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United States

US Could Lower Carbon Emissions 78% With New National Transmission Network (smithsonianmag.com) 346

mdsolar writes with this story from Smithsonian magazine about how building a national transmission network could lead to a gigantic reduction in carbon emissions. From the story: "The United States could lower carbon emissions from electricity generation by as much as 78 percent without having to develop any new technologies or use costly batteries, a new study suggests. There's a catch, though. The country would have to build a new national transmission network so that states could share energy. 'Our idea was if we had a national 'interstate highway for electrons' we could move the power around as it was needed, and we could put the wind and solar plants in the very best places,' says study co-author Alexander MacDonald, who recently retired as director of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado."
Transportation

Opel Dealers Accused of Modyfing the Software of Polluting Cars (deredactie.be) 147

An anonymous reader writes: Belgian public broadcasting station VRT has discovered that GM Opel dealerships in Belgium seem to be updating engine management code when Zafira cars equipped with the 1.6 litre CDTI diesel engine are brought in for service. After the software change, the nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions drop sharply, at the cost of reduced power output. Bern University of Applied Sciences and environmental lobby club DUH previously found this model to pass European emissions standards only when the rear wheels are not rotating. When the rear wheels are made to spin along, NOx emissions increase to several times the limit set by European regulations. General Motors denied using defeat devices as well as the update program that seems to be taking place. However, an anonymous mechanic at an Opel dealership states that GM started pushing updates shortly after the Dieselgate scandal broke.
Earth

Kite Power: The Latest In Green Technology (thebulletin.org) 103

New submitter Dan Drollette writes: The solution to producing energy without contributing to global warming may be to go fly a kite. Literally. Researchers in Switzerland and Italy — high-altitude places where the winds are strong, steady and predictable — have been working on ways to generate electricity from kites that fly hundreds or thousands of meters high. The scientists already have a prototype cranking out 27 megawatts; they expect to have a 100-megawatt plant big enough to power 86,000 households. And they say that they can produce electricity for less that 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is better than fossil fuel. Plus, the kites look really cool (as does the "Darrieus rotor vertical axis wind turbine" at the base of the St Bernard Pass, on the Swiss side, which I've seen in operation in person).

Urban Death Project Aims To Rebuild Our Soil By Composting Corpses (inhabitat.com) 197

An anonymous reader writes: The Urban Death Project utilizes the process of composting to safely and gently turn our deceased into soil-building material, creating a meaningful, equitable and ecological urban alternative to existing options for the disposition of the dead," said Katrina Spade, a designer based in Seattle. "The project is a solution to the overcrowding of city cemeteries, a sustainable method of disposing of our dead, and a new ritual for laying our loved ones to rest."
Earth

Grisly Find Suggests Humans Inhabited Arctic 45,000 Years Ago (sciencemag.org) 138

sciencehabit points out this story which may rewrite the early history of humans in North America. From the Sciencemag story: "In August of 2012, an 11-year-old boy made a gruesome discovery in a frozen bluff overlooking the Arctic Ocean. While exploring the foggy coast of Yenisei Bay, about 2000 kilometers south of the North Pole, he came upon the leg bones of a woolly mammoth eroding out of frozen sediments. Scientists excavating the well-preserved creature determined that it had been killed by humans: Its eye sockets, ribs, and jaw had been battered, apparently by spears, and one spear-point had left a dent in its cheekbone—perhaps a missed blow aimed at the base of its trunk. When they dated the remains, the researchers got another surprise: The mammoth died 45,000 years ago. That means that humans lived in the Arctic more than 10,000 years earlier than scientists believed, according to a new study. The find suggests that even at this early stage, humans were traversing the most frigid parts of the globe and had the adaptive ability to migrate almost everywhere."
United Kingdom

Massive Marine Reserve Created In Atlantic (bbc.com) 81

An anonymous reader writes: The British government has announced that it will create a marine reserve slightly smaller than the UK in the waters off Ascension Island. The South Atlantic reserve totals 234,291 sq km and is being funded with the help of a £300,000 grant from the charitable Bacon Foundation. Charles Clover, Blue Marine Foundation chairman, said: "Ascension has been at the frontiers of science since Charles Darwin went there in the 19th Century, so it is entirely appropriate that it is now at the centre of a great scientific effort to design the Atlantic's largest marine reserve."
Earth

New Maps Show Spread and Impact of Drought On California Forests (latimes.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes: According to a new study 58 million trees are dead or dying due to the California drought and hundreds of millions could die if the conditions persist. The LA Times reports: "The researchers used an airplane, high-tech remote sensing technology and satellite imagery to produce the first maps that show how much water the state's trees have lost. Virtually every forest has been affected in some way, said study leader Greg Asner, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University. Asner said he was struck by the 'sheer degree of loss and mortality' in Southern California forests as he flew over the depleted trees."
Earth

Can Electric Signals In Earth's Atmosphere Predict Earthquakes? (sciencemag.org) 71

sciencehabit writes with interesting news about a possible new avenue for earthquake prediction. Sciencemag reports: "Ask seismologists when they'll be able to predict earthquakes, and the answer is generally: sometime between the distant future and never. Although there have been some promising leads over the years, the history of earthquake forecasting is littered with false starts and pseudoscience. However, some scientists think that Earth's crust may give hints before it ruptures, in the form of electromagnetic anomalies in the ground and atmosphere that occur minutes to days before an earthquake. Now, researchers are sharing their evolving understanding of these phenomena—and how they might be used to predict deadly quakes."
Power

As Sea Levels Rise, Are Coastal Nuclear Plants Ready? (nationalgeographic.com) 302

mdsolar writes with this National Geographic story about the danger of rising sea levels to low-lying power plants across the country. According to the story: "Just east of the Homestead-Miami Speedway, off Florida's Biscayne Bay, two nuclear reactors churn out enough electricity to power nearly a million homes. The Turkey Point plant is licensed to continue doing so until at least 2032. At some point after that, if you believe the direst government projections, a good part of the low-lying site could be underwater. So could at least 13 other U.S. nuclear plants, as the world's seas continue to rise. Their vulnerability, and that of many others, raises serious questions for the future."
Earth

Study Claims Lettuce Is "Three Times Worse Than Bacon" For GHG Emissions (cmu.edu) 340

davidshenba writes: Sticking to a vegetarian diet may not the best for environment — in fact, it might be harmful to it. According to new research from Carnegie Mellon University, following the USDA recommendations to consume more fruits, vegetables, dairy and seafood is more harmful to the environment because those foods have relatively high resource uses and greenhouse gas emissions per calorie. "There's a complex relationship between diet and the environment," Ph.D. student Michelle Tom said. "What is good for us health-wise isn't always what's best for the environment. That's important for public officials to know and for them to be cognizant of these tradeoffs as they develop or continue to develop dietary guidelines in the future." As you might suspect some find the study dubious at best.
Earth

Paris Climate Change Talks Yield First Draft (theguardian.com) 138

An anonymous reader writes: Negotiators at the UN climate talks in Paris released a draft of an agreement to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. No part of the draft has been finalized as many points remain in contention, particularly between developing countries and more wealthy nations. Laurence Tubiana, the French envoy for the talks, said: "We could have been better, we could have been worse. The job is not done, we need to apply all intelligence, energy, willingness to compromise and all efforts to come to agreement. Nothing is decided until everything is decided."
Earth

How To Lead a Nation That's About To Be Swallowed By the Sea 289

merbs writes: Anote Tong, the president of low-lying Kiribati, has spent nearly a decade trying to save his people from rising sea levels. There's a good chance he will not succeed. This is how he leads a nation that will likely not exist in 100 years. Motherboard reports: "Kiribati’s fate provides a rare glimpse of the future world under climate change. The tiny island nation is the canary in our global coal mine, and it will bear the brunt of climate change more intensely and much sooner than nearly anywhere else. 'We cannot keep doing what we are doing,' Tong said. 'Because we may be on the front line today, but other countries, other societies, other communities will be next.'"
Earth

Congress Votes to Scrap Obama's Clean Power Plan (sciencemag.org) 151

sciencehabit writes with news that the House voted 242-180 to repeal the EPA's Clean Power Plan, and 235-188 to block EPA rules governing emissions from new power plants. Science reports: "Congress has voted, largely along party lines, to block a centerpiece of President Barack Obama's climate change agenda. The votes are largely symbolic, however, because Obama plans to veto the bills. Still, Congressional Republicans, and a few Democrats, say they want to send a message to global leaders who are meeting this week to negotiate a new climate agreement that the majority of U.S. lawmakers may not agree with any deal."
Earth

Arkansas Has a Growing Population of "Climate Change Refugees" 276

HughPickens.com writes: Located between Hawaii and Australia, the Marshall Islands are made up of 29 atolls and five islands with a population of about 70,000, all of whom live about six feet above sea level. Now Story Hinkley writes in the Christian Science Monitor that another 10,000 Marshallese have moved to Springdale, Arkansas because of climate change. Because this Pacific island nation is so small, the Marshallese population in Arkansas attribute their Springdale settlement to one man, John Moody, who moved to the US in 1979 after the first wave of flooding. Moody's family eventually moved to Springdale to live with him and work for Tyson and other poultry companies based in Arkansas, eventually causing a steady flow of extended friends and family migrating to Springdale. "Probably in 10 to 20 years from now, we're all going to move," says Roselinta Keimbar adding that she likes Arkansas because it is far away from the ocean, meaning it is safe.

For more than three decades, Marshallese have moved in the thousands to the landlocked Ozark Mountains for better education, jobs and health care, thanks to an agreement that lets them live and work in the US.. This historical connection makes it an obvious destination for those facing a new threat: global warming. Marshallese Foreign Minister Tony de Brum says even a small rise in global temperatures would spell the demise of his country. While many world leaders in Paris want to curb emissions enough to cap Earth's warming at 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), de Brum is pushing for a target that's 25 percent lower. "The thought of evacuation is repulsive to us," says de Brum. "We think that the more reasonable thing to do is to seek to end this madness, this climate madness, where people think that smaller, vulnerable countries are expendable and therefore they can continue to do business as usual." Meanwhile residents jokingly call their new home "Springdale Atoll," and there's even a Marshallese consulate in Springdale, the only one on the mainland US. "Its not our fault that the tide is getting higher," says Carlon Zedkaia,. "Just somebody else in this world that wants to get rich."
The Courts

Young Climate Activists Sue Obama Over Climate Change Inaction (cnn.com) 475

EmagGeek writes A recent lawsuit against Obama alleges he has a legal duty to act against climate change, and young climate activists, including 15-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh, are taking him to task on it. CNN reports: "Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh became a climate change activist at age 6 when he saw an environmental documentary. He asked his mom to find a way for him to speak at a rally. Now 15, the long-haired, hip-hop-savvy Coloradan is one of 21 young activists joining climate scientist James Hansen in suing the Obama administration for failing to ditch fossil fuels. 'It's basically a bunch of kids saying you're not doing your job,' he told me here at the U.N. COP21 climate change summit in Paris. 'You're failing, you know. F-minus. We're holding you accountable for your lack of action.'"

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