Tag Archives: nature

The U.N. climate talks have a gender gap. Women plan to fix it.

Nearly two months after Hurricane Maria, public health researchers in Puerto Rico are limited by the same lack of power, clean water, and infrastructure they are there to study.

Puerto Rico–born José Cordero is one such scientist. In the journal Nature, he describes leading a team through the devastated landscape to collect data on how drinking water contamination affects pregnant women. The scientists have to hurry to finish their work everyday, before night falls across the largely powerless island. Limited telephone access makes it difficult to get in touch with subjects.

Cordero’s project started six years ago to focus on water pollution and pre-term births, but this year’s hurricane has changed both the focus and the level of difficulty of the work. Other researchers have been hampered by hospitals that can’t administer routine tests and hurricane-damaged equipment, making it difficult to collect data on how air and water pollution are affecting health.

Still, Cordero’s team has managed to contact several hundred woman and collect samples of groundwater and tap water from homes near flooded Superfund sites. As he told Nature: “The kind of work we’re doing … has to be done now, because a few years from now, it’s too late.”

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The U.N. climate talks have a gender gap. Women plan to fix it.

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Geoengineering’s unintended consequences: Hurricanes and food shortages

This story was originally published by Wired and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Every country on Earth, save for cough one, has banded together to cut emissions and stop the runaway heating of our only home. That’s nearly 200 countries working to keep the global average temperature from climbing 2 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Phenomenal. But what if cooperation and emissions reduction aren’t enough? Projections show that even if all those countries hit their Paris Agreement emissions pledges, the world will still get too warm too fast, plunging us into climate chaos. So, if we can’t stop what we’ve set in motion, what if we could just cool the planet off by making it more reflective — more like a disco ball than a baseball?

Actually, we could. It’s called solar geoengineering. Scientists could release materials into the stratosphere that reflect sunlight back into space, kind of like slapping giant sunglasses on Earth. You could theoretically do this with giant space mirrors, but that would require a mountain of R&D and money and materials. More likely, scientists might be able to steal a strategy from Earth itself. When volcanoes erupt, they spew sulfur high in the sky, where the gas turns into an aerosol that blocks sunlight. If scientists added sulfur to the stratosphere manually, that could reflect light away from Earth and help humanity reach its climate goals.

It’s not that simple, though: The massive Tambora eruption of 1815 cooled the Earth so much that Europe suffered the “year without summer,” leading to extreme food shortages. And in a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature, researchers examine a bunch of other ways a blast of sulfur could do more harm than good.

Specifically, the group looked at how sulfur seeding could impact storms in the North Atlantic. They built models showing what would happen if they were to inject sulfur dioxide into the lower stratosphere above either the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, at a rate of 5 million metric tons per year. Sulfur dioxide gas (SO2) is not itself reflective, but up there it reacts with water, picking up oxygen molecules to become sulfate aerosol (SO4) — now that’s reflective. Block out some of the sun, and you block out some of the solar energy.

Now, the Earth’s hemispheres aren’t just divided by a thick line on your globe; they’re actually well-divided by what is essentially a giant updraft. That tends to keep materials like, say, sulfate aerosol, stuck in a given hemisphere. “It goes up and it goes more to the one side where you injected it,” says Simone Tilmes, who studies geoengineering at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and was not involved in the study.

This wall of wind gives you some measure of control. If you were to inject SO2 into the Northern Hemisphere, the models show, you would reduce storm activity in the North Atlantic — probably because the injection would put the tropical jet stream on a collision course with the Atlantic hurricane main development region. Wind shear like that weakens storms as they grow. But inject gas into the Southern Hemisphere and the stream shifts north, increasing storms.

Which all jibes with historical data. In 1912, the Katmai eruption in Alaska spewed 30 cubic kilometers of ash and debris into the atmosphere. What followed was the historical record’s only year without hurricanes.

The potentially good news is that models like these make solar geoengineering a bit more predictable than a volcano eruption. The bad news is not everyone would win. Solar geoengineering in the north would cut precipitation in the semi-arid Sahel in north-central Africa.

What we’re looking at, then, isn’t just a strategy with environmental implications, but humanitarian ones as well. Think about current conflicts over water supplies, especially in the developing world. Now scale that up into conflict over the weather itself. It’s not hard to imagine one part of the world deciding to geoengineer for more water and another part of the world suffering for it. “I therefore think that solar geoengineering is currently too risky to be utilized due to the enormous political friction that it may cause,” says lead author Anthony Jones of the University of Exeter.

What researchers need is way more science, more models, more data, way more of whatever you can get to understand these processes. And they’ll need international guidelines for a technology that could nourish some regions and devastate others — individual nations can’t just make unilateral climate decisions that have global repercussions. “There’s a lot we don’t know and a lot of differences in models,” says Tilmes. “The answer is we really have to look at it more.”

Really, it’s hard to imagine a conundrum of bigger scale. For now, we’ll just have to do what we can with baseball Earth. But perhaps one day we’ll be forced to start building a disco ball, one little mirror at a time.

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Geoengineering’s unintended consequences: Hurricanes and food shortages

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The Feds are leaving Puerto Rico — and offering to take Maria survivors with them.

Kathleen Hartnett White, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, stammered through her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

When Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, a Democrat, asked if she believes climate change is real, she wavered but settled on the right answer: “I am uncertain. No, I’m not. I jumped ahead. Climate change is of course real.”

That’s a surprise. Hartnett White, a former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, has a long history of challenging climate science and promoting fossil fuels. Notably, she has said that carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant.

But that’s not to say she’s made peace with established science. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, quizzed Hartnett White over how much excess heat in the atmosphere is absorbed by oceans. “I believe there are differences of opinions on that,” she said, “that there’s not one right answer.” For the record, the number is about 90 percent.

Then things got bizarre. Appearing frustrated with equivocating answers, Whitehouse pressed her on basic laws of nature, like whether heat makes water expand. “I do not have any kind of expertise or even much layman study of the ocean dynamics and the climate-change issues,” she said.

Watch below, if you dare:

After the hearing, Whitehouse tweeted, “I don’t even know where to begin … she outright rejects basic science.”

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The Feds are leaving Puerto Rico — and offering to take Maria survivors with them.

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Climate science foe Lamar Smith says geoengineering is ‘worth exploring.’

Kathleen Hartnett White, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, stammered through her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

When Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, a Democrat, asked if she believes climate change is real, she wavered but settled on the right answer: “I am uncertain. No, I’m not. I jumped ahead. Climate change is of course real.”

That’s a surprise. Hartnett White, a former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, has a long history of challenging climate science and promoting fossil fuels. Notably, she has said that carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant.

But that’s not to say she’s made peace with established science. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, quizzed Hartnett White over how much excess heat in the atmosphere is absorbed by oceans. “I believe there are differences of opinions on that,” she said, “that there’s not one right answer.” For the record, the number is about 90 percent.

Then things got bizarre. Appearing frustrated with equivocating answers, Whitehouse pressed her on basic laws of nature, like whether heat makes water expand. “I do not have any kind of expertise or even much layman study of the ocean dynamics and the climate-change issues,” she said.

Watch below, if you dare:

After the hearing, Whitehouse tweeted, “I don’t even know where to begin … she outright rejects basic science.”

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Climate science foe Lamar Smith says geoengineering is ‘worth exploring.’

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This Idea Must Die – Mr. John Brockman

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This Idea Must Die
Scientific Theories That Are Blocking Progress
Mr. John Brockman

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: February 17, 2015

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Seller: HarperCollins


The bestselling editor of This Explains Everything brings together 175 of the world’s most brilliant minds to tackle Edge.org’s 2014 question: What scientific idea has become a relic blocking human progress? Each year, John Brockman, publisher of Edge.org—”The world’s smartest website” (The Guardian)—challenges some of the world’s greatest scientists, artists, and philosophers to answer a provocative question crucial to our time. In 2014 he asked 175 brilliant minds to ponder: What scientific idea needs to be put aside in order to make room for new ideas to advance? The answers are as surprising as they are illuminating. In : Steven Pinker dismantles the working theory of human behavior Richard Dawkins renounces essentialism Sherry Turkle reevaluates our expectations of artificial intelligence Geoffrey West challenges the concept of a “Theory of Everything” Andrei Linde suggests that our universe and its laws may not be as unique as we think Martin Rees explains why scientific understanding is a limitless goal Nina Jablonski argues to rid ourselves of the concept of race Alan Guth rethinks the origins of the universe Hans Ulrich Obrist warns against glorifying unlimited economic growth and much more. Profound, engaging, thoughtful, and groundbreaking, This Idea Must Die will change your perceptions and understanding of our world today . . . and tomorrow.

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This Idea Must Die – Mr. John Brockman

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The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants – Army

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The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants – Army

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Encounters with the Archdruid – John McPhee

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Encounters with the Archdruid

John McPhee

Genre: Nature

Price: $9.99

Publish Date: October 1, 1977

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Seller: Macmillan / Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC


The narratives in this book are of journeys made in three wildernesses – on a coastal island, in a Western mountain range, and on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The four men portrayed here have different relationships to their environment, and they encounter each other on mountain trails, in forests and rapids, sometimes with reserve, sometimes with friendliness, sometimes fighting hard across a philosophical divide.

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Encounters with the Archdruid – John McPhee

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Why Dinosaurs Matter – Kenneth Lacovara

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Why Dinosaurs Matter

Kenneth Lacovara

Genre: Nature

Price: $7.99

Publish Date: September 19, 2017

Publisher: Simon & Schuster/ TED

Seller: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc.


What can long-dead dinosaurs teach us about our future? Plenty, according to paleontologist Kenneth Lacovara, who has discovered some of the largest creatures to ever walk the Earth. By tapping into the ubiquitous wonder that dinosaurs inspire, Lacovara weaves together the stories of our geological awakening, of humanity’s epic struggle to understand the nature of deep time, the meaning of fossils, and our own place on the vast and bountiful tree of life. Go on a journey––back to when dinosaurs ruled the Earth––to discover how dinosaurs achieved feats unparalleled by any other group of animals. Learn the secrets of how paleontologists find fossils, and explore quirky, but profound questions, such as: Is a penguin a dinosaur? And, how are the tiny arms of T. rex the key to its power and ferocity? In this revealing book, Lacovara offers the latest ideas about the shocking and calamitous death of the dinosaurs and ties their vulnerabilities to our own. Why Dinosaurs Matter is compelling and engaging—a great reminder that our place on this planet is both precarious and potentially fleeting. “As we move into an uncertain environmental future, it has never been more important to understand the past.”

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Why Dinosaurs Matter – Kenneth Lacovara

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Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs – Lisa Randall

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Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs

The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe

Lisa Randall

Genre: Earth Sciences

Price: $11.99

Publish Date: October 27, 2015

Publisher: Ecco

Seller: HarperCollins


In this brilliant exploration of our cosmic environment, the renowned particle physicist and New York Times bestselling author of Warped Passages and Knocking on Heaven’s Door uses her research into dark matter to illuminate the startling connections between the furthest reaches of space and life here on Earth. Sixty-six million years ago, an object the size of a city descended from space to crash into Earth, creating a devastating cataclysm that killed off the dinosaurs, along with three-quarters of the other species on the planet. What was its origin? In Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, Lisa Randall proposes it was a comet that was dislodged from its orbit as the Solar System passed through a disk of dark matter embedded in the Milky Way. In a sense, it might have been dark matter that killed the dinosaurs. Working through the background and consequences of this proposal, Randall shares with us the latest findings—established and speculative—regarding the nature and role of dark matter and the origin of the Universe, our galaxy, our Solar System, and life, along with the process by which scientists explore new concepts. In Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, Randall tells a breathtaking story that weaves together the cosmos’ history and our own, illuminating the deep relationships that are critical to our world and the astonishing beauty inherent in the most familiar things.

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Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs – Lisa Randall

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Drawdown – Paul Hawken & Tom Steyer

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Drawdown

The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming

Paul Hawken & Tom Steyer

Genre: Science & Nature

Price: $13.99

Publish Date: April 18, 2017

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


•  New York Times  bestseller  • The 100 most substantive solutions to reverse global warming, based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world “At this point in time, the  Drawdown  book is exactly what is needed; a credible, conservative solution-by-solution narrative that we can do it. Reading it is an effective inoculation against the widespread perception of doom that humanity cannot and will not solve the climate crisis. Reported by-effects include increased determination and a sense of grounded hope.” —Per Espen Stoknes, Author,  What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming   “There’s been no real way for ordinary people to get an understanding of what they can do and what impact it can have. There remains no single, comprehensive, reliable compendium of carbon-reduction solutions across sectors. At least until now. . . . The public is hungry for this kind of practical wisdom.” —David Roberts,  Vox “This is the ideal environmental sciences textbook—only it is too interesting and inspiring to be called a textbook.” —Peter Kareiva, Director of the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA In the face of widespread fear and apathy, an international coalition of researchers, professionals, and scientists have come together to offer a set of realistic and bold solutions to climate change. One hundred techniques and practices are described here—some are well known; some you may have never heard of. They range from clean energy to educating girls in lower-income countries to land use practices that pull carbon out of the air. The solutions exist, are economically viable, and communities throughout the world are currently enacting them with skill and determination. If deployed collectively on a global scale over the next thirty years, they represent a credible path forward, not just to slow the earth’s warming but to reach drawdown, that point in time when greenhouse gases in the atmosphere peak and begin to decline. These measures promise cascading benefits to human health, security, prosperity, and well-being—giving us every reason to see this planetary crisis as an opportunity to create a just and livable world.

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Drawdown – Paul Hawken & Tom Steyer

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