Typhoons and Their Environmental Consequences

Hello OnAir Readers!

As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, Typhoon Haiyan smashed into the Philippines a week ago, traveling from there to Vietnam and China. The damages and mortality rates are staggering: 10,000 people have been estimated for the minimum death number, and 600,000 more are homeless.

This catastrophe is not alone, as in the past 10 years we’ve witnessed destructive natural disasters over and over again. Recent studies have suggested that these events may very well be linked to environmental destruction such as deforestation, etc. The areas with such destruction seem to cause an increase in global warming (no surprise there) due to their release of extremely damaging amounts of carbon into our atmosphere.

This latest typhoon is more than likely just going to add to this pattern of carbon dumping, although the amount of carbon that Haiyan’s aftermath will release is yet unknown. We can, however, look to past events and their figures for more information.

In order to put this into some perspective for you guys, let’s turn to Hurricane Katrina here in the US. When Katrina hit in 2005, the amount of carbon released equaled 105 teragrams. To put it into clearer terms, that well is over half of the amount of carbon that ALL of the forests in the US absorb on an annual basis. In the case of the disaster in the Phillipines, the tree tally is already over the 320 million trees uprooted by Katrina. However, luckily for the Philippines, their average coverage of forest is much higher than that of Eastern US areas.

What is interesting to note is that the amount of carbon released does not absolutely correspond with the areas that received the most damage during a typhoon; in fact, the greatest carbon loss during Katrina was found on the very outer edges of the damaged regions. This would be good news if trees were able to regenerate rapidly enough to combat the carbon loss. Also, it is important to take into consideration is that a recent study of the northwest Pacific region has shown that the wind speeds and rainfall rates have been predicted to increase significantly over the next twenty years in reference to tropical storms. If this is true, then the damage from Typhoon Haiyan and those tropical storms to follow, may never fully recover and unfortunately even for those of us on the opposite side of the world will be negatively affected by them in one way or another.

 

OnAir says: What do you think? Do you agree with these climate conclusions? What sorts of things have you seen around the news? Let us know your thoughts in a comment below!

 

Source: www.newscientist.com/article.dn24558-typhoon-haiyan-may-have-created-carbon-burb.html#.UoaZeXm9Kc0

Greener on this side too…

The grass always looks greener on the other side…especially after a day or two of rain and especially in Georgia. Sometimes I take all the green for granted…sometimes I think it will always be green. But, a few days ago, on my way to school, I noticed something silver peeking out of the green. Actually, it was not just one, but several. Upon a closer look, those silver things turned out to be cans and other waste that were thrown on the ground. It may not seem like it, but waste like these can actually be detrimental to Mother Earth.

How does garbage have an effect on the environment? Well, for starters, garbage pollution can increase toxic fumes in the air as well as contribute to harmful diseases to circulate around.

Land wastes cause chemical contamination. Plastics and toxins in wastes like anti-freeze and other chemicals seep into the ground where they remain. Many modern-day chemicals either do not biodegrade or break down and if they do, they break down into several smaller chemical particles. These particles poison the ground itself and everything that touches it. It could cause contamination in areas like polluted water ways or acid rain created from air pollution.

Contaminated water that evaporates into the atmosphere can fall back to the earth as acid rain, causing the cycle of contamination and pollution to continue. That means the nutrients that plants and trees soak up become contaminated and start dying. If trees start dying, then it would cause an even more detrimental impact on the air. And the green? It’ll become a rarity, thus it’s important to not take the green environment for granted. Click here  for more information.

It’s important to recycle cans and water bottles and properly dispose other things. Plus, if you see cans and plastic bottles lying around, don’t just saw eww and ignore it. Go ahead and pick it up and properly dispose it. On the long run, you’re doing something good for the environment!

Photo credit: Masslive.com

Water and Air Pollution

One might think air pollution is different than water pollution, but that person doesn’t realize that everything in the world is correlated.

First, let’s see what air pollution REALLY means. According to Princeton worldwide net, it defines air pollution as pollution in the air. Meaning, the greenhouse gases released by the machines go in the atmosphere.

So then what happens? The gasses actually condense like oxygen, and then become clouds. As the cloud gets heavier, it starts raining. The rain is not just water, but it is mixed with the gasses. Finally, the rainfall which is contaminated goes into water bodies which contaminate the whole area.

See how it is related? One problem causes the other which causes another whole different problem.

Which should we work on first? Air or water pollution?

OnAir says: What do you think are the biggest causes of air pollution, OnAir community? Let us know in the comments. Also, give a big welcome to our new blogger Rasika! We’re excited to have her on the team. If you’d like to apply to be an OnAir blogger, click here to get started now!

Cleaner Cooking

Hello OnAir Readers!

This week I’d like to talk about something that I think is very important for our collective future, and is also very interesting.

Each and every one of us uses energy every single day, and I’m not just talking about physical energy which we have all learned about in biology. No, in this instance I am talking about the energy used in cooking and stoves. In a new study, universal access to modern energy (that is, modern sources of energy for everyone on the planet) can only be achieved if we invest between $65-86 billion a year, every single year until 2030. These estimates are much higher than those that came before this study found in “Environmental Research Letters.”

This amount may seem drastic, but readily available access to things like electricity, etc. seems to combat for approximately 4 million deaths annually from poor household air pollution, which is generally caused by traditional cooking practices. International research has shown that with more access to clean cooking fuels, we could easily avoid up to 1.8 million premature deaths as well as simply enhancing people’s well being. In order to do this, we would need to add between 21 and 28 gigawatts of energy in order to create the most modest amount of electricity for the average rural household.

In addition to the costs, there is a need for a new set of dedicated policies to help households ease into cooking in better and cleaner ways. However, this is no small project, and would involve over 40% of the entire world’s population.The estimated cost of this would be approximately $750-1000 billion within the next 20 years.

There are so many details and so much money involved, that even the head researcher Dr. Shonali Pachauri doesn’t fully believe that universal access to clean and modern energy is possible. In fact, she states in another interview that the scale of the investment is so enormous that it would probably require additional sources of finances from private companies. However, the benefits are equally enormous and thus we must all begin to consider whether or not these benefits out-weigh the bad.

In addition to this study with its program, the UN also declared 2012 as the “International Year of Sustainable Energy for All,” and has made their own promises for 2030. Even without the establishment of a full program, even the barest framework would bring cleaner energy to up to 810 million people around the world in rural or impoverished areas by 2030. However, millions more in rural Asia and sub-Saharan Africa would remain without access to these modern energy sources. So, the next time that you’re cooking a meal in your more-than-likely modern kitchen, be thankful!

For more information you can visit here: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130502225855.htm

Going to class? Go green!

So, a lot of you will be heading off to college soon. And campus life brings tons of new experiences. But how to make those new experiences eco-friendly? Let’s start by tackling a big one: getting to class.

Dorms are so expensive. A lot of students, looking for ways  to be more economically savvy, either commute from their parents’ houses (if they’re local) or get apartments off campus.

Either way, the journey to campus usually takes a little longer. Many will opt for walking, but sometimes the apartment is too far. Sometimes it will rain. Sometimes, you’ll just be having a bad day.

We know, it’s hard. #firstworldproblems

The point is, you want to get where you’re going without hurting the environment, right? So here are some suggestions for keeping it green:

  1. Ride your bike. Especially if it’s sunny out, why wouldn’t you want to? Riding bikes is just so much fun! What if it rains and the sidewalks are too slippery for bikes, you say?…
  2. …just walk. Take an umbrella. And put on your rain boots. We promise it won’t kill you. And sometimes it’s pretty soothing to go for a relaxing walk in the rain, especially if it’s just a steady patter. However, if it’s storming…
  3. …take public transportation. Many cities–especially ones with colleges and universities–at have bus systems set up to make campus more accessible. If this isn’t the case…
  4. …bum a ride off of a friend. (The buzzword here is “carpool”.) If a car is necessary, double-up (or triple-up!) on the way. You get where you’re going, you get some social time, and you keep a couple extra pollution-spouting vehicles off the road. And while you’re bumming rides…

Have any more suggestions? What ways are you getting to campus? Do you have a plan? Let us know in a comment below!

How important is Earth Day to you?

©parisdailyphoto.com

Actually, a better question: How important is the earth to you? According to this article Americans place less importance (gasp) on environmental issues than they did a year after 1971, when Earth Day was established as a holiday.

However, what is key here is that increased numbers of Americans today actually are taking advantage of more efforts to become more eco-friendly. More of us are recycling, taking alternate transportation, and using less electricity. So while people might be answering survey questions in a way that makes us seem less green, our behavior is saying that we’re growing greener by the day. Whether it is using green house cleaners or using public transit to get to work or school, we Americans aren’t doing too bad. That’s fantastic!

This brings up the question of what else could we do to highlight the importance of our environment to fellow Americans? And what about you? On your list of things that are important, how far up is the environment? Do you disagree with most Americans? Comment below and share your opinion with us.

What Hurricane Sandy Could Say About Global Warming

Hey everyone, so as you guys know, Hurricane Sandy has been all over the news, and for good reason. It’s been wreaking havoc in the New York and New Jersey areas, and has really established itself as one of the worst storms the U.S has faced in recent times.

One of the issues that has been raised in Sandy’s aftermath has been whether the storm was closely related to climate change, or global warming. One research scientist at The Earth Institute at Columbia University, Radley Horton has been studying the potential causes and conditions that resulted in Hurricane Sandy. In an interview with NPR Horton told them that while it couldn’t be stated that global warming was a direct cause of the powerful storm, connections between the two could be made.

The rising sea levels and temperatures of the world’s oceans were said to be connected to the storm. As the planet warms up, the oceans heat up as well, and warmer water strengthens the power of storms like Sandy. Increased flooding could be the result of higher sea levels in the future.
In a separate article, researchers at Beijing Normal University in China found that the frequency of large storm surges has increased since 1923, and that in warmer temperatures large storms are more likely.

With these recent studies and with America dealing with Sandy’s aftermath, I think we should all look for climate change discussion to increase and hopefully gain a more important place in government policy. While we can’t know for sure that global warming is putting us at bigger risk of large storms, we can’t look past the connections. The articles are below if you guys want to read them, they give more examples of possible causes of storms such as Sandy and how climate change plays in.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=hurricane-sandy-spins-up-climate-discussion

http://www.npr.org/2012/10/31/164043372/sandy-raises-questions-about-climate-and-the-future

Tomorrow is International Walk to School Day!

Guess what? Tomorrow is International Walk to School Day!

But of course, you already knew that.

So we want to see you strut your stuff to and from school tomorrow. It’s good for you, and it’s good for the air.

In case you need some more encouragement, below are a few things that you may not have considered yet–but first, see what one of our student bloggers, Zoe Spencer, has to say about clean commuters at her school:

And now for some walking facts:

Walking to school promotes physical health: Seems like a no-brainer, right? Well walking to school is a great way to get some easy exercise in each and every day. While it may not seem like you’re pushing yourself too hard, every little bit helps.

Walking to school keeps our air clean: Walking to school throws a huge punch on behalf of our environment. For every person that walks to and from school, that’s one less car on the road emitting toxic fumes and polluting our air.

For every mile you drive, your car puts 1 pound of pollution in the air. That is a ton of pollution! Let’s face it, no one likes breathing polluted air, so why not drive less?

Walking to school is social: Get together with some of your friends or neighbors and walk to school in a group. It’s a great way to socialize and catch up on things you’ve missed (gossip), and to get your day started with a positive attitude.

Walking to school makes a statement:  Stand up for our environment. You can show your parents, teachers, and community leaders that we don’t have to rely on cars for everyday transportation. Your example will show everyone how easy it is to walk in your community. You could be a trendsetter!

16 year-old makes big changes on a global scale…

…$78 million worth of big changes, to be exact.

16 year-old Azza Abdel Hamid Faias, an Egyptian student, has found a relatively cheap catalyst to help break down plastic waste and turn it into bio-fuel feedstock.

Azza at the 23rd European Union Contest for Young Scientists

Azza’s discovery was made when brainstorming on how to reduce Egypt’s trash consumption, nearly 100 million tons per year. The idea of breaking down plastic garbage to be used as a bio-fuel starter has been around for several years, however it’s Azza’s catalyst discovery that is the real breakthrough here. All other methods have been regarded as too costly to be efficient, but this newly discovered catalyst, aluminosicilate, has been proved to break down waste and simultaneously produce methane, propane, and ethane, which can be used to create ethanol.

According to Azza, the technology could “provide an economically efficient method for production of hydrocarbon fuel,” including 40,000 tons per year of cracked naptha and 138,000 tons of hydrocarbon gasses – the equivalent of $78 million in bio-fuel.

Azza’s proposal is already attracting loads of attention, including that of the Egyptian Petroleum Research Institute, as well as interest from major energy companies worldwide.

At only 16 years old, this teenager has made a discovery that could change the world. We know she has a bright future ahead. We also know that she is not the only young mind working towards a better planet.

Even ideas that seem small-scale at first can turn out to have a big impact. So we want to know, what things do you do make your part of the world better? Let us know in the comments!

Incentives for Going Green

In these modern times, we have become a bit muddy on the definition of going green and what we as a people should do to help the environment. As of now, just about everything has some sort of label that attaches the idea of being environmentally friendly to being “green”.

In reality, every little bit helps, simple, whether you are using a product that is good for the environment and your wallet, or if you just buying a product that gives partial revenue towards a program that helps an organization for going green.

On that note, here are some monetary notes that could provide you with an incentive for
going green around your house. One major change that all of you can do is simply changing your light bulbs to CFLs, which last longer than regular bulbs and save energy.

Now, when I recommend this, I don’t mean go smash all your bulbs now–just wait till they burn out. Friendly tip: research online the CFL bulbs you are going to buy to figure out if they are soft white or bright white light. It can make a big difference in your house.

Another thing that is happening now is if you surf the web and look on your utility companies’ websites, there are now programs that will reduce your payments to those companies. Basically, they offer you a couple of earth-friendly things to do, and if you so
choose to complete these tasks, they will cut down the costs of your bill and even give you a little payment. Anything to cut the lighting bill, right?

Similarly, for veterans or even active-duty soldiers, there are programs that you can sign
up for at the credit union or your local Veterans Affairs Medical Center that contains similar
programs in which they will pay the veterans to do certain tasks around their house that will promote going green. It would be simple task, such as switching to energy-efficient appliances, using less water on a scheduled basis, what-have-you. So if you know veterans, ask them to look around for such programs and it could end up helping their wallets after all of their service.

These are just some easy tasks to look into to relieve some financial burdens around
your house. I am not saying you have to be gung-ho and commit to all these changes or even pester your family and friends, but just remember we all have to pitch in to help our
environment because we all share it together.

OnAir says:  You know what other green choice pays off? Carpooling! Riding with a friend cuts the amount of car pollution going into the air—and cuts the amount of gas you have to buy. Plus, once you’re out of school and on the job, you can earn cash from The Clean Air Campaign for taking alternative transportation to work. Yes, cash. Not too shabby.