Category Archives: earth

NASA Eyes Colossal Cracks In Ice Shelf Near Antarctic Station

NASA is keeping an eye on the Brunt Ice Shelf, home to the British Antarctic Survey's Halley VI Research Station, which has growing cracks that are threatening to unload an iceberg soon. "NASA/USGS Landsat satellites are monitoring the action as the cracks grow," reports CNET. "When the iceberg calves, it could be twice the size of New York City. That would make it the largest berg to break off the Brunt ice shelf since observations of the area began in 1915." From the report: An annotated view of the ice shelf shows the cracks as they relate to the Halley VI station. The crack leading up the middle is especially concerning. It's been stable for 35 years, but NASA says it's now extending northward as fast as 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) per year. As of December, Halley station was home to around 30 science and technical staff on missions to study the ice shelf and climate change in the polar region. The BAS completed a relocation of the futuristic-looking Halley station in 2017, placing it farther away from the unpredictable cracking. "It is not yet clear how the remaining ice shelf will respond following the break, posing an uncertain future for scientific infrastructure and a human presence on the shelf that was first established in 1955," NASA says. NASA says iceberg calving is "a normal part of the life cycle of ice shelves, but the recent changes are unfamiliar in this area."

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How Streaming Music Could Be Harming the Planet

An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: Current digital technology gives us flawless music quality without physical deterioration. Music is easy to copy and upload, and can be streamed online without downloading. Since our digital music is less tangible than vinyl or CDs, surely it must be more environmentally friendly? Even though new formats are material-free, that doesn't mean they don't have an environmental impact. The electronic files we download are stored on active, cooled servers. The information is then retrieved and transmitted across the network to a router, which is transferred by wi-fi to our electronic devices. This happens every time we stream a track, which costs energy. Once vinyl or a CD is purchased, it can be played over and over again, the only carbon cost coming from running the record player. However, if we listen to our streamed music using a hi-fi sound system it's estimated to use 107 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, costing about $20 to run. A CD player uses 34.7 kilowatt hours a year and costs about $7 to run. So, which is the greener option? It depends on many things, including how many times you listen to your music. If you only listen to a track a couple of times, then streaming is the best option. If you listen repeatedly, a physical copy is best -- streaming an album over the internet more than 27 times will likely use more energy than it takes to produce and manufacture a CD. If you want to reduce your impact on the environment, then vintage vinyl could be a great physical option. For online music, local storage on phones, computers or local network drives keeps the data closer to the user and will reduce the need for streaming over distance from remote severs across a power-hungry network.

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E Hacking News – Latest Hacker News and IT Security News: Artificial Intelligence To Aid Scientists Understand Earth Better






According to a latest study in the scientific field, computer sciences are all set to collaborate with geography. With the help of Artificial Intelligence complex processes of the planet Earth could now be understood better.

The Friedrich Schiller University’s researchers got behind the books to carry out the aforementioned study, wherein it’s clear that the AI has a lot to contribute to life science.

Climatic conditions and the study of the Earth systems would now become substantially easy to comprehend.

This ability to understand things better would contribute in improving the already existing systems and models on the Earth’s surface.

Before AI got involved, the investigations done regarding the Earth were merely about static elements including the soil properties from a global scale.

More high-tech techniques will now be employed to handle the processes better, all thanks to Artificial Intelligence.

Variations in largely global land processes like photosynthesis could also be now monitored and all the considerations could be deliberated beforehand.


The Earth system data along with a myriad of sensors is now available so that tracking and comprehending the 'Earthian' processes by the aid of AI would now be an easy job.

This new collaboration is very promising element as processes that are beyond human understanding could now be estimated.

Imagine recognition, natural language processing and classical machine learning applications are all that are encompassed within the new techniques available.

Hurricanes, fire spreads and other complex processes leveraged by local conditions are some of the examples for the application.

Soil movement, vegetation dynamics, ocean transport and other basic themes regarding the Earth’s science and systems also lie within the category of the application.

Data dependent statistical techniques no matter how well the data quality, are not always certifiable and hence susceptible to exploitation.

Hence, machine learning needs to an essential part which would also solve the issue regarding storage capacity and data processing.




Physical and mechanical techniques if brought together would absolutely make a huge difference. It would then be possible to model the motion of ocean’s water and to predict the temperature of the sea surface.

According to what one of the researchers behind the study cited, the major motive is bringing together the “best of both worlds”.

In light of this study, warnings regarding natural calamities or any other extreme events including the climatic and weather possibilities would become way easier than ever were.


E Hacking News - Latest Hacker News and IT Security News

Artificial Intelligence To Aid Scientists Understand Earth Better






According to a latest study in the scientific field, computer sciences are all set to collaborate with geography. With the help of Artificial Intelligence complex processes of the planet Earth could now be understood better.

The Friedrich Schiller University’s researchers got behind the books to carry out the aforementioned study, wherein it’s clear that the AI has a lot to contribute to life science.

Climatic conditions and the study of the Earth systems would now become substantially easy to comprehend.

This ability to understand things better would contribute in improving the already existing systems and models on the Earth’s surface.

Before AI got involved, the investigations done regarding the Earth were merely about static elements including the soil properties from a global scale.

More high-tech techniques will now be employed to handle the processes better, all thanks to Artificial Intelligence.

Variations in largely global land processes like photosynthesis could also be now monitored and all the considerations could be deliberated beforehand.


The Earth system data along with a myriad of sensors is now available so that tracking and comprehending the 'Earthian' processes by the aid of AI would now be an easy job.

This new collaboration is very promising element as processes that are beyond human understanding could now be estimated.

Imagine recognition, natural language processing and classical machine learning applications are all that are encompassed within the new techniques available.

Hurricanes, fire spreads and other complex processes leveraged by local conditions are some of the examples for the application.

Soil movement, vegetation dynamics, ocean transport and other basic themes regarding the Earth’s science and systems also lie within the category of the application.

Data dependent statistical techniques no matter how well the data quality, are not always certifiable and hence susceptible to exploitation.

Hence, machine learning needs to an essential part which would also solve the issue regarding storage capacity and data processing.




Physical and mechanical techniques if brought together would absolutely make a huge difference. It would then be possible to model the motion of ocean’s water and to predict the temperature of the sea surface.

According to what one of the researchers behind the study cited, the major motive is bringing together the “best of both worlds”.

In light of this study, warnings regarding natural calamities or any other extreme events including the climatic and weather possibilities would become way easier than ever were.

Africa’s Black Panthers Emerge From a Century in the Shadows

An anonymous reader shares a report: It's a scientific coup to warm the heart of any superhero fan: the first documented sightings of a black panther in Africa in about 100 years [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], not far from where Marvel places the fictional setting of its Oscar-nominated "Black Panther." A team from the Institute for Conservation Research of the San Diego Zoo Global and the Loisaba Conservancy in Kenya confirmed the existence of black leopards -- as the animals are also known -- in Laikipia County, an area north of Nairobi, Kenya's capital. "It is certain black panthers have been there all along, but good footage that could confirm it has always been absent until now," Nicholas Pilfold, a biologist at the San Diego institute, said in an Instagram post. "Black panthers are uncommon, only about 11 percent of leopards globally are black," he added. "But black panthers in Africa are extremely rare."

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How India’s Single Time Zone Is Hurting Its People

"The BBC reports on the detrimental effects of all of India being in one time zone since British Colonial rule," writes Slashdot reader dryriver. From the report: India stretches 3,000km (1,864 miles) from east to west, spanning roughly 30 degrees longitude. This corresponds with a two-hour difference in mean solar times -- the passage of time based on the position of the sun in the sky. The U.S. equivalent would be New York and Utah sharing one time zone. Except that in this case, it also affects more than a billion people -- hundreds of millions of whom live in poverty. The school day starts at more or less the same time everywhere in India but children go to bed later and have reduced sleep in areas where the sun sets later. An hour's delay in sunset time reduces children's sleep by 30 minutes. Using data from the India Time Survey and the national Demographic and Health Survey, [Cornell University Economist] Maulik Jagnani found that school-going children exposed to later sunsets get fewer years of education, and are less likely to complete primary and middle school. He found evidence that suggested that sunset-induced sleep deprivation is more pronounced among the poor, especially in periods when households face severe financial constraints. "This might be because sleep environments among poor households are associated with noise, heat, mosquitoes, overcrowding, and overall uncomfortable physical conditions. The poor may lack the financial resources to invest in sleep-inducing goods like window shades, separate rooms, indoor beds and adjust their sleep schedules," he told me.

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Hawaii Lawmakers Chewing on Ban of Plastic Utensils, Bottles and Food Containers

Plastic bags are out. Plastic straws are on their way out. Now Hawaii lawmakers want to take things a big step further. From a report: They're considering an outright ban on all sorts of single-use plastics common in the food and beverage industry, from plastic bottles to plastic utensils to plastic containers. Senate Bill 522 has already passed through two committees and is on its way to two more. Supporters say it's an ambitious and broad measure that would position Hawaii as a leader in the nation -- and ensure that Hawaii's oceans have a fighting chance as the global plastic pollution problem worsens. But others worry about the practicality of such a proposal.

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New Long-Spined Dinosaur With ‘Mohawk of Large Spikes’ Discovered In Patagonia

"Researchers in Argentina have discovered a new Sauropod with unusually long spikes protruding forward from its body," writes Slashdot reader dryriver. The findings have been published in the journal Scientific Reports. ScienceAlert reports: Living 140 million years ago in the early Lower Cretaceous, the newly discovered herbivore Bajadasaurus pronuspinax had a thing for growing spikes. It was part of the Sauropod family, but looked a little like a small Brontosaurus crossed with a porcupine. "The sauropods are the big dinosaurs with long necks and long tails, but specifically this is a small family within the sauropods which were about 9 or 10 meters in length," paleontologist Pablo Gallina from the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Argentina told Agencia EFE. Bajadasaurus was a species of this small family, called Dicraeosauridae, all of which have similar spines on their necks. When the researchers discovered the fossils of this previously unknown dinosaur in Patagonia, Argentina, the remains included not only most of the skull, but a whole spine bone. This gave the researchers the chance to investigate what these spines might have been used for. "We believe that the long and sharp spines -- very long and thin -- on the neck and back of Bajadasaurus and Amargasaurus cazaui (another dicraeosaurid) must have been to deter possible predators," explained Gallina to AFP.'

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Scientists Have Reduced the Forecast of Sea Level Rise Seven Times Due To Melting of the Antarctic

The destruction of the Antarctic ice sheet may not lead to such a catastrophic rise in the level of the oceans, as previously thought. In a new study, the authors calculated that instead of growing by a meter or more by 2100, a growth of 14-15 cm is likely, writes N + 1. At the same time, the melting of the ice of Greenland and Antarctica is not fully taken into account in modern climate models, as it will lead to even more destabilization of the regional climate. Both studies on this are published in the journal Nature. An anonymous reader shares the report from Maritime Herald: In the first study, Tamzin Edwards from King's College London and her colleagues question this prediction. According to Edwards, who is quoted by the college press service, scientists re-analyzed data on ice loss and ocean level 3 million years ago, 125 thousand years ago and in the last 25 years and estimated the likelihood of rapid destruction of unstable sea areas of Antarctic glaciers, which the authors 2016 was associated with a meter increase in the level of the oceans. The hypothesis of such destruction received the abbreviated name MICI (marine ice cliff instability). They found that MICI does not necessarily explain the dynamics of sea level in the past, and without this the probability that the level will grow by more than 39 centimeters by 2100 is only about 5 percent. Edwards notes that in their model, even if the Antarctic glaciers really will collapse rapidly, the maximum increase in sea level will not exceed half a meter, and the most likely growth will be 14-15 cm. At the same time, scientists cannot completely eliminate the MICI phenomenon: they only talk about that more research is needed in this area. In the second article, Edwards and Nick Golledge of Queen Victoria University in Wellington and their co-authors write that current climate models do not fully take into account the consequences of the destruction of the ice of Greenland and the Antarctic, which will slow down the Atlantic Ocean and further melt the Antarctic ice due to "locking" of warm water in the Southern Ocean (climatologists call such self-enhancing processes positive feedback processes). In addition, according to the authors of the article, the melting of ice in the warming scenario of 3-4 degrees compared with the middle of the XIX century will lead to a less predictable climate and an increase in the scale of extreme weather events.

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Green New Deal Bill Aims To Move US To 100 Percent Renewable Energy, Net-Zero Emissions

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: On Thursday morning, NPR posted a bill drafted by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) advocating for a Green New Deal -- that is, a public works bill aimed at employing Americans and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the face of climate change. A similar version of the bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate by Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.). The House bill opens by citing two recent climate change reports: an October 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and a heavily peer-reviewed report released in November 2018 by a group of U.S. scientists from federal energy and environment departments. Both reports were unequivocal about the role that humans play in climate change and the dire consequences humans stand to face if climate change continues unchecked. The bill lists some of these consequences: $500 billion in lost annual economic output for the U.S. by 2100, mass migration, bigger and more ferocious wildfires, and risk of more than $1 trillion in damage to U.S. infrastructure and coastal property. To stop this, the bill says, the global greenhouse gas emissions from human sources must be reduced by 40 to 60 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, and we must reach net-zero emissions by 2050. [...] The Green New Deal specifically calls for a 10-year mobilization plan that would "achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers" by creating "millions" of high-paying jobs through investment in U.S. infrastructure. Specific kinds of infrastructure aren't listed, but general categories or works projects are outlined. Adaptive infrastructure tailored to communities, like higher sea walls and new drainage systems, would be included. NPR notes that the language is classified as a non-binding resolution, "meaning that even if it were to pass... it wouldn't itself create any new programs. Instead, it would potentially affirm the sense of the House that these things should be done in the coming years." Surprisingly, the bill doesn't mention fossil fuels at all. "In a draft version of the Green New Deal that had been circulated in December, a Frequently Asked Questions section did not preclude eventually calling for a tax or a ban on fossil fuels, but it noted that this was not what the bill was about," notes Ars Technica. "Simply put, we don't need to just stop doing some things we are doing (like using fossil fuels for energy needs)," the FAQ notes under the Green New Deal draft language. "We also need to start doing new things (like overhauling whole industries or retrofitting all buildings to be energy efficient). Starting to do new things requires some upfront investment."

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A Hole Opens Up Under Antarctic Glacier — Big Enough To Fit Two-Thirds of Manhattan

Scientists have discovered an enormous void under an Antarctic glacier, sparking concern that the ice sheet is melting faster than anyone had realized -- and spotlighting the dire threat posed by rising seas to coastal cities around the world, including New York City and Miami. From a report: The cavity under Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica is about six miles long and 1,000 feet deep -- representing the loss of 14 billion tons of ice. It was discovered after an analysis of data collected by Italian and German satellites, as well as NASA's Operation IceBridge, a program in which aircraft equipped with ice-penetrating radar fly over polar regions to study the terrain. The discovery is described in a paper published Jan. 30 in the journal Science Advances. The researchers expected to see significant loss of ice, but the scale of the void came as a shock.

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Global Warming Could Exceed 1.5C Within Five Years, Report Says

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Global warming could temporarily hit 1.5C above pre-industrial levels for the first time between now and 2023, according to a long-term forecast by the Met Office. Meteorologists said there was a 10% chance of a year in which the average temperature rise exceeds 1.5C, which is the lowest of the two Paris agreement targets set for the end of the century. Until now, the hottest year on record was 2016, when the planet warmed 1.11C above pre-industrial levels, but the long-term trend is upward. In the five-year forecast released on Wednesday, the Met Office highlights the first possibility of a natural El Niño combining with global warming to exceed the 1.5C mark. Climatologists stressed this did not mean the world had broken the Paris agreement 80 years ahead of schedule because international temperature targets are based on 30-year averages. Although it would be an outlier, scientists said the first appearance in their long-term forecasts of such a "temporary excursion" was worrying, particularly for regions that are usually hard hit by extreme weather related to El Nino. This includes western Australia, South America, south and west Africa, and the Indian monsoon belt.

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2018 Was Earth’s Fourth-Hottest Year on Record: NOAA and NASA Report

The string of hotter-than-average annual temperatures continued in 2018, as Earth experienced its fourth-hottest year on record, according to NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [PDF]. From a report: Also in 2018, the United States suffered 14 weather and climate disasters with costs surpassing $1 billion during a warmer- and wetter-than-average year, NOAA reports. Global temperatures across land and sea were 1.42 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average, making 2018 the fourth-warmest year since record-keeping began in 1880, NOAA said in a report Thursday. In a separate report, NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies said global temperatures were 1.5 degrees above the 1951 to 1980 mean, also the fourth highest going back to 1880. The 2-degrees Fahrenheit increase in global temperatures since the late 19th century has been driven largely by growing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from human activity, said the institute's director, Gavin Schmidt. The conclusion reaffirms NASA's long-established finding that man-made emissions are driving climate change, which President Donald Trump and some senior administration officials frequently challenge. By both agencies' measures, Earth has now recorded its five hottest annual average temperatures in the past five years. "2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend," Schmidt said in a press release.

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As Magnetic North Pole Zooms Toward Siberia, Scientists Update World Magnetic Model

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Earth's geographic north pole is fixed. But the planet's magnetic north pole -- the north that your compass points toward -- wanders in the direction of Siberia at a rate of more than 34 miles per year. That movement may seem slow, but it has forced scientists to update their model of Earth's magnetic field a year earlier than expected so that navigational services, including map-based phone apps, continue to work accurately. The drift results from processes taking place at the center of the planet. Molten iron and nickel slosh and spin in the planet's core, essentially serving as a metallic conductor for Earth's magnetic field. Changes in that fluid flow lead to changes in the magnetic field. As a result of those changes, the accuracy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's World Magnetic Model (WMM) -- a mathematical representation of the magnetic field -- slowly deteriorates in the five-year periods between updates. The next update was due in 2020. But "unplanned variations" have degraded the quality of the WMM so greatly that NOAA published an out-of-cycle update Monday. It was delayed from January by the partial government shutdown.

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Rising Temperatures Could Melt Most Himalayan Glaciers By 2100

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Rising temperatures in the Himalayas, home to most of the world's tallest mountains, will melt at least one-third of the region's glaciers by the end of the century (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source) even if the world's most ambitious climate change targets are met, according to a report released Monday. If those goals are not achieved, and global warming and greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rates, the Himalayas could lose two-thirds of its glaciers by 2100, according to the report, the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment. Under those more dire circumstances, the Himalayas could heat up by 8 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius) by century's end, bringing radical disruptions to food and water supplies, and mass population displacement. Glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayan Region, which spans over 2,000 miles of Asia, provide water resources to around a quarter of the world's population. One of the most complete studies on mountain warming, the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment was put together over five years by 210 authors. The report includes input from more than 350 researchers and policymakers from 22 countries.

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‘The World Might Actually Run Out of People’

An anonymous reader shares a report: By 2050 there will be 9 billion carbon-burning, plastic-polluting, calorie-consuming people on the planet. By 2100, that number will balloon to 11 billion, pushing society into a Soylent Green scenario. Such dire population predictions aren't the stuff of sci-fi; those numbers come from one of the most trusted world authorities, the United Nations. But what if they're wrong? Not like, off by a rounding error, but like totally, completely goofed? That's the conclusion Canadian journalist John Ibbitson and political scientist Darrel Bricker come to in their newest book, Empty Planet, due out February 5th. After painstakingly breaking down the numbers for themselves, the pair arrived at a drastically different prediction for the future of the human species. "In roughly three decades, the global population will begin to decline," they write. "Once that decline begins, it will never end." But Empty Planet is not a book about statistics so much as it is about what's driving the choices people are making during the fastest period of change in human history.

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Electronics Are ‘the Fastest-Growing Waste Stream in the World’

Electronic waste is a growing threat to the environment. Thanks to the low cost of manufacturing, it's easier than ever for corporations to pump out millions of laptops, smart phones, internet of things devices, and other electronics. From a report: A new initiative combining the efforts of the United Nations and the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development wants to change that. The group formed the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE), and announced itself at Davos -- a yearly gathering of the world's wealthy elite -- where it released its first report. "E-waste is now the fastest-growing waste stream in the world," PACE's report said. "It is estimated this waste stream reached 48.5 million tonnes in 2018." Most of that waste comes from Europe and the United States and ends up in places like Nigeria and Hong Kong, which suffer the human and economic costs of disposing of the material. "The material value [of e-waste] alone is worth $62.5 billion, three times more than the annual output of the world's silver mines and more than the GDP of most countries," PACE's report [PDF] said.

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The Natural Materials That Could Replace Environmentally Harmful Plastics

"The BBC has an article detailing new efforts to replace plastics used in products and construction with newer, less environmentally harmful alternative materials," writes Slashdot reader dryriver. The new products mentioned in the report include: Stone Wool: To transform one of the world's most abundant resources into something with utility and sustainability takes a special kind of alchemy. Stone wool comes from natural igneous rock -- the kind that forms after lava cools -- and a steelmaking byproduct called slag; these substances are melted together and spun into fibers, a little like candyfloss. Mycotecture: Mushrooms aren't just a flavor-packed addition to ravioli or ragu (or a sparkplug to the occasional psychedelic adventure); soon, tree-hugging fungi and forest-floor toadstools may replace materials like polystyrene, protective packaging, insulation, acoustic insulation, furniture, aquatic materials and even leather goods. Urine Bricks: Cement, concrete's primary ingredient, accounts for about 5% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions. Researchers and engineers are working to develop less energy-intensive alternatives, including bricks made with leftover brewery grains, concrete modeled after ancient Roman breakwaters (Romans made concrete by mixing lime and volcanic rock to form mortar, a highly stable material), and bricks made of, well, urine. As part of his thesis project, Edinburgh College of Art student Peter Trimble was working on an exhibit that was supposed to feature a module on sustainability. Almost by accident, he created "Biostone": a mixture of sand (incidentally, one of Earth's most abundant resources), nutrients, and urea -- a chemical found in human urine. A greener particleboard: Despite what it sounds like, particleboard -- those rigid panels made of compressed and veneered wood chips and resin used in furniture and kitchen cabinetry throughout the world -- hasn't actually a place in the green-building pantheon. That's because the glue that binds particleboard's wood fibers traditionally contain formaldehyde, a colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical and known respiratory irritant and carcinogen. That means your faux-wood Ikea shelf is quietly "off-gassing" toxins into the air. One company, NU Green, created a material made from 100% pre-consumer recycled or recovered wood fibre called "Uniboard." Uniboard saves trees and avoids landfill, while also generating far fewer greenhouse gases than traditional particleboard, and contains no toxins. That's because Uniboard has pioneered the use of renewable fibers like corn stalks and hops, as well as no added formaldehyde (NAF) resin instead of glue.

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Germany To Phase Out Coal Use By 2038, Says Report

Germany has laid out a $91 billion plan to phase out its use of coal by 2038, a government-appointed commission said Saturday. "Under the plan, half of the up to $91 billion will go to the regions shuttering plants in the west and east of the country, while the other half will be spent on preventing electricity prices from rising," ABS-CBN News reports. From the report: The commission agreed to the deadline after months of bitter wrangling as pressure mounts on Europe's top economy to step up its commitment to battling climate change. The panel, consisting of politicians, climate experts, unions and industry figures from coal regions, announced the deal after a final marathon session ended on Saturday morning. The commission's findings will now be passed on to the government, which is expected -- barring a surprise -- to follow the recommendations of the panel it set up. The plan will be discussed at a meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel, Finance Minister Scholz and regional leaders on Thursday, national news agency DPA said. Several plants using lignite or brown coal, which is more polluting than black coal, would be closed by 2022. Other plants will follow until 2030, when only 17 gigawatts of Germany's electricity will be supplied by coal, compared to today's 45 gigawatts. The last plant will close in 2038 at the latest, the commission said, but did not rule out moving this date forward to 2035 if conditions permit. The affected regions, where tens of thousands of jobs directly or indirectly linked to brown- and black-coal energy production, will receive 40 billion euros as compensation over the next two decades. Two billion euros will also be spent each year over the same period to stop customers from facing rising electricity prices.

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Worrying Rise in Global CO2 Forecast for 2019

The level of climate-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is forecast to rise by a near-record amount in 2019, according to the Met Office. From a report: The increase is being fuelled by the continued burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of forests, and will be particularly high in 2019 due to an expected return towards El Nino-like conditions. This natural climate variation causes warm and dry conditions in the tropics, meaning the plant growth that removes CO2 from the air is restricted. Levels of the greenhouse gas have not been as high as today for 3-5m years, when the global temperature was 2-3C warmer and the sea level was 10-20 metres (32 to 64 feet) higher. Climate action must be increased fivefold to limit warming to the 1.5C rise above pre-industrial levels that scientists advise, according to the UN. But the past four years have been the hottest on record and global emissions are rising again after a brief pause.

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Weird Orbits of Distant Objects Can Be Explained Without Invoking a ‘Planet Nine’

schwit1 shares a report from Space.com: The weirdly clustered orbits of some far-flung bodies in our solar system can be explained without invoking a big, undiscovered "Planet Nine," a new study suggests. The shepherding gravitational pull could come from many fellow trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) rather than a single massive world, according to the research. "If you remove Planet Nine from the model, and instead allow for lots of small objects scattered across a wide area, collective attractions between those objects could just as easily account for the eccentric orbits we see in some TNOs," study lead author Antranik Sefilian, a doctoral student in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University in England, said in a statement. The duo's modeling work suggests that the strength-in-numbers explanation does indeed work -- if the mass of the Kuiper Belt, the ring of bodies beyond Neptune, is a few to 10 times that of Earth. This is a pretty big "if," given that most estimates peg the Kuiper Belt's mass at less than 10 percent that of Earth (and one recent study put the figure at 0.02 Earth masses). But other solar systems are known to harbor massive disks of material in their outer reaches, Sefilian and Touma noted. And our failure to spot one around our own sun doesn't mean it doesn't exist, they stressed. The new study has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.

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Oceans Are Getting Louder, Posing Potential Threats To Marine Life

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times: Slow-moving, hulking ships crisscross miles of ocean in a lawn mower pattern, wielding an array of 12 to 48 air guns blasting pressurized air repeatedly into the depths of the ocean. The sound waves hit the sea floor, penetrating miles into it, and bounce back to the surface, where they are picked up by hydrophones. The acoustic patterns form a three-dimensional map of where oil and gas most likely lie. The seismic air guns probably produce the loudest noise that humans use regularly underwater, and it is about to become far louder in the Atlantic. As part of the Trump administration's plans to allow offshore drilling for gas and oil exploration, five companies have been given permits to carry out seismic mapping with the air guns all along the Eastern Seaboard, from Central Florida to the Northeast, for the first time in three decades. The surveys haven't started yet in the Atlantic, but now that the ban on offshore drilling has been lifted, companies can be granted access to explore regions along the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific. And air guns are now the most common method companies use to map the ocean floor. Some scientists say the noises from air guns, ship sonar and general tanker traffic can cause the gradual or even outright death of sea creatures, from the giants to the tiniest — whales, dolphins, fish, squid, octopuses and even plankton. Other effects include impairing animals' hearing, brain hemorrhaging and the drowning out of communication sounds important for survival, experts say. So great is the growing din in the world's oceans that experts fear it is fundamentally disrupting the marine ecosystem, diminishing populations of some species as the noise levels disturb feeding, reproduction and social behavior. A 2017 study, for example, found that a loud blast, softer than the sound of a seismic air gun, killed nearly two-thirds of the zooplankton in three-quarters of a mile on either side. Tiny organisms at the bottom of the food chain, zooplankton provide a food source for everything from great whales to shrimp. Krill, a tiny crustacean vital to whales and other animals, were especially hard hit, according to one study.

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Why Your New Heart Could Be Made in Space One Day

Imagine a laboratory growing human hearts - and imagine that laboratory floating in space hundreds of miles above the surface of the Earth. That may sound like science fiction, but bizarre as it seems, it could bring new hope for transplant patients within the next decade. From a report: While about 7,600 heart transplants were carried out around the world in 2017, there's a desperate shortage of organs, with thousands of people on waiting lists dying every year. Efforts to grow human hearts in the lab are showing promise, but are hampered by the need for the organs to grow around a "scaffolding" to make sure they don't collapse during the process. Reliably removing the scaffolding once the heart is complete is proving to be a challenge. Space tech company Techshot believes zero gravity could be the answer. The International Space Station (ISS) is in constant freefall around the planet, meaning that anything inside experiences effective weightlessness, known technically as microgravity. This means organs could be grown without the need for any scaffolding, believes Rich Boling, the firm's vice-president of corporate advancement. One day hearts could be grown commercially for transplant, Techshot believes. [...] Developed in partnership with Nasa, Techshot's BioFabrication Facility (BFF) is a microwave oven-sized device that uses 3D printing techniques to create patches for heart repairs using a patient's own stem cells.

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Ancient Climate Change Triggered Warming That Lasted Thousands of Years

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: A rapid rise in temperature on ancient Earth triggered a climate response that may have prolonged the warming for many thousands of years, according to scientists. Their study, published online in Nature Geoscience, provides new evidence of a climate feedback that could explain the long duration of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which is considered the best analogue for modern climate change. The findings also suggest that climate change today could have long-lasting impacts on global temperature even if humans are able to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Increased erosion during the PETM, approximately 56 million years ago, freed large amounts of fossil carbon stored in rocks and released enough carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere to impact temperatures long term, researchers said. Scientists found evidence for the massive carbon release in coastal sediment fossil cores. They analyzed the samples using an innovative molecular technique that enabled them to trace how processes like erosion moved carbon in deep time. Global temperatures increased by about 9 to 14.4 degrees Fahrenheit during the PETM, radically changing conditions on Earth. Severe storms and flooding became more common, and the warm, wet weather led to increased erosion of rocks. As erosion wore down mountains over thousands of years, carbon was released from rocks and transported by rivers to oceans, where some was reburied in coastal sediments. Along the way, some of the carbon entered the atmosphere as greenhouse gas.

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Total Lunar Eclipse Set To Wow Star Gazers, Clear Skies Willing

Astronomy buffs across the United States have been promised all the makings of a spectacular total lunar eclipse on Sunday except one -- clear skies. From a report: Star gazers from Los Angeles to New York will keep their eyes on the sky for the eclipse, known as a super blood wolf moon, expected to appear at 11:41 p.m. EST. Although it is a total eclipse, the moon will never go completely dark but rather take on a coppery red glow -- called a blood moon. It is also a full moon that is especially close to Earth, called a supermoon. And since it appears in January, when wolves howled in hunger outside villages, it has earned the name wolf moon, according to The Farmers Almanac. But no matter how perfectly the stars align for this stellar event, the thrill or disappointment of the evening really depends on one thing: the weather.

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How Orkney Leads the Way For Sustainable Energy

An anonymous reader shares a report: It seems the stuff of fantasy. Giant ships sail the seas burning fuel that has been extracted from water using energy provided by the winds, waves and tides. A dramatic but implausible notion, surely. Yet this grand green vision could soon be realised thanks to a remarkable technological transformation that is now under way in Orkney. Perched 10 miles beyond the northern edge of the British mainland, this archipelago of around 20 populated islands -- as well as a smattering of uninhabited reefs and islets -- has become the centre of a revolution in the way electricity is generated. Orkney was once utterly dependent on power that was produced by burning coal and gas on the Scottish mainland and then transmitted through an undersea cable. Today the islands are so festooned with wind turbines, they cannot find enough uses for the emission-free power they create on their own. Community-owned wind turbines generate power for local villages; islanders drive nonpolluting cars that run on electricity; devices that can turn the energy of the waves and the tides into electricity are being tested in the islands' waters and seabed; and -- in the near future -- car and passenger ferries here will be fuelled not by diesel but by hydrogen, created from water that has been electrolysed using power from Orkney's wind, wave and tide generators.

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Is California’s PG&E The First Climate Change Bankruptcy?

"California's largest power company intends to file for bankruptcy as it faces tens of billions of dollars in potential liability following massive wildfires that devastated parts of the state over the last two years," reports the Washington Post. Calling it "a climate change casualty," one Forbes contributor notes that PG&E's stock has now lost 90% of its mid-October value after a giant November wildfire, adding that "Future investors will look back on these three months as a turning point, and wonder why the effects of climate change on the economic underpinnings to our society were not more widely recognized at the time." Climate scientists may equivocate about the degree to which Global Warming is contributing to these fires until more detailed research is complete, but for an investor who is used to making decisions based on incomplete or ambiguous information, the warning signs are flashing red... there is no doubt in my mind that Global Warming's thumb rests on the scale of PG&E's decision to declare bankruptcy. And the Wall Street Journal is already describing it as "the first climate-change bankruptcy, probably not the last," noting that it was a prolonged drought that "dried out much of the state and decimated forests, dramatically increasing the risk of fire." "This is a fairly new development," said Bruce Usher, a professor at Columbia University's business school who teaches a course on climate and finance. "If you are not already considering extreme weather and other climatic events as one of many risk factors affecting business today, you are not doing your job"... In less than a decade, PG&E, which serves 16 million customers, saw the risk of catastrophic wildfires multiply greatly in its vast service area, which stretches from the Oregon border south to Bakersfield. Weather patterns that had been typical for Southern California -- such as the hot, dry Santa Ana winds that sweep across the region in autumn, stoking fires -- were now appearing hundreds of miles to the north. "The Santa Ana fire condition is now a Northern California fire reality, " said Ken Pimlott, who retired last month as director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire. "In a perfect world, we would like to see all [of PG&E's] equipment upgraded, all of the vegetation removed from their lines. But I don't know anybody overnight who is going to catch up." PG&E scrambled to reduce fire risks by shoring up power lines and trimming millions of trees. But the company's equipment kept setting fires -- about 1,550 between mid-2014 through 2017, or more than one a day, according to data it filed with the state. The global business community is recognizing the risks it faces from climate change. This week, a World Economic Forum survey of global business and thought leaders found extreme weather and other climate-related issues as top risks both by likelihood and impact. Other factors besides climate change may also have pushed PG&E towards bankruptcy, according to the article. They're required by California state regulations to provide electrical service to the thousands of people moving into the state's forested areas, yet "an unusual California state law, known as 'inverse condemnation,' made PG&E liable if its equipment started a fire, regardless of whether it was negligent." In declaring bankruptcy, PG&E cited an estimated $30 billion in liabilities -- plus 750 lawsuits from wildfires potentially caused by its power lines.

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