Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

If you drive a fully electric car, hoping at least to benefit the environment by reducing carbon emissions, the location of your home can actually affect how carbon neutral your ride is.

Why is this significant? It depends on which electric utility provides service.

Compare two vehicles: The all-electric Tesla S; and the Toyota Prius hybrid, garaged in two neighboring cities: Bellevue, WA; and Seattle. The cities are separated by Lake Washington and a floating bridge. It is not about sunlight or cloud cover it is the utilities used.

It seems your zip code could dictate the environmental benefits more than might be expected.

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earth-screensaver_largeThe United States continues to lag behind leading countries in pushing aggressive environmental programs to reduce pollutants and garbage. Two stories this week highlight the sharp and disappointing contrast. In Sweden, the government has made an incredible leap in reducing household garbage and appears close to attaining the impossible: a zero waste national objective for landfills. Currently, less than one percent of Sweden household garbage ends up in landfills. In the meantime, Germany (which continues to outstrip the U.S. on green policies while continuing strong economic growth) has announced that it will add one million electric cars on the road by 2030 and expects to drop greenhouse emissions from transportation by 26 percent by 2030 from 1990 levels.

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240px-The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17200px-Tony_Abbott_-_2010We have been following the alarming rollback on environmental protections under Australia’s conservative Abbott, including the repeal on the carbon tax (the first of a major Western power). Tony Abbott has pledged to reverse environmental measures from the protections of the country’s famous reefs to opening up pristine areas for development. Now, just two months after the repeal of the tax on emissions, a study shows that (not surprisingly) carbon emissions and electricity demand in Australia have risen after a nearly six-year long trend of decline. This comes a week after the report of scientists who found an over 99% likelihood that humans are causing climate change.

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earth-screensaver_largeThere is a new report on global climate change this week that addresses many of the claims being raised against the theory by critics. Despite the overwhelming agreement of the scientific community, people continue to cite anecdotal observations of cool temperatures to refute predictions. The new report crunches the climate numbers and concludes that there is less than 1 chance in 100,000 that global average temperature over the past 60 years would have been as high without human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

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living-bridge

Submitted by Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

Photographer Amos Chapple brings us a fascinating look into Meghalaya, India, known as the wettest place on Earth. The area receives 467 inches of precipitation per year and under these conditions residents have over centuries adopted several means to cope. In particular is the issue of bridges.

Ordinary bridges constructed of lumber suffer rot under such an environment and are impractical. It was discovered that Rubber Trees possessed a root system that was not only trainable, but could be woven together to form structurally sound bridges.

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250px-Chinese_Kilo_in_serviceChina appears to be close to one of the greatest technological breakthroughs in military history: the supersonic submarine. I know that that sounds ridiculous but it is possible. As a military buff, I had to share the story. The submarine is based on “supercavitation” technology that was used earlier on torpedo technology but the Chinese have reportedly used to envelop an entire submarine that could theoretically allow it to cover the distance between Shanghai to San Francisco in less than two hours. If that (likely hyperbolic claim) is attainable, it would constitute less time than it sometimes takes to just get through the security line at Dulles International airport (of course some international flights seem shorter than TSA lines these days). It is not clear what the submarine would look like (this is a conventional nuclear Chinese submarine).

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Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 7.04.48 AMI have got to get myself one of these. Whooshh Innovations have developed a solution (shown below in the video) to the falling salmon populations. The salmon had been kept from their migrating areas by a series of dams. The obstacles at dams leave them “disoriented” and lost. So enter the “salmon cannon” — a pneumatic tube that can shoot up to 40 fish a minute to up to 22 mph. Apparently, getting shot out of a cannon is less disorienting to the salmon but, come on, who would not want to be shot out of a cannon? It is the ultimately water park attraction for the high-end gill crowd.

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