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Microsoft to pay for carbon capture by burning wood



Microsoft just backed a big plan to capture carbon emissions at a wood-fired power plant. Today, the tech giant announced a deal with Danish energy company Ørsted to buy credits representing 2.76 million metric tons of carbon dioxide captured at the Ørsted power plant in Asnes over 11 years.

According to a press release from Ørsted, this is one of the largest deals made by any company to reduce carbon emissions to date. The move is expected to help Microsoft meet its goal of going carbon negative by 2030, when the company removes more planet-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it generates through its operations.

This is one of the biggest carbon reduction deals of any company to date.

But the technology to capture carbon emissions is still in its infancy, and some environmental groups and researchers are skeptical that the strategy Microsoft just helped fund can be an effective way to tackle climate change. Without Microsoft’s support, Ørsted would not have been able to install carbon capture devices at its power plant. “In order to make this project viable, Danish government subsidies and a contract with Microsoft were needed,” Oersted said. ad says.

With the help of Microsoft, Oersted was able to secure an even larger 20-year contract with the Danish Energy Agency (DEA) to capture CO2 emissions from Asnes in western Zealand and a second power plant near Copenhagen. Once carbon capture devices are installed, they will be able to capture a total of 430,000 metric tons of CO2 annually by 2026. For comparison, this is approximately equivalent how much CO2 does one gas-fired power plant emit per year.

These power plants, however, burn wood chips and straw, a fuel also known as “biomass”. And burning biomass, which can include agricultural waste and other plant material, as a sustainable source of energy is controversial. The EU considers biomass as largest source of renewable energybut most of the wood burned comes from trees cut down in forests throughout Europe And southeastern United States. Oersted says the wood chips burned at her Asnes power plant “come from sustainably managed production forests and consist of pruned or crooked tree residues.”

How is burning trees supposed to be good for the environment?

How is burning trees supposed to be good for the environment? After all, wood still releases CO2 when burned. The argument is that trees or crops used for biomass production naturally absorb and store CO2 while they are alive. So if you replant trees or plants, you could potentially have zero carbon fuel.

Ørsted is taking it one step further by adding technologies that can filter CO2 from power plant smokestacks, preventing it from being released into the atmosphere. By doing this, the company believes its biomass power plants will become carbon negative. They plan to bury the excess carbon dioxide they capture under the North Sea and sell credits equivalent to every tonne of CO2 to Microsoft. Microsoft can then use those credits to claim that it has eliminated some of its own greenhouse gas pollution.

If this all sounds like a complicated balance, it is. Previous studies have shown that burning woody biomass could create more CO2 emissions than captured. This is because capturing only smokestack emissions does not take into account for all pollution that may occur as a result of cutting down trees and transporting timber. Also, it can take a long time for trees or plants to grow old enough for humans to rely on them to extract significant amounts of CO2.

“We think the details are critical,” Phillip Goodman, portfolio director for carbon removal at Microsoft, says in an email. edge. An effective carbon capture project would need to use biomass “harvested from appropriate areas” and account for all of its “technological” emissions, Goodman said. Microsoft declined to say how much it would pay Oersted for carbon removal credits for this particular project.

Recently, Microsoft has been making bold bets on climate and clean energy technologies. Last week, a plan was announced to buy electricity from a fusion power plant under construction, although some experts do not believe that such an advanced power plant can be realistically built for several more decades. Microsoft also paid Swiss company Climeworks to filter CO2 from the air.


How to Spy on Condor Parents with a High-Tech Egg



For two months this spring, a pair of Californian condors carefully cared for one huge egg. They took turns perching on the egg to keep it warm and turning the egg regularly, which was thought to help proper development of chicks.

What birds, part breeding population the Oregon Zoo didn’t seem to notice that the egg was a high-tech scam. A 3D-printed plastic shell was filled with sensors designed to covertly monitor conditions inside a condor nest.

For several weeks, the artificial egg monitored the temperature of the nest, recorded the behavior of birds turning eggs, and recorded ambient sound. The zoo hopes this data will allow it to better replicate natural conditions in the artificial incubators that play a key role in its condor breeding efforts.

California condors, which can have a wingspan of almost 10 feet, endangered. So every year, when the birds lay their eggs, the zoo takes them from the nest to safe hatcheries. This strategy has several advantages, encouraging some couples to lay a second egg, allowing the zoo to monitor embryo development, and protecting fragile embryos from condor rampage.

“During the breeding season, tensions tend to escalate,” says Kelly Walker, senior condor keeper at the zoo. “And sometimes pairs fight in the nesting room and accidentally injure the egg.” (The chicks return to the nest when they start to hatch.)

The more accurately the zoo can reproduce the natural conditions in the incubators, the more successful it will be. So Ms. Walker hired Scott Shaffer, an animal ecologist and bird researcher at San Jose State University, and Constance Woodman, an ornithologist and conservation technology expert at Texas A&M University, who together created smart eggs to record data for many different birds. variety.

Here’s how they created the condor eggs:

Dr. Woodman has created a digital model of a simulated condor egg. The shell needed to be thin enough to allow internal sensors to detect temperature changes, yet tough enough to withstand potential bird violence. (A macaw once threw one of Dr. Woodman’s eggs out of its nest two stories above the ground.) To keep the egg from opening, she designed threaded shell halves that screwed tightly together. “It will stay closed if you don’t have thumbs,” she said. “Birds don’t have thumbs, so we’re in good shape.”

Dr. Woodman used a 3D printer loaded with plastic specially chosen to be safe for birds, which can sit on their eggs for months. “I really, really, really don’t want to poison a bird in the best of intentions,” she said. Each shell took 13 hours to print.

To ensure that the egg does not tend to spin or wobble, Dr. Woodman gave it to Loretta, her potty-trained “home turkey,” she said. “If Loretta doesn’t like it, she won’t sit on it.”

The color of bird eggs varies by species, and Dr. Woodman and Dr. Shaffer always tries to reproduce it as accurately as possible. To match the subtle blue-green hue of the condor eggs, Dr. Woodman dipped the shells into a jar of non-toxic dye intended for children’s clothing.

Small data loggers hidden inside the shell can track the temperature and movement of the eggs. The audio recorder records the sounds in the nest, which the zoo plays for the eggs in the incubator. “Developing embryos can hear through their membranes,” Ms Walker said. And she used duct tape to cover the light bulbs on the electronics, “otherwise it would look like a flashing Christmas egg.”

Some birds refuse abnormally light eggs. So Ms. Walker used a hot glue gun to attach rocks to the inside of the egg, bringing it down to over half a pound.

The first condor parents to receive a smart egg this year were a female known only as number 762 and her partner Alishaw. “He’s not what you would call a traditionally fantastic father,” Ms Walker said. “He’ll incubate for as long as he needs to, but he’s not thrilled about it.” (However, 762’s loyalty to him remains unwavering. “She kind of rides or dies with Alishaw,” Ms Walker said.)

When both birds left the nest, the zoo staff moved their real egg to an incubator and replaced it with a fake one. The condors didn’t seem to notice. (Their chick, which has since hatched, returned to its parents and is doing well, Ms Walker said.)

When the breeding season ends, Dr. Shaffer and Ms. Walker will analyze the data. The findings will inform future hatchery settings, and the team hopes will help bring more California condor chicks out into the world safely. “It’s just a very cool use of technology that will only get better,” says the doctor. Shaffer said.

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The DNA you’ve lost can identify you



The following essay is reprinted with permission. Talkonline publication dedicated to the latest research.

Human DNA can be sequenced from small amounts of water, sand and air in the environment to potentially extract identifiable information like genetic background, gender and health risks, according to our new study.

Every cell of the body contains DNA. Because each person has a unique genetic code, DNA can be used to identify individuals. Typically, practitioners and researchers obtain human DNA through direct sampling, such as blood tests, swabs, or biopsies. However, all living beings, including animals, plants and microbes, constantly shedding DNA. Water, soil and even air contain microscopic particles of the biological material of living organisms.

The DNA that an organism releases into the environment is called ecological DNA or eDNA. Over the past couple of decades, scientists have been able to collect and sequence eDNA from soil or water samples in monitoring of biodiversity, populations of wild animals another pathogens. Tracking rare or elusive endangered species through their eDNA has been a boon to researchers, as traditional monitoring methods such as observation or trapping can be difficult, often unsuccessful, and intrusive to the species of interest.

Researchers using eDNA tools usually only focus on the species they are studying and ignore the DNA of other species. However, people so shedcough and flush DNA into their environment. And as our team of geneticists says, ecologists another marine biologists V Duffy’s lab found at the University of Florida, signs of human life can be found everywhere but in the most isolated places.

Animals, humans and viruses in eDNA

Our team uses environmental DNA to study endangered sea turtles and viral tumors to which they are subject. Tiny hatchling sea turtles lose their DNA as they crawl along the shore on their way to the ocean shortly after birth. Sand scooped from their footprints contains enough DNA to provide valuable information about tortoises and chelonid herpesviruses and fibropapillomatous tumors affecting them. Scoop up a liter tank water a recovering sea turtle under veterinary care equally provides a wealth of genetic information for research. Unlike blood or skin samples, eDNA collection does not stress the animal.

Genetic sequencing technology The methods used to decipher DNA have improved rapidly in recent years and it is now possible to easily sequence the DNA of each organism in an environmental sample. Our team suspected that the sand and water samples we used to study sea turtles might also contain DNA from a number of other species, including, of course, humans. that we didn’t know that how informative the human DNA we could extract would be like this.

To find out, we took samples from a variety of places in Florida, including the ocean and rivers in urban and rural areas, sand from isolated beaches, and a remote island not normally visited by humans. We found human DNA in all of these locations, except for the remote island, and these samples were of high enough quality for analysis and sequencing.

We also tried this technique in Ireland, following a river that flows from a remote mountaintop, through small rural villages, and into the sea in a larger city of 13,000 people. We have found human DNA everywhere except in a remote mountain tributary where a river flows, away from human habitation.

We also took air samples from a room at our Florida Wildlife Veterinary Hospital. The people present in the room allowed us to take air samples. We recovered DNA matching DNA from humans, the animal patient, and common animal viruses present at the time of collection.

Surprisingly, the human eDNA found in the local environment was intact enough for us to be able to identify mutations associated with the disease and determine the genetic origins of people living in the area. DNA sequencing, left by volunteers in the form of footprints in the sand, even made it possible to identify part of their sex chromosomes.

Ethical implications of human eDNA collection

Our team duplicates the unintentional extraction of human DNA from environmental samples “Human genetics by catch”. We call for a deeper discussion on how to ethically handle the human DNA of the environment.

Human EDNA could provide significant advances in research in areas as diverse as conservation, epidemiology, forensics, and agriculture. If handled correctly, human eDNA could help archaeologists track down unexplored ancient human settlementsallow biologists Monitoring cancer mutations in a given population or provide law enforcement useful forensic information.

However, there are many ethical implications associated with the unintentional or intentional collection and analysis of human genetic by-catch. Identifiable information can be retrieved from eDNA and access to this level of detail on individuals or populations is responsibilities related to consent and confidentiality.

Although we conducted our study with the approval of our institutional review boardwhich guarantees that human research complies with the ethical principles of research, there is no guarantee that everyone will treat this type of information ethically.

Many questions arise regarding the human DNA of the environment. For example, who should have access to human eDNA sequences? Should this information be publicly available? Is consent required before human eDNA sampling and from whom? Should researchers remove human genetic information from samples originally collected to identify other species?

We believe it is critical to put in place policies that ensure that data is collected, analyzed and stored ethically and appropriately. Policy makers, the scientific community, and other stakeholders must take the collection of human eDNA seriously and balance consent and privacy with the possible benefits of studying eDNA. Raising these questions now can help ensure that everyone is aware of the potential of eDNA and allow more time to develop protocols and regulations to ensure the proper use of eDNA techniques and the ethical management of human genetic by-catch.

This article was originally published on Talk. Read original article.

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Powerful cyclone floods homes, cuts communications in western Myanmar; at least 6 dead, 700 injured



DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Rescuers on Monday evacuated about 1,000 people stranded in 3.6 meters (12 feet) deep seawater along Myanmar’s west coast after a powerful cyclone injured hundreds and cut communications. Six deaths have been reported, but the true impact is not yet clear in one of Asia’s least developed countries.

According to the leader of the Sittwe Rakhine Youth Benevolent Association, the strong winds injured more than 700 of the approximately 20,000 people who were sheltering in the more durable buildings in Sittwe’s highlands, such as monasteries, pagodas and schools. He asked not to be named for fear of reprisals from the authorities of a country ruled by the military.

More than 10 low-lying areas offshore were exposed to sea water when Cyclone Mocha made landfall in Rakhine state on Sunday afternoon, he said. Residents moved to rooftops and upper floors, and wind and storm surge prevented immediate rescue.

“Yesterday after 16:00 the storm weakened a little, but the water did not subside. Most of them sat on the rooftops and high ground of their houses all night. The wind blew all night,” said the head of the rescue team.

Water was still at about 1.5 meters (5 feet) in flooded areas later on Monday, but rescue work was carried out when the wind died down and the sun rose in the sky. He asked civil society organizations and authorities to send aid and help evacuate residents.

Myanmar media and rescue teams reported six dead. Several injuries were reported in neighboring Bangladesh, which avoided a predicted direct hit.

Mocha made landfall near the town of Sittwe as winds reached 209 kilometers (130 miles) per hour, according to the Myanmar Meteorological Department. It had turned into a tropical depression by Monday afternoon, according to the Indian Meteorological Department.

The State Administration Council has declared a natural disaster for 17 townships in Rakhine State.

High winds destroyed cell towers, but videos compiled by local media before the loss of communication showed deep water rushing through the streets and the wind blowing roofs off.

The Myanmar Military Information Authority said the hurricane damaged houses and electrical transformers in the villages of Sittwe, Kyaukpyu and Gwa. It says the roofs were blown off buildings in the Cocos Islands, about 425 kilometers (264 miles) southwest of the country’s largest city, Yangon.

Volunteers have previously said shelters in Sittwe are running out of food after more people have arrived looking for help.

Mocha largely spared the Bangladeshi city of Cox’s Bazar, which was originally in the storm’s intended path. Authorities evacuated hundreds of thousands of people before the cyclone turned east.

Bangladeshi government spokesman Enamur Rahman said damage was still being assessed, but about 2,000 houses were destroyed and another 10,000 were damaged in St. Martin’s Island and Teknaf in the Cox’s Bazar district.

He said no deaths were reported.

About a dozen people were injured on the island of St. Martin, according to the Prothom Alo newspaper.

UN agencies and aid workers in Bangladesh have prepared tons of dry food and dozens of ambulances in advance in refugee camps that are home to more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar.

In May 2008, Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar with a storm surge that devastated communities around the Ayeyarwaddy Delta. At least 138,000 people died and tens of thousands of homes and other structures were washed away.

Roxy Matthew Call, a climatologist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune, says cyclones in the Bay of Bengal are becoming more intense, partly due to climate change.

Climate scientists say cyclones can now store their energy for many days. Cyclone Amphan in eastern India in 2020 continued to travel overland as a major cyclone and caused widespread destruction.

“As long as the oceans are warm and the winds are favorable, cyclones will maintain their intensity for a longer period,” Call said.

Tropical cyclones, referred to elsewhere as hurricanes or typhoons, are among the world’s most devastating natural disasters when they hit densely populated coastal areas.

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