China’s out-of-control space station harmlessly breaks up over the Pacific Ocean

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China’s out-of-control space station — Tiangong-1 — has at last plunged through Earth’s atmosphere and landed somewhere over the southern Pacific Ocean. The spiraling spacecraft made its descent at around 8:16PM ET on April 1st, according to US Strategic Command, which was able to confirm the exact point of reentry along with organizations in eight other countries. The vehicle’s fall puts an end to the space station’s seven years in orbit, and it managed not to hit any populated areas on the way down.

It was hard to know exactly where Tiangong-1 was going to make its final descent, which is the case for most falling space debris. Sunday afternoon, trackers were able to narrow down the time of the vehicle’s reentry to a three- to…

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US Absent From Global Meeting on Ocean Health. That’s Bad News for the Planet

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Last week, world leaders, researchers, and advocates of ocean health gathered in Mexico for the fifth annual World Ocean Summit. But one global presence was noticeably absent: No United States government representatives attended the summit, either in person or via teleconference.

In contrast, the presidents of Iceland and Norway, the former president of Costa Rica, and officials from Canada, Portugal, Uruguay, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Ecuador, Sweden, Thailand, and Chile were listed as speakers for the three-day event.

A U.S. State Department travel ban for the area may have prevented government officials from traveling to Playa del Carmen. Yet the ban doesn’t explain the country’s lack of virtual presence, even while U.S. university researchers and companies were present.

Rather, the move seems to reflect the stance of the current administration, which has largely de-prioritized climate and environmental science.

The U.S. already has the extensive financial and academic resources to support marine and climate science research — after all, the county’s (often government-supported) research up to this point has played a major role in scientific understanding of our planet. But the U.S. is also the biggest carbon polluter in history, and currently the second largest in the world.

“We’re facing an unreliable partner today in the United States for marine funding,” said Steven Adler, chairman of the Ocean Data Alliance, at one of the meeting’s panel sessions, Oceans Deeply reported. (Compare that to 2015, when the U.S. undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment presented at the summit, and 2014, when then-secretary of state John Kerry spoke.)

Since entering office, the Trump administration has pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement, removed climate change from government websites, and shifted the country’s energy industry away from renewable resources and back towards greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels. Most recently, Trump opened up US waters to offshore oil drilling, and even considered shrinking or removing 11 marine sanctuaries to do so.

Many believe the president is already putting the planet’s future at risk by neglecting to take action on climate change. But ignoring the oceans could have a much bigger impact than Trump may realize. The ocean naturally moderates the planet’s climate by storing both heat and carbon dioxide; according to NASA, more heat is stored in the upper 3 meters (10 feet) of ocean water than the entire atmosphere. Without this storage capacity, the atmosphere would be a full 20 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than it already is — making life on land difficult, if not impossible, in many places on Earth.

Yet a warmer ocean also means more water vapor and energy fill the atmosphere, making storms stronger and less predictable. It makes for oceans that are inhospitable for ocean life, leaving humans with less to eat and even potentially driving food chains to catastrophic collapse.

Of course, the United States isn’t the only country that can provide global leadership on ocean health. As Oceans Deeply notes, the “void” that the U.S. has left is already being filled by other countries; the Canadian environment minister stressed at the World Oceans Summit that Canada will use its role as leader of the Group of Seven (G7) in 2018 to put ocean issues at the forefront.

Because the United States has contributed so much knowledge to our understanding of the planet — and so much pollution to it, too — the nation should be more involved. One would hope that, for one of the most decisive issues of our time, the “leader of the free world” would step up, not abdicate responsibility.

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Startling Footage Shows Plastic Waste in the Ocean

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This startling footage by a scuba diver in Indonesia shows an ocean filled with plastic waste.

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If the Ocean Continues to Warm, Fish May No Longer Be on the Menu

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Antarctica, Circa 2300

Circling Antarctica at the bottom of our planet, the Southern Ocean probably seems a world away to anyone living far from its frigid waters. But as it turns out, this polar ocean has a strong influence on the global climate and worldwide ocean health. New research suggests that if this ocean continues to  suck up carbon dioxide (and get warmer thanks to climate change), we could see a domino effect in marine ecosystems, with fisheries around the world seeing at least a 20 percent decline by the year 2300.

Scientists at the University of California, Irvine used simulations to project what impacts climate change would have on the world’s oceans over the next few centuries, further out than climate change impacts are normally examined. Rather than looking at the usual cutoff of 2100, the team examined global warming feedback that may emerge more slowly, over the course of the next 300 years.

Presently, the Southern Ocean drives ocean mixing; its active Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters transport nutrients across the globe. But these simulations showed that — if current emissions levels stay the same — by 2300, westerly winds will grow stronger and shift towards the poles to limit this mixing.

The resulting change will make polar waters much warmer, dissolve sea ice, and most significantly, trap nutrients in the Southern Ocean.

Hungry Seas

The researchers, who published their study in the journal Science, found that cutting off this nutrient cycle had a significant impact on global ocean health: decreasing primary production, the activity by marine plants on the first level of the food chain, by 24 percent. What’s more, it decreases how much particulate carbon the deep sea stored by 41 percent.

Since these processes form the base of ocean ecosystems, it’s not surprising the outcome is oceans with, well, a lot less food for fish to eat. Less for fish to eat means ultimately less fish.

The study predicts that the North Atlantic, western Pacific and southern Indian Oceans will feel these effects the worst, with North Atlantic fisheries seeing a whopping 60 percent drop.

An ocean with fewer fish doesn’t just mean less to look at on your next snorkeling trip. Already, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that the fishing industry supports the livelihoods of 10 to 12 percent of the world’s population, and that almost 17 percent of the globe relies on fish as their primary source of protein.

The importance of fish as a food source will only grow more important as the global population rises, especially since the FAO estimates suggest we may have to double our food production in order to feed the global population by 2050.

Climate change is already had a serious impact on global food production — from making food less nutritious to messing with the growing season of plants, to even pushing some crop species towards extinction. On top of that, the world’s oceans are already stressed by overfishing, with over 70 percent of the world’s fish stocks fully exploited, over-exploited, or depleted.

The combination of overuse and climate change could prove deadly for global food security. And by the time 2300 rolls around, it will be too late to mitigate the impact of human activity on our food sources, both those on land and those under the sea.

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Inside the AMNH’s new ocean exhibit, with 30 very excited fourth graders

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<em>A partial replica of a Triton submersible in the new exhibit Unseen Oceans at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.</em>

I had hoped that getting a media preview of a new museum exhibition meant having the luxury of strolling around undisturbed, without the crowds that turn any museum visit in New York into Macy’s on Black Friday. Instead, there are dozens of other journalists with cameras on tripods — and about 30 very excited fourth graders.

It’s Tuesday morning, and I’m at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan to take a look at a new exhibition called Unseen Oceans. The museum has arranged for the fourth graders to be here so that the media can take nice pictures of children learning cool stuff. Like many things that are great for the cameras, it’s distressing as an experience.

Photo: AMNH / R. Mickens
An array of…

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Essential Phone announced in three new colors — Ocean Depths, Stellar Gray, and Copper Black — for $100 extra

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The day before yesterday, we received word by way of a Twitter teaser that Essential was finally planning to release its hotly-anticipated Ocean Depths color. It turns out that Andy Rubin and friends actually had even more in store, with a Stellar Gray and a never-before-seen Copper Black also coming onto the scene. Unfortunately, these will cost $ 599 apiece — a full $ 100 over the price of a Moon Black or Pure White unit.

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Essential Phone announced in three new colors — Ocean Depths, Stellar Gray, and Copper Black — for $ 100 extra was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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Essential Phone Ocean Depths color option looks to be coming soon

Essential Phone Ocean Depths color official

It looks like a new Essential Phone color is coming soon.

Essential today posted a teaser image of a greenish blue color with a gold ring and the date “02/15/18”. Accompanying the image is a message that reads “A new wave is coming. #EssentialPhone”.

We’ll have to wait until Thursday before we know exactly what Essential is teasing, but it appears that the company is ready to launch its Ocean Depths color of the Essential Phone. This color has been official since the Essential Phone was first announced, but Essential has never given a solid release date for it.

It’s great to see that Essential may finally be getting this Ocean Depths version of the Essential Phone out. While the new color likely won’t give a huge boost to the Essential Phone’s sales numbers, having more color options is always a good thing, and there are likely some people out there that’ve been waiting for this Ocean Depths model to arrive.

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Essential’s stunning ‘Ocean Depths’ color for the PH-1 is coming on February 15th

The Essential PH-1 is easily one of the most beautiful smartphones on the market, with its almost-nonexistent bezels and ceramic back. Back in October, the company released a ‘Pure White’ version of the PH-1 that looked fantastic, but white isn’t really a very special color. If you want special, you’ll have to look to the Ocean Depths color, which Essential is now teasing a launch date of February 15th for.

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An Ocean of Plastic Is Choking the World’s Most Precious Coral Reefs

Plastic Pollution

Not only are coral reefs one of the ecosystems most susceptible to climate change, but their complex structure is also vulnerable to an array of other threats, many of which are human made.

Plastic waste is among them, and it’s been found to have a disproportionate impact on corals’ health, by spreading pathogens that cause lethal disease outbreaks. A study published in the journal Science found that when plastic touches corals, the likelihood that they will get sick increases from 4 percent to 89 percent. And according to the the team at Cornell University in the U.S., over a third of the 159 coral reefs they surveyed was contaminated with plastic.

“Corals are under threat from a long list of sources and climate change is one of the major and most publicized ones,” said University of Washington graduate Evan Fiorenza, a co-author, speaking to Futurism. “Our study adds plastic waste to that ever growing list.”

Researchers looked at the Asia-Pacific region, where most global coral reefs are located, and estimated that about 11.1 billion plastic items are currently entangled in the region’s reefs. They project this number to increase by an additional 40 percent by 2025.

Plastic has a range of negative effects on coral reefs. Waste materials dumped on land can transport harmful pathogens out to sea. As scraps lodge in the reef amid the corals, they often scratch their surface, which creates fertile breeding ground for pathogens, much like a cut on the human body can lead to infection. Stress caused by the presence of plastic debris also makes it more difficult for corals to fight off pathogens.

Disease outbreaks among corals are putting at risk the survival of one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, but also the human activities revolving around it. Coral reefs are responsible for yearly $ 375 billion in goods and services related to fishing, tourism, and coastal protection.

Play Your Part

Compared with the elusive impacts of climate change, studies that quantify the role of human waste on coral reefs can be a wake up call not only for the public, but also for local administrations:

“While coral reefs are presented with a lot of different threats, I think that addressing plastic pollution is one of the few things that local managers can actually mitigate,” co-author Courtney S. Couch, researcher at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, told Futurism. “Having everyone reduce their carbon emissions is absolutely necessary, but it’s really hard for local managers to influence our climate. This is one of those tangible things that marine resource managers can certainly work on.”

Coastal authorities all over the world are testing new solutions to reduce the amount of plastic waste that travels from the land into neighboring waters. For example, the UK recently implemented its first ‘Seabin’ to extract oil, plastic, and other debris from Portsmouth harbor, while the city of Rotterdam has been using an aquatic drone known as the “waste shark”.

The good news, the authors say, is that everyone can help tackle the problem through small changes in their lifestyle, such as reducing the use of plastic packaging or single-use plastic items.

“Little things we can do in our daily lives can have a huge impact when looked at collectively,” co-author Lisa Kelly from James Cook University, in Australia, told Futurism. “You might not think the straw in your drink is a big deal, but in reality, over 500 million straws are used daily in the U.S., so little things really add up.”  Remembering to bring a reusable bag when going shopping, or a travel mug to the coffee shop are “great ways to reduce plastic consumption with little to no effort,” she said. “Keeping a water bottle handy is also essential, fill it up at a water fountain and avoid buying bottled water.”

While achieving a systemic change in the global packaging industry will not be easy despite citizens’ best efforts, science proves that small behavioral changes can lead to wide scale transformations.

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