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Sustainability

Tap water beats out bottled water in environmental and health benefits, study finds

There are significant environmental consequences linked with drinking only bottled water

A new study conducted by researchers from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) explored the benefits of drinking tap water over bottled water. Their findings, which specifically examined outcomes in Barcelona, suggest that drinking tap water may be the healthier and more sustainable choice.

“Tap water quality has increased substantially in Barcelona since the incorporation of advanced treatments over the last years,” said researcher Cristina Villanueva. “...

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    Keeping your camera off during virtual meetings can help save the environment

    There are several ways consumers change their internet use to be more eco-conscious

    Many consumers have made the switch from in-person work to working from home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this change has cut down on commuting times, it also has meant that consumers are spending a lot more time on the internet while at home.

    A new study conducted by researchers from Purdue University explored how consumers can use all of this extra screen time to benefit the environment. According to the researchers, one of the best ways consumers can cut down on their carbon footprint is to keep their cameras turned off during virtual meetings. 

    “Banking systems tell you the positive environmental impact of going paperless, but no one tells you the benefit of turning off your camera or reducing your streaming quality,” said researcher Kaveh Madani. “So without your consent, these platforms are increasing your environmental footprint.” 

    Small changes make a big impact

    The researchers gathered internet processing data from several countries around the world to better understand how consumers’ internet habits can influence various environmental outcomes. They looked at social platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Zoom and explored how usage affected carbon, water, and land footprints. 

    “If you just look at one type of footprint, you miss out on others that can provide a more holistic look at environmental impact,” said researcher Roshanak Nateghi. 

    The researchers learned that streaming services and online video conferences are two of the biggest culprits in terms of negative impacts on the environment. However, by making simple switches, consumers help reduce the effect of such environmental damage. 

    They explained that keeping your camera off during a virtual meeting can reduce the carbon, water, and land footprints by 96 percent, and swapping high definition streaming for standard definition can reduce these footprints by 86 percent. Opting against data downloads can also be incredibly beneficial for the environment. Currently, a one-hour video call uses up to 12 liters of water and produces 1,000 grams of carbon dioxide. 

    While CO2 emissions have hit record lows since the start of the pandemic, the researchers worry about how continued excessive internet usage will continue to affect the environment. If consumers keep up at the current pace, carbon, water, and land footprints are anticipated to increase by the end of 2021.

    “There are the best estimates given the available data,” said Nateghi. “In view of these reported surges, there is a hope now for higher transparency to guide policy.” 

    Many consumers have made the switch from in-person work to working from home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this change has cut down on co...
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    Climate change has led to billions of dollars in flood damages, study finds

    More frequent extreme weather events have heightened the severity of flooding

    Climate change is a source of stress for many consumers, and findings from a new study conducted by researchers from Stanford University may just add to that stress. 

    Because climate change has led to more frequent weather events and more severe periods of precipitation, flooding has become a much more serious issue for many consumers. According to the researchers’ findings, flooding due to climate change has led to billions of dollars in damages in the last 30 years. 

    “The fact that extreme precipitation has been increasing and will likely increase in the future is well known, but what effect that has had on financial damages has been uncertain,” said researcher Frances Davenport. “Our analysis allows us to isolate how much of those changes in precipitation translate to changes in the cost of flooding, both now and in the future.” 

    Flood damage on the rise

    The researchers’ goal was to determine whether rising flood damages were related to climate change or if there were other overriding socioeconomic factors that have come into play in recent years. They used existing economic models to compare climate change data, flood damages, and weather patterns between 1988 and 2017. 

    “By bringing all those pieces together, this framework provides a novel quantification not only of how much historical changes in precipitation have contributed to the costs of flooding, but also how greenhouse gases influence the kind of precipitation events that cause the most damaging flood events,” said researcher Noah Diffenbaugh. 

    The researchers found that over the last 30 years, flooding has yielded nearly $200 billion in related damages across the United States. They learned that climate change was directly linked to more than 35 percent of those costs, or roughly $75 billion in damages. The team explained that the severity of extreme weather events is mostly to blame in these cases, as flooding has only worsened as the weather has changed. 

    “What we find is that, even in states where the long-term mean precipitation hasn’t changed, in most cases, the wettest events have intensified, increasing the financial damages relative to what would have occurred without the changes in precipitation,” said Davenport. 

    This study points to just one area of significant cost that stems from climate change. Moving forward, the researchers hope that legislators can utilize these findings as the basis for serious climate-related policy change. Without changes, they believe flood damages will only surge higher as time goes on. 

    “Accurately and comprehensively tallying the past and future costs of climate change is key to making good policy decisions,” said researcher Marshall Burke. “This work shows that past climate change has already cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars, just due to flood damages alone.” 

    Climate change is a source of stress for many consumers, and findings from a new study conducted by researchers from Stanford University may just add to th...
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    Hope still exists in the fight against climate change, experts say

    Policy-led interventions implemented around the world could lead to lasting improvements

    While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought some positive news in terms of the environment, research shows that pollution is still a very real problem.

    Though a lot of work still needs to be done, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Exeter is detailing why hope still remains in the fight against climate change. According to the researchers, efforts put into place in two key areas -- lighter road transportation and power -- will likely benefit the environment for years to come. 

    “We have left it too late to tackle climate change incrementally,” said researcher Tim Lenton. “Limiting global warming to well below two degrees Celsius now requires transformational change and a dramatic acceleration process.”

    Tipping towards environmental advancements 

    Lenton and his team are optimistic about the future of climate change because of what they refer to as “tipping points.” They explained that this happens when several small changes build on top of one another to create one lasting change. When it comes to climate change, the researchers anticipate tipping points to occur in the areas of power and lighter road transportation. In both cases, policy-led interventions have already been put into place to help set the scales in motion that will eventually create long-term change. 

    In looking at power, the researchers explained that countries around the world are working to make coal plants a thing of the past. On a global scale, renewable energy sources are proving to be a more cost-effective method of generating power, which is minimizing the benefits associated with coal and fossil fuels. 

    As these efforts continue, and renewable energy is utilized more and more, the researchers predict that there will no longer be any financial benefits of using coal or in maintaining coal plants. In time, the widespread use of solar or wind-powered energy will tip the scales and make coal-fueled power obsolete.

    The researchers anticipate a similar tipping point to occur when electric cars are more widely used by consumers. Currently, the manufacturing costs of electric cars are making it difficult for them to be more accessible to car buyers. However, offsetting these costs is possible; the researchers explained that legislators in parts of the world that generate the highest car sales -- California, China, and the European Union -- can work together to mass-produce electric cars and lower costs. 

    “If either of these efforts -- in power or road transport -- succeed, the most important effect could be to tip perceptions of the potential for international cooperation to tackle climate change,” Lenton said. 

    While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought some positive news in terms of the environment, research shows that pollution is still a very real problem.Thou...
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