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From single malt to sauvignon blanc: Scotland warms up to wine

whiskeywinebarrels
Shutterstock

Ach, Scotland! Land of elves playing folksy instruments, statues of Mel Gibson in face paint, and a refreshing glass of riesling to go with your haggis! Wait, what?

That old specter of climate change strikes again, but this time it’s helping the Scots diversify their options for getting hammered. Climbing temperatures are slowly turning Scotland from the land of sheep and plaid to wine country.

Bloomberg News reports that famed Scottish foodie Christopher Trotter has started up his own vineyard outside the city of Edinburgh, and he’s preparing to bottle up an inaugural harvest this year. In recent years, Scottish summers have been unseasonably warm enough to inspire Trotter to go into the winemaking biz. According to Scottish government data, the average temperature of the 2000s so far has been nearly 1 degree Celsius higher than the average measured between 1961 and 1990, and regional annual average temperatures are expected to increase by another 2.6 to 3 degrees Celsius by 2080.

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This new study shows that vegetarians have worse health. Should we care?

sad-vegetarian-grocery-store-flickr
David Jones

Diet-related health findings have been all over the news lately, particularly a new study of 1,320 Austrians published in Nutrition and Health. The provocative paper spewed some pretty damning findings about vegetarians, including that they’re more likely to have cancer, food allergies, and anxiety or depression. Vegetarians also take fewer vaccines and have fewer preventative check-ups, researchers noted, before throwing down some major smack-talk:

Overall, our findings reveal that vegetarians report poorer health, follow medical treatment more frequently, have worse preventive health care practices, and have a lower quality of life.

Them’s fighting words!

To temper that a bit, the study also notes that vegetarians had the lowest BMI, and a recent review of 39 studies found that vegetarians have lower blood pressure. (And there's, you know, all of the climate- and resource-related benefits.)

But the real message here is that this study shows correlation, not causation. No one can say for sure that going vegetarian will make you depressed, give you cancer, or kill you. As several Redditors suggest, maybe people with food allergies or cancer go vegetarian in an attempt to eat healthier (which would definitely skew the results).

Read more: Food, Living

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Track star

Is this train the “little engine that could” for clean energy storage?

railcar_renewables_storage
ARES

In Greek mythology, the story of Sisyphus endlessly rolling a boulder uphill is meant to be a cautionary tale. Gravity, in this case, worked against the poor chump. But the smart folks at Advanced Rail Energy Storage North America (ARES) asked: Why not make gravity your friend? ARES has pioneered a train full of rocks that climbs up a hill, only to roll back down again and repeat the process, Sisyphus style. But instead of a metaphor of futility, this new train technology offers a breakthrough opportunity in clean energy storage. It isn't easy to find feasible solutions for storing grid-scale renewable energy loads for when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't …

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Startling image shows how much trouble lions are really in

Lions seem fierce, loud, well-coiffed -- basically the Beyoncé of the animal kingdom. They certainly don't seem vulnerable. But that’s the classification the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has given African lions. (In West Africa in particular, they're endangered. How can this be?!)

But because a picture’s worth a thousand Beyoncés, check out the following map of African lions’ habitat, which has shrunk drastically in the past few decades. The red shows where lions used to roam, and the blue is their much smaller current territory:

Click to embiggen
Wikipedia
Click to embiggen.

Treehugger unearthed the image, which Wikipedia user Tommyknocker created in 2009 with this explanation:

Read more: Living

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BP’s newly upgraded refinery just spilled oil into Chicago’s water source

BP Whiting oil spill
Parker Wood / Coast Guard
Cleaning up after BP. Again.

Deepwater Horizawhatnow?

Less than a year after BP upgraded its Whiting refinery in northwestern Indiana to allow it to handle heavy Canadian tar-sands oil, causing petroleum coke to begin piling up in nearby Chicago, an industrial accident at the refinery has spewed some of that oil into Lake Michigan. The Chicago Tribune reports that it's not known how long the refinery was leaking or how much oil was spilled. The leak was reported at 4:30 p.m. and plugged by 9 p.m., when an EPA official arrived at the scene. More from the Tribune:

Mike Beslow, the EPA’s emergency response coordinator, said there appeared to be no negative effects on Lake Michigan, the source of drinking water for 7 million people in Chicago and the suburbs. The 68th Street water intake crib is about eight miles northwest of the spill site, but there were no signs of oil drifting in that direction.

Initial reports suggest that strong winds pushed most of the oil toward a sandy cove on BP’s property between the refinery and an Arcelor Mittal steel mill. A flyover Tuesday afternoon revealed no visible oil beyond booms laid on the water to prevent the oil from spreading, Beslow said.

The spill came at an ominous time, catching the attention of both of Illinois's U.S. senators. "[T]hree weeks ago, BP announced a plan to nearly double its processing of heavy crude oil at its BP Whiting Refinery," Mark Kirk (R) and Dick Durbin (R) said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

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Kangaroo farts could help slow climate change

kangaroo-with-baby-flickr
Rob Jamieson

Not only are kangaroos cuter than cows -- those built-in overalls! -- but their farts contain way less planet-warming methane. (They aren’t totally methane-free, as scientists once thought, but the amount per food unit is about 80 percent less than cows.) And scientists think the intricacies of kangaroos’ bacteria-rich guts could help them figure out how to cool the planet.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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Christie’s new woe: Court rules he illegally dumped climate protections

Chris Christie
Gage Skidmore

As if New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie didn't have enough problems!

A three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that Christie's administration broke state law in 2011 when it withdrew New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

That's because it didn't bother going through any formal rulemaking procedures before pulling out of the carbon-cutting program. Instead, administration officials stated on a government website that the state wouldn't participate in the program -- and then argued in court that the online statement was sufficient public outreach under state law.

"The Christie administration sidestepped the public process required by law," said Doug O’Malley of Environment New Jersey, one of two nonprofits that sued the government over its hasty withdrawal from RGGI, following Tuesday's Superior Court ruling. "New Jerseyans support action to reduce the impacts of global warming. We hope that today’s ruling will help their voices be heard."

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Now you can get raw milk from a vending machine

mlekomat-milk-vending-machine
John Kroll

What if buying fresh milk from local cows were as easy as getting a Sprite? It is in Europe, of course (an entire continent seemingly dedicated to inspiring jealousy).

Modern Farmer reports that raw milk vending machines are commonplace in countries like France, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Expat Rebecca McCray raves that not only do local farmers own all of Slovenia’s raw milk vending machines, or mlekomats, but the unpasteurized stuff simply tastes better:

[T]he unskimmed milk from the mlekomat is utterly unrecognizable compared with the bluish, watery counterpart I bought in the U.S.

True that. Skim milk is nobody's idea of a good time.

Read more: Food, Living

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Old-timey sunset paintings shed light on pollution’s past

the-lake-petworth-jmw-turner
The Lake, Petworth: Sunset, Fighting Bucks, by J. M. W. Turner

Did you know you can tell how polluted the air is based on the color of the sunset? True fact! Sunsets can look redder for YEARS after a volcano erupts, due to the ash and gas in the atmosphere.

Armed with that knowledge (and a bunch more, because they’re really smart), German and Greek scientists examined sunset paintings from 1500 to 2000 to see whether the 50-plus volcanic eruptions during that time affected the colors used. Spoiler alert: They totally did!

“We found that red-to-green ratios measured in the sunsets of paintings by great masters correlate well with the amount of volcanic aerosols in the atmosphere, regardless of the painters and of the school of painting,” says [lead author Christos] Zerefos.

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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One California oil town keeps fracking in check — by banning all drilling

oil rigs
Shutterstock

To the city council, the story sounded a little fishy. It was true that Carson City, Calif., probably still had oil of some kind. Los Angeles County had a well-documented history of being an oily place. As early as the 1850s, there were reports of enterprising folks scooping up the occasional seep of oil that rose to the surface and refining it into lamp oil. But these days the easy oil of L.A. County is long gone -- especially in Carson, where the oil drilling began in the 1920s.

So how was Occidental Petroleum, which had approached the city with a set of plans for new drilling infrastructure, planning to get more? A few years ago, the company had begun reopening wells that had seemed closed for good. Now, it had announced its intention to drill 200 new ones. What, exactly, was it planning on doing differently, that other wildcatters with oily gleams in their eyes had somehow missed?

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy