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The Broadband Factor: How Connectivity Expands Economic and Community Development | Huffington Post Blog

The Broadband Factor: How Connectivity Expands Economic and Community Development | Huffington Post Blog | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The small, green island of Mfangano sits just off the Kenyan shore of Lake Victoria. A traditional fishing community, Mfangano is not what most would consider hotspot of technology: most of the island's 26,000 residents live close to the water and either walk or pilot small, handmade wooden boats to get around. The first time a car drove the island's single dirt loop was in 2007.

 

Internet access, readily and affordably available in the nearby regional capital of Kisumu, remains limited. Cellular providers have avoided building towers on Mfangano due to the unique challenges of building long links over water, as well as issues surrounding securing a building site on an island with hilltops some consider sacred. Instead, islanders rely on distant mainland cell towers for their data service, resulting in slow, unstable connections that continually drop out.

 

Mfangano is also home to Organic Health Response (OHR), a small Kenyan NGO focused on delivering HIV/AIDS-related social services to the community. As Kenya's Suba district has one of the highest HIV infection rates on the planet, estimated at over 30%, community participation in regular testing programs is critical for OHR's success. In an early effort to discover incentives for enrollment, Chas Salmen, OHR's director and founder, held gatherings to understand the issues Mfangano Islanders felt were most important. One thing kept coming up over and over again: "We want Internet."

 

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U.S. Military Is Saving Lives By Allying With Clean Energy Developers | Ken Silverstein | Forbes.com

The New Energy Economy is boasting an old ally — the U.S. military, which is increasingly employing renewable energies and high technologies. With the U.S. armed forces moving in, the question then becomes how such a market place will unfold and who will be the major players in it.


The U.S. Department of Defense is modernizing its military bases both domestically and around the world because it is saving lives, and money. Because it must remain on its toes, the military is continually moving generators and fossil fuels — resources that can run low and endanger the well-being of existing operations. By carrying sustainable sources of power with them, soldiers are reducing their risks while also cutting their emissions.


“When we think about power, we can’t have a short power interruption or a cyber hack,” says Mark Russell, vice president for technology at defense contractor Raytheon Co., in an interview. “We need to be able to operate off the grid.”


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MA: Kinder Morgan's misinformation campaign | Kathryn Eiseman | CommonWealth Magazine

IF YOU WATCH TELEVISION — in any of several New England markets — you’ve probably noticed the ads trying to link support for renewable energy with support for new gas pipelines.

Featuring bona fide New Englanders smiling in the wind and sunshine, these ads are from the Coalition to Lower Energy Costs, a group partially funded by Kinder Morgan and orchestrated by Tony Buxton, lobbyist and lawyer for Kinder Morgan’s Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company. The ad perpetuates the notion that renewables need to be complemented by natural gas, even though grid-scale energy storage – already being implemented in California, Maine, and elsewhere – can address the intermittent nature of wind and solar energy without expanding gas infrastructure.

This ad also features a vague graph coupled with incongruous verbal statements, resulting in a misleading impression about greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the carbon dioxide released by burning gas is about two-thirds of that released from oil combustion, not half, as depicted in the graph. This still does not give a full picture, because the methane released in natural gas production, transportation, and distribution is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Pipeline proponents are clearly banking on the time-tested PR tactic that if you repeat anything often enough, people will come to believe it.


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Intel to Invest $50 Million in Quantum Computers | Don Clark | WSJ.com

Intel Corp. is joining the race to develop quantum computers, a long-discussed break from conventional electronics aimed at solving problems that are far beyond the reach of today’s hardware.

The chip giant said it is investing $50 million as part of a 10-year collaboration with QuTech, an institute in the Netherlands formed in 2013 by Delft University of Technology and the Dutch Organization for Applied Research. Intel also plans to provide its own engineering resources to accelerate advancements in the field.

Scientists have been trying to apply quantum physics to computing for decades, with researchers at companies such as International Business Machines Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc. also actively working in the field.

The term quantum refers to the unusual properties of matter at the subatomic scale, which may only be observable when materials are cooled to temperatures approaching absolute zero, or minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit.


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Koleliba: The tiny vacation home on wheels | Adam Williams | GizMag.com

Koleliba: The tiny vacation home on wheels | Adam Williams | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Bulgarian architect Hristina Hristova wanted to be able to take her young family on vacation without staying in hotel resorts or buying an expensive and immovable holiday home. After giving it some thought, a plan was hatched to build the Koleliba: a coined term which she translates as "tiny house with wheels."

The trailer-based Koleliba measures just 2.3 x 7 m (7.5 x 22 ft), and is 2.4 m (7.9 ft) at its highest point. There's only a total of 9 sq m (96 sq ft) of floor space available inside, so space is obviously tight, but it's definitely a workable vacation home for a small family. The well-stocked interior includes a sofa bed, an oven and fridge/freezer, a boiler, a toilet, and a kitchenette.

As this veteran of camping in a small van for days at a time can attest, a semi-outdoor living area can make life much easier. With this in mind, Hristova sensibly added a removable awning/canopy, a small decking area, and a collapsible bench and outdoor kitchen setup for cooking outside.


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Barn meets loft in savvy energy positive home design | Stu Robarts | GizMag.com

Barn meets loft in savvy energy positive home design | Stu Robarts | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Inspired by the New England barn and the New York loft, Architect Paul Lukez has penned a cleverly compact home design that uses natural ventilation, "super insulation" and passive and active solar systems to minimize energy use.

The 2,000 sq ft (186 sq m) Solar Barn Loft uses overhangs and openings on the southern façade to minimize solar heat gain in the summer and maximize it during the winter. Deciduous trees block the summer sun, but allow winter light through. A large patio bounces light upward towards the underside of the south-facing eve, which itself is reflective and helps to light the house naturally. Heat, meanwhile, is not reflected.


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Multi-use community center makes the most of recycled materials | Adam Williams | GizMag.com

Multi-use community center makes the most of recycled materials | Adam Williams | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

With its clever design and use of low-cost materials, the flood-proof Blooming Bamboo house by Vietnam's H&P Architects impressed us back in 2013. project is similarly innovative, Built using recycled materials, the firm's multicolored, multifunctional Re-ainbow community center is similarly innovative.

Located next to a dilapidated stadium in a rural part of Vietnam's North Central Coast region, Re-ainbow consists of a small building and three large multicolored corrugated metal roof shelters. The building includes a classroom, health station, public showers and bathroom, while the covered area serves various purposes, such as theater and meeting space. The surrounding outdoor area is used for sports like badminton and volleyball, and is also used as a physical training ground.


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Russia: Tele2 lifts 3G network coverage to 50 regions | TeleGeography.com

Tele2 Russia has announced the expansion of its 3G network to Arkhangelsk, Kursk and Pskov, bringing the total number of regions covered by the mobile data service to 50 since its launch in November last year.


The company is aiming to roll out 3G services to the remaining regions where it already has a 2G presence by the end of this year. In addition, Tele2 has revealed that it launched a 4G 1800MHz network in Greater Sochi last month.

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Australia: Optus switches on 3x CA technology in Melbourne | TeleGeography.com

In line with its previously announced plans, Australian mobile network operator Optus has confirmed the introduction of 3x Carrier Aggregation (3x CA) technology to its ‘4G Plus’ network in the central business district (CBD) of Melbourne.


With the cellco saying that the deployment had been carried out with technology partner Huawei, Optus noted that the 3x CA rollout has been achieved by using what it has termed ‘a unique combination’ of 20MHz+20MHz of 2300MHz spectrum and 15MHz paired block in the 1800MHz band.


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ME: Judge orders Mallinckrodt to fund mercury cleanup plan for Penobscot River | Kevin Miller | The Portland Press Herald

ME: Judge orders Mallinckrodt to fund mercury cleanup plan for Penobscot River | Kevin Miller | The Portland Press Herald | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A federal judge ordered Mallinckrodt US LLC on Wednesday to pay to develop a detailed plan to clean up mercury in the Penobscot River, potentially setting the stage for what would be one of the largest and costliest environmental remediation projects in Maine history.

In a ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock Jr. said an engineering firm will study the range, cost and practicality of removing the toxic heavy metal from the river bottom near Orrington down to the mouth of Penobscot Bay. Woodcock agreed with the two plaintiffs, the Maine People’s Alliance and the Natural Resources Defense Council, that the Penobscot estuary “continues to suffer irreparable harm from ongoing mercury contamination.”


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Workers risk business data with gambling apps on their phones | Lucian Constantin | ComputerWorld.com

Workers risk business data with gambling apps on their phones | Lucian Constantin | ComputerWorld.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

If you work for a large, global company, chances are some of your peers have installed gambling apps on the mobile devices they use for work, and that's bad news for IT security.

A study has found that the average company has more than one such gambling application in some employee devices, putting corporate data stored on those devices at risk.


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Obama’s Journey: 10 Signs of Extreme Climate Change in Alaska and Why It Should Scare Us | Juan Cole | Truthdig.com

Obama’s Journey: 10 Signs of Extreme Climate Change in Alaska and Why It Should Scare Us | Juan Cole | Truthdig.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

American corporate news has not devoted the hours to President Obama’s trip to Alaska that it deserves, focusing on the GOP clown car back in the lower 48 instead. I did a Lexis Nexis search under Arctic Summit (yes, there was one, which Obama attended) in “Broadcast News Transcripts” and I got, I swear eleven hits beginning last Sunday.

I visited Alaska for a conference a few years ago, and drove down with a friend to see the Portage Glacier. It had begun moving in 1850 and had left behind a lake as it headed toward a nearby mountain range. For a historian of modern climate change, the 1850 date is significant. That is when we typically mark the end of the “Little Ice Age” of the late medieval and early modern period, roughly 1350-1850.


We came out of this period of slightly increased glaciation in Europe because early forms of industrialization involved the burning of a great deal of wood and then coal in the 18th century, so that by 1850 we had put a bit more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And at that point, the Portage Glacier began melting, leaving a lake behind it over time.


The lake’s birth date was 1850, the year many consider the beginning of a new geological era, the Anthropocene that succeeded the Holocene. The Anthropocene is the era in which the earth’s climate is dictated for the first time by human beings, not by volcanoes, sunspots, shape of the earth’s orbit and other astronomical phenomena, and bacteria.

The Portage Glacier is only one of many natural features now changing in Alaska. The reason Obama went to the state is that it is at the forefront of the climate change crisis. Here are the climate problems it is facing according to the Environmental Protection Agency:


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How One Doctor Fought a Giant Pesticide Company And Won | Paul Steinberg | AlterNet

How One Doctor Fought a Giant Pesticide Company And Won | Paul Steinberg | AlterNet | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The following is an excerpt from the new book  Who Rules the Earth: How Social Rules Shape Our Planet and Our Livesby Paul Steinberg (Oxford University Press, 2015):


Faced with an endless stream of alarming news about the environment—rising temperatures and declining water supplies, population growth and species extinction, oil spills and cancer clusters— people increasingly want to know what can actually be done to address these problems. Concerned parents comb through websites late at night in search of safer products for their children. Students pack lecture halls in hundreds of environmental studies programs that have popped up on college campuses across the globe. Our grocery aisles and magazine stands are filled with advertisements promising that sustainability is just one more purchase around the corner.

The major current of environmental thinking today emphasizes the small changes we can make as individuals, which (we are told) will add up to something big. Michael Maniates, a political scientist at Allegheny College, observes that the responsibility for confronting these issues too often “falls to individuals, acting alone, usually as consumers.” Yet solutions that promote green consumerism and changes in personal lifestyles strike many of us as strangely out of proportion with enormous problems like climate change, urban air pollution, and the disappearance of tropical forests. We learn that glaciers are melting and sea levels are expected to rise due to global warming—and in response we are advised to ride a bicycle to work. Scientists tell us that one out of every five mammal species in the world is threatened with extinction, and we react by switching coffee brands. Is it any wonder that people despair that real solutions are not within their grasp?


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City Century: Why Municipalities Are the Key to Fighting Climate Change | Mike Bloomberg Blog

City Century: Why Municipalities Are the Key to Fighting Climate Change | Mike Bloomberg Blog | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Although history is not usually taught this way, one could argue that cities have played a more important role in shaping the world than empires. From Athens and Rome to Paris and Venice to Baghdad and Beijing, urban ideas and innovators have left indelible marks on human life. By concentrating the brainpower of humanity in relatively small geographic areas, cities have promoted the kinds of interactions that nurture creativity and technological advances. They have been the drivers of progress throughout history, and now—as the knowledge economy takes full flight—they are poised to play a leading role in addressing the challenges of the twenty-first century.

One hundred years ago, some two out of every ten people on the planet lived in urban areas. By 1990, some four in ten did. Today, more than half of the world’s population dwells in urban areas, and by the time a child now entering primary school turns 40, nearly 70 percent will. That means that in the next few decades, about 2.5 billion more people will become metropolitan residents.

The world’s first Metropolitan Generation is coming of age, and as a result, the world will be shaped increasingly by metropolitan values: industriousness, creativity, entrepreneurialism, and, most important, liberty and diversity. That is a hopeful development for humanity, and an overpowering counterweight to the forces of repression and intolerance that arise out of religious fanaticism and that now pose a grave threat to the security of democratic nations.

As those in the Metropolitan Generation assume leadership positions, cities will become not just more culturally significant but also more politically powerful. Influence will shift gradually away from national governments and toward cities, especially in countries that suffer from bureaucratic paralysis and political gridlock.


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New Study Shows How Climate Change Is Already Reshaping The Earth | Joe Romm | Think Progress

New Study Shows How Climate Change Is Already Reshaping The Earth | Joe Romm | Think Progress | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A landmark study in the journal Nature documents an expansion of the world’s dry and semi-arid climate regions since 1950 — and attributes it to human-caused global warming.

This expansion of the world’s dry zones is a basic prediction of climate science. The fact it is so broadly observable now means we must take seriously the current projections of widespread global Dust-Bowlification in the coming decades on our current CO2 emissions pathway — including the U.S.’s own breadbasket.

The new study, “Significant anthropogenic-induced changes of climate classes since 1950,” looks at multiple datasets of monthly temperature and precipitation over time. The main finding:


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MA: Pilgrim nuclear plant one step from shutdown by regulators | Christine Legere | Cape Cod Times

MA: Pilgrim nuclear plant one step from shutdown by regulators | Christine Legere | Cape Cod Times | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station is now at the bottom of the performance list of the nation’s 99 operating reactors, based on its forced shutdowns and equipment failures, and in a category just one step above mandatory shutdown by federal regulators.

Only two other plants in the country are currently in that category: Arkansas Nuclear One and Arkansas Nuclear Two. Those two, like Pilgrim, are Entergy-owned.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced the downgrade of the Pilgrim plant today. In a letter to Entergy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the downgrade was due to the plant’s failure to adequately address the issues that have caused the plant’s high number of unplanned shutdowns.

A supplemental inspection will focus on the plant’s shortcomings, “including human performance, procedure quality and equipment performance.”


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China's Economic Slowdown: We May Have Seen Peak Coal | Mark Clifford | Forbes.com

The coal market has known that China’s economy has been slowing even before the recent bout of stock market turbulence. Every new data set suggests that the economy is weaker, and the transition toward renewable energy is happening faster, than the consensus view has expected.


Coal use in China dipped last year, the first time since economic reforms began in 1978 that coal use has fallen. Signs are that the decline is continuing this year. Coal prices are weak and coal miners around the world are struggling financially.


A weak economy is a key reason that a peak in China’s coal use may have occurred in 2013, more than a decade earlier than was thought possible even. Complementing the effect of a weak economy, but investments in renewable power are starting to pay off.


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Stephane Bilodeau's curator insight, September 3, 7:24 PM

Renewable energy is also key to China’s transition away from coal. China invested $90 billion in clean-tech investments last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, far more than the U.S. Non-fossil fuel sources – solar, wind, hydro and nuclear – are expected to make up 20% of China’s energy mix in 15 years. China already has more wind-generating capacity than any country in the world and it is likely this year to overtake Germany as the world’s largest solar country, measured by installed capacity. By 2030, China’s non-fossil-fuel energy base alone will be almost equivalent to the total electrical capacity of the U.S. today.

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French Pavilion at Expo 2015 turns the traditional market on its head | Bridget Borgobello | GizMag.com

French Pavilion at Expo 2015 turns the traditional market on its head | Bridget Borgobello | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The French Pavilion narrowly missed out on a place in Gizmag's top 10 Pavilions from World Expo 2015, but it is definitely worth a visit if you make it to Milan this year. Dubbed Canopee, the pavilion pays homage to French produce and artisans, drawing inspiration from the country's long standing tradition of open farmer's markets,

The French Pavilion has been designed to resemble an inverted market place.

Accomplished by XTU architects and Simonin Enterprises, the structure is designed to resemble an inverted market place. Made entirely from local French wood, it features a dramatic undulating ceiling that weaves its way through the massive 3,600 square meter space (38,750 sq. ft). Simonin Enterprises employed concealed joinery techniques, which gives the illusion that the pavilion has been laser cut out of a single piece of wood.


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Miami: Foundations laid for Zaha Hadid's One Thousand Museum | Adam Williams | GizMag.com

Miami: Foundations laid for Zaha Hadid's One Thousand Museum | Adam Williams | GizMag.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

Construction work has begun in earnest on Zaha Hadid's One Thousand Museum – a 62 story, "Six Star" luxury residential skyscraper in Miami that will offer impressive views over Biscayne Bay. The project is expected to be completed in 2017.

The Iraqi-British architect isn't really known for producing residential towers, and this is her first in the Western Hemisphere. The name One Thousand Museum derives from the Museum Park area (formerly Bicentennial Park) the tower is situated in, rather than denoting a building full of old stuff.

Indeed, the project is very much the antithesis of everything old. Its futuristic twisting glass-fiber reinforced white concrete exoskeleton and extensive glazing should contrast well with Miami's beautiful brilliant white art deco architecture. It will also offer a welcome change from the sprawling city's bland commercial buildings.


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Singapore: M1 launches 10Gbps GPON service | TeleGeography.com

Singapore-based M1 Limited has announced the launch of its new ‘XGPON’ fibre-optic broadband service, which supports downlink transmission speeds of up to 10Gbps.


Offered over the city-state’s next generation national broadband network (Next Gen NBN), the new service is initially being made available to corporate customers only, but will be extended to residential users by year-end.


The new service is priced at SGD1,088 (USD771) per month for a 2Gbps subscription, rising to SGD2,888 for a 10Gbps service.

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The Eagle has landed: Albanian operator unveils LTE launch | TeleGeography.com

Albtelecom’s Eagle Mobile unit has confirmed the commercial launch of its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) network, which went live on Tuesday 1 September – the deadline previously set out by the Authority of Electronic and Postal Communications (AKEP).


The telco has noted that the 4G cell sites are connected via a fibre-optic backhaul network, and claims that the new infrastructure is capable of providing data transmission speeds more than six times faster than those offered by its legacy 3G network.

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The good news and bad news from the new global tree census | Brian Palmer | onEarth

The good news and bad news from the new global tree census | Brian Palmer | onEarth | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

How many trees are there? It’s OK to admit that you don’t know—until today, no one really did.

“Trees are among the most prominent and critical organisms on earth…yet you ask people to estimate, within an order of magnitude, how many there are, and they don’t know where to begin,” says Thomas Crowther, a postdoctoral fellow at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and lead author of the newest, most accurate tree census ever undertaken, published today in Nature.

Crowther has a point. We know roughly how many people there are (7.2 billion and counting), how many whales there are (around 1.7 million), and how many cars there are (1.2 billion). Consulting companies expect job applicants to be able to accurately estimate how many piano tuners are in Chicago (290?). But until this study, our estimates on the tree population were ludicrously inaccurate.


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America’s Most Unlikely Energy Project Is Rising From a Louisiana Bayou | Matthew Phillips | Bloomberg Biz

America’s Most Unlikely Energy Project Is Rising From a Louisiana Bayou | Matthew Phillips | Bloomberg Biz | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

From a mile away, at the distant end of a flat, two-lane road, the Sabine Pass Liquefied Natural Gas terminal materializes like an alien city from the haze of the Louisiana bayou. Five white cylinders with domed tops, each 140 feet tall and 225 feet in diameter, rise from the empty horizon.


Set on the Texas border 4 miles from the mouth of the Sabine River on the Gulf Coast, the terminal is one of the largest industrial energy facilities under construction in North America. The domes, made of nickel alloy and wrapped in a layer of carbon steel, are essentially giant freezers, each capable of holding 81,000 tons of liquefied natural gas (LNG) at -260F.

Cheniere Energy, based in Houston, has spent more than a decade, and upwards of $20 billion, turning 1,000 acres of swamp into the first LNG export terminal in the continental U.S. When the terminal goes live later this year, it will change the dynamics of the energy market in North America.


The U.S. will be on its way to becoming a net exporter of natural gas. About 700 million cubic feet of the stuff will begin arriving each day from all over the country—from Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and as far away as North Dakota—to this spot at the end of America’s natural gas pipeline network.


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Obama to announce Alaska grants, new role for Denali Commission | Kyle Hopkins | KTUU.com

Obama to announce Alaska grants, new role for Denali Commission | Kyle Hopkins | KTUU.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

The centerpiece message of President Barack Obama’s Alaska visit is a push for swift international action to battle climate change, with the state offered as evidence of the growing danger posed by inaction.

“Villages are being damaged by powerful storm surges, which once held at bay by sea ice, are battering the barrier islands where those villages sit," the White House wrote in a statement released hours before the president flies today to Dillingham and Kotzebue. "Alaska Native traditions that have set the rhythm of life in Alaska for thousands of years are being upended by decreasing sea-ice cover and changing seasonal patterns."

After calling for more U.S. ice breakers Tuesday in Seward, the president’s list of potential announcements today is far longer, if more scattershot.

The administration is highlighting a new climate change coordination role for the Denali Commission, meant to link the feds, state and tribes in efforts to battle erosion and flooding at a village level. “The Denali Commission will serve as a one-stop shop for matters relating to coastal resilience in Alaska," the White House says.


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Greener cities are best at taming urban heat | Tim Radford | Climate News Network

Greener cities are best at taming urban heat | Tim Radford | Climate News Network | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

For the first time in human history, more than half the world now lives in cities. Later this century, the proportion could rise to two-thirds.

Even without global warming because of a build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, itself the consequence of fossil fuel combustion, the cities are feeling the heat.

That is because dark materials and hard surfaces – tarmacadam, brick, cement, tiles, slates, gutters, railway tracks, flyovers, motorways and so on – absorb the heat but not the rainwater that, as it evaporates, could damp down that heat.

As a consequence, cities become “heat islands”: places conspicuously hotter than the surrounding countryside. According to a report in Nature, the annual average temperature in Los Angeles in California has risen by more than 2°C since 1878, and by mid-century the sprawling megalopolis is predicted to face 22 days a year of extreme heat: that is, with temperatures of more than 35°C.

Now British and US scientists are trying to work out the shape of the ideal city. Pack people together with lots of green spaces around, say the British. And keep the people cool with trees, parks, roof gardens to help them withstand the heat, add the Americans.

Researchers at the University of Exeter in the UK and the University of Hokkaido in Japan report in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Environment that they analysed nine case studies of cities worldwide to work out the arrangements with most benefits to humans.


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Economics Has Math Problem | Noah Smith | BloombergView.com

Economics Has Math Problem | Noah Smith | BloombergView.com | @The Convergence of ICT & Distributed Renewable Energy | Scoop.it

A lot of people complain about the math in economics. Economists tend to quietly dismiss such complaints as the sour-grapes protests of literary types who lack the talent or training to hack their way through systems of equations. But it isn't just the mathematically illiterate who grouse. New York University economist Paul Romer -- hardly a lightweight when it comes to equations -- recently complained about how economists use math as a tool of rhetoric instead of a tool to understand the world.

Personally, I think that what’s odd about econ isn’t that it uses lots of math -- it’s the way it uses math. In most applied math disciplines -- computational biology, fluid dynamics, quantitative finance -- mathematical theories are always tied to the evidence. If a theory hasn’t been tested, it’s treated as pure conjecture.

Not so in econ. Traditionally, economists have put the facts in a subordinate role and theory in the driver’s seat. Plausible-sounding theories are believed to be true unless proven false, while empirical facts are often dismissed if they don’t make sense in the context of leading theories. This isn’t a problem with math -- it was just as true back when economics theories were written out in long literary volumes. Econ developed as a form of philosophy and then added math later, becoming basically a form of mathematical philosophy.

In other words, econ is now a rogue branch of applied math. Developed without access to good data, it evolved different scientific values and conventions. But this is changing fast, as information technology and the computer revolution have furnished economists with mountains of data. As a result, empirical analysis is coming to dominate econ.


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