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charlesarthur : environment   14

Ocean plastic waste probably comes from ships, report says •
<p>Most of the plastic bottles washing up on the rocky shores of Inaccessible Island, aptly named for its sheer cliffs rising from the middle of the South Atlantic, probably come from Chinese merchant ships, a study published Monday said.

The study offers fresh evidence that the vast garbage patches floating in the middle of oceans, which have sparked much consumer hand-wringing in recent years, are less the product of people dumping single-use plastics in waterways or on land, than they are the result of merchant marine vessels tossing their waste overboard by the ton.

The authors of the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, or PNAS, collected thousands of pieces of waste during visits to the tiny island in 1984, 2009 and again in 2018.

The island is located roughly midway between Argentina and South Africa in the South Atlantic gyre, a vast whirlpool of currents that has created what has come to be known as an oceanic garbage patch.

While initial inspections of the trash washing up on the island showed labels indicating it had come from South America, some 2,000 miles (3,000 kilometers) to the west, by 2018 three-quarters of the garbage appeared to originate from Asia, mostly China.</p>

Maybe sort this out before shooting Hong Kong protesters seeking better representation?
china  plastic  ocean  nature  environment 
16 days ago by charlesarthur
The world's largest offshore wind farm is nearly complete • CNN
Hanna Ziady:
<p>The world's largest offshore wind farm is taking shape off the east coast of Britain, a landmark project that demonstrates one way to combat climate change at scale.

Located 120 kilometers (75 miles) off England's Yorkshire coast, Hornsea One will produce enough energy [1.2 gigawatts, twice as large as the next-biggest which is in the Irish Sea] to supply 1 million UK homes with clean electricity when it is completed in 2020.

The project spans an area that's bigger than the Maldives or Malta, and is located farther out to sea than any other wind farm. It consists of 174 seven-megawatt wind turbines that are each 100 metres tall. The blades have a circumference of 75 meters, and cover an area bigger than the London Eye observation wheel as they turn.

Just a single rotation of one of the turbines can power the average home for an entire day, according to Stefan Hoonings, senior project manager at Orsted (DOGEF), the Danish energy company that built the farm.

The project will take the United Kingdom closer to hitting its target of deriving a third of the country's electricity from offshore wind by 2030.</p>

Meanwhile the new 3.2GW nuclear plant at Hinkley Point C looks likely to cost an extra £2.9bn (to £22bn) and be late: had been promised online in 2017, now looks like 2025. Hornsea One, cost about £4.2bn, and which has delivered on time, is part of four such which could generate a total of 6GW.
uk  energy  environment  windpower 
23 days ago by charlesarthur
Sorry, scooters aren’t so climate-friendly after all • MIT Technology Review
James Temple:
<p>the mere fact that battery-powered scooters don’t belch pollution out of a tailpipe doesn’t mean they’re “emissions free,” or as “eco-friendly” as some have assumed. The actual climate impact of the vehicles depends heavily on how they’re made, what they’re replacing, and how long they last.

Researchers at North Carolina State University decided to conduct a “life-cycle assessment” that tallied up the emissions from making, shipping, charging, collecting, and disposing of scooters after one of them noticed that a Lime receipt stated, “Your ride was carbon free.”

The study <a href="">concludes that dockless scooters generally produce more greenhouse-gas emissions per passenger mile</a> than a standard diesel bus with high ridership, an electric moped, an electric bicycle, a bicycle—or, of course, a walk.

The paper found that scooters do produce about half the emissions of a standard automobile, at around 200 grams of carbon dioxide per mile compared with nearly 415. But, crucially, the researchers found in a survey of e-scooter riders in Raleigh, North Carolina, that only 34% would have otherwise used a personal car or ride-sharing service. Nearly half would have biked or walked, 11% would have taken the bus, and 7% would have simply skipped the trip.

The bottom line: roughly two-thirds of the time, scooter rides generate more greenhouse-gas emissions than the alternative. And those increased emissions were greater than the gains from the car rides not taken, says Jeremiah Johnson, an engineering professor and one of the authors of the paper.</p>

Individual devices are less fuel-efficient than collective ones. Though the results for the electric bicycle are surprising. In general, most of the life cycle costs are in the materials.
scooter  environment 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
No . . . I did not say wind energy is 'Idiot Power' • Thomas Homer-Dixon
Homer-Dixon is an environment writer, and there's a poster with his name being posted on Facebook to try to "prove" that wind power isn't economical:
<p>The poster [currently circulating on Facebook] includes the following text over my name:

“A two-megawatt windmill contains 260 tonnes of steel requiring 170 tonnes of coking coal and 300 tonnes of iron ore, all mined, transported and produced by hydrocarbons”  “a windmill could spin until it falls apart and never generate as much energy as was invested in building it”

This text is selectively excerpted from a chapter written by David Hughes in Carbon Shift (2009), a book I co-edited. Here’s the full text (the words omitted on the circulated poster are enclosed in square brackets):

“[The concept of net energy must also be applied to renewable sources of energy, such as windmills and photovoltaics.] A two-megawatt windmill contains 260 tonnes of steel requiring 170 tonnes of coking coal and 300 tonnes of iron ore, all mined, transported and produced by hydrocarbons. [The question is: how long must a windmill generate energy before it creates more energy than it took to build it? At a good wind site, the energy payback day could be in three years or less; in a poor location, energy payback may be never. That is,] a windmill could spin until it falls apart and never generate as much energy as was invested in building it.”</p>

That's some serious lying in the poster. So who's behind it? What do they have to gain? How do you track one of these things back to their source? (Also: Facebook, once again, considered harmful.)
facebook  windpower  wind  environment  energy  fakenews 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
A hole opens up under Antarctic glacier — big enough to fit two-thirds of Manhattan
Denise Chow:
<p>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.

“The size of the cavity is surprising, and as it melts, it’s causing the glacier to retreat,” said Pietro Milillo, a radar scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and the paper’s lead author. He said the ice shelf encompassing the Florida-sized glacier is retreating at a rate in excess of 650 feet per year, and that most of the melting that led to the void occurred during the past three years.

<img src="" width="100%" />
<em>Sinking areas at Thwaites Glacier are shown here in red and rising areas in blue. The growing cavity (red mass, center) caused the greatest sinking.NASA/JPL-Caltech</em>

Previous research showed that meltwater from Thwaites accounts for about 4% of the global sea level rise, said Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, who was not involved with the new study.

If the loss of ice becomes so severe that the glacier collapses — something computer models predict could happen in 50 to 100 years — sea levels would rise by two feet. That’s enough to inundate coastal cities across the globe.</p>

Worth declaring a state of emergency for the crisis on the US's south-eastern sea border?
science  climate  environment 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
California fires released emissions equal to a year of power use • Quartz
Zoe Schlanger:
<p>California’s 2018 fire season, including the largest fire in state history, released nearly as much climate-warming and air-polluting emissions as a year’s worth of electricity use there.

The wildfires released 68 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2018, according to the US Geological Survey, or 15% of the state’s total emissions. For comparison, all electricity use in California in 2016 produced roughly 76 million tons in emissions.

Those figures were the highlights of a <a href="">Nov. 30 statement from the Interior Department</a> that blamed the wildfires largely on forest-management practices.</p>

This is a bad take (and to be clear, the source of the badness is the DOI): the "emissions" from burning short-lived plants are completely unlike those from burning gas (a fossil fuel), which is <a href="">half of California's generation</a>) or coal (a fossil fuel). Short-lived plants weren't buried underground for millions of years; they're carbon-neutral, viewed over the lifespan of most people.

It's clueless of the DOI to put out this statement, but clueless too of publications to repeat it without pointing out how wrong it is.
environment  california 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN • The Guardian
Jonathan Watts:
<p>The authors of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released on Monday say urgent and unprecedented changes are needed to reach the target, which they say is affordable and feasible although it lies at the most ambitious end of the Paris agreement pledge to keep temperatures between 1.5C and 2C.

The half-degree difference could also prevent corals from being completely eradicated and ease pressure on the Arctic, according to the 1.5C study, which was launched after approval at a final plenary of all 195 countries in Incheon in South Korea that saw delegates hugging one another, with some in tears.

“It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now,” said Debra Roberts, a co-chair of the working group on impacts. “This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency.”

Policymakers commissioned the report at the Paris climate talks in 2016, but since then the gap between science and politics has widened. Donald Trump has promised to withdraw the US – the world’s biggest source of historical emissions – from the accord. The first round of Brazil’s presidential election on Sunday put Jair Bolsonaro into a strong position to carry out his threat to do the same and also open the Amazon rainforest to agribusiness.

The world is currently 1C warmer than preindustrial levels. Following devastating hurricanes in the US, record droughts in Cape Town and forest fires in the Arctic, the IPCC makes clear that climate change is already happening, upgraded its risk warning from previous reports, and warned that every fraction of additional warming would worsen the impact.</p>

Two things you can do immediately: stop eating meat (means less methane, and less deforestation, and less intensive land use); change to a green energy supplier. Also, insulate your home.
climatechange  politics  environment  carbon 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Solar just hit a record low price in the US • Earther
Brian Kahn:
<p>The project in question is the Eagle Shadow Mountain Solar Farm, which will begin operating in 2021. The farm will have a generating capacity of 300 megawatts, enough to power about 210,000 American homes. But it’s the price part that’s eye-popping. It will operate at a flat rate of $23.76 per megawatt-hour over the course of a 25-year power purchasing agreement (the term for a contract between an electricity generator and utility who buys it). On the surface, that price may not mean a lot to you if you’re not an energy nerd, but it’s a huge deal.

“On their face, they’re less than a third the price of building a new coal or natural gas power plant,” Ramez Naam, an energy expert and lecturer at Singularity University, told Earther in an email. “In fact, building these plants is cheaper than just operating an existing coal or natural gas plant.”</p>

Even without federal subsidies, it's cheaper than coal or gas plants. Nowadays the only problem is energy storage.
solar  energy  environment 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
She cut her weekly trash down so much it fits in an unbelievably small jar • Washington Post
Victoria Adams Fogg:
<p>[Tippi] Thole and her son, Eames, are newly minted members of the Zero Waste movement, a worldwide group that aims to eliminate as much waste as possible. Zero Wasters avoid plastics and disposable products, bring their own containers when shopping, make things that most of us buy packaged and buy clothing and furniture only when necessary and only secondhand.

When Thole, a 41-year-old freelance graphic designer who lives near Montreal, examined her trash, she discovered that most of it was food packaging. Now she buys her edibles at farmers markets and bulk-food stores, and she belongs to a farm cooperative — all places that provide unpackaged food.

Cutting way back on trash doesn’t require time, she says, but you do have to be prepared. Thole has a shopping kit that includes cloth bags and glass jars to collect dried food, liquids, meats and cheeses. She uses a wine tote to keep the jars upright and prevent them from banging against each other. She keeps everything in a wicker basket, stored in the back of her car.

“By shopping for package-free food,” Thole says, “we’re able to eliminate this category of waste entirely. You can buy just about anything in bulk…</p>

<a href="">Jemima Kiss</a>, with whom I used to work at The Guardian, is trying to live #Plasticfree (ie, don't buy plastic-packaged goods), which I guess is a step towards Zero Waste. It looks difficult, but only because plastic wrapping has become pervasive - even when unnecessary.
Plastic  waste  zerowaste  environment 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Mysterious source of illegal ozone-killing emissions revealed, say investigators • The Guardian
Damian Carrington on the followup to <a href="">the story which first surfaced in May</a>:
<p>The Environmental Investigation Agency, a non-governmental organisation, <a href="">has now identified widespread use of CFC-11 factories in China</a> that make insulating foams. The EIA’s investigators identified factories that sold the chemicals needed for foam-making, then contacted and visited them.

“We were dumbfounded when out of 21 companies, 18 of them across China confirmed use of CFC-11, while acknowledging the illegality and being very blase about its use,” said Avipsa Mahapatra at the EIA. Furthermore, the companies said the use of CFC-11 was rife in the sector. “It was very clear. These companies, again and again, told us everybody else does this,” she said.

China is a major producer of the rigid polyurethane foams involved and the EIA calculates that if the illegal use of CFC-11 is pervasive in the 3,500 small- and medium-sized companies that make up the sector, then this would explain the surge. Without action, the CFC-11 emissions would delay the recovery of the planet’s ozone hole by a decade, scientists estimate.

“We didn’t know what on Earth someone would be using CFC-11 for – well, here’s one answer and that’s a surprise,” said Steve Montzka at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Colorado, whose team revealed the surge. “Despite efforts to get rid of this activity, it continues.”</p>

This - too - is why regulation, and enforcement of regulation, matters; and why kneejerk calls to "cut red tape" are foolish. Red tape has a purpose, even if it's inconvenient.
china  environment  cfc  ozone 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Environmentalists criticize Xiaomi ahead of billion-dollar IPO • Sixth Tone
Sixth Tone:
<p>Two environmental groups are accusing Xiaomi of poor oversight of its supply chain after the Chinese tech giant earlier this month filed for an IPO with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, according to a joint report released Tuesday.

On May 12, the environmentalists found that a Jiangsu factory which manufactures components for Xiaomi was discharging copper-contaminated wastewater into a nearby river. According to the report, coauthored by the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) and the Lüse Jiangnan Public Environment Concerned Center (PECC), tests conducted on May 12 confirmed the contamination.

The factory, owned by Taiwan-headquartered Ichia Technologies, had previously been fined 117,000 yuan ($18,000) by the provincial environmental bureau in March for the same offense. Sixth Tone’s calls to the factory went unanswered on Tuesday.

The report also accuses four other companies said to manufacture screens, casings, and other parts for Xiaomi cellphones of having past environmental violations.

On May 3, Xiaomi filed for an IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, aiming for a $100 billion valuation that would make it the largest listing of the year. But the environmental groups say that the tech company did not disclose the supply chain environmental lapses in its prospectus — contravening the exchange’s full disclosure requirement.

When reached by phone on Tuesday, a Xiaomi PR representative told Sixth Tone that he was not at liberty to comment, as the company was still ascertaining the situation.</p>

By "still ascertaining the situation" the spokesman meant "still ignoring the situation, which has been brought to Xiaomi's notice multiple times over multiple suppliers in the past four years".

But nobody much cares about environmental responsibility, unless it offers a chance to bash Apple.
Xiaomi  environment 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Patagonia vs. Donald Trump • GQ
Rosecrans Baldwin:
<p>In Ventura, weeks after the Thomas fire, the air still smelled of smoke. [Outdoor clothing company] Patagonia's headquarters had been used to house evacuees until the fires got too near. Later, the Ventura store gave away long underwear to firefighters working nights in the mountains and fishing waders to crews trying to find people in the mud. I felt a little awkward, then, considering the context, when I told [Patagonia founder and legendary climber Yvon] Chouinard that Patagonia's activism seemed pretty convenient when it did so well for the bottom line. What's “Zen” to his mind might sound to others like “good marketing.” He conceded the point, somewhat, but strongly disagreed: “What we say we're doing, we're actually doing. A lot of companies are just greenwashing, and young people can see right through it. Kids are smart, so we don't talk down to them. Our marketing philosophy is just: Tell people who we are. Which is, tell people what we do, and don't try to be anything more than that.”

I asked Chouinard about the lawsuit and his personal feelings about Trump. He thought for a moment, perhaps to contain himself. “What pisses me off about this administration is that they're all these ‘climate deniers’—well, that's bullshit. They know what's happening. What they're doing is purposely not doing anything about climate for the sake of making more money.” He paused, bowed his head, and scraped his fingernails on the table. He sat up again. “That is truly evil. That's why I call this administration evil. They know what they're doing, and they're doing it to make more money.”

Gradually, the conversation went even darker. About Trump, Chouinard added, “It's like a kid who's so frustrated he wants to break everything. That's what we've got.” I asked sarcastically if any part of him was an optimist. Marcario, sitting next to him, laughed loudly. “Did you just ask Yvon if he's an optimist?” Chouinard smiled and cocked his head. “I'm totally a pessimist. But you know, I'm a happy person. Because the cure for depression is action.”</p>

Chouinard is a remarkable person and businessman; you read the article and find so many examples of what he's done that sounds mad but works both for business and environment.
environment  trump  patagonia 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
Light at the end of the funnel: green finance for dirty ships • The Economist
<p>Shipping may seem like a clean form of transport. Carrying more than 90% of the world’s trade, ocean-going vessels produce just 3% of its greenhouse-gas emissions. But the industry is dirtier than that makes it sound. By burning heavy fuel oil, just 15 of the biggest ships emit more of the noxious oxides of nitrogen and sulphur than all the world’s cars put together. So it is no surprise that shipowners are being forced to clean up their act. But in an industry awash in overcapacity and debt, few have access to the finance they need to improve their vessels…

…A new report from the Carbon War Room (CWR), an international NGO, and UMAS, a consultancy, highlights the threat that new environmental regulations pose to the industry. The International Maritime Organisation, the UN’s regulatory agency for shipping, has agreed to cap emissions of sulphur from 2020. Last month the European Parliament voted to include shipping in the EU’s emissions-trading scheme from 2021. Without any retrofitting of ships to meet the new rules, many firms may be forced out of business. That also imperils banks across the world, which have lent $400bn secured on smoke-spewing ships.

Tens of billions of dollars are needed to pay for upgrades to meet the new rules, according to James Mitchell at CWR. But the industry can hardly pay even its existing debts.</p>

That statistic about the 15 dirtiest ships is stunning. But shouldn't the argument about debt be answered with a simple "raise the price you charge customers"?
environment  shipping 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Just launched: Near-real-time Rainfall API • Defra digital
<p>To complement our (the Environment Agency’s) publication of open data on river levels, we have now made <a href="">near real-time rainfall data available via an API</a>.

<img src="" width="50%" align="right" />
<em>The data comes from about 1000 automatic rain gauges across England.</em>

This data is already used by the Environment Agency to assess water resources and provide local Flood Warning and Forecasting services. The data from some gauges is also used by the Met Office to calibrate rainfall radar data, which in return improves our Flood Forecast predictions.

We are publishing this data openly as it has the potential for a wide range of uses externally such as flood forecasting, farming, and recreation.</p>

Yet another win for the Free Our Data campaign. Getting the Environment Agency to open up flood data was one of the toughest tasks; it took all the floods a couple of years ago to persuade it, but more importantly central government, that the data should be open.

The API itself is pretty straightforward - no API key required at present. There's also historic data in CSV format.
environment  freeourdata  rain  api 
february 2017 by charlesarthur

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