Posts with «nature & environment» label

Solar Eclipse 2024: How to watch and record the total eclipse on Monday

On April 8, a solar eclipse will darken the skies. This is a rare astronomical event: The last North American total solar eclipse was on August 21, 2017, and there won't be another on visible on the continent until 2044. The path of totality — where the sun will be fully blocked by the moon — covers over 30 million people in the US, Canada and Mexico.

Those lucky folks may see the sun’s corona and a “diamond ring” — both dramatic sights. Other regions will experience partial eclipses, with the level depending on how close you are to totality. Watching the moon eat into the sun, even a bit, is still a spectacular sight.

So, which cities and regions will experience totality, and when? What’s the weather forecast in those areas? And if you do have a clear view, how can you safely watch and record the event?

Where in the US will you experience the solar eclipse totality, and when?

The good news is that many major centers are in the 100-mile-wide band of totality, so millions of people will be able to see a full solar eclipse. It follows a northeast path, so Mexico’s Pacific coast will get the first views in Mazatlan starting at around 10:57 AM PDT (total eclipse starting at 12:07 PDT), followed by the city of Torreón (all times local).

The total eclipse moves into the United states at 12:10 PM CDT (Eagle Pass, Texas), then hits Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas — three out of five of the most populous Texas cities. From there, it moves into Little Rock, Arkansas, followed by select parts of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana (including Indianapolis).

NASA

Ohio cities Dayton, Toledo and Cleveland get the full show, followed by Erie, Pennsylvania, then Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse in New York along with Maine. Canada is in on the fun too, with parts of southern Ontario (Hamilton, Niagara Falls) and Quebec (Montreal) getting the totality, along with New Brunswick, PEI and finally, Bonavista, Labrador at 4:03 PM NDT (Newfoundland Time).

If you’re elsewhere on the continent and can’t travel, know that the closer you are to the band of totality, the more the sun will be obscured by the moon (this map shows how much of the eclipse you’ll get depending where you are on the continent).

An impressive list of major centers are within 200 miles of totality, so they’ll get a 90 percent or better eclipse (Houston, St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Toronto, New York, Boston).

Anyone in the US south, midwest and northeast should get a decent spectacle, as will folks in Canada’s southeast and Atlantic coast. Even if you’re not in those regions, you might still see (and can capture) a mini eclipse.

How long with the 2024 solar eclipse last?

From the beginning when the moon first starts to cover the sun (partial eclipse) until the end when the two bodies part ways is a good long time – up to two hours and forty minutes in Dallas, and 2:18 in Caribou, Maine.

However, totality itself is brief, with the duration dependent on how close you are to the center of the totality band and the time of day. It’s at just under four minutes in Dallas, less than three minutes in Presque Island, Maine and a mere minute and 12 seconds in Montreal. As such, you’ll need to be ready and hope that the skies are clear during that brief window.

What’s the weather forecast in my area?

It’s still early for an accurate forecast, but a week is enough to get a general idea by region. Suffice to say, April isn’t the ideal month for clear skies. That said, an eclipse can still be visible through light cloud cover, and even if it’s thick, the sky will grow dramatically dark.

Unfortunately, the odds of precipitation are indeed above average across most of the band of the eclipse. Forecasts predict that the chances for clear skies are better the farther northeast you live, the opposite of historical trends.

To wit, Dallas has showers forecast throughout the day (58 percent), which would mean continuous cloud cover and no clear view if that holds. That improves a bit when you get to Indianapolis (partly cloudy, 24 percent chance of rain), with things better still in Buffalo, New York (partly cloudy, 11 percent).

Things are looking good right now in Montreal, though, with mostly sunny skies and only a 9 percent chance of rain, and the same goes for Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Niagara Falls also figures to have decent weather during the eclipse (mostly sunny, 18 percent) and is in the path of totality, which has led to the city declaring a state of emergency out of caution. Officials estimate that a million people could pour into the area, creating potentially dangerous crowds.

How can I watch the solar eclipse at home?

Staring at the sun is obviously dangerous for your vision, and doing so during an eclipse can be just as harmful. Even though you may not feel discomfort immediately, you may damage your eyes via an affliction called solar retinopathy. That can lead to serious consequences like eye pain, blind spots, blurred vision and more.

American Astronomical Society

To view it safely, you must purchase a pair of approved solar eclipse glasses based on an international safety standard called ISO 12312-2 (regular sunglasses won’t do). That dictates the maximum luminous transmittance, along with the range of permissible wavelength transmittance (UVA, UVB and infrared).

There’s certainly still time to grab a pair if you don’t have them already. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has many recommendations for manufacturers and vendors, both online and at retail chains.

Warby Parker, for one, is offering free glasses (limit two per person while supplies last). You can also find them at Staples, Lowes and Walmart, or online at B&H and multiple science and astronomy stores.

The AAS advises against searching for the lowest price on Amazon or eBay, however, in case you get a bad knock off. “Before you buy a solar viewer or filter online, we recommend that you make sure that (1) the seller is identified on the site and (2) the seller is listed on this page,” it says on its Solar Eclipse Across America site.

How to watch the solar eclipse safely without glasses

Canadian Space Agency

It’s possible to view an eclipse without glasses via indirect means, as well. The simplest way is by punching a small round hole in a piece of thick paper or cardboard, then positioning it so the sun shines through the hole onto the ground or a flat surface (you can also attach a piece of foil with a hole, as NASA shows here). That will project an image of the Sun's disc, letting you see the eclipse in real time.

The same pinhole principle would let you use anything with perforated holes, like a colander, projecting dozens of tiny eclipses on a surface. Trees can do the same thing, casting weird leaf shadows with little solar eclipse chunks out of them.

Benjamin Seigh/Wikimedia

For a bit better experience, you can build a crude box projector. With that, the sun shines through a hole in tin foil onto a white card, and you can look through a larger hole at the card, with the sun behind you. The Canadian Space Agency explains exactly how to make that.

Never, ever view an eclipse directly through a pair of binoculars or a telescope, as that’s a guaranteed way to damage your eyes. That said, you can use a pair of binoculars or a telescope to project the sun onto a piece of paper, as shown in this video.

How to take photos or video of the solar eclipse

Unfortunately, you can’t just point your smartphone or camera at the sun to record the eclipse, as the brightness will overwhelm the sensor and ruin the image (and possibly damage the sensor). Luckily, you can shield your camera just as you do your eyes.

The cheapest way to do that is to buy an extra set of eclipse glasses, then cut out an eyepiece from one and tape it over the smartphone (or other camera) lens. That will reduce the light levels enough to see detail in the sun throughout the partial eclipse and totality.

You can also purchase dedicated smartphone solar filters like the VisiSolar Photo Filter, which are designed for cameras and not direct viewing. Another choice is the Solar Snap Eclipse App Kit, which also offers an app that aids in photographing the eclipsed sun. It’s advisable to also wear solar glasses when setting up your smartphone or camera to protect your eyes.

If you’re shooting the eclipse with a dedicated mirrorless or DSLR camera, you’ll need either a mylar, 16-stop ND (neutral density) or hydrogen alpha solar filter. Again, do not look directly into a DSLR’s optical viewfinder at the sun if the lens doesn’t have one of those filters attached (the electronic viewfinder on a mirrorless camera is safe).

To photograph the eclipse with a smartphone, turn the flash off and put the camera into ultrawide or wide mode so it stays in frame. Do NOT look directly at the sun to line up your camera if you’re not wearing solar eclipse glasses.

Don’t use the digital zoom to try to make the eclipse bigger, as you’ll lose resolution (you can zoom in later in your photo editing app). Once focus is set on the sun, use your smartphone’s focus lock feature so that it doesn’t “hunt” for focus and blur the eclipse.

During totality, the “diamond ring” effect only lasts a split second, so use the burst mode of your camera or you’ll likely miss the shot. And try to capture RAW (rather than JPEG) images to keep the maximum detail possible for later editing. Some iPhone and Android smartphones have RAW capability built-in, if not, you can use a third-party app.

If you decide to capture video, you’ll need a filter as well, of course. But you should also use a tripod, as shooting handheld will induce blur and result in a shaky video. Even a cheap tripod will do the trick, along with a simple smartphone holder. Capture the highest resolution you can (4K or even 8K) at the highest quality possible. You’ll also capture any cheering, shouting, etc. — a precious souvenir you can look back on again and again.

More resources

There are plenty of government and private sites with more information about the eclipse, starting with the AAS’s eclipse site, detailing things like eye safety, imaging, resources and even a totality app — an “interactive map that shows what you’ll see at any location in North America for the total solar eclipse of April 8, 2024.”

NASA also offers a dedicated site for the North American Eclipse, as does the National Weather Service and National Solar Observatory. A private site called Great American Eclipse is largely commercial, but does have a very useful map showing the band of totality and how much of the eclipse you’ll see depending on location, along with a comprehensive list of eclipse times and durations by city.

Update, April 5, 12:30PM ET: This story was updated after publishing to include more details about the total solar eclipse's path of totality.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/solar-eclipse-2024-how-to-watch-and-record-the-total-eclipse-on-monday-163035394.html?src=rss

Only 57 companies produced 80 percent of global carbon dioxide

Last year was the hottest on record and the Earth is headed towards a global warming of 2.7 degrees, yet top fossil fuel and cement producers show a disregard for climate change and actively make things worse. A new Carbon Majors Database report found that just 57 companies were responsible for 80 percent of the global carbon dioxide emissions between 2016 and 2022. Thirty-eight percent of total emissions during this period came from nation-states, 37 percent from state-owned entities and 25 percent from investor-owned companies. 

Nearly 200 parties adopted the 2015 Paris Agreement, committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, 58 of the 100 state- and investor-owned companies in the Carbon Majors Database have increased their production in the years since (The Climate Accountability Institute launched Carbon Majors in 2013 to hold fossil fuel producers accountable and is hosted by InfluenceMap). This number represents producers worldwide, including 87 percent of those assessed in Asia, 57 percent in Europe and 43 percent in North America. 

It's not a clear case of things slowly turning around, either. The International Energy Agency found coal consumption increased by eight percent over the seven years to 8.3 billion tons — a record high. The report names state-owned Coal India as one of the top three carbon dioxide producers. Russia's state-owned energy company Gazprom and state-owned oil firm Saudi Aramco rounded out the trio of worst offenders. 

Exxon Mobil topped the list of United States companies, contributing 1.4 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. "These companies have made billions of dollars in profits while denying the problem and delaying and obstructing climate policy. They are spending millions on advertising campaigns about being part of a sustainable solution, all the while continuing to invest in more fossil fuel extraction," Tzeporah Berman, International Program Director at Stand.earth and Chair at Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, said in a statement. "These findings emphasize that, more than ever, we need our governments to stand up to these companies, and we need new international cooperation through a Fossil Fuel Treaty to end the expansion of fossil fuels and ensure a truly just transition." 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/only-57-companies-produced-80-percent-of-global-carbon-dioxide-130752291.html?src=rss

Waymo's self-driving vehicles are now doing Uber Eats deliveries in Phoenix

If you're in the Metro Phoenix area — and don't mind walking out of your place to get your food delivery — your Uber Eats order may just get delivered by one of Waymo's self-driving cars. The companies have officially launched the next part of their ongoing multi-year partnership, which also includes offering robotaxi rides to the ride-hailing service's customers in the area. When you place an order on Uber Eats, you'll get a prompt that says "autonomous vehicles may deliver your order." 

You will be notified if a Waymo car does pick up your order, and you'll have to take your phone with you when you meet it so that you can open its trunk and get your food. Don't worry, you can opt out during the checkout process in case you're not feeling up to going out and getting your order and would rather have someone deliver food to your door. 

At the moment, Waymo deliveries are only available in Chandler, Tempe and Mesa, and only for select merchants, including local joints and chains like Princess Pita and BoSa Donuts. An Uber spokesperson told CNBC, though, that the companies are looking to expand their service area and are looking to add more merchants to their list. They also told the news organization that Waymo will be using its Jaguar I-PACE electric vehicles, which it's been testing in Arizona for years, for deliveries. It doesn't sound like Waymo deliveries will be more expensive either, since the spokesperson said you'll only have to pay standard fares and will not be charged for tips. 

The companies first announced that they were teaming up to offer robotaxi rides and deliveries in Phoenix last year, following Waymo's service area expansion in the region. Robotaxi rides became available in the metropolitan area by October, and you'll get the option to hail one when you request an UberX, Uber Green, Uber Comfort or Uber Comfort Electric. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/waymos-self-driving-vehicles-are-now-doing-uber-eats-deliveries-in-phoenix-130052864.html?src=rss

How to watch (and record) the 2024 solar eclipse on April 8

The great North American solar eclipse will darken the US, Canada and Mexico on April 8th, as you’ve no doubt heard. It’s a significant astronomical event, the first since August 21, 2017 and the last one that will be visible on the continent until 2044.

Parts of all three countries will experience “totality” or a full blocking of the sun by the moon. Those lucky folks may even see the sun’s corona and a “diamond ring” — both rare and dramatic sights. Other regions will experience partial eclipses, with the level depending on how close you are to totality. Watching the moon eat into the sun, even a bit, is still a spectacular sight.

So, which cities and regions will experience totality? When will it happen? What’s the weather forecast in those areas? And if you do have a clear view, how can you safely watch and record the event? Read on to find out more.

Where in the US will you experience the solar eclipse totality, and when?

The good news is that many major centers are in the 100-mile-wide band of totality, so millions of people will be able to see a full solar eclipse. It follows a northeast path, so Mexico’s Pacific coast will get the first views in Mazatlan starting at around 10:57 AM PDT (total eclipse starting at 12:07 PDT), followed by the city of Torreón (all times local).

The total eclipse moves into the United states at 12:10 PM CDT (Eagle Pass, Texas), then hits Austin, Fort Worth and Dallas — three out of five of the most populous Texas cities. From there, it moves into Little Rock, Arkansas, followed by select parts of Missouri, Illinois and Indiana (including Indianapolis).

NASA

Ohio cities Dayton, Toledo and Cleveland get the full show, followed by Erie, Pennsylvania, then Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse in New York along with Maine. Canada is in on the fun too, with parts of southern Ontario (Hamilton, Niagara Falls) and Quebec (Montreal) getting the totality, along with New Brunswick, PEI and finally, Bonavista, Labrador at 4:03 PM NDT (Newfoundland Time).

If you’re elsewhere on the continent and can’t travel, know that the closer you are to the band of totality, the more the sun will be obscured by the moon (this map shows how much of the eclipse you’ll get depending where you are on the continent).

An impressive list of major centers are within 200 miles of totality, so they’ll get a 90 percent or better eclipse (Houston, St. Louis, Memphis, Nashville, Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Toronto, New York, Boston).

Anyone in the US south, midwest and northeast should get a decent spectacle, as will folks in Canada’s southeast and Atlantic coast. Even if you’re not in those regions, you might still see (and can capture) a mini eclipse.

How long with the 2024 solar eclipse last?

From the beginning when the moon first starts to cover the sun (partial eclipse) until the end when the two bodies part ways is a good long time – up to two hours and forty minutes in Dallas, and 2:18 in Caribou, Maine.

However, totality itself is brief, with the duration dependent on how close you are to the center of the totality band and the time of day. It’s at just under four minutes in Dallas, less than three minutes in Presque Island, Maine and a mere minute and 12 seconds in Montreal. As such, you’ll need to be ready and hope that the skies are clear during that brief window.

What’s the weather forecast in my area?

It’s still early for an accurate forecast, but a week is enough to get a general idea by region. Suffice to say, April isn’t the ideal month for clear skies. That said, an eclipse can still be visible through light cloud cover, and even if it’s thick, the sky will grow dramatically dark.

Unfortunately, the odds of precipitation are indeed above average across most of the band of the eclipse. Forecasts predict that the chances for clear skies are better the farther northeast you live, the opposite of historical trends.

To wit, Dallas has showers forecast throughout the day (58 percent), which would mean continuous cloud cover and no clear view if that holds. That improves a bit when you get to Indianapolis (partly cloudy, 24 percent chance of rain), with things better still in Buffalo, New York (partly cloudy, 11 percent).

Things are looking good right now in Montreal, though, with mostly sunny skies and only a 9 percent chance of rain, and the same goes for Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Niagara Falls also figures to have decent weather during the eclipse (mostly sunny, 18 percent) and is in the path of totality, which has led to the city declaring a state of emergency out of caution. Officials estimate that a million people could pour into the area, creating potentially dangerous crowds.

How can I watch the solar eclipse at home?

Staring at the sun is obviously dangerous for your vision, and doing so during an eclipse can be just as harmful. Even though you may not feel discomfort immediately, you may damage your eyes via an affliction called solar retinopathy. That can lead to serious consequences like eye pain, blind spots, blurred vision and more.

American Astronomical Society

To view it safely, you must purchase a pair of approved solar eclipse glasses based on an international safety standard called ISO 12312-2 (regular sunglasses won’t do). That dictates the maximum luminous transmittance, along with the range of permissible wavelength transmittance (UVA, UVB and infrared).

There’s certainly still time to grab a pair if you don’t have them already. The American Astronomical Society (AAS) has many recommendations for manufacturers and vendors, both online and at retail chains.

Warby Parker, for one, is offering free glasses (limit two per person while supplies last). You can also find them at Staples, Lowes and Walmart, or online at B&H and multiple science and astronomy stores.

The AAS advises against searching for the lowest price on Amazon or eBay, however, in case you get a bad knock off. “Before you buy a solar viewer or filter online, we recommend that you make sure that (1) the seller is identified on the site and (2) the seller is listed on this page,” it says on its Solar Eclipse Across America site.

How to watch the solar eclipse safely without glasses

Canadian Space Agency

It’s possible to view an eclipse without glasses via indirect means, as well. The simplest way is by punching a small round hole in a piece of thick paper or cardboard, then positioning it so the sun shines through the hole onto the ground or a flat surface (you can also attach a piece of foil with a hole, as NASA shows here). That will project an image of the Sun's disc, letting you see the eclipse in real time.

The same pinhole principle would let you use anything with perforated holes, like a colander, projecting dozens of tiny eclipses on a surface. Trees can do the same thing, casting weird leaf shadows with little solar eclipse chunks out of them.

Benjamin Seigh/Wikimedia

For a bit better experience, you can build a crude box projector. With that, the sun shines through a hole in tin foil onto a white card, and you can look through a larger hole at the card, with the sun behind you. The Canadian Space Agency explains exactly how to make that.

Never, ever view an eclipse directly through a pair of binoculars or a telescope, as that’s a guaranteed way to damage your eyes. That said, you can use a pair of binoculars or a telescope to project the sun onto a piece of paper, as shown in this video.

How to take photos or video of the solar eclipse

Unfortunately, you can’t just point your smartphone or camera at the sun to record the eclipse, as the brightness will overwhelm the sensor and ruin the image (and possibly damage the sensor). Luckily, you can shield your camera just as you do your eyes.

The cheapest way to do that is to buy an extra set of eclipse glasses, then cut out an eyepiece from one and tape it over the smartphone (or other camera) lens. That will reduce the light levels enough to see detail in the sun throughout the partial eclipse and totality.

You can also purchase dedicated smartphone solar filters like the VisiSolar Photo Filter, which are designed for cameras and not direct viewing. Another choice is the Solar Snap Eclipse App Kit, which also offers an app that aids in photographing the eclipsed sun. It’s advisable to also wear solar glasses when setting up your smartphone or camera to protect your eyes.

If you’re shooting the eclipse with a dedicated mirrorless or DSLR camera, you’ll need either a mylar, 16-stop ND (neutral density) or hydrogen alpha solar filter. Again, do not look directly into a DSLR’s optical viewfinder at the sun if the lens doesn’t have one of those filters attached (the electronic viewfinder on a mirrorless camera is safe).

To photograph the eclipse with a smartphone, turn the flash off and put the camera into ultrawide or wide mode so it stays in frame. Do NOT look directly at the sun to line up your camera if you’re not wearing solar eclipse glasses.

Don’t use the digital zoom to try to make the eclipse bigger, as you’ll lose resolution (you can zoom in later in your photo editing app). Once focus is set on the sun, use your smartphone’s focus lock feature so that it doesn’t “hunt” for focus and blur the eclipse.

During totality, the “diamond ring” effect only lasts a split second, so use the burst mode of your camera or you’ll likely miss the shot. And try to capture RAW (rather than JPEG) images to keep the maximum detail possible for later editing. Some iPhone and Android smartphones have RAW capability built-in, if not, you can use a third-party app.

If you decide to capture video, you’ll need a filter as well, of course. But you should also use a tripod, as shooting handheld will induce blur and result in a shaky video. Even a cheap tripod will do the trick, along with a simple smartphone holder. Capture the highest resolution you can (4K or even 8K) at the highest quality possible. You’ll also capture any cheering, shouting, etc. — a precious souvenir you can look back on again and again.

More resources

There are plenty of government and private sites with more information about the eclipse, starting with the AAS’s eclipse site, detailing things like eye safety, imaging, resources and even a totality app — an “interactive map that shows what you’ll see at any location in North America for the total solar eclipse of April 8, 2024.”

NASA also offers a dedicated site for the North American Eclipse, as does the National Weather Service and National Solar Observatory. A private site called Great American Eclipse is largely commercial, but does have a very useful map showing the band of totality and how much of the eclipse you’ll see depending on location, along with a comprehensive list of eclipse times and durations by city.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/how-to-watch-and-record-the-2024-solar-eclipse-on-april-8-163035648.html?src=rss

The EPA reveals final auto industry regulations to try to keep the world habitable

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled its final pollution emissions standards for the auto industry on Wednesday. The regulations, which include a looser timeframe than those proposed last year, mandate that by 2032, most new passenger car and light truck sales in the US must be electric or hybrid.

Earth is on a disastrous trajectory with climate change, and no amount of baseless conspiracy theories or talking points from the oil and gas industry, Donald Trump or anyone else will change that. Only phasing out fossil fuels and emissions will beat back its worst effects. The Biden Administration’s EPA is trying to do that — while throwing a bone to stakeholders like unions and automakers to navigate the landmines of today’s political realities.

The final rules present a timeline to wind down gas-powered vehicle purchases, making most US auto sales fully electric, hybrid, plug-in hybrid or advanced gasoline by 2032. The transition begins in 2027 but moderates the pace until after 2030. That’s a key change from last April’s proposed standards, which called for EVs to make up two-thirds of vehicle sales by 2032.

The shift was an election-year compromise for Biden, who has to balance the crucial battle against climate change with 2024 auto union endorsements. Labor unions had pushed for the more relaxed pace out of fears that a more aggressive transition, like the EPA proposed last year, would lead to job losses. EVs typically require fewer assembly workers than traditional gas-powered vehicles.

Last year, United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain withheld support for Biden’s reelection due to concerns about the EV transition. But (perhaps after hearing assurances about the revised rules) the UAW endorsed his reelection bid in January.

“The EPA has made significant progress on its final greenhouse gas emissions rule for light-duty vehicles,” the UAW wrote in a statement about the new rules published by the EPA. “By taking seriously the concerns of workers and communities, the EPA has come a long way to create a more feasible emissions rule that protects workers building ICE vehicles, while providing a path forward for automakers to implement the full range of automotive technologies to reduce emissions.”

Contrary to what online misinformation or your uncle may tell you, the rules — aimed at the auto industry and not consumers — don't make gas-powered cars and trucks illegal. Instead, they require automakers to meet specific emissions standards throughout their product lines. The rules apply to new vehicle sales, not used ones.

The EPA says the final rule will lead to $99 billion in benefits and save the average American driver $6,000 in fuel and maintenance over the life of their vehicles. Other advantages include avoiding 7.2 billion additional tons of CO2 emissions through 2055 and offering “nearly $100 billion of annual net benefits to society.” The reduction in fine particulate matter and ozone will allegedly prevent up to 2,500 premature deaths in 2055 while reducing associated health problems like heart attacks, asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

“Three years ago, I set an ambitious target: that half of all new cars and trucks sold in 2030 would be zero-emission,” President Biden wrote in a statement supplied by The White House to Engadget. “I brought together American automakers. I brought together American autoworkers. Together, we’ve made historic progress. Hundreds of new expanded factories across the country. Hundreds of billions in private investment and thousands of good-paying union jobs. And we’ll meet my goal for 2030 and race forward in the years ahead. Today, we’re setting new pollution standards for cars and trucks. U.S. workers will lead the world on autos making clean cars and trucks, each stamped ‘Made in America.’”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-epa-reveals-final-auto-industry-regulations-to-try-to-keep-the-world-habitable-195612588.html?src=rss

Biden administration may give automakers more time to shift to EVs

The Biden administration plans to loosen the limits on tailpipe emissions proposed last year by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), giving automakers more time before they’ll be required to sell significantly more electric vehicles than gas-powered cars, The New York Times reported this weekend. Under the proposed regulations laid out by the EPA, EVs would have to account for 67 percent of new car and light-duty truck sales by 2032.

Rather than forcing manufacturers to start ramping up EV sales right away, the changes would allow them to make the shift more gradually through the remainder of the 2020s, sources told the NYT. After 2030, though, EV sales would need to drastically increase. Automakers have argued that the current cost of electric vehicles and the lack of charging infrastructure stand in the way of hitting such extreme targets as those proposed by the EPA. Last year, just 7.6 percent of new cars sold in the US were EVs, per NYT.

The revision is likely a move in part to appease labor unions, which represent a demographic seen as a key area of support for Biden and have expressed a need for more time to unionize new EV plants among other concerns, according to NYT. The rules are not yet finalized, but are expected to be published in the spring.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/biden-administration-may-give-automakers-more-time-to-shift-to-evs-215625805.html?src=rss

The ice caps are melting. Is geoengineering the solution?

Since 1979, Arctic ice has shrunk by 1.35 million square miles, a new JPL study found ice loss in Greenland is far worse than previously thought and Antarctic ice is now at the lowest level since records began. The more they melt, the faster the rate of decline for the ice that remains until we’re faced with a series of catastrophes. The most immediate of which is sea level rise which threatens to eradicate whole nations that are situated on low-lying islands. How do we stop such a problem? While we remedy the longer-term issues around fossil fuel consumption, we might have to buy ourselves more time with geoengineering.

The severity of this situation can’t be stressed enough. Professor John Moore of the Arctic Center, University of Lapland, says that we’re long past the point where emissions reductions alone will be effective. “We are faced with this situation where there’s no pathway to 1.5 [degrees] available through mitigation,” he said. “Things like the ice sheets [melting] and other tipping points will happen regardless,” adding that the Earth’s present situation is akin to a patient bleeding out on the operating table, “we are in this situation where we cannot mitigate ourselves out of the shit.”

Moore is one of the figures behind Frozen Arctic, a report produced by the universities of the Arctic and Lapland alongside UN-backed thinktank GRID-Arendal. It’s a rundown of sixty geoengineering projects that could slow down or reverse polar melting. A team of researchers opted to examine every idea, from those already in place to the ones at the fringes of science. “We wanted to be thorough,” said Moore, “because even the craziest idea might have a nugget of gold in there.” Each approach has been given a brief analysis, examining if it’s feasible on a scientific or practical basis, if it would be potentially helpful and how much it would cost. The report even went so far as to look at pykrete, a wacky World War Two initiative to create artificial glaciers for strategic use by mixing sawdust or paper products into ice.

If you’re curious and don’t have a day or two to read the report yourself, you can boil down the approaches to a handful of categories. The first is Solar Radiation Management, i.e. making the polar regions more reflective to bounce away more of the sun’s heat. Second, there’s artificial ice generation to compensate for what has already been lost. Third, enormous engineering work to buttress, isolate and protect the remaining ice — like massive undersea walls that act as a barrier against the seas as they get warmer. Finally, there are measures that nibble at the edges of the problem in terms of effect, but have more viable long-term success, like preventing flora and fauna (and the warmth they radiate) from encroaching on regions meant to remain frozen.

If you’re a climate scientist, the likely most obvious approach is the first, because we’ve seen the positive effects of it before. Albedo is the climate science term to describe how white ice acts as an enormous reflector, bouncing away a lot of the sun’s heat. Ice ages dramatically increase albedo, but there are more recent examples in living memory: In 1991 Mount Pinatubo, a volcano in the Philippines, erupted, spewing an enormous amount of volcanic ash into the atmosphere. (The event also caused a large amount of damage, displaced 200,000 people and claimed the lives of at least 722.) According to NOAA, the ash dumped into the atmosphere helped reflect a lot of solar heat away from the Earth, causing a temporary global cooling effect of roughly 1.5 degrees celsius. The devastation of Pinatubo isn’t desirable, nor was the ozone depletion that it caused, but that cooling effect could be vital to slowing global warming and polar melting.

It’s possible to do this artificially by seeding the clouds with chemicals deposited by an airplane or with ground-based smoke generators, which can also be used to promote rain clouds. This is a tactic already used in China to help make rain for agriculture and to alleviate drought-like conditions. In this context, the clouds would act as a barrier between the sun and the ice caps, bouncing more of that solar radiation away from the Earth’s surface. Unfortunately, there’s a problem with this approach, which is that it’s incredibly expensive and incredibly fussy. The report says it’s only viable when the right clouds are overhead, and the work would require enormous infrastructure to be built nearby. Not to mention that while we have some small shreds of evidence to suggest it might be useful, there’s nothing proven as yet.

And then there are the second order effects when these approaches then spill over into the rest of the global ecosystem. “If you do sunlight reflection methods and you put anything up in the atmosphere, it doesn’t stay where you put it.” That’s the big issue identified by Dr. Phil Williamson, honorary associate professor at the University of East Anglia and a former contributor to the UN’s keystone Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. His concern is that regional, targeted climate solutions “don’t solve the problem for the whole world,” and that if you’re not tackling climate change on a global scale, then you’re “just accentuating the difference.” With a cold arctic, but rising temperatures elsewhere, you’re climbing aboard a “climate rollercoaster.”

Second in the ranking of hail-mary climate approaches is to build a freezer to both cool down the existing ice and make more. Sadly, many ideas in this area forget that ice sheets are not just big blocks of immovable ice and are, in fact, liable to move. Take the idea of drilling down two miles or so into the ice sheet and pumping out the warm water to cool it down: Thanks to the constantly shifting ice and water, a new site would need to be drilled fairly regularly.

There’s another problem: The report says one project to bore a hole down 2.5km (1.5 miles) burned 450,000 liters of fuel. Not to mention how much energy it would consume to run the heat exchangers or freezers to create fresh ice on such a scale. That's a considerable amount of greenhouse gas pollution for a project meant to undo that exact type of damage. Dumping a layer of artificially-made snow on a mountain may work fine for a ski resort when the powder’s a little thin, but not the whole planet.

As hard as the scientific and engineering battles will be, there’s also the political one that will need addressing. “A lot of people get quasi-religiously upset about putting stuff into the stratosphere,” said Professor John Moore, “you’d think they’d get similarly upset about greenhouse gasses.” One strategy under consideration is to inject sulfur into the atmosphere to replicate the cooling effects observed after major volcanic eruptions. The sulfur would form SO2, creating thick layers of dense cloud to block more heat from reaching the ice. But if you, like me, have a high school-level knowledge of science, that’s a scary prospect given that sulfur dioxide would resolve to sulfuric acid. Given the microscopic quantities involved, there would be little-to-no impact on the natural world. But the image of acid rain pouring down from the clouds means it’d be a hard sell to an uninformed population.

But if there is a reason for concern, it’s that any unintended consequences could pose a problem in the global political space. “It’s almost like declaring war on the rest of the world if [a nation] goes it alone,” says Phil Williamson, “because any damage or alteration to the global climate system, the country that did it is responsible for all future climatic disasters because the weather isn’t the same.”

Of course, Moore knows that the Frozen Arctic report’s conclusions aren’t too optimistic about a quick fix. He feels its conclusions should serve as a wake-up call for the planet. “Nobody is going to scale up something for the entire arctic ocean overnight,” he said, but that this is the time to “find ideas that might be valuable [...] and then put resources into finding out if [those ideas] really are useful.” He added that the short turnaround time before a total climate disaster isn’t much of an issue, saying “engineers can pretty much do anything you ask them to if you put enough resources into it.” Because the alternative is to do nothing, and “every day that we choose to do nothing, we accept more of the damages that are coming.”

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-ice-caps-are-melting-is-geoengineering-the-solution-150004916.html?src=rss

The Biden administration now requires large cryptocurrency miners to report their energy use

The Biden administration recently announced that it would be requiring large cryptocurrency mining operations to report electricity usage, via a press release from The Energy Information Administration. This follows concerns that the industry could pose a threat to the nation’s electricity grids and hasten the impacts of climate change.

To that end, the EIA has targeted 137 “identified commercial cryptocurrency miners” working in the US. These operations account for around 2.3 percent of national energy usage. This breaks down to 90 terawatt-hours per year, which is more than Finland, Belgium and Chile use in that same time period. The world’s crypto miners used as much electricity in 2023 as the entire country of Australia. That's a whole lot of energy for Shiba Inu-branded internet money with no practical application.

The data collection started this week. The survey aims to get a sense of the industry’s growing demands and which parts of the country are the biggest crypto hotbeds, so as to refine policy later on. The EIA has already discovered that nearly 38 percent of all bitcoin is mined in the US, which is up from 3.4 percent in 2020.

“As cryptocurrency mining has increased in the United States, concerns have grown about the energy-intensive nature of the business and its effects on the US electric power industry,” the EIA said in a report that offered further details behind the survey.

The EIA went on to note that large crypto mining operations could strain the electricity grid during peak periods, force higher energy prices for average consumers and negatively impact energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Most of the electricity generated throughout the world comes from burning fossil fuels, and that process releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The clean energy advocacy group RMI estimates that US cryptocurrency mines release 25 to 50 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. That’s around the same amount as the yearly diesel emissions from the US railroad industry. 

The biggest mining operations in the country are scattered throughout 21 states, but largely clustered in Texas, Georgia and New York. This is especially dangerous for Texans, as the state’s energy grid is already notoriously fragile. Ben Hertz-Shargel, who leads energy research consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie, told Ars Technica that crypto mining operations are not only placing a higher burden on the state’s energy grid, but increasing prices for consumers. 

Energy costs in Texas are based on real-time demand, so Hertz-Shargel estimates that state residents see an increase of 4.7 percent in their monthly utility bills due to cryptocurrency mining. He also said that mining operations tend to open up shop next to pre-existing renewable energy facilities, which draws clean power away from nearby homes and businesses.

It’s not all doom and gloom in the crypto world. Back in 2022, Ethereum announced a software update to make mining ether more eco-friendly. The Ethereum Foundation claims this reduces the carbon emissions of its mining operations by more than 99 percent. However, ether accounts for just 17 percent of the global cryptocurrency market share.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/the-biden-administration-now-requires-large-cryptocurrency-miners-to-report-their-energy-use-182831778.html?src=rss

Tesla settles California hazardous waste lawsuit for $1.5 million

Tesla and the 25 California counties that sued the automaker for mishandling hazardous waste at its facilities around the state have already reached an agreement just a few days after the lawsuit was filed. The court has ordered the automaker to pay $1.5 million as part of the settlement, which also includes hiring a third party to conduct annual waste audits of its trash containers for five years. These auditors will be taking a close look at the company's trash containers to check for hazardous materials. 

The counties that sued Tesla, which include Los Angeles and San Francisco, accused the company of dumping improperly labeled materials at transfer centers and landfills that were "not permitted to accept hazardous waste." Based on the complaint filed in San Joaquin County, Tesla was illegally disposing the waste it generated manufacturing and servicing its vehicles. 

Undercover investigators from the environmental division at the San Francisco District Attorney's Office were the first to find evidence of Tesla's illegal activities back in 2018. They found trash containers at the company's service centers containing materials, such as aerosols, antifreeze, lubricating oils, brake cleaners, lead acid batteries, aerosols, antifreeze, waste solvents, electronic waste and waste paint when they weren't supposed to. Investigators from other California counties' District Attorney's offices conducted their own investigations and found similar unlawful disposals. The Alameda country authorities who looked into its Fremont factory activities, for instance, discovered illegal disposal of waste containing copper and primer-contaminated debris. 

Tesla reached a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency over its handling of hazardous materials back in 2019 and had to agree to properly manage waste at its Fremont plant in addition to paying a $31,000 fine. The automaker had also taken steps to screen its trash containers for hazardous waste before taking them to the landfill after being notified of the issue. But as District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said, "today's settlement against [the company] serves to provide a cleaner environment for citizens throughout the state by preventing the contamination of [their] precious natural resources when hazardous waste is mismanaged and unlawfully disposed." By having a third party regularly check whether Tesla continues to comply with the agreement, authorities can ensure that the company isn't illegally dumping harmful materials across the state over the next few years. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/tesla-settles-california-hazardous-waste-lawsuit-for-15-million-070513014.html?src=rss

Tesla sued by 25 California counties for allegedly mishandling hazardous waste

Tesla is facing a lawsuit from 25 California counties accusing it of mishandling hazardous waste at facilities around the state, according to a complaint filed in San Joaquin County Superior Court. The lawsuit, which seeks civil penalties and an injunction forcing Tesla to correctly handle waste, was filed after months of negotiations reportedly broke down. Civil penalties could amount to as much as $70,000 per violation per day, Reuters reported.

Los Angeles, San Francisco and other counties accused Tesla of improperly labeling and disposing of materials at transfer stations or landfills "not permitted to accept hazardous waste." Waste materials include "lubricating oils, brake fluids, lead acid batteries, aerosols, antifreeze, cleaning fluids, propane, paint, acetone, liquified petroleum gas, adhesives and diesel fuel," the complaint states. It adds that Tesla "continues to do so at and/or from its facilities."

Tesla revealed that it was being probed by California district attorneys over its waste management handling in a 2022 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing. It stated at the time that it "had implemented various remedial measures, including conducting training and audits and enhancements to its site waste management programs," according to TechCrunch. It said in October 2023 that it was in settlement talks with District Attorneys across California, but those apparently failed to bear fruit.

Tesla has previously faced legal repercussions over its handling of waste. In 2019, it reached a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency over federal hazardous materials violations. As part of that, Tesla agreed to properly manage waste at its Fremont plant and pay a $31,000 fine. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/tesla-sued-by-25-california-counties-for-allegedly-mishandling-hazardous-waste-082034366.html?src=rss