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Solar Panels

UK Company Using Material That Could Be “Game-Changer” For Solar Power 

Solar energy has been one of the biggest innovations within the past few decades. Now, a company in the UK is using a group of materials called perovskites to create the “next generation of solar panels.” The company claims that the materials could make solar power twice as efficient as it is now, and it’s flexible enough to wrap around entire buildings. 

Solar energy as a power source first appeared in the 1950’s in New Jersey. At the time Bell Labs created a silicon-based solar panel that was expensive, but effective enough to turn 6% of sunlight into electricity powerful enough to power everyday electrical equipment. As time went on the cost of solar panels went down but the use of silicon remained. Today, panels can turn up to 22% of the light emitted from the sun into power. 

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Oxford PV is the company that’s based out of the University of Oxford that initially began using perovskites for solar power back in 2018. The company found that when they coated the silicone used in the development of solar panels with perovskite, they achieved 28% efficiency in terms of converting solar energy into electricity. The company believes, however, the technology can get that percentage up to 40%. 

So what exactly does this mean in terms of the future of solar energy? As solar cells improve in efficiency, less solar panels are needed to power certain buildings, meaning costs for solar panels will decrease, and the amount of land, labor, and equipment needed to operate the panels would also decrease and simplify. This would mean more average individuals can begin implementing this type of technology in their own homes, and not just individuals of a higher working class who can afford it. Henry Snaith is the co-founder of Oxford PV and recently spoke to the press about the company’s major breakthrough.

“If we want to make it that all new power generation is solar photovoltaics, then we need to keep driving the price down. One way to do that is to keep pushing the efficiency or the power output of the module up, and this is where perovskites really come into play.”

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Perovskite was initially discovered as a material in the 1800’s, but Oxford PV uses a synthetic version that’s made from more inexpensive materials that are abundant in the Earth’s crust. This way the cost of material remains low, while other companies attempting to use the same materials are using different more expensive variations. The perk of perovskite is that it works monumentally better in the shade or on cloudy days when compared to regular panels with just silicone at the base. The goal, according to Snaith, is to replace silicone entirely with perovskite. 

“In the coming decades, all perovskite solar coatings promise to raise efficiencies even further, reduce the weight and shipping cost of solar equipment. As the technology develops, perovskite could be sprayed or rolled onto flexible surfaces.”

Oxford PV will begin producing solar cells made from perovskite on top of silicone early next year in a newly acquired factory in Germany. The company is estimating that the panels could save homeowners currently using solar panels up to $1,000 on the purchase and installation of these newer panels.

California Wildfire

California Wildfires Update: Hospitals And Hundreds Of Homes Evacuated

Wind-driven fires that have erupted in the Napa Valley have forced hundreds of residents and all patients at St Helena Hospital to evacuate.

Ice Sheets

Melting Ice Sheets Will Cause Global Sea Levels To Rise Over 15 Inches By 2100

A new study performed by an international team of more than 60 ice, ocean, and atmospheric scientists has estimated that if humans keep emitting greenhouse gases unnecessarily at the rate that we’re going now, global sea levels will rise more than 15 inches by 2100.

Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere every day, and they impact climate change by causing global temperatures to increase, leading to a myriad of other detrimental environmental events. One of these events includes the melting of ice sheets from some of the worlds largest bodies of ice.

As things continue to heat up, ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are particularly worrying scientists, as they’re both located at opposite poles of the world and their simultaneous melting is causing the entire planet to struggle. Sophie Nowichi was the project leader of this study and recently released a statement about how the major uncertainty regarding ice sheets specifically has made it hard to measure just how severe things can get in terms of global warming.

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“One of the biggest uncertainties when it comes to how much sea levels will rise in the future is how ice sheets will contribute, and how much the ice sheets contribute is really dependent on what the climate will do.”

This study is a part of a larger initiative known as the Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project (ISMIP6). This initiative is led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. The team working for ISMIP6 has been measuring how sea levels will rise between 2015 and 2100, specifically in relation to greenhouse gas emissions.

They found that higher emissions of these greenhouse gases extending throughout time will cause Greenland to contribute about 3.5 inches to the global rise in sea levels, while levels from Antarctica are a little harder to calculate based on the massive size. Antarctica has bodies of ice known as “shelves” which scientists are predicting will break down over time and cause an even more devastating increase to sea levels. 

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Right now it’s predicted that at the current rate of emissions Antarctica can contribute around 12 inches to sea levels in the future. Helene Seroussi is an ice scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California who worked on the study and recently released a statement emphasizing that this particular study is only providing predictions for ice loss between 2015 and 2100, and doesn’t take into account the already significant amount of loss that’s already occurred. 

“The strength of ISMIP6 was to bring together most of the ice sheet modeling groups around the world, and then connect with other communities of ocean and atmospheric modelers as well, to better understand what could happen to the ice sheets.”

According to Seroussi and other researchers working on the study it took over 6 years of workshops, conferences, and data exchange between scientists from around the world to compile these predictions and work together on ways in which humans can potentially correct their mistakes in regard to climate change. 

The specific report from the ISMIP6 will help the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with their special report regarding melting ice and global sea levels/climate change in general. This report is projected to compile data from a multitude of major studies and will be released in 2022.

Wild Elephants

Worldwide Animal Population Has Declined Nearly 70% In The Past 50 Years  

According to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Living Planet Report for 2020, nearly 21,000 monitored populations of mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds – which make up around 4,400 species – have declined an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016. Even more staggering, species living in Latin America and the Caribbean have been disproportionately impacted and have declined, on average, by up to 94%. 

The WWF releases this same report every two years to show us how severe climate change is actually impacting the planet and its billions of inhabitants. The report also reveals how these species specific ecosystems have dwindled within past decades, and shows a clear increase in damage that keeps getting progressively worse every year. 

WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts recently made a statement condemning humanity for destroying species populations out of greed and economic gain. He also claims that the US’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic goes to show how irresponsible our world leaders can actually be when it comes to major issues impacting the entire planet. 

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“We cannot shield humanity from the impacts of environmental destruction. It’s time to restore our broken relationship with nature for the benefit of species and people alike.”

The report directly blames humans as the sole reason for this massive decline and “dire state” the planet is now in. Generally speaking, it claims that the exponential growth of “human consumption, population, global trade and urbanization over the last 50 years” it’s what’s led to the unprecedented and monumental decline of natural resources and habitats. 

The destruction of rainforest habitats for farming has been a key factor in the loss of biodiversity and overall population growth for certain species. The amount of land that’s been stripped from natural habitats in Europe, Central Asia, North America, Latin America, and the Caribbean accounts for 80% of total global deforestation. Land loss in those areas has also led to a 70% decrease in terrestrial biodiversity and 50% decrease in freshwater species biodiversity. The systems now implemented in these cleared out plots of land emit 29% of global greenhouse gases as well. 

“Climate change creates an ongoing destructive feedback loop in which the worsening climate leads to the decline in genetic variability, species richness and populations, and that loss of biodiversity adversely affects the climate.”

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The report states that every single part of the ocean is affected by overfishing pollution and littering. Humans depend on certain marine ecosystems for food and other resources, however, the process of acquiring these resources is doing more damage than good. The emphasis on human health and the planet’s health has also never been more connected. 

The Covid-19 pandemic and multiple wildfires, and other natural disasters that seem to be occurring constantly at this point, prove that humans and nature are greatly connected and need one another to survive. Within the past 50 years, the child mortality and poverty rate has decreased while life expectancy has increased, however, the irreversible damage being done to the planet could completely undo that due to a lack of resources and healthy living environments. 

Within the past 80 years, the rate of infectious diseases emerging has increased “dramatically,” and nearly half of the diseases that have surfaced did so as a direct result of land destruction/change brought on by the food industry. One study reported that diseases originating in animals are responsible for 3 million deaths every year; the Covid-19 pandemic being the most severe example of this. 

So what’s the solution? For those of us at home, we can continue to practice being green everyday, however, the real change needs to come from our world leaders and the multiple industries that exist and actively destroy the environment for financial gain. It’s up to us at home to stay educated and informed, and to vote in all elections for candidates who support improving the planet.

Iceberg

Earth Lost 28 Trillion Tons Of Ice In Less Than 30 Years Due To Climate Change 

Scientists working at Leeds and Edinburgh Universities and the University College London recently released a review paper that revealed data taken from surveys of the world’s glaciers, mountains, and ice sheets between the years 1994 and 2017. The information revealed a “staggering” loss in ice throughout the Earth’s many natural ice formations. 

Professor Andy Shepherd is the director of Leeds University’s Center for Polar Observation and Modeling, and recently spoke with the press about this dramatic loss in ice, and rising in sea levels as a result. 

“Melting glaciers and ice sheets could cause sea levels to rise dramatically, possibly reaching 3 feet by the end of the century.”

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The loss in ice is the least of scientists worries, it’s more about the direct, and indirect, effects of that melting that could have a detrimental impact on the planet and its billions of inhabitants. One of the biggest concerns is a major disruption in biological health within the waters of the Arctic and Antarctica. Loss in health in these waters specifically can reduce Earth’s overall ability to reflect solar radiation back into space so it doesn’t heat the planet too much. 

These findings perfectly match up with the “worst-case-scenario” predictions that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change outlined. According to Shepherd this is the first time anyone has looked at all the ice that has/is disappearing from the planet; previously studies would only map large cool areas such as Greenland or the Arctic exclusively. 

“This is the first time anyone has looked at all the ice that is disappearing from the entire planet. What we have found has stunned us.”

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Shepherd went on in the report itself to state that there is “little doubt” that the vast majority of this ice loss is a direct result of climate change. The report was released one week after scientists working at Ohio State University discovered that the ice sheet covering Greenland may have “passed the point of no return” in regards to how melted it is. 

The Greenland melting is due to a lack in annual snowfall; which is also a result of global warming. The rate at which it snows every year in Greenland isn’t enough to keep up with the pace at which the ice is melting throughout the rest of the year. This means that Greenland’s ice sheet will keep melting and losing ice even if climate change is somehow reversed in the next few years. 

Scientists are worried about Greenland specifically because its ice sheet is considered the world’s second-largest body of water, therefore if it melts, sea levels will rise to an unfathomable level. According to a NASA study 2010-2019 was the hottest decade ever recorded on Earth; which isn’t a shock to most, but the results are now starting to come to life. 

This is why the election in November is so important, as climate change has been a major point of contention among Republicans and Democrats since the term “global warming” was initially created. If you’re a US resident and have yet to register, or aren’t sure where you’re specifically registered, you can check that status here.

2020 Election Pins

Kamala Harris Officially Chosen As Joe Biden’s Running Mate For 2020 Election

California Senator Kamala Harris, a former 2020 presidential candidate, made history this week when presidential candidate Joe Biden announced her as his running mate. If Biden and Harris win, Harris will be the first women of color vice president for the United States of America. 

Harris herself is a former prosecutor who is generally known as one of the more liberal members of Senate, however, her track record working as a prosecutor and officer of the law has many younger voters skeptical as to where her priorities will lie once in office. So where exactly does Harris stand on all the issues?

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When it comes to health care, Harris was a co-sponsor of Senator Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All act. During her initial presidential campaigning she claimed that she wanted to eliminate private insurance, but more specifically all of the “waste and bureaucracy” that was embedded in private insurance companies. Harris also has made claims that she would never deny a person health care based on citizenship status; something that’s become a major problem for undocumented individuals living in America in the current political climate.

Harris has always been pro-choice in terms of abortion access for women in America. Pro-abortion rights group NARAL gave her a 100% rating in regard to her support of a womens right to choose, however, while working as an attorney general in California Harris also allowed a hospital to stop providing elective abortions once that hospital entered into a new partnership with the Catholic St. Joseph Health System; a decision that caused Harris to receive a lot of backlash.

When it comes to the current Covid-19 pandemic Harris has been adamant about her support of Biden’s plans for the future of America and it’s continuous fight against the virus. Specifically, she’s said that she wants Americans to receive monthly stimulus checks; $2,000 per adult and an additional $2,000 per dependent. 

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Climate change is currently one of the largest issues the world is facing (besides the pandemic of course) and has also become a major point of contention among all world leaders. Trump’s presidency has been heavily rooted in the belief that climate change is not actually occurring and the scientific evidence is simply false. 

While campaigning for president, Harris introduced a $10 trillion plan to address climate change. The goal of this plan is to have zero-net emissions by 2045 and 100% carbon-neutral electricity by 2030. Harris also claimed that she would go after major corporations who contribute the most to pollution in America, and would end federal spending on fossil fuel production. 

LGBTQIA+ rights have also been under fire throughout the Trump presidency. Harris pledged that she would be including members of the community in her cabinet if elected. When she was California’s attorney general she also declined to defend Proposition 8; a law that defined marriage as something between a man and a woman. 

Harris has also claimed in the past that she supports the federal legalization of marijuana, especially now since our economy is suffering so much. However, as attorney general Harris oversaw hundreds of marijuana-related convictions that have been seen as unjust as severe in terms of punishment. 

Finally, when it comes to gun control, another major point of conflict in American politics, Harris has promised to take executive action on guns if elected president. She’s been a major advocate for stricter gun control policies and supports requiring anyone who sells more than five guns a year to perform intensive background checks on their clients.

Antarctica

Scientists Discover First Methane Leak In Antarctica’s Seabed

Scientists recently discovered an active leak of methane gas coming from the sea floor of Antarctica. These findings were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society scientific journal, and are worrying many researchers who know that methane gas is likely going to accelerate the process of global heating even more so than it already is.

Methane is one of the greenhouse gases that leads to an acceleration in global warming; much like carbon dioxide does. In normal conditions, when the gas is present under layers of ice, microorganisms living within the ice consume it and slow down the process of it being leaked back into the atmosphere. However, the damage of climate change that the planet has already endured has hindered the effectiveness of this process in Antarctica. 

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The methane leak referred to in the findings initially appeared back in 2011 and, at the time, the microorganisms present took five years to appear and consume a majority of the gas. Now, researchers found that gas is still leaking into the atmosphere despite the presence of these microorganisms. Dr. Andrew Thurer, the oceanographer who led the study, is concerned about these findings, and claims it could take up to a decade for the gas to be consumed, and by then it may be too late. 

“Vast amounts of methane are stored under sea ice. Antarctica is estimated to contain as much as a quarter of Earth’s marine methane.” 

The impact of excessive methane leaks in the planet’s atmosphere is extremely damaging. As global temperatures continue to increase, ice caps/glaciers will continue to melt, and sea levels will rise. That lack of ice is what leads to methane leaks, as there’s less protective layers to contain the methane and house the microorganisms necessary to consume the gas.  

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NASA warned the world in 2018 that the thawing of ice in the Arctic would lead to gas leaks that will cause the planet’s climate to rise at an even more alarming rate than what it’s currently at. Scientists have also long considered the release of methane specifically from ice as a “tipping point in climate change,” which essentially means the effects of global warming have reached an irreversible level. 

Until now, there have been no active methane leaks in Antarctica, and while scientists did confirm that this particular leak came from an unknown source likely unrelated to climate change, its presence it’s still worrisome. 

The only silver lining, according to Thurer, is that these findings can work to deepen climate scientists’ understanding of the way that methane is “consumed and released in Antarctica, something which very little was known before.” Gaining this understanding in Antarctica specifically is key, especially considering the presence of methane could be extremely detrimental to the future of Earth’s climate. 

“Our results suggest that the accuracy of future global climate models may be improved by considering the time it will take for microbial communities to respond to novel methane input.” 

While research on microorganisms absorbing methane gas is a timely process, gaining these insights can help researchers understand how these organisms work, and could potentially lead to the invention of some sort of man-made version of the organisms which can better aide the process of absorbing methane in melting ice layers in the Arctic/Antarctica.

Glacier in Antarctica

Scientists Worried About Rapid Melting Of ‘Doomsday’ Glacier In Antarctica

Climate scientists have always regarded Thwaites glacier in Antarctica as a key factor in terms of climate change and global sea-level risings. The glacier itself is seen as one of the most vulnerable to be impacted by climate change, as its collapse would raise global sea levels by more than half a meter on its own. Its melting would also cause a chain reaction for other major bodies of water in Antarctica, potentially causing sea levels to rise by three meters!

Coastal cities across the globe would be severely impacted if this were to occur, and it’s one of the reasons the glacier has the nickname “Doomsday glacier.” This year, scientists noticed there was warm water near an integral part of the glacier that has never been there before. This warm water has already caused parts of the glacier to deteriorate.

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Thwaites glacier is 76,000 square miles, about the size of England. Ice has already melted from the glacier into the Amundsen Sea and caused 4% of global sea-levels to rise. As the world continues to warm, scientists are worried for the future of this glacier and its impact on the rest of the planet. Paul Cutler is a program director for Antarctic glaciology at America’s National Science Foundation, and he recently spoke with the media about the severity of this glacier melting.  

“The big question is how quickly it becomes unstable. It seems to be teetering at the edge. It is a keystone for the other glaciers around it in Antarctica if you remove it, other ice will start draining into the ocean.” 

Antarctica contains 90% of the world’s ice, most of which remains out of the water and on the continent’s land. The average thickness of ice in Antarctica is 1.6 miles deep, but it can reach depths of up to three miles. 

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The current sea level on Earth is almost 8 inches above what it was before the industrial revolution. The main cause in this rise is an increase in global sea temperatures brought on by intense sun exposure. The sun exposure is brought on due to a depletion in the Earth’s ozone layer, which is meant to protect all of us from intense UV radiation. For nearly 2,000 years before the industrial revolution, global sea levels remained almost completely static. 

Burning fossil fuels has only increased as society has become more modernized, and that burning has only further depleted the ozone layer in Earth’s atmosphere. Additionally, increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere act as heat traps for the sun. These warmer temperatures obviously cause major ice sheets and glaciers to melt, as they’re not only experiencing a rise in sea temperatures, but air temperatures as well. 

The annual rate in which our global sea-levels rise has doubled since 1990. As time has gone on, the rate at which these glaciers melt has only become more unpredictable, making it difficult for scientists to understand how to better preserve them. However, this more recent melting of Thwaites was specifically brought on by a massive heat wave in the Arctic; which is on the other side of the planet. 

Both the Antarctic and Arctic regions should be our number one priority, as they’re the coldest locations in the world, however, they’re both warming at rates faster than the rest of the world as well. Global warming has already caused such massive natural destruction within the past year alone, it’s time that our world leaders understand we’re currently battling a whole other pandemic in terms of our planets temperatures.

Architects working Together

Antonio Citterio Discusses Resilience And Sustainability In The Architecture Industry

Antonio Citterio’s aim as a designer and architect has always been to create spaces that evoke a sense of quality. Spaces that are useful for the individuals daily life while being creative enough to embody a sense of the client’s personality.

Hockey Stadium

Amazon Renames Seattle NHL Stadium ‘Climate Pledge Arena’ In New Green Initiative

Amazon has officially secured the naming rights for Seattle’s downtown arena that will be the home for the city’s new NHL team as well as the WNBA’s Storm team. Amazon made the announcement this week that they would be deciding the name of the arena, however, many were shocked to learn that the company wouldn’t include its name in the title; something that’s fairly typical when it comes to naming stadium-type establishments after the corporations that sponsor them (Staples Center, Citi Field, AT&T Stadium, etc.). 

Instead, the stadium will be named Climate Pledge Arena and will feature several new green initiatives to make the future of live sports entertainment more environmentally friendly. 

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“I think this is going to be a transformative moment in our industry. Amazon said, ‘We’ll act like a naming rights partner, but let’s do this the right way. We don’t need any more branding. What we need is to go save the planet.’ It was brilliant,” a spokesperson for the arena claimed. 

As mentioned Climate Pledge Arena is going to run with the intention of remaining completely green. In fact, Amazon is attempting to make it the first arena in the world to earn a net zero carbon certifications by the International Living Future Institute.  There are a multitude of features that will be implemented into the structure, games themselves, and clean up procedures for the stadium. 

All ice for hockey games will be created using recycled rainwater thanks to a massive tank that’s located underground and adjacent to the arena. This tank is specifically designed to collect runoff rainwater from the roof of the arena, but the arena’s team is also working on a way to easily allow fans at home to bring their own recycled rainwater to help aid the running of the stadium.

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All events will also be “zero waste,” a decision that according to the team was inspired by singer Billie Eilish, who before the coronavirus pandemic was embarking on a world tour for her most recent album. Eilish asked every venue that she was planning to play on her tour to eliminate as much single-waste plastic as possible, to which they all happily obliged to get one of the biggest artists of the year to play at their establishment. 

 “I was like, I can’t believe she got an entire syndication of arenas to come along and finally address this issue. I was so in awe that she made this part of the deal. When we were debating this, I said if she could do it for a night, couldn’t we do this for 365 nights?” said Tim Leiweke, CEO of the Oak View Group. 

75% of the arena’s food vendors will be sourced seasonally by local farmers and producers as a means of helping local small businesses. Unused food that’s still edible and viable will also be donated to various food charities in the area. The arena will also solely run on electricity, and carbon emissions and sustainability performance is set up to be closely monitored and will also be made public record to all American citizens so they can see for themselves how green the arena is. 

The cost of the building overall is set to be around $900 million and will be able to hold 18,000 sports fans. Its projected to host around 200 events each year, which will also include concerts. The building is currently still under construction, as production was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s expected to make its public debut with Seattle’s brand new NHL team in 2021-2022 (the dates are subject to change based on how the pandemic progresses).