It’s a car! It’s a boat! It’s an electric-powered vehicle that bobs on the water like a jetski!
The Japanese-developed Fomm Concept One uses a water jet generator to propel through water, and has a motorcycle-style handlebar to accelerate and brake. And get this: Its wheels are lightweight, buoyant, and they can operate like fins when in the water.
Pretty neat, eh? Before you take the plunge and pack up the family for a picnic in the lake, remember that this amphicar isn’t meant just for fun. It was designed by a Japanese company to help rescue people from flooding and tsunamis and will only be sold in Thailand, followed by a larger rollout in Southeast Asia. The tiny, 1,000-pound car can only drive about 62 miles before it needs to be recharged, and can only handle one disaster at a time before it needs to be maintained again.
Methane isn’t the most ubiquitous of greenhouse gases (that’d be good ‘ol CO2), but it is a potent one: The same amount of methane as CO2 has 20 times the impact in terms of future global warming over a 100-year period. While methane emissions have decreased by 11 percent since 1990, we’re still not in good shape: 50 percent more methane is leaking from oil and gas sites than previously thought and, without action, methane emissions are expected to increase through 2030 -- mostly thanks to fracking. So far the oil and gas industry has balked at the idea of regulating its methane leaks, saying that it might slow production down (we’ve all heard it before, but, man, frack you!).
Hasta la vista, trees! If you thought it was bad when Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor, just wait til you hear what’s happened now that he’s an honorary U.S. Forest Service ranger. An investigation by Global Witness alleges that his investments have funded illegal rainforest logging, according to the Guardian:
The former governor and climate champion is a part owner of an investment company, Dimensional Fund Advisers, with significant holdings in tropical forestry companies.
A number of those forestry companies were implicated in highly destructive and illegal logging which has destroyed rainforest and critical orangutan habitat in Borneo, and fuelled conflict and arms trafficking in Liberia, the investigators from Global Witness said.
The Terminator had roughly a 5 percent stake in DFA’s investment funds. He’s invested no less than $1 million in the firm, according to disclosure forms the Guardian dug up. (We can think of a better home for your millions, Ahnold! And we promise not to kill any orangutans.) It gets worse:
Electric vehicle sales in New Jersey ran out of batteries earlier this month, when the Chris Christie administration voted to ban car manufacturers from selling directly to drivers. The companies must now use third-party dealers. The ban applies to all car manufacturers, but seemed particularly aimed at Tesla, which had been in negotiations with the administration for months to sell electric cars straight from its own storefronts in the state.
The move was a win for the state's surprisingly powerful auto dealer lobby and a loss for one of the country's biggest electric car makers. But it also cemented New Jersey's place as a non-contender for the real prize: a $5 billion battery "gigafactory" that Tesla plans to begin construction on later this year. With an estimated 6,500 employees, the factory will likely become a keystone of the United State's clean energy industry and an economic boon for its host state. Now, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, and Nevada are scrambling to get picked, and last week Republican legislators in Arizona began to try pushing their state to the top of the pile.
It's the latest sign that, at least at the state level, the clean energy industry's best friend might be the GOP. Newt Gingrich quickly pounced on Christie after the direct sales ban for "artificially" insulating car dealers, just weeks after calling for John Kerry to resign after Kerry named climate change as a principle challenge of the generation. On Tuesday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called his state's direct sales ban "antiquated" nearly a year after a Democrat-backed bill to change the policy was killed.
Last week, I sounded off in response to a new climate change report released by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The New York Times called the report a “sharper, clearer, and more accessible” explanation of climate change “than perhaps anything the scientific community has put out to date.” To me, and many others, it read like a rehash of the dynasty of reports we’ve already read about the scientific consensus that human-caused climate change is real. I found few traces of urgency, but rather an appeal that lets most people and fossil fuel companies off the hook by assuming that the problem is that scientists simply haven’t articulated their case clearly enough.
Those scientists deserve the chance to respond. I reached out to one of the authors of the report, Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University, the wife of an evangelical Christian minister and one scientist who’s been particularly effective in communicating climate change fuckery (that would be my word, not hers) beyond the science-geekspeak.
In our conversation, I learned, among other things, why the AAAS committee chose that particular focus for the report (hint: it used science!). Here are some snippets:
When it comes to fishing, most of the ocean is lawless. Fish in the high seas -- the half of the world's oceans that fall under the control of no single nation, because they're more than 200 miles from a coastline -- are being plundered with aplomb by fishing fleets that observe virtually no fish conservation rules.
Some very smart people think that might be a very stupid way of managing the world's fisheries. They say it's time for the world to ban fishing on the high seas.
Many of the world's brawniest fish and shark species migrate through these open waters, where they are being targeted and overfished. Bluefin tuna are becoming so rare that a single fish sold last year for $1.8 million.
Last month, McKinsey & Company director Martin Stuchtey suggested during an ocean summit that banning fishing on the high seas would cause an economic loss of about $2 for every person on the planet. But he said the benefits of more sustainable fisheries, if such a ban was imposed, would be worth about $4 per person, creating a net benefit of $2 apiece. From Business Insider:
Hard numbers reveal that today's fishing industry is not profitable, and as fleets work harder chasing fewer fish, the losses grow and stocks are further depleted in "a race to the bottom," the economist explained.
Stuchtey's numbers were approximations. But the results of a study published in the journal PLOS Biology this week put some flesh on the economist's back-of-the-envelope calculations. An economist and a biologist, both from California, modeled the effects of such a ban and concluded that the move could double the profitability of the world's fishing industries -- and boost overall fishing yields by 30 percent. It would also boost fish stock conservation and improve the sustainability of seafood supplies.
What if you could have a water bottle without the wasteful, toxic plastic? (And a water fountain doesn’t count. Not consumer-y enough, Buddha.) Three British design students wanted to answer that question, seeing as we’re basically drowning in plastic. Their Lexus Design Award-winning solution is the portable, edible, and weird-looking Ooho: an edible water “bottle” that resembles alien sweat. (We kickbox with a lot of aliens, OK?)
To drink the Ooho, you gently bite its gelatinous membrane until the water runs into your mouth and all over your clothes, ideally making it look like you peed yourself. As a bonus, if you don’t eat the outside, you’re basically left with a used condom:
Farming apps are the new bubble, my friend (a Tinker Bell-sized bubble, but still). Not only can you track your yield, find commodity prices, and chart rainfall, but now you can keep tabs on when your dairy cows are feeling frisky.
The key to the latter is a British innovation called the Silent Herdsman, which cows wear like a high-tech necklace. (It's more of a Tamagotchi than an iPhone app.) The sensor monitors cattle's temperature and wirelessly alerts the farmer via computer when they're in heat -- otherwise, somebody would have to be constantly elbow-deep in bovine hoo-ha.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, farmers are constantly looking for a way to avoid these more hands-on methods -- the Silent Herdsman isn't even the first estrus-monitoring tool we've reported on. A Swiss device sends texts when a cow is in heat, but it involves implanting a transmitter in the genitals -- a leeeeetle more invasive.