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The latest news on Environment from Business Insider

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    Air pollution continues to be a global problem. 

    Currently, 92% of the population lives in places with higher pollution than what's considered healthy, according to a new report by the World Health Organization. The WHO has also looked at these data at a city-by-city level.

    The most harmful pollutant to human health is called PM 2.5, particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter that's found in soot, smoke, and dust. PM 2.5 is especially dangerous because it can get lodged in the lungs and cause long-term health problems like asthma and chronic lung disease.

    PM 2.5 starts to become a major health problem when there is more than 35.5 micrograms (µg) of PM 2.5 per cubic meter of air, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. But the WHO recommends keeping yearly average PM 2.5 levels three times lower than that.

    Here's a map of the annual median concentration of PM 2.5 — green areas are within the levels that's considered healthy, according to the WHO's standards. 

    Screen Shot 2016 09 26 at 3.09.03 PM

    The WHO links 3 million deaths a year to air pollution. Most of those deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

    “The new WHO model shows countries where the air pollution danger spots are, and provides a baseline for monitoring progress in combatting it,” WHO Assistant Director General Dr Flavia Bustreo said in a news release. 

    SEE ALSO: About 80% of all cities have worse air quality than what's considered healthy — here are the 15 with the worst air pollution

    DON'T MISS: These are the world's deadliest animals

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: NASA is bringing back one of its most experimental and dangerous programs


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    green turtle smuggling animals

    The illegal wildlife trade is one of the largest criminal enterprises on the planet.

    In fact, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ranks wildlife trafficking alongside the drug trade, arms dealing, and human trafficking in terms of illicit profits. A new report by the US Government Accountability Office estimates that the illegal wildlife trade "is worth an estimated $7 billion to $23 billion annually — and is pushing some animals to the brink of extinction."

    Animals are sold as pets, consumed as delicacies, and used to create traditional medicines all around the globe.

    Scroll through these photos for an inside look at animals that have been rescued.

    NEXT: Elephants can detect how dangerous people are by the sounds of their voices

    Criminal elements engaged in the wildlife trade range from terrorist groups to rogue security forces, but the main driving force behind the trade is transnational organized crime.



    That makes trafficking in animals one of the biggest sources of funding for organized crime.



    Pangolins like this newborn here are scaly mammals that many think are on their way to extinction because of trafficking. They're considered delicacies and their scales and blood are used in Chinese medicine.

    Source: CNN



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    July hottest month

    A new study paints a picture of an Earth that is warmer than it has been in about 120,000 years, and is locked into eventually hitting its hottest mark in more than 2 million years.

    As part of her doctoral dissertation at Stanford University, Carolyn Snyder, now a climate policy official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, created a continuous 2 million year temperature record, much longer than a previous 22,000 year record. Snyder's temperature reconstruction, published Monday in the journal Nature, doesn't estimate temperature for a single year, but averages 5,000-year time periods going back a couple million years.

    Snyder based her reconstruction on 61 different sea surface temperature proxies from across the globe, such as ratios between magnesium and calcium, species makeup and acidity. But the further the study goes back in time, especially after half a million years, the fewer of those proxies are available, making the estimates less certain, she said.

    These are rough estimates with large margins of errors, she said. But she also found that the temperature changes correlated well to carbon dioxide levels.

    Temperatures averaged out over the most recent 5,000 years — which includes the last 125 years or so of industrial emissions of heat-trapping gases — are generally warmer than they have been since about 120,000 years ago or so, Snyder found. And two interglacial time periods, the one 120,000 years ago and another just about 2 million years ago, were the warmest Snyder tracked. They were about 3.6 degrees (2 degrees Celsius) warmer than the current 5,000-year average.

    With the link to carbon dioxide levels and taking into account other factors and past trends, Snyder calculated how much warming can be expected in the future.

    Snyder said if climate factors are the same as in the past — and that's a big if — Earth is already committed to another 7 degrees or so (about 4 degrees Celsius) of warming over the next few thousand years.

    "This is based on what happened in the past," Snyder said. "In the past it wasn't humans messing with the atmosphere."

    Scientists give various reasons for past changes in carbon dioxide and heat levels, including regular slight shifts in Earth's orbital tilt.

    Four outside scientists praised the study's tracking of past temperatures, with caveats about how less certain it is as it gets deeper in the past. Jeremy Shakun of Boston College said "Snyder's work is a great contribution and future work should build on it."

    But many of the same scientists said Snyder's estimate of future warming seems too high. Shakun called it unrealistic and not matching historical time periods of similar carbon dioxide levels.

    A fifth scientist, Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, called the study provocative and interesting but said he remains skeptical until more research confirms it. He found the future temperature calculations "so much higher than prevailing estimates that one has to consider it somewhat of an outlier."

    SEE ALSO: A new 2-million-year history of our planet has some worrying news about the future

    DON'T MISS: An economist figured out how much Hillary Clinton's plan to save the world from runaway climate change would actually cost

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    Are Paulsrud disconnects his electric car from a free recharging station in Oslo, Norway, February 21, 2013. REUTERS/Alister Doyle/File Photo

    OSLO (Reuters) - Oslo's leftist city government issued its first "climate budget" on Wednesday aiming to halve greenhouse gas emission within four years in one of the world's most radical experiments to slow global warming.

    The budget, setting out annual goals to choke off emissions from cars, homes and businesses in the Norwegian capital, adds to a scheme announced last year to ban private cars from the city center.

    "We'll count carbon dioxide the same way as we count money," Vice Mayor Robert Steen told Reuters of the targets for halving emissions by 2020.

    Left-wing parties, led by Steen's Labour Party, won a majority in the city council in 2015 for a four-year term and have set about using wide powers to re-design the capital of a nation run by a right-wing government.

    Under Wednesday's plan, Oslo will raise tolls for cars to enter the city, cut parking spaces, phase out fossil-fuel heating in homes and offices by 2020, shift the bus fleet to renewable energy and build ever more bicycle lanes.

    Seth Schultz, of the C40 Cities organization in New York which groups 86 cities working to address climate change, said he did not know of such a radical plan by any other major city.

    "Integrating carbon into the financial budget is new," he said. More and more cities, from Buenos Aires to Beijing, are laying out plans to curb emissions of greenhouse gases.

    The Oslo council agreed earlier this year to halve emissions from Oslo to 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2020 from 1.2 million in 1990, and even more steeply from current levels around 1.4 million. It also aims for net zero emissions by 2030.

    Wednesday's climate budget outlines how. Even if the plan falls short, Steen said it will be worth the effort to highlight the risks of climate change such as heatwaves and rising seas.

    Glen Peters, of the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, said the projected cuts would be unprecedented. "It will be a stretch," he said.

    No country had cut emissions by more than about five percent a year, a rate achieved by France when it shifted to nuclear power from fossil fuels in the 1970s, he said.

    Governments in rich countries project it will take decades to halve national emissions, which are a larger task that a city faces.

    Parts of Oslo's plan also depend on funds from the national government. Oslo has been experimenting with capturing carbon from an incinerator burning municipal waste, but a full-scale project might cost 2 billion Norwegian crowns ($246 million).

    "When we can finds solutions in Oslo maybe we can help other cities," Vice Mayor Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, of the Green Party, told Reuters.

     

     

    (Editing by Jeremy Gaunt.)

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    wind farm

    Wind energy is soaring around the world, thanks to technology advances and energy policies that have reduced its cost. And things are only going to get better — with prices dropping substantially by mid-century, according to a survey of 163 of the world's leading wind energy experts.

    The results, published in the journal Nature Energy, suggest that the cost of electricity from wind could drop by 24–30 percent by 2030 relative to 2014 prices, and by 35–41 percent by 2050.

    The key driver of this price drop? Bigger, more efficient turbines, according to the experts. Taller turbines with larger rotors make it possible for turbines to better harness stronger winds, generating more power.

    Global wind power capacity more than quadrupled between 2006 and 2015. Over 97 percent of this came from onshore wind, but offshore wind capacity has also been increasing, especially in Europe. Whether or not wind energy continues to play an important role in the future will rest squarely on its costs. So researchers have tried in the past to predict wind energy costs by looking at historical data and trends, then extrapolating into the future.

    Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory instead conducted what’s called an “expert elicitation” survey. These carefully designed surveys are designed to eliminate bias and are often considered the best tools to develop estimates of unknown or uncertain quantities.

    The researchers asked experts about three wind power applications: onshore wind, fixed-bottom offshore wind and floating offshore wind. The results indicate that onshore wind should remain cheaper than offshore. But the actual cost of offshore wind will drop more by 2050 than onshore, which makes sense since offshore wind is a relatively immature technology, hence there’s more room for improvements.

    The reasons for dropping prices varied by type of wind installation. For all types, one key factor was larger turbines with wider rotors, which increase the amount of energy a project actually generates. Another common reason was lower upfront capital costs and, for offshore wind, lower financing cost.

    View Ensia homepage

    Republished with permission from Conservation. View the original article here.

    SEE ALSO: There's a good reason GE picked Rhode Island for America's first offshore wind farm

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    NOW WATCH: We did a blind taste test of Bud, Coors, Miller, and Natty Light — here's the verdict


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    greenland

    We were flying fast and steady, 300 meters over the fjord, when the helicopter pilot suddenly turned downwards, and our stomachs leapt up to our throats.

    Instead of blue sky, we now had ice in front of our eyes.

    A wall of ice. Thirty stories of ice, of a delicate pale blue. It felt like being on a fast elevator with glass windows, with the stories passing in front of us at vertiginous speed.

    Below, the dark blue sea looked frigid, and was approaching too fast for comfort. Suddenly, another left turn and then up; in a few seconds we were over an iceberg 150 meters high and a kilometer wide. That was a monster of an ice cube, broken away from the Ilulissat glacier in Greenland, the fastest-moving glacier in the northern hemisphere.

    Twenty kilometres in 20 years. That’s how much the Ilulissat glacier has retreated as this mighty, flowing river of ice crumbles into the ocean. It sounds like a lot. But I did not fully realize what this meant until we flew over the Ilulissat icefjord. It takes 10 minutes for the helicopter to fly over the amount of ice that has been lost because of global warming – in this glacier alone.

    The speed at which the glacier moves has doubled relative to that in 1998. My scientist brain, accustomed to working with numbers and large scales, had a hard time absorbing this information. If I was rationally aware of the consequences of global warming from scientific reports before, now I felt it emotionally. This is what my trip to Greenland with a group of World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders did to us. It made us move from knowing and caring to be desperate to do something about it.

    greenlandThe experience also made us realize that all the international negotiations and agreements to date are not going to help avert the imminent catastrophe. Not even the boldest targets to reduce carbon pollution put forward by the smartest nations are going to move the dial. It’s all an illusion of movement, kind of like Alice in Wonderland’s Red Queen, running and running but not going anywhere.

    Bob Corell, a reputed climate scientist who took part in the trip, made us simulate international negotiations to try and agree on bolder targets for carbon emission reductions. We were to input targets in a computer model that would show in real time how emissions would decline globally, and how global temperature was going to stabilize before increasing over 2 degrees Celsius – the threshold over which global warming will have dire and irreparable consequences for human life.

    After our negotiations we came up with what we thought were improvements on the status quo. Bob entered the new agreed dates and reduction targets in his model; feeling like wise world leaders, we were expecting conspicuous reductions in global warming trends and a stabilization of the average global temperature. Bob entered the data and pressed ‘enter’. Our eyes were fixed on the screen. Nothing happened.

    What we thought were compromises between short-term interests and the long-term needs of the planet had no impact at all. Zero. I suddenly realized, with more clarity than ever, that all the international negotiations to reach agreements are not having any significant impact. I was speechless. Even a scientist like me, with no doubts about the consequences of global warming, was in shock.

    At the end of the Greenland journey, we all wanted to commit to doing something. No one person alone can convince governments to price carbon, or industries to move towards cleaner practices and reduce carbon pollution. The question is: can we do something that has a measurable positive impact? In my case, as an oceanographer and explorer, I will try to help protect as much as the sea as possible from fishing and pollution, so that ocean life can be more resilient against the effects of global warming.

    I leave it up to you to think about what you are willing to do.

    Enric Sala is a National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence and a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. A version of this story first ran in 2014.

    SEE ALSO: Greenland's receding ice caps could expose a top-secret US nuclear project

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: We now know what turned that Russian river red


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    China air pollution

    How do you track air pollution in a place like China, which doesn’t readily reveal this data?

    That question inspired researchers at Rice University to come up with a solution.

    Their answer involved analyzing the words used in millions of posts on Chinese social media to find out whether microblogging can double as a proxy measurement system for airborne pollution.

    “Historically, China has been very guarded about revealing air pollution data,” environmental engineer Daniel Cohan told Digital Trends. “They take very high quality real-time measurements and have monitors at around 24 sites around Beijing, but they make it very difficult for people to get hold of archival data.”

    Cohan and and Rice computer scientist Dan Wallach used the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo (basically China’s version of Twitter) for their study. They looked at recurrent keywords such as “dust,” “cough,” “haze” and “blue sky” which they hypothesized would correlate with daily pollution levels.

    China air pollution

    The results of their study created something called the Air Discussion Index (ADI), which is based on the frequency of pollution-related terms in 112 million posts, made between 2011 and 2013, by residents of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu.

    “What we’ve introduced with the Air Discussion Index is analogous to what Google has done in predicting flu trends,” Cohan continued. “Just as Google is able to look at search terms and figure out where there’s a flu outbreak, we’ve determined that we can look at Weibo messages and predict how bad the air pollution was on that particular day.”

    They compared their model with hourly sensor readings taken by the (more open) U.S. Embassy in Beijing, and found it could predict these measurements with an accuracy of 88.2 percent in Beijing. This number dipped in other cities where pollution wasn’t so severe and Weibo posts were not so widespread.

    China air pollution

    “What makes China unique is that the air pollution levels are so high that people were actually discussing them on social media,” Cohan said. “Even when they weren’t addressing them directly, they’d often make reference to the haziness or color of the sky.

    You probably couldn’t do this in U.S. cities, where pollution isn’t so visible. However, in places like Beijing, where you can literally see the air pollution, it really does become something a lot of people speak about regularly.”

    Going forward, he suggested the findings could be expanded to cover other places in the world to test how well the model functions.

    “There are large parts of the developing world where we don’t have high quality measurements related to air pollution,” he concluded. “This points to the possibility that we could use social media to infer how bad the pollution is in those locations. It won’t work everywhere, but in some of the world’s most polluted mega-cities it definitely could be part of a potential solution.”

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Turns out LA’s shade balls actually worked


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    Paris Climate COP21 Accord

    BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union states agreed on Friday on a fast-track, joint ratification of the Paris accord to combat climate change, securing the deal enough backing to enter into force this year and guide a radical shift of the world economy away from fossil fuels.

    The agreement by environment ministers from all 28 member states is a rare political breakthrough for the EU at a time of discord over the migration crisis and uncertainty after Britain's vote to leave the bloc.

    "All member states greenlight early EU ratification of Paris Agreement: What some believed impossible is now real," tweeted European Council President Donald Tusk, whose home country Poland had been the main state resisting such a swift accord.

    The decision by the EU, which accounts for about 12 percent of global emissions, will have to be approved by the European Parliament next week. And that in turn has to be approved by ministers.

    To take effect, the Paris Agreement needs formal ratification by 55 countries that account for 55 percent of global emissions. Once it reaches that threshold, it will enter into force after 30 days.

    Cementing the accord before the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8 would make it harder to unravel if Republican Donald Trump, who has opposed it, wins that vote.

    So far, 61 nations representing 47.8 percent of emissions have ratified, led by China and the United States. India, with 4 percent, is set to ratify on Sunday and the EU ratification would push it over the line.

    climate change

    Poland satisfied

    Poland sought concessions for its coal-fired economy ahead of Friday's special gathering, so EUenvironment ministers found a way to break with normal procedure and lock collectively into the Paris accord.

    "Polish interests have been secured and agreement has been reached," said Pavel Mucha, a spokesman for Poland's Environment Ministry. He did not give details.

    When EU regulators unveiled plans in July for spreading the burden of the bloc's climate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to at least 40 percent below 1990 levels, Poland objected to its target.

    The Paris agreement seeks to keep average temperature rises "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times to tackle global warming. It will require a drastic shift from fossil fuels this century as part of efforts to limit heatwaves, floods, droughts and rising sea levels.

    The EU shortcut, dubbed "institutional creativity" by France's minister, ultimately hangs on trust that each of the 28 will follow through with their own ratifications. If they do not, those who have gone ahead could be stuck with fulfilling the promised emissions cuts of the bloc as a whole.

    Germany, Hungary, France, Austria and Slovakia have individually ratified the Paris pact within the EU.

     

    (Additional reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko in Warsaw and Alister Doyle in Oslo; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

    SEE ALSO: Here's where Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump stand on energy issues

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: NASA is bringing back one of its most experimental and dangerous programs


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    suomi npp earth 2015 nasa noaa

    The world has crossed a major greenhouse-gas milestone, and it may never turn back.

    The Manua Loa Observatory in Hawaii has maintained a continuous record of atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels since 1958. Here's the complete record of readings from the observatory over that time period:

    co2_data_mlo

    As you can see, atmospheric CO2 cycles every year, but there's a significant upward trend in the measurements.

    Right now we're at the low point in that cycle, just at the end of September. And, according to a post from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography (which we first saw covered over at Motherboard), atmospheric CO2 is holding at 401 parts per million. That's the first time in recorded history that the annual carbon cycle has bottomed out at over 400 ppm. And it means the 2016 carbon trough is about 25% higher than the 1958 peak — just under 320 ppm.

    As Scripps points out, there have been a few years when the readings in October have been a bit lower than September. But they've never seen one full ppm drop, so it's unlikely we'll see a reading under 400 ppm this year.

    And given the steady upward trend in atmospheric CO2, it also means we'll likely never see a reading under 400 ppm in the foreseeable climate future.

    The last time atmospheric carbon held above 400 ppm was 15 million years ago. The world was three to six degrees warmer, and sea levels were between 75 and 120 feet higher, according to research published in the journal Science.

    Which is to say: This is perhaps a milestone to note.

    SEE ALSO: TRUMP: Claims of global warming still 'need to be investigated'

    DON'T MISS: An economist figured out how much Hillary Clinton's plan to save the world from runaway climate change would actually cost

    Join the conversation about this story »

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


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    Hurricane Matthew, the first Atlantic storm to swell to Category-5 since 2007, threatens much of the Caribbean this week, and could eventually impact Florida and South Carolina as well. 

    Diminished only slightly to a Category-4 hurricane since Friday, with sustained wind of 130 miles per hour, Matthew has already caused "torrents of rain" in Jamaica, according to NBC News. On Monday morning, its center remained well over 100 miles south of the island.

    Haiti, where Matthew should make landfall by early Tuesday morning, is expected to take the most intense hit from the storm. As much as 40 inches of rain could cause severe flooding and mudslides. The country is still rebuilding its infrastructure after an earthquake and cholera outbreak together killed 210,000 people in 2010, CNN reports.

    Hurricane Matthew map Monday morning

    The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and Cuba should also face severe impacts from the storm. The Bahamas face the highest storm surge, with 10 to 15 feet possible in some areas.

    Evacuations began Sunday at the US Guantanamo Bay military base, home to about 6,000 service members, contractors, and their families in addition to 61 detainees. The Miami Herald reports that around 700 family members, non-essential personnel, and pets have left for Florida ahead of the storm's arrival.

    It's difficult to closely predict Hurricanes beyond three days into the future. Right now, the NOAA National Hurricane Center anticipates that Matthew will track east of Florida, broadly in the direction of Georgia and South Carolina.

    But it's impossible to know precisely how powerful the storm will be at that point, or where exactly it will land. The National Hurricane Center anticipates the storm will remain a major hurricane through Wednesday, but has not released detailed projections for the following days, when it could strike the US.

    Still, Florida Governor Rick Scott has called the storm "catastrophic" and encouraged residents to prepare for its arrival.

    Stay with Business Insider for updates on Matthew's progress and threats.

    SEE ALSO: Earth's atmosphere now has carbon dioxide levels unseen for 15 million years, and we might be past the point of no return

    DON'T MISS: ACCUWEATHER: Americans should prepare for a cold, stormy, snowy winter

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The world’s largest pyramid is not in Egypt


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    As Category 4 Hurricane Matthew batters Haiti and the rest of the Caribbean on Tuesday with powerful 145 mph winds and rain, we're getting a more complete picture of the threat the storm poses to the United States.

    NPR reports at least four people have died as a result of the storm in the Carribean, two in Haiti. And Haitian Senator Nenel Cassy described to the Miami Herald "catastrophic" flooding in the Nippes region of the country.

    A hurricane watch is in effect for the east coast of Florida. Current models have Matthew striking Florida as a "major" hurricane late Thursday or Friday with winds over 110 mph, and then maintaining hurricane strength as it moves up the East Coast.

    Here's the map of the projected path:

    Hurricane Matthew

    As a general rule of thumb, hurricane projections four days or more into the future are hazy, so we don't know yet how exactly Matthew's path through the US would look. But Floridians should prepare for a major storm, and the rest of the East Coast should keep a close eye on updates.

    Update: An earlier version of this article's headline suggested that Matthew would strike the US both as a Category 4 hurricane and with 110 mph winds. A Category 4 hurricane has winds of 130 to 156 mph.

    SEE ALSO: Hurricane Matthew is threatening the Caribbean and the US

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Florida governor on Hurricane Matthew: ‘You must leave before it’s too late’


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    But in the hard math of climate change, the world has to weigh the economic benefit of 56,000 Greenlanders against the deaths of millions, if not billions, of people.

    As human emissions slow-cook the world, a researcher known for his groundbreaking work on climate change is making a frankly desperate move to force the government to deal with it.

    James Hansen, along with 11 co-authors, published a paper Tuesday outlining a stark picture of the situation we've found ourselves in:

    • Our planet has now warmed about 1.25 degrees Celsius as compared to the period between 1880 and 1920.
    • The last time the planet was this hot was the Eemian period 130,000 to 115,000 years ago, when glaciers melted and sea level was 20 to 30 feet higher.
    • We've already so vastly overshot atmospheric greenhouse gas thresholds that further significant warming is pretty much inevitable.
    • Though there's an international consensus that climate change is a problem, governments are moving far too slowly and in too limited a fashion to prevent catastrophic outcomes.

    The paper, still under review, doesn't drop any bombshells. These are all things that climate scientists already know (some of which they've known for a long time). Rather, it collects and reviews all the available knowledge about climate change in one place, showing how well-documented, well-replicated, and backed up by a broad range of methods and sources each little corner of the climate picture is. Hansen and his co-authors make a point of writing in clear, digestible language so that non-experts can follow the details of the science. 

    The point of all this? The intellectual foundation for a quixotic federal lawsuit designed to force the government to address climate change.

    Hansen, along with 21 children from across the US, filed the suit in the Oregon US District Court, claiming that in enabling climate change, the federal government "has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources."

    The federal government 'has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.'

    In a call with reporters Monday, Hansen said that since the White House and Congress have failed over the course of decades to meaningfully address climate change, it's his hope that the third branch of government, the judiciary, will act.

    From even a short distance, it might seem strange that a climate scientist would think the government has not acted on climate change.

    True, Congress still includes many politicians who deny science.

    But the US is a party to the international climate agreement reached this year in Paris. President Obama has committed to a 26% to 28% emissions reduction by 2030. One presidential candidate is somewhat out of touch with climate science, but the one most likely to win has a detailed policy proposal to reduce emissions 80% by 2050. So what gives?

    The issue, Hansen et al write, is that the proposals on the table just don't go far enough to reverse the damage that decades of political stonewalling and inaction have wrought.

    If we actually want to make a difference this late in the game, they write, it's necessary to achieve "negative" emissions by implementing measures to make fossil fuels too expensive for normal use and redevelop forests to extract carbon dioxide from the air.

    Without those measures, they warn, future generations could find themselves with a bill of hundreds of trillions of dollars as coastal cities flood and it becomes necessary to build technology to extract CO2 from the air.

    That's a cost, Hansen argues in a blog post about the paper, that the present generation owes it to the future to avoid.

    SEE ALSO: An economist figured out how much Hillary Clinton's plan to save the world from runaway climate change would actually cost

    DON'T MISS: This is what Earth will look like in 100 years — if we're lucky

    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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    head

    High above Norway, in the cold depths of the Arctic Ocean, lies the Svalbard archipelago. Located some 650 miles from the North Pole, Svalbard is a place of long, dark winters and breathtaking landscapes populated by Arctic foxes, reindeer and polar bears. But it’s also home to unexpected ruins, stark remnants of the places where people have lived on these unforgiving islands.

    During the 17th and 18th centuries, Svalbard was used as a base for whaling expeditions; by the early 20th century, its main industry was coal mining. Today, it's still possible to glimpse some of this history in the abandoned mining operations that still exist around the largest settlement, Longyearbyen, which has a population of 2,162 people. Getting around is another matter: roads are limited, which restricts transport mainly to snowmobiles in winter and boats in summer. Air travelers to Svalbard land at the world’s northernmost public airport, which was built during WWII. 

    Just north of Longyearbyen is the former Russian coal mining settlement known as Pyramiden. Purchased by the Soviet Union from Sweden in 1927, and once home to more than a thousand people, it was abandoned in 1998. Today the signs of its former inhabitants remain only in the guise of a decaying Olympic-sized swimming pool, a movie projector, and a room overflowing with rolls of film.

    This isolated, frozen landscape held great appeal for photographer Christopher Michel. This was his second trip to the High Arctic, and, he says, “I am absolutely captivated by remote landscapes devoid of humans. A place where survival requires extraordinary adaptation.” This affinity runs through his photographs, which are a compelling account of this unique region and the remnants of the communities that lived there.

    Below, Atlas Obscura has a selection of Michel’s images of Arctic ruins in Svalbard. 

    The sign at the abandoned Soviet coal mining colony of Pyramiden.



    The main square at Pyramiden with Soviet-era insignia — propaganda signs, hammer & sickle, and a bust of Lenin.



    Although located some 650 miles from the North Pole, the town's comforts included an Olympic-sized pool.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    The eye of Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007, hit Cuba Wednesday morning as the major tropical cyclone advanced toward the Bahamas.

    The Washington Post reports that the extent of the destruction in Haiti, the western hemisphere's poorest nation, is still unknown after Matthew struck with 145 mph winds. International aid teams are struggling to reach areas cut off by mud slides and washed-out bridges.

    Having calmed somewhat since to a still-major 115 mph Category-3 hurricane, Matthew's path toward the US has grown clearer. It's projected to be right off the coast of Florida by Thursday evening.

    hurricane matthew wednesday

    Hurricane warnings are in effect across much of the eastern coast of Florida, with hurricane watches in the north and tropical storm watches in the south. Florida has not been hit by a hurricane since Wilma in 2005.

    The NOAA still projects Matthew will be a "major" hurricane with winds over 110 mph when it hits Florida.

    Projecting more than three days into the future is difficult with hurricanes, but a major strike up the US East Coast has grown less likely in the last 24 hours. The Carolinas could still face hurricane-force winds, but it appears likely that Matthew will turn out to sea before reaching Virginia or the Northeast.

    SEE ALSO: Earth's atmosphere now has carbon dioxide levels unseen for 15 million years, and we might be past the point of no return

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    Queen Elizabeth

    A species of elm thought to be extinct in Great Britain for the past 50 years has just been discovered in one of the Queen's gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland.

    The two Wentworth elms (Ulmus Wentworthii Pendula) were found hidden in plain sight during a recent botanical survey of the gardens surrounding the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the Queen's official residence in Scotland.

    The strangest part is that the trees weren't hard to find — at around 30 metres (100 feet) in height, they were two of the most photographed trees in the gardens. But apparently no one had picked up on the fact that the species was supposed to be extinct.

    "Such a discovery when the trees in question are just shy of 100 feet [30 metres] and in plain sight does sound rather odd,"said Max Coleman from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE).

    It was only when the latest survey noted the trees as unique — with their weeping appearance and waxy leaves - that botanists realised they were most likely the only surviving specimens of Wentworth elm left in Great Britain.

    Coleman speculates to the BBC that the reason they went unnoticed for so long could be because Wentworth elms were never very common in the first place.

    "If you pull your tree book off the shelf to try and look them up, you won't find Wentworth elm listed in the books,"he explained.

    On top of that, the species was pretty much entirely wiped out in Great Britain in the 1970s due to an epidemic of Dutch elm disease, which killed between 25 and 75 million elms across the UK.

    Experts are now considering ways they can propagate the Wentworth elm and restore it in other parts of Great Britain - and part of that involves trying to figure out why these trees survived in the first place.

    "It is very likely the only reason these rare elms have survived is because Edinburgh City Council has been surveying and removing diseased elms since the 1980s,"said Coleman.

    "Without that work many more of the thousands of elms in Edinburgh would have been lost. The success of this program may be partly demonstrated in the way two rare trees have been preserved."

    To add to the intrigue surrounding the two Wentworth elm specimens, botanists are now speculating that they might have actually been taken from the botanic gardens in Edinburgh at some point last century.

    The Edinburgh gardens' archives reveal that three Wentworth elms arrived at RBGE from Germany in 1902, but after that, all records refer to only a single tree in the botanic gardens, which died in 1996 as a result of the disease.

    "It is very tempting to speculate that the Wentworth elms at the Palace are the two missing trees from RBGE. There is anecdotal evidence that the young trees could have come in to RBGE then been grown-on before planting-out in their final positions,"said Coleman.

    "Certainly, there was a close relationship between the Palace and the Garden in the early 20th century and the head gardener at Holyrood, William Smith, had trained here. And, although we have no record here of elms going out, we know that a large number of ivy plants went from here to Holyrood to plant round the abbey ruins."

    For now, though, the origins of these two surviving Wentworth elms remains mysterious. Let's just hope the story doesn't end here, and that these two specimens go on to help continue the species on into a new century.

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    Packing peanuts made from a material called polystyrene are used to protect products while being shipped. Yet, these little pieces of foam can have several other uses instead of taking up space in our over-stuffed landfills.

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    hurricane matthew south carolina

    Hurricane Matthew will likely strike Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina on Friday.

    It will likely make landfall in Florida as a powerful Category 4 or Category 3 storm. It should weaken somewhat as it moves north, but it would still pack a significant punch.

    Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina has ordered mandatory evacuations along the coast, according to CNN. The governors of Florida and Georgia have declared states of emergency and have asked residents to prepare. Several barrier islands in Florida have also begun evacuations. As far north as North Carolina, officials are asking tourists to cut short their vacations.

    hurricane matthew x

    Mandatory hurricane evacuations are significant and should be taken seriously. But they aren't necessarily a sign of catastrophe either. As the federal government writes on its preparedness website, it's not uncommon to see one or two in a year.

    The eye of Hurricane Matthew, the most powerful Atlantic storm since 2007, hit Cuba on Wednesday morning as the major tropical cyclone advanced toward the Bahamas.

    The Washington Post reports that the extent of the destruction in Haiti, the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, is still unknown after Matthew struck with 145 mph winds. International aid teams are struggling to reach areas cut off by mudslides and washed-out bridges.

    Having calmed somewhat — though still a major, 120 mph Category 3 hurricane — Matthew's path toward the US has grown clearer. It's projected to be right off the coast of Florida by Thursday evening, and it's now expected to make landfall in Florida very early Friday morning.

    miami hurricane matthew

    Hurricane warnings are in effect across much of the eastern coast of Florida, with hurricane watches in the north and tropical storm watches in the south. Florida has not been hit by a hurricane since Wilma in 2005.

    Projecting more than three days into the future is difficult with hurricanes, but a major strike to the Northeast has grown less likely in the last 24 hours. It appears likely that Matthew will turn out to sea before reaching Virginia or the Northeast.

    SEE ALSO: Earth's atmosphere now has carbon dioxide levels unseen for 15 million years, and we might be past the point of no return

    DON'T MISS: Trump says claims of global warming still 'need to be investigated'

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    Officials say Hurricane Matthew strengthened overnight as it struck the Bahamas and US coastal states have issued mandatory evacuations.

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    Hundreds of thousands of people are without power after Hurricane Matthew brushes the east coast of Florida.

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    eurasia skitch

    Eurasia and India are half the size they once were, according to new research, which may also help solve a long-standing mystery about where all that missing land ended up.

    A team of geoscientists from the University of Chicago who have been studying the tectonic plates the continents sit on have discovered that half the mass that was there 60 million years ago gradually slipped under the Earth's surface.

    The way this happened was long thought to be impossible.

    When the Eurasian and Indian plates started smashing together all those millennia ago, the Himalayan mountains were created in one of the most dramatic visualisations ever of the impact plate tectonic forces can have. The research team calculated the amount of land mass before and after this collision to better understand its effect.

    Their results showed that the difference in mass was huge, and this could only be explained by the missing chunk disappearing down into the Earth’s mantle. This wasn't how these types of tectonic plates were thought to behave.

    "We're taught in Geology 101 that continental crust is buoyant and can't descend into the mantle,"said Miquela Ingalls, the graduate student who led the project.

    Whereas oceanic crust can slide down into the mantle where it melts and mixes together, so-called continental crust is less dense and was thought to get pushed back up instead, like a football in a pool.

    "We really have significant amounts of crust that have disappeared from the crustal reservoir, and the only place that it can go is into the mantle," said David Rowley, geophysical sciences professor and collaborator on the project. "It used to be thought that the mantle and the crust interacted only in a relatively minor way. This work suggests that, at least in certain circumstances, that's not true."

    This theory actually helps answer some puzzling questions about the Earth's mantle.

    lava lampsElements like lead and uranium sometimes crop up in volcanic lava, and it has been a bit of a mystery about where they came from. They are abundant in the continental crust, but are not known to originate in the mantle, where lava comes from.

    This suggests that the mantle has somehow been contaminated by the crust, and this was surprising when the belief was that the two never came into contact. This mystery has been cleared up now that researchers know that continental crust can sink too.

    "If we're seeing the India-Asia collision system as an ongoing process over Earth's history, there has been a continuous mixing of the continental crustal elements back into the mantle," said Rowley. "And they can then be re-extracted and seen in some of those volcanic materials that come out of the mantle today."

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