Climate Change Visible Worldwide

From the drunken forests of Alaska, to the vanishing glaciers of Glacier National Park, to the bleaching of coral reefs in the Florida Keys, climate change is impacting our world.

The drunken forests are caused by softening of the permafrost which leads to tilting of the trees. Rising temperatures are threatening the glaciers and warming waters re causing a shift in the composition of oceans that has bleached out color in the reefs.

“There’s more carbon in the water,” explains Mike Gunter Jr. “Some corals are more resilient than others. You’ll see parts of a reef that look really good,” but in others, change is noticeable.

Gunter, a professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. has written a new book, “Tales of an Ecotourist: What Travel to Wild Places Can Teach Us About Climate Change.”

El Nino, a cyclical pattern of Pacific storms caused by warm water, has become stronger in recent years, researchers say. That has affected Ecuador’s famed Galapagos Islands known for bird, reptile and sea life.

The lowest place on earth, the Dead Sea in Israel and Jordan, is shrinking, Gunter reports. In the past 40 years, the salt-laden sea has diminished by a third and dropped 80 feet. Much of the change is due to increased use of water from the Jordan River for irrigation.

The flooding which has long plagued the canal city of Venice, Italy, has intensified in recent years. Some areas are regularly inundated at peak high tides. The city is developing plans to build flood walls and other barriers to keep the sea at bay.

The types of species found at Acadia National Park, Maine, is shifting. The area’s lobster population is predicted to migrate north in search of cooler waters, as will the whales that pass by offshore.

In Antarctica, gentoo penguins thrive because they build pebble nests on shorelines newly exposed by melting ice. On the other hand, adelle penguins are having trouble because they fish from floating sea ice, which is less plentiful.

The south-central Kansas town of Greensburg is an environmental survivor, Gunter says. It was nearly destroyed by a 2007 tornado but has been rebuilt as one of the most eco-conscious places in the world. It was the first U.S. city to fully adopt LED street lights, and it gets 100% of its power from renewable energy. It “has rebuilt itself stronger than before,” Gunter notes.

Climate Change Threatens Glaciers

Nearly half of the glaciers in World Heritage sites will disappear by the end of this century if greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked, according to a study the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) focused on the 46 World Heritage sites where glaciers are found.

The authors predict “glacier extinction by 2100 under a high emission scenario in 21 of the 46 natural World Heritage sites where glaciers are currently found,” IUCN said in a statement.

Sites likely to see the most severe ice-loss are Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina and Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, which straddles the Alberta-Montana border.

Twelve North American conservation groups from the U.S. and Canada petitioned the World Heritage Committee to add Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park to the list of World Heritage Sites in danger due to impacts from climate change.

Climate change is causing rapid disappearance of the park’s glaciers and significant damage to the park’s vegetation and wildlife, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

Glacier National Park once was home to approximately 150 glaciers, but only 27 remained as of 2006, and those are rapidly melting, according to CBD. Global warming is responsible for the disappearance of the park’s iconic glaciers.

“The glaciers that Glacier National Park was named for will vanish entirely by 2030 if current climate change trends continue,” said Kassie Siegel of CBD.

The Alps, Europe’s famous mountain range, still loom over the continent, but warming temperatures are taking a toll. Glaciers in The Alps are receding and plant life is changing as lowland species gain a foothold.

A drunken forest may sound like something out of a “Harry Potter” book, but it is a change caused by rising temperatures. As permafrost, the layer of permanently frozen ground, disappears in Alaska, trees begin to tilt. “There are forests that are leaning like a hurricane blew them. They look like they’ve had too much to drink,” says Mike Gunter Jr., a professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.

Climate Change Hammers Canada

From the temperate Pacific rainforests of British Columbia to the old French architecture of Montreal, the chilly, vital Arctic to Banff National Park, considered by many to be “the zenith of the entire Rocky Mountains,” Canada is incredibly beautiful and full of wonder. But all that wonder is at risk.

“The environmental threat to our world is greater than any time in human history. Just look around. We’re already seeing the impacts of climate change seared across the world,” says the Catherine McKenna, Canada’s minister of environment and climate change.

“Average temperatures in Canada have already increased by 1.7 degrees Celsius since 1948. Continued amplification of warming at high latitudes is projected under all scenarios of future climate change,” McKenna explains. “Along with higher temperatures and increased rainfall, we will see rising sea levels. Warmer waters and ocean acidification are expected to become increasingly evident over the next century.”
The nation has experienced a higher rate of warming than most other regions of the world, particularly in its far-north and west. This warming has been most pronounced in the winter and springtime, and it’s leading to a number of major impacts across the country. These include permafrost and ice melt in the Arctic, sea-level rise, and more frequent and severe extreme weather, such as once-uncommon heat extremes and major changes in precipitation.

The Arctic is an incredibly important and very fragile ecosystem – and it’s warming at a much faster rate than much of the rest of the world. Scientists are already seeing dramatic reductions in Arctic sea ice cover, particularly in the summertime. This shrinking sea ice disrupts normal ocean circulation and creates changes in climate and weather around the globe.

For the minister, seeing the human impacts of this warming on her fellow Canadians has hit by far the hardest. “This is not a matter of inconvenience to the Inuit – the melting of the sea ice and permafrost threaten the Inuit way of life and their very survival. The consequences are painful and profound.

Canada is largely thought of as a temperate-to-cool country, one insulated for the most part from the worst sorts of extreme weather. Or at least it wasn’t for much of the nation’s history. The last few decades, however, have brought dangerous changes to Canada’s climate and weather.

“In the Canadian West, wildfires rage stronger and harsher than ever before. We’ve witnessed cities and homes burning, ranchers losing their stables – and each fire season, more communities displaced by the flames,” McKenna explains. “On the prairies, droughts and floods occur with increasing frequency, and produce greater devastation for families and farmers whose homes and businesses are harmed.”

These devastating events are being driven in large part by ever-rising temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns. On average, Canada has become both warmer and wetter. But the amount and distribution of rain, snow and ice across Canada has also shifted.

Like so many places around the globe, Canada has seen an increase in hot extremes. Intense heat can have a serious impact on human health, and – thanks at least in part to climate change – days of extremely high temperatures and poor air quality are only becoming more frequent. Worse, these days hit vulnerable populations in urban centers the hardest – specifically, babies, children and seniors, as well as people who work outdoors or are already ill.

In early July 2018, the southern part of the Canadian province of Québec endured one such period of sweltering heat – and it took the lives of up to 54 people, most of them between the ages of 50 and 85. These changing circumstances also likely played a major role in the nation’s most destructive wildfire ever, when more than 88,000 people were evacuated from Fort McMurray in Alberta in May 2016. More than 2,400 homes and other buildings were destroyed.

“From 1983 to 2004, insurance claims in Canada from severe-weather events totaled almost $400 million a year. In the past decade alone, that amount tripled to more than $1 billion a year. Climate change is expected to cost Canada’s economy $5 billion a year by 2020, and as much as $43 billion a year by 2050. Inaction is simply not an option,” McKenna explained.

Driven by melting land ice and seawater warming and expanding, global sea levels could rise by as much as a meter, or perhaps even more, by the end of the century. Canada is a maritime nation. Eight of its 10 provinces and all three territories border ocean waters. That puts the western Arctic, Canada’s southeastern Atlantic Coast and major cities like Vancouver and Halifax right on the front lines of sea-level rise.

With oceans rising faster than at any time in almost 3,000 years and Antarctic ice loss now believed to be nearly three times greater than earlier estimates, there’s great cause for concern. Rising seas and increased storm surge height may cause flooding all along the country’s Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and Beaufort Sea coasts, allowing salt water intrusion into some inland areas, potentially contaminating ground and surface freshwater.

“In our big, cold country on the upper half of North America, the environment impacts where Canadians live, how we work and how we see our future. Canadians, including myself, are focused on ensuring that we protect our environment all while creating good jobs and making sure our businesses are positioned to compete as we move to a cleaner and more sustainable future,” McKenna says.

World’s Most Democratic Countries

The Democracy Index, released by the Economist Intelligence Unit, helps capture the state of democracy in 165 independent nation`s and two territories. The list tries to understand how democratic a country really is, based on five parameters: electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, functioning of government, political participation and political culture.

Here are the top 10 nations:

1. Norway – 9.87
2. Iceland – 9.58
3. Sweden – 9.39
4. New Zealand – 9.26
5. Denmark – 9.22
6. (Tie) Canada – 9.15
6. (Tie) Ireland – 9.15
8. Australia – 9.09
9. (Tie) Finland – 9.03
9. (Tie) Switzerland – 9.03

The United States and Italy tied for 21st place  at 7.98.


Make Saturday a Red Kettle Day!

Omaha’s Salvation Army has scheduled a 5K Run/Walk for 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 25 at Zorinsky Lake. Join in the fun for a good cause. The run helps stock pantry shelves during a time of overwhelming need.

RedKettleLogoNo pre-registration is required, but if you want to save time the day of the run, you can get more information at or send an e-mail to for additional participation information.

There are some great prizes, including an Apple iPad mini 16GB, Creighton Men’s and Women’s season basketball tickets, Men’s season baseball tickets and more. Dino’s Storage will be handing out water bottles to the first 300 finishers.

The entry fee is just 10 non-perishable food items or $10 for The Salvation Army pantry. The run location is at the 156th & F Street entrance to Zorinsky Lake.

Think Again: You’re Not Good at Multitasking

You might want to rethink texting while trying to hold a conversation. Multitasking actually makes you less productive than doing one thing at a time, and may even damage your brain, according to a study conducted by Stanford University researchers. recently highlighted a series of research studies that show multitasking is not a skill to boast about.

In the Stanford University study, research participants who regularly multitasked and were bombarded with several sources of electronic information failed to pay attention, recall information or switch from one job to another as well as those who just focused on one task at a time. Those who tend to be “heavy multitaskers” – who do it a lot and believe it helps their performance – were found to pay the biggest price.

multitask“They’re suckers for irrelevancy,” says Clifford Nass, one of the researchers and a communication professor at Stanford. “Everything distracts them.”

Indeed, researchers found that “heavy multitaskers” tend to struggle more at organizing their thoughts, filtering out irrelevant information and are slower at switching from one task to another.

Besides just slowing you down, multitasking has also been linked with lower IQs. In a separate study conducted by researchers at the University of London, researchers found that those who multitask during cognitive tasks had IQ scores similar to what you’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or didn’t get any sleep the night before. In fact, multitasking men were found to have IQ drops of 15 points, which put many in the average range of an 8-year-old child.

Some researchers using MRI scans even suggest that multitasking on multiple devices – like texting while watching TV – can damage your brain, although more research is needed to confirm. Researchers at the University of Sussex in the UK found that high multitaskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, an area of the brain responsible for empathy and cognitive and emotional control.

“I feel that it is important to create an awareness that the way we are interacting with the devices might be changing the way we think and these changes might be occurring at the level of brain structure,” says Kep Kee Loh, a neuroscientist and the study’s lead author.

Six Rising Home Design Trends

What home-design trends will likely catch on in new construction? Builder Online recently spoke to Mollie Carmichael, principal at John Burns Real Estate Consulting, and Nick Lehnert, executive director at architecture firm KTGY, about the design trends that are gaining popularity in the new-home market this year.
trendsPrivate space
Baby boomers, empty nesters and Gen Yers are showing a preference for homes that have more private outdoor spaces, straying from the traditional “public” backyard, according to surveys. One way some builders are fulfilling this desire is by positioning the home’s architecture strategically around the outdoor space to enclose it more and allow it to be more open to the interior living spaces. They also are creating more covered outdoor spaces.
The Super Kitchen
Besides being a place for cooking, the kitchen is also the entertainment/conversation area in a home. Open-kitchen layouts have continued to grow in popularity, putting kitchens more front-and-center and visibly exposed to other areas of the house. Kitchen islands are offering extra seating and prep space while larger pantries are offering greater storage. “As the hub, it becomes a consumer’s dream to design these elements together with function, practicality and flair,” the designers say.
Bigger Media Hubs
More home owners are looking for a place for their large flat-screen television. Larger television sizes are prompting more builders to realize the need for greater wall space to hang the televisions and larger entertainment rooms to accommodate more seating.
Larger Garage Spaces
If home owners had their way, garages wouldn’t be just for parking the cars. More home owners want spaces for hobbies and storage. Builders are taking notice by creating larger garages for multi-use purposes.
Home Offices
An office and den space is becoming a bigger desire among home buyers, and the location of it in the home is becoming increasingly important. Placing the home office off the entry is no longer considered the most practical location for it, but builders are experimenting with moving it closer to the “living” area, such as off the kitchen or the family room.
Two Homes in One
As multi-generational living gains popularity, builders are responding by carving out more separate spaces for several generations to live together. For example, some builders are offering semi-independent suites with separate entries, bathrooms and kitchenettes.

25th Annual Marge Durham Walk for the Animals


A 5K run has been added to the Nebraska Humane Society’s Walk for the Animals. The annual event is set for Sunday, Sept. 28, at the Humane Society Campus, 8929 Fort St. In Omaha.

Registration and check-in open at 8 a.m., the Run begins and 9 a.m. and the Walk at 10 a.m.

walk_logo_2014The one mile walk will proceed east through the park and onto the Keystone Trail then take a loop around the soccer field and head back to the Humane Society. Your four-legged companion is welcome to walk or run with you on the first-ever 5k Run.

General admission is $10 for adults and children 10 and under are free. Those pre-registered online will be admitted for free. Register at

Event sponsors include Dino’s Storage and sponsors will have giveaways and information on pet products and services. A silent auction also is on tap and rescue groups will be on hand with volunteers showing what they are doing to help your favorite breeds.

You can meet adoptable dogs at the 9:30 a.m. Adoption Parade and dogs who have been adopted from the Humane Society will lead the pack as the walk kicks off at 10 a.m. There’s even a special short walk route, dubbed the Dachshund Dash, for little legs.

There will be plenty of parking available in the ConAgra lot north of Bakers on the northeast corner of 90th and Fort. From there you can hop a shuttle bus to the Humane Society. And please be good neighbors and try not to take Bakers parking spaces. For $20 you can pull in on the north side of Fort Street and valets will take care of your car for you.

Seven New Materials Could Change Buildings

There is a huge gap between material science and construction. It can take decades to move an engineering breakthrough from a lab to a building site. Yet as architects and engineers face bigger challenges – from earthquakes to dwindling resources to sheer cost – a new generation of smart materials is emerging.

Some of these materials are still far from reality outside the lab, but others are coming much more quickly. These concepts may move into actual construction in months, years or decades. The folks at offer a look at some of what may lie ahead.

Conductive Paint. A team from North Carolina State University and the University of Eastern Finland are developing a practical version of conductive paint that can sense cracks in a structure. In a study published in June, the researchers explained how the system works: First, electrodes are placed around the skin of the building. Then, the conductive paint is layered over them. After that, a current is run through the electrodes in different combinations, and a complicated algorithm can determine whether the electrical potential has changed – if it has, the system can work out where the problems have occurred. Such of paint could be invaluable for older buildings, or those in earthquake zones. It also could be used to monitor any structural fissures at nuclear power plants.

legobuildingSmart Bricks That Act Like Lego. Lego offers a brilliant solution to prefabricated architecture. Not only do they snap together quickly and leave zero extraneous waste, the holes could provide extra space for wiring, plumbing and even structural reinforcement. With that in mind, a company called Kite Bricks wants to use Lego as a basis for a real-world building material called Smart Bricks. Just like the toy, these concrete-molded bricks snap together with a layer of mortar-like adhesive. Holes in the bricks can be threaded with rebar for extra structural reinforcement. And one side of each brick can be removed to provide access wiring, plumbing and the like stored inside.

Carbon Fiber Rope. One major deterrent to the height of supertall buildings is elevator technology – at a certain height, the amount of steel rope needed to pull people upwards becomes too heavy, increasing the number of separate elevators needed to reach the top skyscrapers. Kone, a Finnish company, has developed an alternative: A rope made of carbon fiber that’s 90 percent lighter and could support elevators up to twice as high as the current limit. Called UltraRope, the material could enable elevators that are up to a kilometer in height. It’ll also change how elevators are serviced, since it will last twice as long as standard steel cable.

Plastic That Lights Up In the Wind. Mechanoluminescence is a phenomenon in which a particular material will light up when it’s put under some form of physical stress. In the case of this material, a team from South Korea’s Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology infused plastic with colored phosphors made out of copper-doped zinc sulfide. The combination results in a white light when put under mechanical stress. To take advantage of wind energy, the researchers molded the plastic into tubes – when the wind blows, the tubes deflect and the light appears. As for potential uses, imagine facades that light up in the wind, or beacons that glow to broadcast information about weather conditions.

Invisible Solar Cells. If you’ve ever sat inside a room that has photovoltaic panels on the windows, you know it’s easy to recognize the tell-tale, shimmering rainbow color of the cells. Researchers at Michigan State have developed an entirely different type of “solar concentrator” that can be layered over any window. The product takes advantage of non-visible wavelengths of light – ultraviolet and the near infrared – pushing them to the solar cells embedded at the edges of the panels. The result is a material that can make energy from sunlight in any number of practical situations. Examples might include gadget screens, windows and doors.

bambooforestBamboo That Can Compete With Steel and Concrete. Bamboo is inexpensive, it grows fast and it’s surprisingly strong. A team at MIT is studying how to make better use of bamboo in construction. Led by professor Lorna Gibson, the project is testing how and why bamboo is so structurally advanced. They’ve found that the material at the edges of a bamboo rod is actually denser and stronger than the stuff in the middle – and they envision using it to create a secondary building material, like plywood, to make houses and buildings that are stronger, cheaper and less environmentally impactful.

Wallpaper That Charges Your Phone. Sound can transmit energy and a new company called uBeam wants to turn that technology into a building product. A transmitter takes electricity and turns it into ultrasonic sound. A receiver on your wireless device captures that audio and turns it back into energy. You’d be able to charge any device while walking around your home. Right now, uBeam is focusing on putting its technology in wallpaper or a piece of art, but it’s easy to imagine how these transmitters could be embedded in all sorts of materials and places – an ambient web of ultrasonic sound that networks entire buildings.

Kermit Got It Wrong – It IS Easy To Be Green

You need not wait for St. Patrick’s Day, nor fear that “they’re hanging men and women there for Wearing of the Green”. And you can disregard Kermit the Frog’s advice that “it isn’t easy being green”.

greenshadesThis fall and into the coming winter, the color is definitely green.

For your pumps, your tops, your car, your furniture. For your walls, your handbag, your sweaters. For your coats, your boots, your jewelry. For your furniture, accessories, cars and interior paint. Green is the in color.

And you can use any green you like from linden to wheatgrass, from kale to emerald, from forest to lime. And put extra emphasis on emerald.

Black is no longer the be all, wear all. Couple your greens with a splash of gold, milky white, pastels and even orange. You are also in style with reds, plums, bright blues, purple and fuchsia. Grey and black and white combos also are in vogue.