Tag Archives | Environment

The Future of Work: We Have Been Here Before

Nana B Agyei (CC BY 2.0)

Nana B Agyei (CC BY 2.0)

Paul Saffo via Pacific Standard:

The latest entry in a special project in which business and labor leaders, social scientists, technology visionaries, activists, and journalists weigh in on the most consequential changes in the workplace.

This is not the first time society has fretted over the impact of ever-smarter machines on jobs and work—and not the first time we have overreacted. In the Depression-beset 1930s, labor Jeremiahs warned that robots would decimate American factory jobs. Three decades later, mid-1960s prognosticators offered a hopeful silver lining to an otherwise apocalyptic assessment of automation’s dark cloud: the displacement of work and workers would usher in a new “leisure society.”

Reality stubbornly ignored 1930s and 1960s expectations. The robots of extravagant imagination never arrived. There was ample job turbulence but as Keynes forecast in 1930, machines created more jobs than they destroyed. Boosted by a World War, unemployment dropped from a high of 25 percent in 1933 to under two percent in 1944.

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Bombshell Study Reveals Methane Emissions Hugely Underestimated

A methane flare at a natural gas drilling site. (Photo: WildEarth Guardians/cc/flickr)

A methane flare at a natural gas drilling site. (Photo: WildEarth Guardians/cc/flickr)

This post originally appeared on Common Dreams. See more of Lauren McCauley’s articles here.

The amount of methane being leaked from natural gas production sites has been hugely underestimated, according to a “bombshell” new study released on Tuesday.

In a paper published at Energy & Science Engineering, expert and gas industry consultant Touché Howard argues that a much-heralded 2013 study by the University of Texas relied on a faulty measurement instrument, the Bacharach Hi-Flow Sampler (BHFS), causing its findings to low-ball actual emission rates “by factors of three to five.”

“The data reported by the University of Texas study suggest their measurements exhibit this sensor failure, as shown by the paucity of high-emitting observations when the wellhead gas composition was less than 91% CH4, where sensor failures are most likely,” Howard writes, “during follow-up testing, the BHFS used in that study indeed exhibited sensor failure consistent with under-reporting of these high emitters.”

Jamie Henn, communications director for 350.org called Howard’s findings a “bombshell,” adding: “The more we learn about fracking, the worse it is for the environment.”

If Howard is correct, the study throws into question countless other estimates of methane emissions from natural gas production through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which has been hailed as a low-emission energy solution.

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Obama Unveils ‘Biggest Step Ever’ In Climate Fight – Today

What could this biggest step ever be? (Hint: it involves emissions from power plants.) President Obama is set to unveil a major new strategy to combat climate change today, per AFP:

US President Barack Obama will Monday unveil what he called the “biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken” to fight climate change, a sensitive issue central to his legacy.

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The White House will release the final version of America’s Clean Power Plan, a set of environmental rules and regulations that will home in on the pollution from the nation’s existing power plants, setting limits on power-plant carbon emissions for the first time.

Plants will have to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Laying out how climate change is a threat to the economy, health, wellbeing and security of America, and adding that time was of the essence, Obama said in a video released early Sunday: “Climate change is not a problem for another generation.

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The Mystery of the Kentucky Meat Shower

No, not the third installment of the Magic Mike Trilogy, but something weirder and more wondrous than Channing Tatum’s butt gyrations.

meat

Shower Meat- it’s what’s for dinner. If you’re starving. Or Kentuckian.

Let’s cut the chatter and get right to the- uh- meat of the matter:

According to Today I Found Out,

On March 3, 1876, one Mrs. Crouch was working in her yard in Bath County, Kentucky, making soap, when suddenly “meat which looked like beef began to fall all around her. The sky was perfectly clear at the time.” Falling like large snowflakes and settling all around the 5000 square foot yard, pieces of flesh ranging in size from about two inches square to four, dotted the ground and were even stuck on the fences. When it first appeared, the meat was said to be fresh, and, accordingly, two unidentified (but brave) men even sampled it.

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The Oil Industry is Going Solar

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Zachary Shahan writes at Climate Crock of the Week:

There’s no way around it — the future of energy is solar energy. But here’s the fun part: the future starts now.

Solar panels have been on the market for decades, but saying solar panels of today are the same as solar panels of the 1990s is like saying phones of today are like phones of the 1990s. True, you can’t play Tetris on your solar panels or listen to music via them, but who wants to climb onto a record-hot roof to do that anyway? Getting back to the central point here, it’s that the cost of solar has fallen off a cliff, and solar power is increasingly the cheapest option around. (see graph above).

Solar power prices are falling so fast that it’s hard for just about anyone to keep up. Last year, many of us jumped for joy as a record-low solar PPA was signed in Austin, Texas (for 5 cents/kWh).

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EmDrive Back in the News

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Paul Gilster via Centauri Dreams:

Martin Tajmar (Dresden University of Technology) offers a paper entitled “Direct Thrust Measurements of an EmDrive and Evaluation of Possible Side-Effects” in his presentation on apparent thrust produced by the test device. As he told WIRED (which announced that The ‘impossible’ EmDrive could reach Pluto in 18 months), the current work will not close the story. From the paper itself:

The nature of the thrusts observed is still unclear… Our test campaign can not confirm or refute the claims of the EmDrive but intends to independently assess possible side-effects in the measurements methods used so far. Nevertheless, we do observe thrusts close to the magnitude of the actual predictions after eliminating many possible error sources that should warrant further investigation into the phenomena. Next steps include better magnetic shielding, further vacuum tests and improved EmDrive models with higher Q factors and electronics that allow tuning for optimal operation.

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Three scientists investigating melting Arctic ice may have been assassinated, professor claims

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Robert Mendick Via The Telegraph:

A Cambridge Professor has made the astonishing claim that three scientists investigating the melting of Arctic ice may have been assassinated within the space of a few months.

Professor Peter Wadhams said he feared being labelled a “looney” over his suspicion that the deaths of the scientists were more than just an ‘extraordinary’ coincidence.

But he insisted the trio could have been murdered and hinted that the oil industry or else sinister government forces might be implicated.

The three scientists he identified – Seymour Laxon and Katherine Giles, both climate change scientists at University College London, and Tim Boyd of the Scottish Association for marine Science – all died within the space of a few months in early 2013.

Professor laxon fell down a flight of stairs at a New year’s Eve party at a house in Essex while Dr Giles died when she was in collision with a lorry when cycling to work in London.

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Perceive this: The human brain controls alpha-band oscillation phase to effect temporal predictions

Fig. 3. Spatial and frequency specificity of the alpha-band signal. (A) Scalp topography of absolute alpha power 400 ms before target onset, with electrode Pz indicated. (B) FFT of the pretarget data, indicating a peak in power at 10.6 Hz. Credit: Samaha J et al. (2015) Top-down control of the phase of alpha-band oscillations as a mechanism for temporal prediction. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 112(27):8439-8444.

Fig. 3. Spatial and frequency specificity of the alpha-band signal. (A) Scalp topography of absolute alpha power 400 ms before target onset, with electrode Pz indicated. (B) FFT of the pretarget data, indicating a peak in power at 10.6 Hz. Credit: Samaha J et al. (2015) Top-down control of the phase of alpha-band oscillations as a mechanism for temporal prediction. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 112(27):8439-8444.

Stuart Mason Dambrot via Medical Express:

Standard models of perception are stimulus-driven, meaning that the external perceptual event drives the brain’s perception-related activity. However, the tide may be turning: recent ideas suggest that our perceptual experiences and visually guided behaviors are influenced by top-down processes in the brain – specifically, the brain’s predictions about the external world. Recently, scientists at University of Wisconsin–Madison demonstrated that perceptual expectations about when a stimulus will appear are instantiated in the brain by optimally configuring prestimulus alpha-band oscillations in order to optimize the effectiveness of subsequent neural processing.

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Cap and Trade Proven Successful in Northeastern States

carbontax

Peter Sinclair writes at Climate Crock of the Week:

If you listened to right wing media, you might assume that “Cap and Trade” was a game that ISIL fighters played with severed heads of their enemies.

Actually, it’s a Republican idea for fighting pollution, and it’s been shown to work pretty well in tamping down Acid Rain – which is why it was proposed early on as a means of dealing with climate change.

The Hill, April 3, 2012:

President Obama reminded Republicans Tuesday that cap-and-trade has GOP roots in a rare public reference to the embattled environmental policy.

“Cap-and-trade was originally proposed by conservatives and Republicans as a market-based solution to solving environmental problems,” Obama said during a fiery speech at a luncheon hosted by The Associated Press.

“The first president to talk about cap-and-trade was George H.W. Bush. Now you’ve got the other party essentially saying we shouldn’t even be thinking about environmental protection.

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