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Neil deGrasse Tyson destroys climate denial in this new video

Grist.org - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 18:39

For 11 episodes now, the groundbreaking Fox and National Geographic Channel series Cosmos has been exploring the universe, outraging creationists, and giving science teachers across the nation something to show in class every Monday. In the process, the show has been drawing more than 3 million viewers every Sunday night, a respectable number for a science-focused show that is, after all, a major departure from what prime-time audiences are used to.

Cosmos certainly hasn’t shied from controversy; it has taken on evolution and industry-funded science denial, and it has been devoting an increasing amount of attention to the subject of climate change. And apparently that was just the beginning. This coming Sunday, Cosmos will devote an entire episode to the topic. Here’s the episode description from National Geographic:

Our journey begins with a trip to another world and time, an idyllic beach during the last perfect day on the planet Venus, right before a runaway greenhouse effect wreaks havoc on the planet, boiling the oceans and turning the skies a sickening yellow. We then trace the surprisingly lengthy history of our awareness of global warming and alternative energy sources, taking the Ship of the Imagination to intervene at some critical points in time.

Courtesy of National Geographic, above is a clip from the new episode, which should have climate deniers fulminating. In it, host Neil deGrasse Tyson uses the analogy of walking a dog on the beach to helpfully explain the difference between climate and weather (pay attention, Donald Trump) and to outline why, no matter how cold you were in January, that’s no argument against global warming.

We’ve seen the rest of the episode already, and won’t spill the beans. But suffice it to say that it contains some powerful refutations of a number of other global warming denier talking points, as well as some ingenious sequences that explain the planetary-scale significance of climate change. It also contains some in situ reporting on the impacts of climate change, straight from the imperiled Arctic.

Fox/National GeographicNeil DeGrasse Tyson travels to the Arctic to explain global warming, and its effect on thawing permafrost, in this Sunday’s Cosmos episode.

Back in November, I observed that if Carl Sagan, the creator and host of the original Cosmos series, were alive today, he would have been a leader in the charge to address global warming. After all, Sagan, who made his scientific mark studying the greenhouse effect of Venus, was deeply concerned about the megaforces that determine planetary fates.

In covering climate change so extensively then, the new Cosmos is living up to the legacy of its original creator.

Note: For those who miss it on Sunday, Cosmos also airs Monday, June 2 at 9 p.m. on National Geographic Channel with additional footage.

This story was produced as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.


Filed under: Climate & Energy, Living
Categories: Environment

Is bike parking the key to better cities?

Grist.org - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 18:29

Cycling advocate (and former Grist contributor) Elly Blue thinks parking spaces are a waste of money. They could be, you know, actual businesses attracting customers and juicing up the local economy, after all.

Apex

Blue gives the perfect example: Portland’s Apex Bar. It has modest seating inside, but the real draw is its outdoor beer garden, with rows and rows of picnic tables for sipping a craft brew on a nice day. The beer garden was originally — wait for it — five parking spaces. FIVE. Now it draws throngs of vitamin D­­-craving hipsters and houses up to 63 bikes on its racks. (The boom in business also benefits the taqueria next door, which delivers orders to Apex customers.) What once was undoubtedly a frustrating parking lot is now one of the neighborhood’s busiest drinking spots on a sunny day.

Blue also cites hard numbers:

For each vehicle, bike parking takes up ten times less space than car parking and the cost is from 30 to 300 times less … A study in Melbourne, Australia found that bike parking brought in five times the revenue of car parking. A study in Toronto found that customers who biked and walked to local businesses spent more money overall than those who drove.

Not only is bike parking cheaper than car parking, it encourages healthier people, cleaner air, and safer roads. Color us convinced, Blue.


Filed under: Cities, Living
Categories: Environment

Organic farming is great, but it’s not Jesus

Grist.org - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 17:54

I have a pretty high baseline level of skepticism, and when I’m exposed to rhetorical bombast, it causes those skepticism levels to spike. Objections overflow; doubts seep from my pores. It’s an allergic reaction. So this line, the first sentence in the Rodale Institute’s new white paper on the carbon-capturing potential of organic farming, gave me a light rash:

We are at the most critical moment in the history of our species.

The entire history of our species? Including the first faltering steps? Including the thousands of years about which we know zilch? This extension of rhetoric beyond the scope of human knowledge does not inspire confidence.

The paper’s assertion is that, “Simply put, recent data from farming systems and pasture trials around the globe show that we could sequester more than 100 percent of current annual CO2 emissions with a switch to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which we term ‘regenerative organic agriculture.’”

This, at least, is a slightly less audacious claim than the last, but not by much. Completely switching food production to organic agriculture would be so difficult that I’m not going bother with it. Instead, let’s see what a first step in that direction might look like, and consider the evidence that that step might be worth taking.

Actually, the methods proposed make a lot of sense: “cover crops, residue mulching, composting and crop rotation. Conservation tillage, while not yet widely used in organic systems, is a regenerative organic practice integral to soil-carbon sequestration.” So far I’m on board. The complete lifecycle carbon impacts of these practices aren’t fully understood yet — the studies suggest that they can help capture a little bit of carbon, though not always enough to make them carbon sinks. Still, all of these measures have additional benefits beyond carbon sequestration: No-till and cover cropping prevents erosion; crop rotation discourages pests. It’s sensible to experiment with these practices vigorously, even if it turns out they don’t sequester an ounce of carbon.

The other major element of “regenerative organic agriculture” is going organic — ostensibly by refraining from using synthetic pesticides and fertilizer. The problem with synthetic nitrogen fertilizer is that it can decompose into nitrous oxide — a terrible greenhouse gas with 300 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide. But then all nitrogen fertilizers — whether it’s organic compost, or manure, or nitrogen-fixing legumes — have exactly the same problem. A recent meta-analysis from the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Switzerland found that organic food actually had more nitrous oxide emissions per calorie than conventional food.

There really hasn’t been enough study to say definitively if synthetic fertilizer is better or worse than, say, manure. I’d bet that the source of the nitrogen matters a lot less than the way it’s used. You can pump a bunch of feces from a giant pig farm onto your field, let it off-gas in the sun, and call it “organic.” Or, on the other side, you could be a conventional farmer working with the Environmental Defense Fund to minimize nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer. The point is, there’s not a smoking gun that makes all conventional agriculture more carbon intensive than all organic farming.

And yet, as I looked through the studies that have been done holistically comparing organic ag to conventional systems, my skepticism receded. There really is a lot of evidence that organic farming can lock up more carbon than other systems. (there’s a great discussion of this evidence in the top comments of that last link.) There’s even evidence from USDA scientists that organic production (considering both carbon and nitrous oxide) can actually consume more greenhouse gases than it produces. That is, it can be carbon-negative, whereas the conventional fields in that study have always been carbon-positive.

So what accounts for this difference, if not synthetic fertilizer? The best hypothesis I’ve heard is that it’s not any one thing you can point to; instead, it’s the overall philosophy. Organic farms constantly work to build up the soil, which is basically another way of saying that they move carbon out of the air and into the dirt. It’s a central tenet of organic farming, and people have been refining techniques to do it for hundreds of years.

I’m still skeptical of the claim that organic farming could offset all our emissions, but it does have some important lessons to share. Let’s start taking those first steps toward “regenerative organic agriculture.” While we’re doing so, though, let’s also dial back the evangelical fervor. Overselling a case like this can do real harm: Sure, it rallies the faithful, but it also makes it easy for everyone else to dismiss.

The thing is, this may truly turn out to be “the most critical moment in the history of our species.” At the very least, this moment is going to profoundly influence the future of humanity. To deal with that, we need measured and convincing assessments of every good tool we can get — more than we need hype.


Filed under: Article, Food
Categories: Environment

Ask Umbra: Is there really BPA in my recycled toilet paper?

Grist.org - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 17:41

Send your question to Umbra!

Q. I am on the committee for an association of property owners on a lake in Ontario and have offered to write an article about the merits of using recycled toilet paper in our septic systems. But I was disturbed to read online that recycled paper has BPA in it and shouldn’t be used on any part of our bodies, especially sensitive places. Can you enlighten me as to whether this opinion is valid?  

Jo-Ann R.
Ottawa, Ontario

A. Dearest Jo-Ann,

What a crappy discovery: Just as you’re trying to go about your private business in the most planet-friendly way possible, you hear that our beloved recycled TP is contaminated with chemicals. Talk about damned if you doo, damned if you don’t.

The bad news: Recycled toilet paper – among many other recycled paper products, from paper towels and napkins to newspaper and business cards – may indeed contain BPA, reported a 2011 study in Environmental Science and Technology. (For a review of why this ubiquitous chemical concerns us, head over here.)

How’d it get in there? Blame thermal paper, which we encounter most often as receipts but is also used in lottery tickets, luggage tags, and shipping labels. Thermal paper sports a coating of powdered BPA (serving as a developer for the heat-sensitive paper), and researchers have shown the stuff readily rubs off on our skin, the Benjamins in our wallets, and, most relevant to our discussion today, all the other paper it meets down at the recycling plant. The result: traces of BPA getting prime access to our nether regions via our eco-conscious tissues.

But before you despair, let me reassure you that we’re not talking about lots of BPA. While receipts and their ilk turned up BPA concentrations measured in milligrams per gram, recycled items like TP have only micrograms per gram, and it’s mixed in rather than sitting on top of the paper, just waiting to be rubbed off. There’s still a potential for it to get into our bodies, but researchers don’t know exactly how much BPA-per-wipe we’re talking, nor if it matters exactly where we’re exposing ourselves. And to put it all in perspective, the scientists estimate about 2 percent of our BPA exposure comes from paper products, as opposed to the whopping 98 percent that hails from food packaging.

As much as we don’t like BPA, Jo-Ann, I can’t advise you to switch over to fluffy virgin toilet paper, either. Recycled wipes preserve trees, protect habitat, keep our water clean, and save energy. And even if you did chuck your recycled rolls where the sun don’t shine, you wouldn’t be making great strides to reduce your overall BPA exposure — unless you also skipped all those other paper products, including cold, hard cash, as well as the plastics we typically associate with BPA.

So allow me to propose a third way: Go TP-free! It sounds a little wacky to American (and probably Canadian) ears at first, but I can assure you it’s a valid option. There’s the reusable toilet paper route, often called “pee rags” or, more delicately, “the family cloth,” a method that involves stocking clean cloth strips toiletside and washing the used ones for another go every few days or so. Francophiles may prefer the refreshing spray of the bidet, which conveniently comes in attachments that fit right on your existing toilet. No paper waste, no BPA infiltration, and très sophistiqué.

The fact remains that it’s very difficult to completely dodge BPA in this chemically laden world of ours – more than 90 percent of us have detectable levels in our bodies. It would be far more useful to agitate to yank it out of all our receipts (which is possible: Japan did it in 2001), Jo-Ann, than to stress too much about your toilet paper. Good luck, and wash your hands.

No-plyfully,
Umbra


Filed under: Article, Living
Categories: Environment

Indications of Interest Sought for “Regulation A” Offering of...

PR Web - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 16:56

Forest carbon markets are constrained by estimation and invalidation risk. PEM Inc. introduces forest carbon products through a "Regulation A" public offering that promotes land conservation...

(PRWeb May 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11890898.htm

Categories: Environment

Super-Sod of Hendersonville Now Offers Lawn & Garden Products

PR Web - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 16:56

They are now a one stop location for all your lawn care needs.

(PRWeb May 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11848560.htm

Categories: Environment

Revolutionary Workforce Planning Part 3 – Using Workforce Planning to...

PR Web - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 16:56

Revolutionary Workforce Planning, a white paper series by Brian Wilkerson of Revolution Advisors LLC, recognizes that in the companies that have achieved a more advanced level of workforce planning,...

(PRWeb May 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11892560.htm

Categories: Environment

Highland Hall Waldorf School Presents Noel Coward's Classic Comedy...

PR Web - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 16:56

Highland Hall students breathe new life into a comedic classic in their clever adaptation of Noel Coward's whimsical farce "Blithe Spirit".

(PRWeb May 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11893687.htm

Categories: Environment

Global Linear Alkyl Benzene (LAB) Market: Analysis, Size, Share,...

PR Web - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 16:56

Transparency Market Research published a new report "Global Linear Alkyl Benzene (LAB) Market: Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2012 - 2018" to its report store. Browse the...

(PRWeb May 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11895351.htm

Categories: Environment

Specialty and High Performance Films Demand is Expected to Reach 12.2...

PR Web - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 16:56

Transparency Market Research published a new report "Global Specialty and High Performance Films Market: Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2013 - 2019" to its report store....

(PRWeb May 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11895394.htm

Categories: Environment

Environmental Design Research Association Launches Certificate of...

PR Web - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 16:56

EDRA CORE to assess value of research quality in the context of environmental design practice.

(PRWeb May 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11895508.htm

Categories: Environment

PluggedSolar to Exhibit Its Plug-in Solar Products at Sunset Magazine...

PR Web - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 16:56

PluggedSolar to Exhibit Its Plug-in Solar Grid Tie Kit and Plug-in Power Backup Products.at North Exhibitor Area, Booth #513

(PRWeb May 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11895558.htm

Categories: Environment

Uncle Bob’s Self Storage Takes Over Management of Mechanicsburg...

PR Web - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 16:56

Uncle Bob's Self Storage will now operate its fourth storage facility in the Harrisburg, PA area. The facility, located in the West Shore area of Mechanicsburg, was formerly operated as Space...

(PRWeb May 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11895560.htm

Categories: Environment

Global Aerospace Plastics Market is Expected to Reach USD 10.5 Billion...

PR Web - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 16:56

Transparency Market Research published a new report "Global Aerospace Plastics Market: Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2012 - 2018" to its report store. Browse the full...

(PRWeb May 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11895595.htm

Categories: Environment

Transforming Waste Into Industrial Fuel: Omega Protein and RDX...

PR Web - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 16:56

A partnership between Omega Protein Corporation and RDX Technologies Corporation demonstrates that environmentally-friendly industrial fuels can be economically viable. The nutritional company has...

(PRWeb May 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/OmegaProteinRDXTech/Partnership/prweb11895807.htm

Categories: Environment

Thanks to coal, U.S. CO2 emissions are up. Good thing Obama’s about to regulate coal plants.

Grist.org - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 16:07
Rainforest Action Network

We’ve gotten soft. The economic crash of 2008, and then the rise of natural gas from the fracking boom, have gotten us used to small but steady declines in U.S. CO2 emissions. Not anymore. According to the newest Monthly Energy Review from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, released Wednesday, that five-year trend is clearly over.

CO2 emissions from fossil fuels increased by 2.39 percent in 2013. For January and February of 2014, the only months this year for which the EIA has data thus far, carbon emissions increased by 7.45 percent over the same period last year.

The main culprit is coal, and that illustrates the importance of the EPA’s forthcoming regulations for emissions from coal-fired power plants, which President Obama is expected to unveil on Monday. CO2 emissions from coal burning rose by more than 4 percent in 2013 compared to 2012 and are almost 12 percent higher for the first two months of 2014 versus the first two months of 2013.

However, CO2 emissions from natural gas also rose: Just over 2 percent in 2013 compared to 2012, and around 10 percent for the first two months of 2014 compared to January-February 2013.

This will not only exacerbate climate change, but may also have been caused by it. The unusually cold winter in the eastern half of the U.S. meant that people burned more natural gas to heat their homes. That led to more emissions. The increased demand for natural gas also caused its price to spike, leading power plants to burn more coal instead of gas. Climate change may be partly responsible for the terrible winter we endured, thanks to the Polar Vortex. (Long story short: The warmer temperatures and melting ice in the Arctic alter wind patterns bringing colder air into the Lower 48 states.)

In other words, climate change is a terrible feedback loop, causing more of the very emissions that make global warming happen in the first place. And natural gas, which accounts for almost as much total emissions as coal, is not going to break the chains of our fossil fuel dependence. Only strict regulations will achieve that. On Monday, we’ll find out just how strict some of those regulations will be.


Filed under: Article, Climate & Energy, Politics
Categories: Environment

Thermosoft Endorses Floor Heat to Alleviate Anxiety

PR Web - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 13:56

The headlines tell us that war is looming, that climate change bodes inevitable disaster and the sky is falling. When the news is stressful, radiant floor heat from Thermosoft International...

(PRWeb May 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11812487.htm

Categories: Environment

Fiberon Decking Announces Top Three Winning Outdoor Living Space...

PR Web - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 13:56

Fiberon Decking is pleased to announce the top three winners from May’s FiberPRO Photo Contest. With a large number of votes tallied through Facebook Likes and social media shares, these three winners...

(PRWeb May 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11871047.htm

Categories: Environment

Grand & Pulaski Citgo Gas Station Upgrades to Energy Saving...

PR Web - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 13:56

Energy Saving Solutions USA (“ESS” or the “Company”), the creators of the LED with a lifetime guarantee™, today is proud to announce that through its authorized LED dealer, Jeffrey Tondola, the...

(PRWeb May 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11891437.htm

Categories: Environment

Adventure Life Reveals New Discounts on Hawaii Cruises

PR Web - Thu, 05/29/2014 - 13:56

Adventure Life offers travelers special discounts on a popular Hawaii cruise. These discounts are available to travelers that book a trip on the Safari Explorer by July 31st.

(PRWeb May 29, 2014)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/05/prweb11891941.htm

Categories: Environment

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