12-27-18 Climate change: Huge costs of warming impacts in 2018
Extreme weather events linked to climate change cost thousands of lives and caused huge damage throughout the world in 2018, say Christian Aid. The charity's report identified ten events that cost more than $1bn each, with four costing more than $7bn each. Scientists have shown that the chances of heat waves in Europe were influenced directly by human-related warming. Other events, say the authors, are due to shifts in weather patterns, said to be a consequence of climate change. According to the report the most financially costly disasters linked to rising temperatures were Hurricanes Florence and Michael, with costs said to be around $17bn for the former, and $15bn for the latter. Research published at the time showed that the rains accompanying Hurricane Florence were made 50% worse than they would have been without human influenced warming. With Hurricane Michael, experts say that human activities drove the emissions that made the water warmer, adding fuel and speed to the storm. In Japan, 2018 was the summer of extremes with flooding and heatwaves causing huge impacts. The floods killed at least 230 people and caused $7bn worth of damage, which were then followed by Typhoon Jebi, the most powerful storm to hit the country for 25 years. Europe also saw record heatwaves - with researchers showing that climate change likely doubled the chances of the events happening. A separate study from the Met Office looking at the UK suggested that the extreme heat was made 30 times more likely because of rising temperatures. The Christian Aid study says even where scientists have not done attribution studies linking events to climate change, they believe that warming is driving shifts in weather patterns that make droughts and wildfires more likely. (Webmaster's comment: Accepting facts and thinking ahead is not a human strong suit.)
12-27-18 Your Christmas tree could help save the planet
Your unwanted Christmas tree could be processed to produce important chemicals and cut emissions, say researchers. Pine needles could provide feedstock to create new products, such as sweeteners and paint, as well as cut emissions. Currently, an estimated seven million trees each year end up in landfill. A study from the University of Sheffield suggests the process would also result in zero waste, therefore easing pressure on our waste services. "By now we all know about the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, and the need to reduce carbon emissions," explained Cynthia Kartey, a PhD student at the university's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineer. "I see biomass waste as a potential alternative source of feedstock for the chemical industry, for example," she told BBC News. For example, some of the substances found in pine needles are an active ingredient in perfume. Despite recent attention on the problems caused by the global proliferation of plastic, the popularity of artificial Christmas trees continue to grow. However, an estimated eight million "natural" Christmas trees are still bought in the UK each year. Alas, the vast majority - about seven million of them - end up in landfill after 12th Night. (Webmaster's comment: A very good idea but we need to do much, much more.)
12-24-18 Stopping climate change starts in the kitchen
Food waste is one of the most significant contributors to climate change — and everyone can do something about it. Today more than 60 percent of Americans are worried about climate change, and it's easy to understand why. In the last year alone, record-breaking hurricanes, wildfires, heat waves, and algal blooms, all linked in one way or another to our changing climate, have affected nearly every part of the United States. The scale of the problem can be overwhelming. The latest report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change underscored, once again, that solving the climate crisis will require a complete and unprecedented transformation of the world economy. Such a transformation will require concerted global action — the kind that comes about when hundreds of world leaders and delegates come together for negotiations like COP24. But that doesn't mean there's nothing the average person can do to help. Reducing waste — and food waste in particular — is something that Americans can tackle at the state, city, and even individual level. Every year, Americans throw out 400 pounds of food per person, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. By weight, food waste is the No. 1 contributor to landfills, where it decomposes and starts emitting potent greenhouse gases like methane. Some 14 percent of U.S. methane emissions come from landfills, and, accounting for emissions all along the supply chain, wasted food accounts for 2.6 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste is not just an American problem — though we do tend to waste more than many other developed nations. As much as a third of the world's food goes to waste, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, and if food waste were a nation, it would be the third-largest carbon emitter.
12-24-18 Alaska husky racing threatened by receding ice
The centuries-old tradition of husky racing is alive and well in the US state of Alaska. But a changing climate means the competition season for these canine athletes is shrinking, writes Tom Martienssen. A cold snap whips between the trees, making the most of a clear patch of ice. It was a lake in summer, now it's a smooth sheet of white. The sled whispers through the snow, broken only by the panting of eight dogs working in harmony, pulling Paige Drobny on her custom-build race-sled, built by her husband and fellow racer, Cody Strathe. This is Alaska, not far from the city of Fairbanks. Dog sled racing is huge here - the local breakfast diner features a life-size model of a racer and the bars are adorned with men and women snow-beaten and sleep-deprived, surrounded by their loyal huskies. Anywhere outside the US and it would be considered a national sport. And in some ways, Alaska does feel like its own nation, mysterious and remote. Only a little more than one person per square mile on average, according to the US Census. Cody and Paige are well into their training for the season's biggest races. The Iditarod and Yukon Quest are 1,000 miles (1,600km) each and famed for their difficulty. It's no mean feat for humans, but these dogs are quite special. "They are like the athletes, they're the Super bowl or World Cup athletes of the dog sled world and we run them because that's what they love to do." During a full day the dogs are burning up to 10,000 calories. To keep them in top form they're treated like high-performing sportsmen. A high-protein, high-fat diet coupled with daily massages and physiotherapy routines preserves their health. And the love from their owners and companions keeps them motivated. But in recent years it's been difficult here. The smooth, deep snow required to run the dogs at full strength is late to arrive. John Gaedeke has lived in Alaska his entire life and runs high-end holidays in the mountains to the North of the state. Mountain sports, dog sledding and running snow-mobiles are par for the course, but he's seen big changes in recent years. "Safe winter travel occurs later each year, in some communities rivers may never freeze," he says. "Our trails across frozen tundra are developing sink holes as the ice lenses below the tussocks melt and deform. The shorter winters mean hotter, longer summers with more wildfire danger, which only makes the problem worse."
12-23-18 Indonesia tsunami kills hundreds after Krakatau eruption
More than 220 people have been killed and 843 injured after a tsunami hit coastal towns on Indonesia's Sunda Strait, government officials say. There was no warning of the giant waves which struck at night, destroying hundreds of buildings, sweeping away cars and uprooting trees. It is thought undersea landslides from the Anak Krakatau volcano caused them. President Joko Widodo has expressed his sorrow for the victims and urged people to be patient. The Sunda Strait, between the islands of Java and Sumatra, connects the Java Sea to the Indian Ocean. The disaster management agency has warned people to stay away from the coastline due to fears of another tsunami. Saturday's tsunami struck at about 21:30 local time (14:30 GMT), during a local holiday. It hit several popular tourist destinations including the Tanjung Lesung beach resort in the west of Java island. Red Cross official Kathy Mueller told the BBC: "There is debris littering the ground, crushed cars, crushed motorcycles, we're seeing buildings that are collapsed." It appears that the main road into Pandeglang has been badly damaged, making it difficult for rescuers to reach the area, she added. Eyewitness Asep Perangkat said cars and containers had been dragged about 10 metres (32 feet). "Buildings on the edge of [Carita] beach were destroyed, trees and electricity poles fell to the ground," he told AFP news agency. Officials say more than 160 people were killed in Pandeglang - a popular tourist district on Java known for its beaches and national park. Meanwhile, 48 were reported dead in South Lampung on Sumatra, and deaths were also reported in Serang district and Tanggamus on Sumatra. Officials fear the death toll could rise further. (Webmaster's comment: Krakatoa will not go away. It would be good to live someplace on high ground.)
12-23-18 Indonesia tsunami: How a volcano can be the trigger
Nobody had any clue. There was certainly no warning. It's part of the picture that now points to a large underwater landslide being the cause of Saturday's devastating tsunami in the Sunda Strait. Of course everyone in the region will have been aware of Anak Krakatau, the volcano that emerged in the sea channel just less than 100 years ago. But its rumblings and eruptions have been described by local experts as relatively low-scale and semi-continuous. In other words, it's been part of the background. And yet it is well known that volcanoes have the capacity to generate big waves. The mechanism as ever is the displacement of a large volume of water. Except, unlike in a classic earthquake-driven tsunami in which the seafloor will thrust up or down, it seems an eruption event set in motion some kind of slide. It is not clear at this stage whether part of the flank of the volcano has collapsed with material entering the sea and pushing water ahead of it, or if movement on the flank has triggered a rapid slump in sediment under the water surface. The latter at this stage appears to be the emerging consensus, but the effect is the same - the water column is disturbed and waves propagate outwards. Tide gauges in the Sunda Strait indicate high water around half an hour after Anak Krakatau's most recent eruptive activity at roughly 21:00 local time (14:00 GMT) on Saturday evening. Prof Dan Parsons from Hull University, UK, told BBC News: "The sides of volcanoes, the flanks, are notoriously unstable and it looks like a landslip movement into, or below, the sea has resulted in the generation of a significant tsunami. "[The original Krakatoa volcano] exploded and destroyed itself in 1883 and since then has been building again slowly. As volcanoes build, their sides can become unstable and collapse even without any volcanic activity. As the slide displaces water it generates a large wave - the same way as if you enter a bath from one side too quickly."
12-22-18 Mexico's deadliest volcano
It's a ticking time bomb, experts say — and its eruption could cause damage on the scale of Pompei. On the clear-sky morning of December 21st, 1994, Claus Siebe was standing at the foot of Popocatépetl, watching as elephantine plumes of black smoke and heaps of pyroclastic flow spewed out of Mexico's largest active volcano. Siebe stood silently next to a group of mountaineers, all of whom had their heads cocked upward. He'd never witnessed an eruption on this scale before; he was floored. Recalling that day now, nearly 24 years later, Siebe describes a scene of awe and confusion. "Everybody was watching," Siebe says. "Nobody panicked. We were all just kind of surprised that this was happening." For weeks leading up to the eruption, Siebe, a professor of volcanology at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, had been busy reconstructing the eruptive history of Popocatépetl, a volcano that sits between Mexico City and Puebla and their collective 20 million people. Performing geological and gas measurements, Siebe and his team of researchers concluded that Popocatépetl (which translates to "Smoking Mountain" in the Nahuatl language) was now "reactivating." Four days before Christmas of that year, their hunch was proven correct. Over the next five years, Siebe and his colleagues would deduce that Popocatépetl's latest activity was its first in almost 1,000 years. In a 1996 paper in Geology, Siebe found, through hydrocarbon measurements and biometric dating, that the volcano experienced what's called a Plinian eruption — meaning an eruption that bears structural similarities to Mount Vesuvius' mythically destructive outburst; so named in honor of Pliny the Younger, the hawk-eyed Roman who witnessed the horror — around 215 B.C.E, and again around 823 C.E. In short, it had experienced its share of Big Ones, as he calls them. Siebe's research had estimated the occurrence of a Big One "every millennia or so," a calculation that, even with advances in monitoring technology, is a scientific shot in the dark. Among the wreckage his modeling predicts: the general devastation of everything in an eight-mile radius. In the years since the 1994 eruption, Siebe and his colleagues have witnessed a handful of eruptions placed in categories of "High Risk" to "Medium Risk" — categorizations that are determined by the expanding radius of a destruction zone from Popocatépetl's mouth — the worst being in 2000, 2003, 2013, and 2015. Theoretically speaking, the eruptions Siebe's categorized thus far from the volcano have been kind of like a treatable array of kitchen fires; a Plinian eruption, in line with its historical magnitude, would be sure to engulf the entire house. He and his team are certain that the question isn't if Latin America's deadliest volcano is going to have another Big One. It's when.
12-20-18 Device that works like a lung makes clean fuel from water
Human lungs move gas through a thin membrane, extracting oxygen and sending it into our blood stream. Now a device uses the same principle to power the reactions used for making hydrogen fuel. Yi Cui at Stanford University and his colleagues set out to mimic human lungs to increase the efficiency of electrocatalysts, materials that increase the rate of chemical reactions used to produce hydrogen by splitting water. Improving the process could make better fuel cells, which are used to power hydrogen vehicles and could one day be used for powering everything from cell phones to cities. Cui and his team made a 12-nanometer thick plastic film with tiny pores on one side which repel water. The other side is coated with gold and platinum nanoparticles that are involved in the chemical reactions. Then they rolled the film and sealed the edges to make a small pouch with the metal layer on the inside. When they apply a voltage to water to split it into its constituent parts, the hydrogen and oxygen gases enter the lung-like apparatus and create energy as they pass through the conductive metals on the inside of the pouch. Carbon-based films that are usually used in fuel cells can create bubbles during this process, which causes energy loss. But these new lung-like devices minimise bubbles because the small pores control the rate at which gas can pass through the membrane and the pressure inside. Cui and his team found that their lung-like device was 32 per cent more efficient at converting energy than using the same membrane in a flat configuration. “The geometry is important,” says Cui. The material is stable over long periods, too. When the team ran the reaction through the lung-like architecture for 250 hours, it retained 97 per cent of its catalytic activity. A traditional carbon-based membrane decayed to 74 per cent of its activity over just 75 hours.
12-20-18 There’ll be a domino effect as we trigger ecosystem tipping points
There are lots of tipping points in ecosystems and the climate, and many are interconnected. That means the massive changes we are wreaking will have many unexpected consequences. “The world is a much more surprising place then generally assumed,” says Garry Peterson of the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden. As an example, in 2016 the retreat of a glacier in Canada led to a river changing direction. Peterson’s team has analysed 300 ecosystems with potential tipping points or regime changes. For instance, as rainfall increases grasslands can suddenly turn into forests, and vice versa. The study suggests that almost half of them are linked. For example, more extreme rainfall from global heating can greatly increase soil erosion, especially on degraded farmland, and carry more phosphorus into rivers, lakes and the sea. This can trigger algal blooms and red tides, and amplify the decline in oxygen that occurs as waters warm. This leads to even bigger aquatic “dead zones” with low oxygen, which can have further knock-on effects. What the team’s work shows is that crossing one tipping point increases the risk of crossing another and so triggering a whole cascade of effects. And we may not even recognise the danger until it is too late, Peterson says. Take the West Antarctic ice sheet, which will raise sea level three metres if it melts. The idea that we might be nearing the tipping point beyond which it will collapse was ridiculed when it was suggested in the 1970s. Now it appears we’ve already passed the tipping point.
12-20-18 The Texan city mayor fighting Trump on climate change
Georgetown in Texas is the largest US city to be powered by 100% renewable energy. It happened under the watch of Republican mayor Dale Ross, an unlikely climate change hero.
12-19-18 Amphibian that buries head in sand named after Donald Trump
US presidents tend to receive their fair share of honours, but Donald Trump may want to ignore his latest one. A newly discovered amphibian that buries its head in the sand has been named after him, apparently in response to his comments about climate change. The Dermophis donaldtrumpi, which was discovered in Panama, was named by the head of a company that had bid $25,000 (£19,800) at auction for the privilege. The company said it wanted to raise awareness about climate change. "[Dermophis donaldtrumpi] is particularly susceptible to the impacts of climate change and is therefore in danger of becoming extinct as a direct result of its namesake's climate policies," said EnviroBuild co-founder Aidan Bell in a statement. The small, blind, creature is a type of caecilian that primarily lives underground, and Mr Bell drew an unflattering comparison between its behaviour and Mr Trump's. "Burrowing [his] head underground helps Donald Trump when avoiding scientific consensus on anthropomorphic climate change," he wrote. (Webmaster's comment: Forever Trump will be known as the creature that buries his head in the sand!)
12-18-18 2019 Preview: Electric cars of all shapes and sizes will hit the road
“When will you build an electric car half as sexy as a Tesla?” That’s what Germany’s minister for economic affairs and energy asked the giants of his country’s car industry at an event in November. And by calling out the heads of Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW by name, there is no doubt Peter Altmaier was trying to embarrass them into action. He may not have long to wait. Next year, electric cars from many mainstream manufacturers will hit the road. Some of them could even turn heads more than a Tesla. Of course, Tesla’s Model 3 gets a lot of the press. Tesla set out to make an electric vehicle that could compete in the luxury car market and its sales suggest it is succeeding. The car has been available in the US since 2017 and is due in Europe next February or March. But if you are thinking of getting an electric car, Tesla is now just one of more than a dozen options. The Tesla 3 faces fierce competition from cars of all shapes and sizes, including SUVs, sports cars and family saloons. And most of them will be from trusted manufacturers. In 2019, we can expect the first electric cars from VW (Neo), Volvo (XC40) and Audi (e-tron). BMW is giving its i3 car a big battery upgrade that increases its range. Mercedes-Benz will ditch the Tesla components in its Generation EQ car in favour of homegrown technology. The BMW-made Mini E, first revealed in 2010, will finally graduate from concept car to practical whizz-around. And for people with deeper pockets, 2019 will also see electric vehicles from Aston Martin, Porsche and Jaguar. With the European Union aiming to cut car emissions by 35 per cent in the next 20 years, widespread adoption of electric vehicles is needed. More choices from trusted car-makers will make this more likely. VW, for example, has said that it wants fully electric vehicles to make up 30 per cent of its new car sales.
12-18-18 2019 Preview: Renewable energy race to ramp up as oil use skyrockets
Early in the new year, if not sooner, the world will set a most unwelcome record. Global oil consumption will pass 100 million barrels per day for the first time – and keep climbing. To have any chance of limiting warming to 1.5°C, greenhouse gas emissions need to start falling now, and fast, the latest UN climate report warned in October. But emissions are still increasing. They rose 3 per cent in 2018 and look set to keep rising in 2019. Sure, the amount of renewable energy we produce is growing fast. But global demand for energy is growing faster. Just a quarter of the rise in energy demand in 2017 was met by renewables, according to the International Energy Agency, the body predicting the oil-consumption milestone. In other words, renewables need to grow much faster just to halt the growth in fossil fuels, let alone displace them. Such a step change requires either a massive rise in investment in renewables, or the imposition of a high price on carbon to deter fossil fuel use. Neither is on the cards for 2019. As emissions keep growing, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere will rise ever faster, causing warming to accelerate. Unsurprisingly, 2019 is set to be one of the warmest years on record, perhaps even the warmest. Whether this record is set will depend on the strength of the El Niño climate phenomenon that is forecast to develop in the next few months. This sees warm water spread across the surface of the Pacific Ocean, temporarily boosting global temperatures. The coming year may also see atmospheric CO2 levels hit a new milestone. The global annual mean level of CO2 in 2018 is on track to be a little above 407 parts per million. In recent years, the level has been rising by 2 ppm in normal years and 3 ppm in El Niño years, when widespread droughts and wildfires increase CO2 levels.
12-18-18 How Greenland could become China's Arctic base
China is flexing its muscles. As the second richest economy in the world, its businessmen and politicians are involved just about everywhere in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Now, though, China is taking a big interest in a very different part of the world: the Arctic. It has started calling itself a "near-Arctic" power, even though Beijing is almost 3,000km (1,800 miles) from the Arctic Circle. It has bought or commissioned several ice-breakers - including nuclear-powered ones - to carve out new routes for its goods through the Arctic ice. And it is eyeing Greenland as a particularly useful way-station on its polar silk road. Greenland is self-governing, though still nominally controlled by Denmark. It is important strategically for the United States, which maintains a vast military base at Thule, in the far north. Both the Danes and the Americans are deeply worried that China should be showing such an interest in Greenland. You've got to go there to get an idea of how enormous Greenland is. It's the 12th-largest territory in the world, 10 times bigger than the United Kingdom: two million square kilometres of rock and ice. Yet its population is minuscule at 56,000 – roughly the size of a town in England. As a result, Greenland is the least densely populated territory on Earth. About 88% of the people are Inuit; most of the rest are ethnically Danish. In terms of investment neither the Americans nor the Danes have put all that much money into Greenland over the years, and Nuuk, the capital, feels pretty poor. Denmark does hand over an annual subsidy to help Greenland meet its needs. At present you can only fly to Nuuk in small propeller-driven planes. In four years, though, that will change spectacularly. The Greenlandic government has decided to build three big international airports capable of taking large passenger jets. China is bidding for the contracts. There'll be pressure from the Danes and Americans to ensure the Chinese bid doesn't succeed, but that won't stop China's involvement in Greenland. Danish people were worried about it, while Inuits thought it was a good idea.
12-18-18 The mummified penguins that hold the secrets of Antarctica’s past
Antarctica’s Adélie penguins nest on the well-preserved remains of their ancestors. All it takes is a trowel and a strong stomach to dig into their climate history. AS EUREKA moments go, it wasn’t the most dignified. David Lambert lost his footing and face-planted into a patch of expired penguins. He had been taking blood samples from living birds at a nesting site, but as he scrambled to his feet, it dawned on him that he was standing on a mass grave. “In those penguin colonies you are literally walking on matted bodies,” he says. “When you scratch around, you just find bones after bones after bones.” Lambert’s insight was to realise that he had stumbled on a deep-frozen archive. The remains belonged to Adélie penguins, which return to the same spots to nest year after year, often for centuries. And this was Antarctica, the coldest, driest place on the planet, offering the ideal conditions for preserving DNA. By digging into this repository, he could unearth the story of Adélies and their evolution. That’s not all. This frozen treasure trove has the potential to give new insights into the past, present and future of the Antarctic, too. This promise is what’s drawing scientists like Lambert to the bottom of the world, braving seat-of-your-pants helicopter rides and vicious polar storms to sift through layers of mummified penguin bodies and reeking semi-fossilised bird faeces. And what they are finding has exceeded expectations. The preserved Adélie remains are providing clues about past climate conditions, changes in ice shelves and sea ice, the impact of historical human activities such as whaling, and even the mechanism of evolution itself. Not bad for a short, stout bird with a reputation for belligerent curiosity.
12-17-18 Half a degree stole the climate spotlight in 2018
New data show limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, not 2 degrees, will make a difference. The grim reality of climate change grabbed center stage in 2018. This is the year we learned that the 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming won’t be enough to forestall significant impacts of climate change. And a new field of research explicitly attributed some extreme weather events to human-caused climate change. This one-two punch made it clear that climate change isn’t just something to worry about in the coming decades. It’s already here. This looming problem was apparent three years ago when nearly all of the world’s nations agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius over preindustrial times by 2100 (SN: 1/9/16, p. 6). That pact was hard-won, but even then, some scientists sounded a note of caution: That target wouldn’t be stringent enough to prevent major changes. So the United Nations took an unprecedented step. It commissioned the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to examine how the world might fare if global warming were limited to 1.5 degrees instead of 2 degrees. That report, released in October, confirmed that half a degree can indeed make a world of difference (SN: 10/27/18, p. 7). A half degree less warming means less sea level rise, fewer species lost due to vanished habitats and fewer life-threatening heat, drought and precipitation extremes (SN: 6/9/18, p. 6). There’s little time to reverse course. The IPCC report notes that the planet’s average temperature has already increased by nearly 1 degree since preindustrial times, and that rise is contributing to extinctions, lower crop yields and more frequent wildfires. At the end of 2017, three attribution studies for the first time determined that certain extreme events, including an extended marine heat wave in the Pacific Ocean known as “the Blob,” would not have happened without human-induced climate change (SN: 1/20/18, p. 6).
12-17-18 Climate change: The massive CO2 emitter you may not know about
Concrete is the most widely used man-made material in existence. It is second only to water as the most-consumed resource on the planet. But, while cement - the key ingredient in concrete - has shaped much of our built environment, it also has a massive carbon footprint. Cement is the source of about 8% of the world's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to think tank Chatham House. If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world - behind China and the US. It contributes more CO2 than aviation fuel (2.5%) and is not far behind the global agriculture business (12%). Cement industry leaders were in Poland for the UN's climate change conference - COP24 - to discuss ways of meeting the requirements of the Paris Agreement on climate change. To do this, annual emissions from cement will need to fall by at least 16% by 2030. So, how did our love of concrete end up endangering the planet? And what can we do about it? As the key building material of most tower blocks, car parks, bridges and dams, concrete has, for the haters, enabled the construction of some of the world's worst architectural eyesores. In the UK, it helped the massive wave of post-World War Two development - much of it still dividing opinion - with several of the country's major cities, such as Birmingham, Coventry, Hull and Portsmouth, largely defined by the concrete structures from that building push. But concrete is also the reason some of the world's most impressive buildings exist. Sydney Opera House, the Lotus Temple in Delhi, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai as well as the magnificent Pantheon in Rome - boasting the largest unsupported concrete dome in the world - all owe their form to the material.A mix of sand and gravel, a cement binder and water, concrete is so widely embraced by architects, developers and builders because it is a remarkably good construction material. "It's affordable, you can produce it almost anywhere and it has all the right structural qualities that you want to build with for a durable building or for infrastructure," explains Felix Preston, deputy research director at the Energy, Environment and Resources Department at Chatham House. Despite known durability problems with using steel reinforcement, which can crack concrete from the inside, it is still the go-to material across the world. "Building without concrete, although it is possible, is challenging," says Mr Preston.
12-17-18 Greenland crater renewed the debate over an ancient climate mystery
Scientists disagree on what the find means for a controversial comet-impact hypothesis. For three years, a team of scientists kept a big secret: They had discovered a giant crater-shaped depression buried beneath about a kilometer of ice in northwestern Greenland. In November, the researchers revealed their find to the world. They hadn’t set out to find a crater. But in 2015, glaciologists studying ice-penetrating radar images of Greenland’s ice sheet, part of an annual survey by NASA’s Operation IceBridge mission, noticed an oddly rounded shape right at the northern edge of Hiawatha Glacier. If the 31-kilometer-wide depression is confirmed to be the remnant of a meteorite impact — and the team has produced a wealth of evidence suggesting that it is (SN: 12/8/18, p. 6) — the discovery is exciting in and of itself. It’s rare to find a new crater, let alone one on land that has retained its perfect bowl shape. “This is just a straight-up exciting discovery that starts with this wonderful element of serendipity,” says team member Joseph MacGregor, a glaciologist with Operation IceBridge. But the crater — let’s call it that, for the sake of discussion — may have also reignited a debate over a controversial hypothesis about a mysterious cold snap known as the Younger Dryas. This cold period began abruptly about 12,800 years ago and ended just as abruptly about 11,700 years ago. For more than a decade, a small group of researchers, unconnected with the group behind the new discovery, has suggested that a cosmic impact triggered the cooling (SN: 7/7/18, p. 18). Proponents of the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis say that the remnants of a comet exploded in Earth’s atmosphere and that the airbursts sparked wildfires across North America. Soot and other particles from the fires blocked out the sun, causing the cold snap, which has been blamed for everything from the extinction of the mammoths to the disappearance of a group of people known as the Clovis.
12-16-18 Katowice: COP24 Climate change deal to bring pact to life
Negotiators in Poland have finally secured agreement on a range of measures that will make the Paris climate pact operational in 2020. Last-minute rows over carbon markets threatened to derail the two-week summit - and delayed it by a day. Delegates believe the new rules will ensure that countries keep their promises to cut carbon. The Katowice agreement aims to deliver the Paris goals of limiting global temperature rises to well below 2C. "Putting together the Paris agreement work programme is a big responsibility," said the chairman of the talks, known as COP24, Michal Kurtyka. "It has been a long road. We did our best to leave no-one behind." The summit accord, reached by 196 states, outlines plans for a common rulebook for all countries - regulations that will govern the nuts and bolts of how countries cut carbon, provide finance to poorer nations and ensure that everyone is doing what they say they are doing. Sorting out the rulebook sounds easy but is very technical. Countries often have different definitions and timetables for their carbon cutting actions. Poorer countries want some "flexibility" in the rules so that they are not overwhelmed with regulations that they don't have the capacity to put into practice. The idea of being legally liable for causing climate change has long been rejected by richer nations, who fear huge bills well into the future. A deadlock between Brazil and other countries over the rules for the monitoring of carbon credits threatened to derail the talks. Brazil had been pushing for a weaker set of rules on carbon markets, despite strong opposition from many other countries. These discussions have now been deferred until next year. Further tensions emerged last weekend, scientists and delegates were shocked when the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected to the meeting "welcoming" a recent UN report on keeping global temperature rise to within the 1.5C limit. The report said the world is now completely off track, heading more towards 3C this century. In a compromise, the final statement from the summit welcomed the "completion" of the report and invited countries to make use of it. (Webmaster's comment: US, Saudis and Russia blocked the climate report. The rest of the world whould throw them out of all climate conferences and economically boycott them until they accept the science and are willing to work with other nations.)
12-16-18 Climate change: Five things we've learnt from COP24
Delegates to the UN climate conference in Poland have reached agreement on how to implement the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, which comes into force in 2020. What are the key points to come out of the meeting?
- The rules are key to the game: However dull it may be, the operational rules for the 2015 Paris climate agreement will govern the way the world tackles climate change for decades to come.
- Science is worth fighting for: One of the biggest rows at this meeting was over a key scientific report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
- International spirit is still alive: Many countries had worried that with the rise of nationalism in many countries and the recent election of Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil's president, the international co-operation needed to tackle climate change might be in danger.
- A win for the process but not for the planet? While negotiators have been congratulating themselves on a job well done in landing the rulebook, there are many voices here who feel that the agreement does not go far enough.
- New voices are emerging: One of the most striking things about this conference of the parties was the presence of energised young people in far greater numbers than I have ever seen them at a COP before.
12-15-18 Katowice: UN climate talks stand-off continues
Climate talks in Poland have gone into an extra day as negotiators try to agree the next steps forward for the Paris climate agreement. Some delegates believe that poor handling of the conference by the Polish government is behind the delays. Ministers from around 100 countries are gathered in Katowice for the UN talks. The majority of the details have been settled, but there is an ongoing stand-off over the question of carbon credits and carbon markets to reduce emissions. Rich nations often reduce their emissions by paying for carbon-cutting projects in other countries. But these programmes are very difficult to police. Fraud and double accounting have rendered many of them worthless - they are often dubbed hot air schemes. At these talks, Brazil has been pushing for a weaker set of rules on carbon markets, despite strong opposition from many other countries. A suggested compromise would see the discussions on markets kicked down the road to next year. Ministers and negotiating teams say they are happy to agree to this idea. But they insist it is up to the Polish presidency of the conference to lead the way. And some negotiators are already unhappy about the way their Polish hosts have allowed the conference to meander. On Friday, organisers released a new text intended to form the basis of a deal. The outline decision contains plans for a common rulebook for all countries, with flexibility for poorer nations. Developing countries seek recognition and compensation for the impact of rising temperatures. The idea of being legally liable for causing climate change has long been rejected by richer nations, who fear huge bills well into the future. Prof Myles Allen, from the University of Oxford told BBC News: "Climate change is already affecting many people around the world and the people most affected by climate change are not those who have historically contributed most to the problem."
12-14-18 New research may upend what we know about how tornadoes form
As the climate changes, twister behavior on the ground is changing too. Tornadoes may form from the ground up, rather than the top down. That could sound counterintuitive. Many people may picture a funnel cloud emerging from the bottom of a dark mass of thunderstorms and then extending to the ground, atmospheric scientist Jana Houser said December 13 in a news conference at the American Geophysical Union meeting. Scientists have long debated where the wind rotations that lead to twisters in these thunderstorms begin. Now Houser, of Ohio University in Athens, and her colleagues have new data that upend this “top-down” idea of tornadogenesis. The supercell thunderstorms that can spawn tornadoes form where a powerful updraft of warm, moist air — such as air moving northward from the Gulf of Mexico — gets trapped beneath a layer of colder, drier air — such as air moving southward from Canada. That’s an inherently unstable condition, but the other necessary ingredient for tornadoes to form is wind shear: fast-moving winds that move the air masses, causing them to rotate horizontally. Air then rising through the supercell can tip the rotation from horizontal to vertical — creating conditions ripe for a tornado. But the very moment of twister birth remains largely elusive. Tornadoes can form within just 30 to 90 seconds, so research on how they start is often limited by not quite getting to the right place at the right time to watch a twister actually being born — and her team was no exception, Houser said.
12-14-18 Climate change: 'Hell to pay' if COP24 talks fail
Amid impassioned pleas for progress, negotiators at the UN climate talks in Poland are facing the final day with many issues undecided. Former Maldives president Mohamed Nasheed said there would be "hell to pay" if countries failed to take significant steps. Countries are struggling to complete the complex "rulebook" of the Paris climate agreement. But they are also under pressure to boost their promises to cut carbon. One of the biggest challenges facing the talks is the sheer number of decisions that have been passed up to around 100 ministers from all over the world who have travelled here to Katowice. They are also feeling the heat from developing countries and small island states who fear that they will face ruin if temperatures rise by more than 1.5C. Right now, the world has warmed about 1C since the industrial revolution. Former president of the Maldives and now their lead negotiator, Mohamed Nasheed, made an impassioned plea for urgent progress on cutting carbon. "It's just madness for us to allow global CO2 levels (in the atmosphere) to go beyond 450 parts per million, and temperatures to shoot past 1.5 degrees," he told a press briefing. "That can still be prevented. If we come together on the basis of the emergency facing us, we can do it. "Every country at this summit will have hell to pay if we don't." (Webmaster's comment: Except the United States because Trump declared global warming to be a hoax.)
12-14-18 Coal power emissions in the US are even higher than we thought
Coal is a disaster in environmental terms, from the destruction caused by mining it to the planet-warming carbon dioxide emitted when it is burned. Now it turns out even just transporting the stuff around is having a significant climate impact. Carbon emissions from transporting coal by rail to power stations are around three times greater than previous estimates, according to a study by John Sherwood of Clemson University, South Carolina and colleagues. In the worst cases, an extraordinary 35 per cent of overall CO2 emissions from coal use came from rail transport. Sherwood’s team started with government data on what coal is burned where. They then plotted the location of each power station and used data from life-cycle analyses of diesel trains to work out how much CO2 is emitted transporting coal from mine to plant. Previous studies have suggested that transport emissions are only around 1 per cent of the total CO2 emissions from the use of coal for power, typically less than the emissions from mining. And for most plants in the US this is about right. But for around 1 in 10 power plants transport emissions are much higher, pushing the average up to 3.5 per cent, the team found. “There are a few outliers that are kinda of scary when you think about it,” says Sherwood, who presented the findings at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington DC on 12 December. The findings are surprising as other studies have found that transport emissions are small even when coal is exported to other countries. But Sherwood’s work is far more detailed than previous analyses.
12-14-18 Climate secrets of the world's most remote island
"It's impressive, beautiful and scary as hell to work on." Welcome to Bouvet Island, a small volcanic rock in the South Atlantic. The Sub-Antarctic territory is thousands of kilometres from civilisation, and its high cliffs and ice-cap mean very few people have ever put a foot on it. The weather doesn't help. Sticking out of the ocean the way it does means conditions can deteriorate very fast. One minute the skies are clear, the next you're surrounded by cloud. No wonder sailors call Bouvet the world's most remote island; no wonder writers and science fiction movie-makers keep using it in their storylines. But this loner is drawing increasing scientific interest for what it could tell us about the past climate of Antarctica. Bouvet is in a unique position by virtue of the fact that it sits out in the belt of westerlies that hurtle around the continent. And these winds are really important to the way the continent has been changing of late. They've been driving ocean upwelling, for example; pulling up warm waters from the deep that are then getting under coastal glaciers and melting them. The process is adding to global sea-level rise. "We know from the recent observational record that these winds have been strengthening but those records only go back 30 or 40 years," says Liz Thomas from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). "What we're interested in is whether this strengthening is part of natural variability. Do they just do this? Do they speed up and slow down? Or is this something unusual - a human-made impact on the climate." Dr Thomas and colleagues recently dropped on to the island by helicopter - the only way - to drill an ice core. Its compacted snows are like a tape recorder on the past. The faster and harder the winds blow, the more dust should get incorporated into the core. But there are other markers, too. Diatoms (tiny algae) that live at the surface of the ocean are whipped up in sea spray. The windier it is, the more concentrated their presence will be in the layers of snow settling on Bouvet.
12-13-18 Can a Green New Deal boost the US economy and save the planet?
Support for the Green New Deal, a plan to eliminate US greenhouse gas emissions and create millions of jobs, is growing, in part thanks to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a young, progressive Congresswoman just voted into office. The goals of the Green New Deal are wide-ranging. They include moving the US to 100 per cent clean and renewable electricity by 2035 and zero net emissions by 2050, while creating 10 million jobs to build out energy infrastructure. Tying climate change solutions to jobs is a clever plan. It could follow the path to success demonstrated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), an Obama-era law that increased access to healthcare. While many people initially railed against the potential cost of the ACA, the benefits were widely enjoyed and the backlash was swift when the US Congress later attempted to reverse the law. The same could happen if climate change policy provides people with secure, well-paid jobs. It might seem infeasible to tackle such a large-scale transformation in just 17 years, but that’s because we are used to economic growth being inextricably linked to fossil-fuel consumption. In the early parts of this decade there were some signs of this link being broken, but the latest emissions figures – a rise of 3 per cent this year – suggest we aren’t there yet. Fully decoupling economic growth from fossil fuels will require a massive expansion of renewable energy sources. Thankfully, these are getting cheaper each year. A 2017 report by the International Renewable Energy Agency says that by 2020, renewable power will on average be cheaper than fossil fuels. In some cases, solar and wind will provide the lowest-cost electricity from any source.
12-13-18 Meat or two veg? Find out your food’s climate footprint
Avoiding meat and dairy products is one of the biggest ways to reduce your environmental impact, according to recent scientific studies. But what is the difference between beef and chicken? Does a bowl of rice produce more climate warming greenh To find out the climate impact of what you eat and drink, choose from one of the 34 items in our calculator and pick how often you have it. Food production is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming, according to a University of Oxford study. However, the researchers found that the environmental impact of different foods varies hugely. Their findings showed that meat and other animal products are responsible for more than half of food-related greenhouse gas emissions, despite providing only a fifth of the calories we eat and drink. Of all the products analysed in the study, beef and lamb were found to have by far the most damaging effect on the environment. The findings echo recommendations on how individuals can lessen climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). When it comes to our diets, the IPCC says we need to buy less meat, milk, cheese and butter - but also eat more locally sourced seasonal food, and throw less of it away. The IPCC also recommends that we insulate homes, take trains and buses instead of planes, and use video conferencing instead of business travel. Cutting meat and dairy products from your diet could reduce an individual's carbon footprint from food by two-thirds, according to the Oxford study, published in the journal Science.
12-13-18 Climate change: Failure to tackle warming 'suicidal'
The UN secretary-general has warned negotiators at a major meeting that failing to increase efforts on climate change would be "not only immoral but suicidal" for the planet. Antonio Guterres has flown back to Poland to try and push COP24 to a successful conclusion. At the UN talks, a group of countries have said they will enhance their climate plans before 2020. The EU and others say they are responding to the urgency of science. Some observers believe that the return of Mr Guterres to these talks is a sign that significant progress is not being made. In his remarks to the conference, he underlined that fact, imploring the delegates to speed up the pace of negotiations and to be open to compromise. He said that key political issues here in Poland remain unresolved. "To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change," Mr Guterres said. "It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal." What's worrying many delegates and observers here is the complexity of the task of delivering a strong rulebook on the Paris pact. There is a fear among some delegates that ministers who are here to make the final political decisions on the outstanding issues may oversimplify the situation. There are still outstanding questions over how to have a single set of rules for every country that is flexible enough to not overwhelm poorer nations with huge amounts of red tape. As well as an effective rulebook, the negotiators here are also pushing for countries to increase the level of their ambition, their plans to cut carbon emissions. To that end the EU in an alliance with Canada, the UK, Norway, many small island states as well as the least developed countries group, is to push for greater efforts in their enhanced national plans to be submitted by 2020. The "high ambition coalition" says that this has to be done to ensure an adequate response to the risks and impacts of climate change that were highlighted in the IPCC special report on 1.5C issued in October.
12-12-18 Climate change is 'shrinking winter'
Snowy mountain winters are being "squeezed" by climate change, according to scientists in California. Researchers who studied the winter snowfall in the mountains there revealed that rising temperatures are reducing the period during which snow is on the ground in the mountains - snow that millions rely on for their fresh water. They presented their findings at the American Geophysical Union meeting - the world's largest gathering of Earth and space scientists. "Our winters are getting sick and we know why," said Prof Amato Evan, from the Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, who carried out the investigation. "It's climate change; it's rising temperatures." Prof Evan studied the annual cycle of snow and melt in the western US from the early 1980s to 2018. He found that the length of time snow is on the ground there is continually "being squeezed" into a shorter period. And the early arrival of summer, he explained, is a driving force behind sometimes devastating wildfires. "Particularly in a place like California where we get all of our precipitation during the winter time, that means that our summers are growing longer," he told BBC News. "And really what that means is our fire seasons are growing longer. "We've got less snow, we've got a longer fire season, we've got infestations [of pests that thrive in warmer temperatures] - these ecological issues; it's a kind of perfect storm of really bad outcomes, which then result in - in some cases - these massively dramatic fires." Donal O'Leary from the University of Maryland, who presented his research on what he called the "significant relationship" between snow and wildfire, agreed. Earlier snowmelt, he said, "is leading to more wildfires, particularly in places like the Sierra Nevada in California". Mountain snow is also what millions of people rely on for fresh water supplies - in California, particularly, the reservoirs are refilled by annual snowmelt.
12-12-18 Climate change is happening, but how fast? This is what we really know
From past temperature change to future sea level rise, climate science is full of conflicting numbers. Here’s our guide to the ones you can and can’t trust. TWELVE years to save the planet. Warming of 3°C, or perhaps 5°C if we don’t take drastic action now. Sea level rise of 0.3 metres by 2100 – or is it 3 metres? Just about every article you’ll read about climate change is full of numbers, starting with 1.5°C, the number that we are told represents the maximum temperature rise we can allow and still avoid the worst effects of global warming. Except it isn’t – and that is just the beginning of the confusion. No two numbers from climate change studies ever seem to agree. Even climate scientists are often baffled by the figures other researchers come up with. Climate change deniers seize on the uncertainty as evidence that the underlying science is wrong. It’s not. It is just complex, as messy, real-world science is. The biggest uncertainty by far is us, namely what exactly we do over the next century. And the uncertainty cuts both ways: we could be underestimating how fast the world will warm and what the effects will be.
- How much has the planet warmed already? As part of the Paris climate accord of December 2015, nearly every country in the world agreed to try to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
- What is the safe limit for warming? Not 1.5°C. That was picked not because it is the right number, but because it was convenient.
- When are we set to pass the 1.5°C limit? On current trends, the first year to exceed 1.5°C above the 1850 to 1900 average will probably occur in the 2020s.
- How much warming does CO2 cause? This is the perhaps the toughest question in all of climate science. Carbon dioxide directly warms the planet by trapping more of the sun’s heat.
- How much more CO2 can we emit? Even if we are unsure of the exact value of the climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, it is clear that what matters is how much is in the atmosphere.
- How high will the seas rise? During the warm period between ice ages about 120,000 years ago, temperatures were around 1°C warmer than from 1850 to 1900, and sea level was 6 to 9 metres higher.
- How long do we have to turn things around? “Scientists Say We Have 12 Years to Save the World.” That is the message many seem to have taken from the latest IPCC report – but that is not quite what the report says.
12-12-18 Jellyfish offer a sticky solution to the problem of plastic pollution
Our oceans are full of microplastics and unnatural swarms of jellyfish. Could these beautiful animals possess a secret weapon to help clean up the environment? OUR hunt has got off to a slow start. When the sea is choppy, spotting our quarry is hard. But as the sun rises higher, our efforts are finally rewarded. Shielding her eyes against the light bouncing off the water, Tjaša Kogovšek points to a faint dark blob. Our boat moves closer, and she plunges her net in to scoop the creature into a white bucket. We have bagged our first trophy of the day. I am in the Gulf of Trieste off the coast of Slovenia catching jellyfish with researchers from the country’s National Institute of Biology. Knowing their catch will ultimately die, Kogovšek has mixed feelings about the hunt. “At the beginning it was very difficult,” she says, “because their destiny is not nice after they are in my hands.” But she is also well aware that an explosion in jellyfish numbers in recent years is a serious problem, both for us and for the marine environment. And the international project Kogovšek is part of, called GoJelly, sees that as an opportunity. It believes it can tap these ethereal creatures to tackle another environmental scourge of our time: microplastic pollution. If successful, it will be a win-win. Jellyfish are among a select group of organisms that seem to thrive as humans trash Earth. Exactly why isn’t known, but one factor could be fewer competitors due to overfishing. Others may be the spread of jellyfish in ships’ ballast tanks, and the fact that jellies can live in oxygen-depleted, polluted waters. Whatever the causes, larger, more frequent jellyfish blooms – dense swarms of the creatures – are occurring in many parts of the world. That is bad news for tourism when they force beaches to shut. The blooms can play havoc with vital services, too, from power stations to water treatment plants, if they are sucked into water intakes. And they are also a problem for other marine life, and for fisheries, because jellyfish feed on fish larvae, so a rising population upsets the balance of already fragile ecosystems.
12-12-18 Climate change: Arctic reindeer numbers crash by half
The population of wild reindeer, or caribou, in the Arctic has crashed by more than half in the last two decades. A new report on the impact of climate change in the Arctic revealed that numbers fell from almost 5 million to around 2.1 million animals. The report was released at the American Geophysical Research Union meeting. It revealed how weather patterns and vegetation changes are making the Arctic tundra a much less hospitable place for reindeer. Reindeer and caribou are the same species, but the vast, wild herds in northern Canada and Alaska are referred to as caribou. It is these herds that are faring the worst, according to scientists monitoring their numbers. Some herds have shrunk by more than 90% - "such drastic declines that recovery isn't in sight", this Arctic Report Card stated. Prof Howard Epstein, an environmental scientist from the University of Virginia, who was one of the many scientists involved in the research behind the Arctic Report Card, told BBC News that warming in the region showed no signs of abating. "We see increased drought in some areas due to climate warming, and the warming itself leads to a change of vegetation." The lichen that the caribou like to eat grows at the ground level. "Warming means other, taller vegetation is growing and the lichen are being out-competed," he told BBC News. Another very big issue is the number of insects. "Warmer climates just mean more bugs in the Arctic," said Prof Epstein. "It's said that a nice day for people is a lousy day for caribou. "If it's warm and not very windy, the insects are oppressive and these animals spend so much energy either getting the insects off of them or finding places where they can hide from insects." Rain is a major problem, too. Increased rainfall in the Arctic, often falling on snowy ground, leads to hard, frozen icy layers covering the grazing tundra - a layer the animals simply cannot push their noses through in order to reach their food.
12-11-18 The list of extreme weather caused by human-driven climate change grows
From droughts to deluges, scientists link 16 events in 2017 to global warming. A months-long heat wave that scorched the Tasman Sea beginning in November of 2017 is the latest example of an extreme event that would not have happened without human-caused climate change. Climate change also increased the likelihood of 15 other extreme weather events in 2017, from droughts in East Africa and the U.S. northern Plains states to floods in Bangladesh, China and South America, scientists reported December 10 at a news conference at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting. The findings were also published online December 10 in a series of studies in a special issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. One study, of wildfires in Australia, was inconclusive on whether climate change influenced the event. And for the first time, none of the extreme events studied was determined to be the product of natural climate variability. The findings mark the second year in a row — and only the second time — that scientists contributing to this special issue have definitively linked human-caused climate change with specific extreme weather events (SN: 1/20/18, p. 6). To the editors of the special issue, this latest tally is representative of the new normal in which the world finds itself.
12-11-18 A new way to turn saltwater fresh can kill germs and avoid gunk buildup
The key to the improvement is keeping device components high and dry. A new design for sun-powered desalination technology may lead to longer-lasting devices that produce cleaner water. The trick boils down to preventing a device’s components from touching the saltwater. Instead, a lid of light-absorbing material rests above a partially filled basin of water, absorbing sunlight and radiating that energy to the liquid below. That evaporates the water to create pure vapor, which can be condensed into freshwater to help meet the demands of a world where billions of people lack safe drinking water (SN: 8/18/18, p. 14). This setup marks an improvement over other sun-powered desalination devices, where sunshine-absorbing materials float atop the saltwater (SN: 8/20/16, p. 22). In those devices, salt and other contaminants left behind during evaporation can degrade the material’s ability to soak up sunlight. Having water in contact with the material also prevents the material from getting hotter than about 100° Celsius or producing steam above that temperature. That limits the technology’s ability to purify the final product; killing pathogenic microbes often requires temperatures of at least 121° C. In the new device, described online December 11 in Nature Communications, the separation between the light-absorbing lid and the water’s surface helps keep the lid clean and allows it to generate vapor tens of degrees hotter than the water’s boiling point.
12-11-18 East Antarctica's glaciers are stirring
Nasa says it has detected the first signs of significant melting in a swathe of glaciers in East Antarctica. The region has long been considered stable and unaffected by some of the more dramatic changes occurring elsewhere on the continent. But satellites have now shown that ice streams running into the ocean along one-eighth of the eastern coastline have thinned and sped up. If this trend continues, it has consequences for future sea levels. There is enough ice in the drainage basins in this sector of Antarctica to raise the height of the global oceans by 28m - if it were all to melt out. "That's the water equivalent to four Greenlands of ice," said Catherine Walker from Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The glaciologist has been detailing her work here at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Dr Walker has been making the most of a new initiative at the agency to process huge numbers of satellite images to get a more resolved and more timely view of what is happening in East Antarctica. Previously, scientists had been aware that the region's Totten Glacier was experiencing melting, most probably as a result of its terminus being affronted by warm water coming up from the deep ocean. Pretty much everything else in that part of the continent was considered stagnant, however. The new satellite elevation and velocity maps change this view. They make it clear that nearby glaciers to Totten are also starting to respond in a similar way.
12-10-18 Himalayan and other Asian glaciers put the brakes on
The glaciers that flank the Himalayas and other high mountains in Asia are moving slower over time. Scientists have analysed nearly 20 years of satellite images to come to this conclusion. They show that the ice streams which have decelerated the most are the ones that have also thinned the most. The research has implications for the 800 million people in the region for whom the predictable meltwater from these glaciers is a key resource. The study is being presented at this week's American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in Washington DC - the world's largest annual gathering of Earth and space scientists. Led by the US space agency (Nasa), the assessment draws on one million pairs of pictures acquired by the Landsat-7 spacecraft between 2000 and 2017. Automated software was used to track surface features on glaciers in 11 areas of High Mountain Asia, from Pamir and Hindu Kush in the West, to Nyainqêntanglha and inner Tibet and China in the East. As the markers were observed to shift downslope, they revealed the changing speed of the ice streams. The research team, headed by Dr Amaury Dehecq from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says nine of the surveyed regions show a sustained slowdown during the study period.
12-10-18 The Great Barrier Reef is fighting back by losing weak species
Aerial surveys show that the Great Barrier Reef survived last year’s extreme summer better than the previous year’s, hinting that it is becoming more resilient. However, some coral species are faring better than others, meaning the reef is likely to look very different in years to come. The 2300-kilometre-long reef was severely bleached by back-to-back heatwaves in early 2016 and early 2017, causing half the coral to die. Terry Hughes at James Cook University in Australia and his colleagues flew aircraft over the reef to visually assess the level of coral bleaching after the heatwaves of 2016 and 2017. They found that even though the reef was exposed to more extreme temperatures in 2017, less bleaching occurred. It took about twice the amount of heat stress to cause the same level of coral damage in the second year as in the first, they calculated. One reason may be that corals are gradually adapting to the warmer climate by switching on different genes or other biochemical mechanisms, says Hughes, but this needs to be experimentally verified. Another reason may be that the corals that survived the first heatwave were tougher species, meaning they were better able to cope with the second assault, says Hughes. His team previously found that dome-shaped corals were more likely to survive after the 2016 heatwave than branched and table corals. “The mix of species has already changed substantially and that trend is likely to continue,” he says.
12-10-18 Climate change: Trump coal event overshadowed at COP24
White House representatives arrive at climate talks in Poland on Monday to promote coal and other fossil fuels. It's expected that President Donald Trump's energy adviser, Wells Griffith, will take part in the COP24 event. The controversial meeting occurs as investors managing $32tn (£25tn) in assets call for an end to coal as a source of energy. Meanwhile, ministers from around 130 countries arrive here to try and steer the talks to a successful conclusion. Just as at last year's gathering in Bonn, the Trump White House is keen to show strong support for fossil fuels. According to a statement from the US State Department, the event will "showcase ways to use fossil fuels as cleanly and efficiently as possible, as well as the use of emission-free nuclear energy". Last year's event was disrupted by singing protesters keen to point out that the pro-coal and gas lobby were not welcome at the UN event. This year's meeting has environmentalists questioning its relevance. "The event is going to further undermine the credibility of the US as a party in these talks," said Lou Leonard with WWF. "It is going to have virtually no impact on the actual talks - it's a sideshow, it's a side event, its not something related to what the parties are negotiating right now." The White House-endorsed event does indeed seem to be out of step with the wider conference, where green campaigners are likely be cheered by the news that 415 investors with around $32tn of assets under management are calling for greater action on climate change and an end to coal as a source of energy. (Webmaster's comment: The conference should throw the United States representives out!)
12-9-18 Climate change: Why are governments taking so long to take action?
A UN conference is being held in Poland to discuss how the world is going to stop climate change. Last month a report by leading climate scientists found progress is way off track, and the world is heading towards 3C of warming this century rather than 1.5C. With the impacts of climate change already being felt in severe weather events like floods and wildfires, why is it taking so long to take action?
12-8-18 Climate change: COP24 fails to adopt key scientific report
Attempts to incorporate a key scientific study into global climate talks in Poland have failed. The IPCC report on the impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C, had a significant impact when it was launched last October. Scientists and many delegates in Poland were shocked as the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait objected to this meeting "welcoming" the report. It was the 2015 climate conference that had commissioned the landmark study. The report said that the world is now completely off track, heading more towards 3C this century rather than 1.5C. Keeping to the preferred target would need "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society". If warming was to be kept to 1.5C this century, then emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be reduced by 45% by 2030. The report, launched in Incheon in South Korea, had an immediate impact winning praise from politicians all over the world. But negotiators here ran into serious trouble when Saudi Arabia, the US, Russia and Kuwait objected to the conference "welcoming" the document. Instead they wanted to support a much more lukewarm phrase, that the conference would "take note" of the report. Saudi Arabia had fought until the last minute in Korea to limit the conclusions of the document. Eventually they gave in. But it now seems that they have brought their objections to Poland. The dispute dragged on as huddles of negotiators met in corners of the plenary session here, trying to agree a compromise wording. None was forthcoming. (Webmaster's comment: Why should anyone listen to the opinions of the US, Saudi Arabia, Russia and Kuwait? They do not believe in science. They only wish to sabotage the conference and should be thrown out of it. They are only concerned about making more money for already rich executives. They care nothing about the rest of world's people.)
12-7-18 Missing emissions targets
Countries are nowhere near to reducing their carbon dioxide emissions to levels promised in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, according to a damning United Nations study. The annual Emissions Gap Report found that emissions rose in 2017, after remaining relatively flat in the three previous years. Based on current trends, the world will warm 5.8 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial temperatures by 2100—far more than the 3.6-degree goal in the Paris pact. To hit that lower target, the U.N. says, the world will have to reduce emissions by 25 percent by 2030. To keep temperature rises to under 1.5 degrees, which is increasingly what scientists think will be necessary to keep the planet habitable in the long term, emissions will need to be 55 percent lower by 2030. The report confirms fears raised by last month’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change study, which said countries are failing to act fast enough to avoid dire climate consequences, such as extreme droughts, floods, and sea level rises. “If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm,” the U.N.’s environment deputy executive director, Joyce Msuya, tells Reuters.com, “this report is the arson investigation.”
12-7-18 Attenborough warning
Beloved British nature documentarian David Attenborough issued a dire warning for the planet this week at the United Nations’ annual climate-change conference. “We are facing a man-made disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change,” Attenborough said. “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.” Attenborough, 92, was once a climate skeptic but said the scientific evidence is now overwhelming. Some 30,000 people, including world leaders and business executives, met in Katowice to discuss how to achieve the emissions-reduction goals agreed on in Paris in 2015. The U.S. pulled out of the Paris climate agreement last year and sent only a small delegation to Poland.
12-7-18 Taking Nuclear Power offline.
A third of America’s nuclear power plants could be taken offline in the next several years, with competition from natural gas driving down energy prices and making nuclear power a money loser. Nuclear power currently generates 20 percent of the country’s electricity. Replacing the electricity produced by a single nuclear reactor would require building more than 800 average-size wind turbines or 15.8 million solar panels.
12-6-18 Global carbon dioxide emissions will hit a record high in 2018
CO2 emissions from fossil fuels went up 2.7 percent, the latest tally shows. Global carbon dioxide emissions are expected to hit a record high in 2018, despite urgent calls from climate scientists and international groups such as the United Nations to cut back. Worldwide, fossil fuel use is projected to pump 2.7 percent more CO2 into the atmosphere in 2018 compared with 2017. Last year, such emissions contributed 9.9 gigatons of carbon. The data are presented in the Global Carbon Budget published online December 5 in Earth System Science Data. 2018 marks the second year in a row that the emissions, which fuel global warming, have risen substantially after a lull from 2014 to 2016. The news comes on the heels of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, which projects dire economic, environmental and public health consequences in the United States if the country doesn’t curb its CO2 emissions substantially (SN Online: 11/28/18). The United States is the largest per capita CO2 emitter worldwide, releasing 4.4 metric tons of carbon per person in 2017, according to the Global Carbon Budget. Total U.S. fossil fuel CO2 emissions are projected to have grown 2.5 percent in 2018, despite the United States using more renewable energy than ever before. China and India have seen particularly large increases in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use in recent years, and 2018 continues that trend. But the United States continues to rank well above other countries for the per person amount of such carbon emitted each year. Overall, India will see the biggest increase in fossil fuel CO2 emissions in 2018 — 6.3 percent over 2017. That’s due in part to rapid economic growth and efforts to bring electricity to people living in rural communities. Per capita, India’s emissions are still below the global average. Meanwhile, in China, the largest overall carbon emitter, that number will rise 4.7 percent in 2018. Both India and China are making attempts to shift away from coal as an energy source. In contrast, the European Union will cut its emissions by 0.7 percent in 2018 thanks to substantial investments in renewable energy.
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12-6-18 Trump's environmental rollback rolls on
The Trump administration has dealt a double blow to Obama-era environmental policies in an ongoing rollback that has targeted scores of rules. The Department of the Interior unveiled plans to allow oil drilling on millions of acres that have been off-limits to protect the greater sage grouse. And the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it would end rules limiting carbon emissions on new coal plants. The rollback continues despite the US' own dire warnings about climate change. Interior department documents said Thursday's order would protect sage grouse "while also ensuring that conservation efforts do not impede local economic opportunities". The interior department plan is expected to be finalised in 2019. The greater sage grouse, a chicken-like bird known for its striking plumage and mating dances, has a habitat spanning parts of 10 states from California to the Dakotas. But less than half a million of the birds remain, making the species near threatened. Nada Culver, of conservation group The Wilderness Society, said in a statement about the policy: "The sum total of these changes may well be more than the species can bear." Meanwhile, the EPA also pressed ahead on Thursday with a plan to lift restrictions for carbon emissions from new coal plants. Only two new plants are currently expected to open over the next four years, according to Reuters news agency, but the policy changes could spur more to be built. The plan would allow new coal plants to emit up to 1,900lb (862kg) of carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour of electricity, replacing the current limit of 1,400lb. The EPA is also asking for public comment on how to define the phrase "causes or contributes significantly to" air pollution.
12-6-18 Climate change: Warming made UK heatwave 30 times more likely
Climate change has significantly boosted the chances of having summer heatwaves in the UK. A Met Office study says that the record-breaking heat seen in 2018 was made about 30 times more likely because of emissions from human activity. Without warming the odds of a UK heatwave in any given year were less than half a percent. But a changing climate means this has risen to 12%, or about once every eight years. The blazing summer of 2018 was the joint warmest for the UK. It tied with 1976, 2003 and 2006 for being the highest since records began in 1910. The steep temperatures that sustained across most parts of the UK, peaked on July 27 when 35.6C was recorded at Felsham in Suffolk. Now researchers have analysed the observed data using climate models that can simulate the world with or without the impact of fossil fuel emissions. Announcing their findings at global climate talks in Katowice, Poland, UK Met Office researchers said that the impact of global warming on the hot summer were significant. "Climate change has made the heatwave we had this summer much more likely, about 30 times more likely than it would have been had we not changed our climate through our emissions of greenhouse gases," said Prof Peter Stott, from the Met Office who carried out the analysis. "If we look back over many centuries, we can see that the summer like 2018 was a very rare event before the industrial revolution when we started pumping out greenhouse gases into the atmosphere."
12-6-18 Climate change made the sweltering 2018 heatwave 30 times more likely
Climate change made this year’s northern hemisphere summer heatwave around 30 times more likely than it would be under natural conditions, the UK’s Met Office has said. This summer was the equal warmest in a series dating back to 1910, along with 2006, 2003 and 1976, with temperatures reaching a peak on 27 July when 35.6°C was recorded at Felsham, Suffolk. The UK now has around a 12 per cent chance of summer average temperatures being as high as they were in 2018, whereas they would have less than 0.5 per cent chance of happening in a “natural” climate, the Met Office said. The study comes after climate projections published last week in which the Met Office said that, by mid century, there will be a 50 per cent chance of summers as hot as 2018’s heatwave, making the sweltering conditions the norm. Soaring summer temperatures and dry weather this year hit crops and livestock, affected water supplies, transport networks, people’s health and the natural environment, and led to numerous wildfires. “Our provisional study compared computer models based on today’s climate with those of the natural climate we would have had without human-induced emissions,” said the Met Office’s Peter Stott. “This rapidly increasing chance results from the increase in concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.” The Met Office is announcing the findings at the UN climate talks in Poland, where countries are meeting to finalise the rules of how the Paris Agreement on tackling global warming will work and to build momentum towards increasing ambition on efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
12-6-18 Sorry France, but fuel taxes are a bitter pill we must all swallow
The reversal of France’s fuel tax sends a worrying message to world leaders meeting this week in Poland to firm up climate commitments, says Olive Heffernan. It’s almost hard to believe. Three years ago, Paris was the scene of a groundbreaking deal on climate change. Now, it is reeling from its worst riots in 50 years, ignited by a proposed tax on dirty fossil fuels. What started as an online petition against rising fuel prices soon exploded into violent protest. Cars have been set alight, shops have been vandalised and four people have died in the past month. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe – who was scheduled to open the UN climate conference in Poland this week – has instead had to address his own citizens, promising to freeze the fuel tax for the next six months. The French government is, of course, right to respond to this level of anger, which poses a serious public threat. But those world leaders who have since signed the Paris Agreement – and are now in Katowice to discuss how to move forward with their climate commitments – must be aghast. They have ahead of them the unenviable task of finding ways of limiting global warming to well below 2°C, and hopefully to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Don’t forget, the pledges made in Paris will only put us on track to between 2.7°C and 3.7°C of warming by 2100. Reversing fuel taxes is the last thing we need. France’s climate commitment targets a range of sectors from energy to agriculture, but the deepest emissions cuts will come from transport, achieved in part by taxing dirty fuels such as diesel that release greenhouse gases, such as nitrogen dioxide, into the atmosphere.
12-5-18 Cars and coal help drive 'strong' CO2 rise in 2018
A booming global market for cars has helped drive CO2 emissions to an all-time high in 2018, say researchers. The main factor in the near 3% rise has been coal use in China, driven by government efforts to boost a flagging economy. But emissions from cars, truck and planes using fossil fuels continue to rise in all parts of the world. Renewables have also grown this year, but are not keeping pace with the CO2 rise. The research, carried out by the Global Carbon Project (GCP), says that this year's "strong" rise is projected to be 2.7%. That's much bigger than 2017's 1.6%. This will worry scientists as they had seen CO2 emissions relatively flat for the three years before. While coal use remains below the historically high level of 2013, it has grown again this year. China, the world's largest emitter saw emissions rise an estimated 4.7%. At UN climate talks in Katowice, the lead researcher Prof Corinne Le Quéré, from the University of East Anglia, told BBC News that the rise in China was down to government activity. "For the past two years, the Chinese government has boosted the economy and the economy is based on construction and heavy industry, coal and steel. When you boost the economy you actually see a rise in emissions," she said. Other factors include a rise in the US after several years of decline, which the researchers say is due to a very cold winter and a hot summer driving up demand for energy. 2018's top ten has China on top, followed by the US and the EU as a whole region. After these three come India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Iran, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Canada. A booming economy has seen India's emissions grow by 6.3%. Renewables are growing fast but from a low base. The five countries contributing most to growth in global emissions outside of China, the US, the EU and India over the last decade are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Iraq and South Korea.
12-5-18 Global carbon emissions rose 3 per cent this year (which is bad)
This year global CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, industry and the manufacture of cement will rise 3 per cent, give or take 1 per cent. That is according to the latest report from the Global Carbon Project, an international effort to work out much CO2 is being emitted and absorbed. “The peak is not yet in sight,” says team member Glen Peters of the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo. “It’s still at least a few years off.” That means, as was already evident, that we will not be able to stop the planet warming more than 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, which is likely to happen around 2040. Preventing this requires rapid and deep emissions cuts from this year onwards to have any chance of succeeding. Global emissions grew very rapidly during the 2000s. They fell after the financial crisis of 2007 but growth soon resumed. From 2014 to 2016, emissions plateaued, leading some to hope that they had peaked. But Global Carbon Project team member Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia, UK, said at the time that this was very unlikely, as has proved to be the case. It now appears these years of no growth were due to simultaneous changes in coal use in the US and China. Global coal use is now 3 per cent lower than the 2013 peak but could soon rise to record levels, according to the report. On the positive side, Peters says, global emissions are not expected to resume growing as fast as in the 2000s despite forecasts of strong economic growth in 2019. Improvements in energy efficiency are helping limit the growth in emissions. But overall energy demand keeps growing, and a decline in nuclear energy has mostly wiped out the gains from the rise in renewable energy.
12-4-18 Seven steps to save the planet: How to take on climate change and win
It's the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced, but we can keep global warming to within the "safe" boundary of 1.5°C. Here's how we do it. “We have to do everything, and we have to do it immediately.” As a summary of the challenge facing humanity, those words are about as pithy as it gets. They come from Piers Forster, a professor of climate physics at the University of Leeds, UK, and a lead author on the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In case you missed it, it said we’re done for. Almost. To give ourselves a better-than-evens chance of avoiding 1.5°C of global warming – the agreed threshold of irreversible, dangerous and possibly game-over climate change – we must hit peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, and then taper them down to net zero by 2050, give or take five years. That’s doable – just. “It is not impossible,” says Heleen de Coninck, another IPCC lead author at Radboud University in the Netherlands. “We don’t need any fancy new technologies.” But it will require “unprecedented rates of transformation”, according to the IPCC report. We must break our addiction to fossil fuels, meat, flying, reckless consumption in general, and above all confront the head-in-the-sand denial that has prevented us from making changes we knew we had to make yonks ago, but somehow kept telling ourselves weren’t necessary just yet. So how can we do it? Think of it as a video game with seven levels of increasing difficulty – seven levels we must now play simultaneously. There are many pathways in this giant, multidimensional, multiplayer game, although none is certain to lead to the outcome we want. We explore them here. But before we do, we need to go over some ground rules.
12-3-18 Sir David Attenborough: Climate change 'our greatest threat'
The naturalist Sir David Attenborough has said climate change is humanity's greatest threat in thousands of years. The broadcaster said it could lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of "much of the natural world". He was speaking at the opening ceremony of United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Katowice, Poland. The meeting is the most critical on climate change since the 2015 Paris agreement. Sir David said: "Right now, we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. "If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon." The naturalist is taking up the "People's Seat" at the conference, called COP24. He is supposed to act as a link between the public and policy-makers at the meeting. "The world's people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now," he said. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, said climate change was already "a matter of life and death" for many countries. He explained that the world is "nowhere near where it needs to be" on the transition to a low-carbon economy. But the UN Secretary-General said the conference was an effort to "right the ship" and he would convene a climate summit next year to discuss next steps. Meanwhile, the World Bank has announced $200bn in funding over five years to support countries taking action against climate change.
12-3-18 Climate change: 'Trump effect' threatens Paris pact
President Donald Trump's words and actions are restricting global efforts to cut carbon, according to a new study. The analysis says the US' withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement has created the political cover for others to go slow on their commitments. The author says the world is in denial about President Trump's true impact. The study comes as delegates begin two weeks of UN-led talks here on the future of the Paris pact. President Trump has justified pulling his country out of the landmark climate agreement by asserting that he was elected to serve the citizens of Pittsburgh and not Paris. However, other international leaders promised that there would be no going back, and that the US pull-out would galvanise efforts to cut carbon. The sense of unity was underlined in November 2017 when Syria signed the Paris agreement, leaving the US alone in the world as the only country rejecting the deal. But this new report. from the Institute of International and European Affairs, suggests that President Trump's words and deeds are causing "very real damage" to the Paris agreement. The author outlines three key areas where the Trump effect is having an impact. Under the President, US federal environmental regulations on oil, gas and coal have been rolled back and, as a result, some of the dirtiest fossil fuel projects have become more attractive to investors.
12-2-18 Climate change: Urgency the main theme as COP24 opens
The most critical meeting on climate change since the 2015 Paris agreement has opened in Katowice, Poland. The COP24 conference started a day early due to the pressures on negotiators to make progress. Ex-chairmen of the talks have warned the world "is at a crossroads" and "decisive action in the next two years will be crucial". But there are concerns about the host country Poland, which has encouraged coal companies to sponsor the forum. This Conference of the Parties (COP) is the first to be held since the landmark Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C came out in October. The IPCC stated that to keep to the 1.5C goal, governments would have to slash emissions of greenhouse gases by 45% by 2030. But a recent study showed that CO2 emissions are on the rise again after stalling for four years. In an unprecedented move, four former UN climate talks presidents issued a statement on Sunday, calling for urgent action. "What ministers and other leaders say and do in Katowice at COP24 will help determine efforts for years to come and either bring the world closer to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement - including protecting those most vulnerable to climate change - or push action further down the road. "Any delay will only make it harder and more expensive to respond to climate change." The statement was issued by Frank Bainimarama (Fiji), Salaheddine Mezouar (Morocco), Laurent Fabius (France) and Manuel Pulgar Vidal (Peru). Meanwhile, the gap between what countries say they are doing and what needs to be done has never been wider. "The IPCC report made crystal clear that every bit of warming matters, especially for the least developed countries," said Gebru Jember Endalew, who chairs the group of poorest nations in the negotiations. "It also gave some hope by confirming that limiting global warming to 1.5C is still possible. Here in Katowice, we must work constructively together to ensure that goal can become a reality." In fact, so urgent is the task that some negotiators started their meetings on Sunday, a day before the official start.
12-2-18 Climate change: Where we are in seven charts and what you can do to help
Representatives from nearly 200 countries are gathering in Poland for talks on climate change - aimed at breathing new life into the Paris Agreement. The UN has warned the 2015 Paris accord's goal of limiting global warming to "well below 2C above pre-industrial levels" is in danger because major economies, including the US and the EU, are falling short of their pledges. But scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the leading international body on global warming - last month argued the 2C Paris pledge didn't go far enough. The global average temperature rise actually needed to be kept below 1.5C, they said. So how warm has the world got and what can we do about it?
- The world has been getting hotter The world is now nearly one degree warmer than it was before widespread industrialisation, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
- The year 2018 set all sorts of records This year saw record high temperatures in many places across the world amid an unusually prolonged period of hot weather.
- We are not on track to meet climate change targets If we add up all the promises to cut emissions made by countries that have signed the Paris climate agreement, the world would still warm by more than 3C by the end of this century.
- The biggest emitters are China and the US The countries emitting the most greenhouse gases by quite a long way are China and the US.
- Urban areas are particularly under threat Almost all (95%) of cities facing extreme climate risks are in Africa or Asia, a report by risk analysts Verisk Maplecroft has found.
- Arctic sea ice is also in danger The extent of Arctic sea ice has dropped in recent years.
- We can all do more to help While governments need to make big changes - individuals can play a role too.
12-2-18 Why some see Chile's plastic bag ban as a rubbish proposal
"They are just everywhere and they are polluting our oceans, our fields, our cities," says Guillermo González of the 3.4 billion disposable plastic bags used in Chile every year. Mr González heads the recycling department at Chile's environment ministry and is only too aware of the problems caused by the huge amount of plastic bags used by his compatriots. It takes up to 400 years for a single plastic bag to degrade and very few get recycled, he says. "It is a very visible kind of waste and one that people are very concerned about." In August, Chile became the first country in Latin America to ban stores from handing out free plastic bags to shoppers. Under the new rules, anyone who goes to a store will either have to buy a re-usable bag or bring their own. The bill passed unanimously in both chambers of Congress and surveys showed that 95% of Chileans supported it. Under the new rules, large stores will be allowed to hand out two single-use plastic bags per person and those handing out more will face fines of nearly $400 (£315) per bag. Come February large stores will no longer be allowed to hand out these bags. Small stores have been given until August 2020 to implement the changes, but many businesses and even entire communities have already enforced the full ban. And already, support has begun to wane.
12-1-18 Climate change: How slag can remove CO2 from the air
Scientists in Wales are looking at how slag heaps can be used to remove CO2 from the air in the fight against climate change. Slag is the waste left over from an old ironworks and the researchers at Cardiff University are using it to suck the gas away. The technique isn't perfect, and won't completely solve the wider global warming problem, but it can help.