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The latest news on Environment from Business Insider

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    Kiribati climate change

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The World Bank is boosting spending to help poorer countries battle global warming and power 150 million homes with renewable energy.

    The bank released a 59-page climate action plan Thursday designed to help less developed nations meet global warming goals they set last December in Paris.

    The private-sector arm of the international financial organization plans to increase its $2.3 billion-a-year spending on fighting climate change to $3.5 billion a year by 2020.

    Officials hope to spur $13 billion a year in similar private investments.

    The bank also plans to help developing countries add 30 gigawatts of electricity to power 150 million homes without emissions of heat-trapping gases.

    "We're making climate change a central part of everything we're doing," said John Roome, the bank's senior director for climate change.

    The World Bank Group said it spends about $10.3 billion a year on climate, which is slated to rise to $16 billion a year by 2020.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here’s why even one drop of water confuses your smartphone screen


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    These gadgets are perfect examples of when technology successfully meets consumer needs. They are not only cool-looking products but also very practical ones that you can use everyday. The innovating gadgets are developed by Ruggie, Fontus, Avegant, Tapplock, and Nebia.

    Produced by Gene Kim. Original reporting by Maya Dangerfield, Rob LudacerKevin Reilly, Will Wei.

    Follow TI: On Facebook

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    asteroid slooh pitbull

    December's weather has been pretty much apocalyptic in some parts of the world. Huge parts of Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, and the UK have been heavily hit by floods.

    Add to this the devastating, unseasonal tornadoes in Texas, and the crazily high temperatures of the US East Coast and in continental Europe.

    Man-made climate change is starting to take its toll, and the world will soon officially have warmed up by 1 degree Celsius since 1900, causing massive changes to our planet. 

    There's also the rise of Islamic State, and increasing tensions between Russia and Turkey after the latter shot down a Russian military plane in November. All in all, the world is in a bit of trouble.

    Humanity has already survived a financial crisis, and warnings of the Mayan Apocalypse in the past decade, but if 2016 is the year the world does finally start to collapse, we think you should know where to head to survive.

    We have selected places that we expect will remain fortresses of stability, safety, and prosperity no matter what the world throws at them.

     

    SEE ALSO: 2015 will mark a 'symbolic and significant milestone' for Earth in the worst way possible

    Iceland

    Iceland is by far the most isolated country in Europe, located hundreds of miles from any other land, making it tricky for any potential invaders to get to.

    The country is also awash with useful resources for staying alive. It is powered almost entirely by geothermal energy from the country's many active volcanoes, and its coastal waters have some of the best and most abundant seafood anywhere in the world. So in the event of having to hole out on the island for a long time, you can rely on being warm and well fed.

    Iceland also survived a near total collapse of its banking system during the financial crisis, so you know its citizens are pretty resilient, essential if the end of the world does come.



    Tristan da Cunha

    This island chain in the south Atlantic is actually the world's most remote inhabited archipelago, more than 2,000 kilometers from the nearest land. The population is just over 300, so we're sure they're looking for new residents. It's known for excellent fishing — the perfect career if times were to get really bad.



    Guam

    This is one for American patriots, who can take refuge in this far-flung outpost of America. Guam is situated in the Pacific, and it is home to a massive American military presence, perfect for keeping people safe in the event that Russian-Turkish relations go downhill and we find ourselves in the middle of World War III.

    Guam isn't exactly home to a booming economy, however, with most of its income coming from tourists and the US government.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    solar panel

    Solar power is making huge strides as a reliable, renewable energy source, but there's still a lot of untapped potential in terms of the efficiency of photovoltaic cells and what happens at night and during inclement weather.

    Now a solution has been put forward in the form of producing energy from raindrops.

    Key to the new process is graphene: a 'wonder' material we've heard plenty about before.

    Because raindrops are not made up of pure water, and contain various salts that split up into positive and negative ions, a team from the Ocean University of China in Qingdao thinks we can harness power via a simple chemical reaction.

    Specifically, they want to use graphene sheets to separate the positively charged ions in rain (including sodium, calcium, and ammonium) and in turn generate electricity.

    Early tests, using slightly salty water to simulate rain, have been promising: the researchers were able to generate hundreds of microvolts and achieve a respectable 6.53 percent solar-to-electric conversion efficiency from their customized solar panel. 

    For the experiment, the team used an inexpensive, thin-film solar cell called a dye-sensitised solar cell. After adding a layer of graphene to the cell, it was put on a transparent backing of indium tin oxide and plastic. The resulting 'all-weather' solar cell concept was then equipped to produce power from both sunshine and the rain substitute.

    What's happening here is that the positively charged ions are binding to the ultra-thin layer of graphene and forming a double layer (technically referred to as a pseudocapacitor) with the electrons already present. The potential energy difference between the two layers is strong enough to generate an electric current.

    The experiment is still just in the 'proof of concept' phase, so there's work to be done, but the researchers hope their findings can "guide the design"of future all-weather solar cells and contribute to the growing influence of renewable energy.

    They're now working on adjusting the technology to handle the variety of ions found in real raindrops and figuring how to generate enough electricity from the typically low concentrations they come in.

    It's not the first time graphene has been used to boost solar energy technologies: earlier this year, a team from the UK was able to create a graphene-based material that's very effective at absorbing ambient heat and light, and which could eventually lead to solar panels that can work with the diffuse sunlight that finds its way indoors. 

    If these scientists get their way, in the future, photovoltaic cells may not be hampered by a lack of direct sunshine at all.

    The study has been published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

    SEE ALSO: One chart shows the incredible potential of renewable energy in the US

    MORE: These 10 countries are ramping up clean energy more than any others

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Bottlenose dolphins’ sonar is more advanced than scientists thought


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    water_0

    Plastic bottles can lay around in landfill sites or the ocean for centuries.

    While our planet struggles to cope with our ever-increasing appetite for plastic, an Icelandic product design student was inspired to create a little something to address the issue.

    Ari Jónsson, from the Iceland Academy of the Arts, has harnessed the properties of red algae to create a biodegradable bottle for drinking water.

    He unveiled his invention at Reykjavik design festival DesignMarch last month.

    The bottles are made out of agar powder, which derives from the supporting structure in the cell walls of certain species of algae. If this is added to water and allowed to cool, it will eventually set and mould into a jelly-like substance.

    The bottle retains its shape when it's full of fluid but will start to decompose as soon as it's empty it. Since it's made of all natural and non-toxic materials, you can even eat the bottle – although agar is used as a laxative, so you might want to go easy on it.

    Speaking to Dezeen, Jónsson said: "Why are we using materials that take hundreds of years to break down in nature to drink from once and then throw away?

    "I read that 50% of plastic is used once and then thrown away so I feel there is an urgent need to find ways to replace some of the unreal amount of plastic we make, use and throw away each day."

    At the moment, the bottle is still just a concept design and has no plans for commercial distribution. Nonetheless, it’s still a creative solution which is helping challenge our frivolous attitudes to chucking away waste.

    "I can't claim that this is the perfect solution for our problem with plastic bottles," Jónsson told Fast Company.

    "But it's a start and an idea that hopefully helps us to look at new ways to solve the problem ... Switching to reusable bottles is also great, but that will have its pros and cons, just like my project, the more ways we can tackle this issue the better."

    SEE ALSO: 13 striking photos that show how polluted China's water has become

    MORE: Mark Zuckerberg's latest running photo is a peek into a much larger, sadder story

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here’s why even one drop of water confuses your smartphone screen


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    The iPhone 6s is arguably the best smartphone available at the moment, and a large part of that success is Apple's "in-house" mentality where it makes and designs its hardware and software to work with each other.

    But Apple doesn't do it on its own.

    It relies heavily on a bunch of different tech companies to make the parts for the iPhone, and some of them even come from competing smartphone makers like Samsung. Apple has to make sure those parts play nicely with the other important parts, as well as the iPhone's operating system, iOS.

    Check out which companies make some of the iPhone's most important parts and where they're made:

    TI_Graphics_where your iPhone comes from v02

    SEE ALSO: Stephen Hawking and Russian billionaire Yuri Milner are launching a $100-million initiative to send 100-million-mile-an-hour bots to Alpha Centauri

    AND READ: Here's how many minutes the average doctor actually spends with each patient

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's why the time is always 9:41 in Apple product photos


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    Burger King Whopper

    Over the last decade or so, the media have slowly but steadily fed the public information about the staggering impact of our meat-eating habits on the environment, and on climate change in particular.

    For instance, one recent study found that a global transition toward low-meat diets could reduce the costs of climate change mitigation by as much as 50 percent by 2050. 

    From scientific reports and articles in magazines, to viral Facebook videos to documentaries like Cowspiracy and Meat the Truth, the news about the exorbitant contribution of a carnivorous to the greenhouse problem is clearly spreading.

    However, despite all these messages, new research by my colleagues and myself shows that most people are still not aware of the full extent of meat’s climate impacts.

    We examined how citizens in America and the Netherlands assess various food and energy-related options for tackling climate change.

    We presented representative groups of more than 500 people in both countries with three food-related options (eat less meat; eat local and seasonal produce; and eat organic produce) and three energy-related options (drive less; save energy at home; and install solar panels).

    Shoppers stand by the vegetables aisle inside a Fresh & Easy store in Burbank, California October 19, 2012. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

    We asked them whether they were willing to make these changes in their own lives, and whether they already did these things. While a majority of the surveyed people recognized meat reduction as an effective option for addressing climate change, the outstanding effectiveness of this option, in comparison to the other options, was only clear to 6% of the US population, and only 12% of the Dutch population.

    That is remarkably low! Considering that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time, wouldn’t we want people to know the power of a simple solution that is in their own hands?

    In terms of communication efforts for behavioral change, the outstanding effectiveness of reducing meat consumption could be a game-changer: knowing that it makes such a big difference may motivate people to change. This is particularly so, because the research results also show a direct relationship between this knowledge and people’s willingness to consume less meat as well as their actual meat consumption. So knowledge does seem to be power, in this case.

    However, to put that last finding in perspective, this may not be a causal relationship. People who already eat less meat may be more open to hear and retain information on the climate impacts of meat, while people who eat lots of meat may be more inclined to deny or downplay it. That is, behaviors may inform knowledge as much as knowledge informs behavior. And as many studies have shown, although knowledge is an important aspect of behavioral change, it alone is rarely enough for people to change their lifestyles. Changing behaviors as intimate and culturally engrained as people’s daily dietary habits therefore demands a careful consideration of the psychological and cultural dynamics at play.

    Currently, most communications around meat and climate change are in the category of ‘the pointing finger’, thereby creating guilt, shame, and stigmatization among committed carnivores, and activating psychological mechanisms of denial and downplay. Stating that eating meat is ‘bad’ therefore doesn’t seem to work that well.

    costco worker red meat beef

    However, for people who already identify as environmentalists, this strategy can be very effective. They tend to embrace this message, especially if the finger is pointed at an external other they are suspicious of (e.g., ‘the capitalist system’, ‘the meat-industry’). We see this in the success of Cowspiracy, which readily convinced countless people to ‘go vegan.’ Many of these people have a postmodern worldview, are aligned with environmental values, and are suspicious of the corporate influences in our economic system — so the message is easy to digest.

    However, if these communications are hoping to convince the rest of the population, we urgently need to move beyond finger pointing tactics. This counts particularly for people with more traditional and modern worldviews, who generally don’t identify as environmentalists or hold strong green values. Perhaps this is the reason environmental organizations have been remarkably silent on the issue of meat consumption, and why the topic is still often lacking in discussions on climate change. Since we haven’t quite figured out how to communicate it in a non-paternalistic, non-judgmental way, most institutions stay away from meddling in affairs as personal as what is on one’s plate.

    We seem to be in dire need of an inspiring and empowering narrative about climate change and the impact of our diets. The good thing is, the situation around meat is empowering, as it puts the power back in our own hands (and mouths). We are not at the mercy of the system, but have substantial influence ourselves. Likewise, it is that the most effective way by far for individuals to do their part tends to also lead to better health, weight control, creativity in the kitchen, and animal welfare. While environmental behaviors often involve sacrifices, the meat-reduction option offers a range of personal benefits.

    According to a 2015 Chatham House Report“Changing climate, changing diets”, people in industrialized countries consume on average around twice as much meat as experts deem healthy. In the US the multiple is nearly three times. Adoption of a healthy diet would therefore generate over a quarter of the emission reductions needed by 2050! The invitation for people is thus not to give up their delicious steak and become vegetarian (something they may consider ‘extreme’), but rather to do something that serves themselves: eat a little less meat and get healthier. Become ‘flexatarian’, as people call this new trend. For a world that is also struggling with obesity and many other health problems, the news couldn’t be better; address two massive problems for the efforts of one.

    In addition, this meat-reduction option fits seamlessly with an era in which the ‘consciousness movement’ increasingly influences mainstream culture. People pay more attention to the origins of their food, value their connection with nature, and generally show more concern for their health and well-being, including food habits and body awareness. We see this for example in the countless yoga studios popping up in big cities, the 'hipness' of organic food, the super foods that are nowadays also found in conventional supermarkets, and struggling fast food corporations like MacDonald’s. It also resonates with the ubiquitous search for 'balance'. This means that the cultural evolution of society is moving in the right direction: we have the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times, working in favor of us.

    This is of crucial importance. As many authors have argued, the greatest potential for a shift towards sustainable lifestyles is through a change in culture and worldview—a shift in assumptions about human nature, our relationship with the (natural) world around us, and our aspirations for the ‘good life’. Food touches on social habits and norms; plays a role in mediating power and status; is often key to social participation and acceptance; and is expressive of collective values and identity. Consumption and lifestyles therefore tend to be shaped more by people collectively than individually. The most effective strategies thus engage people in groups, and give them opportunities to develop their understanding and narratives about food in dialog together.  

    One of my master students, Lena Johanning, translated this idea by developing postcards that humorously depict "flexitarian" superheroes on the front, with an invitation for a veggie dinner on the back, coupled with some amazing fact about meat and climate change. In that way, she framed plant-based dinners not only as environmentally effective, but also as fun and social, an opportunity for people to get together and explore.

    Developing a range of approaches, including framing plant-based dinners around creative cooking and the deliciousness of vegetables, around the health and weight loss benefits, or around what it means for animals and our connection with nature, could be an effective way to speak to a wide range of people. Although no studies have been done to scientifically examine such approaches, considering what is at stake, it is certainly worth the experiment. Then, policy makers and environmental organizations can start to tap into and reinforce the changing culture and Zeitgeist. In that way, the change can start to accelerate, supporting us to collectively get better at creating the world we want.

    References:

    De Boer, Joop, De Witt, Annick, & Aiking, Harry. (2016). Help the climate, change your diet: A cross-sectional study on how to involve consumers in a transition to a low-carbon society. Appetite, 98, 19-27.

    Michaelis, Laurie. (2007). Consumption behavior and narratives about the good life. In S. C. Moser & L. Dilling (Eds.), Creating a Climate for Change. Communicating Climate Change and Facilitating Social Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    SEE ALSO: 8 incredible benefits that explain why this is the only diet you should ever do

    MORE: Something we have no control over could be playing a huge role in weight gain

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Eating habits that can improve your health — according to scientists


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    RTX1BVAS

    California just entered its fifth year in drought. Experts say it has been the worst the state has seen in 1,200 years.

    Dwindling reservoirs, shrinking lakes, and dried-up farm fields were everywhere last year — and despite some recent signs of recovery, the overall forecast is still ominously dry.

    Just this month, the state announced that it's snowpack reserves, which usually supply California's farmers and residents with roughly a third of their water, have finally recovered to normal levels, thanks to El Niño. Last year they lingered at their lowest level in history.

    These photos, most of which are from May 2015, are an important reminder of the intense damage this season's drought has wrought:

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

    SEE ALSO: A Los Angeles resident powered through enough water for nearly 100 homes — and the city won't name him

    Reservoir banks that were once underwater at Millerton Lake on the San Joaquin River in Friant, a town just north of Fresno in California's Central Valley.



    Reservoir banks that used to be underwater at Millerton Lake on top of the Friant Dam.



    A field of dead almond trees in Coalinga in the Central Valley. Almonds use an estimated 10% of the state's water budget.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    crab swarm

    A newly released video from a small underwater vehicle found something quite surprising: A swarm of thousands of crabs all headed in the same direction, 1,263 feet deep in the Pacific Ocean, according to Motherboard

    And it looks like something out of your worst nightmare.

    Or, if you're a scientist who studies this type of thing, it's a dream come true. 

    The scientists who captured the video have no idea what the crabs are doing, where they're headed, or why they've all decided to move at the same time.

    "It was unusual. In the past, we’ve noticed aggregations of breeding crabs hanging around the ocean floor, or migrating onto land if they’re terrestrial," Jesús Pineda, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) told Motherboard. "But these particular crabs weren’t responding to food, or migrating, or reproducing. This was something different."

    The video was filmed in April last year but only just released, as researchers were investigating the complex deep water ecosystems off the Hannibal Bank seamount off the coast of Panama.

    DNA testing revealed the crabs to be members of the Pleuroncodes planipes species, which is sometimes known as the "tuna crab." They're a favorite snack of tuna and other large aquatic species like billfish and yellowtail.

    The crabs are usually found in deep water off the Southern California coast, but they've never been spotted as far south as Panama, according to New Scientist

    Tuna crabs' range can extend northward (as far as Monterey, California) in El Niño years, when strong currents push larvae that direction.

    But Pineda doesn't think El Nino explains why a swarm this large would be found off the coast of Panama.

    "I don’t see a mechanism for El Niño explaining what we observed," he told Motherboard. "At the time of the cruise one year ago, a full El Niño had not been declared."

    And while scientists know that these crabs move up and down the water column to feed, usually retreating during the day to deep, low-oxygen waters to avoid predators, they say they've never seen anything like this swarm.

    The pattern of the crab swarm, while common for terrestrial insects, is uncommon among bottom-dwelling organisms, according to Pineda. 

    "Insect swarms tend to head in the same direction, but we don’t know where the red crabs were heading or why they were moving," Pineda told New Scientist.

    In a paper published for PeerJ, Pineda and his colleagues theorized that the crabs they spotted represent the southern end of the tuna crab species more commonly found in Southern California. 

    The researchers plan to return to Panama to find out what exactly the swarm of crabs was doing and what role, if any, their movement might play in the complex seamount ecosystem.

    SEE ALSO: 50 million crabs take over an entire island every year

    SEE ALSO: A giant ocean observatory has captured thousands of hours of video revealing some crazy natural phenomena

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Scientists are mystified by this rare footage of thousands of crabs crawling on the seafloor


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    Faraday Future groundbreaking

    NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Some four months after electric-car company Faraday Future announced plans to build its first US manufacturing facility in Nevada, the ceremonial shovels have been driven into the ground.

    "Welcome home, Faraday. Welcome home," Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval declared as he took the stage at the construction site in North Las Vegas on Wednesday.

    About 4,500 jobs will be created in and around the planned 900-acre factory that will house the assembly line for Faraday Future's forthcoming electric autonomous vehicles.

    Some of the core technologies for those rides are in the advanced stages of development, according to Nick Sampson, Faraday Future's SVP of research and development and engineering. He tells Business Insider that the process has been a smooth one so far.

    "We're testing both mechanical and software systems, and before the end of this year, we'll have full prototypes that represent our production cars."

    "Our first vehicle will be at the premium end of the segment," Faraday Future representative Stacy Morris told Business Insider last week.

    "The cars will have industry-leading range, and the connectivity and the streaming technology will be the unique selling point of the Faraday brand," she added.

    Faraday Future factory site

    The site of the Faraday Future plant is about 500 miles south of Tesla's Gigafactory battery plant — roughly the same distance as Los Angeles is from California's capital, Sacramento.

    It's being built in the desert of North Las Vegas, about 30 minutes outside The Strip, in an area that was nearly suffocated by an economic dry spell just two years ago. Fitch Ratings in 2014 warned that the city was close to defaulting on some of its $436 million of outstanding debt, Reuters reported at the time.

    The project is ambitious, to be sure. Faraday Future, backed by Jia Yueting, a billionaire Chinese media mogul, wants to complete the factory in roughly two years.

    "This is just the beginning," Faraday's VP of global manufacturing, Dag Reckhorn, said at the groundbreaking. "We are laser-focused on making this project a reality for Faraday Future and the community around us."

    Reckhorn added that local hiring for the factory has already begun.

    Faraday Future groundbreaking   1

    Crews will start grading the land at the site this quarter, but there are still some details to be squared away in the meantime — including construction contracts, which Faraday representatives say are being finalized.

    The company officially took ownership of all 900 acres of the North Las Vegas property on Wednesday.

    Early trepidations that some Nevada state officials had expressed — specifically about the size and availability of Faraday Future's financial resources — have been alleviated.

    North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee applauded the work of the state Legislature and Faraday reps for their due diligence in sealing the deal.

    "We plan to succeed," he said.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This is what it's like to drive Chevy's Tesla-killer


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    ripe coffee beans

    Purchase enough specialty coffee beans from a fancy brewhouse, and you're bound to notice some of the same regions listed over and over again on the little placard on the front of the bag.

    Places like Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Brazil, Ethiopia, and Indonesia.

    Each of these countries are in vastly different zones of the world, but they all share something in common: They lie in a band of tropical regions along the equator in what's become known as "The Bean Belt."

    This coffee-rich channel of land doesn't line up like this by accident. Many of the world's most delicious coffee plants are cultivated in mountainous regions that lie at latitudes 25 degrees North and 30 degrees South of the equator.

    And there's a scientific reason why coffee grown in this zone tastes much better than coffee cultivated elsewhere.

    coffee growing regions map_an

    Coffee plants are very finicky about where they'll grow best. The tastiest beans come from plants that are not only cultivated in warm, humid tropical environments, but in terrain that sits at high elevations — ideally 1,300 to 1,400 meters above sea level, Sam Lewontin, a KRUPS ambassador, champion barista, and expert on all things coffee told Tech Insider.

    The warm days and cold nights typical of this mountainous yet tropical environment "shock" the natural chemicals — organic acids, aromatic compounds, and sugars — that make coffee taste delicious into the bean. That delectable blend of flavors then gets released into your cup when you brew.

    The magical combination of heat, humidity, rainfall, elevation, and soil quality affects the bean so precisely that one plant could have a radically different taste from another plant grown just a few feet away.

    coffee beans

    Places known for their tasty coffee, such as South and Central America, East Africa, the Pacific, and India, are notorious for having these perfect conditions. But as temperatures across the globe continue to spike, these gold-standard coffee-growing regions are becoming threatened.

    One thing we're beginning to see is that the belt of fertile coffee ground is shifting to higher elevations.

    "The range of altitude in places that have been considered to be strong coffee origins is narrowing," Lewontin said.

    Warmer temperatures are also bringing ideal conditions for plant-killing diseases, such as leaf-killing disease called "roya," to thrive.

    Coffee producers around the world are experimenting with different plant hybrids that can thrive in and combat some of these nasty effects of climate change.

    Hopefully, Lewontin said, these efforts will be enough to salvage these tasty plants for decades to come.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A professor invented a printer that makes art with coffee drippings


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    SSTA201603 mainwebpage (1)

    We're officially on a La Niña watch. 

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Thursday that it has initiated its La Niña watch after new predictions suggest it could be here as early as this fall.

    If it does materialize, the La Niña weather pattern would be coming on the heels of a particularly record-breaking El Niño, which NOAA forecasts will end this summer.

    While El Niños are marked by abnormally warm sea-surface temperatures, La Niñas are marked by abnormally cooler sea-surface temperatures. Those cooler sea-surface temperatures also tend to reduce something called wind shear, a phenomenon that occurs when winds change their speed and direction over short distances.

    When winds can change their speed and direction quickly and easily, it makes hurricanes more likely because the area near the center of the storm can't cool down.

    El Niños aren't always accompanied by La Niñas, NOAA points out. But if one does materialize this year, it will be the first one we've seen since the last one ended in 2012.

    Here's a Gif of the changing sea-temperature anomalies happening now in the Pacific Ocean, which suggest a trend toward a La Niña:

    If a La Niña does form, it won't just increase the risks of a more intense Atlantic hurricane season. It could also lead to warmer and drier winters in the southern part of the US, while the Pacific Northwest, southern part of Alaska, and Midwest could feel the chill of cooler-than-average temperatures. 

    That would be a change of pace compared with what El Niño did to the US this past winter, when the East Coast had seriously warm December temperatures while the south experienced flooding, and New Mexico, Texas, and parts of Oklahoma spent the weekend getting pummeled with a blizzard.

    RELATED: Here comes La Niña

    NEXT: People are flocking to these mysterious hills that seem to defy gravity — here’s what’s actually going on

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This is a weather system in a box


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    Lisa Jackson

    Apple released its latest environmental report, covering 2015, on Thursday.

    Apple's App Store simultaneously recieved a very green makeover on Thursday.

    Apple has placed a new campaign and banner image on the front page of the App Store, called Apps for Earth. The promotion is intended to raise awareness about conservation and environmental issues such as climate change. 

    Lisa Jackson, Apple's VP of environmental initatives, announced the campaign in a Medium post

    "With Apps for Earth, we’re helping to inform, engage and involve millions of people in global environmental efforts through the fitness, education, entertainment and gaming apps they use every day," Jackson wrote

    As part of the campaign, the proceeds from 27 different apps will go directly to the World Wildlife Fund. Some of the apps are top grossers, like Hearthstone and Candy Crush Soda Saga. 

    Apple doesn't just talk — it does appear to be a company that is genuinely dedicated to fighting climate change. One participating app developer told Mashable that Apple employees "really do care. It's not greenwashing. They really drink the Kool-Aid."

    Apple brags that 93% of its energy comes from renewable sources, although some of that figure comes from Apple buying carbon credits to offset conventional electricity it uses.

    But Apple is also building and funding huge fields full of solar panels to power its data centers and office operations. Earlier this year, it issued its first "green bond," raising money that can only be used for environmentally-friendly projects.

    All eyes on Lisa Jackson 

    apple lisa jackson liam

    The report comes as Jackson, Apple's VP for environmental, policy, and social initiatives, has become a prominent public face for the company. 

    At Apple's recent iPhone launch event, Jackson took the stage for the first time to tout the company's commitment to clean energy, and introduced a new recycling robot, called Liam, which ended up ultimately stealing the show away from Apple's other products.

    Jackson was also scheduled to speak at an event at Google headquarters earlier this week about climate change, although she backed out at the last minute. 

    Jackson is not only an expert in the environment, but she's a political creature as well. Before she joined Apple, she was a member of Obama's cabinet, as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from 2009 to 2013. 

    And on Thursday, Apple confirmed that it had hired a new top lobbyist, Cynthia Hogan, a DC insider who had previously worked for the NFL and Vice President Joe Biden. She'll be reporting to — who else — Jackson.  

    SEE ALSO: Apple is borrowing money to fund eco-friendly projects

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    NOW WATCH: JOHN MCAFEE: Why downloading free apps is dangerous


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    A member of the media, wearing a protective suit and a mask, looks at the No. 3 reactor building at Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan in this February 10, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/Files

    In 2011, a catastrophic chain of events led to nuclear meltdowns that caused over 300,000 people to evacuate the towns surrounding Fukushima. Today, the area remains a radioactive ghost town, still too dangerous for human residents.

    But that isn't scaring away the boars.

    These days, the wild boar population is thriving in Fukushima. In March, Fukushima University Environmental Radioactivity Institute assistant ecology professor Okuda Keitokunin told local press that vacant houses in areas damaged by the disaster have served as breeding places of burrows for the boar. The number of boars in the area has increased more than 300% since 2014, currently reaching about 13,000.

    Unlikely wildlife havens

    wild boar babiesThis isn’t the first time a nuclear disaster has provided a stomping ground for local animals.

    The nuclear disaster zone of Chernobyl has seen a surge in its wildlife population over the past few decades, according to National Geographic. It turns out that when you remove humans from the equation, animals like wolves and bears and wild boars actually thrive. In other words, when it comes to choosing between high radiation levels and human cohabitants, we actually appear to be the greater of two evils from a wild animal's perspective.

    Radioactive meat

    In a perfect world, a surplus of wild boar, Japan’s most popular meat, would be a good thing. But these boars are on a strict radioactive diet, munching only on Fukushima’s contaminated vegetation and other small animals. Tests have shown these boars to have high levels of radioactive substances — making their meat unfit for anyone's dinner plate.

    But the problem doesn't end there.

    The poisonous boars have been spilling over into surrounding farms, destroying crops and resulting in more than $900,000 dollars in agricultural damage, the Washington Post reports. To combat their rising population, the government has been offering hunters hefty bounties for dead boars. But this presents another interesting problem: what to do with the bodies which, on average, weigh about 200 pounds each.

    Where do you put a bunch of radioactive boars?

    wild boar huntThirty-five miles from the plant, the city of Nihonmatsu has been providing a temporary solution, the Post reports. The city is home to three mass graves, each with the capacity to hold around 600 boars. But these pits are getting close to the brim, and there’s not enough space in the city to dig out any more.

    The next best solution would be incinerating the bodies. This is where things get a little tricky. Burning the boar carcasses requires a special facility that can filter out radioactive materials to prevent radioactive smoke from raining down on nearby land and contaminating it. The nearest such facility that exists, a $1.4 million crematorium in Soma, can only handle three boars a day, according to ScienceAlert. That isn’t nearly enough to curb their rapidly increasing numbers.

    One thing is for certain: If the Japanese government doesn't figure out to do with these radioactive beasts, local farms could be under significant threat.

    SEE ALSO: The robots Japan enlisted to clean up Fukushima have been destroyed from radiation exposure

    DON'T MISS: Inside the radioactive wasteland of Chernobyl, 30 years after the meltdown

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    NOW WATCH: Japan has built a massive ice wall around Fukushima


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    japan earthquake

    At least two people were killed and 45 injured by a magnitude-6.5 earthquake that knocked down houses and buckled roads in southern Japan on Thursday night.

    Both victims are from the hardest-hit town of Mashiki, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) east of Kumamoto city on the island of Kyushu, said Kumamoto prefecture disaster management official Takayuki Matsushita.

    Earlier, Japanese Red Cross Kumamoto Hospital said it had admitted or treated 45 people, including five with serious injuries.

    The quake struck at 9:26 p.m. at a depth of 11 kilometers (7 miles) near Kumamoto city on the island of Kyushu, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. There was no tsunami risk.

    "The shaking was so violent I couldn't stand still," said Hironobu Kosaki, a Kumamoto Prefectural Police night-duty official.

    Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at least 19 houses collapsed, and hundreds of calls came in reporting building damage and people buried under debris or trapped inside.

    "Because of the night darkness, the extent of damage is still unclear," he said.

    The damage and calls for help are concentrated in the town of Mashiki, about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) southwest of Tokyo, Japan's Fire and Disaster Management Agency said

    One of the victims in Mashiki died after being pulled from some rubble, and the other was killed in a fire, Matsushita said. A third person rescued from under a collapsed building is in a state of heart and lung failure.

    Matsushita said rescue operations were repeatedly disrupted by aftershocks.

    earthquake japan"There was a ka-boom and the whole house shook violently sideways," Takahiko Morita, a Mashiki resident said in a telephone interview with Japanese broadcaster NHK. "Furniture and bookshelves fell down, and books were all over the floor."

    Morita said some houses and walls collapsed in his neighborhood, and water supply had been cut off.

    Dozens of people evacuated their homes and gathered outside Mashiki town hall, sitting on tarps well after midnight. Some wrapped blankets around their shoulders against the springtime chill.

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that the government has mobilized police, firefighters and self-defense troops for the rescue operation.

    "We'll carry out relief operation through the night," he said.

    Suga said there no abnormalities at nearby nuclear facilities. The epicenter was 120 kilometers (74 miles) northeast of Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai nuclear plant, the only one operating in the country.

    Most of Japan's nuclear reactors remain offline following the meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima plant in 2011 after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a huge tsunami.

    Television footage showed fires breaking out in some places, with firefighters battling an orange blaze.

    Keisukei Urata, an official in nearby Uki city who was driving home when the quake struck, told NHK that parts of the ceiling at Uki City Hall collapsed, windows broke and cabinets fell to the ground.

    Kasumi Nakamura, an official in the village of Nishihara, said that the rattling started modestly and grew violent, lasting about 30 seconds.

    "Papers, files, flower vases and everything fell on the floor," he told NHK.

    There were multiple aftershocks, the largest one with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 shortly after midnight, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

    The U.S. Geological Survey measured the initial quake's preliminary magnitude at 6.2. It upgraded its damage assessment to red, meaning extensive damage is probable and the disaster likely widespread.

    Footage from an NHK bureau in the area showed books, files and papers raining down to the floor. One employee appeared to have fallen off a chair, while others slid under their desks to protect their heads.

    SEE ALSO: Here's why the Navy didn't shoot down the Russian fighter jets that buzzed by a US destroyer

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    image 20160411 25923 1qgek25These images are a selection of photos taken recently near Lizard Island off the north Queensland coast.

    They document the ongoing bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef as ocean temperatures continue to be driven upward by climate change.

    SEE ALSO: The scientist who first warned us about climate change says it’s way worse than we thought

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    Before corals bleach, they are often a deep brown or khaki-green color. These colors come from the symbiotic algae (sometimes called zooxanthellae) that co-exist with the coral polyp.



    During bleaching, as the symbiotic algae depart, you can see the beautifully colored polyps. Sometimes polyps are transparent and we see only the white skeleton beneath. Other polyps may be brightly colored, as seen here.



    But whether white or fluorescent, these corals are far from happy. Once the final stage of the bleaching process is reached, it is likely the coral has been stressed for days or weeks. From here on, it may recover slowly – by re-acquiring its symbiont friends – or it may die, having run out of energy in the absence of the symbiotic algae that provide it with carbohydrates. What often happens next is that the coral is covered with a film of turf algae, which takes over the parts of the reef previously colonized by healthy coral.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    gold is best

    A big push for Apple this year is recycling, as it uses fancy new robots to make sure that valuable parts from the millions of iPhones sold per year don't end up in landfills.

    The company released its annual environmental report on Thursday, and it included some information about just how much it can recover from its old computers — over 61 million pounds of steel, aluminum, glass, and other materials.

    As part of that, Apple recovered 2,204 pounds of gold— well over a ton.

    At the current spot price of $1,229.80 per troy ounce of gold, Apple recovered just under $40 million in gold from old phones and computers.

    But where did this $39,502,000 of gold come from? According to Fairphone, an activist group focused on electronics supply chains, the average smartphone uses 30 milligrams of gold, mostly in circuit boards and other internal components. And Apple recycles millions of iPhones and other computers that have tiny bits of gold in them.

    It's also possible that Apple might have recycled a few golden Apple Watches, which have been estimated to have over 50 grams of 18-karat gold in it. But it's hard to imagine people who spent over $10,000 on an Apple Watch would turn it back to Apple for recycling in less than a year.

    Here's the full table with the amount of materials Apple recovered last year:

    Apple Gold

    Now enjoy this Conan O'Brien sketch from when Apple announced that it was going to produce a gold-colored iPhone. Gold is best:

    SEE ALSO: Apple's robot rips apart iPhones for recycling

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    Peter Gash, owner and manager of the Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort in the Great Barrier Reef area, snorkels during an inspection of the reef's condition in an area called the 'Coral Gardens' located at Lady Elliot Island, Australia, in this June 11, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/David Gray

    A heat surge from global warming would overwhelm the natural ability of coral in Australia's Great Barrier Reef to survive seasonal temperature changes, in much the way sun bathers would burn if they did not build their tan slowly.

    A study released on Thursday examined 27 years of temperature data along the world's biggest reef. It found that corals were able to cope with gains in water temperatures when the heat built up step-by-step, rather than abruptly.

    In three-quarters of 372 cases studied along the reef, water temperatures gained and then dipped for about 10 days before rising to a peak high enough to kill corals, the study found. That 10-day respite apparently let the corals build up resistance and survive warm shocks.

    But corals suffered far more damage in the quarter of cases when temperatures rose sharply, to above local temperature thresholds for damage along the 1,600 mile (2,575 km) reef, researchers wrote in the journal Science.

    The safer pattern was like a human sun-worshipper lying in the sun for short periods to build a tan and avoid sunburn, said co-author Scott Heron, of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    Global warming would eliminate the natural resistance to heat shocks, the study said, because direct rises to harmful temperatures would become more frequent, they wrote.

    "Near-future increases in local temperature of as little as 0.5 degree Celsius (0.9 Fahrenheit) result in this protective mechanism being lost, which may increase the rate of degradation of the Great Barrier Reef," they wrote.

    Great Barrier ReefCorals, tiny animals with stony skeletons, suffer bleaching when temperatures rise because the colorful algae that live with them and provide food die off. Reefs can sometimes recover from short-term bleachings but die if they persist.

    Worldwide, last year was the warmest since records began in the 19th century, boosted by man-made activities and an El Nino event in the Pacific.

    A U.N. report in 2014 said there were already early warning signs that warm water corals and the Arctic, where ice is melting, were already experiencing irreversible changes.

    Lead author Tracy Ainsworth, of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, said it was unclear if the same heat resistance applied to other reefs from Indonesia to Belize.

    The study suggested more efforts to reduce other threats to the reef, such as industrial pollution.

     

    (Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

    SEE ALSO: Climate change is turning these unexpected regions into the next wine hotspots

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    Grey whales screenshot

    Wildlife photographer Steve Trewhella was on a tourist boat in the San Ignacio Lagoon in Baja, California when he spotted a couple of female gray whales in the water near their boat.

    The whales — which can reach 45 feet long and weigh up to 30 tons — could easily flip the boat over, or even crush it. 

    And after a few minutes of monitoring the tourists from a distance, the whales began to approach.

    Surprisingly, as one of the large females made its way towards the boat's edge, Trewhella and the other tourists on board didn't panic. Instead, they reached over and began to pet their curious guest. Amazingly, the huge whale merely floated on her side on the water's surface, allowing the tourists to pet her. It almost seemed like she was savoring the attention.

    This type of interaction doesn't happen everywhere.

    In fact, Trewhella, 52, told The Daily Mail that the lagoon is "believed to be the only location in the world these gray whales interact with human beings on this level."

    Watch the stunning interaction captured by Trewhella below:

     The San Ignacio Lagoon, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is protected by the Mexican government, is a critical stop on the whales' yearly journey from their feeding grounds around Alaska in the Bearing Sea, Beaufort Sea and Chukchi sea, where they mate and bear their young. This annual journey is a mammoth 12,400 miles round trip.

    Here's a GIF of a whale and her calf approaching curious tourists:

    Protection of this lagoon is vital since gray whales are currently found only in the North Pacific. There used to be a population of whales in the Atlantic Ocean, but it was completely wiped out by whalers by the mid-1700s. Of the populations in the North Pacific, these whales belong to the Eastern North Pacific stock that feed around Alaska, and migrate down the west coast of America to breed in Mexico. The Western North Pacific stock feeds near the Sakhalin Islands on the east coast of  Russia during the summer, and are believed to migrate to the South China Sea in the winter.

    Here's a look at their international route:

    Gray whale migration pattern map

    In the 1900s, both the Eastern and Western North Pacific populations of gray whales were classified as endangered due to heavy commercial whaling. Nearly five decades after commercial whaling was banned in 1947 by the International Whaling Commission, one group of them — the Eastern North Pacific Stock — was removed from the endangered list. 

    However, the Western North Pacific stock has not had the same luck. 

    Watch a grey whale breach near a tourist boat below:

    Countries surrounding the Western North Pacific Stock continued to practice whaling until at least 1966, prohibiting them from signing on to the ban. According to a joint Russia-US research program, the population size of this stock was just approximately 130 animals in 2013. Experts suggest their ranks are growing, but very slowly.

    This small population is on the endangered list even though commercial whaling is banned. The main hazards to the stock are still human activities — entanglement in fishing gear and disturbance from offshore oil and gas activities. 

    It is believed that the oceans once supported a population of 100,000 gray whales. Only a fifth of that number of gray whales still remain. While many like Trewhella get the chance to fearlessly interact in close proximity with these mammals, and be amazed, on the eastern edge of the Pacific Ocean, those across the water are not so lucky.

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    A group of activists from the environmental group Greenpeace attached gas masks to various London landmarks on Monday morning in a demonstration against the city's "dangerous" levels of air pollution.

    Before the sun rose on the capital, a pair of protesters climbed to the top Nelson's Column — the iconic 171ft monument in Trafalgar Square — and put a gas mask on the face of Admiral Horatio Nelson.

    Greenpeace told the Evening Standard that activists Alison Garrigan and Luke Jones began to climb the monument at around 4 a.m. on Monday morning. 

    Greenpeace protest Nelson's ColumnGarrigan was one of the six Greenpeace activists who climbed up London's tallest building the Shard in 2013 in protest against oil company Shell's plans to drill in the Arctic. The pair remained at the top of the monument before abseiling down shortly after 9 a.m.

     This is a picture one of the protesters took from the top of the monument.

    Nelson's Column Greenpeace protest 2Protesters also targeted statues of Queen Victoria, Sherlock Holmes, Oliver Cromwell, Sir Winston Churchill, Eros in Piccadilly Square, and former Arsenal FC footballer Thierry Henry. 17 statues were targeted in total, according to a Greenpeace press release emailed to BI. 

    This picture uploaded by Greenpeace UK's Twitter account, shows the moment an activist attached a mask to the Oliver Cromwell statue which stands outside the Houses of Commons.

    Oliver Cromwell Greenpeace protestMonday morning's demonstrations were part of Greenpeace's campaign to persuade Prime Minister David Cameron to develop a "clean air plan" for London and the rest of the country.

    In its online petition, the group says "air pollution in the UK is responsible for cutting short 40,000 lives every year," and has presented a five-point action plan for protecting people from "dangerous and toxic" air — electric vehicles, clean air zones, car industry regulation, greener public transport, and less money spent on new roads. 

    Thierry Henry Greenpeace protestGreenpeace campaigner Areeba Hamid said the press release: "Monitoring shows that, if these statutes were real people, many of them would often be breathing dangerous, illegal air.

    "That's why we've given them face masks. Of course many millions of Londoners, including kids, are breathing that same air. Kitting everyone out with face masks is not the solution; instead we need to see real political action from the new mayor. We need a clean air zone covering a large part of the city."

    Churchill statue Greenpeace protestA Parliamentary spokesperson confirmed that a "minor security incident" had taken place on the parliamentary estate that is being dealt with by the London Metropolitan Police, according to Sky News

    A spokesperson for London Metropolitan Police told Sky that the two protesters who climbed Nelson's Column have been arrested, as were two other people linked to the incident.

    Eros statue Greenpeace protest

    BI contacted Greenpeace UK on Monday morning and was told the activists who took part in the protests are not yet available for comment. 

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