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Thousands of power plants around the world may face severe reductions in their ability to generate electricity by mid-century due to water shortages, according to new research.

Hydro- and thermo-electric (nuclear, fossil-fuelled, biomass-fuelled) power plants are vulnerable to dwindling rivers and reservoirs as the planet warms, a study published in Nature on Monday said.

These technologies, which provide 98% of global electricity supply, depend on abundant water to cool generators and pump power at dams.

Lower river levels and warmer water temperatures could reduce generating capacity by as much as 86% in thermo-electric- and 74% in hydro plants, according to researchers at Wageningen University and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

 

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At the same time, business leaders are learning that clean operations and higher growth can go hand in hand. Now that customers, investors, activists, and even a company’s own employees are voicing concerns about environmental impact, a greener record does more than simply guard against public-relations disasters. It can bolster a firm’s reputation.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu

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Like in many of the world’s most densely populated nations, real estate in Japan is tough to come by. Many of its cities are filled with small, narrow lots, giving rise to the trend of designing and building kyosho jutaku (or micro-homes) that rethink traditional residential spaces through unconventional and striking architecture.

 

Jutaku, a new book from Phaidon by writer and architect Naomi Pollock, presents a photographic survey of over 400 of these futuristic structures built over the past decade that illustrate the popular, highly experimental nature of contemporary Japanese architecture that is continuously changing the nation’s landscape.

 

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The President Delivers a Statement on the Paris Climate Agreement – Act On Climate – Medium

PRESIDENT OBAMA: In my first inaugural address, I committed this country to the tireless task of combating climate change and protecting this planet for future generations.

Two weeks ago, in Paris, I said before the world that we needed a strong global agreement to accomplish this goal — an enduring agreement that reduces global carbon pollution and sets the world on a course to a low-carbon future.

A few hours ago, we succeeded. We came together around the strong agreement the world needed. We met the moment.

 

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Half a billion years ago, Earth’s animal life rapidly evolved during the event known as the Cambrian explosion. In the future, growing swarms of robots all talking with one another could spark a similar “Cambrian explosion” for robotic evolution. A robotics expert who has worked for the U.S. military recently published a paper on the technological changes that could rapidly spawn the next generation of robots powered by advanced artificial intelligence. He also weighs the consequences of robots rapidly replacing huge numbers of human workers.

 

Two technologies could play the biggest roles in rapid robot and AI evolution, according to Gill Pratt, who has served as robotics program manager for the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). First, “Cloud Robotics” could allow robots to share experiences and knowledge through wireless connections and the Internet. Second, “Deep Learning” algorithms allow robots to learn from experience and apply those lessons to more general scenarios. Together, they could lead to more capable robots with the AI brains to handle many more jobs currently done by humans, according to Pratt’s paper published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

“While a Cambrian Explosion in robotics promises to improve the human condition dramatically, it also looms as a disruptive economic force, in part because of its much-discussed potential to make certain human jobs redundant,” Pratt writes. “Yet there is reason to embrace the pending robotics revolution despite such concerns.”

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To keep a hostile Congress out of the process, the president can only partake in internationally binding agreements with a base in existing US law

The United States’ refusal to make internationally binding its ambitious pollution targets at the Cop21 climate talks in Paris isn’t a sign of Barack Obama’s lack of political will, but a reflection of the legal limits of his authorities and the political realities of what other nations will commit to doing.

Obama has proposed a legally binding agreement applicable to all nations without binding emissions targets. That approach isn’t ideal, but it’s politically and legally achievable – and a massive step forward for climate action.

Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has led the effort to discredit Obama’s efforts in Paris, backed by a powerful apparatus of fossil fuel funded climate skepticism and state-level Republican opposition to the landmark Clean Power Plan, which would reduce US dependence on dirty coal. McConnell and others have made clear that no new international climate agreement would ever be approved by the Senate.

That credible threat is keeping US climate negotiators from making the pollution targets in the Paris agreement internationally binding. But it’s not putting the breaks on the idea of a legally binding agreement.

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A sprawling, aggressive effort to measure the climate footprint of natural gas production has yielded striking results: methane emissions from the Barnett Shale in North Texas are at least 90 percent higher than government estimates.

That conclusion comes from a peer-reviewed study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper is the most sweeping study to emerge from the Environmental Defense Fund’s $18-million project to quantify methane leaks from the natural gas industry. It was written by 20 co-authors from 13 institutions, including universities, government labs, EDF and private research firms.

Overall, the two-year study found that methane emissions from the Barnett Shale are nearly twice as much as estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory, and 5.5 times the number from a separate global database.

 

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THE world’s once-surging greenhouse gas emissions, blamed for global warming, may have gone into decline. Figures to be published this week will show that global emissions neared a plateau last year and could fall this year — even as the world economy is growing.

Scientists will say this week that man-made emissions “nearly stalled” at 37bn tonnes of CO2 last year — and are on track to stabilise or drop slightly this year.

The new figures, which will be formally published tomorrow, come at a crucial time, with politicians from 195 countries attending the UN climate talks in Paris. Their aim is to cut emissions enough to limit global warming to below 2C by 2100.

Sir Brian Hoskins, who chairs the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London and is also a member of the government’s committee on climate change, welcomed the figures.

“The importance of this is that the earlier we hit peak emissions, then the less CO2 that will have accumulated in the air and the easier it is to stay below 2C of warming. If we peak later, say in 2025, then the cuts we have to make will be much greater and it is uncertain if we could actually do it.”

The significance of the figures, produced by The Global Carbon Project (GCP), is that they show, for the first time in the modern era, that greenhouse gas emissions could be falling even as the world economy is growing. Global economic growth is projected at 3.3% for 2015 by the International Monetary Fund

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