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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Huge, polluting container ships that carry all our stuff clean up their act

Everyone knows that our iPads, clothes, kitchen appliances, furniture—our entire lives, basically—are made in China. But everyone might not know the container ships that bring that stuff over to the U.S. are climate-destroying juggernauts. According to OnEarth, just one container ship emits as much sulfur oxide (the stuff that makes smog) per year as 50 million cars. Plus, shipping accounts for 3.5 percent of all GHG emissions, twice as much as aviation. The good news is that air pollution rules are pushing container shipping companies to clean up their act. They're selling off their speedier, dirtier boats. They're looking into …

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Watch a dust cloud engulf Texas

Holy moly. Lubbock, Texas, is really seeing the effects of its record-breaking drought. Is this another indicator of the Southwest becoming a new Dust Bowl? At any rate, it's super amazing/weird/pants-wettingly scary to watch.

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Ecologists and loggers join forces to examine rainforest destruction

A group of ecologists from Imperial College London is taking a rather unusual stance towards logging: "This is going to happen whether we like it or not, so we might as well understand the impacts a little bit better." The group is working with a logging company on the island of Borneo to study how habitat fragmentation plays out when companies cut down rainforest. At the researchers’ request, the loggers are leaving some patches of rainforest standing, of various sizes and at different distances from each other. At the end of the study, the ecologists could have a better idea …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Ten years of car commuting could cost you $125,000

A lot of home buyers are pushing out into the exurbs because the houses are cheaper there -- but long commutes come with hidden costs that could seriously dent any money you might save on a mortgage. A personal finance blogger with the trust-inspiring nom de plume of Mr. Money Mustache (okay, so he's a mustache, but it's a MONEY mustache!) has calculated that a two-car commute of 19 miles each way would cost a couple $125,000 over 10 years. That makes a $250,000 home into a $375,000 home, but all you get for your extra money is a tension …

Read more: Cities, Sprawl

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How to translate climate science into Average Joe-ese

Communicating science can be a challenge -- not everybody wants to be communicated to, for one thing, and also a lot of words with specialized Science Meanings also have regular meanings that are completely different. (If you don't believe me, try using the phrase "quantum leap" to a particle physicist.) In the wake of the Climategate hoopla, much of which centered on a misinterpretation of the word "trick," two physicists have published a paper about how scientists can choose their words when talking to the public about climate change. This chart can act as a sort of Science-English Dictionary.

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Coming in 2013: Electric DeLorean!

The DeLorean Motor Company (not the original one but a reboot) will be coming out with an all-electric version of the iconic gull-wing auto in 2013 -- two years early for the events of Back to the Future II. Dear god, we'd better get cracking on those self-lacing shoes! The car has a top speed of 125 mph, though of course you'll only need 88 of them, and has a 260 horsepower engine. As usual with EVs, though, charging it is the real challenge. You think it's a pain to let your car charge overnight? You try stringing wires to the …

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New Facebook app will let friends compete over energy efficiency

Companies large and small (including influential ones like Google) have been trying to convince consumers that they should actually use all the new smart-grid information to tamp down their energy use. So far, these programs have had little luck. Basically it’s hard to get consumers to pay attention to anything besides updating their Facebook status. So it’s lucky that Facebook now offers an energy-efficiency app. Facebook is taking a stab at promoting energy efficiency through data, in partnership with Opower and NRDC. Next year a Facebook app will let user compete with friends over their energy use. So now, if …

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You know you want to knit a sweater for a penguin

Now is the time for all good knitters to come to the aid of some penguins. The New Zealand oil spill has left the little guys in need of some warmth and protection, and a Kiwi yarn store has posted patterns for how to knit "penguin jumpers" and instructions on where to send them.  This is not the first time there's been a call out for penguin sweaters, and the response in the past has been disproportionate. It's a genuine request -- the woolens keep oil-soaked birds warm until they're well enough to be cleaned, and prevent them from nibbling …

Read more: Animals

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New GE factory will spit out a solar panel every 10 seconds

China makes a lot of solar panels, but so does America. Or at least, it will, once GE's new thin-film panel factory opens in Colorado. The factory marks GE's new, large bet on solar, and states across the country competed to have the factory sited within their borders. Colorado had an empty factory that fit the bill and will snatch up a few hundred jobs as a result. The factory itself will open next year, at which point it will start spitting out a solar panel every 10 seconds. The panels will be more efficient than most thin-film models, GE …

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Critical List: Judge rules on polar bears’ status; Cain’s wrong on wind and solar

A new ruling on the polar bear's status as a threatened species gives the Obama administration the power to decide the species' fate. Amtrak carried more passengers last year than ever before. The E.U. is wondering whether it should just give up its GHG reduction plans since no one else in the world seems be doing their part to decrease emissions. Congress has been yelling that the EPA wants to crack down on farm dust, and apparently the EPA can’t take it anymore. The agency announced that it won't tighten regulations on particulate matter, otherwise known as "crap in the …