Environment

Cole Mellino – Third U.S. City Goes 100% Renewable

September 4, 2015

Aspen is one of three U.S. cities to run on 100 percent renewable energy as of today, according to city officials. The Colorado mountain town is best known for its posh ski resorts, but this beautiful town also has established itself as a leader in environmental stewardship. The city had been using about 75 to 80 percent renewable energy until Thursday when it signed a contract with wholesale electric energy provider Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska, in order “to achieve this final leg of our goal,” David Hornbacher, utilities and environmental initiatives director, told The Aspen Times. The goal was proposed 10 years ago as part of the city’s Canary Initiative, which “identifies Aspen and other mountain communities as canaries in the coal mine with respect to their sensitivity to the effects of climate change.” Read

Andrea Germanos – Humankind Has Halved the Number of Trees on the Planet

September 4, 2015

The good news: there are over 3 trillion trees covering the Earth—that’s far higher than the 4 billion estimated just two years ago, a team of international researchers has found. But here’s the bad news: there were far more trees—46 percent more—before human civilization got hold, with an estimated 15 billion trees being lost own each year, with just 5 billion replanted. “Trees are among the most prominent and critical organisms on Earth, yet we are only recently beginning to comprehend their global extent and distribution,” said Thomas Crowther, a Yale Climate & Energy Institute post-doctoral fellow at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and lead author of the study, in a press statement. The statement also described the findings as “the most comprehensive assessment of tree populations ever produced,” and the researchers say that, as forests function as carbon sinks, their new map provides important information for climate change models. Read

You ain’t seen nothing yet! Northeast’s Next Winter Is Going to Be Freakishly Cold

September 3, 2015

“When it comes to the global climate, what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. The latest proof comes in new research connecting the unusually brutal winter of 2014–15 along the East Coast of North America to rapidly vanishing summer sea ice on the western side of the Arctic Ocean.” Emily J. Gertz Take Part’s Assoiciate editor for environment and wildlife The rapidly melting Arctic sea ice during summer will be the driver of extreme bitter winter cold in the world’s lower latitudes for decades to come. Take Part reports on a new study published Monday by the journal Nature Geoscience. The study concludes that growing scientific evidence on these record breaking extremes that the Northeast experienced last winter “have not been a pause in the advance of human-driven climate change but a result of it.” Read

David Suzuki – Deniers are all over the map; climate realists all over the world

September 3, 2015

A little over a year ago, I wrote about a Heartland Institute conference in Las Vegas where climate change deniers engaged in a failed attempt to poke holes in the massive body of scientific evidence for human-caused climate change. I quoted Bloomberg News: “Heartland’s strategy seemed to be to throw many theories at the wall and see what stuck.” A recent study came to a similar conclusion about contrarian “scientific” efforts to do the same. “Learning from mistakes in climate research,” published in Theoretical and Applied Climatology, examined some of the tiny percentage of scientific papers that reject anthropogenic climate change, attempting to replicate their results. Read

Clara Weiss – US imperialism and the new race to the Arctic

September 3, 2015

The Arctic has in recent weeks become a focal point of geopolitical tensions between Russia and the United States. Given the present rate of global warming, scientists anticipate that the region will be ice-free by the summer of 2030. It is believed to contain a large portion of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves. It is also an important maritime route, one that is increasingly accessible due to the thawing of its ice cover. The Arctic is one of the most resource-rich regions of the world. According to a study commissioned by the US government, some 30 percent of unexplored natural gas reserves and 13 percent of undiscovered oil and gas condensate are located there. Only Russia has a greater supply of raw materials. Read

TERRA DAILY – Humus depletion induced by climate change

September 3, 2015

The yields of many important crops in Europe have been stagnating since the 1990s. As a result, the input of organic matter into the soil – the crucial source for humus formation – is decreasing. Scientists from the Technical University Munich (TUM) suspect that the humus stocks of arable soils are declining due to the influence of climate change. Humus, however, is a key factor for soil functionality, which is why this development poses a threat to agricultural production – and, moreover, in a worldwide context. In their study, which has been published in Science of the Total Environment (2015), scientists from the Technical University Munich (TUM) evaluated the crop yield statistics for EU countries compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) since the 1960s. Read

John Atcheson – The Paris Climate Conference: Playing Craps With Our Planet’s Future

September 2, 2015

The climate change talks to be held in Paris this December (COP 21 in UN lingo) are all about how much risk to the livability of our planet we’re willing to accept. And the dirty little secret is, we’re accepting a hell of a lot right now, and we’re imposing even more on our children and future generations. Here’s why: The agreed upon target, 2 degrees C, is dangerously high and the pre-agreements going into Paris assure we won’t even meet that; The best case assumptions built into the IPCC’s carbon budgets designed to stay below 2C assume a 34% probability of failure; Read

Ed Cara – Hemp vs. Marijuana: What’s the Difference?

September 2, 2015

It’s the sort of question that stoners, hemp farmers, and scientists alike have pondered for thousands of years: Just what exactly is cannabis made out of? Now, thanks to the authors of a PLOS-One study published Wednesday, we may have a much clearer answer. The Canadian researchers unraveled the genetic structure of 81 different marijuana and 43 hemp samples, in an attempt to test long-held assumptions about the diverse plant. They found that the differences between hemp and marijuana run far deeper than the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in them, and that the advertised ancestry of many commercial strains of marijuana is often times misleading. Read

Helena Norberg-Hodge – Connecting Over Soil

September 2, 2015

It’s no secret that there’s a divide between the global North and South. Most people know about the huge wealth gap between the industrialized and so-called “developing” worlds, and that rates of pollution, resource use, greenhouse gas emissions – and much more – vary widely between them. But there’s another gap, one that’s rarely discussed in the media, or even by NGOs. It involves changing attitudes to farming, to the land and the soil – something worth considering in this UN-designated “International Year of Soils.’ All over the Western world, increasing numbers of people are leaving their desk-bound lives to rediscover the joys of getting their hands dirty. The passion for soil is on the rise as more and more people grow food on their balconies or rooftops, or turn their lawns into a mixture of wilderness and vegetables. People are also reaching out to farmers, joining Community Supported Agriculture schemes or starting food co-ops. The permaculture, ecovillage and transition movements now have huge followings, with thousands of people undergoing training and reconnecting to each other through growing food. Interest in slow food, organic food, agroecology and regenerative agriculture are also increasing. Central to all these movements is localization– the shortening

Graham Van Bergen – Global Peace Index: Britain Now One Of The Most Violent Nations On Earth

September 2, 2015

The Global Peace Index measures the state of peace in 162 countries according to 23 indicators that gauge the absence of violence or the fear of violence. It is produced annually by the Institute for Economics and Peace. The UK, as an example, is relatively free from internal conflict, making it easy to fall to thinking it exists in a state of peace. However, disinformation and propaganda hides the disastrous results of its external efforts. This year the results show that globally, levels of peace remained largely stable over the last year, however, peace is still lower than when the financial crisis emerged seven years ago. The most peaceful countries are Iceland, Denmark and Austria. The countries that made the biggest improvements in peace over the last year, generally benefited from the ending of wars with neighbours and involvement in external conflict. The biggest improvers were: Guinea-Bissau, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt and Benin. Read
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