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Global warming grows less nutritious rice

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Global warming could bring a serious problem for the two billion people on the planet who depend on one grain for their staple diet: less nutritious rice to sustain them. Scientists have found that rice grown at higher levels of carbon dioxide has an overall lower nutritional value.

The grain contains lower levels of protein, and iron and zinc—metals vital for health in trace form—and also consistent declines in vitamin B.

This finding is not based on computer simulation of a plant’s response to notionally higher atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas CO2, nor on laboratory studies under glass and in artificial conditions. It is based on open air field trials.

That is, extra carbon dioxide is piped to the plants to mimic the ratios expected at the end of the century as ever more people burn ever greater quantities of fossil fuels. And it has been tested in many locations in rice-growing countries over many years.

The finding remains true—although at different levels of impact—for the 18 varieties or hybrids of rice tested so far.

Ten nations depend upon rice for daily food supplies. The people most likely to feel the consequences of reduced nutritional support—and these include impaired cognitive development, a feebler immune system, obesity and diabetes—are likely to be those who are poorest. The researchers estimate that 600 million people for whom rice provides more than half their daily diet could be affected.

Scientists from China, Japan, the US and Australia report in the journal Science Advances that they began their research, using what they call the technique of free air carbon dioxide enrichment, in 1998, to recreate what they expect to be the conditions under which farmers will grow crops a few decades from now.

They found on average that the test rice had 10 per cent less protein, 8 per cent less iron and 5.1 per cent less zinc compared with rice grown by farmers under existing conditions. There were also declines of 17 per cent in the vitamins B1 (thiamine) and of more than 16 per cent in vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid levels, were down more than 12 per cent. Folate or vitamin B9 levels were down 30 per cent.

“People say more CO2 is more plant food—and it is. But how plants respond to that sudden increase in food will impact human health as well, from nutritional deficits, to ethnopharmacology, to seasonal pollen allergies—in ways we don’t yet understand,” said Lewis Ziska, a plant physiologist with the US Department of Agriculture research service, one of the authors.

Hungry billion

Up to a billion people in the world are what bureaucrats politely call “food insecure.” There has already been concern about the impact of higher levels of carbon dioxide on protein in potatoes, maize and other cereals.

As global temperatures rise in response to ever greater levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, harvests of all the staple cereals could in any case decline—sometimes as a response to ever wilder extremes of heat, rain and windstorm—by between 20 and 40 per cent. But so far, there has been little research on the impact of climate change on the nutritional qualities of each staple.

The study puts the case more coolly: “For those populations that are highly rice-dependent, any CO2-induced change in the integrated nutritional value of rice grains could disproportionately affect human health.” And the scientists end their study by saying:

“Overall, these results indicate that the role of rising CO2 on reducing rice quality may represent a fundamental, but under-appreciated, human health effect associated with anthropogenic climate change.”

Source: eco-business.com

(Dipla Aikaterini)

Mountain erosion may add CO2 to the atmosphere

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Scientists have long known that steep mountain ranges can draw carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the atmosphere—as erosion exposes new rock, it also starts a chemical reaction between minerals on hill slopes and CO2 in the air, “weathering” the rock and using CO2 to produce carbonate minerals like calcite.

A new study led by researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), however, has turned this idea on its head. In paper released on April 12th in the journal Science, the scientists announced that the erosion process can also be a source of new CO2 gas, and can release it back into the atmosphere far faster than it’s being absorbed into newly-exposed rock.

“This goes against a long-standing hypothesis that more mountains mean more erosion and weathering, which means an added reduction of CO2. It turns out it’s much more complicated than that,” says Jordon Hemingway, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University and lead author on the paper.

The source of this extra CO2 isn’t entirely geological. Instead, it’s the byproduct of tiny microbes in mountain soils that “eat” ancient sources of organic that are trapped in the rock. As the microbes metabolize these minerals, they spew out .

The researchers came to this realization after studying one of the most erosion-prone mountain chains in the world—the central range of Taiwan. This steep-sided range is pummeled by more than three major typhoons each year, each of which mechanically erode the and rock through heavy rains and winds.

Hemingway and his colleagues examined samples of soil, bedrock, and river sediments from the central range, looking for telltale signs of organic carbon in the rock. What they found there surprised them.

“At the very bottom of the soil profile, you have basically unweathered rock. As soon as you hit the base of the soil, layer, though, you see that’s loose but not yet fully broken down, and at this point the present in the bedrock seems to disappear entirely,” notes Hemingway. At that point in the soil, the team also noticed an increase in lipids that are known to come from bacteria, he adds.

“We don’t yet know exactly which bacteria are doing this—that would require genomics, metagenomics, and other microbiological tools that we didn’t use in this study. But that’s the next step for this research,” says WHOI marine geochemist Valier Galy, senior author and Hemingway’s advisor in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program.

The group is quick to note that the total level of CO2 released by these microbes isn’t severe enough to have any immediate impact on climate change—instead, these processes take place on geologic timescales. The WHOI team’s research may lead to a better understanding of how mountain-based (or “lithospheric”) carbon cycles actually work, which could help generate clues to how CO2 has been regulated since the Earth itself formed.

“Looking backwards, we’re most interested in how these processes managed to keep the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere more or less stable over millions of years. It allowed Earth to have the climate and conditions it’s had—one that has promoted the development of complex life forms,” says Hemingway. “Throughout our Earth’s history, CO2 has wobbled over time, but has remained in that stable zone. This is just an update of the mechanism of geological processes that allows that to happen,” he adds.

Source: phys.org

(Dipla Katerina)

China is about to get its first vertical forest

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They could be the breath of fresh air that pollution-choked cities desperately need. Vertical forests – high-rise buildings covered with trees and plants – absorb carbon dioxide, filter dust from pollution and produce oxygen. They’re also an ingenious way of planting more trees and creating habitats for wildlife in cities that are squeezed for space.

OK_SIbq5yr7L-k5Bqp_9tgZowPLlP7snhbVdFu8dPcYChina, a nation experiencing rocketing urban growth and an air pollution crisis, is set to get its first vertical forest. The project in the eastern city of Nanjing is the brainchild of the Italian architect Stefano Boeri and his team, who built Milan’s Bosco Verticale (vertical forest), consisting of two residential high-rises at 110 and 76 meters with around 900 trees and over 20,000 smaller plants and shrubs.

The Nanjing vertical forest will be higher than its Milanese predecessor, with two neighbouring towers at 200 and 108 meters tall. Scheduled for completion in 2018, the complex will house a 247-room luxury hotel, offices, shops, restaurants, a food market, conference and exhibition spaces, a museum, a rooftop club and even a green architecture school.

The skyscrapers will hold 1100 trees from 23 local species and 2500 cascading plants and shrubs, which the architects say will provide 25 tons of CO2 absorption each year and produce about 60 kg of oxygen a day.

From vertical forests to forest cities?

To put things in perspective, saving 25 tons of Co2 would be equivalent to taking five cars off the road for a year. Chinese cities have some of the most polluted air in the world. In December, air quality got so bad that 24 cities across north-east China were put on “red alert”. Schools were temporarily closed, flights were cancelled, vehicles ordered off the roads and residents urged to stay indoors until the smog eased.

Boeri told The Guardian that while his vertical forest will only make a tiny difference in Nanjing, he hopes it will act as a catalyst for more green architecture projects.

Two towers in a huge urban environment [such as Nanjing] is so, so small a contribution – but it is an example. We hope that this model of green architecture can be repeated and copied and replicated,” he said.

His firm, which has offices in Shanghai, has even bigger plans afoot – forest cities. It has come up with a concept for the northern industrial hub of Shijiazhuang, one of China’s most polluted cities, which envisions a compact and green mini-city for 100,000 people with buildings of different sizes covered in trees and plants.

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Today around 54% of the world’s population lives in urban areas – a proportion that is expected to increase to 66% by 2050, with most of the growth concentrated in Africa and Asia.

As more people move to cities, urban sprawl encroaches further into surrounding green space. Boeri conceived his vertical forests as a way of “giving back to nature the space we are taking from it”.

And the idea appears to be catching on. New examples of vertical greenery are springing up around the world, from Singapore’s “Supertrees” to Sydney’s One Central Park.

Source: weforum.org

Afghanistan Is Investing In Solar Power To Give More Citizens Electricity

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Afghanistan has big demand for power. Just 15 years ago, only five percent of the country’s citizens had access to electricity, and while today just 32 percent of people have access to grid-connected power, the demand is growing by 25 percent annually, putting pressure on the nation to up their power supply.

This, however, is a pricey problem: Afghanistan imports 73 percent of its power from surrounding countries. So in 2008, the government allocated $2 billion to expand its onsite energy capabilities, including through conventional means like coal. But a large portion of the money will be spent on more eco-friendly solutions: wind and solar.

For the latter, the Asian Development Bank has announced that it will spend $45 million on a 20-megawatt solar power plant in Kabul’s Surobi district. The country’s total demand for power is about 3 gigawatts, with domestic generation at 300 megawatts, so while the solar power plant will solve just a portion of the problem, it’s a telling turn of events for renewables.

The demand for power is rapidly growing across Afghanistan,” Samuel Tumiwa, a country director at The Asian Development bank said in the statement. “The new on-grid solar power generation project, which is the largest of its kind in Afghanistan, will not only provide access to a clean and reliable power supply, but also demonstrate the viability of future renewable energy investments”.

The plant will generate at least 43,000 megawatts-hours of power and will offset the equivalent of 13,000 tons of carbon dioxide in the first year after it is complete, which should be about 18 months after final contracts are signed, a spokesman of government-owned utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat told Bloomberg. Once completed, it will satisfy part of the electricity needs for Kabul as well as the eastern province of Nangarhar and Laghman.

This turn towards solar makes sense on several levels for Afghanistan. For one, the cost of solar equipment is rapidly declining (prices for solar panels have dropped 62 percent over the past five years, according to Bloomberg) as popularity grows and systems become more efficient. Now, what was once seen as an expensive way to create power is a viable option for developing countries looking to build out their infrastructure.

Plus, Afghanistan has an abundance of sunlight.

“Considering 300 sunny days per year with free solar irradiation to generate solar power, it makes Afghanistan an attractive country for implementing solar power projects,” Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi said in the statement.

Though the plant in Kabul will be the largest in the country, it’s not the first. In September, Dynasty Oil & Gas PVT Ltd. of India began construction on a 10-megawatt solar power plant in southern Kandahar city, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Additionally, the country is looking to capture an estimated 158 gigawatts of wind energy as part of its master energy plan.

Sourcewww.greenmatters.com

Which Trees Offset Global Warming Best?

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Trees are important tools in the fight to stave off global warming, because they absorb and store the key greenhouse gas emitted by our cars and power plants, carbon dioxide (CO2), before it has a chance to reach the upper atmosphere where it can help trap heat around the Earth’s surface.

All Plants Absorb Carbon Dioxide, but Trees are Best

While all living plant matter absorbs CO2 as part of photosynthesis, trees process significantly more than smaller plants due to their large size and extensive root structures. In essence, trees, as kings of the plant world, have much more “woody biomass” to store CO2 than smaller plants, and as a result, are considered nature’s most efficient “carbon sinks”. It is this characteristic which makes planting trees a form of climate change mitigation.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), tree species that grow quickly and live long are ideal carbon sinks. Unfortunately, these two attributes are usually mutually exclusive. Given the choice, foresters interested in maximizing the absorption and storage of CO2 (known as “carbon sequestration”) usually favor younger trees that grow more quickly than their older cohorts. However, slower growing trees can store much more carbon over their significantly longer lives.

Plant the Right Tree in the Right Location

Scientists are busy studying the carbon sequestration potential of different types of trees in various parts of the U.S., including Eucalyptus in Hawaii, loblolly pine in the Southeast, bottomland hardwoods in Mississippi, and poplars (aspens) in the Great Lakes region.

There are literally dozens of tree species that could be planted depending upon location, climate, and soils, says Stan Wullschleger, a researcher at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory who specializes in the physiological response of plants to global climate change.

Plant Any Tree Appropriate for Region and Climate to Offset Global Warming

Ultimately, trees of any shape, size or genetic origin help absorb CO2. Most scientists agree that the least expensive and perhaps easiest way for individuals to help offset the CO2 that they generate in their everyday lives is to plant a tree…any tree, as long as it is appropriate for the given region and climate.

Follow the link to learn more: https://www.thoughtco.com/which-trees-offset-global-warming-1204209

First-ever ‘negative emissions’ power plant goes online

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Unfortunately, it’s no longer enough to cut CO2 emissions to avoid further global temperature increases. We need to remove some of the CO2 that’s already there. Thankfully, that reversal is one step closer to becoming reality. Climeworks and Reykjavik Energy have started running the first power plant confirmed to produce “negative emissions” — that is, it’s removing more CO2 than it puts out. The geothermal station in Hellsheidi, Iceland is using a Climeworks module and the plant’s own heat to snatch CO2 directly from the air via filters, bind it to water and send it underground where it will mineralize into harmless carbonates.

Just like naturally forming carbon deposits, the captured CO2 should remain locked away for many millions of years, if not billions. And because the basalt layers you need to house the CO2 are relatively common, it might be relatively easy to set up negative emissions plants in many places around the world.

As always, there are catches. The Hellsheidi plant capture system is still an experiment, and the 50 metric tonnes of CO2 it’ll capture per year (49.2 imperial tons) isn’t about to offset many decades of fossil fuel abuse. There’s also the matter of reducing the cost of capturing CO2. Even if Climeworks improves the efficiency of its system to spend $100 for every metric ton of CO2 it removes, you’re still looking at hundreds of billions of dollars (if not over a trillion) spent every year to achieve the scale needed to make a difference. That will require countries to not only respect climate science, but care about it enough to spend significant chunks of their budgets on capture technology.

It could be a long while before you see systems like this implemented on a global scale as a result.

Follow the link to learn more: https://www.engadget.com/2017/10/14/negative-emissions-power-plant-online/

Funding Trees for Health

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Imagine if there were one simple action that city leaders could take to reduce obesity and depression, improve productivity, boost educational outcomes and reduce incidence of asthma and heart disease among their residents.

Urban trees offer all these benefits and more.

Yet American cities spend less than a third of a percent of municipal budgets on tree planting and maintenance, and as a result, U.S. cities are losing 4 million trees per year.

A new white paper, written by The Nature Conservancy with input from The Trust for Public Land and Analysis Group, identifies street trees as one of the most overlooked strategies for improving public health in our cities.

“For too long, we’ve seen trees and parks as luxury items, but bringing nature into our cities is a critical strategy for improving public health,” said Rob McDonald, lead scientist for global cities at The Nature Conservancy and first author of the white paper.

The white paper estimated that spending just $8 per person per year, on average, in an American city could meet the funding gap and stop the loss of urban trees and all their potential benefits.

The full paper offers several specific examples of innovative public-sector partnership and private sector investments that highlight the full societal value of urban trees. However, municipal leaders in communities of all sizes can begin to address significant health challenges by thinking creatively about the role of nature in cities and towns:

  • Establish codes to set minimum open space or maximum building lot coverage ratios for new development.
  • Implement policies to incentivize private tree planting.
  • Break down municipal silos to facilitate various departments – such as public health and environmental agencies – to collaborate.
  • Link funding for trees and parks to health goals and objectives.
  • Invest time and effort in educating the public about the tangible public health benefits and economic impact of trees.

5 Ways You Can Help The Environment In The Next Hour — Without Leaving Your Desk

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The internet: The world’s arena for catching up on news, binge-watching TV, and replaying adorable videos . And with a little know-how, you can also use it as a tool for quick, meaningful environmental action.

These days, switching over to solar power and ditching plastic are just a few clicks away, and you can majorly cut down on your footprint without even leaving your desk. Here are five ways to help out the environment from the comfort of your home. Altogether, they’ll take less than an hour and leave you feeling majorly accomplished.

1. Calculate your carbon footprint

Carbon calculators make it easy to quantify your environmental impact in a matter of minutes. Answer a few questions about your transportation habits, energy use, and consumption patterns to get a better idea of where you’re acting in an eco-friendly way and where you could use a little improvement. Then, let these insights inform your habits moving forward.

2. Offset your next plane trip

While reducing your emissions should always be your first priority, offsetting is basically a way to press tare on your environmental impact. You can donate money to initiatives that take carbon out of the environment—like tree plantings and renewable energy projects—to balance out the carbon you’re putting into it with your daily routine. Offsetting your flights is a good place to start, since plane travel is a major emitter but one that most of us can’t realistically give up altogether.

3. Pledge to give up straws

The Lonely Whale Foundation, a nonprofit that uses clever campaigns to clean oceans, recently launched the #StopSucking challenge. By accepting, you’re committing to saying no to single-use plastic straws when drinking on the go.  Take the pledge, share on social, and challenge other individuals and companies in your area to do the same, all in under five minutes.

4. Tell your representative what you care about

If hopping on the phone to call your representative isn’t your thing, environmental groups have made it super easy to write to your congressional representative online using a pre-populated form. Just sign your name,  add a quick personal message at the end and you’re good to go.

5. Check to see if you can switch over to renewable energy

You don’t need to deck out your roof with solar panels or move closer to a wind farm to switch over to renewable energy in your home.  For example, in certain parts of the United States, Green Mountain Energy lets you switch over to renewables on the spot without changing energy providers. Just input your ZIP code and see if it’s a possibility for you.

Follow the link to learn morehttps://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/help-the-environment-in-the-next-hour

These drones can plant 100,000 trees a day

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It’s simple maths. We are chopping down about 15 billion trees a year and planting about 9 billion. So there’s a net loss of 6 billion trees a year. Hand planting trees is slow and expensive. To keep pace with the tractors and bulldozers clearing vast areas of land, we need an industrial-scale solution.

For example, a drone that can plant up to 100,000 trees a day.

BioCarbon Engineering, a UK-based company backed by drone manufacturer Parrot, has come up with a method of planting trees quickly and cheaply. Not only that, trees can also be planted in areas that are difficult to access or otherwise unviable.

Planting by drone

First a drone scans the topography to create a 3D map. Then the most efficient planting pattern for that area is calculated using algorithms.

A drone loaded with germinated seeds fires pods into the ground at a rate of one per second, or about 100,000 a day. Scale this up and 60 drone teams could plant 1 billion trees a year.

The system’s engineers estimate that their method is about 10 times faster and only 20% of the cost of hand planting. And because there is no heavy machinery involved, it’s possible to plant in hard-to-reach areas that have no roads or steep, inaccessible terrain.The BioCarbon team has tested its technology in various locations and recently trialled reseeding historic mining sites in Dungog, Australia.

Elsewhere, a similar idea is being used by Oregon start-up DroneSeed, which is attempting to create a new era of “precision forestry” with the use of drones to plant trees as well as spray fertilizer and herbicides.

Agriculture is one of the biggest drivers for deforestation, with vast swathes of forest cleared to make way for the cultivation of crops including soy, palm oil and cocoa, as well as for beef farming.

At the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos this year, Norway announced a $400 million fund to kick-start investments in deforestation-free agriculture in countries that are working to reduce their forest and peat degradation. It is estimated that the world loses between 74,000 and 95,000 square miles of forest a year – that’s an area the size of 48 football fields lost every minute.

You can find the article here: (The World Economic Forum): https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/06/drones-plant-100000-trees-a-day/?utm_content=bufferb212b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Floating Tar, Dead Fish: Oil Spill Threatens Greek Beaches

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The Greek authorities scrambled on Thursday to clean up fuel leaked by an oil tanker that sank near Athens, putting popular beaches off limits to swimmers and raising fears of environmental damage.

The Agia Zoni II, a 45-year-old oil tanker, sank near the island of Salamis, about seven miles from the country’s main port, Piraeus. It was carrying more than 2,500 metric tons of fuel oil and marine gas oil.

Though the leak was initially thought to be contained to the area of the shipwreck, it soon expanded to the coastline area known as the Athens Riviera.

Evaggelia Simou, a resident of Salamina, on the island, denounced the authorities for not tackling the oil spill more quickly and fully.

“We drove by the Selinia beach on Sunday night, and were alarmed because of the suffocating smell of oil,” Ms. Simou said.

When she and her husband went to the beach, they were shocked to see that a thick coat of oil had blackened the water. “Huge pieces of floating tar were burdening the waves, dead fish floated on the surface,” Ms. Simou said. They were surprised to see no cleanup workers, she said.

George Papanikolaou, the mayor of Glyfada, said he got a phone call from the Piraeus harbor master warning of the spill only a few hours before the black ooze washed up.

Since then, three private antipollution vessels have cleaned up more than 180 metric tons of fuel from Glyfada’s four beaches. Just this summer, one of the beaches had been recognized by the Foundation for Environmental Education as a Blue Flag beach, a certification of water quality.

It’s tragic that it happened now, after all four beaches have gotten so beautiful,” Tima Vlasto, 51, an American who has lived in Glyfada for six years, said in a phone interview. “Seeing this makes you want to leave. If I can’t swim here, what’s the point of living in Glyfada?”

Mr. Papanikolaou said that emotions were running high in his community. “We’re angry”, he said. “It’s just such a shame that all this hard work can be destroyed in a split second.”

Some ecologists have called the oil spill an environmental disaster, with immediate and potential long-term effects.

The full extent of the pollution and its effects are not yet clear; areas like uninhabited rocky islets are also thought to be affected.

The Hellenic Register of Shipping, an independent organization that oversees shipping safety, said that the tanker had not been certified as seaworthy, although its owner, Fos Petroleum, said that it had all of the proper credentials. The Greek Ministry of Shipping and Island Policy did not respond to several requests for information.

Read here the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/14/world/europe/greece-oil-spill.html?mcubz=1