Category Archives: Environment

Climate: The Empire State Building’s Green Upgrade

Energy usage by large, old buildings like the Empire State Building represents a huge obstacle to cities’ dreams of carbon neutrality. New York City’s buildings account for 70% of its carbon emissions, for example, and half of those emissions are produced by the largest 5% of its structures. But retrofitting old buildings to make them more energy efficient represents a formidable challenge, both from an engineering perspective and in terms of convincing owners that doing so is in their financial interest.

Analysis: 5 Technologies Fighting Climate Change

With global temperatures rising the threat of a climate crisis has never been closer. From carbon capture to driverless cars, these cutting-edge technologies have the promise to help us fight the impending climate crisis.

Climate Views: Rising High Water Levels In Kenya’s Great Rift Valley (Video)

In Kenya’s Rift Valley, climate change has brought an unprecedented increase in annual rainfall over the past several years, drowning pastureland, farms, homes, schools, churches, clinics and businesses.

The Great Rift Valley is part of an intra-continental ridge system that runs through Kenya from north to south. It is part of the Gregory Rift, the eastern branch of the East African Rift, which starts in Tanzania to the south and continues northward into Ethiopia.[1] It was formed on the “Kenyan Dome” a geographical upwelling created by the interactions of three major tectonics: the Arabian, Nubian, and Somalian plates.[2] In the past, it was seen as part of a “Great Rift Valley” that ran from Madagascar to Syria. Most of the valley falls within the former Rift Valley Province.

Analysis: The High Costs Of Air Pollution In The U.S.

Air pollution still remains one of the key environmental issues in the United States. Although it has seen incredible improvement since the 1970s, more than 4 in 10 Americans are still estimated to live in counties with poor air quality. Every year, air pollution kills more than 6 million people worldwide from heart attacks, stroke and diabetes. So just how clean is the air we breathe in the U.S.?

Earth Day – April 22, 2021: ‘Our Planet, Our Home’

NASA Earth science studies our planet all day, every day. By tracking the movement of our natural systems – and the effect of human activity on them – we can understand the patterns, causes and results of climate change on the elemental activities that sustain us.

On Earth Day, April 22, we take time to celebrate this wondrous planet with special discussions, events (virtual) and activities. Like our satellites, however, NASA’s Earth science goes on year-round, and we continuously create videos, activities, news and more to tell the story of what’s happening on and with our planet – and all always offered free and open to the public.

For the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day in 2020, NASA created a special package of materials designed to mark Earth Day at Home. This included activities, videos, special programs and other materials in English and Spanish. You can find them all archived here.

Analysis: The Global Race To Produce ‘Lithium’ (WSJ)

Demand for lithium is expected to outpace global supply as consumers switch to battery-powered vehicles. With China currently leading in processing of the vital raw material, the U.S. government is looking to boost domestic production. Photo illustration: Carlos Waters/WSJ

Conservation: ‘Tides Of Trash’ In The Maldives

Thilafushi, an island of floating rubbish island in the Maldives, grows by a square meter a day. But diving instructor Shaahina Ali is trying to slow that growth by recycling and using floating barriers to hold back the rising seas.

For decades, the Maldives simply dumped the trash the tourists and the island country’s 400 thousand residents generated. Yet Shaahina Ali says that has to stop. Almost every day, the diving instructor and her allies go from island to island in the Indian Ocean. Working with an environmental organization, they have obtained trash compactors that make plastic waste transportable, allowing it to be shipped abroad for recycling. Ali also advocates avoiding disposable plastic. She gives lectures, advises hotel managers and even bends the ear of the Maldives’ president himself.

When she has time, Shaahina Ali goes scuba diving. Beneath the waves she sees environmental degradation – dying corals and fish caught up in plastic waste. She says, “We can’t afford to address just one problem. We’ve got to take care of everything at once because everything is connected to the sea.” But the island paradise is not only threatened by rubbish. Climate change is also causing the sea levels to rise, and the Maldives are at risk of sinking beneath the water.

That’s why conservationists are using floating barriers made of recycled plastic to help prevent flooding. In addition to the environmental group “Parley for the Oceans,” Ali has also won politicians to her cause. Last year saw a democratic change of government in the Maldives. “The new government no longer views environmentalists as annoying troublemakers. They see us as partners instead,” Ali says. But those trying to save the island are in a race against time. “If we don’t succeed,” says Shaahina Ali, “far more than a vacation paradise will be lost. We will lose our homeland.”

Analysis: Global Battles For ‘Water’ – A Necessity Or Commodity? (Video)

Water is fundamental to life, yet it’s also a scarce commodity. In many cases, greed and mismanagement are causing this life-giving essential to run dry. What happens when water is monetized? From Australia to California, from New York to London and Brussels, this investigative documentary tells the story of the global struggle over water.

Following rushes to secure gold and oil, the age of the water rush is now here. As well as growing populations and expanding agriculture, there are the problems of environmental degradation and climate change. Global demand for water is skyrocketing. By 2050, at least one in four people will live in a country with a chronic water shortage. The situation has awakened the greed of giant financial institutions, which are going on the offensive, investing billions in the sector. Goldman Sachs, HSBC, UBS, Allianz, Deutsche Bank and BNP are among those pouncing on the commodity known as “blue gold.”

But can fresh water really be considered a commodity on par with oil, coal or wheat? Should the players in these markets – banks and investment funds – be allowed to bet on the value of water? Will concern for profits undermine water’s essential function? Or should this precious resource be declared off-limits to financial speculators? A battle has broken out between those who advocate the monetization of water, and those who defend it as a human right. It’s a battle being fought on many fronts: ideological, political, environmental and, of course, economic. And the fate of the nearly ten billion inhabitants of our planet hinges on its outcome.

Documentary: ‘Fukushima – The Age Of Radioactivity’

The USS Ronald Reagan cruised into a radioactive cloud from the Fukushima nuclear power plant in March 2011. Sailors on the aircraft carrier were exposed to radiation. This documentary looks at the event and what came before it. The discovery of the atom and radioactivity are among the most important advances in 20th Century science. This film provides a comprehensive, historical examination of a century of radioactivity. At the same time it remembers the victims – from the Curies to Fukushima.

The film-makers visit Japanese families who sued Tepco, the operator of the Fukushima reactor, after their children developed thyroid cancer following the tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster. Sent to help tsunami victims, sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan give detailed accounts of what happened on board the carrier. Radiation victims on both sides of the Pacific recount their difficulties in getting information. The film also introduces others harmed by industrial and military secrecy over the issue. Among them are fishermen and veterans exposed to radiation during the nuclear bomb tests on Bikini Atoll, Hiroshima survivors and young women who worked with radium in US factories in the 1920s. Radioactivity is invisible and odorless, yet very harmful to life. A Japanese doctor tells viewers how radioactivity affects the human body, why it causes cancer, and what can be done to shield people against it.