CO2 emissions stall, even as economy grows

For the first time, global CO2 emissions are expected to dip in 2015 despite economic growth.

Earth’s industrial carbon dioxide emissions are on pace to plateau this year, according to new projections, and they might even decline. On top of 2014’s relatively small increase in CO2 output, this surprising shift is raising hopes that an explosive era of greenhouse gas emissions may finally be winding down.

For most of the past 15 years, CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels increased by an average of 2.4 percent annually. But researchers from the University of East Anglia and the Global Carbon Project report that CO2 output grew by just 0.6 percent in 2014. And, more importantly, they say it may actually decline 0.6 percent in 2015.
Until now, global CO2 emissions have only fallen during economic downturns, like the collapse of the Soviet Union or the 2008 financial crisis. But if these new forecasts hold true, 2015 would mark the first modern dip in CO2 emissions while the global economy is growing. It may not represent a true “carbon peak” — even the study’s authors say emissions will likely rise again — but it does offer timely evidence that economic prosperity and ecological responsibility aren’t mutually exclusive.

World leaders and diplomats are currently in Paris for major U.N. climate talks, which are meant to produce a new worldwide treaty for reining in CO2 emissions. The summit was already expected to succeed where many others have failed, but this kind of reminder about the economics of CO2 cuts can only help matters.

“We have broken the old arguments for inaction,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a speech on the summit’s opening day on Nov. 30. “We have proved that strong economic growth and a safer environment no longer have to conflict with one another; they can work in concert with one another.”

Published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the new findings are attributed largely to China, whose ranking as the No. 1 net emitter of CO2 puts it in a unique position to influence global emissions trends. “China is trying to deal massively with its air pollution problem,” study co-author Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia, tells Nature News. “And its renewables are growing very fast.”

There are still uncertainties about China’s self-reported CO2 data, highlighted last month by news that China has been burning up to 17 percent more coal per year than its government had previously stated. Le Quéré says her research team factored China’s revised data into their new analysis, but she acknowledges that more transparency is needed in reporting of national CO2 emissions.

“We don’t have the capacity to check the energy reports of the countries,” she says. “We have to rely on the countries to tell us what types of coal they use and how clean it is. If the reporting was systematic, it would be wonderful.”

That kind of transparency is one goal of the Paris talks — formally known as COP21, short for “Conference of Parties” — where diplomats are working on ways to track and verify each country’s emissions. But in the meantime, based on China’s own data plus ongoing economic trends, the new study projects Chinese CO2 emissions alone will decrease by nearly 4 percent in 2015. After long resisting the idea of CO2 limits, China recently pledged that its emissions will peak by 2030.

Some have suggested the 2015 data may mean global CO2 emissions have already peaked, thus kicking off a new, downward trend in the main gas responsible for man-made climate change. But many experts doubt that, pointing out not only that Chinese emissions could rise again, but also that emissions from India and other developing countries will likely offset China’s progress at some point.

“Emissions in India are at the same level as China in the 1990s,” climate analyst Glen P. Peters tells the New York Times, adding that India “could actually dominate the global growth in the way that China has done in the past.”

The new study also doesn’t fully account for some man-made sources of CO2, namely those from deforestation — an especially big problem this year due to huge peat fires linked to land clearing in Indonesia. But in the long-running, often-gridlocked effort to curb climate change, any sign that humans are cutting back industrial CO2 emissions without sacrificing economic growth is reason for optimism, the researchers argue.

“Time will tell whether this surprising interruption in emissions growth is transitory or a first step toward emissions stabilization,” they write. “In either case, the trend is a welcome change from the historical coupling of CO2 emissions with economic growth and should be strengthened through efforts at the Paris COP and beyond.”

Credit: Russell Mclendon

8 signs you may have a magnesium deficiency

You’re tired and cranky. Maybe you have issues with your heart rhythm or have trouble sleeping. The problem may be caused by a lack of magnesium.

As with most nutrients, our bodies need magnesium to stay healthy. It’s found naturally in many foods, but according to the USDA, only about half of all adults get the daily recommended amount. When we don’t get enough, it’s not always obvious; the symptoms can be vague and are similar to the symptoms of many other disorders.

Here are some of the problems that can be caused by a lack of magnesium.

Nausea and vomiting

Early signs of magnesium deficiency can include gastrointestinal disturbances. This can range from a loss of appetite to nausea and vomiting.

Blood pressure

Many studies have shown a link between magnesium levels and blood pressure. In those studies, volunteers with low magnesium were more likely to have hypertension, or high blood pressure. However, research that uses magnesium therapy to treat hypertension has offered conflicting results. In some cases it has been successful, but not for all.

Sleep problems

Chronic insomnia and other sleep disorders may have a link to magnesium deficiency. Several studies have suggested that magnesium supplements may play a key role in regulating sleep.

Anxiety and depression

Some case studies have shown a link between magnesium and the nervous system. In some instances, the mineral seems to have a positive effect on stress, anxiety and some symptoms of depression.

Heart issues

Although low levels of magnesium can affect nearly every system in the body, one of the most significant impacts can be on the heart. People who are deficient in the mineral are prone to arrhythmia — or abnormal heart rhythm. In related studies, people with coronary artery disease had a higher incidence of magnesium deficiency than those without the illness.

Restless legs syndrome

The cause of RLS is often not clear, but it sometimes can be linked to an underlying medical condition such as a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Low levels of magnesium may contribute to other sleep disturbances and some small studies have shown that magnesium supplements can help with RLS.

Low energy

Several studies have suggested that too little magnesium makes the body work harder. In a recent small USDA-funded study, volunteers used more oxygen during physical activity when their magnesium levels were low. It doesn’t matter if you exercise a lot or not. “The effects are likely to occur in individuals with low magnesium, regardless of whether the person is athletic or sedentary,” says lead researcher physiologist Henry C. Lukaski. “That means that athletes wouldn’t be able to work or train as long as they would if they had better magnesium levels. People need to eat adequate magnesium to make sure their hearts and muscles are healthy enough to meet the demands of daily living.”

Muscle spasms and weakness

Magnesium has been shown to stabilize the nerve axon — the nerve fiber that transmits information away from the nerve cell body. When the amount of magnesium drops, the result is hyperresponsive neuromuscular activity which can mean muscle tremors, spasms and eventually weakness.

spinach salad with nuts – almonds are a rich source of magnesiumA spinach salad topped with almonds is a rich source of magnesium. (Photo: MSPhotographic/Shutterstock)

Where do I get magnesium?

Adult women should get about 310 mg of magnesium daily; adult men should get 400 mg. That increases to 320 mg for women and 420 for men after age 30.

You can get magnesium in green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains. Generally, foods that are rich in dietary fiber usually are rich in magnesium. The mineral is also added to some fortified foods, including breakfast cereals.

Here are some good sources of magnesium, according to the National Institutes of Health:

Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce: 80 mg
Spinach, boiled, 1/2 cup: 78 mg
Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce: 74 mg
Peanuts, oil roasted, 1/4 cup: 63 mg
Cereal, shredded wheat, 2 large: 61 mg
Soy milk, plain or vanilla, 1 cup: 61 mg
Black beans, cooked, 1/2 cup: 60 mg
Edamame, shelled, cooked, 1/2 cup: 50 mg
Peanut butter, smooth, 2 tablespoons: 49 mg
Bread, whole wheat, 2 slices: 46 mg
Avocado, cubed, 1 cup: 44 mg
Potato, baked with skin, 3.5 ounces: 43 mg
Rice, brown, cooked, 1/2 cup: 42 mg
Yogurt, plan, low-fat, 8 ounces: 42 mg

Credit: Mary Jo Dilonardo

Mindful eating: 5 easy tips to get started

From what not to eat when you are pregnant, to the endless lists of the latest must-have superfoods, discussion about healthy eating tends to focus on what we eat.

Much less attention is paid to the question of how we eat it.

Yet a growing body of research suggests that changing our attitudes and practices around meals and mealtime rituals may be every bit as important as obsessing over what it is we actually put in our mouths. Mindful eating (also known as intuitive eating), a concept with its roots in Buddhist teachings, aims to reconnect us more deeply with the experience of eating — and enjoying — our food. Sometimes referred to as “the opposite of diets,” mindful eating is based on the idea that there is no right or wrong way to eat, but rather varying degrees of consciousness about what we are eating and why. The goal of mindful eating, then, is to base our meals on physical cues, such as our bodies’ hunger signals, not emotional ones — like eating for comfort.

The idea was featured in a New York Times article last year, in which journalist Jeff Gordinier visited a Buddhist monastery where practitioners were encouraged to eat in silence, and chew every morsel of food as they explored its tastes, textures and smells in minute detail. The article inspired a somewhat skeptical response from our own Robin Shreeves, who noted that in her household full of young boys, the notion of eating in silence seemed like mission impossible, and might even be detrimental, given that mealtimes are often when the family gets a chance to actually converse.

But mindful eating doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing affair.

In fact, as the New York Times article stated, there are plenty of ways to work mindfulness into your daily food habits without the need to become a fully robed monk, or masticate on a raisin for three days straight.

As a registered dietitian, I am a firm believer that finding ways to slow down and eat intentionally are all a part of developing a truly healthy food culture. And some early research into mindful eating would seem to back this up. One study, for example, tracked more than 1,400 mindful eaters and showed them to have lower body weights, a greater sense of well-being, and fewer symptoms of eating disorders.

But mindful eating will only work for you can make it compatible with your lifestyle.

Here are some of my favorite tips to introduce mindfulness to mealtimes in an easy, accessible fashion.

Eat slower
Eating slowly doesn’t have to mean taking it to extremes. Still, it’s a good idea to remind yourself, and your family, that eating is not a race. Taking the time to savor and enjoy your food is one of the healthiest things you can do. You are more likely to notice when you are full, you’ll chew your food more and hence digest it more easily, and you’ll probably find yourself noticing flavors you might otherwise have missed. If you have young children, why not try making a game of it — who can chew their food the longest? Or you could introduce eating with chopsticks as a fun way to slow things down.

Savor the silence
Yes, eating in complete silence may be impossible for a family with children, but you might still encourage some quiet time and reflection. Again, try introducing the idea as a game — “let’s see if we can eat for two minutes without talking” — or suggesting that one meal a week be enjoyed in relative silence. If the family mealtime is too important an opportunity for conversation to pass up, then consider introducing a quiet meal or snack time into your day when you can enjoy it alone. The NYT article, for example, noted that one dietitian simply savors a few sips of tea in complete silence when she is too busy for a complete mindful meal.

Silence the phone. Shut off the TV.
Our daily lives are full of distractions, and it’s not uncommon for families to eat with the TV blaring or one family member or other fiddling with their iPhone. Consider making family mealtime, which should, of course, be eaten together, an electronics-free zone. I’m not saying you should never eat pizza in front of the TV, but that too should be a conscious choice that marks the exception, not the norm.

Pay attention to flavor
The tanginess of a lemon, the spicyness of arugula, the crunch of a pizza crust — paying attention to the details of our food can be a great way to start eating mindfully. After all, when you eat on the go or wolf down your meals in five minutes, it can be hard to notice what you are even eating, let alone truly savor all the different sensations of eating it. If you are trying to introduce mindful eating to your family, consider talking more about the flavors and textures of food. Ask your kids what the avocado tastes like, or how the hummus feels. And be sure to share your own observations and opinions too. (Yes, this goes against the eating in silence piece, but you don’t have to do everything at once.)

Know your food

Mindfulness is really about rekindling a relationship with our food. From planting a veggie garden through baking bread to visiting a farmers market, many of the things we locavores have been preaching about for years are not just ways to cut our carbon foodprint, but also connect with the story behind our food. Even when you have no idea where the food you are eating has come from, try asking yourself some questions about the possibilities: Who grew this? How? Where did it come from? How did it get here? Chances are, you’ll not only gain a deeper appreciation for your food, but you’ll find your shopping habits changing in the process too.

Like I say, mindful eating does not have to be an exercise in super-human concentration, but rather a simple commitment to appreciating, respecting and, above all, enjoying the food you eat every day. It can be practiced with salad or ice cream, donuts or tofu, and you can introduce it at home, at work, or even as you snack on the go (though you may find yourself doing this less often).

And while the focus becomes how you eat, not what you eat, you may find your notions of what you want to eat shifting dramatically for the better too.

Credit: Jen Glover

get kids hooked on yoga

Looking for a fun family exercise to share with your kids in the dark, cold days of winter? How about yoga? Yoga is a great way to gain strength and flexibility while relieving stress and improving your balance and concentration. And there are lots of variations for kids — and adults — of all ages and sizes.

So how can you get the kids hooked on yoga? If you’re lucky, your child’s school or day care might offer yoga as an option. Amity Hook-Sopko’s two boys love the yoga classes they get at their Montessori school. The editor of Green Child Magazine, Hook-Sopko even credits yoga balance poses such as Tree and Standing Bull Pulling with helping her oldest son improve his baseball swing. And yoga can do more than just improve balance. Studies have shown that yoga can enhance kids’ mental, emotional, and physical health, reducing stress and improving their concentration at school. For more on the benefits of yoga for kids, check out this article in Green Child Magazine.

No yoga at your child’s school? Another option is to look for a yoga studio that offers family classes. Danielle Richardet of It Starts With Me says that her youngest two children do yoga at the yoga studio she attends. “My favorite part is seeing my 6-year-old son sit in sukhasana and close his eyes and take a deep breath,” said Richardet.

Unfortunately, in-school programs and family yoga studios aren’t available to most of us, but that doesn’t leave you on the sidelines. The key to doing yoga with kids is to guide kids through poses in a language that speaks to them. Kris Whelan, yoga instructor and founder of Blue Buddha Beverages advises, “As a yoga instructor, I guide my adult students through poses and meditative moments to help them get centered and balance their mind, body and spirit. Working with my kids is no different, but I do focus on poses that are quickly learned, easily mastered and deeply restorative. For the very young, I take them on a tour of my yoga ‘zoo’ as I guide them from Monkey to Lion to Camel and the animal cracker assortment. Make it fun, keep it easy and tell the little ones they did great.”

Here are some of the poses that Whelan recommends for kids:
1. Hanuman, Monkey: A side split with hips square

2. Matsyasana, Fish: Laying on your back on the mat … Come up on your elbows and arch your back so your heart reaches the sky and tilt your head back

3. Bakasana, Crow: squatting down with knees to the outside of the upper arms and place your hands shoulder width apart, rock your hips forward with tailbone high… Take one foot off the floor then the other with big toes touching … Flying like a crow!

4. Garudasana, Eagle: Standing at the front of the mat..bend one leg and wrap the other over it along the thigh then wrap the same side arm under the other and bring palms together … Arms are bent at the elbows which are at shoulder height and finger tips brightly reaching up with forearms pressing away from the face

5. Simhasana, Lion: Open you mouth, stick out your tongue and take your gaze high … Now roar!

6. Ustrasana, Camel: Kneeling down with knees directly under hips, press the hips forward, sweep your arms behind you to support the low back or reach down to the feet

7. Vrksasana, Tree: Standing tall take on leg and bed the knee, turn the knee out to the side while placing the sole of your foot on the inner thigh above the knee or below the knee on the inside of the calf.

Looking for more guidance? Try one of these yoga videos designed specifically for families:

For babies: Holistic family physician and yogi Kay Corpus has been practicing yoga for 15 years and teaching for five. She recommends “Yoga Ma, Baby Ga,” a video that she used after her daughter was born. “It is a mommy-baby video great for newborns and recovering moms. The best thing I learned from that video was that if I had to stop and feed my baby or change her, then that was just ‘my yoga’. It couldn’t be quiet and serene all the time. It was just a different way of relating and accepting things I couldn’t change, said Corpus.

For toddlers. My girls loved “Yoga for the Kid in All of Us,” from Yogamazing. I got it when my oldest was two and still use it now that she is ten. ‘Tot Yoga:,’ is another good video for parents and toddlers from 10 months to 3 years old as is ‘Storyland Yoga,’ from Playful Planet where kids imitate yoga poses while learning about endangered species.

For school-aged kids. ‘Kids Teach Yoga,’ is a very cute kid-led yoga video that is perfect for kids who learn better from their peers than from adults. It’s short — lasting only about 20 minutes — which is just right for kids who want to give it a try. Tiffany Belzer, aka YogaTiffany, recently sent me a copy of her ‘Family Yoga’ DVD and I have to say that my whole family loved it — even my husband who is not generally the yoga type.

Start slowly and focus on the fun and before long you and your family will be getting your Zen on all winter long.

Do your kids practice yoga?

Related topics: Family Activities, Healthy Living, Raising Healthy Kids

credit:Jenn Savedge

TIME Magazine’s Latest Issue Dives Into The Benefits Of Mindfulness

Are we in the middle of a mindfulness revolution?

That’s what the cover of TIME Magazine’s latest issue claims — and it isn’t without some merit. The piece dives into how the practice can help people find focus in our overwhelmed, always-on culture. With the persistent need to multitask and the constant pressure of having to be plugged in to technology at all hours, the practice has become more prevalent as a way to fight stress and anxiety.

TIME editor Radhika Jones talked to Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski about how multitasking is affecting our concentration and how mindfulness can sharpen that lack of focus.

“Mindfulness, very simply put, it’s the ability to focus your attention on the thing you are doing when you are doing it,” she said. “It sounds so basic. And my guess is 150 years ago, people were not so concerned about mindfulness but we have kind of done this to ourselves. We have created some amazing technology that has enabled us to be on and do five things at once — and we know, the studies show, that multitasking doesn’t actually make you more productive.”

Jones went on to say that while mindfulness is built on the premise of meditation, there’s also a way to weave the practice into everyday habits.

“You can also do things in your life mindfully. You can eat mindfully, you can exercise mindfully, you can apply these principles just of focusing your mind to everything you do,” she said. “There is evidence that shows that mindfulness does in fact have really positive health effects … Your mind is like a muscle. And it needs a workout.”

Source: Huffington Post