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The latest news on Environment from Business Insider
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    Following the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, wild boars descended from the surrounding forests to inhabit the cities. With the evacuation orders on several towns about to be lifted, animal control hunter groups are working to remove the boars from the area.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an updated video that was originally published March 9, 2017.

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    • Historically, fights over water in California were about dams.
    • Now the battle is shifting to data that measure water usage in detail.


    If you thought California’s water wars were bitter, just wait until you see our water data wars.

    Digital tools have expanded the ability of governments, companies and nonprofits to measure the uses of California water in detail, and thus build more water-efficient products, boost water conservation, and replace expensive and inefficient infrastructure.

    But the abundance of water data effectively makes every piece of land and every drop of water in California the subject of measurement—and conflict.

    The data also exposes the fragmentation and deficiencies of California’s system of water management.

    The state’s new conservation requirements add to the stakes of arguments over data. As Californians struggled to save every drop during the recent five-year drought, the state for the first time imposed mandatory restrictions on water use—requiring that 400 local water agencies figure out how to reduce usage by 25 percent in 2015.

    California drought lake waterThat shift, following 2009 legislation setting a goal of reducing urban per capita water use by 20 percent by 2020, is changing the way Californians fight over water—away from historic battles over dams, and toward new contests over maximizing the water we already have.

    Among the questions to which new data is being applied: What incentives will convince most people to remove their grass lawns and, if they do, how much water do those removals save?

    How much water do efficient toilets and appliances really conserve? Exactly how much water are we losing to leaks—and where can we make the most efficient investments to stop them?

    Then there’s a bigger-picture quandary: can data help integrate our water use with our electricity and gas use—making ourselves so efficient that we effectively mitigate the effects of climate change?

    That promising thought is mixed with real questions about the accuracy of the data we do have.

    How precisely are we measuring evapotranspiration—the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from soil and by transpiration from plants? And how accurately are we measuring our land use to determine how much landscaping could be replaced by more water-efficient plantings?

    waterThis is not easy work. When a state pilot project tried to measure landscape, it found that among 20 water agencies, there was no consensus on defining landscape areas or how to calculate them.

    These issues are not petty—they are questions of justice.

    How much water savings, for example, can we demand from farmworker housing that draws on groundwater in the fields?

    In this context, the highly publicized controversy over the California Water Fix—Gov. Jerry’s Brown proposal to build tunnels under the Delta to convey water to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California —feels like an anachronistic repeat of decades-old dramas about dams and canals.

    The more important fight today is over who controls the data and what it justifies.

    This newer fight has lately involved legislation—SB 606 and AB 1668—that seeks to establish a management regime to realize the governor’s framework for “making water conservation a California way of life.”

    The trouble—say younger, tech-savvy water warriors—is that data undergirding California water use is old or faulty.

    In an open letter to Governor Brown this summer, Patrick Atwater of the L.A.-based nonprofit ARGO wrote that state water agencies don’t even have accurate land use information or accurate service area boundaries for local water retailers.

    “There is an urgent need to modernize how California’s water agencies manage data,” he wrote. “Achieving the broader urban water efficiencies will require creativity and finesse, not simply command and control regulation.”

    ARGO called for a one-year task force to focus on developing better-quality data and designing a 21st-century system of water governance.

    Such a transformation would be welcome. But it may be a long way off. For now, more data means a wider water war.

    Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.

    SEE ALSO: Scientists are closing in on warm caves under Antarctica which could support secret life

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 'Shark Tank' star Barbara Corcoran: How I went from a 10-kid household and more than 20 jobs to become a real estate mogul

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    Paris climate change agreement

    • Syria, the world's last holdout, just announced it would join the Paris agreement.
    • The agreement set a goal to keep the average global temperature from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius.
    • The US is now alone in rejecting the historic climate accord.

    The United States is now the only country not on board with the Paris agreement.

    Syria, which has been engaged in a bloody civil war for six years and was the world's last holdout, announced it would sign up to the 2015 climate accord, delegates at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, said Tuesday.

    The US signed the agreement under President Barack Obama in December 2015 alongside 194 other nations and remains part of it, but the Trump administration has pledged to withdraw the US from it.

    The Paris agreement set a goal to keep the planet from warming by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels, with 2 degrees Celsius as the upper limit for global temperature rise.

    Nicaragua initially rejected the agreement because the country's government thought it didn't go far enough, but last month Nicaraguan leaders announced their decision to join.

    If the US does withdraw from the agreement, the earliest it could do so is November 4, 2020— one day after the next presidential election.

    Trump has said the deal isn't "fair" to the US, even though the country has contributed more to climate change than any other nation. Just last week, federal scientists in the US sounded the alarm once again, releasing an exhaustive report cautioning that global warming was accelerating — with human activity to blame.

    The Trump administration's plan to withdraw was unpopular globally. An official in France said Trump was "for the time being"not being invited to the climate-change summit in Paris next month.

    SEE ALSO: Bonn talks test global resolve to fix climate, without Trump

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 6 major US cities could be underwater within 80 years — here are the disturbing ‘after’ images

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    snow storm New York City NYC blizzard winter

    • Federal forecasters are predicting an impact from La Niña on winter temperatures and precipitation.
    • The Great Lakes and portions of the Rockies could get slammed with higher-than-usual snow totals.
    • The South and the Northeast are expected to get a warmer-than-usual winter, with the Gulf Coast remaining dry.

    It's been a dramatic fall across the United States.

    Wildfires gutted wine country in California's Napa region. Hurricanes pummeled the US from Puerto Rico to Houston, and an oddly springlike wave of warm sun hit the Northeast last week.

    But what's in store for the winter, which officially kicks off December 21?

    Forecasters at the National Weather Service say they have seen some cooler-than-normal water swirling in the Pacific Ocean, coupled with stronger-than-usual winds above the water.

    That has prompted an official La Niña watch. La Niña is a weather pattern that disrupts normal winter across North America. Typically, it causes the US to experience a wetter-than-usual winter across most of the top states and a drier-than-usual one across the bottom.

    The "little girl" from the Pacific can also usher in unusual temperatures. Here's how the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration thinks things may look across the continental US from December to March:

    bi_graphics_winter is coming

    The model suggests that many Americans could get a balmy winter, with mild temperatures wafting across much of the South and the Northeast.

    But it may get chillier than normal in other areas, including the Pacific Northeast, northern Wyoming, and North Dakota. Snow totals this year could be very high across the northern plains — from the Rockies to the Great Lakes — giving skiers a reason to rejoice. Hawaii and western Alaska are also expected to have a soggy, precipitous season ahead.

    Of course, experts caution that this is only a model and that weather is still (always) up in the air.

    And not every forecaster is expecting La Niña. The Old Farmer's Almanac, a controversial source the Houston meteorologist Matt Lanza says is "about as good as going to a psychic," bases its long-term predictions largely on the sun's output. The OFA is predicting a cold, wet, snowy year across almost the entire US (with one bright spot of mild temperatures around Lake Superior). That's because the sun has been going through a period of low activity lately called "solar minimum," with fewer sunspots and solar flares bursting out of the sun.

    The OFA acknowledges, though, that "most scientists believe that the magnitude of changes in solar activity is insufficient to have a significant effect on Earth's weather."

    Americans will have to wait until winter's official start on the shortest day of the year (Dec. 21) to see how this all shakes out on the ground.

    SEE ALSO: America's bizarre, dangerous winter showcased the extreme weather climate scientists have been warning us about

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: How El Niño and La Niña affect weather

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    Scott Pruitt

    • The Environmental Protection Agency's Scientific Advisory Board makes sure the science the agency uses for key policy decisions is sound.
    • Administrator Scott Pruitt banned some scientists from serving on the panel last week, saying researchers who've won EPA grants in the past can't remain independent enough to serve on the board. 
    • One of his new replacement picks, smog researcher Robert Phalen, thinks modern air is "too clean" for people.


    A new guard has moved in at the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Administrator Scott Pruitt is shaking up the EPA's Scientific Advisory Board — a group of the agency’s top science experts who are tasked with reviewing the scientific information the EPA uses to make key policy decisions. Pruitt has moved in a roster of 18 new people who will now make up about half of the agency's 44-member committee. 

    The new chair of the board, Michael Honeycutt — the director of toxicology at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality — has been a vocal critic of the EPA in the past. The Texas Observer reports that he's suggested EPA air quality regulations and ozone limits are unnecessary, because Americans spend 90% of their time indoors, anyway. 

    Another Pruitt pick is Robert Phalen, a smog researcher who once famously said that modern air is “a little too clean for optimum health.”  He claims children’s lungs need a few irritants to grow hearty, and that pollutants like coal are good for lung defenses.

    Air pollution is killing one in six people around the world, and it's more deadly than smoking, wars, malnutrition or obesity.

    Just this week, schools in New Delhi had to close because Indian officials said the city has become a “gas chamber” engulfed in thick smog. In the US, though, air pollution rates have droppedmore than 70% since 1970 — the year the EPA was founded.

    Members of Congress are already voicing concern about the changes at the EPA. In a letter signed by dozens of Democrats and at least one Republican, lawmakers voiced concern that Pruitt's changes might compromise the agency's ability to seek out "objective, independent scientific expertise." 

    That’s a little different than what one newly-appointed SAB board member told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2012.

    My most important role in science is causing trouble and controversy,” Phalen said.

    SEE ALSO: Pollution is killing more people than wars, obesity, smoking, and malnutrition

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A designer is turning expensive sneakers into smog masks to combat China’s ‘red alert’ pollution levels

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    antarctica ice flows visualization whole continent nasa gsfc svs

    • Antarctica is warming faster than most places on Earth, causing surface melt.
    • Melt water below the continent's thick ice sheets lubricates their movement toward the ocean.
    • A new study backs up the idea that a hot plume of rock in the mantle is sitting below West Antarctica.
    • This plume may contribute to higher-than-normal ice losses in West Antarctica.

    Antarctica today takes a lot of heat from above, thanks to two hundred years of carbon-belching human activity and the warming this has caused.

    An increasing number of researchers also think the frozen Southern Continent faces significant warming from below: Hot rock pluming upward through Earth's mantle, leaking heat through the crust, and melting the bottoms of Antarctic ice sheets.

    The effect, first proposed 30 years ago, seems especially strong in West Antarctica, where ice sheets losses are most dramatic and contributing to sea-level rise. But few scientists believed this was happening, at least initially.

    antarctica ice sheet melting losses cryo satellite esa"I thought it was crazy,"Hélène Seroussi, a climatologist and ice researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a press release. "I didn't see how we could have that amount of heat and still have ice on top of it."

    However, a new study by Seroussi and others now backs up the idea of a hot mantle plume — and the melting it causes — with advanced computer modeling.

    The work was published September 1 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth.

    Rising from the depths

    earth core crust mantle layers shutterstock

    Earth's internal heat is always warming up the ground, including rock under ice sheets all over the planet. While this partially melts them from below, snow and ice accumulation on top is usually enough to balance out these losses.

    Over the years, however, researchers who study Antarctic ice melt have detailed an anomaly at West Antarctica. There, ice sheet thinning is more drastic than anywhere else on the continent, according to satellite data.

    Since the industrial revolution, the North and South Poles have warmed at a rate many times faster than other locations on Earth. In Antarctica, this is melting ice sheets from above and pooling water on top of them — possibly helping carve off Delaware-size icebergs.

    But a warming climate does not fully explain Antarctica's mounting ice loss. So in recent years, researchers have looked deeper for an answer.

    Hiding under the ice

    antarctica sub-glacial lakes rivers marie byrd land dome nsf zina deretsky

    One line of research has discovered, documented, and even drilled into and explored a vast system of sub-glacial lakes and rivers.

    This water helps lubricate the movement of ice sheets from the snowy mountains to the sea — and certain parts of the Southern Continent, where there's a lot of sub-glacial water — are moving and melting faster than others.

    Scientists have also dug into the mystery of a bulge in Earth's crust below West Antarctica, called the Marie Byrd Land Dome. At first, it was thought the crust was thicker there. But earthquake-like seismic measurements disproved that idea.

    Something else is buoying the region, and recent seismic imaging — essentially 3D-radar for Earth's crust and mantle — suggests there's a warm plume of rock below West Antarctica. (Just as sound waves travel slower through liquids than solids, seismic waves slow down when encountering hotter, more gooey, and less-dense rock.)

    west antarctica seismic speed mantle crust jgr solid earth helene seroussi et al labeled

    Since this could just be an irregularity in the mantle, Seroussi and her colleagues borrowed from a computer model used to simulate the giant plume of hot rock below Yellowstone National Park.

    Researchers plugged in all of the known physics about the mantle, Antarctica, and its ice sheets — including their changing altitude, movement, friction caused by that movement, melting rates, and more — and produced dozens of simulations, according to NASA JPL.

    Those simulations showed that heat spilling from a hot mantle plume could be up to three times greater than it is for a normal, non-volcanic chunk of mantle below the US. And compared to mantle below Yellowstone, the heat output could be 75% that of the volcanically active region.

    When the researchers compared that heat output to basal (or bottom) melt rates in Antarctica, no places matched — except for West Antarctica. At that location, a crack or rift in the crust may be allowing heat to rapidly escape upward, the researchers wrote in their study.

    "Without a plume-like heating source," they said, "our simulations show that intrinsic heating and crustal sources do not provide enough energy to generate significant amounts of basal meltwater."

    SEE ALSO: Antarctica's colossal new iceberg is doomed — here's what will happen next

    DON'T MISS: Antarctica's giant iceberg has been photographed in striking new detail

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The biggest volcano eruptions in recorded history

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    sudan northern white rhino

    • A photo of the last male northern white rhino in the world has gone viral on Twitter.
    • The photo depicts Sudan lying on the ground, alongside the caption: "Want to know what extinction looks like?"
    • Sudan is the last male of his species left in the world. He is unable to mate with the two remaining females of his kind.

    A photo of the world's last male northern white rhino, tweeted to show "what extinction looks like," has gone viral.

    The biologist Daniel Schneider's photo of the rhino, named Sudan, lying on the ground with his eyes downcast has been retweeted more than 40,000 times on Twitter since Monday.

    "Want to know what extinction looks like? This is the last male Northern White Rhino," Schneider tweeted. "The Last. Nevermore."

    Sudan, who was born in 1973, is the only male northern white rhino left in the world. He lives at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya with two females of his species — both of whom are incapable of natural reproduction, the conservancy's website said.

    After the death of two northern white rhinos in the Czech Republic and San Diego in 2015, the trio became the last of their kind in the world.

    Conservationists have been trying to find new ways, including in vitro fertilization and stem-cell technology, to preserve the lineage. Northern white rhinos usually live up to 40 years, the World Wide Fund said, meaning Sudan may have already lived past his expected life cycle.

    The decline of the northern white rhino, which used to roam central Africa, is due to poaching and various civil wars in the region, Ol Pejeta said. The conservancy has armed security guards watching over the three rhinos at all times.

    sudan northern white rhino tinder

    Sudan found fame earlier this year as conservationists created a Tinder profile for him.

    "I don't mean to be too forward, but the fate of my species literally depends on me," his profile on the dating app said. Users who swiped right were directed to a website where they could donate to Ol Pejeta.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: There’s a live supervolcano underneath Yellowstone National Park — here’s what would happen if it erupted

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    Winner, Young Category, Nature in Urbania

    • The winners of the prestigious Sanctuary Asia magazine photo contest award have been announced.
    • Many of the images portray the complicated and often dark relationship between humans and nature.
    • This year's overall winner is particularly disturbing: It shows a mob pelting a mother elephant and her calf with flaming balls of tar.

    On November 7, the Sanctuary Asia conservation magazine announced the winners from the 2017 Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards contest.

    Many of the winning photos depict the complex — and often dark — interaction between humans and other living creatures. Some images, like the shot above by Sitara A. Karthikeyan, highlight the effects of disappearing habitats. That photo, titled "Valpari Vagrant", shows how a combination of shrinking wild areas and tourists' habit of feeding wild monkeys have led macaques to hang around humans, trying to co-exist as best they can.

    The photo that won the overall wildlife photographer of the year contest, however, is particularly disturbing.

    In the image below, "Hell is Here" by Biplab Hazra, a mob pelts a mother elephant and her calf with burning balls of tar. 

    Sanctuary’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017 is Biplab Hazra for his stunning image titled ‘Hell is Here'

    It's hard to look at. In the caption for the winning image, Hazra explained that this shocking scene is actually a common one.

    "The heat from the fire scorches their delicate skin as mother and child attempt to flee the mob. In the lead, the cow’s expansive ears are angled forward as she stoically ignores the crowd of jeering men. Behind her, her calf screams in confusion and fear as the fire licks at her feet. Flaming tar balls and crackers fly through the air to a soundtrack of human laughter and shouts. In the Bankura district of West Bengal, this sort of humiliation of pachyderms is routine, as it is in the other elephant-range states of Assam, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and more."

    India is home to more than 70% of the global population of Asian elephants, but interactions between people and these animals are not always peaceful. According to Hazra:

    "The ignorance and bloodlust of mobs that attack herds for fun is compounded by the plight of those that actually suffer damage to land, life and property by wandering elephants, and the utter indifference of the central and state government to recognize the crisis that is at hand. For these smart, gentle, social animals who have roamed the sub-continent for centuries, hell is now and here."

    The conservation organization's photo contest is meant to highlight powerful photos that can evoke supportive human responses. But not every one is as dark as the contest winner.

    The image below, "Between a Rock and Hard Place", shot by Anand Bora, won the conservation photography category.

    Winner, Open Category, Conservation Photography 1 Between a rock and a hard place

    The leopard in that well had fallen in and kept itself alive by swimming for 30 hours before it was discovered. After spotting the animal, villagers managed to help forest officials devise a way to get the big cat out of the well.

    "All our inspiration springs from nature… music, dance, philosophies, religions, culture, arts… and photography," Bittu Sahgal, Founder and Editor at Sanctuary Asia said in a news release. "These awards are Sanctuary's way of acknowledging this reality and reminding us all to celebrate, revere and protect this source of life."

    SEE ALSO: The 22 best science movies and shows streaming on Netflix that will make you smarter

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Here's why we should just scrap daylight-saving time already

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    CO2 Test 2

    Some modern workplaces have gotten so efficiently air-tight and crowded that they could be making us less productive. 

    That's partly our colleagues' fault: Adults breathe out a continuous (yet tiny) stream of CO2, which adds up to around 2 pounds every day. 

    On the ground outside, carbon dioxide concentrations typically hover between 250 and 500 parts per million, depending on how much pollution is around. Indoors, CO2 concentrations can be a bit higher, though it varies from place to place.

    But extra CO2 can have a measurable effect on how well people accomplish cognitively high-level tasks at work.

    A recent study by researchers from Harvard, SUNY and Syracuse suggests that when people breathe in too much carbon dioxide at their desks, their performance suffers. That jives with what brain researchers know about carbon dioxide: more CO2 causes brain metabolism to plummet and neural activity to take a dive. 

    That study got the science team at Business Insider wondering how much CO2 is in the air we're breathing at work. So we conducted a test in our office to determine whether we, too, are being impacted by elevated carbon dioxide levels.

    SEE ALSO: One of the EPA's newest science experts thinks ‘modern air’ is too clean to breathe

    In the study, 24 workers spent six days working at different CO2 concentrations. The participants were plucked from a range of professions, including engineers, marketers and programmers. The results from the small group suggested that even a slightly elevated CO2 level can have an impact on how well people work.

    The researchers tested the participants with a range of decision-making tests at the end of each day.

    On some days, workers went about their business in rooms where CO2 was circulating at 550 parts per million. On others, the concentration hovered at 945 ppm, and on the rest, they subjected participants to a high-carbon dioxide condition, at 1400 ppm. (The Centers for Disease Control generally considers places with CO2 levels above 1200 ppm 'inadequately ventilated.')

    Study participants working under the heaviest concentration of CO2 performed 50% worse on cognitive tasks than they did in the low 550 ppm scenario. And when the workers were working in rooms with the medium CO2 concentrations (945 ppm), their cognitive test scores were 15% lower.

    In other words, the researchers found that a little extra CO2 can make you act a lot dumber.

    Indoor carbon dioxide became a problem in the 1970s, when designers began making buildings more airtight. People started reporting feeling ill and less productive at work. The term 'sick building syndrome' was born.

    Exposure to higher-than-average levels of carbon dioxide, concentrations upwards of 2%, can leave exposed individuals feeling faint, breathless, and dizzy.

    In more serious cases, taking in too much carbon dioxide can put people in a coma or kill them.

    Ultimately, designers and architects adopted new building ventilation standards to make sure that there's enough fresh air indoors.

    We were desperate to know how our office fared. 

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    earth asteroid meteorite collision collides shutterstock

    • About 66 million years ago, a 9-kilometer-wide asteroid slammed into Earth, creating the Chicxulub crater and triggering the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event.
    • Skies filled with soot and gas, firestorms covered the planet, and global temperatures plummeted, killing 75% of life on Earth, including the dinosaurs.
    • But a new study found that the asteroid was that devastating only because of where it struck.

    Some 66 million years ago, a city-size asteroid slammed into Earth near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

    The massive impact created the 180-kilometer-wide Chicxulub crater and triggered the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event that wiped out 75% of Earth's biodiversity, including almost all the dinosaurs that had dominated life on land for more than 130 million years.

    But that event was so devastating only because of the location the asteroid hit, a study published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports found. If it had hit elsewhere on Earth, the dinosaurs might have survived, the authors say.

    The authors attribute the extinction event to the aftereffects of the impact. When the 9-kilometer-wide asteroid slammed into the planet, it caused earthquakes, triggered firestorms and massive tsunamis, and filled the air with gas and soot that caused drastic global cooling.

    Another recent study found that the cooling event saw surface temperatures plummet an average of about 47 degrees Fahrenheit overnight and remain that way for years.

    The new study found that the cooling event was so severe because the asteroid struck a particularly hydrocarbon-rich region and flooded the sky with soot — but that only about 13% of the planet's surface has enough sedimentary organic material and sulfur to have caused such an extreme effect.

    hydrocarbon regions

    In other words, if the asteroid had struck anywhere on the 87% of the planet's surface that isn't as hydrocarbon-rich, the dinosaurs might have survived. As it happened, the only dinosaurs to make it through the event were avian dinosaurs — birds. The loss of the rest created a space for mammals to thrive.

    Like all theories on the extinction of the dinosaurs, this one is controversial. Most researchers attribute the extinction event to the asteroid strike, but there are various interpretations of why it was so devastating.

    The authors of the recent study on the global cooling that followed the event told The Washington Post that it was gases released by the impact that caused the dramatic climate change, not necessarily soot — though they said the specific region the asteroid struck was crucial. Firestorms, toxic chemicals, and acidified oceans may have also played a role.

    Other researchers have said the impact triggered an intense period of volcanic activity on the other side of the world that also would have filled the skies with sulfur and soot for years.

    An asteroid striking the planet in one of the places that could have triggered these effects is an extremely-low-probability event — but one that changed the history of life on Earth, the Scientific Reports study's authors say.

    SEE ALSO: The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs triggered a global disaster far worse than scientists previously thought

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Scientists predict an unusually warm winter this year in most of the US — here's why

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    delhi new delhi smog

    Don't walk. Don't go to school. Don't breathe too fast. 

    That's just some of the advice from authorities in Delhi, India this past week, when the smog became so thick that is was described by the local government as a "gas chamber."

    Last November, the city experienced some of its worst pollution in decades, and this year looks like it's going to be a repeat. Here's what it's like for people who live in the Indian capital right now:.

    The air quality index, which measures the levels of five major pollutants in the air, is above 400 in Delhi. That's the highest pollution category. The air is called "hazardous" at this level.

    For comparison, the air in Shanghai is registering around 40 on the World Air Quality Index, and in New York City on Friday night it was 33, according to EPA measurements

    Breathing is worse than inhaling two packs of cigarettes a day.

    Just breathing the air is about as bad as smoking 44 cigarettes a day right now, CNN reports.

    The levels of smog being recorded right now in Delhi are more than 20 times worse than in Beijing, a city that often deals with heavy pollution.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Photographer Tim Flach is renowned for his photos that show the emotional — or human — side of animals.

    Flach's images often capture creatures' moods, expressions, and gestures in ways that make us rethink our relationship with the natural world.

    His newest book, "Endangered", includes text by zoologist Jonathan Baillie and tries to make readers consider the impact they have on these animals — and consider what it would mean for them to disappear.

    Along with the creatures themselves, Flach photographed the landscapes these animals live in.

    He spent days in frozen snow to capture a shot of the rare Siaga antelope. He swam with sharks and hippos, and visited zoos for perspectives of wildlife in settings created by humans.

    The ecosystems in which many of these creatures live have already been destroyed to make room for cities and farms. But by eliminating such habitats, we remove the only places some of the most unique creatures on Earth can live.

    Check out a selection of some of our favorite photos from the book below.

    SEE ALSO: A prize-winning image shows a mob setting an elephant mother and calf on fire

    Pangolins are one of the creatures most threatened by the illegal wildlife trade. This white-bellied pangolin can be seen hanging from its mother's tail.

    Hippos are hunted for their meat and their ivory teeth.

    Yellow-eyed tree frogs are affected by climate change — they're threatened by a fungus that's spreading through forests, and their eggs are hatching early or late because they're sensitive to temperature.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Iran earthquake aftermath

    A deadly earthquake shook the mountains along the northern border between Iran and Iraq Sunday evening, sending locals scrambling into the streets and rushing to recover neighbors trapped under the rubble.

    The magnitude 7.3 quake killed more than 400 people, according to Reuters, and triggered landslides that have hindered rescue efforts.

    Here's what it looks like on the ground.

    SEE ALSO: These photos of pollution in Delhi reveal why authorities are calling the city a 'gas chamber'

    The earthquake hit Iraqi Kurdistan on Sunday evening, shortly after 9 p.m. local time.

    According to the US Geological Survey, the quake struck about 20 miles (32 km) south of the northeastern Iraqi city of Halabja.

    Reuters reports more than 400 people have died in Iran, and at least six people have died in Iraq.

    The quake shook the ground as far away as Baghdad, roughly 200 miles away from the epicenter.

    "I was sitting with my kids having dinner and suddenly the building was just dancing in the air," Majida Ameer, who ran out of her building in the capital's Salihiya district with her three children told Reuters"I thought at first that it was a huge bomb. But then I heard everyone around me screaming, 'Earthquake!'"

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Keurig smash

    • After Keurig pulled its advertising from Sean Hannity's Fox News show, some viewers posted videos on Twitter of themselves destroying their Keurig coffee makers on Sunday night.
    • #BoycottKeurig is trending and is likely to continue to circulate into Monday.
    • Keurig has had social-media boycotts before because of its K-cups, which generate a lot of waste that is not compostable.

    Last week, Keurig decided to pull its ads from Sean Hannity's Fox News show amid mounting pressure surrounding Hannity's recent interview with Roy Moore, the US Senate candidate in Alabama who last week was accused of engaging in sexual misconduct with a 14-year-old girl and of pursuing relationships with several teenagers almost 40 years ago when he was in his 30s.

    Supporters of Hannity protested on Sunday by posting videos of themselves smashing their Keurig coffee makers and circulating the Twitter hashtag #BoycottKeurig.

    The company is no stranger to social-media protests, but in the past these have been related mostly to environmental concerns. The hashtag #killthekcup started circulating on Twitter in 2011, and it has reemerged with the Hannity controversy. In 2015, a satirical video depicting monsters made of K-Cups destroying a city gained nearly 1 million views.

    Keurig sold more than 9 billion of its single-serve plastic coffee pods, called K-Cups, in 2015. As The New York Times noted last year, placed next to each other, that's enough pods to circle the planet 10 times over. None of these K-Cups can be easily recycled.

    Keurig sales have continued to fall since 2014, and mounting concerns among environmentalists in the past decade could be one factor. (As BuzzFeed's Vanessa Wong noted last year, consumers did not respond well to Keurig 2.0, a machine that debuted in 2014 and works only with K-Cups.)

    In late 2016, Keurig debuted recyclable pods composed of polypropylene, which is found in most plastic bottles. By 2018, the company aims to convert 100% of its Canadian K-Cup supply to the new pods.

    But the recyclable K-Cups haven't silenced worries from environmentalists. The new cups still aren't compostable or reusable. That means Keurig will still be selling billions of pieces of plastic every year. And even if something is recyclable, that doesn't mean it will actually be recycled.

    The company has tried to create a more environmentally friendly K-Cup, Monique Oxender, Keurig's chief sustainability officer, told The Times. But this has proved difficult. A reusable or compostable pod would need to have the same circular shape as current pods so it could work with the old machines. Creating a new pod that has a strong oxygen barrier, is rigid, and is easy to puncture has also been challenging.

    On its site, Keurig has also vowed to reduce its other environmental impacts, including greenhouse-gas emissions and water use.

    SEE ALSO: The science behind why pod coffee tastes so bad

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: What 2,000 calories of your favorite foods looks like

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    recycling recycled cans blocks warehouse workers teamwork Paulo Whitaker RTS28YI

    America Recycles Day is on Wednesday, and the green holiday exists for good reason: Recycling helps keep rubbish off the roads, reduces the need for Earth-scarring metal-mining operations, and fuels industry jobs.

    The practice also keeps planet-warming carbon dioxide out of the air. Every ton of recycled aluminum cans (about 625 of them), in fact, keeps 10 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere, according to Popular Mechanics.

    Recycling is no panacea, though. An ever better idea is to curb carbon emissions, though President Donald Trump has vowed to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord.

    That globally denounced decision came on the heels of the hottest year the world has seen since 1880— when scientists started keeping global temperature logs — and the fifth annual heat record of the past dozen years. In 2016, planet Earth's temperature averaged 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.26 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial averages, which is dangerously close to the 1.5-degree-Celsius limit set by international policymakers

    "There's no stopping global warming,"Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist who is the director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, previously told Business Insider. "Everything that's happened so far is baked into the system."

    That means that even if carbon emissions were to drop to zero tomorrow, we'd still be watching human-driven climate change play out for centuries. And we all know emissions aren't going to stop immediately. The key thing now, Schmidt said, is to slow climate change down enough to allow us to adapt as painlessly as possible.

    This is what the Earth could look like within 100 years if we succeed in curbing climate change.

    Sarah Kramer wrote a previous version of this post.

    DON'T MISS: 25 photos that prove we're all stowaways on a tiny, fragile spaceship

    SEE ALSO: A giant plume of hot rock may be melting some of Antarctic its ice sheets from the bottom-up

    "I think the 1.5-degree [2.7-degree F] target is out of reach as a long-term goal," Schmidt said. He estimated that we will blow past that by about 2030.

    But Schmidt is more optimistic about keeping temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees F, or 2 degrees C. That's the increase the UN hopes to avoid.

    Let's assume that we land somewhere between those two targets. At the end of this century, we'd be looking at a world that is on average about 3 degrees Fahrenheit above where we are now.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Smoke rises from the chimneys of a power plant in Shanghai December 5, 2009.

    • Experts said they were disappointed to see that carbon emission rates are on the rise again.
    • World carbon emissions are set to rise 2% this year, hitting a new all-time high of 37 billion metric tons.
    • Part of the reason is an increase in coal use, especially in China and the US.

    BONN, Germany - World carbon emissions are set to rise 2% this year to a new record, scientists said on Monday, dashing hopes that global emissions had already peaked.

    Carbon emissions had been roughly flat from 2014-16, but will increase this year mainly due to a rise in China after a two-year decline, the scientists said.

    Their data, presented during negotiations among almost 200 nations in Germany about details of the 2015 Paris Agreement climate accord, are a setback to a global goal of curbing emissions to avert more downpours, heat waves, and rising sea levels.

    "The plateau of last year was not peak emissions after all," the Global Carbon Project, a group of 76 scientists in 15 countries, wrote of the findings. 

    Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry, the bulk of man-made greenhouse gases, were on track to gain 2% in 2017 from 2016 levels to a record high of about 37 billion tonnes, it said.

    "Global CO2 emissions appear to be going up strongly once again ... This is very disappointing," said lead researcher Corinne Le Quere, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia in Britain.

    Glen Peters, another leader of the study at the CICERO Center for International Climate Research in Oslo, said China's emissions were set to rise 3.5%, driven by more coal demand amid stronger economic growth.

    China, the top greenhouse gas emitter ahead of the United States, accounts for almost 30% of world emissions.

    U.S. emissions were set to decline by 0.4% in 2017, a smaller fall than in recent years, also reflecting more burning of coal.

    Coal's gains were linked to a rise in the price of natural gas that made coal more attractive in power plants, Peters told Reuters, rather than the effects of U.S. President Donald Trump's pro-coal policies.

    Trump plans to pull out of the Paris Agreement.

    Worldwide "we are probably in the level-to-upwards direction for emissions in the next years rather than level or downwards," Peters said, because of stronger global gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

    Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit think-tank who was not involved in the study, said carbon emissions per unit of GDP were falling.

    This year "might well prove a small blip on an otherwise flattening emissions curve," he said.

    (Reporting By Alister Doyle; Editing by Susan Fenton)

    SEE ALSO: These photos of pollution in Delhi reveal why authorities are calling the city a 'gas chamber'

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Northern Alaskan lakes are leaking a greenhouse gas that's 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide

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    bi_graphics_winter is coming

    Forecasters at the National Weather Service have released their seasonal predictions, and it's looking likely that a La Nina weather pattern will sweep across the country, disrupting temperatures nationwide.

    Many Americans could get a balmier-than-usual winter, with mild temperatures across much of the South and the Northeast. But it may get chillier than folks are used to in a few areas, including the Pacific Northwest and parts of the upper Midwest. The forecast is also suggesting big snow totals in some spots.

    Take a look at how your region is expected to fare.

    Forecasters at the National Weather Service are predicting "above normal" temperatures in the Southwest — in much of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana.

    The warm temperatures could even extend as far east as Florida.

    The Northeast also has a good chance of higher-than-usual temps.

    That's especially true in northern New York and the other states that border Canada in the Northeast (Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine).

    Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island should also see a fairly mild season.

    Predictions suggest above-average temperatures in Alaska, especially above the Arctic Circle.

    The region known as the North Slope is especially likely to see a warm winter — which could spell another year of bad news for Arctic sea ice.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Two men inspect blocks of recycled aluminum

    America Recycles Day is on Wednesday, and the green holiday exists for good reason: Recycling helps keep rubbish off the roads, reduces the need for Earth-scarring metal-mining operations, and fuels industry jobs.

    The practice also keeps planet-warming carbon dioxide out of the air. Every ton of recycled aluminum cans (about 64,000 of them), in fact, keeps 10 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere, according to Popular Mechanics.

    Recycling is no panacea, though. An ever better idea is to curb carbon emissions, though President Donald Trump has vowed to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord.

    That globally denounced decision came on the heels of the hottest year the world has seen since 1880 — when scientists started keeping global temperature logs — and the fifth annual heat record of the past dozen years. In 2016, planet Earth's temperature averaged 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.26 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial averages, which is dangerously close to the 1.5-degree-Celsius limit set by international policymakers

    "There's no stopping global warming," Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist who is the director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, previously told Business Insider. "Everything that's happened so far is baked into the system."

    That means that even if carbon emissions were to drop to zero tomorrow, we'd still be watching human-driven climate change play out for centuries. And we all know emissions aren't going to stop immediately. The key thing now, Schmidt said, is to slow climate change down enough to allow us to adapt as painlessly as possible.

    This is what the Earth could look like within 100 years if we succeed in curbing climate change.

    Sarah Kramer wrote a previous version of this post.

    DON'T MISS: 25 photos that prove we're all stowaways on a tiny, fragile spaceship

    SEE ALSO: A giant plume of hot rock may be melting some of Antarctic its ice sheets from the bottom-up

    "I think the 1.5-degree [2.7-degree F] target is out of reach as a long-term goal," Schmidt said. He estimated that we will blow past that by about 2030.

    But Schmidt is more optimistic about keeping temperatures from rising more than 3.6 degrees F, or 2 degrees C. That's the increase the UN hopes to avoid.

    Let's assume that we land somewhere between those two targets. At the end of this century, we'd be looking at a world that is on average about 3 degrees Fahrenheit above where we are now.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    thanksgiving parade 2016

    • Forecasters are predicting a colder-than-usual Thanksgiving week across the Eastern United States, with chilly temperatures extending as far east as Indiana and Tennessee. 
    • On the West Coast, things could be wetter-than-usual, but temperatures should be warm.
    • It will likely be a dry week for the entire eastern half of the US from the Eastern Seaboard to the Rocky Mountains. 

    The turkeys and pies in the oven won’t know the difference, but Americans are in for some weird Thanksgiving Day weather this year.

    The National Weather Service is out with its predictions for how temperatures and precipitation will shake out across the country next week — and the news isn't great for anyone who likes dry weather or warm days.

    People on the East Coast will be in for a colder-than-usual Thanksgiving — with temperatures likely around 5 degrees below normal for that time of year — especially around Washington D.C. and into Maryland, Virginia and northern North Carolina.

    This map shows the likelihood that temperatures will dip below average next week; the darker the blue, the more likely that area is going to see chillier-than-average temperatures from Nov. 20-24:

    thanksgiving forecast 2017

    And though it may be cold across the Eastern Seaboard, rain and snow are unlikely.

    The forecast is looking dry and chilly across the entire eastern United States, all the way from the Atlantic coast through the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes, to the Rocky Mountains.

    This map shows the chances of below normal precipitation totals. Again, the darker the shading, the more likely the area is in for a dry week: 

    dry thanksgiving 2017

    It could still be a snowy holiday for some folks who are used to lots of powder. The National Weather Service in State College, Pennsylvania said on Twitter that "odds are trending at or above historical probabilities for white Turkey Day" in the so-called snow belt areas around the Great Lakes. 

    On the West Coast, however, predictions are reversed.

    Warmer-than-average November temperatures are expected from Monday the 20th to Friday the 24th for most of the western US, with the possibility of rain.

    The chances for "above normal precipitation" are especially pronounced in central and Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, but basically, the entire area west of the Rockies could be in for a wet, snowy week:

    rain thanksgiving 2017

    In Alaska, temperatures could be even more frigid than the typical November lows, which are usually in the teens.

    It's another reminder that winter is coming across the US. 

    SEE ALSO: This winter may bring extra snow to some parts of the US and mild temperatures to others — here's the forecast where you live

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The 10 airports that will most likely have the worst Thanksgiving travel delays

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    • Black people are nearly twice as likely as white people to develop type 2 diabetes.
    • A groundbreaking new study looks at the environmental factors that may be to blame.
    • Exposure to toxic, endocrine-disrupting chemicals can cause the disease, which disrupts the way the body turns glucose into usable energy.

    Health experts have known the statistics for years: black and Latino Americans are almost twice as likely to have diabetes as their white counterparts.

    But a clear explanation for this racial disparity has remained a mystery until now.

    A groundbreaking study published in Diabetes Care last month reveals that the higher prevalence of diabetes in minority populations around the US could have more to do with where people live than the color of their skin. 

    The report reexamined 50 years' worth of scientific studies on toxic chemicals known as endocrine-disruptors. The authors found that communities of color are disproportionately exposed to those chemicals, which leak from gas plants and are found in in ozone pollution from cars. 

    According to a report released last week by the Clean Air Task Force and NAACP, "more than 1 million African-Americans live within a half mile of existing natural gas facilities, and the number is growing every year." 

    The report also said ozone smog in many predominantly black neighborhoods is too high.

    "Many social and cultural factors have combined to contribute to the fact that these groups have traditionally lived in degraded areas where toxic exposures are more likely to occur," Daniel Ruiz, a graduate student at the University of Chicago and a co-author on the paper, said in a release. Ruiz tells Business Insider that he was surprised to find exposure to all kinds of toxic chemicals was higher in low-income neighborhoods and "black and brown communities," from sources like traffic and industrial pollution, to toxic chemicals in consumer products like plastics.

    The body's endocrine system is involved in some of its most important daily tasks, including processing glucose from food and turning it into fuel. But when that system doesn't function properly, blood sugar can spike, and the energy from food stays in the blood instead of being distributed to cells.

    Some people develop this issue in childhood — that's usually how type 1 diabetes works. Type 2 diabetes can develop for a variety of reasons, including diet and exercise choices, but increasingly, evidence suggests it can also be due to exposure to air pollution, pesticides, certain plastics, and chemicals used in natural gas production.

    Not only are black Americans 77% more likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes than their white counterparts, but the disease is also more likely to be debilitating for them. The American Diabetes Association says black people with diabetes are 2.6 times more likely to have end-stage renal disease than white people with the disease. 

    The recent study is part of a growing pile of evidence that racial health disparities may not be about skin color at all.

    The study authors caution that more research is needed to know exactly how much pollution exposure contributes to diabetes in minority populations, but say this initial evidence should prove helpful to physicians and nurses.

    SEE ALSO: Pollution is killing more people than wars, obesity, smoking, and malnutrition

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Doctors are recommending a radical new approach to treat diabetes — and it could be a game-changer