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Executive Summary for October 20th

In our weekly roundup, we report on a way the shipping industry could immediately cut its greenhouse gas emissions, an important milestone for floating offshore wind farms and new research that links the evolution of whale intelligence to our own.

Published on Oct. 20, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

How to Reduce Emissions From Ships? Set Speed Limits

A container ship moving beef from Argentina to the Netherlands is likely to travel for about 16 days, but what if it took a few days longer? It turns out this strategy represents the single best way for the shipping sector to quickly cut greenhouse gas emissions.

In a new report from Seas At Risk and Transport & Environment (T&E), researchers found that enforced speed limits that slow down container ships, bulkers and tankers could cut their emissions by up to a third. Since slower ships would make fewer trips each year, such a policy would also create jobs for shipbuilders to meet demand, the report said. Importantly, the extra travel time wouldn’t have significant economic effects on export countries, such as Argentina, that are relatively far away from their markets, according to researchers.

The findings will be presented to the International Maritime Organization next week as it aims to set a strategy for greenhouse gas cuts. Overall, shipping emissions are currently projected to rise by anywhere from 20 percent to 120 percent by 2050 as the rest of the global economy reduces carbon output, the study said. Bill Hemmings, T&E’s director of aviation and shipping, said in a statement that “shipping is the only international sector that has yet to commit to a global emissions reductions target or measures.”

World’s First Floating Wind Farm Is Running

“floating” offshore wind farm, anchored to the seafloor rather than set on a foundation, started delivering electricity in Scotland on Wednesday, marking an important commercial step forward for a technology that has been in development for years.

The 30-megawatt Hywind Scotland project, built by Statoil and Masdar, has five turbines floating 16 miles (25 km) off the coast. It will deliver energy to power the equivalent of 20,000 homes, according to Statoil.

Floating turbines are desirable because they can be located in areas with stronger winds further from shore – and away from beach communities that often oppose wind projects. For nations with deeper waters near shore, floating farms would “[open] up areas that so far have been inaccessible,” Irene Rummelhoff, executive vice president for New Energy Solutions at Statoil, said in a statement.

Other projects are in the works. In March, Scotland approved the larger Kincardine Offshore Windfarm to be built off the coast of Aberdeen.

Brainy Dolphins and Whales Lead Lives Like Humans

Anyone who has watched a dolphin play has a sense of its human-like intelligence, but how and why this high IQ evolved hasn’t been studied as deeply as research on land animals.

Now a new study published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution shows that the long-known rich cultural behaviors of cetaceans, including whales, dolphins and porpoises, are correlated to the size of their brains.

Scientists from British, American and Canadian universities collaborated to create and analyze a large database of behaviors and brain sizes for 90 cetacean species. Behaviors included forming complex alliances, hunting cooperatively, “talking” to members of their group, calling individuals by name and adults caring for young that aren’t their own.

The work, the study said, supports the idea that complex social structures and behaviors co-evolved along with larger brains, which “provides a unique and striking parallel to the large brains and hyper-sociality of humans and other primates.”

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