years.

    About 11,000 firefighters have stepped up to quench the flames, and recent reports say they're making progress on the latest wildfire to sprout, called the Rocky Fire. But this week's weather forecasts call for dry, hot conditions that could help feed the fire. 

    Here are some humbling photos of firefighters battling the Rocky Fire flames — as they race from one field to the next. All of these photos were taken within the last week:

     

    READ MORE: Devastating photos of California show how bad the drought really is

    SEE ALSO: Remarkable before-and-after photos make it undeniably clear we're ruining our planet

    The Rocky Fire started on July 29 and is the 6th and most recent in a series of California wildfires. Three days after it began, the wildfire rapidly progressed, forcing over 13,000 residents to evacuate. In this photo, firefighters watch as the giant wildfire advances.



    One of the evacuation centers is in Moose Lodge. Here, one of the 13,000 evacuees sits and waits for news while his dog keeps him company.



    As of August 6, 2015, the evacuees do not know when they'll be able to return to their homes. The Rocky fire is currently the largest of 23 fires statewide.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    China steel

    TANGSHAN, China (Reuters) - Struggling from weak demand and facing new rules to clean up pollution, some firms in China's top steel producing city have scaled back production or even closed completely, lifting local steel prices off 20-year lows.

    China is using tougher environmental rules to help tackle a severe steel capacity glut that has depressed prices and saddled much of the sector - the world's biggest - with crippling debt.

    Tangshan, which is 200 km (124 miles) east of Beijing and produces more steel a year than the United States, has been on the frontline of campaigns to cut smog and tackle overcapacity.

    The city has pledged to reduce its annual crude steel capacity by 28 million tonnes from 2013 until 2017, roughly a fifth of its total, and its steel firms are now being forced to undergo costly upgrades.

    "There are so many plants that are having to cut or stop production," said Zhou Junjia, a sales manager at Baifeng Iron and Steel Corporation, noting that four privately owned steel firms nearby had recently been forced to close.

    "In Tangshan, there are just too many plants selling steel products. We travel around to customers and to big steel markets in other large cities and no one is buying," added Zhou.

    Baifeng has cut daily crude steel production by 40 percent to 1,200 tonnes in recent months, which would amount to an annual cut of 292,000 tonnes.

    "We are at least not losing money and are covering our production costs," he said, noting that it could break even by relying on its processing and trading business.

    The premises of Kailida Iron and Steel, a private producer located nearby, appeared to have been abandoned and attempts to reach staff failed with their phone lines disconnected.

    In the nearby township of Fengnan, the Qingquan steelworks closed in late 2013 for what staff said was a temporary shut down after it was unable to pay its workers.

    While guards remain outside the plant, operations have not yet resumed more than a year and a half later.

    China steelTangshan, located in Hebei province, is making industrial firms - including steel mills - renovate facilities over the next few months in order to meet strict new pollution standards.

    Mills in areas surrounding Beijing will also have to reduce output from Aug. 20 to Sept. 3 to help air quality as the city commemorates the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

    According to a survey publish this week by the Hebei Province Metallurgical Industry Association, as many as 26 blast furnaces in Tangshan have been closed from July for overhauls, and a "majority" of steel processing plants throughout Hebei have either shut down or halved production due to persistently weak prices and environmental pressures.

    The cut backs are already having an impact on local steel prices, with steel billet in Tangshan rising by 12.6 percent to 1,880 yuan per tonne since hitting a low of 1,670 yuan on July 8, according to data provider Mysteel.

    Xue Heping, a China Iron and Steel Association (CISA) analyst, warned against "blind optimism" but said in a report that "the worst period for the steel market is already passing."

    However, prices in Tangshan remain more than 12 percent lower than the start of the year and 30 percent down from August 2014. CISA's composite price index is some 37 percent lower than the reference prices set in 1994.

    Jiang Ping, an analyst with ChinaTSI, an industry consultancy, said expectations of tougher environmental controls and supply cutbacks were helping prices.

    "But I don't think there is any long-term support for prices because none of this solves the fundamental issues of overcapacity and weak demand," she said. 

    (Additional reporting by Shanghai newsroom; Editing by Ed Davies)

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    cufflink horizontal a4

    Air pollution kills 80 people every day in the Indian city of New Delhi. In London, nearly 9,500 people die in a year due to the air they breathe. In fact, dirty air is responsible for one in eight premature deaths worldwide.

    While air purifiers are able to clean the air in your living room and office, there is little escape from deadly pollutants once you step out into the open.

    Now, Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde is closing in on a $54,000 funding goal for a Kickstarter campaign to bring air purification outside by way of a massive, outdoor air purifier.

    The first so-called Smog-Free Tower — a 23 by 11.5 foot structure that will reportedly run on wind energy — will be built in Rotterdam and then carried to other cities. Mumbai, Paris, Beijing, and Los Angeles are possible destinations.

    Roosegaarde and his team will also use the smog from the purifier to make tiny cubes that could be mounted in rings and cuff links.

    This is all part of a larger campaign — called the smog-free movement— in which Roosegaarde is urging individuals, non-profits, and governments around the world to make cities smog-free. Of course, one tower, no matter how awesome, will have a tough time ridding a city of smog. The point of the Smog-Free Tower, according to the design studio, is to provide a "sensory experience of a clean future." 

    The technology — called air ionization — has been used in places like hospitals to clean air for more than 50 years. The process is surprisingly elegant: a purifier sends positively charged air molecules out into the air, which stick themselves to ultra-fine smog particles that are pulled back in. The purifier then blows out smog-free, clean air.  

    Smog Blocks Roosegaarde

    The smog dust filled with carbon would then be compressed into an 8.4 mm by 8.4 mm cube. You can order rings, cuff-links, or simply a cube as part of backing the Kickstarter.

    Roosegaarde says that the process of making each of those accessories will clean 1,000 cubic meters of polluted air. He estimates that in severely polluted areas, the purifier will be able to produce 3,500 smog cubes a day.  

    There's even a smog-free party planned in Rotterdam on September 4. Book your tickets now.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Meet the dark side of the new 'Star Wars' cast


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    Lithium is one of the most mysterious elements in the universe to scientists, but it's also a growing commodity for automotive companies like Nissan, Tesla, Volkswagen, and even NASA's Mars rovers, who are using it in the game-changing re-chargeable batteries that fuel their all-electric automobiles.

    Just in the last few years, astronomers have found ways to explain why our sun is relatively poor in lithium abundance and why our galaxy is unusually rich with it. At the same time, all-electric cars are growing in popularity (see the chart below), and as of the beginning of this year Tesla vehicles were the most popular in the US. Even global sales are continuing to rise:

    Global_sales_Tesla_Model_S_by_quarterWhile solving cosmic mysterious have little to do with our immediate demand for lithium-powered cars here on Earth, it's important to recognize that without the Big Bang and stars, we wouldn't have any lithium at all to help us curb harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

    "As battery technology improves, lithium is expected to play a key role in efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions that are responsible for global warming," the US Geological Survey states in a report, which mentions that lithium's "greatest potential for the most people" is in the form of these re-chargeable batteries.

    It's only been within the last 115 years that humans have begun mining Earth's lithium resources, and right now production is booming. The spike you see in 2000 is from the rise in demand for rechargeable lithium ion batteries:

    Screen Shot 2015 08 07 at 11.44.36 AMOver the last five years, lithium's use in batteries has substantially increased compared to other uses. Lithium is also a useful element in glass production because it lowers the melting temperature of glass, which mean manufacturers can use less energy to melt, shape, and mold their products.

    lithiumThere's an estimated 39 million tons of lithium on Earth, but only about one-third of that is in a form that humans can mine in an economically-feasible way.

    The vast majority of this mineable lithium — about 87% — can be found in salty, briny lakes. The remaining 13% is contained in hard rock mineral deposits.

    As demand for lithium-ion batteries began to sky rocket after the turn of the century, mining companies looked to salt brine for more lithium. To extract lithium from brine requires a lengthy evaporation process that lasts between 8 months to three years, but it's a simpler and costs about half as much than mining hard rock: Screen Shot 2015 08 07 at 11.57.25 AMThere are some concerns that as we continue to demand more lithium-based products, we'll deplete the Earth of this resource. USGS estimates that if America's demand for electric vehicles continues on its upward trend, then by 2050 we'll need to mine about 54,000 tons of lithium a year — about one-third more than the total amount of lithium produced in 2014 for all lithium-based products — to meet demand for lithium in rechargeable batteries alone.

    Nevertheless, others argue that this level of mining won't threaten Earth's total reserve, since deposits in countries including Chile, China, and Australia remain relatively high.

    As of 2014, here's how much lithium was still in mineable reserves in the world's leading lithium manufacturers:

    lithiumreservesWhen it comes the future of electric vehicles, it's not the lithium that's going to pose a problem — the electricity these cars will use is going to tax electrical companies more than the lithium mining will take natural reserves.

    CHECK OUT: A new study proves that you can check if a battery still has a charge by dropping it Read more: http://www.techinsider.io/how-to-tell-if-a-battery-is-fully-charged-2015-8#ixzz3i9iBCYri

    SEE ALSO: Here's how to tell a psychopath from a sociopath

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    Health officials are warning some Colorado residents after 1 million gallons of contaminated waste water spilled into a river. The EPA said the spill occurred while workers were trying to treat the waste water, which was located near an abandoned mine.

    Produced by Lamar Salter. Video courtesy of Reuters.

    Follow BI Video: On Facebook

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    cufflink horizontal a4

    Air pollution kills 80 people every day in the Indian city of New Delhi. In London, nearly 9,500 people die in a year due to the air they breathe. In fact, dirty air is responsible for one in eight premature deaths worldwide.

    While air purifiers are able to clean the air in your living room and office, there is little escape from deadly pollutants once you step out into the open.

    Now, Dutch designer Daan Roosegaarde is closing in on a $54,000 funding goal for a Kickstarter campaign to bring air purification outside by way of a massive, outdoor air purifier.

    The first so-called Smog-Free Tower — a 23 by 11.5 foot structure that will reportedly run on wind energy — will be built in Rotterdam and then carried to other cities. Mumbai, Paris, Beijing, and Los Angeles are possible destinations.

    Roosegaarde and his team will also use the smog from the purifier to make tiny cubes that could be mounted in rings and cuff links.

    This is all part of a larger campaign — called the smog-free movement— in which Roosegaarde is urging individuals, non-profits, and governments around the world to make cities smog-free. Of course, one tower, no matter how awesome, will have a tough time ridding a city of smog. The point of the Smog-Free Tower, according to the design studio, is to provide a "sensory experience of a clean future." 

    The technology — called air ionization — has been used in places like hospitals to clean air for more than 50 years. The process is surprisingly elegant: a purifier sends positively charged air molecules out into the air, which stick themselves to ultra-fine smog particles that are pulled back in. The purifier then blows out smog-free, clean air.  

    Smog Blocks Roosegaarde

    The smog dust filled with carbon would then be compressed into an 8.4 mm by 8.4 mm cube. You can order rings, cuff-links, or simply a cube as part of backing the Kickstarter.

    Roosegaarde says that the process of making each of those accessories will clean 1,000 cubic meters of polluted air. He estimates that in severely polluted areas, the purifier will be able to produce 3,500 smog cubes a day.  

    There's even a smog-free party planned in Rotterdam on September 4. Book your tickets now.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Meet the dark side of the new 'Star Wars' cast


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    Syncrude oil sands

    (Reuters) - Alberta's energy regulator said on Saturday it is investigating reports that about 30 blue herons have died at a Syncrude Canada oil sands mine site in the northern part of the Canadian province.

    The Alberta Energy Regulator said it sent investigators to the Syncrude Canada Mildred Lake site, which is about 40 km (25 miles) north of Fort McMurray.

    In 2010, Syncrude was fined C$3 million ($2.29 million) for negligence in the 2008 deaths of 1,600 ducks in a toxic waste pond, a case that fueled international concern about the environmental impact of developing Canada's oil sands.

    Syncrude's partners include Canadian Oil Sands Ltd, Imperial Oil Ltd, Suncor Energy Inc, Sinopec, CNOOC Ltd's Nexen, Japan's Mocal Energy and Murphy Oil Co.

    Officials with Syncrude did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    In November, the Alberta regulator cleared several oil sands operators of responsibility for the death of 196 waterfowl that landed on their toxic tailings ponds, saying poor weather conditions forced the birds down.

    (Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

    SEE ALSO: Venezuela is tilting toward a major social crisis

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    NOW WATCH: Stunning drone video captures the beauty of Canada's oil province


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    Colorado gold mine spill

    FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — A yellow sludge spilling from a shuttered gold mine into a southwestern Colorado river has reached northern New Mexico, a state official said Saturday.

    The plume arrived in the city of Aztec on Friday night and Farmington on Saturday morning, San Juan County Emergency Management Director Don Cooper said.

    Officials in both cities shut down the river's access to water treatment plants and say the communities have a 90-day supply of water and other water sources to draw from.

    "There's not a lot we can do. We can keep people away (from the river) and keep testing," Cooper said. "We still don't know how bad it is."

    About 1 million gallons of wastewater from Colorado's Gold King Mine began spilling into the Animas River on Wednesday when a cleanup crew supervised by the Environmental Protection Agency accidentally breached a debris dam that had formed inside the mine.

    The mine has been inactive since 1923.

    Ducks wade in the Animas River as orange sludge from a mine spill upstream flows past Berg Park in Farmington, N.M., Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015. About 1 million gallons of wastewater from Colorado's Gold King Mine began spilling into the Animas River on Wednesday when a cleanup crew supervised by the Environmental Protection Agency accidentally breached a debris dam that had formed inside the mine. The mine has been inactive since 1923( Alexa Rogals/The Daily Times via AP)No health hazard has been detected, but tests were being analyzed. Federal officials say the spill contains heavy metals including lead and arsenic.

    The EPA planned to release additional information Saturday afternoon.

    In addition to New Mexico, wastewater from the mine was also inching toward Utah.

    The Animas flows into the San Juan River in New Mexico, and the San Juan flows into Utah, where it joins the Colorado River in Lake Powell.

    The spilled water also contained cadmium, aluminum, copper and calcium, but the concentrations were not yet known.

    While awaiting further results on the concentration levels of the metals in the water, the EPA released results Saturday showing how acidic the water became after the spill.

    colorado riverIn Cement Creek, near the spill, the water registered a pH level of 3.74, which the EPA said is similar to the acidity of tomato juice and apples. Further downstream, in Silverton, pH levels were found to be about 4.8, which is similar to liquid black coffee.

    The EPA warned people to stay out of the river and to keep domestic animals from drinking from it. Local officials declared stretches of the river off-limits in Colorado and New Mexico.

    At least two of the heavy metals found in the waste water can be lethal for humans with long-term exposure. Arsenic at high levels can cause blindness, paralysis and cancer. Lead poisoning can create muscle and vision problems for adults, harm development in fetuses and lead to kidney disease, developmental problems and sometimes death in children, the EPA said.

    Water continues to spill from the mine at a rate of about 700 gallons per minute, Joan Card, an adviser to Environmental Protection Agency Regional Director Shaun McGrath, said Saturday. Crews were building containment ponds to catch and treat the water.

    Water samples were also tested in New Mexico, but no results had been released.

    Officials said the contamination would likely settle into sediment in Lake Powell. Glen Canyon National Recreation Area officials said visitors will be warned starting Monday to avoid drinking, swimming or boating on affected stretches of the lake and river until further notice.

    The spill from the mine flowed down Cement Creek and into the scenic Animas River, which is popular with boaters and anglers.

    When the spill happened, the EPA-supervised crew was trying to enter the mine to pump out and treat the water, EPA spokeswoman Lisa McClain-Vanderpool said.

    ___

    Associated Press writer Jacques Billeaud reported from Phoenix, and Ivan Moreno reported from Denver.

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    Last week, California's water-starved landscape was hit with a series of intense lightning storms that sparked over two dozen wildfires. While firefighters battle the flames on the ground, NASA satellites are documenting the damage from space.

    This photo was taken last Tuesday (Aug. 4) by the Terra satellite, orbiting Earth 443 miles above the surface. Red circles outline the regions that were actively burning at the time the picture was taken:

    california.a2015212.2105.500mWhen combined, intense lightning, drought-ridden landscapes, and high winds generate the perfect storm for sparking and spreading wildfires.

    On July 30, a single lightning storm that moved through Northern California spawned seven fires that grew to over two dozen. "After initial firefighters responded, 25 fires were reported and most of the fires were contained,"NASA reported.

    The photo below was taken one day later, on Wednesday, Aug. 5. You can clearly see the giant smoke clouds moving to the east as the fires continue to burn.

    20150806 californiaCalifornia's wildfires have been consuming the sunshine state's central and north-eastern landscape for eight weeks straight now. So far, they have scorched over 250 square miles, driven thousands of residents from their homes, and destroyed tens of homes and public buildings while threatening hundreds of millions of dollars in additional property damage.

    LEARN MORE: Devastating photos of California's wildfires show just how bad it really is

    SEE ALSO: Here's where over 90% of the extra heat from global warming is going and the billions of dollars it's costing us

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A devastating look at the California drought


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