Day: November 26, 2020

Does hunting with lead ammunition endanger human, environmental health?

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

Illinois Natural History Survey human dimensions scientist Craig Miller describes how and why attitudes toward lead ammunition have changed in recent decades.

Getting the Lead Out: Why Battery Recycling Is a Global Health Hazard

Read the full story at e360.

From African shantytowns to the backstreets of China’s cities, small-scale businesses that recycle the lead from auto batteries are proliferating. Experts say the pollution from these unregulated operations is a lethal threat – with children being the most vulnerable to poisoning.

Climate change will offset CO2 crop yield gains: ‘We need to breed and engineer future-proof crops’

Read the full story at Food Navigator.

The expected future increase in crop yields due to higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will be offset by stressors linked to climate change. Now is the time to prepare by developing future-proof varieties, researchers urge.

Agricultural Innovation Takes Shape in Great Lakes Region, Helping Solve Solutions Today for Challenges Tomorrow

Read the full story from the USDA.

If we plan to survive in the future, we must address today’s most pressing concerns in agriculture. Preparing the land to continue to meet food, fiber, fuel, feed, and climate demands is a tall order to fill for growing populations. USDA has aligned all its resources, programs and research to give farmers with the tools they need to help meet these challenges.

USDA agencies, like the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are supporting the department-wide effort to stimulate innovation and enable farmers to position American agriculture as a leader in providing solutions to climate challenges, through its Agricultural Innovation Agenda (AIA).

Four energy-saving lessons from the first lockdown which may help us through the winter

Lockdown disrupted our daily routines – and lowered their carbon footprint. Sipeta / shutterstock

by Philipp Grünewald (University of Oxford)

The gold standard of research in science is the randomised controlled trial. The COVID-19 restrictions may at times seem random and most certainly feel like a trial. But are they controlled enough to learn from?

For scientists like me who are interested in our energy use, the lockdown is a social science experiment of unprecedented scale and opportunity. No ethics committee would ever have approved it. Never before has an entire society been told to abandon its normal routines from one day to the next.

With the help of detailed activity and energy records, we can learn a lot about ourselves and our energy use habits. It turns out that changing some of our routines due to the pandemic really can have significant benefits for ourselves and the planet.

Here are four lessons from the first lockdown which may help us through the winter.

1. Getting the timing right saves money and carbon

Before the first lockdown in March, life followed well-established rhythms and routines. Energy system operators could rely on the British public to come home between 5pm and 6pm, start cooking, put on a wash and perhaps watch a bit of TV with a cup of tea. This pattern was so well established that power stations are routinely put on standby to meet peak demand between 5pm and 7pm.

Unfortunately, these “peaking plants” are among the most expensive and polluting ones we have. So much so that utilities, economists and engineers have long wondered if and how some of this peak demand could be reduced or shifted to another time with cleaner, cheaper electricity.

Electricity demand in the UK has been falling for years due to improved energy efficiency and high carbon industries moving overseas.
Left: Electricity demand fell in 2020 (green), especially in the morning peak. Electricity demand in the UK has been falling for years due to improved energy efficiency and high carbon industries moving overseas. Right: activity reporting frequency in lockdown (green) and at all other times (grey) Phil Grunewald, Author provided

Then came the first lockdown. With almost immediate effect, the pattern that had seemed so stable was upturned. Many people allowed themselves an extra hour in the morning, saving time from the usual commute and the peak evening period got redistributed. Chores such as laundry could now be performed in the middle of the day. The result, less electricity use at most expensive and polluting times of the day.

Working from home resulted in time shifts that reduced emissions and costs. We may not have seen those reductions in our bills yet, but smart meters and time-of-use tariffs can make that happen, too.

2. The ‘old normal’ is not our natural rhythm

Activity patterns have changed, quite fundamentally in some cases. Our data on self-reported levels of enjoyment suggest that many people prefer the new routine. The early evening rush, which leads to peak electricity demand, was in fact a very stressful period. Moving some of the jobs and chores to earlier in the day results in higher levels of enjoyment overall. Just because everybody followed a certain rhythm, doesn’t mean that this is the best rhythm for us – nor for the environment.

Cars in a traffic jam.
Just because we all do something at the same time doesn’t mean this is the best time to do it. MagicBones / shutterstock

3. We all need flexibility – even power systems

There are more than 240 gigawatts-worth of household appliances in the UK, but the combined electricity generated by the country’s power stations covers merely a quarter of this. The lights stay on so long as we can be trusted not to turn all appliances on at the same time.

Even a well-synchronised moment of turning on kettles, such as during the ad break of Coronation Street, can put a strain on the system. Luckily, on-demand television has helped to diffuse these moments of social synchronisation somewhat.

There is a certain irony that the lockdown gave some people more flexibility over their day. Without any further prodding, activity patterns became less synchronised and less peaky. The overall demand reduction meant that no coal needed to be burned, while the shift in timing allowed more electricity from renewable sources to be used.

4. Now is the time to improve our homes

It may not have felt it at the time, but the timing of the first lockdown was fortunate. Last time when everyone was asked to stay at home, the heating season had just come to an end. Better still, the UK experienced a period of warm and pleasant weather. This winter will be different. Homes which need to be heated throughout the day will see significant increases in their bills.

Much of this could be avoided with better insulated and refurbished housing. Any government that wants to support the economy and citizens would do well to invest in the efficiency of our housing stock now.

This winter will be challenging for many. You can help my colleagues and I observe the effects of current restrictions by joining the study at JoyMeter.uk.

Philipp Grünewald, EPSRC Fellow, Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

New web tool assesses air quality in Montreal buildings to reduce spread of COVID-19

Read the full story at CTV News.

As Montrealers head increasingly indoors, concerns over air quality and the spread of COVID-19 is on the rise.

A Concordia researcher says a new web-based tool can help determine the safety of the air quality in a building and thus reduce the spread of COVID-19.

To help slow the spread of the new coronavirus during the cold season, a team of researchers led by associate professor Leon Wang built the City Reduced Probability of Infection, or CityRPI, a website to estimate the risk of indoor airborne transmission of the virus in Montreal’s buildings.

The Pet Sustainability Coalition Recognizes MFiber

Read the full story at The Pet Business.

An analysis found that pet food ingredient MFiber reduces greenhouse gases and water usage compared to powdered cellulose.

Want to Fight the Zombie Fire Apocalypse? Weaponize Math

Read the full story in Wired.

Peat fires smolder in the ground for months, suddenly emerging as surface wildfires. New simulations reveal their strange life, death, and reanimation.

How two industry leaders invest to save the water supply as scarcity grows

Read the full story in Food Engineering.

Kraft Heinz and Nestlé Waters North America sustainability leaders say protection of the lifeblood resource will require looking outside the factory walls.

We’re all science communicators. Here’s how to do it better

Read the full story in Chemical & Engineering News.

Jen Heemstra on how to help those around you separate facts from myths.

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