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The latest news on Environment from Business Insider

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    A man holds a child next to a collapsed building caused by a 7.8 earthquake in Portoviejo, Ecuador, Sunday April 17, 2016.At least 272 people died and over 2,000 were injured after a powerful 7.8 magnitude quake shook part of Ecuador on Saturday.

    The earthquake struck the coastal region of the country, where buildings collapsed, roads were ripped apart, and the power was knocked out, according to Reuters. The desperate search for survivors has been continuing through the night as hundreds more are still missing.

    Ecuador deployed 10,000 soldiers and 4,600 police officers to the affected areas, according to CNN.


    DON'T MISS: The devastating California drought just entered its 5th year — here's what it looked like at its worst

    SEE ALSO: Everything you think you know about genetically modified food is about to change

    The country appeared calm except for some unconfirmed instances of looting and theft, according to Reuters.

    Many Ecuadorans have been forced to sleep in the street amid the rubble, as their houses have been destroyed. Some slept outside on mattresses and plastic chairs, while police and soldiers patrolled the streets and rescue workers continued their search for survivors.

    Some residents also slept under makeshift tents outside of emergency emergency centres.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Last month was the hottest March since record keeping began, the eleventh such consecutive record, according to reports released this week.

    Average global temperatures last month were 1.07 °C (1.9°F) above the average in March since 1891, according to data from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).

    Separate data released by NASA shows that March was 1.65°C (3.0°F) warmer than the average between 1951 and 1980.

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the primary keeper of such data in the US, will release its numbers next week.

    March may have also been the most above-average temperature month of all time, but preliminary agency data is inconsistent on that record. February of this year broke that record by a dramatic margin.

    The temperature record was likely driven by the ongoing, but now fading, El Niño climate phenomenon that raises global temperatures and wrecks havoc on global weather patterns as well as ongoing climate change. Scientists widely expect 2016 to be the hottest year on record.

    The string of records, and the scale at which they are being broken, are raising fears that the world is approaching the 2°C (3.6°F) level of warming above preindustrial levels that scientists say could bring about catastrophic and irreversible consequences.

    Keeping temperature rise below that threshold has been enshrined in the language of climate scientists and international agreements on climate change, including the Paris Agreement reached last year. Recent temperature spikes underscore how difficult meeting that target may be.

    “If we continue to burn fossil fuels and increase the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, we will assume that this level of warmth will be perpetual,” said Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University, after last month’s record. “This is a reminder that we need to need to decarbonize.”

    SEE ALSO: These 11 photos illustrate an Arctic in crisis — and hint at what could be in store for the rest of our planet

    MORE: Giant holes found in Siberia could be signs of a ticking climate 'time bomb'

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The longest study on happiness revealed that people who did this lived longer, happier lives

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    The Houston area was pummeled with rain last night.

    Over a 12-hour period, more than 14 inches fell across certain parts of Texas, according to the National Weather Service. Here are the areas that got hit hardest, where there are also flash flood warnings in effect:


    Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner called the flooding "unprecedented,"USAToday reports

    As much as 21,000 square miles of land is covered in the flash flood warning, extending west toward San Antonio and Austin. And it's not over just yet, with more rain coming soon across the south: 

    Here's some of the damage that's happened so far, as seen in Houston. People have had to evacuate their houses and apartments in search of dry shelter. 

    texas april food

    With floodwaters high, it's close to impossible to take cars out on the road, and public transportation in Houston has been shut down. Texas flood

    The dump truck below is braving the more than a foot of standing water. AP_16109544283113 

    Some have even taken to alternative modes of transportation: 

    The Texas Department of Transportation is urging people to stay off of the roads, especially in Houston:

    NEXT: La Niña is officially coming

    SEE ALSO: The untreatable Zika virus just reached another island nation — here's a map of all the places it has spread so far

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 4.2 million Americans could be displaced by rising sea levels this century — see if your county is at risk

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    A farmer tends to a wheat farm in the El-Dakahlia governorate, north of Cairo, Egypt, February 16, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

    In a letter released to the public on Monday, chemical giant DuPont Pioneer announced plans to market the first crop that uses a type of precise genetic modification called CRISPR-Cas9.

    DuPont is the fourth-largest chemical corporation in the world, and it wants to see the product — a hybrid type of corn — in farmers' fields as early as 2021.

    "We're applying our 90 years of knowledge of corn biology to develop the next generation of high-quality waxy corn hybrids for the benefit of the entire value chain from growers to processors and end users," Neal Gutterson, DuPont Pioneer's vice president of research and development, said in a statement.

    The US Department of Agriculture has said that it will not subject the CRISPR corn to the same rules as traditional GMOs.

    In response to Pioneer's "Regulated Article Letter of Inquiry," about the new product, the USDA said that it does not consider the CRISPR corn "as regulated by USDA Biotechnology Regulatory Services."

    This comes on the heels of a letter released last week in which the USDA said that it wouldn't regulate a mushroom that had been gene-edited with the same type of CRISPR technology. In its case, the genetic tweaks helped keep the mushroom from turning brown.

    Like with the corn, this approach is widely different from the one the USDA has previously taken with traditional GMOs, which are regulated by the agency's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. APHIS keeps an eye on new genetically modified organisms that "may pose a risk to plant health."

    But unlike the mushroom, which was created by researchers at Penn State with no plans to bring the product to market, the corn would ideally be on grocery-store shelves in the next few years.

    "The next generation of waxy hybrids developed with CRISPR-Cas will represent a step-change in how efficiently we bring elite genetic platforms of high-yielding waxy corn to our customers," said Gutterson.

    Essentially, CRISPR is a far more accurate method of modifying genes than scientists have had access to before.

    At the center of the agency's decision not to subject the new crop to its rules is the fact that the CRISPR-edited crops don't contain any "introduced genetic material" or foreign DNA, and so would not be a threat to other plants.

    This is the focus of a lot of the policy surrounding GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. Because GMO crops are tweaked in a lab to contain harmless DNA from other organisms, like bacteria, which help make them more resistant to things like drought or pests, they are regulated by the USDA.

    In its letter, the agency says firmly that the CRISPR-edited mushroom doesn't pose a risk to plant health, so it doesn't need to be regulated:

    APHIS has no reason to believe that CRISPR/Cas-9-edited white button mushrooms are plant pests. Therefore, consistent with previous responses to similar letters of inquiry, APHIS does not consider CRISPR/Cas-9-edited white button mushrooms ... to be regulated.

    A world of CRISPR crops?

    fruit farmers marketThis could be the shape of things to come.

    "If USDA decides the first product does not require regulation, that would definitely be encouraging for the many people already using CRISPR," Joyce Van Eck, an assistant professor at the Boyce Thompson Institute, told the Genetic Expert News Service last week.

    Many researchers are currently looking into developing CRISPR food products.

    DuPont Pioneer has been collaborating on research and intellectual property with Caribou Biosciences, the biotech company cofounded by Jennifer Doudna, one of the discoverers of CRISPR, for sometime now.

    Maywa Montenegro wrote for environmental-news site Ensia in January:

    Since its 2013 demonstration as a genome editing tool in Arabidopsis and tobacco — two widely used laboratory plants — CRISPR has been road-tested in crops, including wheat, rice, soybeans, potatoes, sorghum, oranges and tomatoes. By the end of 2014, a flood of research into agricultural uses for CRISPR included a spectrum of applications, from boosting crop resistance to pests to reducing the toll of livestock disease.

    This could be good news given Americans' hefty — though scientifically unfounded — opposition to GMOs. The National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the European Commission have all said that traditional GMO foods are safe to eat.

    A large scientific study from 2013 found no "significant hazards directly connected with the use of genetically engineered crops." But CRISPR crops won't be traditional GMOs. And perhaps they'll start to change people's minds about the future of food.

    SEE ALSO: You've been avoiding the wrong 'unhealthy' ingredient all along

    DON'T MISS: Everything you think you know about genetically modified food is about to change

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: New USDA dietary guidelines have good news for coffee drinkers — and drop breakfast recommendation and cholesterol warnings

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    ocean bot

    Swarms of graphene-coated nanobots could be our best hope yet of cleaning up the murky oceans, with scientists demonstrating that new microscopic underwater warriors can remove up to 95% of lead in wastewater in just 1 hour. 

    The invention couldn't have come at a better time, with ocean pollution at an all-time high, much of it stemming from industrial activities such as electronics manufacturing.

    By 2050, it's estimated that there will be more plastic than fish in the world's oceans, and waste metals such as lead, arsenic, mercury, cadmium, and chromium are affecting the delicate ecological balance that will make things very difficult for any animal that relies on it for food — including humans — in the near future.

    Developed by an international team of researchers, the newly developed nanobots have three key components: a graphene oxide exterior to absorb lead (or another heavy metal); a nickel core that enables researchers to control the nanobots' movement via a magnetic field; and an inner platinum coating that functions as an engine and propels the bots forward via a chemical reaction with hydrogen peroxide.

    Once they've made one pass, the nanobots — which are smaller than the width of a human hair — can be deployed again for further sweeps.

    Thanks to their skill at cleaning up water, and the way they can be reused, the scientists behind the development of the nanobots think they could be more effective and more economical than existing solutions.

    "This is a new application of smart nanodevices for environmental applications," one of the team, Samuel Sánchez from the Max-Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany, told "The use of self-powered nanomachines that can capture heavy metals from contaminated solutions, transport them to desired places and even release them for 'closing the loop' — that is a proof-of-concept towards industrial applications."

    While the nanobots used in these experiments were controlled using a precise magnetic field, in the future, they could guide themselves autonomously according to the researchers.

    Further studies will also focus on attacking different types of contaminants and reducing the costs of fabricating the bots in the first place.

    The same magnetic field used to direct the nanobots is used to collect them in afterwards. At this point, an acidic solution is used to remove the lead ions and the bots are ready to go again. Eventually, the same sort of techniques could be used in other areas such as drug delivery.

    The group's work has been published in Nano Letters.

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

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

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Animated map reveals the 550,000 miles of cable hidden under the ocean that power the internet

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    Great Smoky Mountains National Park

    The National Park Service is turning 100 years old in August. To celebrate, the National Park Service is teaming up with the National Park Foundation for National Park Week.

    From April 16 through April 24, admission to all national parks across the country is free.

    There's no better time to visit everything from the Great Smoky Mountains National park on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, to Yosemite in California.

    To ring in National Park Week, we've selected 10 photos showcasing the beauty of America's national parks: 

    SEE ALSO: The 5 greenest countries in the world

    Acadia National Park

    Glacier National Park

    Grand Canyon National Park

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Friday April 22 is Earth day, which marks the 46th anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement. And with the US Supreme Court's decision to rule in favor of regulation that will help you avoid using electricity from the worst polluting power plants and even get paid for it, we have a lot to celebrate!

    Our use of electricity is one of the biggest factors in carbon emissions. If you're leaving your lights on or jacking up the heat in your home you're contributing to the world's carbon problems. According to OhmConnect — a free service that informs you when you're using energy from dirty and unsustainable power plants and pays you to avoid it — at our current pace, we'll soon be choking on carbon.

    So how can we stop this? Check it out

    ohm supreme power graphic r1

    DON'T MISS: Climate change puts trillions of dollars of financial assets at risk: study

    SEE ALSO: The devastating California drought just entered its 5th year — here's what it looked like at its worst

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Bill Nye has a great response to Trump's outrageous statements about climate change

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    Last year was the hottest year on record, and it's only going to get worse. 

    Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, tweeted last week that he estimated there was a 99% chance that 2016 would have the dubious distinction of beating 2015's record, purely based on data from January to March of this year alone. 

    This past March was the warmest month ever recorded — though it was likely influenced by an abnormally strong El Niño (a warm band of Pacific Ocean water that contributes to warming weather) — for the eleventh consecutive month in a row, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Organization

    And the world's average temperature for the first three months of 2016 was 2.07 degrees Farenheit above the 20th Century average, according to NOAA. 

    NOAA global temperature 2016

    According to Bloomberg, 15 of the 16 hottest years on record occured in the 21st century, and since 1980, the world has set a new annual temperature record every three years. 

    If these trends continue, global surface temperatures could reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures (a crucial metric for climate warming) even before the Paris climate agreement comes into effect, according to The New Scientist

    In other words, this accelerated warming is showing no signs of stopping. 

    SEE ALSO: A nightmarish new climate model predicts a gloomy future for cities from Hong Kong to New York

    DON'T MISS: The devastating California drought just entered its 5th year — here's what it looked like at its worst

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Surprising ways that a vegetarian diet is changing human genes

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    FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2015, file photo, Kiyoshi Kimura, president of Kiyomura Co., poses a bluefin tuna at his Sushi Zanmai restaurant near Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. The latest assessment by scientists paints a likely bleak future for the Pacific bluefin tuna, the favorite of sushi-lovers whose population has dropped by more than 97 percent from its historic levels. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

    TOKYO (AP) — The latest scientific assessment paints a likely bleak future for the Pacific bluefin tuna, a sushi lovers' favorite whose population has dropped by more than 97% from its historic levels.

    A draft summary of a report by the International Scientific Committee for Tuna and Tuna-like Species in the North Pacific Ocean seen by The Associated Press shows the current population of bluefin tuna is estimated at 2.6% of its "unfished" size.

    A previous assessment put the population at an already dire 4.2%.

    Overfishing has continued despite calls to reduce catches to allow the species to recover. In some areas, bluefin tuna is harvested at triple the levels considered to be sustainable.

    "The situation is really as bad as it appears," said Amanda Nickson, director for Global Tuna Conservation at The Pew Charitable Trusts.

    Limits imposed after the previous estimates actually allowed some countries to up their catches, she said.

    "If those managers again fail to act in a conservation-minded way this time, it may be time for other actions, such as an international trade ban or complete fishing moratorium," Nickson said.

    The independent scientists who compiled the report said improved data make them more confident in their latest estimates than in previous ones. The report is due to be reviewed by the committee in July.

    The report estimated that in 2014, the total recruitment level of the fish, or the percentage of new fish that survive each year, was below 3.7 million fish, the second lowest level ever.

    Under current levels of reproduction and management of the fisheries in the Pacific, the likelihood of rebuilding stocks to healthy levels is only 0.1%, the report says.

    Cutting catches by a fifth would improve those odds to only 3%.

    Japanese eat about 80% of all bluefin tuna caught worldwide, and stocks of all three bluefin species — the Pacific, Southern and Atlantic — have fallen over the past 15 years as demand for the luscious, buttery pink-to-red fleshed fish has soared globally.


    Organizations charged with helping to manage bluefin fisheries have set a goal of rebuilding the species' population to 6.4%, or 42,592 metric tons, of unfished levels by 2024.

    But 6.4% levels for a species like the Pacific bluefin, which can live for up to 40 years, are no guarantee of a recovery. Many experts believe 20% of historic levels is the minimum size for a sustainable fishery.

    The international body that monitors fisheries in most of the Pacific Ocean, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, was unable to reach consensus last year on either short-term or long-term measures to help restore the bluefin population.

    In Europe, officials have agreed last month on implementing a recovery plan for bluefin tuna in the eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean.

    A next step by conservationists could include efforts to get Pacific bluefin tuna banned from international trading.

    Pacific bluefin tuna are spawned in the western parts of the northern Pacific but migrate throughout the ocean, complicating management of catches. The population of the species is estimated to have peaked in 1960.

    An earlier estimate put the 2014 population of the bluefin at 26,000 tons. The most recent reduced that estimate by 9,000 tons, to 17,000 tons.

    If the population of Pacific bluefins drops much further, it may no longer be economically feasible to fish for them.

    At that point, "Pacific bluefin would be considered commercially extinct," Nickson said.

    SEE ALSO: There's a way for the world's fish population to double by 2050 — and it wouldn't even hurt the fishing industry's bottom line

    MORE: The backbone of all ocean life could be irrevocably damaged by 2050

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Devastating photos show lakes vanishing around the world

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    Ring tailed Lemur and Baby Bronx Zoo

    Three new lemur babies now call the Bronx Zoo home.

    Two ring-tailed lemurs and one brown-collared lemur were born earlier this month and now reside with their mothers at the Madagascar! exhibit at the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Bronx Zoo. Lemurs are small primates called "prosimians," or "pre-primates."

    Their habitat depicts the Malagasy Spiny Forest, which they share with critically endangered radiated tortoises and several spices of birds. Since the young lemurs cling tightly to their mothers and snuggle into their fur, guests have to observe closely to catch a glimpse.

    Here are some images of the newborns at the zoo:


    SEE ALSO: Here's how the human brain compares to other animals

    DON'T MISS: This amazing footage of grey whales approaching a tourist boat in Mexico hides a sad reality

    Lemurs are facing disappearing habitats in the African island nation of Madagascar — the only part of the world where lemurs are naturally found in the wild.

    Ring tailed lemurs, native to the forests and bush in the south and southwestern portions of the island, are very social and live in large matriarchal groups.

    Despite being competent climbers, they spend a lot of their time on the ground.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Radioactive waste has been leaking from a storage tank at Hanford Site — a nuclear waste storage facility in Washington State — since at least 2011. In an effort to fix the problem, the U.S. Department of Energy recently started pumping all of the waste out of the World War II-era AY-102 tank. This may have only exacerbated the problem.

    Produced by Zach Wasser

    Follow TI: On Facebook

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Earth images

    We hear a lot about all the horrible things happening to Earth: global warming, pollution, and water and food shortages — it's enough to conclude that life as we know it is nearing its end.

    Yes, it's true that there are many serious issues plaguing much of the world right now.

    But it's more important than ever to take a step back and appreciate the never-ending beauty and elegance that is planet Earth.

    In honor of Earth Day on April 22, here are 51 images that illustrate not only the fragility of our beautiful planet, but its incomprehensible splendor.

    SEE ALSO: These mind-blowing photos from astronaut Tim Peake show Earth glowing at night

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

    There's no denying that our planet is warming and sea levels are rising.

    Extreme weather and environmental events, drought, and water shortages are on the rise.

    The relentless drought that has been broiling California for more than four years shows no signs of letting up.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    April 22 is Earth Day, marking the 46th anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement.

    To celebrate and inspire global action, 35 artists are showcasing their work online with the Oakland-based nonprofit Art Works for Change. The eclectic works, which range from dystopian paintings of future Earth to installations of trash mounds, ask viewers to join in the fight against climate change. 

    One of the featured artists, Nicole Dextras, has created a line of garments made from plants in her ongoing series entitled "Weedrobes."

    "The series poses questions about the future ramifications of unsustainable practices," she tells Tech Insider.

    Take a look.

    Dextras, who lives in Vancouver, makes dresses and suits from recycled flowers, leaves and branches. She has made over 50 garments so far.

    The collection includes everything from flower gowns to cabbage leaf shoes. She chooses the plants based on what's in season.

    The photos narrate a sci-fi story by Dextras. The people are climate change survivors in a post-apocalyptic future "where the fragility of life is palpable and the need for beautification and fashion persists," she says.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    hiking outdoors forest alone

    Every Earth Day, the world celebrates efforts to improve the environment across the globe. And each year, Yale's Environmental Performance Index (EPI) ranks the top-performing countries for the environment, based on how well they've fared at protecting human health and vulnerable ecosystems.

    Perhaps unsurprisingly, the top five countries this year were all European.

    The EPI creates index by giving each country a score out of 100 that's based on a number of specific metrics. The individual scores are averaged for each country to create the rankings. 

    See below for the 5 best performing countries on the 2016 report: 

    SEE ALSO: The 23 cities with the best quality of life in the world

    SEE ALSO: The 20 best cities for finding a job in 2016

    #1 Finland: 90.68

    Finland took the top spot on the index, scoring 90.68. It ranks fourth in health impacts, eighth in fisheries, and top 20 in climate and energy, biodiversity and habitat, water resources, and air quality.

    Though Finland is one of Europe's most forested countries, it didn't score well on the agriculture and forests categories coming in at 87th and 106th respectively. 

    According to the EPI, Finland has made a "societal commitment to achieve a carbon-neutral society that does not exceed nature's carrying capacity by 2050." 

    #2 Iceland: 90.51

    Iceland came in a close second on the index, scoring 90.51. It ranks third in health impacts, as well as climate and energy, and fourth for air quality.

    Iceland's top performance is a function of its unique geology — around 25% of its power is produced geothermally, more than anywhere else on Earth, according to the EPI

    And 100% of Iceland's electricity comes from renewable sources, like wind, and hydro-power, according to Iceland's National Energy Authority


    #3 Sweden: 90.43

    Sweden came in a close third, scoring 90.43. It ranks fifth in health impacts, tenth in climate and energy, and top 20 for both water and sanitation, and water resources. 

    Across the board, Sweden earned almost perfect scores on drinking water quality and wastewater treatment, according to the EPI

    Like Finland, Sweden performed poorly on forests — largely due to unsustainable logging practices. 



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Aral Sea

    April 22 is Earth Day, a world holiday celebrating our home planet — and so far, the only one we've got.

    Yet we're changing the face of Earth drastically via climate change. At times, it can seem like a massive, invisible process.

    But it isn't invisible. In this collection of images (from NASA, unless otherwise noted) you can see the unmistakable mark that human-induced climate change is making on the planet

    Rivers and lakes are shrinking, forests are being cut down, and as the Earth gets warmer snow and ice are melting far sooner than they should be. Take a look:

    READ MORE: The devastating California drought just entered its 5th year — here's what it looked like at its worst

    SEE ALSO: Everything you think you know about genetically modified food is about to change

    Snow melt on Matterhorn Mountain, Switzerland, August 1960 vs. August 2005

    Aral Sea shrinkage, Central Asia, 2000 vs. 2014

    Melting Muir Glacier, Alaska, 1882 vs. August 2005

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Rene Cazenave Apartments

    In honor of Earth Day, the American Institute of Architects has announced its selections for the top "Green Projects" of 2016.

    Pulled from around the US, the buildings are stellar examples of how renewable energy sources like wind and solar can be harnessed to create efficient buildings.

    Their designs range from the complex to the minimal, but they all embody a spirit of sustainability.

    The Center for Sustainable Landscapes in Pittsburgh, PA is the first and only building to meet four of the highest green certifications: the Living Building Challenge, LEED Platinum, WELL Building Platinum, and Four-Stars Sustainable SITES.

    Architects: The Design Alliance

    Which isn't surprising, given that it's a building where people work on plant conservation.

    In San Francisco, the Exploratorium at Pier 15 showcases innovations in design while also walking the walk with its own design.

    Architects: EHDD

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    In June, the water level reaches it's highest mark, at which point meadows of green flowers appear around the edges of the sea.

    If you have any affinity at all for beautiful lakes, hiking, or both of these things combined, you should probably book a flight to Green Lake, Austria, immediately.

    It's a hiker-and-scuba-diver's dream.

    This body of water literally shape-shifts throughout the seasons. During the winter, it's more like a shallow pond. But come spring, it gets deep enough to dive and swim in.

    Eventually, what was once along the pond's edge becomes submerged underwater, transforming the lake into a majestic underwater oasis.

    Green Lake is surrounded by an Austrian village called Tragöß. It is a county park where hikers tromp through the lush Hochschwab mountains and forests year round.

    When the snow in the nearby karst mountains begins to melt from rising temperatures in the spring, it trickles into the lake basin and fills it with water.

    From July through about mid-May, the lake looks like this.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Paris climate change agreement

    Take note: For better or worse, Earth Day 2016 is going down in history.

    On April 22, at least 170 heads of state and diplomats from around the globe signed the world's first international climate change accords, known as the Paris Agreement.

    The pact was agreed upon by 195 countries (that's almost all of them) in December 2015, after two weeks of tough negotiations

    According to Reuters, the agreement will have the highest number of signatories in history for any treaty's opening day.

    The 31-page accord marked the first successful international effort to fight climate change, which 97% of climate scientists agree is driven by human activity.

    After today, it will be open for signing until April 21, 2017. And even after that, additional states can still decide to adopt the agreement through accession, which is more or less United Nations code for "coming late to the party."

    The list of countries who agreed to the treaty but might not be signing today includes the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other large-scale oil producers.

    Think tank Third World Network has also urged developing nations to hold off joining until they see concrete plans from wealthy nations, pointing to a history of empty promises to combat climate change.

    Signatories have pledged to create climate plans aiming to limit global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, with the more realistic (but perhaps arbitrary) goal of keeping global temperatures no more than 3.6 degrees above pre-industrial levels. (The pact is big on goals, but short on the details of how to achieve them.)

    The agreement requires countries to meet every five years with new emissions-reductions targets, though it allows them to set their own benchmarks.

    The US, for example, has pledged to reduce emissions 26% below 2005 levels by 2015; the European Union is aiming for 45% below 2005 levels by 2030. China hopes to reach the same target by 2020. 

    It also includes provisions designed to protect the global poor, who are almost certainly going to bear the brunt of the warming sparked by the rapid industrialization of other, richer countries.

    This includes allocating funding from wealthy states to developing ones as well as committees tasked with exploring solutions to issues like the inevitability of climate refugees.

    It's worth remembering that December's victory was the first after a long string of mostly ineffective climate conventions and talks spanning two decades, starting with the first United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNPCCC) in 1992 that gave rise to the failed 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

    These past failures should guide world leaders as they pursue the Paris Agreement, which like its predecessors is not legally binding — yet.

    modi obama cop21 parisThe multi-step process is long and complicated, and there are lots of junctures where it could be derailed.

    In Paris, 195 states agreed that they would sign the accord on Earth Day 2016 — but even then, individual countries have to approve or ratify the agreement at the national level before they've officially "joined."

    Once 55 countries, whose collective emissions must add up to at least 55% of the global total, have reached that step, the accord becomes legally binding and members states will be expected to fulfill their commitments.

    The US and China, both of which have announced their intent to become official member states, account for 40% of global emissions. Both will likely ratify their country's participation through executive action.

    This could fast-track the agreement's formal start date by four years: Instead of 2020, the pact could go into effect by the end of 2016.


    Progress could be delayed if not enough countries ratify the agreement. Some states, mostly island nations already being affected by rising sea levels, came to the signing ceremony with domestic approval in hand.

    And then there's the US presidential election. While President Barack Obama has pledged to follow through on US commitments, the next president could, in theory, pull out of the deal, effectively halting progress on reducing emissions.

    Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both support continued action on climate change.

    John Kasich is the only Republican candidate willing to entertain the notion that climate change is established fact, but he shies away from committing to a path to mitigation.

    The two Republican front-runners, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, (incorrectly) contend that climate change itself is still a matter of debate.

    In February, the BBC reported that Obama's current climate envoy, Todd Stern, has warned that the US leaving the climate deal could lead to "diplomatic consequences" on the international stage.

    Donald TrumpNo matter who the next president is, however, the sad fact is that the Paris Agreement may have come too late.

    This year, 2016, is set to be the hottest on record. Earth's climate is already on track to blow past the 2.7-degree target — the agreement's more hopeful goal — and perhaps even the more arbitrary 3.6 degree mark.

    But hope springs eternal this Earth Day: Peabody Energy, the largest publicly held coal company in the US, became the most recent of an estimated 50 coal companies to file for bankruptcy in the last few years; and renewable energy sources are quickly eclipsing fossil fuels in several countries. Coal accounts for 44% of global CO2 emissions, so this kind of progress is significant — and a sign that real change may be ahead.

    While far from perfect, the Paris Agreement remains a promising development for world action on climate change, and the April 22 signing ceremony has world leaders promising to pursue climate-change solutions at home and abroad.

    Despite decades of fossil fuel industry-funded denial and snowball-throwing senators here in the US, world leaders have managed to put aside their differences to solve humanity's greatest challenge to date.

    And that's worth celebrating.

    SEE ALSO: 29 images that show how we're drastically reshaping the planet

    MORE: Here's what could happen to Earth over the next 500 years

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Bill Nye offers up one scientific fact to shut down climate-change deniers

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    You’ll hear them from a mile away. This spring, billions of cicadas will come up from underground, creating a symphony that the east coast hasn’t heard since 1999.

    Cicadas are large, clunky insects with translucent wings and wide set eyes. They are divided up into different broods, or year-classes, based on when they emerge. There are twelve broods of cicadas in total. While some broods come to the surface every 13 years, most of them take 17 years. Think of it like high school. Only instead of having a reunion every 10 years, these rambunctious bugs get together every 13 or 17 years. And every 221 years, a brood of 13-year-old cicadas and a brood of 17-year-old cicadas co-emerge, bringing twice the fun.

    These particular cicadas are Brood V. They spend the first 17 years of their lives underground, feeding off of plant roots. And over the next few weeks they’ll finally emerge.

    Scientists think these super long hibernations might be an evolutionary tool the bugs developed to avoid predators. By coming out all at once, they essentially flood the market on cicada meat. Birds and other predators would have a hard time making even a dent in their population.

    After spending their first week above ground as wingless nymphs, the cicadas will grow into adults, ready to slip out of their exoskeleton (leaving behind a menacing brown shell) and find a mate. And that telltale roar of clicks is their mating call.

    So how do these tiny winged romeos produce a chorus that would rival the sound of a thousand rattlesnakes?

    By rapidly vibrating their tymbals, of course.

    cicadaNot to be confused with cymbals, tymbals are membranes in a cicada’s abdomen. When a male cicada buckles its body (at a rate of about 400 times a second) the tymbal vibrates, producing the buzz of insect love. And since its abdomen is almost hollow, its body works like a resonance chamber, amplifying the noise so that the sound of the cicada's good vibrations is broadcast across entire neighborhoods.

    If the female cicada likes what she hears, she’ll respond by snapping her wings, an invitation for the males to move closer. The rest is history.

    But this love story isn’t without its tragedy. Two to four weeks after emerging, the male will die, leaving the female alone to lay hundreds of eggs. Six weeks later the eggs will hatch, giving birth to the next generation of nymphs who will promptly burrow back underground.

    And so ends the song of the cicada — for another seventeen years.

    SEE ALSO: Billions of roaring cicadas are about to invade the east coast for the first time in 17 years

    UP NEXT: The First Cicadas Have Been Spotted On The Upper West Side

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    NOW WATCH: Billions of roaring cicadas are about to invade the east coast for the first time in 17 years

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    More people in more nations are rising out of poverty and into wealth, thanks to a flourishing global economy.

    With that increasing abundance, however, comes a dangerous appetite for meat.

    The world's population is expected to soar to 9.6 billion by 2050, and food production will have to increase by 70% worldwide and by 100% in developing countries to keep up.

    That's why meat poses such an existential problem: "a calorie of meat requires 10 times as much water to produce as a calorie of food crops" and yet the planet's water sources are rapidly drying up.

    That's according to a recent post at Reveal by journalist Nathan Halverson, who quotes a variety of positions that Nestlé — the biggest food and beverage company on Earth — allegedly told representatives of the US Embassy in Bern, Switzerland, sometime before April 2009.

    'Dangerously squeezed'

    Reveal's post is part of a larger investigation into increasing water scarcity, which many experts are becoming increasingly concerned about, as Tech Insider hasreported.

    Here's the full passage from the diplomatic cable on WikiLeaks:

    [Nestle]'s senior managers rarely miss an opportunity to point out the dangers of present water trends to public audiences at international gatherings, most recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Nestle starts by pointing out that a calorie of meat requires 10 times as much water to produce as a calorie of food crops. As the world's growing middle classes eat more meat, the earth's water resources will be dangerously squeezed.

    The cable — sent to various US agencies and the Secretary of State (who was Hillary Clinton at the time) — extensively quotes Herbert Oberhaensli, who's currently Nestlé's part-time assistant to the company's chairman on economic matters, according to LinkedIn.

    Oberhaensli allegedly told US officials that the world would have run out of water at the beginning of the 21st century if everyone ate like Americans:

    Oberhaensli said that Nestle estimates that the current US diet provides about 3600 calories per day with substantial meat consumption. If the whole world were to move to this standard, global fresh water resources would be exhausted at a population level of 6 billion, which the world reached in the year 2000. There is not nearly enough fresh water available to provide this standard to a global population expected to exceed 9 billion by mid-century.

    The cables goes on to highlight problematic regions in the US and abroad:

    Nestle has studied water use in crop growing and concluded that the main reason crops are grown in many dry regions is subsidies and mis-pricing of water. Growing a calorie of food crops in a hot dry climate such as California requires much more water than elsewhere. Current water withdrawals in some areas of the world are already un-sustainable. The water table is dropping precipitously in the Western US and in northern India. In both areas, users are withdrawing more water than can be replenished and rising salinity is reducing the productivity of plants.

    The cable summarizes Nestlé's alleged position with a worrisome timeline, stating that the company "thinks one-third of the world's population will be affected by fresh water scarcity by 2025, with the situation only becoming more dire thereafter and potentially catastrophic by 2050."

    We asked Nestlé about its current positions on water scarcity and meat consumption. A company spokesperson responded to Tech Insider by email, saying that she had not yet seen Reveal's story or the diplomatic cable, and requested more time to answer our questions.

    She added that the topics are "complicated" and that "there has been some misinformation/inaccurate coverage about our position" in past, then directed us to Nestlé's "created share value" site— where the company sums up its efforts and goals to address water scarcity, climate change, and other important issues.

    We could find no clear position on meat consumption on Nestle's site, beyond the statement that "meat production uses 10 times more water than vegetarian production."

    How you can help save the planet

    Whatever Nestlé's stated position is, the world is indeed heavily stressed by water and meat consumption.

    Drought conditions and dwindling access to fresh water are rippling across the US and the world. Climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions are at an all-time high. Sea-level rise looks increasingly frightening. And food shortages are looming.

    But you need land and water to harvest food — and unfortunately, both of these resources are heavily stressed. (Again, food production has to increase 70% worldwide and by 100% in developing countries to keep up with population growth.)

    So what can you do to help? Take shorter showers to save water? Ride your bike to work to curb emissions? Compost all of your coffee grounds, egg shells, and vegetable waste into soil?

    All of these ideas are great. But by far, the most important thing you can do is shockingly simple: You can cut back on meat or, better yet, stop eating it altogether.

    Support for this advice seems to grow by the day.

    A 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) suggests the meat industry soaks up more than 8% of water used by humans globally. And Vice reports that more than 1,800 gallons of water is behind every pound of meat.

    The livestock sector is suggested to be the largest source of water pollution across the globe. Animal waste, antibiotics, hormones, fertilizers, pesticides used on feed crops, bacteria, viruses, and sediments from eroded land wash into our waterways, sometimes leaching into drinking water supplies.

    And this is all not to mention the meat industry's impact on global warming. The livestock sector as a whole is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. That's more than the emissions of the entire global transportation sector.

    Farm animal emissions of methane alone — a greenhouse gas that is capable of warming the planet tens, hundreds, or possibly thousands of times more efficiently than carbon dioxide — accounts for a whopping 37% of methane originating from human activities.

    Livestock pastures and the crop fields used to feed them also take up a staggering 70% of farmland, according to FAO, and a whopping 30% of land surfaces across the entire globe.

    farmer cow field

    As the population and demand for food grows, global production of meat is expected to double, from 229 million metric tons produced from the year 2000 to 465 million metric tons by the year 2050, according to FAO.

    Studies have shown that adopting a vegetarian lifestyle can not only cut food-related greenhouse gas emissions by more than two-thirds, but can also avert five to eight million deaths worldwide every year by 2050 (largely due to a projected decline in obesity).

    This isn't to say that everyone should give up meat. Animal products provide many essential vitamins, nutrients, and fats — especially for developing children and pregnant women.

    If you're worried about not getting enough protein, there are plenty of other protein-rich foods such as beans, lentils, and peanut butter.

    But if you're otherwise healthy and can do without meat, even if it means just cutting your consumption down by half or three-quarters — not entirely — you can help make yourself and the planet healthier.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Scientists debunked these 5 common myths about eating meat

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