The Row-bot has four tiny buoyant stabilizers for feet and two paddles that extend from the middle of its body. While the feet keep Row-bot afloat, the paddles send it skimming across the surface of a body of water. The device takes water into a cavity in its housing as it moves, where electrogenic bacteria digest pollutants found within the water. The byproducts of that digestion are carbon dioxide and electricity, which in turn fuels the Row-bot and keeps it moving.

Futurist Ray Kurzweil notes that solar power has been doubling every two years for the past 30 years — as costs have been dropping. He says solar energy is only six doublings — or less than 14 years — away from meeting 100 percent of today’s energy needs. Energy usage will keep increasing, so this is a moving target. But, by Kurzweil’s estimates, inexpensive renewable sources will provide more energy than the world needs in less than 20 years. Even then, we will be using only one part in 10,000 of the sunlight that falls on the Earth.

By 2050, about 99.8% of the species studied will have eaten plastic, the researchers report online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Consuming plastic can cause myriad problems, Wilcox says. For example, some types of plastics absorb and concentrate environmental pollutants, he notes. After ingestion, those chemicals can be released into the birds’ digestive tracts, along with chemicals in the plastics that keep them soft and pliable. But plastic bits aren’t always pliable enough to get through a gull’s gut. Most birds have trouble passing large bits of plastic, and they build up in the stomach, sometimes taking up so much room that the birds can’t consume enough food to stay healthy.

You may have noticed another characteristic of contrarian climate research – there is no cohesive, consistent alternative theory to human-caused global warming. Some blame global warming on the sun, others on orbital cycles of other planets, others on ocean cycles, and so on. There is a 97% expert consensus on a cohesive theory that’s overwhelmingly supported by the scientific evidence, but the 2–3% of papers that reject that consensus are all over the map, even contradicting each other. The one thing they seem to have in common is methodological flaws like cherry picking, curve fitting, ignoring inconvenient data, and disregarding known physics.

The reliance on bottled water rather than fountains also has serious environmental effects. According to the Earth Policy Institute, it takes about 1.5 million barrels of oil to create the 50 billion plastic water bottles Americans use each year. (That’s enough oil to fuel 100,000 cars for a year.) Less than a quarter of those bottles are recycled. And these statistics don’t even account for the fuel used in transporting the water around the country and the world.

Bottled water is also expensive. Drinking eight glasses of tap water a day costs about 49 cents a year. If you got that hydration exclusively from bottles, you’d pay about $1,400, or 2,900 times more. If you’re living at the poverty line, that’s 10 percent of your income.

The German city of Hamburg has announced plans to become car-free within the next two decades. It is an ambitious idea, but city officials obviously feel that the personal motorcar does not fulfill a function that walking, biking and taking public transport cannot.

The goal of Hamburg’s project is to replace roads with a “gruenes netz” or a green network of interconnected open areas covering 40% of the city. According to the official website, parks, playgrounds, sports fields, allotments and cemeteries will be connected to form a network, which will allow people to navigate through the city without the use of cars.

Very often, new palm oil plantations result in the clearing of rainforest. Researchers at Princeton University have shown that more than half of the palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia are located in areas where there used to be rainforest. So by choosing a specific product, the consumer unwittingly has an impact on deforestation of rainforest and the fate of endangered species like orangutans or tigers.

We decided to combine our energy innovation study’s best-case scenario results with Hansen’s climate model to see whether a 55 percent emission cut by 2050 would bring the world back below that 350-ppm threshold. Our calculations revealed otherwise. Even if every renewable energy technology advanced as quickly as imagined and they were all applied globally, atmospheric CO2 levels wouldn’t just remain above 350 ppm; they would continue to rise exponentially due to continued fossil fuel use. So our best-case scenario, which was based on our most optimistic forecasts for renewable energy, would still result in severe climate change, with all its dire consequences: shifting climatic zones, freshwater shortages, eroding coasts, and ocean acidification, among others. Our reckoning showed that reversing the trend would require both radical technological advances in cheap zero-carbon energy, as well as a method of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering the carbon.

Science journalist Ranga Yogeshwar has gained extensive access to Japan's battered Fukushima power plant. He speaks to DW about exploring radiation-contaminated zones, and how the cleanup has progressed so far.

Eating food contaminated with radioactive particles may be more perilous than thought—at least for insects. Butterfly larvae fed even slightly tainted leaves collected near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station were more likely to suffer physical abnormalities and low survival rates than those fed uncontaminated foliage, a new study finds. The research suggests that the environment in the Fukushima region, particularly in areas off-limits to humans because of safety concerns, will remain dangerous for wildlife for some time.

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