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Grist List: Look what we found.


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Saudi Arabia scrambling to get off own oil, build 5 gigawatts of solar power by 2020

What do you do when you're basically a giant welfare state whose stability depends on keeping the money tap open, yet your population is set to double and your electricity consumption to triple by 2032? If you're Saudi Arabia, the answer is build renewable energy as fast as you can. The first volley is a goal of 5 gigawatts of solar power by 2020. That's an enormous amount of generating capacity to build in just 9 years -- fully a third of Germany's entire installed base. The idea is that replacing the country's current energy mix with renewables will free …

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Is climate change causing the Mississippi flood?

Mother Jones has posted everything you might want to know about the record flooding along the Mississippi, including the big question: Is this destruction just the ravages of an angry Nature, or is it the ravages of an angry Nature that's pissed about climate change in particular? The answer to "did climate change cause this?" is basically "well, no." Of course the direct cause of the flood was massive rainfall: up to four times the normal amount in some areas this April. But what caused the rainfall? As usual, we're going to pussyfoot around saying that climate change is definitely …

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Oyster sex to the rescue

Centuries ago, the Chesapeake Bay was filled with oyster reefs so large they sank ships. Today, in search of a cleaner bay, Maryland is looking to revitalize its once-booming oyster population. But to do that, the state needs oysters -- lots of 'em -- and to get oysters, the state needs scientists at the University of Maryland to encourage those mollusks to get down and dirty. As in one of those last man-last woman on earth scenarios, the future depends on a small group's ability to produce as many offspring as possible. Seeding the bay involves dumping loads of baby …

Read more: Animals

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Critical List: Fracking connected to flammable tap water; eco-friendly paintballs

Remember those people with flammable tap water? Yup, hydrofracking is responsible, according to Duke University scientists. Chile wants to dam two incredible rivers, despite opposition from both locals and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. A judge in Utah shut down Koch Industries' search for the clever people who sent out a fake press release claiming the company had embraced the idea of climate change. A quote from the Kochtopus’ inner monologue: “How dare you, Utah judge? Nobody says Koch Industries believes in science and gets away with it! Nobody!” Angela Merkel is kicking other world leaders' butts on clean energy policy. …

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Climate change could ruin the internet

Sure, climate change threatens animals and people and cities and all that life-as-we-know-it stuff, but apparently it can also make Bejeweled Blitz run super-slow. OUTRAGE! Something must be done! Seriously, I half suspect this of being a hoax by old people who think young people are only motivated by the Facebook anymore, but a government report in the U.K. warned today that climate change could threaten WiFi internet access. Higher temperatures can reduce the signal range, increased rainfall can affect reliability, and more severe storms could lead to more outages.  Other parts of the infrastructure are also at risk, the …

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D.C. will bribe people to shorten their commutes

If you live in the D.C. area, the Office of Planning wants you to get paid up to $12,000 to avoid a car commute. Wait, really? Car commuting costs a metric pantload in fuel and destroys your soul -- isn't this like trying to pay someone not to slowly pummel themselves to death with Faberge eggs? But some folks are so wedded to their suburban lifestyles that they apparently need a further incentive to give it up -- or they find city living so exorbitant that they can't afford to move. So D.C.'s Office of Planning has set aside $200,000 for bribing people …

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Rail gets a $2 billion shot in the arm from Rick Scott’s rejected funds

Remember when Florida's governor turned up his nose at $2 billion in federal funds for rail projects? Now his loss is everyone else's gain. The Department of Transportation today announced the redistribution of Florida's rejected wealth today, and it looks like Scott's tantrum will mean improved speed and performance in the Northeast Corridor, a high-speed line between Detroit and Chicago, better train cars throughout California and the Midwest, and forward movement on the planned L.A.-to-S.F. high-speed line. Thanks, sucker! Here's what Scott's $2 billion will buy: $795 million to upgrade the heavily-trafficked Northeast Corridor, running between D.C. and Boston. This …

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Green buildings can now eat smog for breakfast

The aluminum giant Alcoa has designed a building panel that cleans both itself and the nearby air. The secret to this feat is titanium dioxide, the same compound that allows sunscreen to block the sun. In this application, when the sun hits a coat of titanium dioxide, the compound begins spewing electrons. According to Alcoa, those electrons join with oxygen and water molecules in the air. This results in highly reactive molecules, which glom onto organic materials stuck to the building surface or near it -- anything from bird droppings to smog particles -- and chew them up. These messes …

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Awesome concept design makes buildings into bike racks

Floor space is at a premium in cities -- everyone wants to walk, bike, drive, and park their various human- and gas-powered vehicles on the same precious real estate. Vertical space, on the other hand, is available in abundance. And while the obvious use for this space is crazy-ass trompe l'oeil murals, the second-best option is doing something useful and innovative to take some of the space burden off the ground. Voila: The bike hanger. These aren't reality, yet, but the concept is brilliant. These vertical bike racks work something like a Ferris wheel or the motorized rack at a …

Read more: Biking, Cities

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New app lets you identify the few remaining trees

Wouldn’t it be nice to get to know trees while they’re still around? Leafsnap can help. The new app, developed by a team of researchers at Columbia, University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution, contains a database of beautiful photos of leaves, barks, flowers, and fruits. All the lazy naturalist has to do to identify a tree is take a picture of one little leaf. It turns out, however, that you can't just point your iPhone camera at a tree, snap a picture, and find out what in the world it is. After gathering a leaf, fruit, flower or other …