70 degrees in the shade – in the heat?
Last year’s record heat wave in late June in the Pacific Northwest killed hundreds and thousands more suffered from heat-related illnesses, when temperatures reached 108 degrees Fahrenheit in Seattle, 116 in Portland and more than 120 in parts of British Columbia.
But Alexandra Rempel was able to keep the temperature in the lower level of her Oregon home in the mid-70s without using air conditioning. Rempel, a building scientist at the University of Oregon, knew that keeping exterior or thermal shades on sunny windows and opening the windows at night, when it’s cooler outside than inside, helps maintain indoor temperatures.
“It’s not really that widely known in the Pacific Northwest because the summers were so mild that it was pretty easy to cool down with just occasional natural ventilation and shading or nothing at all,” she said.
While a heat wave like the 2021 event will inevitably push indoor temperatures to uncomfortable levels, Rempel and her colleagues created a model to simulate whether passive cooling could have kept apartment temperatures during a heat wave at levels that can survive.
Their research, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and published in the journal Applied Energy, found that passive cooling techniques could reduce indoor air temperatures by 25 degrees Fahrenheit during a three-day event and keep indoor temperatures below 104 degrees, the dangerous threshold above which people are at risk thermal shock. They also found that passive cooling helps reduce the energy needed for air conditioning by 80 percent.
As climate change makes heat waves more extreme, Rempel warns that air conditioning is not a sufficient solution. AC units emit heat, which on a city scale can make the outside temperature even hotter. Additionally, she said, air conditioners are subject to malfunctions and power outages and can rely on electricity generated with fossil fuels.
Rempel said residences should have curtains attached to the window frame to contain the hot air that builds up in the space between the shade and the window, or even curtains on the outside of the window to keep the heat out. Her team’s findings should be used to inform changes in housing policy, she said, such as requiring landlords to provide efficient curtains and fans for ventilation.
“It would be a really basic piece of advice, some basic hardware coupled with a public messaging service to help people manage it effectively,” she said.
The authors say that “you are what you eat” also applies to food
We know that healthy food is part of a healthy life. But what makes your food healthy? It depends on what you ate, say the authors of a new book.
Geologist David R. Montgomery and biologist Anne Bickle, a married couple living in Seattle, co-authored the “What’s Your Food Eating: How to Heal Our Earth and Restore Our Health.” The book delves into how modern agricultural practices have degraded soils, causing plants grown on those soils to lack key vitamins and minerals needed in the human diet.
Inside Climate News recently discussed this book with Montgomery and Bickle. This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
How does the way we grow our food affect our health?
Anne Bickle: One of the biggest cause-and-effect relationships between how we farm and what goes into our food is what happens to the soil microbiome. Do we have full communities of microorganisms, bacteria, fungi, and everything else involved? Because in many ways it is precisely because of the biology of the soil that everything changes and moves between the soil and into our crops.
David R. Montgomery: The thing that we’re sort of developing in the book is how to think about the relationship between soil health and earth health and human health and the processes and pathways that affect our lives. health.
How did your respective fields of expertise in geology and biology, as well as your relationship as a married couple, fit into your process of writing this book together?
Montgomery: Writing a book is stressful for a marriage. There is no way around it. But our very different experiences, they complement each other in thinking about the soil. Because you can think of soil as a combination of geology and biology. This is where these two worlds converge.
How does growing healthier food benefit the planet?
Montgomery: If we look at all the potential places where we could store carbon in this world, one of the places that will benefit us the most is the soil, and specifically our agricultural soils. And nature has invented a really good way for this. This is called photosynthesis.
This is a really good example of what is good for the earth is good for us. And that the more carbon we can put back into the world’s soils, the more productive they will be, and the less carbon there will be in the atmosphere.
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
Bickle: Agriculture should not be a destructive thing, bad for people, land, air, water, animals and all that. I really wish all farmers everywhere would farm in a way that promotes soil health.
What we know about soil microbiota is that a diet of nitrogen fertilizers is like feeding them a monoculture or feeding them heaps of sugar. So I really like this idea of an omnivorous, diverse diet for the soil microbiota, because that means the soil microbiota is functioning as it should.
When you feed and nurture life in the soil, it sets the bar, it sets the stage for many, many other things that, as a consequence of agriculture, come with a big fat silver lining. Everything from better nutrient density to cleaner air, cleaner water, healthier people, helping to combat climate change. I mean, there isn’t a single thing that improving soil health can’t have a positive impact on. Unless you sell agrochemicals.
Study: African wild dogs reproduce in ‘phenology trap’
A new study shows that African wild dogs are rapidly delaying their breeding season as climate change contributes to lower winter temperatures. But this leads to a decrease in the survival of the cubs. Scientists say it’s a “phenological trap,” in which a species adapts to climate change in ways that do more harm than good.
A study conducted by researchers from the University of Washington and is published this week in PNAS, looked at 30 years of data collected by the Botswana Predator Conservancy. They found that over the past three decades, wild dogs’ birth dates have shifted 22 days later. The shift is linked to climate change as winter temperatures also drop later in the year.
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The dataset tracks one of the largest extant populations of African wild dogs, which once spanned much of sub-Saharan Africa but are now isolated to several areas due to habitat loss and other stressors. Wild dog cubs are born in winter and stay in the den for three months. At this time, members of the pack bring food to the cubs, and in the spring the cubs emerge. The study found that because of the delay in breeding, the three-month hibernation period shifts to spring when temperatures become warmer.
“Their population is declining,” said lead author Brianna Abrahams, a researcher at the Center for Sentinel Ecosystems at the University of Washington. “It’s probably because of a lot of different things, like habitat fragmentation, the spread of disease, human-wildlife conflict. But now we’re also starting to see the effects of climate change being thrown into the mix.”
Abrahams said scientists aren’t sure why warmer temperatures lead to lower hatchling survival, but it’s an area she hopes to investigate further.
Animals have to balance so many different aspects of their lives, Abrahams said, such as when to reproduce, how to hide from predators and how to find food. “Solutions that can optimize one area of life can backfire in another, and that’s what we saw with African wild dogs,” she said. “Essentially, we see that animals do not always know how to optimally respond to climate change. And it’s really up to us to help reduce these threats.”
The Big Climate Thing music festival will take place this fall
This fall, New York will host a music festival dedicated to climate change.
The big climate thing, a three-day event featuring acts such as Sheryl Crow, The Roots, Haim, Khruangbin and The Weather Station. Tickets went on sale this week starting at $119 for the event, which will be held at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens from September 16-18.
The event is organized by Climate control projects, an organization dedicated to using popular culture to fight climate change. Leaders of the organization have in the past organized charity concerts in honor of Tibet’s independence.
“When I imagine a stadium full of people gathering for a climate event centered around music, I imagine a huge opportunity to experience the solidarity that has been so lacking here,” Weather Station Music Lead Tamara Lindemann Rolling Stone magazine said. “I sincerely hope that a huge, personal event can have some power to bring people together and create some common experience around climate, and push those in attendance to explore their climate feelings and push them enough to act.”