Carbon footprinting: Standardized emissions reporting would improve confidence, bolster adoption

Read the full story at Dairy Reporter.

The UK Dairy Roadmap is hoping to push the sector’s sustainability forward by removing unnecessary variation between different carbon footprinting calculators used by British farmers.

Why researchers surveyed more than 1.1 billion objects across 73 museums

Read the full story at Popular Science.

Natural history museums offer amazing portals into worlds miles away from our own, and into eras from the distant past. Comprised of fossils, minerals, preserved specimens, and much more, some collections are of palatial grandeur. Although every museum has some sort of system in place to track incoming and outgoing items, those systems are not connected, museum to museum. Keeping a more detailed record of who has what across the world could not only be important for conservation, but for cataloging how life on Earth has changed, and forecasting how it will continue to do so in the future. 

For example, there are case studies showing how analyzing the collections of these museums can be useful for studying pandemic preparedness, invasive species, colonial heritage, and more. 

But this lack of connection might be a thing of the past. A paper published in the journal Science last week describes how a dozen large museums came together to map the entire collections of 73 of the world’s largest natural history museums across 28 countries in order to figure out what digital infrastructure is needed to establish a global inventory survey. 

Women are less likely to buy electric vehicles than men. Here’s what’s holding them back.

Read the full story at The 19th,

The United States is pouring more money into electric vehicle infrastructure and rebates, but safety and affordability could be behind the gender gap between men and women owners.

Geographic information systems: a use case for journalists

Read the full story at

A strong understanding of GIS principles is a must for data journalists in a world where location data drives so many aspects of our daily lives.

The Swedish battery unicorn that wants to solve energy storage (and no, it isn’t Northvolt)

Read the full story at Sifted.

Polarium is set to enable storing renewable energy for when it’s needed.

Apple says more suppliers committing to renewable energy

Read the full story at Reuters.

Apple Inc on Wednesday said that more of its supply chain is committing to use renewable energy in producing the company’s iPhones, Macs and other products.

NOAA, communities to map heat inequities in 14 states, 1 international city

Read the full story from NOAA.

This summer, NOAA and citizen scientists will map the hottest parts of 18 communities in 14 states across the country and in one international city. Identifying these hotspots, called urban heat islands, helps local decision-makers take actions to reduce the health impacts of extreme heat, which often target the most vulnerable.

Now in its seventh year, the NOAA Urban Heat Island (UHI) mapping campaign addresses extreme heat, the number one weather-related cause of death in the U.S. for the last three decades. Urban heat islands — areas with few trees and more pavement that absorbs heat — can be up to 20 degrees fahrenheit hotter than nearby neighborhoods with more trees, grass and less black asphalt. 

How much is the world’s most productive river worth? Here’s how experts estimate the value of nature

Establishing the financial worth of a river’s fish is complicated when many people don’t sell the fish they catch. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP via Getty Images

by Stefan Lovgren, University of Nevada, Reno

Southeast Asia’s Mekong may be the most important river in the world. Known as the “mother of waters,” it is home to the world’s largest inland fishery, and the huge amounts of sediments it transports feed some of the planet’s most fertile farmlands. Tens of millions of people depend on it for their livelihoods.

But how valuable is it in monetary terms? Is it possible to put a dollar value on the multitude of ecosystem services it provides, to help keep those services healthy into the future?

That’s what my research colleagues and I are trying to figure out, focusing on two countries that hold the river’s most productive areas for fishing and farming: Cambodia and Vietnam.

Understanding the value of a river is essential for good management and decision-making, such as where to develop infrastructure and where to protect nature. This is particularly true of the Mekong, which has come under enormous pressure in recent years from overfishing, dam building and climate change, and where decisions about development projects often do not take environmental costs into account.

A brown river winds through a steep cliffs with a road and some buildings along the banks.
The Mekong River winds through six countries, across 2,700 miles (about 4,350 kilometers) from the mountains to the sea. Leisa Tyler/LightRocket via Getty Images

“Rivers such as the Mekong function as life-support systems for entire regions,” said Rafael Schmitt, lead scientist at the Natural Capital Project at Stanford University, who has studied the Mekong system for many years. “Understanding their values, in monetary terms, can be critical to fairly judge the impacts that infrastructure development will have on these functions.”

Calculating that value isn’t simple, though. Most of the natural benefits that a river brings are, naturally, under water, and thus hidden from direct observation. Ecosystem services may be hard to track because rivers often flow over large distances and sometimes across national borders.

Enter natural capital accounting

The theory of natural capital suggests that ecosystem services provided by nature – such as water filtration, flood control and raw materials – have economic value that should be taken into account when making decisions that affect these systems.

Some people argue that it’s morally wrong to put a financial price on nature, and that doing so undermines people’s intrinsic motivation to value and protect nature. Critics say valuations often do not capture the whole worth of a natural service.

Proponents maintain that natural capital accounting puts a spotlight on natural systems’ value when weighed against commercial pressures. They say it brings visibility to natural benefits that are otherwise hidden, using language that policymakers can better understand and utilize.

Two people in a motor boat move through a section of lake with trees and small islands of vegetation.
More than a million people live on or around Tonle Sap lake, the world’s largest inland fishery. Climate change and dams can affect its water level and fish stocks. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP via Getty Images

Several countries have incorporated natural capital accounting in recent years, including Costa Rica, Canada and Botswana. Often, that has led to better protection of natural resources, such as mangrove forests that protect fragile coastlines. The U.S. government also announced a strategy in 2023 to start developing metrics to account for the value of underlying natural assets, such as critical minerals, forests and rivers.

However, natural capital studies have largely focused on terrestrial ecosystems, where the trade-offs between human interventions and conservation are easier to see.

When valuing rivers, the challenges run much deeper. “If you cut down a forest, the impact is directly visible,” Schmitt points out. “A river might look pristine, but its functioning may be profoundly altered by a faraway dam.”

Accounting for hydropower

Map showing the river through Vietnam and Cambodia
The lower Mekong River. USGS

Hydropower provides one example of the challenges in making decisions about a river without understanding its full value. It’s often much easier to calculate the value of a hydropower dam than the value of the river’s fish, or sediment that eventually becomes fertile farmland.

The rivers of the Mekong Basin have been widely exploited for power production in recent decades, with a proliferation of dams in China, Laos and elsewhere. The Mekong Dam Monitor, run by the nonprofit Stimson Center, monitors dams and their environmental impacts in the Mekong Basin in near-real time.

While hydropower is clearly an economic benefit – powering homes and businesses, and contributing to a country’s GDP – dams also alter river flows and block both fish migration and sediment delivery.

Droughts in the Mekong in recent years, linked to El Niño and exacerbated by climate change, were made worse by dam operators holding back water. That caused water levels to drop to historical low levels, with devastating consequences for fisheries. In the Tonlé Sap Lake, Southeast Asia’s largest lake and the heart of the Mekong fishery, thousands of fishers were forced to abandon their occupation, and many commercial fisheries had to close.

One project under scrutiny now in the Mekong Basin is a small dam being constructed on the Sekong River, a tributary, in Laos near the Cambodian border. While the dam is expected to generate a very small amount of electricity, preliminary studies show it will have a dramatically negative impact on many migratory fish populations in the Sekong, which remains the last major free-flowing tributary in the Mekong River Basin.

Hydropower dams like the one in the photos above in Cambodia can disrupt a river’s natural services. The Sesan River (Tonlé San) and Srepok River are tributaries of the Mekong. Move the slider to see how the dam changed the water flow. NASA Earth Observatory

Valuing the ‘lifeblood of the region’

The Mekong River originates in the Tibetan highlands and runs for 2,700 miles (about 4,350 kilometers) through six countries before emptying into the South China Sea.

Its ecological and biological riches are clearly considerable. The river system is home to over 1,000 species of fish, and the annual fish catch in just the lower basin, below China, is estimated at more than 2 million metric tons.

“The river has been the lifeblood of the region for centuries,” says Zeb Hogan, a biologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, who leads the USAID-funded Wonders of the Mekong research project, which I work on. “It is the ultimate renewable resource – if it is allowed to function properly.”

Establishing the financial worth of fish is more complicated than it appears, though. Many people in the Mekong region are subsistence fishers for whom fish have little to no market value but are crucial to their survival.

Two women row a small boat in through a narrow channel in the Mekong Delta. Another boat is passing them.
The Mekong Delta in Vietnam is essential to transportation, food and culture. Sergi Reboredo/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The river is also home to some of the largest freshwater fish in the world, like giant stingray and catfish and critically endangered species. “How do you value a species’ right to exist?” asks Hogan.

Sediment, which fertilizes floodplains and builds up the Mekong Delta, has been relatively easy to quantify, says Schmitt, the Stanford scientist. According to his analysis, the Mekong, in its natural state, delivers 160 million tons of sediment each year.

However, dams let through only about 50 million tons, while sand mining in Cambodia and Vietnam extracts 90 million, meaning more sediment is blocked or removed from the river than is delivered to its natural destination. As a result, the Mekong Delta, which naturally would receive much of the sediment, has suffered tremendous river erosion, with thousands of homes being swept away.

A potential ‘World Heritage Site’ designation

A river’s natural services may also include cultural and social benefits that can be difficult to place monetary values on.

A new proposal seeks to designate a bio-rich stretch of the Mekong River in northern Cambodia as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If successful, such a designation may bring with it a certain amount of prestige that is hard to put in numbers.

The complexities of the Mekong River make our project a challenging undertaking. At the same time, it is the rich diversity of natural benefits that the Mekong provides that make this work important, so that future decisions can be made based on true costs.

Stefan Lovgren, Research scientist College of Science, University of Nevada, Reno

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

Computer scientists say seagull algorithms could hide the secret to greener cloud computing

Read the full story from Fast Company.

We have engineered materials that are sturdier than ever, modeled after the oozing networks of the humble slime mold. And locomotive robots, propelled by the squishing trudge motions of an earthworm. And symmetric algorithms, which mimic the way shapes like snowflakes and sunflowers bloom spontaneously.

Now, a team of researchers from the United Kingdom, China, and Austria are looking to use the habits of seagulls to build better cloud computing systems.In a paper published in Internet of Things and Cyber-Physical Systems, a journal from KeAi, which was founded in a partnership between Elsevier and China Science Publishing & Media, the researchers argue that using a “seagull optimization algorithm”—a so-called meta-heuristic algorithm that mimics the hunting and migration behavior of seagulls—can make cloud computing more energy efficient, cutting its power consumption by 5.5% and lightening its network traffic by 70%.

Electronic recycling is no easy row to hoe

Read the two part series at Wast360.

  • Part 1: E-cycling is saddled by a laundry list of potential risks, and it’s energy-intensive, challenging processors to run a safe, low-emissions operation while trying to get on top of a stream that inflates by 2.5 million tons each year, by estimates of the World Economic Forum.
  • Part 2: The world is fascinated with technology, loving to buy, then replace it for what’s new, which is driving spikes in e-waste and the need for good e-cyclers to responsibly handle a tough stream.