68 Global Warming News Articles
for December of 2016
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
12-30-16 Private vehicles add to Delhi's pollution woes
Private vehicles add to Delhi's pollution woes
Despite alarming pollution levels, Delhi has seen a surge in private vehicles, while public transport is in decline, environmentalists have warned. They quoted government figures that show there are now about 10 million vehicles registered in Delhi - up from fewer than nine million a year ago. That is nearly three and a half times more than vehicles registered for Mumbai, India's financial capital. The warning comes as smog has begun to blanket Delhi, raising health fears. There are concerns that already dangerous air pollution may reach alarming levels once again. "It is worrying that while Delhi is battling difficult pollution challenge, uncontrolled motorisation is threatening to undo the gains of the ongoing action," says Anumitta Roychoudhary of the Centre for Science and Environment, which issued the warning. The centre's report says private cars have seen the biggest rise while the number of public transport services, such as buses, is in long-term decline. Citing government figures, the environmental think-tank said up to 200,000 news cars hit the roads of Delhi in the past 12 months, marking a 20% rise.
12-29-16 Birds migrating earlier as temperatures rise
Birds migrating earlier as temperatures rise
Migrating birds are arriving at their breeding grounds earlier as global temperatures rise, a study has found. Birds have reached their summer breeding grounds on average about one day earlier per degree of increasing global temperatures, according to the research by Edinburgh University. The study looked at hundreds of species across five continents. It is hoped it will help scientists predict how different species may respond to future environmental change. Reaching their summer breeding grounds at the wrong time - even by a few days - may cause birds to miss out on maximum availability of vital resources such as food and nesting places. Late arrival to breeding grounds may, in turn, affect the timing of offspring hatching and their chances of survival. Long-distance migrants, which are shown to be less responsive to rising temperatures, may suffer most as other birds gain advantage by arriving at breeding grounds ahead of them.
12-24-16 Arctic heatwave could break records
Arctic heatwave could break records
Temperatures at the North Pole could be up to 20 degrees higher than average this Christmas Eve, in what scientists say is a record-breaking heatwave. Climate scientists say these unseasonably warm weather patterns in the Arctic region are directly linked to man-made climate change. Temperatures throughout November and December were 5C higher than average. It follows a summer during which Arctic sea ice reached the second-lowest extent ever recorded by satellites. Dr Friederike Otto, a senior researcher at Oxford's Environmental Change Institute told BBC News that in pre-industrial times "a heatwave like this would have been extremely rare - we would expect it to occur about every 1,000 years". Dr Otto added that scientists are "very confident" that the weather patterns were linked to anthropogenic climate change. "We have used several different climate modelling approaches and observations," she told BBC News. "And in all our methods, we find the same thing; we cannot model a heatwave like this without the anthropogenic signal." Temperatures are forecast to peak on Christmas Eve around the North Pole - at near-freezing. The warm air from the North Atlantic is forecast to flow all the way to the North Pole via Spitsbergen, giving rise to clouds that prevent heat from escaping. And, as Dr Otto explained to BBC News, the reduction in sea ice is contributing to this "feedback loop". "If the globe is warming, then the sea ice and ice on land [shrinks] then the darker water and land is exposed," she said. "Then the sunlight is absorbed rather than reflected as it would be by the ice." Forecasting models show that there is about a 2% chance of a heatwave event occurring every year. "But if temperatures continue to increase further as they are now," said Dr Otto, "we would expect a heatwave like this to occur every other year and that will be a huge stress on the ecosystem." (Webmaster's comment: We've hit the global warming tipping point. It has now gone into positive feedback. Billions are literally going to roast to death by the end of the century. We are the creators of our own extinction as well as the polar bears and reindeer.)
12-24-16 When will our electricity come from the sea?
When will our electricity come from the sea?
If you've ever struggled to walk across the deck of a boat as it rolls in a choppy sea, or tried to stand up against breaking waves at the beach, you'll have felt the might of the ocean. It feels like there's a lot of power there too, so getting energy from the waves of the sea sounds as if it's got real potential. For World Service listener Michael McFarlane, it's a question that's been on his mind for years. "I live in Jamaica and we are never very far from the sea… Electricity generation [here] is mainly based on fossil fuels," he says. So why isn't the ocean powering Michael's home yet? In order to tackle this question for the World Service programme Crowdscience, first, there was a language problem to unpick. Deborah Greaves, Professor in Ocean Engineering and Director of the COAST Laboratory at the UK's Plymouth University explains: "We've tended to use "marine renewable energy" to describe wave and tidal energy…[it's] energy which can be extracted from the movement of the oceans in the marine environment." Large tidal power generators already exist in selected locations around the world - the La Rance River estuary plant in Brittany, France, opened in 1966, and the world's current largest tidal power station is at Sihwa Lake in Gyeonggi Province, South Korea, costing 313.5 billion South Korean won (£212 million GBP or $263 million USD). Expense is one factor that currently limits the worldwide number of tidal power plants. Environmental concerns are another, as some places with particularly strong tides are also sensitive ecosystems, such as estuaries. And there's one more detail that's particularly relevant for listener Michael: As anyone who's been lucky enough to spend time on a beach in Jamaica knows, the tides there don't go in and out that much. It can be by as little as centimetres, compared with metres at a time in other locations around the world.
12-22-16 What happens when the ice disappears?
What happens when the ice disappears?
The world depends on snow and ice, which is quickly disappearing. the age of global warming, one thing is certain: There will be less ice and snow. Glaciers, ice shelves, and sea ice are melting away, and there has been a dramatic drop-off in the number of snow-covered days around the world, as documented by the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab. Since 1967, spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has dwindled by about three million square kilometers. The loss of Earth's reflective white surfaces will intensify the spiral of global warming. Darker surfaces absorb more incoming solar radiation. That warmth delays the onset of winter and hastens the arrival of spring. In the Arctic, the decline of the cryosphere is affecting fundamental biological cycles like the reproduction of carbon-storing plankton. And it may also be affecting the jet stream, making weather more extreme across the Northern Hemisphere. But the realms of ice and snow aren't confined to the North and South Poles — they also include the world of frozen tundra and boreal forests, as well as snow-covered mountains and highlands, especially the glacial regions of the Andes, Himalaya, Alps, and Rockies. The meltdown in these areas is affecting every ecosystem imaginable.
12-21-16 Obama bans oil drilling 'permanently' in millions of acres of ocean
Obama bans oil drilling 'permanently' in millions of acres of ocean
Outgoing US President Barack Obama has permanently banned offshore oil and gas drilling in the "vast majority" of US-owned northern waters. Mr Obama designated areas in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans as "indefinitely off limits" to future leasing. The move is widely seen as an attempt to protect the region before Mr Obama leaves office in January. Supporters of president-elect Donald Trump could find it difficult to reverse the decision. Canada also committed to a similar measure in its own Arctic waters, in a joint announcement with Washington. The White House said the decision was for "a strong, sustainable and viable Arctic economy and ecosystem." It cited native cultural needs, wildlife concerns, and the "vulnerability" of the region to oil spills as some of the reasons for the ban. But while Canada will review the move every five years, the White House insists Mr Obama's declaration is permanent. The decision relies on a 1953 law which allows the president to ban leasing of offshore resources indefinitely.
12-20-16 The most important lake in California
The most important lake in California
The blind spots in the American West's approach to managing water are on full display in Ventura County. Roger Haley grew up at the bottom of Lake Casitas. "It was one of the most beautiful locations in the county. Just magnificent," he says. "We have a lot of the newcomers to the Ojai Valley, they have no idea. They think that what they see [in this lake] is all that's good and natural. And they just have no idea." The lake Haley is describing is a bowl of land that, a half century ago, became a giant, man-made bucket to serve Ventura, a Southern California coastal community midway between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. Given the peculiarities of the region's geography, Ventura can be seen as an instructive microcosm. Its shape and natural systems are similar to California as a whole — a mirror on a smaller scale of the state's massive Sierra Nevada mountain range, which wraps around and waters the fertile alluvial plain of the Central Valley. In Ventura, however, it's the Coast Range and Tehatchapi mountains that shed water down three rivers through the most productive farmland in California; and then plunge, if any water is left, toward the surfers on Ventura's glorious beaches. To make Ventura matters even more emblematic, consider this: California itself has become the primary fruit and vegetable garden for the rest of the U.S. — and, in the case of many commodities, for cities and towns well beyond our shores. That makes the fields in this little county some of the most valuable farmland in the world. So whatever happens to the water here — including each gallon in Lake Casitas — ripples in some fashion through the entire world's economy.
12-20-16 Here’s how experts can rebuild trust in the post-truth era
Here’s how experts can rebuild trust in the post-truth era
Scientists and others will need to embrace a new set of tactics if they hope to be heard above the charlatans who dominated in 2016, says Adam Corner. With the rise of fake news and hate crimes plus the divisive Brexit and Trump campaigns, it is easy to despair at the political and cultural turmoil that engulfed the West this year. Understanding it is fiendishly tough. But one factor is clearly discernible amidst the melee: an apparent collapse in trust in elite knowledge and expertise. In one sense, this is not new. An increasingly visceral distrust of politicians, the media and bankers has been building, especially since the global economic crash in 2008. In 2016, that crystallised into a roar of anger against “the establishment”. Similarly, while political spin and deception in election campaigns are as old as the hills, a newfound enthusiasm for provably false claims defined this year and made post-truth a new buzzword. British politician Michael Gove’s prim insistence that the public has “had enough of experts” captured this perfectly.
12-19-16 How to talk to conservatives about climate change
How to talk to conservatives about climate change
Nothing imperils humanity's future like global warming, and that very fact may help explain why conservatives are generally so skeptical of climate science. After all, conservatism first emerged as a defense of tradition against progressive change, so why would conservatives care about preserving a future they already view with suspicion? That's the argument a recent study puts forward, and it points to a possible better way to talk about the environment with those skeptical of climate science. Although 97 percent of climate scientists agree that the Earth is getting hotter and human activity is a primary cause, the public is far more divided. A recent Pew Research poll was just the latest of dozens of polls to demonstrate the profound partisan split on climate issues, with 70 percent of liberal Democrats saying they trusted climate scientists compared with just 15 percent of conservative Republicans. And so-called climate change deniers will soon hold pretty much all the power in the United States, with Donald Trump set to become the only head of state on the planet who rejects climate science. If ever there was a time for a renewed effort to change the minds of conservatives — if not Trump, then at least friends and family who voted him in — about climate change, the time is now.
12-19-16 Data show no sign of methane boost from thawing permafrost
Data show no sign of methane boost from thawing permafrost
Carbon dioxide levels rising, though, in response to warming around Alaska’s North Slope. Emissions of carbon dioxide, but not methane, having risen alongside warming temperatures in a region of northern Alaska, according to an analysis of atmospheric measurements made at this research station in Barrow. One climate doomsday scenario can be downgraded, new research suggests. Decades of atmospheric measurements from a site in northern Alaska show that rapidly rising temperatures there have not significantly increased methane emissions from the neighboring permafrost-covered landscape, researchers reported December 15 at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting. Some scientists feared that Arctic warming would unleash large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, worsening global warming. “The ticking time bomb of methane has clearly not manifested itself yet,” said study coauthor Colm Sweeney, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder. Emissions of carbon dioxide — a less potent greenhouse gas — did increase over that period, the researchers found.
12-16-16 Global warming kills reindeer
Global warming kills reindeer
The world’s largest wild reindeer herd has shrunk by 40 percent since 2000, and scientists are blaming the mass die-off on climate change. Some 1 million reindeer roamed the northernmost point of Russia on the Taymyr Peninsula in 2000, but now the herd is only 600,000 strong. The animals migrate in winter and summer, and increased ice melt has made rivers wider, meaning more reindeer drown trying to cross. They also have to travel farther in summer to get to cooler ground and escape mosquitoes, which are becoming increasingly prevalent as the region warms, and more young calves are dying on the journey. “Reindeer are tremendously important for biodiversity,” said Andrey Petrov, an arctic researcher at the University of Northern Iowa. “They are part of the arctic food chain, and without them other species would be in trouble.”
12-16-16 Will Trump’s EPA nominee roll back regulations?
Will Trump’s EPA nominee roll back regulations?
Any hope that President Trump might govern as a moderate on the environment just went “up in soon-to-be-unregulated smoke,” said Scott Martelle in the Los Angeles Times. Trump last week picked Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency. A climate-change skeptic like Trump himself, Pruitt has “made no secret of his close relationship with the oil-and-gas industry,” and has repeatedly sued the EPA to try to block its restrictions on mercury emissions from coal plants, greenhouse gas emissions, and other forms of pollution. Trump just picked “an enemy of the EPA to lead it,” said The New York Times in an editorial. In fact, the president-elect could not have found anyone more hostile to environmental regulation in general and the leadership role on climate change America has taken under President Obama. Congress owes a president some deference on Cabinet appointments, but Trump has made an “aggressively bad choice” in Pruitt, who could single-handedly undermine the global effort to slow climate change. “If the Senate cares about the public good, it needs to send his nomination to the dustbin.”
12-16-16 EPA backtracks on fracking safety
EPA backtracks on fracking safety
The Environmental Protection Agency reversed course this week on its 2015 assertion that there is no evidence that fracking contaminates drinking water, releasing an updated study that concludes the oil-and-gas extraction technique can taint the water supply in certain circumstances. Contamination has occurred following surface spills of fracking fluids, the EPA said, and when the poor cement casing of a well allows chemical-laced liquids to leak into groundwater. The EPA’s science adviser, Thomas Burke, said the report remained “full of gaps,” but environmentalists argued the study showed a need for tougher fracking regulations. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to roll back existing fracking rules.
12-16-16 Energy: Oil prices increase after global supply pact
Energy: Oil prices increase after global supply pact
Oil prices surged this week after OPEC “clinched a long-sought pact” with Russia and other non-OPEC nations to cut production, said David Sheppard in the Financial Times. The price of Brent crude oil, the international oil benchmark, jumped above $57 a barrel after the deal, which was made to prop up falling oil prices. Russia spearheaded a “loose coalition” of oil producers, including Oman, Mexico, and Kazakhstan, that agreed to reduce supply by 558,000 barrels a day, on the heels of OPEC’s agreement last month to cut production. Together, “the deals amount to the first global supply pact since 2001.”
12-16-16 Ozone layer healing
Ozone layer healing
The ozone layer is finally on the mend. It has been three decades since an international treaty banned the use of chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, the chemicals that were eating away at the atmosphere’s protective shield. Researchers announced this year that a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica had shrunk by more than 4 million square kilometers, and wasn’t as deep as previously thought. Atmospheric chemist Michael Newchurch describes the healing of the ozone layer as “the most significant environmental success story” of our time.
12-16-16 Antarctic 'pole of ignorance' finally addressed
Antarctic 'pole of ignorance' finally addressed
The last major unknown region on Earth has just been surveyed: the South Pole. Although the Americans have had a base at the bottom of the planet for decades, what lies underneath the thick ice there has been a mystery. Now, European scientists have flown instruments back and forth across the pole to map its hidden depths. As well as finding previously unknown valleys and mountains, the team says it has acquired important data that will have uses far from Antarctica. Known as PolarGAP, the project was largely funded by the European Space Agency (Esa) to gather measurements over an area of Earth that its satellites cannot see, as they generally only fly up to about 83 degrees in latitude.
12-16-16 Former Nasa chief scientist says access to federal data is critical
Former Nasa chief scientist says access to federal data is critical
Limiting access to federal research would do an "enormous disservice" to the US and the world according to former Nasa chief scientist. Dr Waleed Abdalati told the BBC the that continued access to data is in "everyone's best interest". Many US scientists are rushing to copy information onto servers outside the control of the federal government. They are afraid the Trump administration will curb access to climate and other research. The President-elect has blown hot and cold on the issue of climate change, having previously tweeted about global warming being a hoax. On Wednesday, one of his advisers compared scientists who support the mainstream view on global warming to flat-Earthers. "There was an overwhelming science that the Earth was flat and there was an overwhelming science that we were the centre of the world," said Anthony Scaramucci, a member of the Trump transition committee, on CNN. "We get a lot of things wrong in the scientific community."
12-16-16 Earth’s driest desert once had lakes
Earth’s driest desert once had lakes
The driest desert on Earth may once have had lakes and wetlands, scientists report. They have found the remnants of freshwater plants and animals buried in the arid plains of Chile's Atacama Desert. This watery period dates to between 9,000 and 17,000 years ago. Scientists at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco say it suggests the region may have been habitable for early settlers. Marco Pfeiffer, from the University of California, Berkeley, said: "When you drive through the desert the only thing you see is the white cover of salt. "And when we dig through this crust, it's difficult to imagine that conditions were so different." The Atacama Desert gets an average of 15mm of rain each year - and some parts get virtually no precipitation at all. But this latest research suggests that the heart of this super-dry landscape was once lush. The researchers have found organic material from plants and animals that only could have survived in or near water. "The thick salt crusts kept underneath a precious record of a period when these flatlands hosted lakes and wetlands."
12-16-16 Road-free areas need better protection, study says
Road-free areas need better protection, study says
A global map of areas without roads shows large tracts of wilderness remain unprotected. International recognition and protection of such areas is urgently needed to halt their continued loss, say scientists. Roads may introduce many problems to nature, including deforestation, pollution and risks to wildlife. Areas untouched by roads do not have adequate protection in most countries, researchers report in Science journal. "We have produced a global map of roadless areas," said lead researcher Pierre Ibisch, of Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, in Germany. "And this map shows that Earth's landscapes are shattered into more than 600 thousand fragments.
12-15-16 Toronto 'guerrilla' archivists to help preserve US climate data
Toronto 'guerrilla' archivists to help preserve US climate data
Canadian "guerrilla" archivists will be assisting a rushed effort to preserve US government climate data. Environmentalists, climate scientists and academics are collaborating to protect what they view as fragile digital federal records and research. They want the data saved before Donald Trump takes office. Database geeks and computer-savvy archivists will gather in Toronto to help preserve US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data. Michelle Murphy, with the University of Toronto's Technoscience Research Unit and one of the event organisers, says concerns around climate do not stop at the border. "Things like climate change, things like water quality, things like atmospheric pollution don't respect jurisdictional boundaries," she said. "If we're approaching a moment when the United States is going to really pull back on regulations, we are also talking about something that's continental or even planetary in scope."
12-14-16 People prepare to fight their governments on climate change
People prepare to fight their governments on climate change
Despite record-breaking climate change, some leaders may be reluctant to cut emissions. The Paris Agreement may give people the clout needed to force them to act. This year smashed global records for land temperatures, carbon dioxide levels and coral die-off. Next year will be full of legal and political fights over climate change. The Paris Agreement came into force in November, meaning 197 governments agreed to cut carbon emissions to help limit global warming to 2 °C. But no formal punishments have been set out for nations that fail to meet their part of the bargain. That leaves major polluters like the US free to withdraw from the deal under the leadership of Donald Trump. Yet there will be significant political, economic and social pressure on countries that fail to pull their weight or even quit the treaty. For instance, nations could impose carbon taxes on imports from the US if it doesn’t cooperate. Moreover, the Paris deal gives citizens unprecedented backing to legally challenge governments. Environmental organisations have been suing governments for years over greenhouse gas emissions, but most cases have failed. This could now change. The Paris Agreement is likely to boost the principle that governments are legally obliged to cut emissions. (Webmaster's comment: An economic boycott of the Untied States. It's about time!)
12-14-16 World's hottest borehole nearly complete
World's hottest borehole nearly complete
Geologists say they are close to creating the hottest borehole in the world. They are drilling into the heart of a volcano in the south-west of Iceland. They have told the BBC that they should reach 5km down, where temperatures are expected to exceed 500C (932F), in the next couple of weeks. The researchers want to bring steam from the deep well back up to the surface to provide an important source of energy. "We hope that this will open new doors for the geothermal industry globally to step into an era of more production," said Asgeir Margeirsson, CEO of the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP), a collaboration between scientists, industry and the Icelandic government. "That’s the aim - that’s the hope. We have never been this deep before, we have never been into rock this hot before, but we are optimistic."
12-14-16 Arctic kelp forests may create summer refuges from ocean acidification
Arctic kelp forests may create summer refuges from ocean acidification
Long periods of light can lead to higher local pH. Monitoring of big, brown kelp foliage above the Arctic Circle in Greenland reveals that the underwater forests may be summertime refuges from ocean acidification. During long summer days, kelp forests in high-latitude waters could create little safe zones for sea creatures in acidifying oceans, new research shows. Sunlight stretching on for most or all of a day keeps kelps and other big algae working overtime, trapping solar energy through photosynthesis. In the Arctic, kelps pulled enough carbon dioxide from the surrounding seawater to nudge the local pH upward, monitoring showed. Seawater is generally alkaline instead of acidic, but in midsummer, kelp patches pushed the pH average even farther above acidity. In 10 days, average pH in an Arctic kelp patch in Greenland rose from 8.09 to 8.24, an international team of researchers reports December 14 in Science Advances. Follow-up lab tests of kelps suggest that 21 hours or more of sunlight per day should produce that refuge effect.
12-14-16 Trump presidency: Rick Perry picked as US energy secretary
Trump presidency: Rick Perry picked as US energy secretary
Donald Trump has picked ex-Texas Governor Rick Perry as his energy secretary, a department whose name he famously forgot in a TV debate. The nomination puts Mr Perry in charge of an agency he proposed abolishing in a failed 2012 White House bid. Environmental groups called the oil-drilling advocate's selection "an insult to our functioning democracy". In the role, the recent Dancing with the Stars contestant would oversee America's nuclear arsenal.
12-14-16 Year in review: Sea ice loss will shake up ecosystems
Year in review: Sea ice loss will shake up ecosystems
Polar bears aren’t the only organisms affected by Arctic melting. The endangered ivory gull spends a lot of its time on highly concentrated sea ice. Researchers are investigating how sea ice decline will affect these birds and other organisms. In a better world, it would be the big news of the year just to report that Arctic sea ice shrank to 4.14 million square kilometers this summer, well below the 1981–2010 average of 6.22 million square kilometers (SN Online: 9/19/16). But in this world of changing climate, extreme summer ice loss has become almost expected. More novel in 2016 were glimpses of the complex biological consequences of melting at the poles and the opening of Arctic passageways, talked about for at least a decade and now well under way. With top-of-the-world trade and tourist shortcuts opening, less ice means more travel. Europe-to-Asia shipping routes will typically shorten by about 10 days by midcentury, a report in Geophysical Research Letters predicted. Hopes for Northwest Passage routes obsessed (and killed) explorers in previous centuries, but in 2016, the thousand-passenger cruise ship Crystal Serenity offered the first megascale tourist trip from Alaska to New York with fine dining, casino gambling and an escort icebreaker vessel. Biologists are delving into consequences for organisms other than human tourists — or the much-discussed polar bear. “There’s been a marked shift in the research community,” says climate change ecologist Eric Post of the University of California, Davis. There’s new interest in considering more than just species that dwell on sea ice, with researchers looking for the less direct effects of declining ice.
12-14-16 Year in review: Ozone hole officially on the mend
Year in review: Ozone hole officially on the mend
Montreal Protocol now covers climate-warming replacements too. A study reported this year confirms that the Antarctic ozone hole is healing. In a rare bright spot for global environmental news, atmospheric scientists reported in 2016 that the ozone hole that forms annually over Antarctica is beginning to heal. Their data nail the case that the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty drawn up in 1987 to limit the use of ozone-destroying chemicals, is working. The Antarctic ozone hole forms every Southern Hemisphere spring, when chemical reactions involving chlorine and bromine break apart the oxygen atoms that make up ozone molecules. Less protective ozone means that more ultraviolet radiation reaches Earth, where it can damage DNA and lead to higher rates of skin cancer, among other threats. The Montreal Protocol cut back drastically on the manufacture of ozone-destroying compounds such as chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, which had been used in air conditioners, refrigerators and other products. It went into force in 1989 and phased out CFCs by 2010.
12-13-16 Oyster deaths linked to ‘atmospheric rivers’
Oyster deaths linked to ‘atmospheric rivers’
California storms diluted salt to deadly levels, researcher suggests. Oysters form reefs in bays and estuaries. Strong storms that struck California in 2011 nearly killed off a population of oysters in the San Francisco Bay — probably by diluting the salt water. Narrow channels of moisture snaking through the atmosphere can bring storms that wreck beachfront bungalows — and leave oyster beds bare. Several of these channels, called atmospheric rivers (SN: 2/26/11, p. 20), dumped particularly heavy storms on California in early 2011. The resulting freshwater influx probably left part of the San Francisco Bay without enough salt for oysters to survive, researchers report online December 14 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Oysters worldwide have been struggling in recent years because of climate change, ocean acidification and overharvesting. Their disappearance hurts the coastal ecosystems they inhabit. “Oysters build habitat on the coast for other species. They’re kind of like a coral reef in that regard,” says study coauthor Brian Cheng, an ecologist now at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md.
12-13-16 Oil change? Fossil fuel advocate to run State department
Oil change? Fossil fuel advocate to run State department
Good news for environmental campaigners: President-elect Trump has finally nominated someone to his cabinet who actually believes in climate change science. The bad news for those same campaigners is that this true believer happens to be CEO of Exxon Mobil, and also sees fossil fuels as critical to humanity's survival. Rex Tillerson is undoubtedly an unusual choice for Secretary of State, but perhaps less so when seen against the background of several other Trump nominees supported by the oil and gas industry, including former Texas Governor Rick Perry who is the pick for energy secretary. Mr Tillerson may differ from the others on the causes of climate change, but he definitely subscribes to their view that an abundant supply of fossil fuels is critical to making America great again. Last May, Mr Tillerson reiterated his company's perspective on climate change, delivered in his strong Texan twang, which dominated the Exxon Mobil Annual General Meeting in Dallas. "For many years, Exxon Mobil has held the view that the risks of climate change are serious and do warrant action. We believe that addressing the risk of climate change is a global issue," he said. Mr Tillerson is in favour of a carbon tax as the best way to reduce emissions, a view not likely to go down well with his new colleagues in government. At the AGM, he was clearly not in favour of mild shareholder resolutions asking corporations such as his to support the goal of keeping global temperature rises below the 2C.
12-13-16 Future air conditioning could work by beaming heat into space
Future air conditioning could work by beaming heat into space
Physicists have achieved record temperature reductions of more than 40 °C using radiative cooling, which beams heat through the atmosphere. With temperatures as cold as -270 °C, space is one hell of a heat sink. Physicists have achieved record levels of temperature reduction using the process of radiative cooling, by which heat is beamed from Earth’s surface into outer space. Zhen Chen and his colleagues at Stanford University lowered the temperature of a thermal emitter – a device designed to give out more heat than it takes in – to 42.2 °C below that of the surrounding air. “To achieve high-performance cooling, the key is to couple whatever object you want to cool with outer space and to decouple it from the ambient environment,” says Chen. The researchers placed the emitter in a vacuum chamber, isolating it from the atmosphere and cutting off almost any heat transfer through conduction or convection, which could cause the emitter to warm up. Heat from the emitter was radiated out of a specially designed window on top of the vacuum chamber, which was directed at a clear patch of sky. Earth’s atmosphere allows thermal radiation of wavelengths between 8 and 13 micrometres to pass through it into outer space – but most objects release heat at different wavelengths. The Stanford emitter, however, was specifically designed so that most of the heat it emits falls within that range, meaning that on a clear day it will pass straight out into space without being bounced back by the atmosphere. Within half an hour of pumping air out of the vacuum chamber, the temperature of the emitter plummeted to 40 °C below that of the surrounding air. Over the next 24 hours, it averaged 37 °C below the air temperature, and reached its biggest reduction of 42.2 °C when exposed to the peak of the sun’s heat.
12-13-16 World's largest reindeer herd plummets
World's largest reindeer herd plummets
The world's largest wild reindeer herd has fallen by 40% since 2000, scientists have warned. They say that the animals, which live in the Taimyr Peninsula in the northernmost tip of Russia, are being affected by rising temperatures and human activity. This is causing the animals to change their annual migration patterns. The research has been presented at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). "There is a substantial decline - and we are also seeing this with other wild reindeer declining rapidly in other parts of the world," said Andrey Petrov, who runs the Arctic Centre at the University of Northern Iowa, US. The Taimyr herd is one of the most monitored groups of reindeer in the world. The animals have been tracked for nearly 50 years by aerial surveys and more recently by satellite imagery. The population reached a peak of one million in 2000, but this latest research suggests that there are now only 600,000 reindeer. "Climate change is at least one of the variables," explained Prof Petrov. "We know in the last two decades that we have had an increase in temperatures of about 1.5C overall. And that definitely impacts migration patterns." Industrial development is increasing in the region, which is also changing the animals' distribution. The researchers found that in the summer, the reindeer were moving east to avoid human activity. But they were also shifting north and to higher elevations. The team thinks this is to try to get to cooler ground and also to avoid the mosquitoes that are booming as the region gets warmer and wetter.
12-13-16 Spy satellites reveal Himalayan melt
Spy satellites reveal Himalayan melt
Scientists have used Cold War spy satellites to reveal the dramatic environmental changes in the Himalayas. They compared pictures collected by a US reconnaissance programme with recent satellite data to measure the extent of glacial melt. They believe the now-declassified images could help to show how other remote regions have changed over time. The research was presented at the American Geophysical Union Fall meeting in San Francisco. “This imagery will be getting used more and more,” said Josh Maurer from Columbia University in New York. The images were taken by a United States spy satellite programme that went by the codename of Hexagon. During the 1970s and 1980s, it launched 20 huge reconnaissance satellites into space, which secretly snapped areas of interest below. The images were taken on rolls of film, which were then dropped by the satellites, and collected mid-air by passing military planes. The material collected was declassified in 2011 and is now being digitised by the US Geological Survey (USGS) for scientists to use.
12-12-16 Glacier melting’s link to climate change confirmed
Glacier melting’s link to climate change confirmed
Study finds warming ‘virtually certain’ to blame in many cases of dwindling ice. Shrinking glaciers such as Nigardsbreen in Norway are virtually certain to be victims of climate change, new research shows. The decades-long dwindling of glaciers is “categorical evidence of climate change,” a new study affirms. The link between global warming and glacial retreat had previously garnered only a “likely,” or at least 66 percent probability, rating from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Comparing the long-term decline of 37 glaciers, researchers estimate that all but one are “very likely” – or with at least 90 percent probability – the result of climate change. Natural variability and complex dynamics make sussing out climate change’s role in glacial retreat difficult. Earth system scientist Gerard Roe of the University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues calculated the natural ups and downs of well-documented glaciers from around the world. The researchers then noted how far the glaciers have drifted from that natural variability and compared that trend with changes in the nearby climate. For 21 out of the 37 glaciers, the researchers say it is “virtually certain” that climate change caused the glaciers’ retreat, the researchers report December 12 in Nature Geoscience. Glaciers hold about 75 percent of Earth’s freshwater and their decline serves as a canary in the coal mine for climate change.
12-12-16 Mystery Antarctic circle means ice is melting from surface down
Mystery Antarctic circle means ice is melting from surface down
A 2-kilometre-wide circle spotted during on an Antarctic ice shelf was thought to be caused by a meteorite. It now looks like winds and melt are to blame. It is as mysterious as they come. A huge, 2-kilometre-wide circle spotted during a routine flight over an Antarctic ice shelf in 2014 has had scientists scratching their heads ever since. What could have caused it? Initially they suspected that a large meteorite had slammed into Antarctica in 2004 and made the ice crater. But now it appears the real answer is blowing in the wind. When scientists visited the circle on foot for the first time in January 2016, they found a 3-metre-deep depression with raised edges and, in the centre, three moulins – vertical well-like shafts in the ice — draining two meltwater streams. These features point to the crater having once been a meltwater lake, which subsequently drained into the ice shelf. It seems strong, downslope winds, which originate from the ice sheet’s interior, are what kicked off the process that led to the crater-like formation. (Webmaster's comment: It's happening before our very eyes yet the New Fuhrer and his henchmen in Washington still refuse to believe it. Why?)
12-12-16 Ice loss spreads up Antarctic glaciers
Ice loss spreads up Antarctic glaciers
The scale and pace of change now taking place in West Antarctica is captured in a new, long-term satellite record. Scientists have combined nearly a quarter of a century of observations to show how the region's great glaciers are losing height by up to 7m per year. The satellite data also traces the way this thinning behaviour has spread up the length of the ice streams. The glaciers concerned all terminate in the Amundsen Sea and are significant contributors to global ocean rise. Right now, they are dumping some 120 to 140 billion tonnes of ice a year into the ocean, which is sufficient to push up global waters by between 0.34mm and 0.40mm per annum - more than 10% of the total worldwide trend. Their names are Pine Island, Thwaites, Pope, Smith, and Kohler. Pine Island Glacier calves immense, city-sized icebergs.
12-12-16 Methane surge needs 'urgent attention'
Methane surge needs 'urgent attention'
Scientists say they are concerned at the rate at which methane in the atmosphere is now rising. After a period of relative stagnation in the 2000s, the concentration of the gas has surged. Methane (CH4) is a smaller component than carbon dioxide (CO2) but drives a more potent greenhouse effect. Researchers warn that efforts to tackle climate change will be undermined unless CH4 is also brought under tighter control. "CO2 is still the dominant target for mitigation, for good reason. But we run the risk if we lose sight of methane of offsetting the gains we might make in bringing down levels of carbon dioxide," said Robert Jackson from Stanford University, US. Prof Jackson was speaking ahead of this week's American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco where methane trends will be a major point of discussion.
12-11-16 Bolivia's abandoned ski resort: A sign of droughts to come?
Bolivia's abandoned ski resort: A sign of droughts to come?
Bolivia's largest city, La Paz, is currently enduring its worst drought in a quarter of a century. Glaciers in the surrounding Andean mountains are key to its water supply. Simon Parker visited the abandoned ski resort of Chacaltaya, where locals say they have been seeing changes in the climate for decades. "I used to come up here as a child and play in the snow for hours, until my eyes and ears ached from the cold and altitude," says Felipe Kittelson, 63, while surveying the barren hillside before him. "People would ski and sled here for seven or eight months a year. We used to shave off cups of ice and cover it in sticky syrup as a treat. This resort used to be covered in such deep snow, but now there's nothing but rock." The 5,421m-high (17,785ft) Chacaltaya ski resort, once the world's highest, offered Bolivians a taste of European-inspired apres-ski in the heart of the Andes. These days, however, it resembles an abandoned film set.
12-10-16 Cryogenic storage offers hope for renewable energy
Cryogenic storage offers hope for renewable energy
The world's largest cold energy storage plant is being commissioned at a site near Manchester. The cryogenic energy facility stores power from renewables or off-peak generation by chilling air into liquid form. When the liquid air warms up it expands and can drive a turbine to make electricity. The 5MW plant near Manchester can power up to 5,000 homes for around three hours. The company behind the scheme, Highview Power Storage, believes that the technology has great potential to be scaled up for long-term use with green energy sources.
12-10-16 Doctors call for ban on diesel engines in London
Doctors call for ban on diesel engines in London
A campaign led by medical professionals is calling for all diesel cars to be banned from London. Doctors Against Diesel claim 9,400 Londoners a year die prematurely from breathing in toxic fumes from diesel engines. Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have committed to a ban on diesel vehicles by 2025. Opponents to the campaign have called the proposals "impractical" and warned a blanket ban could "backfire". Doctors Against Diesel - comprising doctors, nurses and health professionals - are calling for Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, to commit to phasing out diesel vehicles from London. Mr Khan has already said he wants to get rid of diesel buses by 2018.
12-9-16 Cracks in an Antarctic glacier
Cracks in an Antarctic glacier
Warming ocean temperatures have caused a Texas-size glacier in West Antarctica to crack from the inside out––which could have dire consequences for Miami, New York, and other major coastal cities. After a 225-square-mile iceberg broke off the Pine Island Glacier last year, researchers combed satellite data and discovered that in 2013 a rift had emerged 20 miles inland. Rifts typically appear on the thin, brittle outer edges of an ice shelf; the fact that the Pine Island rift formed so far inland suggests warm waters are melting an ice crevasse from below, weakening the glacier’s center. Similar rifts have been discovered in Greenland, but never before has subsurface melting been observed within Antarctic ice. “It’s no longer a question of whether the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will melt, it’s a question of when,” Ian Howat, an Earth-sciences professor at Ohio State University, tells LiveScience.com. Researchers warn the ice sheet could collapse within 100 years, causing a 10-foot rise in sea levels—and catastrophic coastal flooding.
12-9-16 Pipeline protesters win temporary victory at Standing Rock
Pipeline protesters win temporary victory at Standing Rock
Native Americans and environmental activists won a symbolic victory this week in their battle to stop an oil pipeline from being built near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied permission for a section of the project to be constructed under the Missouri River. Protesters including veterans and celebrities had flocked to Standing Rock to demonstrate against the Dakota Access Pipeline, which tribe leaders say threatens the reservation’s water supply and sacred burial sites. The pipeline, which would transport North Dakota oil 1,200 miles to a terminal in Illinois, is 92 percent complete. Part of the uncompleted section would have passed under Lake Oahe, a Corps reservoir a half-mile from Standing Rock. But in a surprise announcement, the Corps said it wouldn’t grant an easement for Lake Oahe and would instead “explore alternate routes.” As news spread at the protest camp, drumming and dancing broke out, and people shouted “Mni wiconi!”—Lakota for “Water is life.”
12-8-16 Trump nominee to rekindle climate battle?
Trump nominee to rekindle climate battle?
The nomination of Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to be the next head of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has two important ramifications. The first is a clear signal from the incoming Trump administration that environmental regulations, especially as they apply to the production of energy, are set for fundamental reform. The second implication of Mr Pruitt's nomination is that the Trump camp is not willing to accept that many aspects of the science of climate change are now settled. In his official biography Mr Pruitt revels in his role as a "leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda". Elected as attorney general of Oklahoma in 2010, Mr Pruitt has engaged in a legal fight with the Federal government on a number of issues including Obamacare. But it is in fighting the EPA and President Obama's climate regulations that he has really made an impact. As the chief law officer of a major energy producing state, Mr Pruitt has taken a lead role in the 28-state challenge to the President's Clean Power Plan. He has also secured an injunction blocking EPA's "Waters of the US" rule, which expands the scope of the Clean Water Act. (Webmaster's comment: Goodbye to the truth regarding global warming and goodbye to clean water!)
12-8-16 Trump picks climate sceptic Pruitt for environment chief
Trump picks climate sceptic Pruitt for environment chief
US President-elect Donald Trump has chosen an outspoken critic of President Obama's climate change policies to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, 48, is seen as an ally of the fossil fuel industry. He has been a key player in legal challenges against EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. Democrats and environmentalists in the US have expressed dismay, calling Mr Pruitt a climate change denier. News of Mr Pruitt's appointment emerged on Wednesday evening. Mr Trump formally confirmed it in a statement on Thursday. "For too long, the Environmental Protection Agency has spent taxpayer dollars on an out-of-control anti-energy agenda that has destroyed millions of jobs," Mr Trump was quoted as saying. Mr Pruitt would "reverse this trend and restore the EPA's essential mission of keeping our air and our water clean and safe", he said.
12-8-16 Can Democrats become climate crusaders?
Can Democrats become climate crusaders?
Climate change is an existential threat to the United States of America and to humanity as a whole, and time is running very short to undertake the necessary top-to-bottom overhaul of world society to stave it off. That is why Democrats must become the party of fervent climate radicalism — there simply is no alternative. Especially not with President-elect Trump, who just announced he is going to appoint Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA — a man who was caught by The New York Times sending oil company-written complaints to the EPA on his own letterhead. This presents a political difficulty. Unlike previous existential threats — like Nazi Germany, for example — the really serious danger of climate change is far in the future, it will gather strength relatively slowly, and, above all, knowledge of it comes through a highly technical and abstract scientific process. "Armed men will invade and kill us all" is easy to understand and culturally familiar; "in 50 to 100 years climate feedbacks could spin out of control and do irreparable damage to the biosphere which supports human life" is not. Nevertheless, it will be possible for Democrats and the left to thread this needle, if they can maintain their focus. Any unaddressed existential threat almost must be a political opportunity — it's simply a stiff problem of political ideology, communication, and organizing.
12-8-16 Biodiversity betrayal as nations fail miserably on conservation
Biodiversity betrayal as nations fail miserably on conservation
A bold plan to save the world's biodiversity is failing at its halfway point, and countries need to up their game to meet their agreed targets. Almost everyone is bottom of the class. That’s the best that can be said for countries that signed up to an ambitious plan in 2010 to save the world’s dwindling biodiversity. The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 set internationally agreed conservation targets known as the Aichi biodiversity targets, but rich nations in particular seem to be failing miserably. So said five major conservation charities ahead of the 13th meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Cancun, Mexico, this week. By now individual countries should have drafted detailed plans to conserve their biodiversity, but only half have done so. Worse still, 90 per cent of the plans set targets that fall short of 20 global benchmarks. These include halting habitat loss, saving endangered species, reducing pollution and making fishing and agriculture more sustainable and nature friendly. And only 5 per cent of countries are on track to meet the global benchmarks. A fifth of countries have either made no progress since 2010, or have retreated from the global targets. “Unless countries significantly increase their ambition, the Aichi targets will not be delivered,” warns the assessment.
12-8-16 Why are Americans still so paranoid about GMOs?
Why are Americans still so paranoid about GMOs?
Ever since the first "test tube tomato" hit grocery store shelves more than 20 years ago, genetically modified foods have been a flash point for consumers. Between 2002 and 2012 alone, almost 2,000 studies have concluded GMO safety fears are vastly overblown, but never mind, we're still pretty spooked. Nearly 40 percent of Americans still believe that genetically modified foods are worse for their health than non-GMOs, according to recent polling data from Pew Research. What's more, 16 percent of respondents stated they "care deeply" about the issue, and these are the people more likely to be skeptical of both GMOs and scientists in general. The research follows a report from last year which found that 57 percent of Americans believed genetically modified foods are generally unsafe. Anti-GMO advocacy culminated this year in President Obama's signing of a bill requiring genetically-modified labeling on food packaging within the next two years. Still some, including Bernie Sanders, believe the law doesn't go far enough, because its enforcement is weak and loopholes are large. (Meanwhile, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has maintained that "legally mandating…label[s] can only serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers." Of its members, 88 percent say GM foods are generally safe to eat.) (Webmaster's comment: And exactly why do organically grown foods still taste as they used to, while the alternatives are almost tasteless? What's missing?)
12-7-16 Half surface water in some countries has been lost since 1980s
Half surface water in some countries has been lost since 1980s
Overall more land is covered by water now than three decades ago – but there have been huge losses in Central Asia and the Middle East. More of Earth’s surface is covered by liquid water now than three decades ago. But some countries in Central Asia and the Middle East have lost more than half their surface water, satellite images show. There have also been losses in the US and Australia. The changes are mainly a result of activities such as irrigation and dam building, but climate change is playing a part too. Previous studies of surface water have largely relied on how much water countries estimate they have. Using satellite images is difficult because water looks very different depending on its depth, what’s in it and so on. Now Jean-François Pekel at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre and his colleagues have used artificial intelligence to analyse the entire Landsat archive – three million satellite images from 1984 onwards – and map global surface water with 30-metre resolution. The study gives us the first detailed picture of how surface water is changing. Overall, the area of land permanently covered by water has increased by around 3 per cent. New permanent waters covering an area of 184,000 square kilometres have formed since the 1980s. Another 29,000 km2 is now seasonally covered by water. Many new water bodies are a result of dam construction, but lakes are also appearing in places like the Tibetan plateau due to the melting of snow and glaciers in the Himalayas.
12-7-16 Losing tropical forest might raise risks of human skin ulcers, deformed bones
Losing tropical forest might raise risks of human skin ulcers, deformed bones
Bacteria causing Buruli disease prosper with certain landscape changes. Clearing forests and changing landscapes might affect how many people develop Buruli ulcer. The disease is caused by bacteria shown here in a section of otherwise healthy mouse tissue. Clearing tropical forests may raise the risk of people being exposed to a gruesome disease called Buruli ulcer, a new study suggests. Mycobacterium ulcerans, the bacteria that cause Buruli skin lesions and bone deformities, can thrive in a wide range of wild creatures, especially tiny insects grazing on freshwater algae, says Aaron Morris, now at Imperial College London. Surveying more than 3,600 invertebrates and fish from both pristine forests and cleared land in French Guiana, Morris and colleagues found the bacteria flourishing in altered landscapes. As species are lost from once-complex food webs, there’s an intermediate zone where bacteria-friendly species thrive, Morris and colleagues propose online December 7 in Science Advances.
12-6-16 Google data centres to be 100% renewable-powered by 2017
Google data centres to be 100% renewable-powered by 2017
Google has confirmed it will hit its target of offsetting 100% of the energy used at its data centres and offices against power from renewable sources. The firm first made the commitment in 2015 to go 100% renewable by 2017. In a blog, the company said it was now the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world.Fossil fuels are still used by Google, but now it buys enough electricity from renewable sources to offset energy use at the data centres and offices. Its 13 data centres alone consumed around 5.7 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity a year. "Over the last six years, the cost of wind and solar came down 60% and 80% respectively, proving that renewables are increasingly becoming the lowest cost option," said Urs Holzle, senior vice president for technical infrastructure. He added: "Since the wind doesn't blow 24 hours a day, we'll also broaden our purchases to a variety of energy sources that can enable renewable power, every hour of every day."
12-7-16 Climate protection gap widening, warns insurance report
Climate protection gap widening, warns insurance report
Experts have warned of a $100bn (£79bn) "protection gap" in the global insurance sector as a result of the rising impact of climate risks. ClimateWise, based at the University of Cambridge, warned that the gap of uninsured or under-insured assets had quadrupled over the past three decades. The insurance sector's role as society's risk manager was under threat, warned one senior figure. The network outlined its findings in two reports published on Wednesday. "What we have seen is that over the past 30 years, as societal exposure to climate change has increased, is that the traditional response of insurance - which is to reassess, re-underwrite, and reprice - is almost becoming the sector's Achilles heel if you like because it is repricing itself out of risk but it is not addressing the root cause of the problem, which is that society is increasingly vulnerable to climate risks and it is in need of enhancing its resilience," explained ClimateWIse programme manager Tom Herbstein. He said the protection gap was the difference between total economic loss and the value of assets that were covered by insurance policies. "We have seen this gap open up from about US $23bn about 30 years ago to over US $100bn today," Dr Herbstein told BBC News.
12-7-16 Should I worry about the mercury in the fish I eat?
Should I worry about the mercury in the fish I eat?
Troubled waters: The fish we eat, such as tuna and salmon, all contain small amounts of mercury – a pollutant that can be highly toxic to our nervous systems.Discovering the problem: The presence of mercury in fish didn’t become a health concern until the 1950s – when an incident in Minamata, a coastal city in Japan, brought it to global attention. WATCH: How mercury gets into fish. CLICKABLE: Harmful effects Click or tap the image below to discover how high mercury levels can damage our nerves, brain and heart. Catch of the day:
12-7-16 'Thousands' of geese die in toxic Montana pit mine
'Thousands' of geese die in toxic Montana pit mine
Thousands of migrating snow geese died after landing in contaminated pit mine waters in Montana, mine officials have said. Officials estimate that as many as 25,000 birds landed in the Berkeley Pit last week, and since then have been seen dropping dead in the area. Mine workers tried to prevent the birds from landing in the acidic wastewater, but were overwhelmed by their number. Each year several birds are found floating dead there, but never so many. "I can't underscore enough how many birds were in the Butte area that night," said Mark Thompson, an environmental affairs manager for Montana Resources, which controls the pit mine along with Atlantic Richfield. "Numbers beyond anything we've ever experienced in our 21 years of monitoring by several orders of magnitude,", Mr Thompson said, adding that they typically only see between 2,000-5,000 birds in the region each year during the summer and winter migrations. Between 2010 and 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only recorded 14 snow goose fatalities in the Berkeley Pit. (Webmaster's comment: All Hail Free Enterprise! It will kill anything or everything for profit!)
12-7-16 Do smoke-free stoves really save lives?
Do smoke-free stoves really save lives?
A big clinical trial in Malawi was expected to show children are less likely to die of pneumonia if they live in a home where food is cooked on a smoke-free stove rather than an open fire. Instead it suggests the stove makes no difference. Where does this leave a huge UN-backed project to get 100 million clean cookstoves into homes in the developing world by 2020? "Exposure to household air pollution is a problem of poverty," says Kevin Mortimer, a medical doctor and a respiratory health researcher at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. "If you're not poor, you're not exposed." About 2.8 billion people - between a third and a half of the world's population - burn solid fuel such as wood, crop waste, charcoal, coal and dung to cook their food in open fires and leaky stoves. Inside those homes, cooking smoke is eye-stingingly visible, and it blackens the walls. But the invisible effect it has on the tiniest, branching airways of the lungs is what makes this a global crisis. Those smoke particles are taken up by cells that form part of the natural defences of the lungs. In doing that, they diminish the function of these cells, increasing the risk of infections and chronic illness. Crucially, smoke is a key driver of child pneumonia - a leading cause of death in children under five in many countries across the developing world.
12-6-16 Solar panels are poised to be truly green
Solar panels are poised to be truly green
Solar panels are about to break even on their energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. The solar panel industry has nearly paid its climate debt. The technology will break even in terms of energy usage by 2017 and greenhouse gas emissions by 2018 at the latest, if it hasn’t done so already, researchers calculate. Building, assembling and installing solar panels consumes energy and produces climate-warming greenhouse gases. Once in use, though, the panels gradually reverse this imbalance by producing green energy. The manufacturing process has also gotten greener over the last 40 years, environmental scientist Atse Louwen of Utrecht University in the Netherlands and colleagues report December 6 in Nature Communications. Each doubling of the combined energy-generating capacity of all solar panels has coincided with a 12 to 13 percent drop in the energy used during manufacturing and a 17 to 24 percent drop in their carbon footprint.
12-6-16 Quantum solar cells could explain why plants are green
Quantum solar cells could explain why plants are green
An attempt to make more efficient solar cells shows that green light might be the least useful hue – maybe that's why plants reflect it. The next wave of solar cells might be green… literally. Quantum mechanics is helping to make better solar cells – and may give us another perspective on why plants are green in the process. A big problem in solar power is that sunlight is not constant: because of seasonal changes, night-time and clouds, the amount of sunlight that reaches panels is constantly shifting. This means we must regulate the power from the cells so that the grid doesn’t fry on sunny days and the lights don’t flicker as clouds pass. Trouble is, this dents the efficiency of the panels. This is a potential issue for plants, too. Unlike solar cells, plants can regulate light levels by dissipating some solar energy as heat. But it turns out that plants’ green colour may also play a role. Nathan Gabor at the University of California, Riverside, stumbled on this idea by chance. “I was sitting at this seminar, and I thought to myself ‘physicists are often credited with explaining why the sky is blue’,” he says. “So I thought, ‘well, why are plants green?’ ” Gabor found that, while there are many hypotheses, none have been definitively proven. “The evolutionary evidence has several missing links along the way,” he says. So, when he and his team designed a solar cell that would efficiently regulate its power intake and output, they were surprised to find a potential answer.
12-6-16 America's looming infrastructure problem
America's looming infrastructure problem
Throughout the election, one of the few points Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton could agree on was the country's need for improved infrastructure — transportation systems, energy, and so on. But tradeoffs between sustainability and economic growth make it unclear how exactly to proceed. Now, researchers argue that, to create environmentally sustainable infrastructure, we need to pay attention to what's keeping us from investing in infrastructure more broadly. "For the world to meet the twin challenges of improving human welfare whilst preventing the worst impacts of climate change, it will need to develop and follow a model of emissions minimizing, resource-efficient 'green' economic growth," Ilmi Granoff, J. Ryan Hogarth, and Alan Miller write in a Nature Climate Change perspective. Meeting those challenges may require a new approach. "First, scaling up infrastructure investment is a necessary condition to achieving green growth, but not a sufficient condition: It can lock in emissions or efficiency," the team writes. "Second, mobilizing capital for low-carbon infrastructure investment will have less to do with establishing billions of dollars in 'new' resources for low-carbon infrastructure, and more to do with unlocking and decarbonizing the trillions of dollars in annual infrastructure investment yet to be deployed under any growth scenario."
12-5-16 Al Gore meets Donald Trump and Ivanka for climate talks
Al Gore meets Donald Trump and Ivanka for climate talks
Former Vice President Al Gore has met President-elect Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump to discuss climate policy. The meeting "was a sincere search for areas of common ground," said Mr Gore, a climate change activist. During his presidential campaign, Mr Trump called man-made climate change a "hoax" perpetuated by China. His daughter Ivanka reportedly wants to make the subject one of her signature issues. It is unclear what role she will have in her father's administration, but he had said that his children would take over his global business interests. All three of Mr Trump's adult children are serving on his transition team.
12-5-16 North Dakota oil pipeline may still be built despite army block
North Dakota oil pipeline may still be built despite army block
Indigenous people and environmentalists have won the latest battle in a long stand-off with companies over an oil pipeline going under a lake and through sacred sites. A battle has been won, but the war could still be lost. Campaigners fighting against an oil pipeline being built in North Dakota are rejoicing after the companies building it did not get the permit needed to join the already-completed sections by drilling under Lake Oahe on the Missouri river. The US Army Corps of Engineering, which manages Lake Oahe, delayed issuing the permit, saying alternatives routes should be explored. However, the companies building the pipeline say they expect to complete the pipeline with no rerouting. The plan is for the pipeline to pass under the Missouri river some 800 metres north of what the US recognises as the boundary of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe say it is on land that belongs to them according to an 1851 treaty, and that construction will damage sacred sites and could contaminate their water.
12-5-16 Standing Rock: What next for protests?
Standing Rock: What next for protests?
Sunday 4 December is being heralded as a historic day for Native Americans, following news the US Army Corp of Engineers will not allow an oil pipeline to pass close to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Indigenous people, drawn from over 200 tribes, have been protesting against the Dakota Access pipeline for months amidst claims it threatens the Standing Rock Tribe's water supply and has despoiled sacred sites. An estimated 10,000 people joined the movement, forming campsites close to the most controversial section of the pipeline, near the Missouri River. The Army Corp's decision, prompted by President Barack Obama's administration, is a major victory for the camps and for proponents of Native American sovereignty. But will the decision to halt the pipeline last? And what will happen to the vast camps at Standing Rock?
12-5-16 Corporate growth still driving deforestation, CDP shows
Corporate growth still driving deforestation, CDP shows
Although progress is being made, up to US $906bn of company turnover is still tied to global deforestation, an assessment has concluded. A study by the Carbon Disclosure Programme (CDP) suggests almost a quarter of company revenues depend on deforestation-linked commodities. These commodities are cattle products, soy, palm oil and timber products. The findings are based on disclosures from 365 investors worth US $22 trillion (£17 trillion). "We found this year that a substantial share of corporate income depends upon commodities that are linked to deforestation risk," explained Katie McCoy, CDP's head of forests. "When we carried out our analysis, we found that - on average - about a quarter of companies' revenue are dependent on commodities that have been linked to deforestation." She said there was a clear message for companies to take the issue of deforestation in their supply chain very seriously. "It is having an impact on their potential to generate revenue."
12-5-16 Standing Rock protest: Companies attack Dakota Pipeline ruling
Standing Rock protest: Companies attack Dakota Pipeline ruling
Two firms behind a controversial oil pipeline in the US have accused the White House of political interference for failing to approve its completion. The US Army said it would not authorise the final section of the Dakota Access Pipeline to allow alternative routes to be considered. The decision is a win for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who have protested against the pipeline for months. But the next US president, Donald Trump, says he supports the project.
12-4-16 Standing Rock: Protesters ready for the long winter
Standing Rock: Protesters ready for the long winter
The BBC's James Cook visits the Standing Rock camps, where activists are protesting against the construction of a pipeline under a river that serves the local Native American community.
12-3-16 The new water alchemists
The new water alchemists
Animals, plants, soil, and air have long collaborated to regulate our climate by stimulating "the water cycle" — until we disrupted their partnership. Australia is the world's driest inhabited continent, and a nation cursed by headline-grabbing weather extremes. In 2013, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology famously added dark purple to its weather maps to denote over-the-top heat waves, the no-longer-rare days when air temperatures breach 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius). Australia's history since European settlement has been riddled with droughts and floods so dire they're etched in the books as significant natural disasters. The millennium drought, known colloquially as the "Big Dry," persisted for 15 years until finally doused by epic rains and floods that lasted from late 2010 into early 2011. As for wildfires, the most devastating since 1851 have names, including Black Christmas and Black Tuesday. Most recently and most deadly were the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009 in the southeastern state of Victoria, which killed 173 people. The sheer extent of Australia that goes up in smoke is mind-boggling. An estimated 60,000 bushfires, many of them extensive, flame through Australia each year. (Between one-third and one-half of these are attributed to arson.) According to several tallies, between 130 and 220 million hectares (or 321 to 543 million acres) are burnt each year by either wildfires or intentional controlled burns. That's a patch of earth somewhat bigger than the nation of Liberia. The carbon emitted from these conflagrations dwarfs the amount spewed by fossil fuels.
12-2-16 Standing Rock: US veterans join North Dakota protests
Standing Rock: US veterans join North Dakota protests
Hundreds of US military veterans have joined activists in North Dakota protesting against the installation of a multi-billion dollar oil pipeline. The activists, who are demonstrating in sub-zero temperatures, have been ordered to leave the area by Monday. It is unclear if they will obey. The pipeline, which runs close to the Standing Rock Sioux Native American Indian reservation, is nearly complete except for a section running underneath a nearby river. President-elect Donald Trump has said he supports the completion of the pipeline. He has stocks in Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the project's builder, and Phillips 66, which owns one-quarter of the pipeline. His spokesman says his stance is not related to his investments, but rather is based on his policies. Mr Trump's spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said she believed he had sold his Energy Transfer Partners stock. The Sioux and other Native Americans began protesting against the pipeline in April. They say it will run over sacred burial sites and contaminate Standing Rock's water source.
12-2-16 Europe’s green energy policy is a disaster for the environment
Europe’s green energy policy is a disaster for the environment
The EU's massive renewable energy drive is backfiring and its proposed solutions are just greenwashing, say campaigners. The European Union’s proposals for revising its renewable energy policies are greenwashing and don’t solve the serious flaws, say environmental groups. The EU gets 65 per cent of its renewable energy from biofuels – mainly wood – but it is failing to ensure this bioenergy comes from sustainable sources, and results in less emissions than burning fossil fuels. Its policies in some cases are leading to deforestation, biodiversity loss and putting more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than burning coal. “Burning forest biomass on an industrial scale for power and heating has proved disastrous,” says Linde Zuidema, bioenergy campaigner for forest protection group Fern. “The evidence that its growing use will increase emissions and destroy forests in Europe and elsewhere is overwhelming.” On 30 November the European Commission unveiled a draft “clean energy” package for the period up to 2030. On the surface, these proposals address some of the issues with existing renewable energy policies. But environmental groups who have been analysing the proposals say that the changes will make little difference. “It’s almost worse than doing nothing,” says Sini Erajaa, the bioenergy policy officer for BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, who describes the changes as greenwashing.
12-2-16 Dead Wood
After five years of drought, California now has 102 million dead trees in its forests, an unprecedented die-off that heightens the danger of massive wildfires. The U.S. Forest Service said 62 million trees died this year alone.
12-2-16 President Obama's massive failure on the Dakota Access pipeline
President Obama's massive failure on the Dakota Access pipeline
Nothing better demonstrates President Obama's fundamental failure on climate change than his mealy-mouthed approach to the Dakota Access pipeline. Donald Trump has been elected president promising to throw all Obama's climate half measures — inadequate but still far better than nothing — in the trash, and so far Obama has done nothing but dither and procrastinate. He could stop this pipeline today, and in so doing hand a big victory to the climate activists who are trying to confront the biggest threat to human society that exists. What's the holdup? First, let's review what has happened over the last few months and years. Oil companies have been looking for new ways to get the oil fracked out of the Bakken Formation in North Dakota to market for years, and many pipelines are part of that effort. Construction on Dakota Access, which would move nearly half a million barrels of oil per day, began in 2014, and is now mostly completed. The only remaining portion is near the border between North and South Dakota. Originally this was proposed to go north of Bismarck, but that location was nixed for a variety of reasons, one of them being the proximity to the local water supply. An alternative location through territory just north of the Standing Rock reservation was chosen — partly because it is a shorter route, but also because the only obstacles are politically powerless Native Americans.
12-2-16 Four major cities move to ban diesel vehicles by 2025
Four major cities move to ban diesel vehicles by 2025
The leaders of four major global cities say they will stop the use of all diesel-powered cars and trucks by the middle of the next decade. The mayors of Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens say they are implementing the ban to improve air quality. They say they will give incentives for alternative vehicle use and promote walking and cycling. The commitments were made in Mexico at a biennial meeting of city leaders. The use of diesel in transport has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, as concerns about its impact on air quality have grown. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that around three million deaths every year are linked to exposure to outdoor air pollution.
12-1-16 Trump's environment plans could spark opposition
Trump's environment plans could spark opposition
Proposals by the Trump administration to roll back US environmental regulations are likely to foment opposition, say analysts. The President-elect is likely to push forward plans for fracking and drilling for oil and gas on federal lands. Campaigners say that this is likely to be opposed in the courts, in Congress and lead to protests. President Obama is trying to limit the impact of the next administration by extending existing protections.
12-1-16 World’s first city to power its water needs with sewage energy
World’s first city to power its water needs with sewage energy
The city of Aarhus will supply fresh water using only energy created from its household wastewater and sewage - but will others be able to do the same? A city in Denmark is about to become the first in the world to provide most of its citizens with fresh water using only the energy created from household wastewater and sewage. The Marselisborg Wastewater Treatment Plant in Aarhus has undergone improvements that mean it can now generate more than 150 per cent of the electricity needed to run the plant, which means the surplus can be used to pump drinking water around the city. As well as regularly powering the entire water system of 200,000 people living in the inner city area, any excess electricity could be sold into the local grid. “We are about to be the first energy neutral catchment area,” says Mads Warming of Danfoss Power Electronics, which provides the technology for Aarhus Water, the municipal water utility.