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Author: Sid Perkins

Description: Are termites always bad? Maybe not …
In a study conducted in Borneo during the drought of 2015-16, researchers compared plots of land within a tropical rainforest. In some of the plots, termites were removed; in other plots, the termites were left alone. In the plots with intact termite mounds and nests, soil moisture was 36% higher than it was in plots where termite activity was disrupted.Termites like a moist environment and, if needed, will dig down to bring water up to their living spaces. The increase in soil moisture caused by the termite activity helped plants in the rainforest survive during the drought,
What could this mean?
Due to climate change, droughts are expected to occur more frequently all over the world. As a result, termites could play an increasingly important role in assisting current and future rainforest productivity and biodiversity.

Title: Surprise: These termites are good for trees

Year: 2019

Publication: Science

Full text: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/01/surprise-these-termites-are-good-trees

Dig deeper: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6423/174

Serial Number: 77
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Author: Somini Sengupta

Description: Weather extremes–a hallmark of climate change. Searing heat, wildfires, drought, overwhelmed electrical grids, deaths, etc. in one place. Arctic cold, frostbite in minutes, school and college closings, city and county offices closed, states at a standstill, more deaths, etc. in another place … and both happening at the same time in different parts of the world. “This is weather in the age of extremes.”
But, how can extreme cold be part of an overall global warming? Research is indicating that global warming, specifically “a warming Arctic is causing changes in the jet stream and pushing polar air down to latitudes that are unaccustomed to them and often unprepared.”
Climate change is here, it’s happening, and it is impacting every place. And, as with most disasters and upheavals, the poor and vulnerable suffer the most. This is not a time for decision-makers to stick their heads in the sand …

Title: U.S. Midwest Freezes, Australia Burns: This Is the Age of Weather Extremes

Year: 2019

Publication: New York Times

Full text: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/29/climate/global-warming-extreme-weather.html

Dig deeper: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/18/climate/polar-vortex-2019.html

Serial Number: 78
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Author: Tim Herrera

Description: Unconscious bias--or shortcuts we take to reach conclusions--affect many parts of our lives. While these mental leaps are often necessary, they are also dangerous when the conclusion is colored by what we have accepted without thinking. The conclusions we reach through unconscious bias can have real impacts on others and ourselves--economic, social, political, etc. For instance, we often tend to decide a person is an expert just because he or she appears to be confident, extraverted, and talks a lot. The person may not have any real expertise but, because they appear to have it or sound like they have it, we assume they do. Who we trust does not only reflect who actually is trustworthy, but it also reflects who we are, where we came from, etc. "Knowing that we are vulnerable to this trap is the first step toward overcoming it." Who do you trust just because they appear to be self-confident and are loud and talk/tweet a lot?

Title: How Your Brain Can Trick You Into Trusting People

Year: 2018

Publication: New York Times

Full text: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/29/smarter-living/unconscious-bias-trust.html

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Serial Number: 45
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Author: Tim Vernimmen

Description: Salt and brine is applied to roads, parking lots, and sidewalks in winter to help melt ice and snow--and then washes off into streams, rivers, and lakes. Burning coal and other fossil fuels in power plants creates emissions which makes rain acidic–and then slowly dissolves rocks, soils, buildings, and roads releasing yet more salt into the environment. More and more salts get into freshwater streams and rivers. The result? At least a third of the rivers and streams in the U.S. have gotten saltier in the past 25 years. “By 2100, more than half of them may contain at least 50% more salt than they used to.” Too much salt flowing into our sources of freshwater reduces the amount of available drinking water and increases the amount of water too salty for irrigation use. The saltiest freshwater areas in the U.S. are the northern Great Plains (due to mining and oil/gas extraction), the urban Northeast, and the Midwest (due to agriculture). But, the arid Southwestern U.S. may see the largest increases in salt in the future due to expanding agricultural irrigation and less rainfall. The economic cost of too much salt in the Southwest is already huge–$300 million annually in the Colorado River basin; $3.7 billion (as of 2014) in lost agricultural production in California alone. “The natural streams that collect water across the landscape and carry it along to the rivers and lakes we get our drinking water from are like a neural network connecting us to nature.” “If they are unhealthy, sooner or later we’ll pay the price."

Title: Freshwater Is Getting Saltier, Threatening People and Wildlife: Road de-icing, industrial activity and other culprits are pushing salt levels in rivers and streams to alarming levels

Year: 2018

Publication: Scientific American

Full text: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/freshwater-is-getting-saltier-threatening-people-and-wildlife/

Dig deeper: https://www.pnas.org/content/115/4/E574

Serial Number: 71
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Author: Tom Philpott

Description: Since late 2016, a dairy alternative based on oats has been gaining popularity in the U.S. While the market for dairy milk alternatives is already large, the industry leader, almond milk, has significant environmental impacts. "Oats, however, thrive all over the world and come with ecological benefits." Oats could be particularly beneficial in the Midwestern U.S. Research at Iowa State University shows that rotating oats and red clover with corn and soybeans leads to large reductions in herbicide and added fertilizer use, significantly less erosion and chemical runoff, plus higher yields for corn and soybeans. Oats are not new; through the 1950's, they were a major crop in the Midwest U.S. Then demand for oats dropped. A surge in demand for oat milk alone is not enough to make oats a regular rotation crop again; but, it could be a significant push--just like the impact of almond milk.

Title: This Amazing New Milk Is Going to Change Everything: It doesn’t hurt cows, guzzle water, or ruin the soil.

Year: 2018

Publication: Mother Jones

Full text: https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2018/05/this-amazing-new-milk-is-going-to-change-everything/

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Serial Number: 37
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Author: Warren Cornwall

Description: Natural gas has long been “promoted as a clean alternative to other fossil fuels.” It’s main ingredient is methane. Compared to other greenhouse gases, like CO2, methane does not stay in the atmosphere as long but, while it’s there, “its warming effect is much stronger.” A new study shows that methane “has been leaking from oil and gas facilities [in the United States] at far higher rates than governmental regulators claim.” These leaks “have nearly doubled the climate impact of natural gas, causing warming on par with carbon dioxide-emitting coal plants for 2 decades.” The benefits of burning natural gas instead of coal “are being undermined by the leaks.” The more leakage, the smaller the environmental benefit of using natural gas.

Title: Natural gas could warm the planet as much as coal in the short term

Year: 2018

Publication: Science

Full text: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/06/natural-gas-could-warm-planet-much-coal-short-term

Dig deeper: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2018/06/20/science.aar7204

Serial Number: 15
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Author: Will Knight

Description: Much misinformation is spread through social media by automated accounts–called “bots.” The purpose of these fake accounts is to sway public opinion, change behavior (like voting behavior), and to generally unsettle and divide.How do you know if the post or tweet you may be looking at comes from a human being? Can you tell the difference? Being hoodwinked by a machine is no one’s finest hour. Research has identified 5 clues for spotting Twitter bots–user profile, tweet syntax, tweet semantics, temporal behavior, and network features. Read the article to learn more.

Title: How to tell if you’re talking to a bot

Year: 2018

Publication: MIT Technology Review

Full text: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/611655/how-to-tell-if-youre-talking-to-a-bot/

Dig deeper: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/7490315/?reload=true

Serial Number: 3
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Author: Zoe Schlanger

Description: Recycling plastic is a challenge. Over the past few decades, plastic “recycling” has in fact consisted–about half the time–of sending that plastic to China (often through Hong Kong). China and Hong Kong “have imported 72% of all plastic waste.” But, this route is now at an end. As of January 2018, China has banned the import of “nonindustrial plastic waste.” As a result, according to a recent study, “that will leave the world–mostly high-income countries–with an additional 111 million metric tons of plastic to deal with by 2030.” And, these countries, especially the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, and Germany “have no good way to handle it.” Plastic is piling up. Changes are needed–in recycling programs, in how plastics are made, in how humans behave …

Title: The world will finally have to confront its massive plastic problem now that China won’t handle it

Year: 2018

Publication: Quartz

Full text: https://qz.com/1310240/chinas-ban-on-plastic-recycling-imports-means-the-world-will-have-111-million-metric-tons-of-extra-plastic-to-deal-with-by-2030/

Dig deeper: http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/6/eaat0131

Serial Number: 16
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Author: Zoe Schlanger

Description: In 2016, about 10% of global energy use went toward air conditioning. Up until now, some of the hottest areas on Earth use the least A/C. But, that is changing. The IEA predicts that by 2050, "global energy use from A/C will triple, reaching a level equivalent to China's total electricity demand today." In the U.S., 90% of homes have A/C and "per-capita cooling-energy use is 1,880 kWh" compared to about 800 kWh in Japan and South Korea, 70 KWh in India, and 35 kWh per person in most African nations. But, we are seeing a "cooling boom"-the sales of A/C is going way up especially in hotter areas like India, Indonesia, and the Middle East. A/C is a great thing for quality of life, but it consumes vast amounts of energy. China now uses 68 times more "cooling electricity than it did in 1990." How does the world produce this much more energy without cancelling progress toward "curbing climate change" and making climate change worse? Better A/C technology is needed along with stricter rules for more efficient A/C. These could make an enormous difference.

Title: The people living in the hottest places on the planet are the least likely to have air conditioners

Year: 2018

Publication: Quartz

Full text: https://qz.com/1285836/the-people-living-in-the-hottest-places-on-the-planet-are-the-least-likely-to-have-air-conditioners/

Dig deeper: http://www.iea.org/cooling/

Serial Number: 29





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