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Green Technology

RiverWatch Technology Provides Solution for Polluted Water

September 25, 2017
RiverWatch Technology

To efficiently combat water pollution, scientists, environmental groups, governments and citizens need access to accurate information about water quality. Unfortunately, this data has historically been hard to come by — especially for citizens. The reason is simple: modern technology is expensive and complex. Because of this, water quality isn’t regularly tested in many areas throughout the world.

Here’s the good news: a project out of New Zealand — where water quality data is available for less than 10 percent of the waterways — is seeking to change that with a new device known as RiverWatch.

What is RiverWatch Technology? 

A group called Water Action Initiative (WAI) along with students from Victoria University developed a device that measures water quality and makes the data available to the public.

The device, called RiverWatch, is designed for placement in waterways either on a temporary or permanent basis. It measures pH levels, chemical composition, temperature, conductivity, turbidity and discoloration. WAI then uploads that information to its website and makes it available on a phone app.

The solar-powered RiverWatch device is designed to be cost-effective and easy to use. The base unit can be built for one-tenth the price of current monitoring technology, the company claims. Each unit costs around $2,000. And since WAI is a non-profit organization, its income goes back into conservation efforts.

RiverWatch won the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) 2016 Conservation Innovation Award and is a finalist in the 2017 Wellington Gold Awards. The organization plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign soon to start producing the device.

The Importance of Water Quality

Water analysis technology has seen rapid growth in recent years thanks to major advances in optical sensors and biosensors. These new technologies have enabled remote sensing and the use of smart technologies that provide real-time information and insights. Robotic fish equipped with small sensors have even been used to locate sources of hazardous pollution.

Water quality also has significant impacts on human health, the economy and the environment, and over the next 100 years, clean water will become increasingly scarce. Unsafe or insufficient water, hygiene and sanitation lead to an estimated 3.1 percent of all deaths worldwide and a number of health conditions.

Water pollution also harms the livelihoods of people who depend on water to make a living, including fishermen and some of those in the tourism industry. Although monitoring and improving water quality can be expensive, the economic impacts make these efforts worthwhile. It’s estimated that every dollar invested in sanitation and drinking water results in $3 to $34 in economic development.

The founders of RiverWatch hope their device will provide more people with the information they need to fix water pollution problems by providing efficient monitoring at an affordable cost. By making this information available to more people, water quality may rise around the world, leading to improved environmental, human and economic health.

Oceans

Sustainable Seafood Myths and Misconceptions Part 2

September 22, 2017
Sustainable Seafood

There are all sorts of myths and misconceptions about sustainable seafood, as we looked at in the first part of this article. The disinformation is particularly frustrating because so many people are interested in eating fish! Fish is a healthier option than meats higher in fats, such as beef and pork. It harmonizes well with vegetables, which health-conscious consumers are continuing to add to their diets.

Sustainable seafood farms are an increasingly visible means of ensuring fish aren’t caught to the point of extinction. More than 30 percent of fisheries are currently overexploited, meaning the catch causes a decline in the population that isn’t replenished.

Sustainability, as applied to seafood, means catching fish in a way that doesn’t contribute to the decimation of the marine population. In the most basic way, sustainability means that, for every salmon someone eats, another one is being raised. And the same is true of tilapia, shrimp, sardines and so on. One way to ensure sustainability is through farms, or aquaculture.

Well, myth-busting is an honorable profession. So let’s apply it to the myths of sustainable seafood.

Fish Farming Causes Environmental Degradation and Unhealthy Fish

As we discussed before, sustainable seafood can be more harmful to the environment and raise unhealthy fish.

The truth is, however, fish farming varies in environmental responsibility, just like land farming does. Some farms conduct responsible, ethical aquaculture. In contrast, some farms care more about maximizing profit, and their employees have less training and supervision.

The good news is that the industry is very aware of the challenges in fish farming. With a little bit more progress, we can ensure everyone is following the leading practices today.

Some countries, like Iceland, have perfected a method of fish farming that relies on recirculated water, so the fish are swimming and eliminating in the same relatively small amount of water. This technique cuts down on disease and environmental threat.

Some scientists are developing methods of farming fish in large tanks, on land. This will eliminate any threat of water pollution or species threat. If the tanks use recirculated water, the fish can remain healthy.

The answer? Be responsible when shopping for fish. Know which farms practice ethical, genuinely sustainable and environmentally healthy methods.

The Most Sustainable Catch Is in Specialty Stores

People interested in environmentally sound purchasing practices should know the best places to purchase sustainable fish.

Is it at a fishmonger’s, a specialty store or near the ocean? A farmers’ market that includes seafood? Not necessarily.

Startlingly enough, some of the largest food retailers in the U.S. have the best record in supplying sustainable seafood: Target, Safeway, Wegman’s and Whole Foods. Many Americans are close to at least one of these retailers. Sustainable seafood is no further than a drive away.

The Catch Has to Be Fresh to Be Sustainable

This myth is not true at all. Food mavens who follow trends on sustainable seafood point out frozen seafood is just as sustainable as the stuff at the fish counter. It fact, frozen seafood may have a greater proportion of sustainably caught fish. Remember, many large retailers are leading the seafood sustainability parade. Plus, even chefs believe that frozen fish is just as good as the catch of the day, and equally healthy.

The same is true of some canned seafood. Again, the answer is to be informed. Canned seafood is just as sustainable as the most sustainable fish.

Yes, some canned fish has been subject to health scandals in the past, like mercury contamination. For tilapia, salmon, trout and tuna, that’s all in the past.

Sustainable Fish Is More Expensive

This myth is also resoundingly busted. Sustainability, after all, just means the fish are being raised with the idea of being used by humans, ultimately, and with being replenished. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the type is exotic and therefore expensive.

Some sustainable seafood can be expensive. Ninety percent of shrimp in the United States, for example, is raised in farms. But its expense is related to its being shrimp, not the sustainability. Catfish is also largely farm-raised and is less expensive than shrimp.

The key for consumers is to shop for cheaper varieties of seafood that are sustainable.

Around the world, our oceans and rivers have been widely fished, leading to fears of overfishing. While many people want to eat seafood because of its health benefits, they also want it to be sustainably raised to avoid the extinction of seafood. Yet myths and misconceptions about sustainable seafood abound.

While there are some environmental and health concerns with fish farming, best practices also exist. Consumers need to be informed about what companies follow the best practices and purchase their products. Look for these products at mainstream retailers, and in frozen and canned varieties.

Oceans

Sustainable Seafood Myths and Misconceptions Part 1

September 18, 2017
Sustainable Seafood

Fish are a great source of protein, but they are a limited resource.

Humans have to eat. Food supplies us with the energy and sustenance we need to get through our days. It allows us to grow up big and strong so that we can accomplish daily tasks and strive for and fulfill our dreams. In the U.S., we have developed ways to ensure our food is readily available and that we don’t have to work too hard to get it.

Since the advent of agriculture, humans have grown crops and domesticated animals for a supply of food close at hand. With industrialization, we’ve developed ways to mass-produce food to feed large groups of people. From stores to restaurants to our homes, we have easy access to food supplies.

As the human population grows in the U.S. and around the world, we have to find ways to ensure everyone gets enough to eat. One of the best and least expensive sources of protein is fish. It is considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet. However, with increasing demands for more fish for food, we have to find sustainable and economical ways to provide people with the nutrition they need and not annihilate fish populations.

Developing Fish Farms: A Sustainable Way to Provide the World With Fish?

One way that has been proposed to solve the not-enough-fish problem is by developing fish farms. Humans and humanoids have depended on creatures that live in the water as a food source for a long time — going back as far as 200,000 BC. We continue to practice fishing today, both on individual levels and commercial levels. However, on a commercial level, fishing is dangerous and makes an impact on the environment.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about fish farming and the pros and cons of raising fish for food in this way. It seems like fish farming is a new idea, but in reality, it has been around for thousands of years. A Chinese man named Fan Lai wrote a book in 475 BC to instruct others on how to raise fish for food. In Germany in 1733, a farmer successfully fertilized eggs, hatched the eggs and then raised the fish for food. Since then, the practice of fish farming has evolved and advanced.

Fish farms can benefit the environment by lessening the impact on wild fish populations, allowing species that have been overfished or are being threatened with overfishing to recover. Fish farms also create jobs and benefit local economies.

Issues With Fish Farms: More Harmful to the Environment Than Natural Fishing?

There are a several different ways to raise fish for food. For instance, the fish might be contained in small ponds or lakes or in pens/cages in the ocean. The species that are raised in these environments include catfish, tilapia, salmon, shrimp, mollusks and algae, among others.

Despite the fact that fish farms have existed for a long time, there are some problems with modern fish farming practices. The way the fish are raised can impact their health and how healthy they are for us. If fish are raised in small tanks crowded with large populations or fed diets that aren’t healthy, they probably aren’t going to be the healthiest fish for us to consume.

Problems that can arise on fish farms include pollution, disease, farmed species accidentally being released into the wild and sea lice. All of these impact the environment the fish live in and their bodies, which, in turn, can impact us.

Finding Sustainable Seafood Solutions

There are no easy solutions when it comes to our environment and sustainability. We have to eat, which means we have to either get our food from the wild or grow it. Both of these methods impact the environment and animal populations. The best way to reduce the impact is to make informed decisions and develop sustainable practices when it comes to food.

No matter what, our desire for seafood has affected the ocean and its delicate natural balance. If we want to sustain our desires and the health of the oceans and the world, we must find a balance between wild-caught fish and farmed fish.

As technology advances and better techniques are developed, it’s possible that aquaculture will become a better solution for our fish needs. Until then, we must continue to work together to develop better practices and make choices that ensure our health and the health of the environment.

Environment

Are Our National Parks in Danger?

September 15, 2017
National parks in danger

The 388 parks, monuments and recreation areas managed by the National Park Service cover some of the most beautiful and iconic landscapes in the United States. From mountains to glaciers to forests, they protect rare ecosystems and species. They also ensure that people can enjoy nature, and they bring tourism money to nearby communities.

Some of these parks, though, are now in trouble due to a wide variety of potential threats. What exactly is putting our national parks in danger, how serious is the situation and what can we do about it? Keep reading to find out.

Political Climate

Republican lawmakers recently proposed a bill that would transfer protected federal lands to the states. Lawmakers who support the bill have said the lands have little value when the federal government owns them. Supporters argue that they bring in approximately $6.46 billion and create around 6 million jobs.

Those who are against the change worry that protected lands could be sold off once under state control and opened up for oil drilling or property development. States might choose to do this to make money, while others would have little choice due to budget restrictions.

Actions like this have been met with opposition. After a bill to sell more than 3 million acres of public land caused an uproar among conservationists, hunters and fishermen, U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah announced that he would withdraw it.

Pollution and Climate Change

National parks also face a less direct threat from pollution, climate change and other damage to the environment. The pollution levels in some parks are almost as bad as those in urban areas. In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for example, emissions from industry and power plants blow in from outside the park. That’s not the type of smoke Great Smoky should be known for.

Climate change may cause long-term changes to national parks, as it will to the rest of the world. Glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park are already melting. As climate change continues to worsen, we may see more forest fires and storms, as well as higher temperatures that change the ecosystems of the parks. Because national parks are such iconic representations of nature, the effects of climate change seem even more pronounced within them.

Budget Issues

Many of our national parks don’t have enough funding to keep up with repairs, maintenance and the needs of visitors. Roads, buildings and water systems could all use some attention. Some have estimated the parks need around $600 million just to get the infrastructure up to par.

The National Parks Conservation Association has expressed concerns over the Trump Administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, which includes large cuts to the Department of Interior and Environmental Protection Agency budgets. It also has said that Trump’s hiring freeze may prevent the parks from having enough personnel.

From the Outside In

Though a main goal of establishing the parks is to enable people to enjoy them, the influx of people from places around the world has also created challenges for the health of the parks. Overcrowding can degrade the natural landscape and the habitats of the animals that live there.

When people come to parks, they also sometimes accidentally carry with them species that aren’t native to the area. They might accidentally have seeds of foreign plant species or bugs that aren’t from the area. If these species make their new home in the park, they won’t have any natural competition and may destroy native species.

Some non-native species may escape from homes into the park. For example, people sometimes keep exotic snakes as pets, but if they escape or are released into the wild, they can cause problems. More than 650,000 invasive species have already been identified in national parks in the United States.

U.S. national parks provide critical protection for unique and important ecosystems and create a way for people to easily enjoy and learn more about nature. These national parks in danger from budget cuts and pollution; however, they must be preserved if we want to keep enjoying the benefits from these parks.

Green Technology

Can Solar Energy Reduce Global Temperatures by Harnessing Sunlight?

September 11, 2017
Solar Energy

Solar energy does have the potential to reduce global temperatures, though, in order to make any impact, it would need to be used more frequently and replace the use of traditional fossil fuels.

In 2011, 0.5 percent of the world’s energy came from solar energy, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. By comparison, in 2013, the World Energy Council reported 80 percent of the world’s energy came from fossil fuels.

Global Temperature Rise

When fossil fuels are burned, carbon dioxide releases into the atmosphere. Though carbon dioxide has the ability to escape the atmosphere, it happens at a slower rate than it is reintroduced through the burning of fossil fuels. The growing global population has led to an increased energy demand, which will lead to an increase in energy consumption and will inevitably lead to an increase in global temperatures.

If solar energy were used in place of fossil fuels, carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by up to 90 percent. Unlike fossil fuel, solar energy doesn’t release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and therefore, doesn’t contribute to the global temperature rise. Global temperatures could actually decline as more carbon dioxide may leave the atmosphere through plants and outer-space than was generated through energy consumption.

Urban Heat Index

The Urban Heat Index (UHI), or the heat island phenomenon, is the increased temperature in urban areas caused by human activities. Primarily, the UHI is caused by changes in land usage. The secondary cause of UHI is the generation of waste heat by electricity usage. The UHI effect can range anywhere from one to six degrees higher from neighboring rural areas in the daytime, and can hit 22 degrees higher during the night.

Solar energy can reduce the effects of the UHI by blocking the amount of heat absorbed by a building and the other materials in urban landscapes. This can cause an increased need for additional energy consumption during the winter, but in turn, reduces the need for air conditioning in the summer. Global climates that experience mild winters and hotter summers may benefit the most from the installation of solar energy technologies.

Current Solar Energy Technology

Three types of solar energy technology are presently utilized, including concentrated solar energy (CSE), solar thermal energy and photovoltaic systems, more commonly known as solar panels. Concentrated solar energy and solar thermal energy both use mirrors to direct the sun’s energy onto a receiver, which then transfers the energy to a carrier medium, which is heated, and then drives a steam turbine. Solar panels generate electricity when particles of light, known as photons, remove electrons from the atoms on the photovoltaic cells in the solar panels.

All three types of solar energy technology are produced using heavy metals and fossil fuels during the manufacturing process, which negatively impact the global temperature rise.

Drawbacks

Global climates with high levels of annual precipitation or those subject to overcast conditions could lack the ability to generate enough solar energy to meet their needs, which would require them to rely on fossil fuels or an alternate energy source to make up the difference.

Solar energy can’t be generated at night. Countries at higher latitudes with less sunlight in the winter may not be viable candidates for solar power year-round and need to investigate alternatives.

As a whole, the components used to generate solar energy are more expensive than those used to generate energy from fossil fuels.

Ultimately, though solar energy has the potential to reduce the overall global temperature, it isn’t likely enough countries could afford to convert from burning fossil fuels to make a large enough impact.

Wildlife

Shark Dragging Video Reveals Deeper Issues About How We Treat Wildlife

September 8, 2017
Shark Dragging Video

A group of young Florida men who recently posted an online video of them violently dragging a shark behind their boat at high speeds are now dealing with the consequences. The post made its way around social media and drew harsh criticism and disgust from many Internet users, including a well-known local sport fisherman.

Concerned citizens created a Change.org petition calling for charges against the men, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating the situation.

The video shocked and disturbed many, but others didn’t appear to have too much of a problem with it. Of course, the people who posted it seemed to have no qualms about doing it, then publicly boasting about it by sharing their deeds online. This video reveals some unfortunate deeper problems with how we relate to and treat wildlife.

Consistent Mistreatment

The video shows the men laughing as they watch the shark being battered against the waves behind the boat as it’s pulled at high speeds by a rope. One of the men asks if the shark is dead yet, but experts say it’s still alive in the video.

However, if the dragging continued, the shark would have suffered a slow drowning death and probably would have been injured by the violent dragging.

Authorities haven’t released the names of any suspects, but the social media history of those in the video, as identified by Internet users and local media, reveals a pattern of animal abuse.

Previous social media pictures and video show them mistreating protected birds, illegally catching fish and shooting at fish. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service even investigated one of the men for the images that showed him gripping and mistreating birds that included the brown pelican and the cormorant. Officials determined he had committed seven violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act but were unable to charge him because they could not identify when or where the violations took place.

This makes the shark dragging video even more concerning because it shows a pattern of abuse, rather than a single occurrence.

How We Think About Wildlife

Although most of us probably wouldn’t treat wildlife like it’s treated in this video, the imagery shows us that people certainly do have the capacity to do so. There are people who mistreat wildlife consistently, and even groups of people who regularly do it together.

It seems the people in the video view non-human animals as being there for their entertainment — which, in this case, includes abusing the animals. Unfortunately, animal abuse is all too common. Perhaps we need to change the way we think about animals to help stop abuse.

People who abuse animals do not have respect for them. Showing people why they should respect animals may change attitudes about wildlife. Though we still need more research on the topic, the evidence points to the conclusion that animals experience similar emotions to humans. They feel fear, happiness, sadness, love and a range of other emotions. Anyone who’s spent considerable time around animals could provide evidence of this as well.

Beyond emotional appeal, animals are crucial to life on this planet. The ecosystems we depend on would not survive without the creatures that inhabit them. Animals aren’t just there for our enjoyment. We need them to survive.

Changing How We Relate to Animals

Though this video reveals some serious issues with how we treat wildlife, on the bright side, the reaction to the video shows that we as a society are becoming less and less accepting of animal cruelty.

It didn’t take long for people to call out the subjects of the video and express their distaste for their actions and for officials to launch an investigation. This backlash provides a bit of hope that the way we think about and treat animals may be improving.

Disrespecting and mistreating wildlife is a significant problem that is unfortunately rather widespread. It’s vital, however, that we treat wildlife with respect. Perhaps this video will inspire people to learn more about animals and discover why they should be treated with dignity.

Environment

The Relationship Between Hurricane Harvey and Climate Change

September 4, 2017
Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25 as an enormous Category 4 hurricane. A Category 4 predicts catastrophic damage and winds in excess of 130 mph. Areas affected by it will remain inhospitable for weeks, or even months. And even though hurricanes weaken as soon as they hit land, they still can still cause significant damage farther inland. This exact scenario is what we saw happen with Harvey. Unfortunately, the likelihood of a repeat continues to rise.

As of the last count, 39 people have died in relation to Harvey. The city has also lost electricity, is losing its clean water supply, has seen two chemical explosions, and has had to take on over 50 inches of rainfall, all from one storm that dumped over 24.5 trillion gallons of rain onto Texas and Louisiana.

A Changing Climate

To understand why Hurricane Harvey is a harbinger of climate changes means understanding how the climate is expected to change. It started out with the name “global warming” for a reason. As the planet’s overall temperature increases, the poles become less cold and more like the tropics and the tropical range expands. The tropics have two main climate features: heat and humidity.

We get storms when a cold front meets a warm front. So when the air in the poles becomes warmer, there will be fewer overall storms. But the other aspect is an increase in humidity. Warmer air means more efficient evaporation, the same way water will evaporate quickly during the summer but takes much longer during the fall. That means there’s more humidity in the atmosphere, floating around and waiting to become a stronger than usual storm.

So we add the decreasing storm frequency to the increase in storm intensity, and you end up with a recipe for disaster. Experts say that hurricanes like Harvey should be rare, but Katrina happened a little over 10 years ago. That storm resulted in just under 2,000 deaths, catastrophic flooding and years to clean up. Hurricane Harvey is presenting some of the same challenges.

A Fluke or the Future?

Right now, we have a President who has made several public statements dismissing climate change. Scientists are being asked to adjust their papers to avoid words like “climate change” or “global warming” by the United States government. Trump’s budget chief said climate research is a waste of taxpayer money. Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, does not think that humans are a driving force behind accelerated climate change. Trump has announced that he plans to take the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement, a plan which had no downside for the U.S. except shame.

That is a problem. Climate scientists, who are the only ones qualified to make these decisions, have already noted that Hurricane Harvey was likely intensified partially by climate change. They have already stated that human activity and the increased release of greenhouse gases are contributing to climate change. Their concern is no longer if climate change is occurring because the data shows that it is. The concern among experts now is how bad will it get and what we can do to mitigate the damage.

Trump’s blatant disregard for the only people who are qualified to speak on the subject is worrying. Four years may not seem like a long time, but in the few months he’s been in office, much of his work has focused on un-doing Obama era environmental regulations.

That leaves us vulnerable. Without laws in place to help curtail our environmental impact, we stand little chance of helping to minimize climate change. The U.S. is currently the second largest producer of greenhouse gases (GHG), right behind China. However, per capita, we still produce more GHG. China’s per capita production comes in at about 4.6 tons, while the US hits an astounding 19.8. That is not a good thing, and it highlights just how corrosive our current way of life is for the environment.

Meanwhile, as Hurricane Harvey is dying off, Hurricane Irma is gearing up. It’s already a Category 3 hurricane, but it’s still pretty far out to sea. We don’t know its path yet. Also, in South Asia, monsoon season has started, and it has been an absolute disaster. The increase in humidity has led to flooding the region hasn’t seen for years. Already, 1,200 people have died from these floods, and they’re affecting 41 million people.

So, we’re in danger. Storms may become less frequent, but when they do occur, they’re more likely to bring unheard of devastation. With only 45 percent of Americans concerned about climate change, mnay citizens may not be raising the alarm we should.  If our government refuses to do anything to help protect us or plan for the future, what kind of future will we have?

Green Technology

What Is the Future of Gas and Oil Companies?

September 1, 2017
Future of gas and oil

The future of gas and oil companies seems to have drastically altered in the past few years. It’s shaped economies and political landscapes. We use oil and gas to get much of our energy and the heat for our homes. We use gasoline to fuel our vehicles.

Oil and gas companies, however, typically don’t have the best reputation. Many people consider them money-hungry and get lots of press coverage for oil spills and other accidents.

This, as well as the emissions they release, makes them less than popular with environmentally minded folks. While more eco-friendly than coal, they aren’t as green as renewables like hydro, solar and wind, which have no emissions, so what does this mean for the future of gas and oil companies?

Changes in the Market

Oil and natural gas changed the electricity market dramatically, and it’s still going through changes. In a recent Department of Energy report, which Energy Secretary Rick Perry ordered, researchers cited the economic advantages of natural gas as the main reason for the closure of a number of coal and nuclear plants.

They also named the increasing popularity of renewables as a secondary reason for the shutdowns. Over the last decade, the percentage of energy demand met by renewables in the U.S. almost doubled, driven by solar and wind. People have been increasingly installing solar panels on their rooftops and opting for electric cars as well.

Green Initiatives

In response to these changes, oil and gas companies have been either continuing with their usual practices or starting, perhaps hesitantly, to make their businesses a little bit greener.

Oil companies have in the past funded research into new energy resources or low-carbon technologies. Exxon Mobil, for example, funded algae biofuel research in 2009 to the tune of $100 billion. It canceled the project due to a lack of economic feasibility.

Some activists claimed the project was a scam meant to show that alternatives to oil aren’t viable. Other oil companies, too, have started and then stopped green initiatives.

Cleaner Oil and Gas?

New technologies aimed at making oil and gas — as well as other emissions-heavy technologies — cleaner are also now making their way to the forefront of energy industry discussions. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) have the potential to capture up to 90 percent of carbon emissions before they’re released into the atmosphere.

Those captured emissions may then be stored underground or used for other purposes. These technologies are currently being researched and developed, but if they make it to implementation, they may make natural gas and oil greener resources.

Investing in Renewables

The renewable energy market is still much smaller than that of the oil and gas industry, but it’s growing at a rate that makes it impossible for oil and gas companies to ignore. They’ve shown some interest in investing in renewables, but it’s difficult to say how exactly that will transpire. Oil companies have invested in renewables before but eventually backed off.

Oil companies have realized that renewables are a potential threat to their business. Shell even released a report that found solar could become the dominant energy source by the end of this century.

Because of the growth of renewable resources and the technological momentum behind that growth, oil and gas companies are starting to invest in solar, wind, battery technologies and more. Oil companies in Europe especially are getting in on the renewables market to protect the future of their business.

The energy market is undergoing significant shifts due to technological, regulatory, economic and other changes. While the oil and gas industry is still strong now, things may change in the future. What the future of gas and oil companies looks like depends on how they adapt to market demands.

Oceans

What Makes the Arctic Ocean Different From Other Oceans?

August 25, 2017
Arctic Ocean Different

The Arctic Ocean conjures up images of expansive ice, frigid waters and diverse wildlife on its frozen shores. Today, though, we often see photos of polar bears, one of the Arctic’s most famous residents, standing on ever-shrinking patches of ice due to global warming.

The Arctic Ocean is indeed a unique place. Its inhospitable climate and extensive ice coverage make it difficult to explore, so we know less about it than we do about Earth’s other oceans. However, we do know there are several distinct things that set it apart.

A Frigid Climate

Perhaps the most obvious difference between the Arctic Ocean and other oceans is its cold climate. There are some other unique things about its temperature, though.

Permanent sea ice is one of the Arctic Ocean’s unique attributes. The temperature of the air in the Arctic can fall as low as -60 degrees Fahrenheit. Recently, though, it’s been rising above averages — far enough to break records. Scientists warn this drop in temperature is due to climate change. This is altering the Arctic environment and leading to lower levels of ice.

In the Atlantic and Pacific, the water gets colder as it goes deeper. In the Arctic, this pattern is reversed. Because the warm seawater that flows in from the Atlantic is denser than other Arctic water, it sinks below the surface.

According to a study led by a University of Alaska researcher, global warming is causing this to change, too. As ice melts, winds mix up the surface water more than usual. This creates a feedback loop in which warmer water rises to the surface, due to melting ice. The warmer water, in turn, melts more ice. The change is making the Arctic Ocean more like the Atlantic — a process researchers call “Atlantification.”

A Diverse Ecosystem

Polar Bears

Despite the Arctic’s harsh conditions, it supports a wide variety of life — from marine mammals to fish to crustaceans. Life thrives from the sea floor to the upper layers of the water. Creatures that live on land, such as polar bears, also depend on marine mammals for food.

Polar bears typically eat seals, of which there are many species in the Arctic. You can also find whales, sharks, rays, snow crabs and around 240 species of fish.

The Arctic Ocean also often has a fair amount of non-native species that don’t grow and reproduce there. The water that flows in from other oceans brings these species, and while they can survive there for a time, they can’t live there year-round.

Pollution and Climate Change

While climate change impacts the entire planet, it has an especially strong effect on the Arctic Ocean. In fact, the Arctic is warming nearly twice as fast as the rest of the planet.

The sea’s rapidly melting ice has become a symbol for global warming. It also plays a big part in why the Arctic is warming so quickly. The area’s ice and snow typically reflect sunlight back into the atmosphere. As the reflective ice disappears, the land absorbs more sunlight, which causes more ice to melt. This cycle will lead to rising sea levels around the world.

Climate change is also causing oceans to become more acidic because of the increased amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed into the water. This damages marine life’s shells, as well as coral reefs, which are home to a huge number of species. In colder oceans like the Arctic, this acidification happens twice as fast.

The Arctic Ocean’s frozen waters inspire wonder and reveal some truly unique parts of our world. Those characteristics, however, are disappearing as the planet warms. As ice melts, sea levels rise and species die, these changes will affect not only the Arctic, but also the rest of the world.

Green Technology

How to Be More Eco-Friendly Even If You Drive Everywhere

August 21, 2017
Eco-Friendly even if You Drive

“Go green” is a battle cry we hear now in every part of our lives. It’s a call to reduce our energy use and to use our resources more wisely. It challenges us to look inward and see where we can make changes to live a “greener” lifestyle. Some of our energy-wasting habits need only minor tweaks to make a difference.

But let’s face it — there are certain things you can’t change. If you live in New York and you have to go to a wedding in California, riding your bike there is probably out of the question. The easiest way to get there is by an energy-guzzling airplane.

How far you live from work will dictate your commute. There are limitations to how far you can realistically walk each day, and some routes aren’t navigable by bicycle. If you don’t live in a walkable, bikeable area, you may be forced to drive your car wherever you go — even if you are environmentally conscious. What are some things you can do to be more ecologically friendly, even if burning fossil fuel is a necessity for you?

Work from Home

The simplest solution — and the best way to save energy — is to not drive as often. See if your employers will allow you to work from home one day per week or more, as schedules and commitments allow. That saves trips to and from the office. Figure out how much gas you use each trip, and do the math. You will save energy, money and wear on your vehicle.

Share the Commute

Whether working from home is feasible or not, you can also save energy by carpooling with like-minded, energy-conscious coworkers. Minus the extra travel to each other’s homes, you’ll reduce energy use by one vehicle per person. This will give you extra time to strategize over work issues — or just gripe about them. It’s a great coworker bonding experience, as well.

Maintain Your Vehicle

No one likes to bring their vehicle into the dealership or service station if there is nothing wrong with it. Too often, it can feel like they are looking to “fix” things that aren’t broken, and you can almost feel their hands reaching into your wallet. But just like it’s best to see your doctor regularly before you are ill, it’s wise to have your vehicle regularly inspected.

Oil leaks pollute the environment. Inefficient engines waste gasoline. Your vehicle’s exhaust system cleans and minimizes the amount of harmful fumes entering our air. Some states require regular inspections to make sure they comply. The good news is, newer vehicles are equipped with warning lights to alert you of almost every problem you could be having.

But regular maintenance can mean catching those problems before a light goes on. There are also a few things you can do yourself — such as oil changes — which do not require a mechanic and a hefty service fee.

Maintain Adequate Tire Pressure

Tire pressure

You might not think too much about your tires, but everything rests on top of them! Tires need to be inflated to their proper pressure. This number is usually posted on a sticker inside the driver’s-side door. A typical commuter vehicle tire pressure is 30 to 35 pounds per square inch (PSI).

Invest in a tire pressure gauge, which should be easy to find at an auto supply store or any department or grocery store with an automotive section. Tires might look properly inflated, but don’t rely on eyeballing them — take a few minutes to check them weekly. Most vehicles have a tire pressure warning light that illuminates when the tire pressure is low. However, that light doesn’t come on until they are well below their required pressure.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, an underinflated tire will reduce gas mileage 0.4 percent for every one PSI. Again, do the math. It’s easy to waste gas without knowing, and even easier to prevent it. In addition to a tire gauge, it’s a good idea to invest in an electric air pump. They can be used remotely, powered by your vehicle’s auxiliary outlet and often come with gauges built in.

Be particularly careful in the winter, when colder temperatures can reduce tire pressure. In addition to underinflated tires lowering your vehicle’s MPG, they will also affect your ability to steer and brake in harsher driving conditions.

Drive Green

  • Plan your routes to conserve energy and save time. Combine errands into one efficient trip.
  • Don’t use the air conditioning without thinking about it. The AC takes a lot of extra energy and strains your engine. Listen to the sound when it’s on. That’s your engine making the extra effort to cool you down. Don’t suffer, but use it consciously.
  • Don’t speed excessively. The faster you drive, the more energy you use. It’s best to stay within the posted speed limit.
  • When approaching a red light, take your foot off the gas and decelerate gradually, rather than braking hard at the last moment. This conserves energy.
  • Don’t rapidly accelerate from a traffic light. It takes more power — and, therefore, more fuel — to move your vehicle that quickly.
  • Use cruise control to maintain a constant speed and make your drive more efficient.
  • If you are off the road and will be stopped for a long time, shut the engine off rather than leaving it running. Anything over a minute or two is wasting gasoline.

For most working people, a car is a realistic must, not a choice. No one wants to pollute the environment, but we need to drive to work to make money and support our families. We can control, limit and reduce our energy use, but we can’t stop it. If you must drive everywhere, do so as eco-consciously as possible, and spread the advice to your family, friends and coworkers.