TIME White House

President Obama Plans Hike on Alaskan Glacier

Obama Speaks Iran Nuclear Deal
Pete Marovich—AP United States President Barack Obama addresses American University's School of International Service in Washington on Aug. 5, 2015.

A photo op meant to send a message about global warming

Advocacy and adventure will collide when Barack Obama visits Alaska on an official trip beginning Monday.

The American President’s itinerary may include a hike across the Exit Glacier in the Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska, White House officials said Friday.

The visit to the glacier, which has experienced significant melting in recent years, fits in with the broader purpose of Obama’s visit: to highlight the ways in which climate change is affecting individuals, communities and the American economy. The National Park is a vital pillar of the Alaskan economy by way of tourism, and climate change threatens to derail the stream of visitors the Park sees every year.

The trip is the latest in a long line of recent Obama initiatives to battle climate change, including his endorsement of solar energy and a new Clean Power Plan that aims at a 32% cut in carbon emissions by 2030.

As part of the three-day trip, Obama will deliver a keynote address at an international conference about climate change in the Arctics and interact with local fishermen in Dillingham, a major hub of the salmon industry. The President will also survey impacts of global warming on Alaskan ice sheets from onboard a coastguard ship.

The trip, which comes a week after Obama approved an Arctic drilling project, has been called hypocritical by climate change groups. However, the White House specified that the President will not be meeting any Shell oil executives while in Alaska.

 

TIME climate change

Sea Levels Are 3 Inches Higher Than They Were in 1992

Stormy ocean water
Getty Images

"It's very likely to get worse in the future."

A panel of NASA scientists said Wednesday that new data shows sea levels are, on average, three inches higher than they were in 1992 due to melting ice from both mountain glaciers and the polar ice caps, as well as warmer oceans.

The data was collected from NASA satellites. NASA also released a video that shows a visualization of rising sea levels.

The changes are concerning and “it’s very likely to get worse in the future,” Steve Nerem, a University of Colorado geophysicist and a member of the panel, said in a conference call, Reuters reported. In 2013, a United Nations panel reported sea levels were projected to rise between 1 and 3 feet by 2100; the NASA panel said data indicates the level rise would be on the higher end of that projection.

The sea level change is an average; in some areas, sea levels rose more than 9 inches, and in others—such as along the West Coast, sea levels are falling.

Scientists warn that we haven’t seen the worst of it yet; ocean currents and weather cycles have actually offset some sea level changes in the Pacific, which means the West Coast could see a huge jump in sea levels in the next 20 years.

The panel warned that forecasting the melting rate of the polar ice caps is nearly impossible. And even if the pattern were to stall and reverse, it would take centuries to return to original pre-climate change levels.

 

TIME recycling

Got a Great Recycling Idea? H&M Wants To Give You 1 Million Euros

Shoppers And Retail Economy As German Investor Confidence Jumps
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

H&M's chief exec: 'No company, fast-fashion or not, can continue exactly like today'

The world’s second largest fashion retailer, H&M, is offering an annual 1 million euro prize — about $1.15 million — to those who come up with new recycling techniques, Reuters reports.

The move is part of a larger effort by the retailer to reduce its impact on the environment, operate more ethically, and address raw material shortages.

The fast-fashion model that H&M follows, providing good quality products at inexpensive prices, encourages people to buy more clothes than they probably need, likely leading them to throw away a lot of what they’ve purchased. Consumers are starting to become aware of the huge negative impact this has on the environment.

Karl-Johan Persson, Chief Executive of H&M, told Reuters: “No company, fast-fashion or not, can continue exactly like today. The (prize’s) largest potential lies with finding new technology that means we can recycle the fibers with unchanged quality.”

Existing methods of recycling cotton produce low quality material.

The prize is funded by H&M and the Persson family, the retailer’s main owners.

TIME animals

Massive ‘Mortality Event’ Kills 30 Whales in Alaska

30 whales have died along the western Gulf of Alaska since May—a historic high

Scientists are deeply troubled and puzzled by the sudden deaths of 30 large whales that washed up on the coast of Alaska, calling the incident an “unusual mortality event.”

“While we do not yet know the cause of these strandings, our investigations will give us important information on the health of whales and the ecosystems where they live,” Dr. Teri Rowles, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ marine mammal health and stranding response coordinator, said in a statement. “Members of the public can greatly assist the investigation by immediately reporting any sightings of dead whales or distressed live animals they discover.”

The deaths of the whales—which include 11 fin whales, 14 humpback whales, one gray whale, and four unidentified others—are strange: the rate is nearly three times the historical average. NOAA’s declaration of the situation as an “unusual mortality event” will allow the agency to partner with federal, state, and tribal agencies to coordinate a response plan.

Residents are urged to report stranded whales using a special site established by NOAA Fisheries.

 

 

TIME Environment

The Strange Cause of Air Pollution Decline in the Middle East

Tehran streets pollution
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The Arab Spring contributed to a decline in air pollution, according to new research

The Arab Spring may have brought a literal breath of fresh air to the Middle East, according to new research.

Instability in the Middle East in 2010-11 can be linked to a decline in air pollution, reports a study published in the journal Science Advances. The findings suggest that short-term societal changes can disrupt climate trends years in the making.

Levels of nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas produced by car engines and power plants than can contribute to climate change, grew rapidly in cities like Damascus, Aleppo, Tehran and Cairo in the early years of the 2000s until they experienced a drop-off around the beginning of the following decade. The onset of unrest caused an economic impact that led to the decline, researchers say.

“The Middle East is a region that catches a lot of attention with political problems and upheaval and armed conflict,” said Jos Lelieveld, study author and professor at the Max Planck Institute of Chemistry, on a conference call for journalists. “We find the geopolitics and armed conflict in the Middle East has really drastically altered air pollution emissions.”

Read more: Here’s Where to Buy a House In the U.S. That Will Be Resilient to Climate Change

Researchers used satellite data to track how nitrogen dioxide emissions changed over time in the Middle East. Using that data, they evaluated nitrogen dioxide levels in conjunction with different policies and societal changes occurring at the time.

In Cairo, for instance, nitrogen dioxide emissions had grown at a rate between 5% and 7% per year in the five years up to 2010. The Egyptian Revolution that year brought with it fuel shortages and household economic problems that drove down levels of nitrogen dioxide, said Lelieveld. In Tehran, the decline in emissions was triggered as the United Nations tightened sanctions in 2010.

The researchers note some exceptions to the trend. Nitrogen dioxide levels declined in Riyadh despite relative stability in Saudi Arabia. Lelieveld attributed the decline to air quality legislation aimed at reducing pollution.

The findings suggest that it may be difficult to accurately project the human impact on climate change and the environment without considering unexpected short-term societal changes. The findings of the research were not predicted by past emissions scenarios, according to the study. “If you could predict crises that would be great, but crisis is invariably unpredictable,” said Lelieveld.

The study adds to research showing the link between air pollution and economy growth. Recent research showed that the 2008 economic collapse and the subsequent recession contributed to a decline in carbon emissions in the United States.

Read next: EPA Proposes New Rules to Cut Climate Change-Causing Methane Emissions

Listen to the most important stories of the day

TIME China

Thousands of Dead Fish Wash Up on Tianjin’s Shores, a Week After the Blasts

But Chinese officials say they found no toxic levels of cyanide in the water

Thousands of dead fish have washed up on the shores of the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, eight days after a series of deadly explosions at a warehouse killed at least 114 people, injured hundreds more, and left 69 people, mainly firefighters, still missing.

Photos shared on social media have racked up thousands of views since Thursday and show large numbers of dead fish gathered on the banks of the Haihe River, about 4 miles from the blast site, reports the state-run newspaper China Daily.

The huge die-off of fish has led residents to worry that toxic chemicals from the blast could have contaminated the waters around the city — the world’s 10th largest port.

Chinese authorities have confirmed that the warehouse at the center of the blast stored about 40 different hazardous chemicals — among them were 700 tons of highly toxic sodium cyanide, the New York Times reports.

But local environmental officials said they found no toxic levels of cyanide in the water where the dead fish appeared, although they were still investigating the precise cause of the mass deaths.

Den Xiaowen, director of the Tianjin Environmental Monitoring Center, said it was not unusual to see large quantities of dead fish in summer.

“When the temperature rises, oxygen will evaporate and fish may die of hypoxia,” he said at a press conference Thursday.

Authorities announced Thursday that eight out of 42 water-quality monitoring sites set up around the blast zone detected excessive levels of cyanide, with one site exceeding 356 times the normal level. Cleanup teams have set up quarantined zones to block the cyanide-tainted water and were still working to decontaminate the area, reports the state-linked Global Times.

TIME weather

Watch This Hypnotizing Video of Rare Twin Typhoons in the Pacific

Two simultaneous typhoons have been observed for the first time since October, 1997

Prepare to be enthralled: a Japanese satellite has captured twin typhoons—that’s Goni on the left, Atsani on the right—swirling simultaneously for the first time since October, 1997.

The stunning images come courtesy of Japan’s new weather satellite, the Himawari-8, currently coasting about 22,000 miles above the Pacific. The video is able to capture the typhoon’s movement especially well because the Himawari-8 is snapping photos every ten minutes. U.S. weather satellites take shots every three hours, and at half the resolution.

The twin typhoons are a weather oddity—it’s the first time in about 18 years that twin typhoons have been observed. Incidentally, 1997 is known for hosting a particularly strong El Niño (we’re in the middle of another El Niño now), which tends to lead to typhoons in the central Pacific, according to Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist who writes for Slate. The stronger storms lead to stronger El Niño effects, leading to “a feedback loop of sorts,” Holthaus writes.

Goni might make landfall near the Philippines, Taiwan, or Japan over the next week or so. Atsani is so far not expected to affect any country.

TIME Environment

This Is Where The World’s First Entirely Solar-Powered Airport Has Been Unveiled

Over the next 25 years, the new power system is expected to save 300,000 tons of carbon emissions, the equivalent of planting three million trees

Cochin International Airport in the southern Indian state of Kerala became the world’s first entirely solar-powered airport on Tuesday, unveiling a new system that will make the airport “absolutely power neutral,” according to a statement released by the parent company.

The airport’s solar power plant, which is comprised of more than 46,000 solar panels arrayed across 45 acres of land, will produce 48,000 units of energy per day, the Economic Times reports.

Cochin International had already begun the transition to renewable energy when it installed a smaller solar power array on its arrivals terminal roof in March 2013, but the move to total solar power is still considered a significant step, as the airport has still relied partly on non-renewable power in the intervening years. The new system is designed to work with the smaller array from 2013 to fully meet the facility’s day-to-day energy needs.

Still, the system’s true impact will become clear only over time. Over the next 25 years, Cochin International’s solar power station is expected to save 300,000 tons worth of carbon emissions. That’s the equivalent of planting three million trees or not driving 750 million miles.

[Economic Times]

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton Says She Opposes Arctic Drilling in Break With Obama

hillary clinton
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, pauses while speaking during the annual Democratic Wing Ding in Clear Lake, Iowa, on Aug. 14, 2015.

"Given what we know, it’s not worth the risk"

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton declared her opposition to oil and gas drilling in the Arctic on Tuesday, a day after a federal agency gave Shell final approval to begin drilling there. The move marks a significant break with the Obama administration and an attempt by Clinton to bolster her environmental credentials.

“The Arctic is a unique treasure,” Clinton wrote on Twitter. “Given what we know, it’s not worth the risk.”

The final approval to begin drilling announced by the Department of the Interior yesterday clears Shell to drill into the Arctic ocean floor for the first time since 1991. Advocates of drilling say that opening the Arctic will be a tremendous boon to domestic oil production. In total, official estimates suggest that the Arctic seafloor contains more than 25 billion barrels of oil.

But environmentalists say that any drilling leaves a precious area vulnerable to devastating oil spills and increases reliance on oil, which in turn contributes to climate change. With this in mind, Clinton’s announcement drew quick praise and a sign of relief from environmental groups, many of which have remained skeptical of Clinton’s environmental bona fides due to her reluctance to criticize a Keystone XL pipeline.

“We applaud Secretary Clinton for standing up for what science, the will of the American people and common sense demand,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune in a statement.

Clinton has made addressing climate change an early focus of her campaign. Last month, she proposed the installation of 500 million solar panels and called for the U.S. to produce 33% of the its electricity from renewable sources by 2027.

“The reality of climate change is unforgiving no matter what the deniers say,” Clinton said at the time.

 

 

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