Polar Bears and Low Emission Jets – Top 5 Happy Eco News – 2021-03-01

Thanks for reading the Happy Eco News Weekly Top 5 newsletter. This week we have a guest blog by Krista Wright, Executive Director at Polar Bears International who shines a light on the importance of protecting denning moms and cubs and International Polar Bear Day.

We also have stories that feature how 14 coastal nations are making the commitment to manage their national ocean waters 100% sustainably, the first geothermal power plant in the world to combine the generation of electricity and production of hot water for district heating, how concept hybrid planes could reduce 95% of toxic emissions, and the surprising super plant that can fight air pollution.

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Polar Bears, a Beacon of Hope

Guest Post By Krista Wright, Executive Director at Polar Bears International

It’s February 2021, polar bear moms and cubs are nestled in their dens, and the hope I feel for their future is palpable. Events over the last year disrupted many global systems, upending life as we know it. As we begin to recover and rebuild, we find ourselves in a unique position to reimagine what comes next. A future with polar bears, a stable climate, and an equitable society is possible—and there has never been a more important time to come together in realizing this vision.

This year, the focus of our International Polar Bear Day celebration is on how we can protect vulnerable families in their dens, keeping them out of harm’s way. Polar bear cubs are born in winter in dens hidden under the snow. Surviving an Arctic winter is no small feat, and denning is the most vulnerable time in a polar bear’s life cycle, with survival rates of just 50 percent or less for many cubs. Research shows that the oil industry’s current den-detection tool misses more than half of known dens, putting denning families at risk.  [read more]

Top 5 Happy Eco News

1. A Win for the Oceans: International Sustainability Agreement

“Fourteen heads of state call in to a remote meeting” sounds like a post-COVID adaptation of a “walks into a bar” joke. But it was actually the beginning of what might be the first-ever international agreement reached online. The culmination of two year’s work, the agreement would have been a major accomplishment even without the challenges of a pandemic obstructing the process. And it marks a major win for the oceans. It is nothing less than 14 coastal nations making the commitment to manage their national ocean waters 100% sustainably. The Ocean Panel Major environmental initiatives usually involve the U.S. and a handful of other major economies throwing their weight around, making demands of smaller nations without committing to much of anything themselves. But the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy ( Ocean Panel ) is a unique initiative in two ways. First, the biggest economies were not even invited. Instead, 14 smaller coastal nations united to take definitive action informed by science. Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Palau, and Portugal, supported by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean formed the Ocean Panel in 2018. The second unique … [read more]

2. Converting to Geothermal Energy May Help Save the Planet

The Svartsengi power plant is the first geothermal power plant in the world to combine generation of electricity and production of hot water for district heating. (Credit: Kirill Chernyshev/Shutterstock) The National Renewable Energy Laboratory projects that geothermal energy could provide the U.S. with an inexhaustible supply of energy for billions of years to come. This term, geothermal, comes from the Greek words geo (earth) and therme (heat). Hence, we’re talking about literally drawing steam and hot water from inside the Earth as an energy source. Because heat is continuously produced inside the Earth, this resource is considered a renewable energy source. In the U.S., dozens of power plants are now harnessing this energy, and tens of thousands of homes are adding geothermal technology each year. The slow decay of radioactive particles in the Earth’s core, a process that happens in all rocks, produces geothermal energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) . People can capture this energy to heat buildings and generate electricity. While geothermal energy is used in over 20 countries, the U.S. is the largest producer of geothermal energy in the world. How Do We Access It? The deeper you go into the Earth, the … [read more]

3. Concept Hybrid Planes Could Reduce Deadly Air Pollution by 95 Percent

MIT engineers have designed a concept airplane that could eliminate 95 percent of toxic emissions. Aaron Foster / Getty Images Air travel is a major source of air pollution . A new concept hybrid-electric airplane could reduce dangerous emissions by 95 percent and potentially save thousands of lives every year. Generally, the environmental cost of flying is high. At cruising altitude, planes emit a steady stream of nitrogen oxides (NOx) into the troposphere, which eventually convert into ozone and fine particulates, an MIT press release noted. According to the U.S Energy Information Administration, an independent statistic and analysis organization, ozone in the troposphere is harmful to human health and adds to the climate crisis. WWF estimated that if the entire aviation sector were a country, it would be one of the world’s top 10 carbon-polluting nations. The compounded effect of ozone at such a low altitude and NOx, which acts as a precursor greenhouse gas, means that aviation is responsible for around five percent of global CO2 emissions annually, at a minimum. A separate 2019 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study found that aviation emissions’ impact on air quality is two to four times worse than its … [read more]

4. Meet the Latest ‘Super Plant’ to Fight Air Pollution

Planting greenery is often touted as one solution to the threat of air pollution, but which species are actually the most effective against this major public health hazard? Researchers at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in the UK set out to answer that exact question and in the process revealed a new “super-plant” — Franchet’s cotoneaster, or Cotoneaster franchetii. “We estimate the Cotoneaster franchetii traps 20% more emissions than other hedges we have tested so would be ideal along busy roads in pollution hot spots,” RHS principal horticultural scientist and study lead author Dr. Tijana Blanusa said in a press release. The study, published in the journal Environments, set out to compare different methods for assessing which plants were accumulating the most particulate matter. They then used the most effective method to look at roadside hedges during the summertime in the British city of Reading. They sought to determine which species and types of species were the most effective at absorbing pollutants, as well as the influence of hedge depth and proximity to traffic. The winner, Franchet’s cotoneaster, is a shrub with hairy leaves that sports white or pink berries in spring and summer … [read more]

5. Canada will be Biden’s ally in tackling the climate crisis

Jonathan Wilkinson is Canada’s minister of environment and climate change. This story was originally published by Canada’s National Observer and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. U.S. President Joe Biden’s first week in office has offered a welcome dose of climate optimism. Not only did Biden win a mandate with climate action as a central pillar of “ building back better ” from the pandemic, he has also assembled a cabinet and White House team comprised of climate experts to deliver an all-of-government effort. Canada welcomes the return of the U.S. to the Paris Agreement , and we look forward to forging new opportunities for bilateral climate cooperation with our largest trading partner and closest neighbor. This will be facilitated by the fact we already have a solid relationship and record of accomplishment working with Biden. In 2015, shortly after Canadians elected us to deliver ambitious climate action, then– Vice President Biden visited Canada to urge our government to continue taking action on issues such as climate change. And we did just that. Working with Canadians, we developed and began to implement Canada’s first-ever national climate plan — the Pan-Canadian Framework. The plan was … [read more]

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