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Sarah Parsons' Posts

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Study: Even a small temperature increase will obliterate Greenland ice cap

Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

If you’ve been enjoying the recent unseasonably warm weather, prepare for a buzzkill: A study published on Sunday by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research found that even a teensy global temperature increase could turn the Greenland ice sheet into the world’s largest puddle.

Previous research has suggested it would need warming of at least 3.1 degrees Celsius (5.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, in a range of 1.9-5.1 C (3.4-9.1 F), to totally melt the icesheet.

But new estimates, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, put the threshold at 1.6 C (2.9 F), in a range of 0.8-3.2 C (1.4-5.8 F), although this would have to be sustained for tens of thousands of years.

Just to put things into perspective, obliterating the Greenland ice cap would create about 23.6 feet of sea level rise, flooding areas like Western Europe, New Orleans, and Manhattan.

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New species alert: Check out the Galapagos Catshark

Photo by California Academy of Sciences.

Researchers recently announced a new species of shark, the Galapagos Catshark, or Bythaelurus giddingsi. Catsharks are one of the largest families of sharks, and are also known as dogfish, a synonym scenario that is not at all ass-backwards. And to make classification even more complex, the newly discovered species of catshark/dogfish has a lot in common with the snowflake: The arrangement of leopard-like spots on Galapagos Catshark is unique to each fish. So it’s a catshark or dogfish with spots like a leopard and the characteristics of a snowflake -- got it?

Read more: Animals

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Philippines police to plant 10 million trees in one year

Photo by Todd Shaffer.

Police officers in the Philippines are trading their guns and billy clubs for weapons of mass construction: shovels, watering cans, and gardening gloves. That’s because they’re partnering with the country’s Department of Environmental and Natural Resources to combat climate change and deforestation. Their Green Ops mission? Plant 10 million treesin one year.

The push to reforest the Philippines comes on the heels of a recent executive order by President Benigno Aquino, known as the National Greening Program, which aims to rehabilitate nearly 500 thousand acres of previously cleared forest cover by February 2013.

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Electric scooter version of Zipcar hits San Francisco

Photo by Jake Metcalf.

San Francisco’s hipsters are about to get motorized. Scoot Networks, an electric scooter rental system similar to Zipcar, recently launched in the Bay Area.

The system, which is being rolled out to San Francisco-based companies for private fleets, lets users locate nearby scooters with their smartphone and claim the one they want (as with Zipcar, each scooter lives at a certain location). After it’s docked into the scooter, the phone unlocks the vehicle and acts like a virtual dashboard, providing a map as well as information on speed and range.

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Mercury-loaded cosmetics target minority communities

Beauty may only be skin deep, but the damage from cosmetics reaches way down into the kidneys, brains, and other organs -- at least, it does if those cosmetics contain mercury, as several brands do, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). What’s even worse is that these mercury-loaded cosmetics are targeted specifically towards historically marginalized communities.

The recent FDA report found that heavy-metal-filled skin care products, soaps, and cosmetics are found mainly in stores frequented by people of Latino, African-American, Asian, and Middle Eastern descent.

The FDA has counted 35 potentially poisonous products, which include goods made by the brands Diana, Stillman’s, Lusco and Crema Aguamary, that are manufactured abroad and sold illegally in the U.S. They may claim to lighten skin, cure acne and reduce wrinkles.

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Delicious, edible food packaging could curb plastic waste

If you want to know why the earth and waterways are quickly morphing into giant garbage heaps, look no further than your pudding cup. Desserts, sodas, yogurts, and every other processed treat that comes tucked inside a plastic container are creating a slew of plastic pollution. But Harvard scientist David Edwards has an innovative -- and tasty! -- solution: Make packaging as delicious as the goods held inside.

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Entire nation of Kiribati has to move to avoid rising seas

The Pacific island nation of Kiribati is moving up in the world -- but not in the good way. The small country is looking to relocate to higher ground in order to escape rising seas brought on by climate change.

Some of Kiribati’s 32 coral atolls have already started to disappear beneath the waves. President Anote Tong and his countrymen fear that continued sea level rise will wipe their civilization out entirely unless they relocate to Fiji lickety-split. Tong is reportedly in discussions with Fiji’s military government to buy 5,000 acres of land on the country’s second largest island, Vanua Levu.

"This is the last resort, there's no way out of this one," Mr Tong said. "Our people will have to move as the tides have reached our homes and villages."

Depending on when Kiribati makes its big move, the country could be the world’s first modern climate-induced migration.

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New Melbourne restaurant runs on your pee

Melbourne’s Greenhouse restaurant wants your patronage. But more importantly, it wants your pee.

That’s right -- this pop-up restaurant, which is open from March 2 through the 21st in honor of the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, wants you to get all up in its custom-made toilets. The green eatery is collecting human urine and using it to fertilize soybean and canola crops. The restaurant, which is designed by Joost Bakker who is clearly a maniac, then uses unrefined canola oil to generate electricity for all of its operations.

Urine may seem an unorthodox energy source, but it is actually a great source of fertilizer when diluted. According to Bakker, “Urine is incredible for nitrogen, it’s so valuable -- you only need the urine of 25 people to provide fertilizer for a hectare of crop.”

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Meet the awesome dogs that are stamping out elephant poaching

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park employs a lean, mean team of crime-fighters to take on evil elephant poachers. These elite commandoes are fearless trackers, work for practically nothing, have exceptional loyalty, and are a pack of adorable puppies.

Meet Carla, Stella, Lila, Dodi, Lily, and Sabrina. The bloodhounds -- or Congohounds, as they’re called in Virunga -- are currently being trained to protect the National Park’s animals from poachers. Rangers rely on the hounds’ especially keen sniffers to track and apprehend suspects -- bloodhounds can identify a single scent out of 5 million competing smells.

The goal of the program is to better protect Virunga’s critically endangered mountain gorillas and other wildlife from poachers, and in general, help enforce the rule of law, which is critical to re-establishing Virunga’s tourism trade. The program will also greatly improve the park’s ability to quickly find lost and critically injured rangers, many of whom have died needlessly while awaiting help.

Read more: Animals

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Campbell’s to ditch BPA from soup cans

Photo by Antonio.

Attention, shoppers: Campbell’s (FINALLY) announced plans to eliminate hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A from the linings of its soup cans. And it only took consumer outrage, countless nonprofit petitions, concern from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and hundreds of independent studies linking BPA to a hodge-podge of horrifying health maladies!

Campbell's Soup Co. spokesman Anthony Sanzio said Monday the company has been working on alternatives for five years and will make the transition as soon as "feasible alternatives are available."