About two-thirds of the world's population faces water scarcity for at least one month during the year.
According to researchers, severe water scarcity happens when consumption is twice as high as available resources. There are three primary ways to off-set this problem (i) increase reliance on rain-fed rather than irrigated agriculture; (ii) improve efficiency of water usage; and (iii) share what's available. Identify which of the three solutions would most likely work in your community and describe why OR propose a new solution to the problem which could more easily be implemented in your community.
Satellite measurements track burned gas by country as policy makers seek to reduce emissions
Flaring is common in oil and gas fields because producers deem it faster and cheaper to burn natural gas than to capture and use it, typically because they lack pipelines to economically transport the gas to market. If "flaring" wastes 3.5% of the world's natural gas, what can be done to stop it?
VIDEO: This short video describes the plight of starving sea lion pups that have washed up on California Beaches.
The majority of sea lions in California give birth on the Channel Islands, off the Southern California coast, where food sources are normally plentiful. But due to rising sea water temperatures off the Pacific Coast, mothers are forced to leave their pups for up to eight days days in search of the sardines, market squid and anchovies that are moving further north. As a result, pups that should be gaining 20-40 pounds in a two month period are only gaining 2 pounds. Out of desperation, these underweight and starving pups are washing up on California Beaches. Explain why scientists say an El Nino weather pattern is to blame and whether this crisis will have an effect on the sea-lion population.
What connects Earth's largest, hottest desert to its largest tropical rain forest?
Did you know that Saharan sands get carried across the ocean from one of the planet's most desolate places to one of its most fertile? This trans-continental journey of dust is important because it spreads phosphorus -- an essential nutrient for plat proteins to grow -- a nutrient upon which the Amazon rain forest depends. According to this study, there is a high variable in the amounts of dust transported, year to year due to a variety of changes in the climate, such as amounts of wind and rainfall. In thinking about this study, how do you think other types of aerosols, like smoke from fires, bacteria, fungi, pollen or spores are likely to follow a similar path? Explain.
After almost a century of American cultural and commercial hegemony, it is the American school of thought that predominates in OECD countries, if not the world?
Inequality and today's other global challenges, like sustainability, climate change, economic stability and peace are linked in a vicious web by the conflicting values of our individual need for well-being and our institutional promotion of consumption and growth. Solving them will mean addressing the gap between citizenship and consumerism. Luxury - the most emotional of industries - bridges that gap. Is the American Dream of achieving a luxurious lifestyle becoming the world's dream? What role does ethical consumerism play in this value-creation?
The rate of deposition of reactive nitrogen from the atmosphere to the open ocean has more than doubled globally over the last 100 years.
Until now, researchers had assumed that the man-induced increase in nitrogen build-up in the oceans via the atmosphere was too small to be detected. But the results of this study indicate the rate of deposition has more than doubled globally. While researchers can only speculate about the consequences of such a build-up of reactive nitrogen in the ocean, what governing body do you think should be responsible for regulating these emissions?
The coming global boom in wind power will be driven largely by China's rebounding wind energy market.
Up to one fifth of the world’s electricity supply could come from wind turbines by 2030, according to this new report. But as the report’s authors note, there is still substantial uncertainty in the market. Wind energy is government-backed, which means that the more that's produced, the more it costs taxpayers. According to this article, U.S. states with the largest use of wind power also have the highest electricity bills. How do you propose to balance the "environmental costs" of energy products like oil and natural gas against the "economic costs" of clean energy?
Nuclear power: the energy crisis has even die-hard environmentalists reconsidering it. In this first-ever TED debate, Stewart Brand and Mark Z. Jacobson square off over the pros and cons. A discussion that'll make you think -- and might even change your mind.
Have you ever wondered why so many former opponents of nuclear power are switching sides and are now advocating for nuclear power plant construction with the same passion they once devoted to fully abandoning this controversial technology? Listen to this debate and see whether you agree with Stewart Brand, an environmentalist and futurist or if you agree with Mark Z. Jacobson, a civil and environmental engineer. Identify specific reasons for your support of their opinion with one or more quotes from their debate. NOTE: This debate took place in 2010, consider what political and economic events may have taken place sine then that could have changed this conversation.
Nuclear power is slowly going out of style. Back in 1996, atomic energy supplied 17.6 percent of the world's electricity. Today that's down to just 10.8 percent — and it could drop even further in the years ahead.
The United States still generates more electricity from nuclear power than any country in the world — about twice as much as France. However, the proportion of energy that the world gets from carbon-free sources has stagnated since 1999 — in part because of the nuclear industry's struggles. Now the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that reducing emissions will be significantly more expensive if nuclear power's not available. This article suggests we'd need to build 400 reactors between now and 2059 just to maintain existing capacity. Do you agree with that statement? Why / Why not?
The issue of feeding billions of people on a warming planet—along with related concerns such as food waste, water usage and greenhouse gas emissions—continues to be explored. Today, two billion people around the globe eat insects. Major areas of consumption include Latin America, Southeast Asia and Central Africa. As new ways are examined to feed a rapidly expanding global population, and with a minimal environmental impact, will entomophagy—the consumption of insects as food—be taken seriously in other parts of the world?
Long referred to as the “people of the forest,” orangutans are losing ground -- and food -- quickly in their Bornean forest patches. A new study found that palm oil plantations are not only taking away critical orangutan habitat -- they’re also causing them to starve.
Whenever a forest occupied by orangutans is converted to a plantation (not only for palms, but also for paper pulp – acacias, eucalyptus – or some timber species), we can expect conflicts to happen. Palm oil, an ingredient in nearly half of all packaged products in the U.S., and is usually produced on large plantations of oil palm trees. Growing these plants involves clearing the forest that was once there, often jeopardizing the habitat of wildlife like orangutans, rhinos and tigers. Ironically, the popularity of palm oil was driven, in part, by consumer pressure on the food industry to switch to trans-fat-free alternatives to partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. While traceable and sustainable palm oil comes at a higher price, the impact on profit margins would be minimal and this cost is dwarfed when compared to the longer-lasting effects of negative brand image. For example, if just 1% of Kellogg’s consumers were to stop buying its products, company sales could fall by US$200 million. How powerful do you think consumers are (or are not) when it comes to pressuring the food industry to better source it's ingredients? Can consumers save the orangutan populations?
This is the world’s largest jellyfish, with a bell that reaches a staggering 8 feet wide and tentacles that grow to 120 feet long, far longer than a blue whale. And this monster is really, really loving the whole global warming thing, conquering more and more of Earth's oceans in massive blooms. So please, if you will, welcome our new giant gelatinous overlords.
Populations of jelly fish seem to be exploding in the world's oceans. Though data on exact population sizes of jellies is scare, it appears the warmer waters are stimulating their reproduction. What do you think will happen if this trend continues? What will the impact be on biodiversity?
To get a sense of how ridiculous carbon pollution has become, going back in time gives some perspective. So, let’s time-travel. The World Resources Institute just updated its compendium of historical carbon dioxide emissions for each country in the world to include 2011. More interestingly, the group has extended the...
The world’s top 12 emitters are now China, the United States, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Iran, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. The continuing acceleration in global CO2 emissions leads to some crazy numbers: Over the past 10 years, the world has emitted more CO2 than it did from the entire period since the start of the Industrial Revolution up to about 1970. For the world to get a grip on fossil fuels, we’ll have to address the long trajectory of industrial development. The United Kingdom still emits about 70 percent more CO2 per person than China does. The world needs cheap sources of energy, but the current price of coal doesn’t factor in its dirty legacy and tremendous impact on human health and the environment. What are some energy alternatives to coal? Are they scalable?
Global warming caused by fossil fuel emissions is blamed by scientists for intensifying storms, raising sea levels and prolonging droughts. Now there’s growing evidence of a positive effect: we may have delayed the next ice age by 100,000 years or more.
A new study, published in Nature, suggests global warming caused by fossil fuel emissions is intensifying storms, raising sea levels and prolonging droughts. Levels of CO2 have risen to about 400 parts per million now from 280 parts per million before the Industrial Revolution. The authors signaled that if the concentration had been 240 parts per million at the time, the onset of a new ice age may have been triggered, and that farming practices before industrialization may have saved us from crossing that threshold. Describe why farming practices have such a significant impact on climate change.
New research suggests farms in developed countries may be more vulnerable to longer, deeper droughts predicted to occur as a result of climate change.
In the developed countries, droughts cut yields by an average of nearly 20 per cent. Whereas Asia experiences a drop of over 12 per cent, in Africa slightly more than nine per cent and in Latin America, droughts had no significant impact at all. Based on some scientific conclusions, describe why crop diversity provides resilience to drought?
In Thailand, environmentalists fighting toxic dumping and coal-fired power plants have an unfortunate tendency to turn up dead. The perpetrators are often $500 hit men assumed to be linked to local business interests.
Last year Global Witness group reported more than 900 environmental activists had been slain in 35 countries over the past decade. Reportedly, there were nearly three times as many death in 2012 than the 10 years previously. Many of those facing threats are ordinary people opposing land grabs, mining operations and the industrial timber trade, while others have been killed for protests over hydroelectric dams, pollution and wildlife conservation. Female environmental activists tend to experience higher levels of harassment for their work, and also have less support. This is a complex issue, particularly for indigenous communities where the people are often marginalized by society. One solution has been to introduce the Environmental Justice Atlas, an online map and database of stories of more than 1,000 ongoing environmental conflicts that users can search by commodity, country or company. If governments obligated companies to disclose their environmental impacts, would it decrease the violence? Why / Why not?
Fish are an important source of food for billions of people worldwide and a solution to the problem is not to eat less fish, but to choose fish lower in mercury, as the EPA and FDA jointly recommend.
Ever hear the expression "dilution is the solution to pollution?" This describes a [false] perception that the open ocean could not easily be affected by industrial pollution. Yet over the past 50 years, mercury levels in Pacific yellowfin tuna (or Ahi tuna) has been increasing at 3.8% per year -- and mercury levels in ocean water have been increasing globally. It has taken many years and many careers to understand how natural or man-made sources -- such as coal-burning power plants -- can travel as a gas many times around the globe before falling with rain, snow, or dust. Being that the average mercury level in Ahi tuna is approaching an unsafe level, one of the recommendations at the end of this article is to eat fish with lower levels of mercury, but is that a good solution? Why / Why not?
With the Earth warming at a rate 10 times faster than the heat-up after the last ice age, scientists are looking at anything they can use to stop climate change.
The amount of carbon in the atmosphere has been rising steadily since the Industrial Revolution, and it’s clear that humans need to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Today there are a slew of ideas for geoengineering the planet. Find the idea in this article that is most interesting to you and defend how geoengineering — harnessing Earth’s natural systems for planet-wide change — could one day be the last chance to save the human race.
Many factors influence the climate but perhaps the single most important is carbon dioxide (CO₂) because it absorbs infra-red heat at a constant rate and at a higher rate than nitrogen and oxygen.
According to scientists, cutting carbon-dioxide emissions is an essential part of reducing catastrophic risks from climate change. So far the world's governments have issued hundreds of policies for tackling climate change. When considering the many different methods of reduction, which do you think could have the biggest impact?
Deforestation has destroyed much of the region’s habitat for fruit bats – and put these Ebola carriers into more contact with people
Not only is deforestation destroying animal habitats, depriving indigenous peoples of their traditional livelihoods and contributing to climate change, scientists now believe it might have a role in this year’s outbreak of Ebola. Once blanketed with forests, West Africa has been skinned alive over the last decade. Guinea’s rainforests have been reduced by 80%, while Liberia has sold logging rights to over half its forests. Within the next few years Sierra Leone is on track to be completely deforested. This matters because those forests were habitat for fruit bats, Ebola’s reservoir host. With their homes cut down around them, the bats are concentrating into the remnants of their once-abundant habitat. At the same time, mining has become big business in the region, employing thousands of workers who regularly travel into bat territory to get to the mines. If West Africa’s forests were harvested in a more sustainable manner and its wildlife monitored for health, do you think we could have prevented Ebola from jumping into the human population? Why / Why not?
Mandating the reduction of carbon emissions could result in the increasing use of nuclear energy. Is that good?
Electricity generation accounts for 40 percent of the USA’s carbon emissions, much of which is the result of burning coal. By contrast, nuclear energy now makes up 19 percent of the nation’s electricity portfolio, contributing almost no carbon pollution in the process. As the coal portfolio wanes, the main choices are hydro, wind and solar as well as nuclear and natural gas fuels. By all accounts, natural gas is the path of least resistance because it is abundant and presently just as cheap as coal. Natural gas is also relatively less problematic to get those plants permitted and built than it is a nuclear unit. On top of all that, the building of nuclear plants is expensive -- currently the US is looking to build two more units with the total price tag estimated at $14 billion. Do you think the Obama administration’s executive order to reduce carbon will increase nuclear energy reliance? Do you think it behooves the USA to rely on nuclear energy? Why / Why not?
The rate of warming air temperature in Hawaii has quadrupled in the last 40 years at the same time, declining precipitation trends have caused a decrease in stream base flow. Sea surface temperatures have warmed and the sea level has risen. The Hawaiian Islands represent a wide diversity of ecosystems and environments which are profoundly affected climate change. What do you think the United States government should do about these many changes, if anything?
Just four wastewater wells were responsible for over 100 quakes, a new study finds
What is FRACKING? It's the practice of pumping wastewater from natural gas drilling sites into wells buried deep underground. Though hydraulic fracturing for gas itself cannot be directly linked to increased seismic activity, the injection of wastewater from drilling at disposal sites creates fluid pressure below the surface that can trigger earthquakes of magnitude 3 or higher. As a result, like Ohio, Colorado, Texas and Kansas, Oklahoma has an earthquake problem, so much so that it’s bypassed California as America’s most seismically active state. Just this year, Oklahoma experienced 240 quakes measuring 3.0 or higher in magnitude. It also had up to 1.6 million barrels a month of fracking waste pumped into disposal wells. Due to fracking, the U.S. has become the top oil and gas producer in the world, eclipsing Russia and Saudi Arabia, and diminishing the USA's heavy reliance on the rest of the world (especially the Middle East) for energy. If the practice of fracking satisfies 84% of our energy demand, then how do you propose we balance the political and environmental impacts of this practice?
Five countries dominate the global consumption of coal. China, the U.S., India, Russia and Japan are the world’s biggest coal burners. In recent years, the growth in coal consumption of developing countries, especially China and India, has overtaken growth in developed nations like the U.S.
Each year China consumes almost as much coal as the rest of the world combined. Its dominance of the coal market is not expected to slacken anytime soon, despite tougher domestic policies aimed at reducing Chinese coal dependence. In a recent report, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast that China would account for 60 percent of new global demand for coal over the next five years. Even if the USA meets its goal, and greenhouse gas emissions are cut by 30 percent in the U.S. by 2030, the world’s air won't be significantly cleaner. What steps need to be taken to help reduce coal consumption across the globe, and especially in China?
Boyan Slat, founder and president The Ocean Cleanup "I have invented a method to clean up almost half of the great Pacific's garbage patch in just 10 years, ...
19-year-old Boyan Slat combines environmentalism, entrepreneurism and technology to tackle global issues of sustainability.
After diving in Greece, frustrated by coming across more plastic bags than fish, he wondered; why can't we clean this up? While still being on secondary school, he then decided to dedicate half a year of research to understand the plastic pollution and the problems associated with cleaning it up. This ultimately led to the passive clean-up concept, which he presented at TEDxDelft 2012.
Working to prove the feasibility of his concept, Boyan Slat currently gives lead to a team of about 100 people, and temporarily quit his Aerospace Engineering study to completely focus his efforts on The Ocean Cleanup. Do you think quitting school is the right thing for Boyan to do? Why / Why not?
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