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World’s First System that Removes Floating Plastic Trash to be Tested on the Pacific Ocean

The world’s first-ever — and the largest — system built to remove masses of floating plastic trash from the world’s oceans will be field tested this week.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Delft, Netherlands (4E) – The world’s first-ever — and the largest — system built to remove masses of floating plastic trash from the world’s oceans will be field tested this week.

Developed by a non-profit organization called the “Ocean Cleanup Foundation” based in The Netherlands, this system will use a combination of large, floating tubes made of durable plastic to extract plastic waste from the water. A strong nylon screen attached beneath the tubes will trap some of the plastic below the surface but is designed so as not to capture marine life. The collected waste will be dumped aboard large ships that will take it to shore for recycling.

Ocean Cleanup will begin the process of installing its plastic capturing device in the Pacific Ocean this week. First, a section of the floating tube will be towed out of San Francisco Bay, along the coast of the Farallon Islands. This initial stage will test the tubes ability to be towed.

Next, a small section will be brought back, attached to the larger section to form 2,000 feet of piping. The assembled system will be towed some 200 miles offshore for a final test to ensure everything works properly. Once this test proves positive, the whole system will be towed out to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), a journey that will take three weeks.

By late autumn a shipment of plastic waste will be returned for recycling. Some of the plastic refuse might be used to create consumer goods.

Ocean Cleanup reported that more than 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80,000 metric tons are currently afloat in the GPGP, and this total is rapidly increasing. GPGP is located halfway between Hawaii and California, and is the largest accumulation zone for ocean plastics on Earth.

A published study by Ocean Cleanup reveals that the GPGP, defined as the area with more than 10 kg of plastic per km2, measures 1.6 million square kilometers, or three times the size of continental France. Accumulated in this area are 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80.000 metric tons, or the equivalent of 500 Jumbo Jets. These figures are four to 16 times higher than previous estimates.

The report said that 92% of the mass is represented by larger objects, while only 8% of the mass is contained in microplastics, defined as pieces smaller than 5 mm in size.

Founded by university drop-out Boyan Slat, Ocean Cleanup develops technologies to extract plastic pollution from the oceans and prevent more plastic debris from entering ocean waters.

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Environment

Antarctica’s Ice Melt has Sped-up by 280%, Stoking Sea-Level Rise

The rate of the ice melting in Antarctica has accelerated by an unacceptable 280% over the last four decades, setting the stage for catastrophic sea-level rise in the future.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Oakland, CA, United States (4E) – The rate of the ice melting in Antarctica has accelerated by an unacceptable 280% over the last four decades, setting the stage for catastrophic sea-level rise in the future.

Two new studies released tell the same foreboding message — our planet’s ice is melting at a frightening rate. The first harmful effect of this dangerous development: higher sea-level rise.

Ice loss in Antarctica increased from 40 gigatons (or one billion tons) per year from 1979 to 1990 all the way up to 252 gigatons per year from 2009 to 2017, a six-fold increase. This published study led by the University of California (UC) also found the melt-rate has accelerated in the most recent decades. The melt rate hit 280% in the second half of the nearly 40 years compared to the first half.

Antarctica’s crucial ice sheet has been melting for the entire 39 year period, but this is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, said Eric Rignot, who led the UCV study.

“Antarctica is melting away,” said Rignot, (and) “not just in a couple of places.”

Antarctica holds most of the Earth’s ice. If melted, the Antarctic ice will cause the average sea level to rise 57.2 meters or 188 feet.

Another alarming finding in the study is that East Antarctica has seen a lot of melting over the same 39 year period. This challenges the traditional scientific view the East Antarctic ice sheet is relatively stable and resistant to change. The study also confirms the West Antarctic ice sheet accounts for most of the recent ice loss.

“I did not expect the cumulative contribution of East Antarctica melt to be so large,” said Rignot.

He noted the finding is significant because “melting is taking place in the most vulnerable parts of Antarctica…parts that hold the potential for multiple meters of sea level rise in the coming century or two.”

Another published study compared the geologic record of Antarctica’s ice with the known astronomical motions of the planet and the wobbling of the Earth’s tilt.

Researchers were able to re-create a broad history of the Antarctic ice sheet going back 34 million years to when the ice sheet first formed. They documented multiple cycles of ice growth and decay.

The study said that some 15 million years ago, when Earth’s atmosphere was supercharged with carbon dioxide, oceans warmed and sea ice around Antarctica disappeared. This event caused a significant part of the Antarctic ice cap to melt and dramatically elevate global sea levels.

“What this study does is characterize the growth and decay of the Antarctic ice sheet and sheds light on what is forcing it to change,” explains Stephen Meyers of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, one of the study’s co-authors along with Richard Levy of New Zealand’s GNS Science and Victoria University of Wellington.

Levy and Meyers found that sea ice, or the thin frozen layer of ocean water that surrounds Antarctica, plays a critical role in protecting the miles-deep ice on the continent from the warmer ocean that surrounds it.

“Sea ice creates a barrier between the ocean and the ice,” said Levy.

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Environment

Fight vs Climate Change Given Teeth with New Rules

The rules that will implement the 2015 Paris Agreement have been approved by nearly 200 countries following a contentious and sometimes rowdy series of meetings in Katowice, Poland.

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Katowice, Poland (4E) – The rules that will implement the 2015 Paris Agreement have been approved by nearly 200 countries following a contentious and sometimes rowdy series of meetings in Katowice, Poland.

United Nations’ member countries party to the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference will implement the new rules in 2020. The new rules are detailed in a 156-page rulebook broken down into themes. These themes include how countries will report and monitor their national pledges to curb greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions and update their emissions plans.

The 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference is the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24). It’s informally known as the Katowice Climate Change Conference and was held from Dec. 2 to 15. It was held to give flesh to the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement’s long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. It also seeks to limit the increase to 1.5°C since this level will greatly reduce the risks and effects of climate change.

Proponents of the new rules consider them a good foundation for countries to go about implementing the Paris Agreement.

“It is not easy to find agreement on a deal so specific and technical,” said Michal Kurtyka, the Polish president of the talks. “Through this package you have made a thousand little steps forward together. You can feel proud.”

Before the Katowice talks began, many expected the deal might not be as robust as it needed to be. The unity palpable at the Paris talks has weakened, mainly due to Trump’s ignorant opposition to the existence of climate change and global warming.

One of the talk’s leaders complained about the fact countries had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the finish line. He said this shows that some nations — especially Trump’s America — have not woken up to the urgent call of the report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPCC in October warned that keeping the Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5C will need “unprecedented changes” in every aspect of society.

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Largest Known Diamond in North America Unearthed in Canada

The largest diamond ever discovered in North America — a gem weighing-in at 552 carats – was recently unearthed in Canada.

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Northwest Territorries, Canada (4E) – The largest diamond ever discovered in North America — a gem weighing-in at 552 carats – was recently unearthed in Canada.

Canadian mining company Dominion Diamond Mines said the yellow diamond was unearthed in October at the Diavik Diamond Mine located in Northern Canada about 135 miles south of the Arctic Circle.

This still unnamed diamond, which is about the size of a chicken egg, is the seventh-biggest this century. Dominion Diamond Mines called the gemstone “astonishing.”

The company said abrasion markings on the surface of the 552 carat gemstone attest to the difficult journey it underwent during recovery, and the fact that it remains intact is remarkable.

Dominion CEO Shane Durgin said the diamond is gem quality. This means the gemstone is suitable for jewelry.

Since it’s still being evaluated, this diamond’s ultimate worth hasn’t been determined. It will not be sold in its rough form and will be polished to ramp-up its value.

The 552 carat gem is almost three times the size of the Diavik Foxfire, which is next largest stone ever found in Canada. Diavik Foxfire is a 187.7 carat gem-quality diamond unearthed in the same mine by the Rio Tinto Group.

it was later turned into a pair of yellow earrings, which sold for more than $1.5 million. That stone is about one-third the weight of this new diamond.

Yellow stones typically sell at a discount to Type IIa top whites often found in the best African mines. The highest quality fancy vivid yellow or fancy intense yellow stones can sell for a premium.

In 2015, a 1,111 carat diamond was discovered at a mine in Botswana. The size of a human palm, it came second to only the 3,106 carat Cullinan diamond, which was found in 1905 in South Africa.

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