Sunday, January 22, 2017

Iceland leads the world in Geothermal energy use ... one of the sustainable resources that will replace fossil fuel

Iceland is drilling deep to tap into renewable energy, Digital Journal reports.
Statoil and The Iceland Deep Drilling Project are digging the world's deepest hole — 3.10 miles deep — into the heart of the Reykjanes peninsula where a volcano last erupted 700 years ago to source more renewable energy.
If successful, the project could derive 30 megawatts to 50 megawatts of energy from one geothermal well. Workers have already drilled 2.8 miles deep. The estimated cost of the project is $18 million.
Geothermal energy is heat energy generated and stored in the center of the Earth. The Earth's internal heat is the thermal energy generated from radioactive decay and the continual heat loss from the time of Earth's formation.
Why is geothermal energy called a renewable resource? Answer: Because its source is the almost unlimited amount of heat generated by the Earth's core. Even in geothermal areas dependent on reservoirs of hot water, the volume taken out can also be reinjected, making it a sustainable energy source. The heat loss of the earth's core is a continual and natural process. By tapping this resource we are only collecting heat that would be lost anyway. There are no ill effects to the earth and this kind of energy harvesting does not add anything harmful to the atmosphere nor increase global  warming.
Many countries could tap into their thermal heat sources such as hot springs or volcanoes. It is a rapidly developing science which we will hear a lot more about in the coming years.

"So far, we have learned a lot," said Ásgeir Margeirsson, CEO of project partner HS Orka.
"And no matter what happens with the well, there is a lot of experience already gained, even if we cannot use it. The well could for example be used for reinjection, basically injecting fluids into the system which we utilize for our operations. The best result though is that we gain a powerful production well."
Iceland is a leader in the use of geothermal energy, with geothermal sources accounting for 66 percent of Iceland's primary energy use. They are a prime example of efficient use of resources and of low carbon production.

Image result

As you can see, The hot geothermal fluids come up the well and into the plant, the heat and steam drives the turbine which fires the generator to produce electricity. The steam is then condensed back into a fluid. The fluids are injected back into the hot layer of the earth and are theoretically reheated.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Climate change explained ... Best and worst case scenario

Climate change: Data shows 2016 to be warmest year yet


Record warm temperatures were seen all over the world in 2016, including the Arctic
Temperature data for 2016 shows it has edged ahead of 2015 as the world's warmest year. Data from Nasa and the UK Met Office shows temperatures were about 0.07 degrees Celsius above the 2015 mark. Nasa says that 2016 was the third year in a row to break the record.  The El Niño weather phenomenon played a role, say scientists, but the main factor was human emissions of CO2.
 So warm was the early part of 2016 - influenced by a powerful El Niño - that some leading climate scientists were predicting as early as May that a new record was likely.
During an El Niño, a band of unusually warm ocean water develops in parts of the Pacific. The phenomenon affects the climate globally, disrupting weather patterns.
 According to Nasa figures, 2016 is now the warmest year in a record that dates back to 1880.

Many parts of the world had their warmest recorded year in 2016
temp map

Another factor that has affected temperatures in 2016 is the unusual warmth in the Arctic. The sea-ice covering the Arctic reached its second lowest level (in terms of extent) in September 2016. The sea-ice grows in autumn and winter and shrinks each spring and summer. The smaller amount of ice now present in the region is at unprecedented low levels for the time of year.
"We understand the contribution El Niño makes fairly well and we've seen it many times," said Prof Ellie Highwood from the University of Reading.
"But even if you take that contribution away, we would expect 2015 and 2016 to still be the warmest years we've seen, so a majority of it is coming from global warming and the greenhouse effect."
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which pulls together temperature data from sources all over the world, agrees that 2016 broke the record by 0.07C.

Century dominated by records

When the new data on 2016 is included, 15 of the warmest years on record have now occurred since 2001.
This prolonged period of warming was having significant impacts around the world.

The Arctic region exceeded the long term average by up to 6C through most of 2016

"We have also broken sea ice minimum records in the Arctic and Antarctic," said Petteri Taalas from the WMO.
"The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the global average. The persistent loss of sea-ice is driving weather, climate and ocean circulation patterns in other parts of the world. We also have to pay attention to the potential release of methane from melting permafrost," he said.
Of great concern to scientists and politicians is the fact that the newly published temperature data shows the Earth is once again more than one degree warmer than pre-industrial times, and edging closer to the threshold of 1.5C set under the Paris climate pact. With the Trump administration about to take office in the US, there are concerns that political support for climate action might fade. This would be a big mistake according to scientists.
"Climate change is one of the great challenges of the 21st Century and shows no signs of slowing down," said Prof Mark Maslin, from University College London.
"The decarbonization of the global economy is the ultimate goal to prevent the worst effects of climate change. The hottest year on record is such a clear warning siren that even President-elect Trump cannot ignore it."
Researchers say that 2017 is unlikely to break the warming record but will be in the top five hottest years.
Take a visit to the desert, the hottest places on earth, and see how much vegetation grows there. Nothing. Get the picture?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

First time ever .. Sighting of live ruby sea dragon

In 2015, scientists at Scripps Oceanography stunned the oceanography community by announcing a new species of sea dragon, colloquially known as the ruby sea dragon. It had washed up on a beach. Although they searched, they never found another, alive or dead.
Then, in 2016, they spotted a live ruby sea dragon in the wild for the first time. Now, the team has released that rare footage, which reveals something peculiar: the ruby sea dragon is missing those iconic leafy appendages found on the only other two species of sea dragon known to exist. 
The ruby sea dragon is so rare it is being put on the seriously endangered list.
According to the UN Environment Program, the Earth is in the midst of a mass extinction of life. Scientists estimate that 150-200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal become extinct every 24 hours. This is nearly 1,000 times the “natural” or “background” rate and, say many biologists, is greater than anything the world has experienced since the vanishing of the dinosaurs nearly 65m years ago.
What are we doing about it?? Nothing. No one will notice when the ruby sea dragon disappears and so very few will care. But extinctions gradually climb up the food chain until the species we rely upon for food will disappear. And guess who is at the top of the food chain?


It's frightening but true: Our planet is now in the midst of its sixth mass extinction
of plants and animals — the sixth wave of extinctions in the past half-billion years. We’re currently experiencing the worst spate of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. It could be a scary future indeed, with as many as 30 to 50 percent of all species possibly heading toward extinction by mid-century.

Unlike past mass extinctions, caused by events like asteroid strikes, volcanic eruptions, and natural climate shifts, the current crisis is almost entirely caused by us — humans.
In fact, 99 percent of currently threatened species are at risk from human activities, primarily those driving habitat loss, introduction of exotic species, and global warming. Because the rate of change in our biosphere is increasing, and because every species’ extinction potentially leads to the extinction of others bound to that species in a complex ecological web, numbers of extinctions are likely to snowball in the coming decades as ecosystems unravel.
Species diversity ensures ecosystem resilience, giving ecological communities the scope they need to withstand stress. Thus while conservationists often justifiably focus their efforts on species-rich ecosystems like rainforests and coral reefs — which have a lot to lose — a comprehensive strategy for saving biodiversity must also include habitat types with fewer species, like grasslands, tundra, and polar seas — for which any loss could be irreversibly devastating. And while much concern over extinction focuses on globally lost species, most of biodiversity’s benefits take place at a local level, and conserving local populations is the only way to ensure genetic diversity critical for a species’ long-term survival.

Nobody really knows how many species are in danger of becoming extinct. Noted conservation scientist David Wilcove estimates that there are 14,000 to 35,000 endangered species, right now, in the United States alone. What’s clear is that many thousands of species are at risk of disappearing forever in the coming decades.

No group of animals has a higher rate of endangerment than amphibians. Scientists estimate that a third or more of all the roughly 6,300 known species of amphibians are at risk of extinction.The current amphibian extinction rate may range from 25,039 to 45,474 times the background extinction rate .
Frogs, toads, and salamanders are disappearing because of habitat loss, water and air pollution, climate change, ultraviolet light exposure, introduced exotic species, and disease. Because of their sensitivity to environmental changes, vanishing amphibians should be viewed as the canary in the global coal mine, signaling subtle yet radical ecosystem changes that could ultimately claim many other species, including humans.

Birds occur in nearly every habitat on the planet and are often the most visible and familiar wildlife to people across the globe. As such, they provide an important bellwether for tracking changes to the biosphere. Declining bird populations across most to all habitats confirm that profound changes are occurring on our planet in response to human activities.

Increasing demand for water, the damming of rivers throughout the world, the dumping and accumulation of various pollutants, and invasive species make aquatic ecosystems some of the most threatened on the planet; thus, it’s not surprising that there are many fish species that are endangered in both freshwater and marine habitats.
The American Fisheries Society identified 700 species of freshwater or anadromous fish in North America as being imperiled, amounting to 39 percent of all such fish on the continent. In North American marine waters, at least 82 fish species are imperiled. Across the globe, 1,851 species of fish —  21 percent of all fish species evaluated —  were deemed at risk of extinction by the IUCN in 2010, including more than a third of sharks and rays.

Invertebrates, from butterflies to mollusks to earthworms to corals, are vastly diverse — and though no one knows just how many invertebrate species exist, they’re estimated to account for about 97 percent of the total species of animals on Earth. Of the 1.3 million known invertebrate species, about 30 percent of the species are evaluated at risk of extinction. Freshwater invertebrates are severely threatened by water pollution, groundwater withdrawal, and water projects. In the ocean, reef-building corals are declining at an alarming rate: 2008’s first-ever comprehensive global assessment of these animals revealed that a third of reef-building corals are threatened.

Perhaps one of the most striking elements of the present extinction crisis is the fact that the majority of our closest relatives — the primates — are severely endangered. About 90 percent of primates — the group that contains monkeys, lemurs, lorids, galagos, tarsiers, and apes (as well as humans) — live in tropical forests, which are fast disappearing. The IUCN estimates that almost 50 percent of the world’s primate species are at risk of extinction. Overall, the IUCN estimates that half the globe’s 5,491 known mammals are declining in population and a fifth are clearly at risk of disappearing forever. In addition to primates, marine mammals — including several species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises — are among those mammals slipping most quickly toward extinction.

Through photosynthesis, plants provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat and are thus the foundation of most life on Earth. They’re also the source of a majority of medicines in use today. Of the more than 300,000 known species of plants, the IUCN has evaluated only 12,914 species, finding that about 68 percent of evaluated plant species are threatened with extinction.

Globally, 21 percent of the total evaluated reptiles in the world are deemed endangered or vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN — 594 species — while in the United States, 32 reptile species are at risk, about 9 percent of the total. The main threats to reptiles are habitat destruction and the invasion of nonnative species, which prey on reptiles and compete with them for habitat and food. 
An example of this is the Burmese python which has invaded the Everglades in Florida. It is believed to have started with the release of the snakes by pet owners into the swamps. The snakes were once popular as pets but they grow extremely large ( one of the largest snakes on earth ) and become difficult to keep safely in a home environment. Since the pythons originated in Asia, they have no natural predators in Florida and are reproducing rapidly throughout South Florida. They are consuming native species and depleting food sources for native reptiles.
All of the extinctions with few exceptions have been directly or indirectly caused by mankind's  interference with nature or pollution of the environment. The solution is easy-peasy... just 'STOP IT'.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The 'Exxon Knew' controversy is plaguing Rex Tillerson — here's what it means

Outside the hearing on former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson's nomination as secretary of state, 15 people dressed as T-Rex dinosaurs joined hundreds of protesters.

In addition to calling Tillerson a climate dinosaur — a reference to Exxon's history of climate change denial — the demonstrators' rhetoric centered around one phrase: #ExxonKnew.

The allegation refers to two damning investigations conducted by the LA Times and Inside Climate News in 2015, both of which found that Exxon leaders knew humans were causing climate change as early as 1977, yet intentionally misled the public about global warming while lobbying the government to block emissions regulations. The reports sparked outrage, spreading online with the hashtag #ExxonKnew.

Inside Climate News' series, which was published after an eight-month investigation, suggests that Exxon was briefed by scientists and even conducted its own robust climate modeling programs for years, all of which suggested that fossil fuels were to blame for spiking global temperatures. (The LA Times' report confirms the same.) But despite this information, Exxon continued to push for the appointment of officials who broke with the mainstream opinion on climate change, and set up the Global Climate Coalition, a lobbying partnership devoted to opposing controls on carbon pollution.

A 2007 report from the Union of Concerned Scientists also suggested that Exxon used the same tactics as the cigarette industry to promote uncertainty about the facts of climate change.

Tillerson actually does acknowledge that climate change is a problem (unlike EPA nominee Scott Pruitt and President-elect Donald Trump). However, environmental advocates believe Exxon's record speaks louder than Tillerson's words. According to an analysis by NextGen Climate published by the Huffington Post this week, Exxon gave more than $6.5 million to groups that deny fossil fuels contribute to global warming between 2008 and 2015. The company vowed nine years ago to stop funding groups that promoted misinformation about climate change.

Senator Tim Kaine questioned Tillerson about that history during the hearing today, asking him whether Exxon Mobil knew about climate change long ago, despite what the company has publicly stated.

Tillerson declined to comment, suggesting that he can't speak for the company now that he no longer works there.

"Do you lack the knowledge to answer my question, or do you refuse to answer my question?" Mr. Kaine asked.

"A little of both," Mr. Tillerson responded.

Both Kaine and various environmental groups took this response as confirmation of the "Exxon Knew" controversy.

May Boeve, executive director of grassroots environmental organization, immediately issued a statement highlighting Tillerson's refusal to answer Kaine's question. "Tillerson is still lying about what Exxon knew about climate change," Boeve said "Tillerson deserves a federal investigation into Exxon's lies, not a cabinet appointment."

Stephen Kretzmann, Executive Director of Oil Change International, an organization that works to expose the dangers of fossil fuels and promote a clean energy transition, echoed these sentiments.

"Unsurprisingly, Tillerson essentially pled the fifth when asked about Exxon's long history of denying climate science, explicitly refusing to answer the question, or accept any responsibility for the actions of the company of which he was CEO for the last decade," he said. "The record is clear: Exxon Knew."

Various states, including Massachusetts and California, are currently investigating whether Exxon Mobil indeed lied to the public and its shareholders, since that could mean the company engaged in fraud and violated various environmental laws. In November 2016, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman subpoenaed over a million of Exxon's internal documents.

Whether or not Tillerson becomes our next Secretary of State, Exxon's past will undoubtedly continue to plague him.

Maybe they should name it the  liar /lying club instead of the Presidents' cabinet ... what you think  , HUH ???

Monday, January 9, 2017

Shift to green energy is 'irreversible' despite Trump's best efforts to turn the clock back

wind energy

Renewable energy sources will continue to grow in the US despite the antipathy of the incoming Trump administration, says President Obama. The President says it's unlikely that power companies will switch back to coal, regardless of Mr Trump's plans to boost production.
Mr Trump has also said he wants the US to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.
But President Obama says this would see the US lose its "seat at the table".
The President's views appeared in a policy forum article in the highly regarded research journal, Science.
The editors believe it is the first time that a sitting President has written such a feature.

No going back

In the article, the President argues that a "massive scientific record" shows that climate change is "real and cannot be ignored". Mr Obama also details the reasons he believes the trend towards a low-carbon economy is now "irreversible".
He points to the fact that between 2008 and 2015 the US economy grew by 10% while emissions of CO2 fell by almost the same amount.  Mr Obama says that US businesses have increasingly seen the financial benefits from cutting carbon through greater energy efficiency.

Obama clean energy

Citing the examples of corporations like General Motors and Alcoa, the President says the US consumed 2.5% less energy in 2015 than in 2008 while the economy was now a tenth bigger. There would be a huge financial penalty if economies don't reduce their emissions, Mr Obama writes.
If CO2 continues to rise then global temperatures could go up by 4 degrees C by the end of this century, and that could cost the world economy 4% of GDP. In US terms that would equate to the loss of federal revenue of between $340bn and $690bn every year.

Coal on the slippery slope

Pointedly, Mr Obama says that 2.2 million Americans now work in jobs connected to energy efficiency - double the 1.1 million that work in fossil fuel production and electricity generation.
Thanks to hydraulic fracturing, gas has emerged as a transformative energy source, now accounting for 33% of US electricity production. Despite Mr Trump's plans to revive the coal industry by cutting red tape, "it is unlikely that utilities will change course and choose to build coal-fired power plants, which would be more expensive than natural gas plants, regardless of any near-term changes in federal policy."
Even states that supported Donald Trump in the presidential election had moved heavily to renewables. Iowa generated 32% of their electricity in 2015 from wind, up from 8% in 2008.
On the Paris climate agreement, Mr Obama said this was a "fundamental shift in the diplomatic landscape which has already yielded substantial dividends".
Pulling out of the agreement, as Mr Trump has mulled doing, would see the United States lose its seat at the table, and be unable to hold other countries to their commitments, the President wrote. Continued participation in the Paris process, Mr Obama said, would yield great benefit for the American people and the international community.
However, the outgoing president was careful to offer an olive branch of sorts to President-elect Trump. Mr Obama argued that the targets that the US signed up to in the Paris agreement could be achieved in many different ways and "this does not mean that the next Administration has to follow identical domestic policies".  His message is pretty clear though. The future is renewable energy. Mr Trump is trying to turn the clock back, not to mention deny climate change, in the face of all the world's most renowned scientists and visible evidence of global warming in every country in the world.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

How we can protect our oceans

NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program, Our Deepwater Backyard: Exploring Atlantic Canyons and Seamounts 2014.
What lies beneath the deep, dark expanse of the ocean is something that has fascinated sailors, fishermen, adventurers, poets and explorers for centuries.
How could residents of New England, for instance, have known that beneath the coastal waters lies a chain of extinct undersea volcanoes and canyons as deep as the Grand Canyon and mountains as high as any found east of the Rockies, harboring rare and endangered whales, sea turtles and fishes and coral as old as the Redwoods?

We have glimpsed this and other worlds beneath the waves thanks to advances in science and technology.
Ocean-going ships and submarines provide a window into the deep. In shallower and warmer seas, scuba-diving scientists have documented a similarly breathtaking, but previously unappreciated, diversity of life. We’ve discovered an unimaginable underwater world. Strange life forms. Unique species. Mysteries waiting to be solved.

But technology also allows us to access, disturb and eliminate these special places, putting them, and often ourselves, at risk. A single pass of a fishing trawler or mining gear can destroy centuries-old species and habitats, including nursery grounds for important fisheries.

Fortunately, governments are increasing the number of marine protected areas, or MPAs, in the ocean. Areas categorized as MPAs mean that something inside is protected, although often not much. However, two MPA subcategories are essential to achieving the goals of protecting ocean ecosystems, improving resilience in the face of multiple environmental changes and providing benefits for both nature and people.

“Fully protected areas” mean no extractive activities are allowed, while “strongly protected areas” mean no commercial and only minimal recreational extractive activities are allowed. The vast majority of MPAs do not fall into either of these two categories and are called “partially protected.” In addition to area-based protection, we also need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, and to sustainably manage fisheries.

As ocean scientists, we are encouraged that multiple governments are now taking action to protect special places in the ocean, but we believe science-driven action for ocean conservation must be greatly accelerated.
Global trend in MPAs

President Obama has taken a leadership role in ocean protection by increasing more than four-fold the amount of “strongly protected” ocean area under U.S. jurisdiction (from 5 percent to over 23 percent). He did this through the creation or expansion of three marine monuments, including the only marine monument in the U.S. Atlantic – the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, created in September 2016. Nearly the size of Connecticut, this new designation encompasses many of the unique canyons, seamounts and species in the deep New England waters.

An iceberg seen from NASA's P-3 research aircraft during a Nov. 21, 2013, survey of sea ice in the Ross Sea.

A few weeks earlier, the president created the largest strongly protected area on the planet – on land or at sea – by expanding Papahānamokuākea Marine National Monument to 1.5 million square kilometers (580,000 square miles) – twice the size of Texas. The U.S. now far exceeds any other nation in the total area of the ocean it strongly protects.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Living near a high traffic road may give you dementia

People who live near major roads have higher rates of dementia, research published in the Lancet suggests.
At least 10% and possibly more of dementia cases among people living within 50 meters of a major road could be caused by the mixed bag of pollutions that traffic causes.
The researchers, who followed nearly 2 million people in Canada over 11 years, say air pollution and  noise of traffic could be contributing to the brain's decline.
Dementia experts  around the world said the findings were "certainly plausible".
Nearly 50 million people around the world have dementia.
However, the causes of the disease, that robs people of their memories and brain function76, have not been understood before now. With this new research, scientists are beginning to look into other environmental causes for the disease. For example, chemicals in water and food, insecticides and fungicides; all things that find their way into our bodies and do not come from natural sources.

Population growth

The study in the Lancet followed nearly two million people in the Canadian province of Ontario, between 2001 and 2012.
There were 243,611 cases of dementia diagnosed during that time, but the risk was greatest in those living closest to major roads.
Compared with those living 300m away from a major road the risk was:
  • 7% higher within 50m
  • 4% higher between 50-100m
  • 2% higher between 101-200m
The analysis suggests 7-11% of dementia cases within 50m of a major road could be caused by traffic. And that is a conservative estimate.
Dr Hong Chen, from Public Health Ontario and one of the report authors, said: "Increasing population growth and urbanization have placed many people close to heavy traffic, and with widespread exposure to traffic and growing rates of dementia, even a modest effect from near-road exposure could pose a large public health burden.
"More research to understand this link is urgently needed, particularly into the effects of different aspects of traffic, such as air pollutants and noise."
The researchers suggest noise, ultrafine particles of carbon, nitrogen oxides and particles from tyre-wear may be involved.


"This is an important paper," says Prof Martin Rossor, the UK's National Institute for Health Research director for dementia research.
He added: "This is a disorder with a high population prevalence so such effects can have important public health implications."
Prof Tom Dening, the director of the Centre for Dementia said: "It is certainly plausible that air pollution from motor exhaust fumes may contribute to brain pathology that over time may increase the risk of dementia, and this evidence will add to the unease of people who live in areas of high traffic concentration.
"Undoubtedly living in conditions of severe air pollution can't be good for anyone."

The best advice to reduce the risk of dementia is to do the things that we know are healthy for the rest of the body - stop smoking, exercise and eat healthy organic foods.
And if it is possible for you ... Don't live near major traffic roads.