3-30-19 Trump offshore drilling order unlawful, judge rules
Donald Trump's reversal of an Obama-era environmental protection was "unlawful", a judge has ruled. During his presidency, Barack Obama brought in a ban on offshore drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic. Mr Trump attempted to overturn this with an executive order in 2017, promising to allow oil and gas companies back into protected regions. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason has now ruled that the president violated a federal environmental law. The court heard that Mr Trump fell foul of the federal Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Under that law, presidents are allowed to withdraw areas from the national oil and gas leasing programme, which allows companies to drill in specified areas. Mr Obama had used this law to protect almost 500,000sq km of the outer continental shelf - including the Arctic's Chukchi Sea, the Beaufort Sea, and a large area of the Atlantic Ocean on the country's east coast. However, presidents do not have the power to add areas back to the leasing programme - only Congress does. Judge Gleason told the court that therefore the ban on drilling "will remain in full force and effect unless and until revoked by Congress". The ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought by a coalition of Alaskan indigenous and environmental groups. Athan Manuel, from a group called The Sierra Club, told US broadcaster CBS that the ruling was "great news for the Arctic Ocean, great news for the planet, great news for the fight against climate change". Getting rid of Mr Obama's environmental protections had been one of Mr Trump's promises to voters while on the campaign trail ahead of the 2016 election. He signed the executive order allowing oil and gas giants access to the protected areas in April 2017, just a few months after his January inauguration.
3-30-19 How climate change is affecting tornadoes
Tornado Valley is moving east — and leaving destruction in its wake. Recovery is still ongoing in Lee County, Alabama, after a series of powerful tornadoes carved a deadly path through its rural communities earlier this month. At least a dozen touched down across Alabama and Georgia, leveling more than 1,000 homes and other structures. Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones told reporters it looked as if someone "took a giant knife and scraped the ground." The storms left 23 people dead, dozens injured, and countless still missing, making March 3 the deadliest day for tornadoes in almost a decade. The American South is no stranger to tornadoes, which under the right weather conditions can occur anywhere on Earth, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). But that weekend's twisters were outside of what's historically been the most tornado-prone region of the United States, an ill-defined stretch of the southern plains known as Tornado Alley that covers ground between Texas, Iowa, Kansas, and Nebraska. It's too early in the year to draw any conclusions about what this might mean for the 2019 tornado season, which peaks in the late spring, but the Weather Channel noted last year that the 2018 season was also unusual, with tornadoes in both Iowa and Louisiana far outpacing occurrences in Tornado Alley. A record nine tornadoes touched down in Connecticut last year; Illinois and Pennsylvania were both hit with surprising, off-season twisters; and Wyoming was hit with its first severe tornado in more than 20 years. It's not just tornadoes. The U.S. seems to have entered an era of increasingly erratic and extreme weather of all kinds, from record-breaking hurricanes to endless wildfire seasons to extreme heat waves — all linked, in some way, to climate change. It raises the question: Could climate change also be influencing the behavior of tornadoes, too?
3-30-19 The recycling crisis
Much of the stuff Americans think they are 'recycling' now ends up in landfills and incinerators. Why? Here's everything you need to know:
- Where do recyclables go? Until recently, the U.S. and other developed countries sold much of their recyclables to China, which accepted more than 40 percent of American wastepaper, plastic, glass, metal, and other reusable materials. Several other Asian countries and some U.S. processing companies bought most of the rest.
- What's happening instead? More trash is being buried or burned. Many communities used to make money selling trash to private recycling companies that would process the materials and then sell them to China or to manufacturers.
- Aren't there other buyers? Many waste management companies don't want America's recycling because it's too dirty. It's estimated that about 25 percent of American recyclables are contaminated with food waste and nonrecyclable materials, according to the National Waste & Recycling Association trade group.
- Can it work? In theory, yes — if people were meticulous about cleaning and sorting their recyclables. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that recycling and composting prevented approximately 186 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere in 2013, the equivalent of taking 39 million cars off the road.
- What are the solutions? The best solution, experts agree, is to create less waste in the first place. Only 9 percent of all the plastic produced in the past 68 years has been recycled.
- One man's trash ... Entrepreneurs spy opportunity in America's growing mounds of trash. Waste Management, the nation's largest trash hauler, is partnering with a startup called Compology to make smart dumpsters that can alert the owner when tainted recycling has contaminated the load.
3-29-19 Vietnam students invent air cleaning bicycle
A group of students in Vietnam have invented an air-filtering device for bicycles, to save them having to wear anti-pollution face masks on their journey to school, reports Viet Nam News. The three friends from Thang Long Gifted High School in Da Lat city spent six months on experimentation before finalising the design. The device, which is installed on the handlebar, has an air filter and a battery. The filter uses three layers of cotton and activated carbon fabric to capture the dust. The filter is linked to small fans installed on both sides of the front wheel, which are connected to the existing dynamo on the bike. They blow the clean air into the cyclist's face, as well as charge the battery on which the filter runs. Test results have shown that the device could filter up to 86% of dust and 63% of nitrogen oxide, according to local environmental authorities. Pham Gia Sam, a physics teacher at the school, is confident it's a reliable result that has been reached through many tests at different locations in the city. The student trio who won second prize at this academic year's national technical and scientific competition for high school students, is determined to continue work on improving the gadget in order to maximise its impact. "In the near future, we will manufacture such filters for electric bikes, which would contribute towards protecting people's health and the environment," student Cao Th? Khanh Hoa said. And to keep manufacturing costs low, the students have used recyclable materials. (Webmaster's comment: Looks like even the Asia COMMUNIST students are better than the American engineers. We'll never be great again if we don't endorse the findings of science.)
3-29-19 One Antarctic ice shelf gets half its annual snowfall in just 10 days
Extreme storms may skew what ice cores can tell us about past and future climates. Just a few powerful storms in Antarctica can have an outsized effect on how much snow parts of the southernmost continent get. Those ephemeral storms, preserved in ice cores, might give a skewed view of how quickly the continent’s ice sheet has grown or shrunk over time. Relatively rare extreme precipitation events are responsible for more than 40 percent of the total annual snowfall across most of the continent — and in some places, as much as 60 percent, researchers report March 25 in Geophysical Research Letters. Climatologist John Turner of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge and his colleagues used regional climate simulations to estimate daily precipitation across the continent from 1979 to 2016. Then, the team zoomed in on 10 locations — representing different climates from the dry interior desert to the often snowy coasts and the open ocean — to determine regional differences in snowfall. While snowfall amounts vary greatly by location, extreme events packed the biggest wallop along Antarctica’s coasts, especially on the floating ice shelves, the researchers found. For instance, the Amery ice shelf in East Antarctica gets roughly half of its annual precipitation — which typically totals about half a meter of snow — in just 10 days, on average. In 1994, the ice shelf got 44 percent of its entire annual precipitation on a single day in September. Ice cores aren’t just a window into the past; they are also used to predict the continent’s future in a warming world. So characterizing these coastal regions is crucial for understanding Antarctica’s ice sheet — and its potential future contribution to sea level rise.
3-28-19 Climate change: Global impacts 'accelerating' - WMO
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says that the physical and financial impacts of global warming are accelerating. Record greenhouse gas levels are driving temperatures to "increasingly dangerous levels", it says. Their report comes in the same week as the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported a surge in CO2 in 2018. However, new data from the UK suggests Britain is bucking the trend with emissions down by 3%. "This report makes it very clear that the impacts of climate change are accelerating," said Prof Samantha Hepburn who is director of the Centre for Energy and Natural Resource Law at Deakin University in Australia. "We know that if the current trajectory for greenhouse gas concentrations continues, temperatures may increase by 3 - 5 degrees C compared to pre-industrial levels by the end of the century and we have already reached 1 degree." While some of these figures were published in a preliminary release of the study from last November, the full version has data on many key climate indicators, that the WMO says break new ground. One example is ocean heat content. More than 90% of the energy trapped by greenhouse gases goes into the seas and according to the WMO, 2018 saw new records set for the amount of ocean heat content found in the upper 700 metres of the seas, and also for the upper 2,000 metres. Sea levels also continued to increase with global mean sea level rising 3.7mm higher in 2018 than the previous year. "This report highlights the increase in the rate of sea-level rise, and this is a real concern for those living in low-lying coastal areas, for both developing and developing countries," said Dr Sally Brown, a research fellow at the University of Southampton. "We know that sea-level rise is a global problem that will not go away, and efforts need to be made to help those who are really vulnerable to adapt to sea-level rise or move to safer areas."
3-28-19 Climate change is making the seas rise faster than ever, UN warns
Sea levels across the world are rising faster than ever, the United Nations has warned, meaning we urgently need to increase action on climate change. In a report released on Thursday, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a UN agency, painted a dire picture of all the key indicators of global warming. The last four years were the warmest on record, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are at record levels and rising, and a global average sea level rise of 3.7 millimetres in 2018 outstripped the average annual increase over the past three decades. The findings in the group’s annual State of the Climate report will bolster efforts by António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, to make governments commit to more ambitious carbon cuts at a landmark summit in September. “There is no longer any time for delay,” wrote Guterres in a foreword to the report. Last year was the fourth warmest on record, bringing the global temperature 1°C warmer on average than before the industrial revolution. That leaves little wiggle room for limiting rises to the 1.5°C goal that nearly 200 countries agreed to aim for under the Paris agreement. As the WMO report spells out, the average global temperature increase masks much bigger jumps in some regions last year. In the Arctic, the annual average temperature was 2°C higher and up to 3°C higher in some places. Some of the most abnormal conditions were seen in the summer heatwave in northern Europe, which wrought wildfires across 25,000 hectares in Sweden, as well as fires in the UK, Norway and Germany. France and Germany had their warmest year on record, while new temperature records were set in Japan. With most of the energy trapped by greenhouse gases being absorbed by the oceans, 2018 continued a long-term trend by breaking new records for ocean heat. Global glacier mass declined for the 31st year running. Arctic sea ice was well below average, a pattern that has continued into 2019 with the maximum sea ice extent in winter the seventh lowest on record.
3-27-19 Fridges made from plastic crystals could help cut carbon emissions
A fridge that runs on plastic crystals could solve a big problem: our need to stay cool is warming the planet. Refrigeration equipment, air conditioners and heat pumps are estimated to consume between 25 and 30 per cent of the world’s electricity – and many rely on greenhouse gases to transfer heat. Bing Li at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Metal Research in Shenyang and his colleagues have used an alternative cooling material known as plastic crystals, which they believe could use less energy and be better for the environment. Conventional fridges rely on compressing a material so it changes from gas to liquid. The liquid absorbs heat from its surroundings, in this case the inside of the fridge, causing it to turn back into a gas and beginning the cycle anew. These refrigerant materials are fluids that absorb and release heat efficiently, but are problematic because they contribute to global warming. One type, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), are known to deplete the ozone layer and have been mostly phased out, but their more ozone-friendly replacement, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), are also powerful greenhouse gases. Developed countries began reducing HFCs this year, but exactly what chemicals refrigerators and air conditioners will use instead is still unclear – carbon dioxide has been considered as a possible replacement. Solids that change temperature in response to external pressure have been floated as greener alternatives. Plastic crystals, soft and mouldable solids with a powder-like appearance, were created decades ago and have been used in a range of products, including cosmetics, paints and plastics. Some have been considered as a material to store energy, but Li and his colleagues found that they work surprisingly well as a refrigerant.
3-27-19 Climate change: Drilling in 'Iceberg Alley'
It sounds a bit like sitting in the middle of the road when there's a queue of juggernauts coming straight at you. This is a little overplayed but it's kind of what an international group of scientists has just set out to do. The researchers want to position themselves in the centre of "Iceberg Alley" off the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula and drill into the seafloor. Huge blocks of ice are likely to come drifting by in the process. It's hoped the sediments the researchers recover will tell us something of how the White Continent has changed in the past and how its kilometres-thick ice sheet might react in the future in what's projected to be a much warmer world. Expedition 382 of the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) left Punta Arenas in Chile on Monday. Using the drill ship, the Joides Resolution (JR), the team will core a number of seafloor locations right in the middle of Iceberg Alley. The scientists are looking for the "rafted debris" that's been dropped by giant bergs as they head north from the Peninsula towards the South Atlantic. This detritus of dust, dirt, and rock was originally scraped off the continent by the ice when it was part of a glacier, before it broke away to become an iceberg. And through the wonder of modern geochemistry, it's possible to date this material and even to tie it to the specific locations in Antarctica. The really helpful thing from the scientists' point of view is that they only need go to the alley to get a very broad view of past Antarctic behaviour. It works like this: Bergs when they calve will bump anti-clockwise around the coast in the direction taken by near-shore currents. But when they reach the Peninsula - that's when they encounter the big clockwise flow of water known as the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.
3-27-19 Politicians will have to force us to adopt climate-friendly lifestyles
Politicians will have to consider making people eat less meat and fly less, because individuals won’t voluntarily change their lifestyles enough to deliver their fair share of carbon emissions cuts. That is the message from a four-year study of more than 300 European households on their attitudes and carbon footprints. The study found that people were willing to make lifestyle changes to reduce emissions, but voluntary cuts would only deliver half of the 50 per cent emissions reductions that households worldwide will need to make by 2030 to hit the world’s 1.5°C climate target. For example, when it comes to transport, people chose incremental actions with a relatively small impact on their carbon footprint, such as driving more efficiently, rather than stopping driving or reducing long-distance flights. Only 4 per cent of households would voluntarily give up their car. Food and transport together accounted for more than 60 per cent of the participants’ emissions, bigger than energy use and other consumption such as shopping. The results suggest more strict government policy is needed to deal with cars, planes and meat-eating. “We have scores of policies on heat and electricity, and to an extent transport. We have hardly anything on diet or aviation,” says Benjamin Sovacool at the University of Sussex, UK, one of the paper’s authors. People are more resistant to changes on transport because it is so closely tied to personal values, the paper suggests. One German interviewee explained he wanted to study or work abroad because it would look good on his CV. “It sounds better, than saying: Oh well, yes, this guy is organic, he is climate-friendly, he decided to stay at home and not pollute the air,” he said. “We are entering territory that is very much taboo,” says Sovacool. “The things we may have to force or nudge people to do are more intertwined with identity. They are stickier, harder to change.”
3-27-19 40 Years After Three Mile Island, Americans Split on Nuclear Power
Four decades after a radiation leak at the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania caused a national scare, Americans are evenly split on the use of nuclear power as a U.S. energy source. Forty-nine percent of U.S. adults either strongly favor (17%) or somewhat favor (32%) the use of nuclear energy to generate electricity, while 49% either strongly oppose (21%) or somewhat oppose (28%) its use. (Webmaster's comment: It's a truly green solution as long as the waste is properly disposed of and it is designed for complete safety.)
- 9% of Americans favor use of nuclear energy; 49% oppose
- 47% of Americans believe nuclear power plants are safe
- 65% of Republicans, 42% of Democrats favor use of nuclear energy
3-27-19 Teenage psychotic experiences linked to high levels of air pollution
We know dirty air is bad for our bodies, causing the equivalent of millions of deaths worldwide each year, making it a bigger killer than smoking. But could air pollution be bad for our minds too? A study has found psychotic experiences, which can involve hearing or seeing something that others do not, are more common among teenagers in the UK’s most polluted areas. However, the association does not mean that breathing in air pollution leads to psychosis in teenagers, as there could be other explanations. We are not able to show causation, says Helen Fisher of King’s College London, one of the study’s authors. Fisher and her colleagues found that 30 per cent of a group of 2000 18-year olds reported having at least one psychotic experience in their teens – other research on young adults has reported similar figures. However, when the teenagers’ addresses were mapped against air pollution, those in higher areas were more likely to have reported a psychotic experience. In areas with the highest levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) – pollutants produced by diesel cars – 12 teens reported psychotic experiences for every 20 teens who did not, with the number falling to 7 for every 20 in cleaner areas. It is not known how air pollution could be linked to psychotic experiences. One speculative mechanism put forward by the team is of a cumulative build-up of pollutants directly influencing the brain. Studies have linked air pollution with inflammation and degeneration in the frontal cortex and the part of the brain that gives us our sense of smell, the olfactory bulb. Inflammation of the brain has been linked to psychosis. A simpler explanation could be that it is not the dirty air itself, but the noise from the cars emitting pollution. Noise pollution can increase stress and disrupt sleep, two factors associated with psychotic experiences.
3-26-19 Smog may be getting worse in some cities thanks to Arctic warming
MILDER conditions in the Arctic could be weakening winds in China and India, making winter smogs worse. Burning fossil fuels can result in severe clouds of pollution in many cities in Asia, including Beijing and Delhi. These smogs – aerosols of fine particles – are worse in winter, when more fuel is used for heating and weather patterns that can cause dirty air to linger tend to take hold. Chuanfeng Zhao at Beijing Normal University in China and his colleagues wondered if rising temperatures in the Arctic affect this. Going as far back as 1980, they compared the monthly average temperature of the Arctic with atmospheric aerosol levels of the northern hemisphere’s mid-latitude regions, where many industrialised cities are. They found that, when the Arctic had a particularly warm summer, aerosol concentrations in east Asia and north India tended to be higher than usual the following winter. This could be because warmer conditions in the Arctic reduce temperature differences in the northern hemisphere. The result may be a weakening of high-speed winds that normally blow eastwards. Less pollution could then get dispersed, causing aerosols to build up in some areas. Big mountain ranges, including the Himalayas and central China’s Qingling peaks, may block air flow further. Zhao says his team’s work should enable governments to predict smog levels based on Arctic temperatures, “so they can come up with better mitigation plans”. But Tim Garrett at the University of Utah says the study only shows that Arctic warming and smogs are associated – it is unclear if one leads to the other. Meanwhile, Arctic sea ice probably reached its maximum extent for 2019 on 13 March. Initial measurements put this at 14.8 million square kilometres, the joint-seventh lowest figure in the past 40 years.
3-26-19 Global carbon emissions from energy hit a record high in 2018
Global carbon emissions from energy climbed to a record high last year, as the world’s demand for energy grew at its fastest pace this decade. The International Energy Agency, the world’s energy watchdog, said that economic growth and the weather drove emissions up 1.7 per cent to a new high of 33 gigatonnes. The increase is equivalent to the emissions from all air travel doubling in a single year. These figures are the first official confirmation that emissions have risen for two years in a row. It now appears that the plateau of emissions between 2014 and 2016, which had raised hopes that action on climate change was altering the long-term upward trend, was a blip. “One could take a negative stance and say we’re doing everything wrong. I think it’s not as bad as the absolute number suggests. It could have been higher,” says Laura Cozzi, the IEA’s chief energy modeller. Switching from coal to gas power stations, which emit less carbon, played a role in dampening down emissions, while nuclear power also had a good year as new Chinese plants came online. And there was strong growth in renewable energy sources, which met 45 per cent of the growth in electricity generation in 2018. But the speed of change is not enough, she says. “We are putting the accent on the right policies but they are not going strongly enough,” says Cozzi. Overall, the world’s appetite for energy was up 2.3 per cent, the biggest increase this decade. While the use of all fuels grew, natural gas was the big winner, meeting 45 per cent of the growth in demand. Glen Peters at the Center for International Climate Research in Norway estimates that based on economic growth predictions, emissions will rise again in 2019 by around 1.5 per cent. “We now have 30 years of climate negotiations, 30 years of climate reports, the Paris Agreement is approaching 4 years old, and emissions keep growing. It is blatantly obvious that what countries are collectively doing is far from enough,” he says.
3-25-19 Climate change will not wait for America to get its act together
One of the many awful aspects of living in the United States today is how the nation is beset on all sides with crises — severe inequality, corruption, political rot, and climate change, to pick just a few — while our politics is consumed by imaginary nonsense. Donald Trump is openly using the presidency to line his pockets; 42 percent of American cancer patients lose their entire life savings; there are clockwork spree shootings across the country; and on and on. Still, great swathes of the country spend every waking minute simply seething with outrage over NFL protests, leftists on elite college campuses, handfuls of bedraggled refugees, and fruitcake conspiracy theories. But climate change, at least, is not going to sit politely by while America sorts out its diseased politics. It's already here, and it's wrecking huge parts of the country. The Missouri River has experienced record-breaking flooding over the past week, submerging massive chunks of the Midwest. At time of writing, at least three people have died, and the flood has caused billions in damages and crop losses. As Brian Kahn writes at Gizmodo, flood waters are also stripping away the region's topsoil, badly harming the future productive capacity of the land. Notably, flood waters also deluged a key Air Force base, quickly outstripping military efforts to pile up sandbags. "Days into the flooding, muddy water was still lapping at almost 80 flooded buildings at Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base, some inundated by up to 7 feet of water," reports the Associated Press. Offutt is the home of Strategic Command, which helps oversee America's nuclear stockpile. Its "responsibilities include strategic deterrence; nuclear operations; space operations; joint electronic spectrum operations; global strike; missile defense; and analysis and targeting." The Strategic Command headquarters were not drowned, but it was a near thing. The typical caveat for climate and weather applies here: One can never draw a direct line between warming temperatures and a single weather event, because that's not how climate works. No matter how severe, one flood, heat wave, or snowstorm does not prove or disprove the reality of climate change. Instead, warming conditions change the background likelihood of weather disasters. This Midwest flooding is just the type of thing we should expect to occur more often as the planet warms. It happened due to heavy winter snows, followed by the unusual "bomb cyclone" storm that saturated already-waterlogged soil in eastern Nebraska with unseasonable winter rains — while unseasonably warm temperatures led to an early snowmelt. Forecasters predict the flooding will get much worse later this year. But this latest climate disaster demonstrates how absolutely crack-brained the Republican approach to climate policy is. Climate change is right now devastating America's agricultural land, infrastructure, and cities. Flood waters are at the doors of the actual nuclear command bunker — for the second time in a decade. It's going to get much worse if we don't do anything. And yet President Trump is cracking jokes about global warming being fake, and Republican state policymakers are setting up an ersatz Brown New Deal to save uneconomical coal power plants so they can keep spewing greenhouse gases (not to mention deadly heavy metals, sulfur and nitrous oxides, and particulate pollution). A greater failure of governance is almost impossible to imagine.
3-24-19 Exposure to dirty city air reduces sperm quality and quantity in mice
Dirty air in urban areas may be having an impact on sperm. Tests on mice showed that those exposed to tiny pollution particles had worse sperm quality and smaller quantities than mice who were not. Many health problems are linked to pollution emitted by petrol and diesel cars, including respiratory issues, cancer and stunting child development. However, whether the smallest of these air pollutants, PM2.5, could also be contributing to increasing male infertility rates around the world is still unclear. Elaine Costa at the University of Sao Paolo and her colleagues studied four groups of mice. They exposed three of the groups to PM2.5 for different lengths of time before and after birth, and the fourth was only exposed to filtered air. They then analysed sperm development when they became adults and the exposed mice showed a deterioration in the tubes in the testes that produce sperm. The quality of sperm was significantly worse in mice exposed to pollution before and after birth, compared to the control group. Exposure to air pollution after birth appeared to have the most serious impact on sperm. DNA tests also showed changes in the levels of genes related to testicular cell function. “These findings provide more evidence that governments need to implement public policies to control air pollution in big cities,” said Costa in a press release. The work, which is not yet peer-reviewed, will be presented at the Endocrine Society conference in New Orleans on Sunday.
3-24-19 Mongolia: A toxic warning to the world
All over the world cities are grappling with apocalyptic air pollution but the capital of Mongolia is suffering from some of the worst in the world. And the problem is intrinsically linked to climate change. The country has already warmed by 2.2 degrees, forcing thousands of people to abandon the countryside and the traditional herding lifestyle every year for the smog-choked city where 90% of children are breathing toxic air every day.
3-22-19 Sir David Attenborough to present climate change documentary
Sir David Attenborough is to present an "urgent" new documentary about climate change for BBC One. The one-off film will focus on the potential threats to our planet and the possible solutions. The broadcaster says "conditions have changed far faster" than he ever imagined when he first started talking about the environment 20 years ago. The documentary will show footage showing the impact global warming has already had. It will also feature interviews with climatologists and meteorologists to explore the science behind recent extreme weather conditions, including the California wildfires in November 2018. Last December, Sir David called climate change "humanity's greatest threat in thousands of years" at the opening ceremony of the United Nations climate change conference. He said it could lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of "much of the natural world". Earlier this year he spoke to Prince William at the World Economic Forum about how people must care, respect and revere the natural world. Sir David, 92, said that when he started his career in the mid-1950s, he did not think there was anybody who thought "there was a danger that we might annihilate part of the natural world." "It may sound frightening, but the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies," he says in the documentary. The BBC said the film would "deliver an unflinching exploration of what dangerous levels of climate change could mean for human populations." "There is a real hunger from audiences to find out more about climate change and understand the facts," said Charlotte Moore, the BBC's director of content. "We have a trusted guide in Sir David Attenborough, who will be speaking to the challenging issues that it raises, and present an engaging and informative look at one of the biggest issues of our time."
3-22-19 Can geoengineering stop global warming?
The worst effects of climate change could be safely curbed by spraying sun-reflecting chemicals into the high atmosphere, a new U.S. study suggests. Scientists have long wondered if it might be possible to artificially cool the planet by blocking some of the sun’s rays with sulfate aerosols—chemicals naturally spewed into the atmosphere by volcanic eruptions—if humanity fails to cut carbon emissions sufficiently to halt the planet’s warming. But some researchers have warned that “solar geoengineering” could further disrupt Earth’s climate, weakening the monsoon and triggering droughts in Asia and Africa. For this new study, scientists used computer models to gauge whether there was a perfect “dose” of sun-blocking aerosols that could slow warming without any adverse side effects. They concluded that if the process were used to eliminate only half of warming, rather than all of it, only 0.4 percent of the inhabited world would see the effects of climate change worsen. Other environmental scientists remain skeptical, reports TheAtlantic.com. They note that the study didn’t actually model what happens when sulfate aerosols are injected into the atmosphere, but only the effect of reducing the strength of the sun’s rays. Co-author David Keith, a Harvard physicist, says the study simply shows that “solar geoengineering could be really useful” and should be seriously investigated by an international scientific panel.
3-22-19 Don’t be afraid to have kids
If you want to help fight climate change, said Tyler Cowen, “have more children.” That might seem counterintuitive, especially among the 38 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 who recently said in a poll that deterring further global warming should be a factor in the decision to have kids. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently opined that climate change will make the future world so inhospitable that not having kids is “a legitimate question.” But the crisis of climate change will not be solved because human beings stop reproducing and using energy. To confront this enormous challenge, there must be a powerful political demand for action, as well as rapid technological innovation to find replacements for fossil fuels. Your kids will be highly motivated to save their own world, and if answers are to be found, they will likely be created by the next generation of scientists and engineers in advanced, already affluent nations like the U.S. “Those kids of yours are more likely to be part of the solution than the problem.” So don’t succumb to pessimism, “guilt, and shame” about having kids. For most of human history, life was very difficult, with unreliable food supplies and widespread disease. The next generation will rise to the challenge.
3-22-19 70 percent of growth in the world’s oil production
The U.S. will account for 70 percent of growth in the world’s oil production over the next five years, according to the International Energy Agency. Production is expected rise to 19.5 million barrels of oil per day by 2024—4 million barrels per day more than in 2018. Most of the increase is expected to come from shale fields, which will account for almost half of U.S. oil output.
3-22-19 6 million tons of plastic waste
Four companies—Coca-Cola, Mars, Nestlé, and Danone—produce 6 million tons of plastic waste every year. Coca-Cola alone produces 3 million tons, but plans to make all of its packaging recyclable within six years.
3-22-19 Massive solar storm threat
Scientists have discovered evidence of a gigantic solar storm that showered the Earth with radioactive particles more than 2,000 years ago—and warned that a similar event today would have potentially catastrophic consequences for our technological infrastructure. Solar storms are caused by powerful magnetic fields on the sun’s surface and can send blasts of highly charged particles such as protons racing toward Earth. When these streams of energetic particles enter the atmosphere, they can damage satellites, power grids, and electrical devices. The solar storms that have occurred in the 70 years since monitoring began have been relatively mild. But isotopes found in ice cores drilled from Greenland’s ice sheet suggest that a storm in 660 B.C. was at least 10 times more powerful than anything detected in the modern era. “If that solar storm had occurred today, it could have had severe effects on our high-tech society,” co-author Raimund Muscheler, from Lund University in Sweden, tells USA Today. “We need to be better prepared.”
3-21-19 The Indonesian paradise island drowning in plastic
Beaches on the Indonesian island of Sumatra are covered in plastic - and some of it is being dumped there by local businesses. Is Indonesia getting to grips with its plastic problem? BBC Indonesia's Mehulika Sitepu reports.
3-21-19 Mount Everest: Melting glaciers expose dead bodies
Expedition operators are concerned at the number of climbers' bodies that are becoming exposed on Mount Everest as its glaciers melt. Nearly 300 mountaineers have died on the peak since the first ascent attempt and two-thirds of bodies are thought still to be buried in the snow and ice. Bodies are being removed on the Chinese side of the mountain, to the north, as the spring climbing season starts. More than 4,800 climbers have scaled the highest peak on Earth. "Because of global warming, the ice sheet and glaciers are fast melting and the dead bodies that remained buried all these years are now becoming exposed," said Ang Tshering Sherpa, former president of Nepal Mountaineering Association. "We have brought down dead bodies of some mountaineers who died in recent years, but the old ones that remained buried are now coming out." And a government officer who worked as a liaison officer on Everest added: "I myself have retrieved around 10 dead bodies in recent years from different locations on Everest and clearly more and more of them are emerging now." Officials with the Expedition Operators Association of Nepal (EOAN) said they were bringing down all ropes from the higher camps of Everest and Lhotse mountains this climbing season, but dealing with dead bodies was not as easy. They point at Nepal's law that requires government agencies' involvement when dealing with bodies and said that was a challenge. "This issue needs to be prioritised by both the government and the mountaineering industry," said Dambar Parajuli, president of EOAN. "If they can do it on the Tibet side of Everest, we can do it here as well."
3-21-19 Jet fuel made from waste plants could be one of the most efficient yet
Plant waste might soon help make flying a little greener. A fuel made from cellulose has such a high energy density that it could make an even better jet fuel than those made from fossil fuels. Flying produces 2 per cent of global carbon emissions, a figure projected to soar to in excess of 10 per cent by 2050. So numerous groups are working on ways of limiting the emissions generated by flying. Ning Li of the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics in China and his team have found a relatively simple and efficient way to turn cellulose, which is abundant in plants, directly into compounds called polycycloalkanes, which should make an ideal jet fuel.Although the team has yet to test the fuel in an aircraft, its properties suggest it will be good for the job. “Aircraft using this fuel can fly further or carry more than those using conventional jet fuel,” says Li. Fuels for planes need to pack as much energy into the limited space of the fuel tanks as possible, yet still have a very low freezing point so fuel pipes don’t freeze at high altitude. The standard Jet A-1 fuel has a freezing point of -47°C and an energy density of 35 megajoules per litre. Li says his mix of polycycloalkanes freezes at -48°C and should have an energy density of more than 37 megajoules per litre. However, this is an estimate based on the properties of similar molecules rather than direct measurements. Many passenger jets have already flown using fuels made partly from biofuels. But airlines won’t routinely use biofuels until large quantities are available at competitive prices, and it is hard to produce lots of cheap biofuel without wrecking the environment.
3-20-19 Deforestation in the Amazon could raise local temperatures by 1.5C
THE speed at which trees are being cleared in the Brazilian Amazon today could have a similar local warming effect to decades of temperature rises driven by climate change. So say calculations on how deforestation will alter temperatures in the region over the next three decades. Logging has been expanding in Brazil. And the election of populist Jair Bolsonaro as president in January has provoked fears that deforestation could get even worse if he appeases the powerful agribusiness lobby. Barry Sinervo at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his colleagues have calculated that even with current tree losses, local surface temperatures in the Amazon will rise by an average of about 1.5°C between 2010 and 2050. That will come on top of the 2°C of warming from climate change that the world is on track for by mid-century (PLoS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0213368). Deforestation affects local temperatures by changing the amount of sunlight reflected and the rates at which water evaporates from vegetation into the atmosphere. The degree of warming may vary dramatically within the Brazilian Amazon. Some parts of the east, where there is an “arc of deforestation” hundreds of kilometres wide and thousands of kilometres long, could see big local temperature rises even if logging is reduced. In that scenario, where 79,000 square kilometres of trees are cleared by 2050, large tracts of forest won’t get significantly warmer. With business-as-usual deforestation, however, in which 606,000 square kilometres of rainforest disappears, local temperature rises could be widespread. An increase in this logging could make matters much worse. “Any more deforestation and conversion to agriculture will exacerbate these numbers,” says Sinervo.
3-20-19 Cyclone Idai: What's the role of climate change?
Unless a rich benefactor steps in, the role of human-induced climate change in Cyclone Idai is unlikely to be clearly determined. The scientists with the expertise simply don't have the resources to do the large amount of computer modelling required. However, there are a number of conclusions about rising temperatures that researchers have gleaned from previous studies on tropical cyclones in the region. While Cyclone Idai is the seventh such major storm of the Indian Ocean season - more than double the average for this time of year - the long-term trend does not support the idea that these type of events are now more frequent. "The interesting thing for the area is that the frequency of tropical cyclones has decreased ever so slightly over the last 70 years," said Dr Jennifer Fitchett from the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa who has studied the question. "Instead, we are getting a much higher frequency of high-intensity storms." Climate change is also changing a number of factors in the background that are contributing to making the impact of these storms worse. "There is absolutely no doubt that when there is a tropical cyclone like this, then because of climate change the rainfall intensities are higher," said Dr Friederike Otto, from the University of Oxford, who has carried a number of studies looking at the influence of warming on specific events. "And also because of sea-level rise, the resulting flooding is more intense than it would be without human-induced climate change."
3-20-19 Electric cars won't shrink emissions enough - we must cut travel too
Everyone knows that changing the way we get around could reduce climate emissions: cycle and walk rather than drive, take the train, not the plane, and if you must use a car make it an electric one. Now a European Union body is pushing a more controversial solution for decarbonising transport: travelling less. The EU’s position since 2011 has been that “curbing mobility is not an option”. On Wednesday, the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC), which represents the EU’s national science academies, published a major report on transport emissions, urging the EU to reverse its stance. It is high time we at least started the discussion. In 2016, the transport sector overtook energy as the UK’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, a milestone the rest of the EU could hit in the 2020s. It is increasingly clear that even a rapid switch to electric and other low-carbon vehicles won’t be enough to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 2°C. “Even if you did all the good things, there is still no way to meet the targets, particularly in freight,” says William Gillett, director of the EASAC’s energy programme. In the EU, almost three-quarters of transport emissions comes from cars, buses and heavy goods vehicles. The bloc supports electric cars, which are getting cheaper but still accounted for just 1.5 per cent of the EU’s new car sales in 2017. Transport can’t be decarbonised in time to meet the 1.5°C warming target outlined by the UN climate science panel last year, says Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in Manchester, UK. “There is a very clear message – if we are serious about Paris we have to reduce the demand for transport too.”
3-19-19 James Bond is making the switch to an electric car, so when will you?
You don’t need to be green to embrace an electric car – their design and performance now rivals their gas-guzzling equivalents, says Jason Barlow. WHAT would make you switch from a conventional car to a pure electric one? Its design? Its eco-credentials? Or an end to the accursed “range anxiety”? Whatever the reason, it seems the tipping point is finally here. Jaguar’s I-Pace recently became the first fully electric car to win the European Car of the Year award. Tesla, led by Elon Musk, has just unveiled its compact SUV, the Model Y. Now James Bond is swapping his internal-combustion Aston Martin for an electric model, the Rapide-E, a move apparently inspired by the “tree-hugger” credentials of Cary Fukunaga, director of the next film. That rather tabloidy pejorative is now redundant. You don’t need to be a member of Greenpeace to embrace an electric car. You don’t even need to be concerned about climate change. In 2019, the electric car has come of age. They are well designed and manufactured, they handle with the alacrity of their gas-guzzling equivalents, and of course emit zero emissions from the exhaust. Anxiety over their range and how the charging process works remain the biggest obstacles to uptake. But here too, the technology is at a crucial juncture, with Tesla leading the way. There are 12,000 Tesla superchargers across the US, Europe and Asia, with 99 per cent of the US population now covered. There are 360 bays in 50 UK locations, and Tesla is just rolling out its ultra-fast V3 supercharging tech. The company’s cars now also know when you are heading to a charging site and heat the battery to the optimum temperature for charging. Tesla says this cuts the average charge time by 25 per cent. Fully charged, most electric cars now have a range of about 500 kilometres.
3-19-19 One-Third in U.S Blame Unusual Winter Temps on Climate Change
As the winter of 2018-2019 entered its final phase in early March, 43% of Americans told Gallup their local temperatures have been colder than usual this winter while about half as many, 20%, reported warmer than usual temperatures. Overall, a third of Americans this year attributed atypical winter weather to human-induced climate change.
- By 43% to 20%, more in the U.S. experienced a colder than warmer winter
- 70% now blame human activity for warmer winter, up from 38% in 2012
- Fewer blame human activity for unusually cold temperatures
3-18-19 Dead Philippines whale had 40kg of plastic in stomach
A dead whale that washed up in the Philippines had 40kg (88lbs) of plastic bags inside its stomach, researchers have said. Workers at D'Bone Collector Museum recovered the Cuvier's beaked whale east of Davao City earlier in March. In a Facebook post, the museum said the animal was filled with "the most plastic we have ever seen in a whale". There were 16 rice sacks in its stomach, as well as "multiple shopping bags". "I was not prepared for the amount of plastic," the museum's founder and president, Darrell Blatchley, told broadcaster CNN. "It was so big, the plastic was beginning calcification." The use of throwaway plastic is a particular problem in some South East Asian countries, including the Philippines. Five Asian nations - China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand - accounted for up to 60% of the plastic waste that ends up in oceans, according to a 2015 report by environmental campaigner Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment. In June last year, a pilot whale died in Thailand after swallowing 80 plastic bags. Its death came shortly after a report for the UK government revealed the level of plastic in the ocean could triple in a decade unless steps are taken to curb litter.
3-16-19 Thousands of unknown underwater mountains found in Earth’s oceans
We’ve discovered thousands of previously uncharted underwater mountains, which are also known as seamounts. They are included in the most detailed map of the ocean floor ever produced. The seamounts were compiled by a team led by David Sandwell and Brook Tozer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego. Their new topographical map has uncovered more than five thousand seamounts and possibly as many as ten thousand. The exact number still need to be confirmed, as they have not been counted individually yet. The updated map, known as SRTM15+V2.0, will be valuable for climate modelling and tsunami prediction. Only about 10 per cent of the sea bed has been mapped with sonar. The rest is mapped by measuring the effects of gravity on the sea’s surface. Seamounts exert a greater gravitational force on the ocean than the flat seabed, which causes a slight swell in the sea. Satellites can accurately measure these differences in height to infer when seamounts exist below. Measurements like this were used for a 2014 map containing approximately 10,000 seamounts, but the new map uses more accurate data. For example, it uses data from the French-Indian AltiKa sensor, which was launched in 2013 and can measure the distance from the satellite to the sea surface to within 21mm – twice as accurate as previous instruments. In 2014, we could map all the seamounts more than about 2 kilometres tall, today we’re down to about 1.5 kilometres, says Sandwell. He notes there are likely to be thousands more seamounts that will be detected after NASA’s SWOT satellite is launched in 2021. SWOT should be able to find seamounts that are more than 1 kilometre high.
3-15-19 Warming seas are losing fish
Scientists have long warned that warming ocean temperatures will severely deplete fish stocks—and a new study suggests the declines have already begun. Researchers looked at historical fishing data from around the world from 1930 to 2010. In a quarter of the regions studied, fish numbers grew: In the mid-Atlantic, for example, sustainable catches of black sea bass increased by 6 percent. There were no major changes in another quarter of the areas. But in the other half, fish stocks declined. Particularly badly affected were the northeast Atlantic and the Sea of Japan, which saw stocks plummet by about 35 percent. Globally, the drop was 4.1 percent. The researchers say overfishing and poor fisheries management played a part, but that the bigger factor was fish being driven out of their natural habitats by rising temperatures. “Fish are like Goldilocks: They don’t like their water too hot or too cold,” co-author Malin L. Pinsky, from Rutgers University, tells The New York Times. The research follows a recent study that found that ocean temperatures are warming much faster than previously thought.
3-15-19 Students join massive global strike against climate change
Students around the world are striking today in a major global day of action against climate change. The protests are expected to be the biggest international action yet, eclipsing the first large-scale student protest on 15 February. Young people have already taken to the streets in places including New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the Philippines, Nepal, India and European cities as part of an expected 2000 events in more than 120 countries. Students in the UK are calling for the government to act urgently on climate change by declaring a climate emergency and tacking active steps to tackle the problem. Their calls come in the wake of a UN report last year warning that unprecedented action will be required to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C. Protestors began to gather in London’s Parliament Square this morning, including Greta Breveglieri, a political science student at the University of Milan, who travelled from Italy for the demonstration. “To put it bluntly, we’re here because our world is going to be destroyed. We have to change the pace of our culture, our society, our politics, our economics,” she said. In Berlin, 10,000 protesters, most of them young students, gathered in a central square waving signs with slogans such as “There is no planet B” and “Climate Protection Report Card: F”, before a march through the capital’s government quarter. More protests are being held throughout the day. (Webmaster's comment: Except in the United States. Here our students are taught to be obedient first, to think for themselves second!)
3-15-19 Global warming: Students' climate strike spreads worldwide
Thousands of school pupils worldwide have abandoned classrooms for a day of protest against climate change. India, South Korea, Australia and France are among the countries where teenagers are already on strike. The day of action is expected to embrace about 100 countries. They are inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who protests weekly outside Sweden's parliament. Scientists say tougher measures are needed to cut global warming. The Paris climate agreement of 2017 committed nearly 200 countries to keeping global temperatures "well below" 2.0C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times and to striving for a maximum of 1.5C. The globally co-ordinated children's protests - promoted through posts on Twitter and other social media - have been going on for several months. On Thursday Greta Thunberg's campaigning earned her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. In January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the 16-year-old told top executives and politicians that "on climate change, we have to acknowledge that we have failed". Ministers in some countries have voiced concern about children skipping classes. Australia's Education Minister Dan Tehan said "students leaving school during school hours to protest is not something that we should encourage". UK Education Secretary Damian Hinds echoed that concern, and the government said the disruption increased teachers' workloads and wasted lesson time. (Webmaster's comment: Except in the United States. Here our students are taught to be obedient first, to think for themselves second!)
3-15-19 Climate change will make it harder to predict heavy rain and floods
Some kinds of weather forecasting will be easier, and others will be harder, in a world made warmer by climate change. In particular, global warming will make it harder to predict when torrential downpours will hit the northern hemisphere. Weather forecasts have been steadily improving for decades, with forecasters both increasingly confident in their one and two-day forecasts and ever more able to forecast a week ahead, at least in a limited way. While it may be physically impossible to forecast more than two weeks ahead, within the window where forecasts are possible things have got better. However, while we know the world is getting warmer because of our greenhouse gas emissions, almost nothing is known about how climate change will affect the predictability of the weather. “When you add energy to a system, you might intuitively expect it to become more turbulent and messier,” says Gabriele Messori at Uppsala University in Sweden. This would imply less predictable weather in a warmer world. But Messori says physics does not always work in this intuitive way. To work out what will really happen, Messori and his student Sebastian Scher of Stockholm University in Sweden used a climate model to simulate two sets of conditions: the climate as it was from 1976-2005 and the climate as it could be in 2071-2100. Then they took snapshots from both models and fed them into a weather forecasting system to see if it could predict what would happen next. In both cases they ran many forecasts to see how consistent they were. This “ensemble forecasting” allowed them to measure how predictable the weather was. If most of the forecasts were similar, the weather was predictable: if they were wildly different, it was unpredictable. In the future climate, the most dramatic changes were in the northern hemisphere. The average temperature and air pressure became slightly more predictable. But rainfall and other precipitation became less predictable.
3-14-19 Climate striker Greta Thunberg nominated for Nobel peace prize
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old from Sweden who started a global movement of schoolchildren striking to demand climate change action, has been nominated for the Nobel peace prize. The nomination comes a day before thousands of pupils worldwide are expected to walk out of school in more than 1,600 towns and cities across more than 100 countries. If she won, Thunberg would be the youngest person to become a Nobel peace prize laureate, a title Malala Yousafzai took as a 17-year-old in 2014 for her work on the right to education. It would also be only the second time an individual had won for work on climate change. The first was former US vice-president Al Gore, who was awarded the prize in 2007 alongside the UN climate science group, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Thunberg tweeted that she was: “Honoured and very grateful for this nomination.” The nomination was made by Freddy André Øvstegård, a member of the Norwegian parliament, and two colleagues in the Socialist Left Party. “Climate change is maybe the most important driver for war, conflict and refugees already, and especially into the future,” says Øvstegård. “When Greta sat down in front of the Swedish parliament and started a mass movement all around the globe for climate action, she made a contribution to peace too.” The suggestion that global warming can lead to war has been made by authorities such as the UN’s hunger agency, though links between conflicts and climate change are not always clear cut. Øvstegård says it doesn’t matter that policies haven’t yet changed because of the school strikes. “It’s about the momentum right now,” he says. The nomination will probably have been a surprise to Thunberg, as Øvstegård said she was a “global superstar” and he hadn’t spoken to her beforehand. The Swedish schoolgirl has attributed part of her success to the backing she has had from campaigners. (Webmaster's comment: An European girl student leads the way. United States students must ask for permission to even speak!)
3-14-19 Greta Thunberg nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for climate activism
Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl who has inspired an international movement to fight climate change, has been nominated as a candidate to receive this year's Nobel Peace Prize. She was nominated by three Norwegian MPs. If she were to win, she would be the youngest recipient since Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 when she received the prize. Ms Thunberg tweeted she was "honoured" to receive the nomination. "We have proposed Greta Thunberg because if we do nothing to halt climate change, it will be the cause of wars, conflict and refugees," Norwegian Socialist MP Freddy Andre Ovstegard told AFP news agency. "Greta Thunberg has launched a mass movement which I see as a major contribution to peace," he added. On Friday, thousands of schoolchildren are expected to strike again against climate change in more than 100 countries around the world. (Webmaster's comment: Except in the United States. They wouldn't dare!) The school strikes were inspired by the Fridays For The Future movement started by Ms Thunberg under the hashtag #FridaysForFuture. So far, there have been regular walkouts around the world, including in countries likes Germany, Belgium, the UK, France, Australia and Japan. But Friday's protest is billed as the biggest so far. The Swedish teenager - who on her Twitter page describes herself as "a 16-year-old climate activist with Asperger [syndrome]" - first staged a school strike for the climate in front of the Swedish parliament in August last year. Since then, she has been missing lessons most Fridays to stage her regular protests. She continued to gain international attention after speaking at the UN Climate Talks in Poland in December and at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. "On climate change, we have to acknowledge that we have failed," she told global economic leaders in Davos.
3-14-19 Students worldwide are striking to demand action on climate change
More than 1,000 events are planned March 15 to protest government failure to cut emissions. For the past several months, growing numbers of students around the world have been cutting class — not to play but to protest. The topic driving them is the same: Earth’s changing climate, as evidenced by increasing wildfires and droughts, rising seas and more extreme weather. As the students see it, governments have not done enough to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, to limit global warming or to plan ways to adapt to the impacts of climate change. On March 15, this student-led protest will crescendo with a coordinated strike set to take place across the globe. More than 1,300 events are planned in 98 countries from Argentina to Vanuatu, according to a list kept by the group Fridays For Future. “These kids speak with a moral clarity and poignancy that none but the most jaded of ears can fail to hear,” says Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State. He says he believes the school-strike movement “is part of why we will soon see a What motivates Milou Albrecht, 14, of Castlemaine, Australia, who is a coleader of strikes in her country, is worry about wildfires. When she was little, a fire quickly approached the bush country where she was playing at a friend’s house. Smoke filled the air, she recalls, and everyone had to evacuate. “You didn’t know what to take, so we didn’t take anything.” Milou remembers feeling terror while waiting in an underground bunker for the fire to pass. Spurred by the scare to find out more about bushfires, she learned that climate change is making such wildfires more frequent in Australia and elsewhere. (Webmaster's comment: No protests allowed in the United States. Our students have to be very obedient or they will be arrested!)
3-14-19 What happens when the Bering Sea’s ice disappears?
Record low sea ice in 2018 sent ripples through the entire Arctic ecosystem. From an anchored vantage point in an expanse of the southeastern Bering Sea west of Alaska, Peggy, or mooring M2, had monitored conditions in the water for 25 years. A line of sensors extended down more than 70 meters to where Peggy was tethered to the seafloor, collecting information on temperature, salinity and other properties of the water. Most years, the waxing and waning of floating sea ice follows a consistent seasonal pattern that is reflected in Peggy’s data. By November, sea ice migrates in through the Bering Strait or forms in some parts of the Bering Sea. As a by-product of the sea ice formation, a large mass of cold, salty water begins to pool near the seafloor. In the spring, phytoplankton bloom, and by early summer, the sea ice begins to melt away. The cold pool, however, lingers through the summer. With an average temperature just below zero degrees Celsius — a few degrees colder than the surrounding water — that deep, cold pool is central to the Bering Sea ecosystem. The cold pool is where Arctic cod take refuge, hiding from predators such as Pacific cod and pollock, which are less tolerant of the cold. The Arctic cod get fat on large, shrimp-like copepods and spawn their young. In turn, the fish keep polar bears and seals well-fed. But in the winter of 2017–2018, the sea ice never appeared. And Peggy’s data, along with that of other moorings, revealed that the cold pool was AWOL too. Alarm trickled through the ocean science community, researchers who study everything from the physics of the Bering Sea to the small creatures that live on the seafloor and the larger marine mammals at the top of the food chain. In December in Washington, D.C., at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting, these researchers gathered to present their data, trade stories and ponder what it all means.
3-14-19 Coca-Cola reveals how much plastic it uses
For the first time, Coca-Cola has revealed it used three million tonnes of plastic packaging in one year. It's part of a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation which is pushing for companies and governments to do more to tackle plastic pollution. In total, 150 companies are pledging to reduce their plastic usage as part of the campaign. But some companies including Pepsi, L'Oreal and H&M haven't said how much plastic they use. It's hard to visualise what three million tonnes looks like. But everyone can picture a blue whale.Now picture 15,000 of them. That's roughly three million tonnes./ In 2018, the company announced a pledge to recycle a used bottle or can for each one the company sells by 2030. Coca-Cola markets 500 brands of fizzy drink, juices and water and says it will also work towards making all of its packaging recyclable worldwide.Many companies have been committing to being more green after concerns about plastic waste were highlighted in shows such as the BBC's Blue Planet 2, narrated by Sir David Attenborough. In this report, 31 companies - including Mars, Nestlé and Danone - reveal how much plastic packaging they create in a year. (Webmaster's comment: Those 3 together use another 3 million tons.) Companies are trying to be more open about how much plastic they use - and how much waste they create. In February 2019, Nestle got rid of plastic straws from its products and is using paper ones instead. Burberry was criticised in 2018, when it said it destroyed unsold clothes, accessories and perfume worth £28.6m to protect its brand. It's now stopped the practice. 150 companies have signed up to be part of The Ellen MacArthur Foundation's commitment to reduce plastic pollution.
3-14-19 Comic Relief: School shuns red nose plastic because of pollution fears
School children in Cornwall say they're not buying plastic noses for Comic Relief because it's better for the environment if they make their own. Pupils at Fourlanesend Community Primary School used items such as egg boxes and wool to make more sustainable and more recyclable noses, while still donating the cost of a plastic nose - £1.25 - to the charity. Sir David Attenborough has written to the school praising them for the way they're looking for alternatives to plastic. A spokesperson for Comic Relief said "the pupils of Fourlanesend Community Primary School clearly care a great deal about the planet and we're sorry to hear the concerns they have." "We have removed and reduced plastics from a range of merchandise to date."
3-13-19 Scientists chasing waterfalls discovered something they aren't used to
There is more to waterfalls than we thought. We don’t have a full understanding of how they form, but some may arise all on their own, without any clear influence from the surrounding terrain. Generally, we assume that most waterfalls form because of the features of the landscape surrounding and beneath a river. For instance, an earthquake can shove land upwards along a tectonic fault to create a cliff face over which a river cascades, or a similarly steep drop could be created by glacier movement. Alternatively, the river could simply flow over a patch of particularly easily eroded rock and gradually create a waterfall as it eats its way down through the soft bedrock. Joel Scheingross at the University of Nevada, Reno, and his colleagues found that waterfalls can actually form without any of those factors. A river flowing downhill over smooth and homogeneous ground can develop waterfalls all on its own. This is difficult to study in nature because of the complexity of natural landscapes. Instead, the team tested it using a tilted, 7.3-metre-long artificial riverbed made of polyurethane foam to simulate bedrock. They poured water and small pebbles into the top of this flume to make a miniature river with sediment flowing down it. The pebbles acted like tiny chisels, beginning to erode the foam riverbed almost immediately. “Nature doesn’t like things to be flat,” says Scheingross. “Some areas get eroded a little bit more and are a little bit deeper, and others stay a little bit shallower.” These small differences cause a feedback effect, in which pebbles flowing into the deeper areas hit the bottoms of the pools harder and create even steeper drops. Eventually, some of these steep drops become full-on waterfalls. We often use waterfalls as proof of past climate and tectonic changes – for example, to say that a glacier carved the ground so conditions must have been cold. Self-forming waterfalls could be a problem for those assumptions. “If it turns out, as my hunch is, that these types of waterfalls are ubiquitous, then I think it will change how we’ve interpreted some past changes in climate and tectonics,” says Scheingross. First, though, we’ll have to find self-forming waterfalls in the wild.
3-13-19 Our wooden future: making cars, skyscrapers and even lasers from wood
Wood can now be processed into a super-material with extraordinary properties – and a wood-based, climate-saving economy is just what the planet needs. DID you hear about the wooden car, with wooden wheels, a wooden chassis and a wooden engine? It wooden go. Or would it? In a few years’ time, when people really are driving wooden cars, that joke will be headed for the junkyard. “Wood could be used in cars,” says materials scientist Liangbing Hu at the University of Maryland. He recently received a massive grant to build cars out of high-tech wood, and he doesn’t have the road to himself. Engineers in Japan are also working on a wooden concept car due to be unveiled at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. But cars are just the green shoots of a growing wood revolution. In materials science labs and design studios around the world, people are working on an entire civilisation built from wood. In this future, steel, concrete, plastics and even electronics have been felled by wood. Wooden cars ply streets towered over by wooden skyscrapers with wooden windows. Wooden aeroplanes fly overhead, powered by wooden batteries. People wear wooden clothes and use mobile phones made from wood. It may sound like toy town, but it is deadly serious. The stages of human civilisation have always been crudely measured by material progress. The Stone Age gave way to the Bronze Age and then the Iron Age. Today, we live in the hydrocarbon age, fuelled by coal, oil and gas. They supply our energy needs and make possible the materials that define our civilisation: steel, concrete and plastic. But this has to end. To avoid trashing the planet with plastic waste and carbon dioxide, we will have to stop using hydrocarbons, and soon. The way to get there could be to create a circular economy built on sustainable materials, especially wood.
3-13-19 Gas heating ban for new homes from 2025
Gas heating for new houses will be banned by 2025, the Chancellor has said, although gas hobs will still be allowed. The homes will keep warm with devices such as heat pumps and with “world-leading” insulation standards. It's part of a bid by Philip Hammond to address the concerns of children protesting about climate change. Green groups welcomed the measure but said the Chancellor had ducked major challenges on the climate. They wanted action to cut emissions from traffic, planes and existing draughty homes - which will form the vast majority of the housing stock for decades. Instead, Mr Hammond offered what they called an inadequate idea for tackling aviation emissions. He's consulting on a plan to oblige all airlines to offer passengers the chance to offset their emissions by schemes such as tree planting. But these schemes are controversial and Greenpeace said it would be much better for the government to introduce a tax on frequent fliers. Mel Evans from Greenpeace said: "The Chancellor's rhetoric may have been strong on the environment, but tackling the climate emergency demands much bigger thinking. "Issues like the shoddy state of our existing housing stock and rapid adoption of electric vehicles require serious money behind serious policies. "A good start would be banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 (instead of 2040 at present)." The Chancellor won praise, though, for appointing the Cambridge Economics Prof Partha Dasgupta to lead a global commission to estimate the global value of nature in economic terms. It’s hoped this body will influence governments’ view of nature in the way the Stern review of climate economics in 2006 influenced discussion on climate change globally.
3-13-19 Greta Thunberg: Why I began the climate protests that are going global
THOUSANDS of children across the world will leave their schools for a strike over climate change this Friday. Organisers expect the protest to dwarf last month’s demonstrations. The roots of this phenomenon run back to Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old from Sweden. She has missed school to sit outside the Swedish parliament almost every Friday since last August, demanding politicians bring the country into line with the Paris climate agreement. Between Greta’s studies, she has berated delegates at last year’s UN climate talks, spent up to two days a week speaking to journalists and generated a viral social media wave under the #FridaysForFuture banner. Greta had no expectations that her protest would snowball. “The idea was to sit outside the Swedish parliament for three weeks. I think the timing and the concept must have been right,” she told New Scientist. Being the strikes’ de facto spokesperson isn’t something she particularly enjoys and she doesn’t care about fame, she says. “But I don’t mind it either as long as it is for a good cause.” After learning about climate change when she was 8, Greta later developed depression when she was 11, which she links partly to the issue. The success of the strikes is to some extent driven by climate science becoming more candid and increasingly dire, says Greta. “I think we have reached a tipping point where enough scientists are telling it like it is and not being so afraid of being alarmist.” But she is disappointed that a lot of the discussion resulting from the strikes isn’t about ramping up climate action, but about the children themselves. “They talk about our age, our looks and so on. The emissions are still rising and that is all that matters. Nothing has happened, that is crucial to remember.” More than 10,000 children went on strike across the UK in February, packing London’s Parliament Square and eliciting messages of support from ministers and members of parliament. Campaigners believe that more than 1000 towns and cities in nearly 100 countries will take part in a strike this Friday as the movement jumps from a largely European one to a global level.
3-13-19 What does climate change mean for having children? Nothing.
To live in a world where it's half a degree warmer (it's not half a degree, it's one and a half degrees and headed for three) or where the oceans are filled with garbage and the rivers are overrun with toxic plastic is better than never being born. hat amateur logicians call "guilt by association" might be bad logic, but it is an excellent rhetorical strategy. The endless public calls by X for Y to disavow Z after Z is discovered to have endorsed A in order to prove that Y is not a proponent of A prove this. Still, I would prefer not to judge the Green New Deal and its proponents on the basis of their evident comfort with what sounds like the environmentalist fear-mongering about overpopulation that has and will always be fundamentally eugenicist. Which is why I have to assume that when Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told some of her followers recently that "young people" are asking themselves whether it is "okay to still have children," she was speaking off the cuff as a non-parent politician rather than endorsing a popular '70s conspiracy theory. But it's still worth addressing. When Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb in 1968, he was reviving an argument that is at least as old as the Rev. Thomas Malthus. In its essentials the brief for population control has always been the same: People are having too many children, which is going to lead to some kind of unprecedented ecological and logistical crisis; in order to prevent this from happening, we must prevent them from having children. Often the "people" in question turn to be racial minorities or immigrants or the poor. In recent years this kind of talk has largely been driven underground, though one Democrat who has been an open and enthusiastic advocate of population control did come close to winning a House seat last year. Meanwhile continue having children and the crisis never quite pans out.
3-12-19 Human activity impacts a quarter of the world’s threatened species
A quarter of vulnerable vertebrate species are affected by human-made threats to over 90 per cent of their habitat, and approximately 7 per cent are affected by human activity across their entire range. “These species will decline and possibly die out in the impacted parts of their habitat without conservation action. Completely impacted species will almost certainly face extinction,” says James Allan at the University of Queensland in Australia. Allan and his colleagues mapped the habitats of 5457 threatened terrestrial birds, mammals and amphibians around the world. They divided the planet into a grid of 30 square kilometre boxes and determined the amount of human activity within each – including crop and pasture land, built environment, night lights, hunting and roads and railways – and analysed the sensitivity of each species to these activities. These human impacts occur on 84 per cent of Earth’s surface, and on average 38 per cent of a species’ range is affected by one or more of them. Mammals are the most affected with 52 per cent of each species’ range affected on average. One third of all species aren’t exposed to these threats across any part of their range. These findings may be conservative as they don’t take into account infectious diseases, which are known to affect amphibian populations, or climate change, which affects species across taxa, says Allan. “Our understanding of threats to mammals is greater than for amphibians,” says Allan. This could partly explain why the team’s results show mammals as the most affected, despite amphibians generally being regarded as more threatened. The top five countries most affected by human activity were all in South-East Asia, including Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. On average, these countries have 120.3 species affected per grid cell, while the global average is 15.6. The areas most affected are mangroves, moist broadleaf forests in Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia, and dry broadleaf forests in India, Myanmar and Thailand.
3-12-19 Greenpeace hits back at Trump tweet on climate change denial
Greenpeace has hit back against President Donald Trump for tweeting a climate change denial from a former member of the environmental group. Mr Trump quoted Patrick Moore, who he claimed was a founder of Greenpeace, as saying: "The whole climate crisis is not only Fake News, it's Fake Science." Greenpeace said Mr Moore was not a founder, but a nuclear lobbyist who does not represent the group. (Webmaster's comment: Another lie from Trump!) The Republican president has frequently cast doubt on climate change science. Mr Trump tweeted about an interview Mr Moore gave on the Fox News programme Fox & Friends, where he denied that climate change was a threat. He was identified by the programme as being a co-founder of Greenpeace. Mr Moore also lashed out at freshman Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal, which is a resolution that aims to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the impact of climate change in the US. Mr Moore called the congresswoman a "twit" and suggested global warming might be beneficial as carbon dioxide is a "building block of life". (Webmaster's comment: Rediculous!) The president also labelled Mr Moore as a co-founder of Greenpeace. Mr Moore has since retweeted the president's approval. This is not the first time Mr Trump has questioned climate change. After a report from his own government warned of devastating effects, Mr Trump said: "I don't believe it." As a candidate, Mr Trump called climate change "a hoax", though he eventually walked back that statement.
3-12-19 Does air pollution really kill nearly 9 million people each year?
Does air pollution really kill nearly 800,000 people in Europe and 9 million worldwide each year? That’s the apparent conclusion of a study claiming that air pollution causes 800,000 “extra” deaths in Europe each year, which is double previous estimates. However, the figures do not mean that 9 million people dropped dead solely because of air pollution. Rather, they are a way of representing the harm done by air pollution. This is not to say that air pollution isn’t dangerous. In fact, this study suggests it is a bigger killer than smoking, which using the same method is estimated to cause 7 million extra deaths worldwide each year. “I think that’s the important message of this study,” says lead author Jos Lelieveld of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany. Air pollution has now joined the ranks of major risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, he says. It is important to understand where these numbers come from. Working out the damage done by air pollution is much harder than something like car accidents, for which we have firm figures, because it typically aggravates the effects of common disorders such as respiratory diseases. Many teams around the world have been doing long-running studies that compare, say, people living in areas with different levels of particulate pollution to work out how it affects the risk of developing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. The latest results suggest air pollution is a far greater contributor to cardiovascular disease than previously thought. But telling people their “hazard ratios” for air pollution – the standard scientific measure – would mean nothing to them.d.
3-12-19 #Trashtag: The online challenge cleaning places up
It's not often that a viral hashtag on social media goes, well, beyond social media. But an online challenge encouraging users to clean up places has seen tens of thousands of people doing just that. In the Trashtag Challenge, users pick a place filled with litter, clean it up, and post before and after pictures. Volunteers have made beaches, parks and roads trash-free while also raising awareness of the quantity of plastic litter we produce. This group in Novosibirsk, Russia, said they had collected 223 bags of litter, 75% of which would be sent for recycling. The challenge was reportedly created in 2015 by outdoor company UCO Gear as part of a campaign to protect wilderness areas. But a Facebook post last week directed at "tired teens" has apparently given it new life and made the hashtag viral. On Instagram alone, there were more than 25,000 posts with the hashtag #trashtag - variations include #trashtagchallenge and #trashchallenge. In Spanish, it has been translated to #BasuraChallenge. But where does it go from here? "Getting plastic out of the environment is important," Mark Butler, policy director of the Canadian environmental charity Ecology Action Centre (EAC) told Halifax's Star newspaper. "We need to do more than go behind the people that are littering and clean it up. We need to turn off the plastic tap," he said, adding that he hoped the campaign would lead to fundamental changes over single-use plastics, for example. "There's the waste hierarchy, which is to refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle. If we don't do that stuff, then all we'll be doing is cleaning up the litter with no end in sight."
3-11-19 Forests are becoming less able to bounce back from wildfires
Forests around the world face being permanently wiped out because climate change is making them unable to recover from devastating wildfires.. Solomon Dobrowski at the University of Montana and his colleagues painstakingly dug up approximately 3000 small trees from 90 burn sites across the western US to look at the ability of forests to regenerate after a wild fire. They found that before the 1990s, low-lying forests could grow back after being burned, but between the early 1990s and 2015 there was a sharp drop in the ability of seeds to regenerate a forest at most sites. The team used tree-ring dating to see which years trees germinated in, and used those samples to build a model of how forests would be likely to recover in different conditions. Climate change seems to have changed soil moisture and surface temperatures so much that the forests have passed a threshold where conditions no longer favour new growth after a fire. Unlike mature trees, seedlings’ roots are too shallow to reach water deeper underground. Climate scientists have warned for years of the possibility of such abrupt responses to higher temperatures, such as the rapidly accelerating loss of ice sheets. “The changes we will see over the landscape won’t be gradual over decades, they will happen very quickly,” says Dobrowski. The study looked at just two types of conifers, ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. But Dobrowski said the findings were also relevant to similar semi-arid forests around the world, such as those of southern Europe. That would be bad in terms of the ecosystem services those forests provide, and also in terms of limiting our efforts to mitigate future climate change.
3-11-19 Ethnic minorities produce less pollution but are exposed to more
Black and Hispanic people in the US are, on average, exposed to more dirty air than white people, despite generally being responsible for less air pollution. For the first time, a study into pollution and inequality has also factored in how people use energy, food and transport. The findings suggest that consumption patterns and their impact on air quality are, in effect, racist. Jason Hill at the University of Minnesota and colleagues mapped the exposure of three ethnic groups to harmful particles less than 2.5 micrometres across, known as PM2.5. These are emitted by cars, power stations and when wood is burned, and are linked to cardiovascular disease and other health impacts. Dozens of US cities are affected by levels above recommended health limits, and the particles are estimated to be responsible for 3 per cent of US deaths annually. The analysis generated a “pollution inequity” rating for each ethnic group, based on the difference between each group’s exposure and contribution to PM2.5 pollution. The team found that, on average, white people were exposed to around 17 per cent less pollution than they created, while Hispanic people were exposed to 63 per cent more than they created. Black people were exposed to 56 per cent more PM2.5 than they created. “We showed the train of custody for pollution. We tied the impact back to the individual responsible for it. That’s a new thing,” says Hill. “The study findings lend further evidence that some populations in the US have ‘the wrong complexion for protection’,” says Robert Bullard at Texas Southern Univeristy. “It also reaffirms that race is a potent predictor of exposure to goods and services air pollution.” The big differences seen between groups are primarily explained by where people live. Previous research has found that ethnic minority children in the US bear the brunt of air pollution because schools with more ethnic minority pupils are more likely to be sited next to busy roads.
3-11-19 Climate change: Pledge to cut emissions from dairy farms
A dairy firm is pledging to make its operations carbon-neutral from cow to supermarket by 2050, including more than 2,000 farms in the UK. This will require "radical changes" over the coming decades, including developing new technologies, the dairy co-operative, Arla Foods, said. It admitted the target was "ambitious", but said it was achievable. However, the Vegan Society said there was no way to make dairy a climate-friendly product. Gases which help to heat the atmosphere and contribute to climate change are a by-product of the dairy industry. They include direct emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from cows, and carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from the likes of packaging, transportation and fertilisers. Arla, the largest farming co-operative in Europe, said it aimed to neutralise all the CO2 produced by the dairy farms of its 10,300 members. This would involve improvements in the supply chain to off-set unavoidable emissions, it said. "It's an ambitious target, but if everyone works together then it's possible," said Kari Dunford, an Arla member, who dairy farms 250 cows in Somerset. "There are 2,000 Arla farmers in the UK and if we all do our little bit then it's all going to make a difference." The company said it had cut the amount of CO2 emissions from production and packaging by more than 20%. It also said that, on farms, the CO2 emissions per kilo of milk have been reduced by almost a quarter over the last 20 years, and it was trialling new technologies for farms, such as producing clean energy from manure.
3-11-19 Schools should have 'no idling zones', Public Health England chief says
Public health chiefs have proposed a ban on cars idling outside school gates in a bid to cut air pollution. The measure is among a series of UK-wide recommendations put forward by Public Health England. PHE medical director Paul Cosford told the BBC: "We should stop idling outside schools and we should make sure that children can walk or cycle to school." PHE said 28,000 to 36,000 deaths a year in the UK could be attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution. The report said local authorities could implement no-idling zones in areas with vulnerable hotspots such as schools, hospitals and care homes. It also recommends a wider uptake of low emission or clean air zones to discourage the most highly polluting vehicles from entering populated areas. It describes air pollution as the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK and says there is strong evidence that air pollution causes the development of coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease and lung cancer, and exacerbates asthma. Although England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales lead on air quality policy in their own territories, PHE contributes to the implementation of the government's UK-wide strategy. Professor Cosford told BBC Radio 5 Live conversations needed to be had between local authorities, schools and parents about how to "stop the emissions at source".
3-9-19 Nuclear power is carbon-free. Should it play a bigger role in every country's green energy plan?
Here's everything you need to know.
- Why use nuclear power? To prevent catastrophic climate change, scientists say, we have to dramatically reduce the use of fossil fuels.
- Why can't renewables do the job? Solar and wind farms sprawl out over vast amounts of land, and these sources only work when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing.
- What was the result of the closures? Germany, which decided to phase out nuclear entirely, has invested $580 billion in renewables and achieved 38 percent green energy. But its electricity prices are now the highest in Europe, while its carbon emissions have stayed flat.
- What about nuclear accidents? The fear of radiation and a catastrophic plant meltdown is the crux of opposition to nuclear power. But a rational analysis of the numbers tells a different story.
- What about the waste? This is the main problem with nuclear energy. Nuclear power is generated by bombarding uranium fuel with particles to break the uranium atoms apart, causing heat that makes steam that runs electrical turbines.
- What is Finland's solution? Finland located the world's first underground nuclear waste storage site on a remote peninsula, where the local community was brought into the process long before construction began.
- What happened to Yucca Mountain? The approval process to create a federally run depository for the nation's nuclear waste took decades to wend its way through the Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
3-8-19 The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming
Journalist David Wallace-Wells clearly is an alarmist about climate change; “you should be, too,” said The Economist. The first line of his new book—“It is worse, much worse, than you think”—is not empty rhetoric. Wallace-Wells has marshaled predictions from scientists around the world to create a “riveting” portrait of the devastation likely to unfold in coming decades even if the international community succeeds in meeting its current goals for slowing the rise of the planet’s temperature. Wallace-Wells made the same case in a 2017 story that went viral when it was published by New York magazine, where he is deputy editor. He was criticized then for making isolated mistakes with the science, and he will be again. Still, “he gets the big things right.” Climate change is here. It’s already wreaking havoc. And failure to do anything serious about it will cost hundreds of millions of lives by 2100. “Among Wallace-Wells’ most bracing revelations is how recent the bulk of the destruction has been,” said Mark O’Connell in TheGuardian.com. Just since 1992, we’ve emitted more carbon pollution from fossil fuels than we did in all of previous human history, and the effects are with us today. Already, air pollution alone is causing an estimated 7 million deaths a year—more than the Holocaust. If, by 2100, the planet has warmed by a mere half-degree more than the 1.5 degrees Celsius aimed for in the Paris climate accord, an additional 150 million people will have died from pollutants. Wallace-Wells also helps us visualize the wildfires, plagues, flooded cities, and dying oceans the future promises, said Fred Pearce in The Washington Post. “Not since Bill McKibben’s The End of Nature 30 years ago have we been told what climate change will mean in such vivid terms.”
3-8-19 Norway is starting the world's biggest divestment in oil and gas
Norway has said its $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund, the world’s biggest, should sell stocks in oil and gas exploration companies, in a move that is the biggest divestment from hydrocarbons yet. The Government Pension Fund Global, which was built off Norway’s oil revenues, should begin phasing out $8 billion held in 134 firms to reduce the fund’s risk from volatile oil prices, the country’s finance ministry said in a statement on 8 March. But in a major concession, the withdrawal will not apply to Shell, BP and France’s Total, the three biggest investments in the fund’s total £27.9bn of oil and gas stocks, because they are not solely oil production companies. The finance ministry also said the decision would not affect the fund’s stake in the country’s state oil firm, Equinor, formerly known as Statoil. “This is partial good news but not fully good news as we expected,” says Yonni Cadan at divestment campaign group, 350.org. The fossil fuel divestment movement grew out of university campuses and religious groups, and has seen trillions of shares in companies sold over climate change concerns. Critics say it reduces engagement by responsible shareholders, but proponents argue it is effective by damaging the “social license” companies need to extract oil, gas and coal. The central bank that manages Norway’s fund recommended two years ago that it ditch oil and gas, not for climate change reasons, but to reduce its exposure to a collapse in the oil price. That recommendation lead to a pushback from a government-appointed panel, which urged against a sell-off. In an attempt to please everyone, the finance ministry said that exploration and production companies will be phased out from the fund gradually.
3-7-19 Rain may be causing a worrying amount of ice to melt in Greenland
Rain is becoming more common across Greenland’s ice sheet and it may be playing an important role in rising sea levels. Greenland’s 660,000-square mile ice sheet contains enough fresh water to flood coastal cities around the world. Warm air over the sheet is causing it to melt, but new work reveals that rainfall is also causing more melting than previously thought. An analysis of satellite and weather station records suggests that around 300 melt events in Greenland between 1979 and 2012 were linked to rainfall. Over this time, rain-associated melting became twice as frequent in summer, and three times as frequent in winter. Rain now appears to account for 28 per cent of the ice sheet’s melt. The analysis highlights an under-monitored area, says Robin Smith, at the University of Reading, UK, who was not involved in the study. “It tells us that we need to pay more attention to all the processes, and all the weather, all-year round, not just what’s obvious,” he said. Nicholas Barrand, at the University of Birmingham, UK, says rainfall could have “profound effects” on the density of Greenland’s snowpack, where meltwater goes, and the total amount of meltwater that runs off the sheet into the sea. “Each of these make up the Greenland ice sheet’s contribution to global sea-level rise, and will require close monitoring in the coming years,” he says. Rain contributes to melting because it contains heat. It is becoming more common in Greenland due to higher temperatures, and is increasingly falling further north, even during the winter in some areas. When precipitation falls as rain, it causes some of Greenland’s ice sheet to be covered in ice rather than snow. Come the summer, this ice reflects less of the sun’s energy, exacerbating summer melting.
3-7-19 Climate change: Rain melting Greenland ice sheet 'even in winter'
Rain is becoming more frequent in Greenland and accelerating the melting of its ice, a new study has found. Scientists say they're "surprised" to discover rain falling even during the long Arctic winter. The massive Greenland ice-sheet is being watched closely because it holds a huge store of frozen water. And if all of that ice melted, the sea level would rise by seven metres, threatening coastal population centres around the world. Precipitation usually falls as snow in winter - rather than as rain - which can balance out any melting of the ice in the summer. The scientists studied satellite pictures of the ice-sheet which reveal the areas where melting is taking place. And they combined those images with data gathered from 20 automated weather stations that recorded when rainfall occurred. The findings, published in the journal The Cryosphere, show that while there were about two spells of winter rain every year in the early phase of the study period, that had risen to 12 spells by 2012. On more than 300 occasions between 1979-2012, the analysis found that rainfall events were triggering a melting of the ice. Most of these were in summertime, when the air often gets above zero. But a growing number happened in winter months when the permanent dark of the polar winter would be expected to keep temperatures well below freezing. The lead author of the study, Dr Marilena Oltmanns of the GEOMAR ocean research centre in Germany, told BBC News: "We were surprised that there was rain in the winter. "It does make sense because we're seeing flows of warm air coming up from the South, but it's still surprising to see that associated with rainfall." Another scientist on the study, Prof Marco Tedesco of Columbia University in New York, said that the increase in rain had important implications. Even if it falls during winter, and then quickly refreezes, the rain changes the characteristics of the surface, leaving it smoother and darker, and "pre-conditioned" to melt more rapidly when summer arrives. The darker the ice is, the more heat it absorbs from the Sun - causing it to melt more quickly.
3-7-19 Climate change: Government deal to boost offshore wind
A deal confirmed between the UK government and the wind industry will ensure 30% of electricity comes from offshore wind by 2030. The move will help the UK towards an aim of securing almost all its power from low-carbon sources by 2030. It is the latest in a series of agreements with sectors of the economy that are likely to create jobs. But environmentalists are wondering where the other 70% of the UK’s clean electricity will come from. That is because, for several years, government economists have foreseen a three-pronged energy policy by 2030. It will create jobs for coastal regions - from the north of Scotland through Norfolk and Suffolk right to the Isle of Wight.Offshore wind generated just 6.2% of the UK power needs in 2017. This will rise to over 10% by 2020. The coming boom in offshore wind has been fuelled by a fall in costs that has astonished even supporters of the technology. Civil servants have projected that 30% of electricity would come from offshore wind, 30% from nuclear and 30% from gas power stations fitted with technology to capture their carbon emissions and bury them. But here is the reality - it is now confirmed that wind will fulfil its part by 2030. But plans to expand nuclear are foundering; indeed the UK may end up at worst with just one new nuclear station - at Hinkley - instead of the planned six. As for gas with carbon capture, there is only a single such power plant planned at commercial scale. And that is stuck in the proposal stage.
3-6-19 Wind and solar will still work in a climate-change ravaged Europe
European wind and solar power generation can cope with a cloudier and stormier climate. Windfarms and fields of solar panels will still be keeping the lights on in Europe in 2100, even if the worst case global warming scenarios come to pass. That is the conclusion of researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark who combined existing climate models with one of a simplified European electricity system to see whether wind and solar will cope with a hotter world. Under all the future temperature scenarios anticipated by the UN’s climate science panel, wind and solar power generation will fall slightly. Climate change is expected to result in more cloud cover in northern Europe, reducing energy from solar panels, as well as bringing more storms, which cause wind turbines to switch off automatically for protection. But the Danish team says the fall in generation will be largely balanced out by energy demand falling as temperatures rise, since more electricity is used in Europe for heating than cooling. Electricity grid managers should pay more attention to swings in the weather unrelated to climate change, like a low wind year, which will cause bigger reductions in power output. Jim Watson, a professor of energy policy at University College London, who wasn’t involved in the study, says it shows the impact of climate change on renewable energy would be modest. “The conclusion provides some confidence about the resilience of a low carbon electricity system,” he says. The research assumed a mix of 80 per cent wind and 20 per cent solar power, backed up by storage and interconnectors to move energy between countries. The impact of more extreme weather, fueled by climate change, wasn’t examined by the authors but both they and Watson say that should be looked at more closely. In the future, for example, solar panels could need protecting against “super hailstorms”, and wind turbines against fiercer storms.
3-6-19 Wetland mud is 'secret weapon' against climate change
Muddy, coastal marshes are "sleeping giants" that could fight climate change, scientists say. A global study has shown that these regions could be awoken by sea level rise. Sea level is directly linked to the amount of carbon these wetlands store in their soil, the team reports in the journal Nature. Researchers studied the carbon locked away in cores of wetland mud from around the world. They say that the preservation of coastal wetlands is critical for mitigating global warming. The team was led by scientists at the University of Wollongong in Australia. As sea levels rise, more sediment layers wash over tidal marshes and bury the carbon-rich material, locking it beneath the muddy layers. Lead researcher Prof Kerrylee Rogers, from the University of Wollongong, explained: "This sediment not only buries and traps root material and other organic matter, but also increases the elevation of wetlands. "With sea-level rise, this acts as an adaptation measure by enabling wetlands to build elevation as the sea rises." But for coastal wetlands to build up and store more carbon, they will need space, as Patrick Mcgonigal from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Maryland, US, explained. "The important question is how many wetlands will remain wetlands and how humans manage the land adjacent to them," he told BBC News. "Wetlands can migrate on land as long as they have space, so that's an important decision that we're left with." Globally, the researchers pointed out, salt marshes on the coastlines of Australia, China and South America could be the "sleeping giants of carbon sequestration". Doubling of the carbon stored in these wetlands would mean an additional five million tonnes of atmospheric carbon is "stuck in the mud" every year - that would be equivalent to taking more than one million cars off the road.
3-6-19 Fracking: Government guidance 'unlawful' rules High Court
New government guidance on fracking is unlawful, the High Court has ruled. Campaign group Talk Fracking argued that the government had not considered the latest scientific evidence when formulating its policy. Ministers have been advising councils that gas from fracking in their area would help combat climate change. (Webmaster's comment: When you lie, LIE BIG!)But a judge found that the government had failed to consider the latest evidence. Justice Dove ruled that "material from Talk Fracking, and in particular their scientific evidence as described in their consultation response, was never in fact considered relevant or taken into account" when formulating the revised policy. He also ruled that the government had unlawfully failed to carry out a lawful public consultation when the policy was revised. Claire Stephenson, who brought the claim on behalf of Talk Fracking, said: "We are delighted that the court has agreed in part with our arguments that the government's policy on fracking is unlawful. "The government have continually sought to ignore public opinion on fracking, despite the overwhelming opposition on a national level. Planning guidance issued by the government last year says local councils should "recognise the benefits of on-shore oil and gas development ... for the security of energy supplies and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy." It adds that planning authorities should "put in place policies to facilitate their exploration and extraction."
3-5-19 'Digital sobriety' can halt tech-fuelled global warming, says report
Our tech addiction is cooking the planet. The manufacture and use of smartphones, computers and TVs will produce 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 8 per cent by 2025. That is the conclusion of a report on the sustainability of the digital technology sector put together by 12 experts for a Paris-based think tank called The Shift Project, which says that energy use in this sector is increasing by 9 per cent every year. In theory, digital technology could replace other activities that produce even more emissions. For instance, people might be using video conferencing instead of flying to meetings. But this isn’t happening, says Maxime Efoui-Hess, one of the authors of the report. “The ‘good effects’ of digital technologies, in terms of energy consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions, are constantly neutralised at global scale by the fact that we use these technologies without thinking about the right way to do it,” he says. The Shift Project wants companies and governments to adopt “digital sobriety” as a principle. That means buying less-powerful machines, replacing them less frequently and not using energy-intensive approaches where possible. Although there is some evidence that consumers are replacing smartphones less often, the general trend is to do more with ever-more-powerful machines. Artificial intelligence in particular is extremely energy-intensive. The report’s definition of digital technology includes the data centres that store and supply internet content, along with the equipment needed to access it, from phones to Wi-Fi routers. It doesn’t include digital equipment in cars and factories. As there are no official global measures of digital energy use, the team instead had to make estimates on the basis of available data, such as statistics on the sales of TVs and other hardware.
3-5-19 Climate change: Which airline is best for carbon emissions?
EasyJet has come top of the league for airlines trying to cut carbon emissions to tackle climate change. A report suggests that by 2020 its emissions per passenger kilometre will be less than half that of some rivals. The firm's performance is partly down to its modern, efficient fleet and its push to fill every seat. Companies named as having the weakest plans to cut emissions are Air China; China Southern; Korean Air; Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines. EasyJet's aircraft are expected to be emitting 75g of CO2 per passenger km by 2020, compared with 172g for Korean Air. International Airlines Group (IAG), which includes British Airways, is expected to emit 112g.
3-4-19 EU sued for making global warming worse by subsidising wood burning
The European Union is accelerating global warming and damaging forests worldwide, says a lawsuit filed today with the European General Court in Luxembourg. The case is being brought by an alliance of environmental organisations along with seven individuals who say their rights are being infringed by the EU, which they say encourages wood burning without counting the carbon emissions. The lawsuit aims to end subsidies for biomass energy and stop wood burning counting towards meeting renewable energy targets. “The EU’s own advisors told them, this is a really bad idea, you’re making climate change worse,” says Mary Booth of the US-based Partnership for Policy Integrity, the science advisor on the lawsuit. “They ignored pretty much all of it.” While burning wood might seem to be an appealing alternative to fossil fuels, it actually produces more carbon dioxide than burning coal per unit of energy produced. “Since new trees don’t instantly, magically appear when you cut down old trees and burn them, there’s a carbon impact,” says Booth. Globally, trees are being felled faster than they can regrow. What’s more, even if trees do regrow, there will still be more CO2 in the atmosphere than if the original trees had been left to grow bigger. “We need a lot more big trees,” says Booth. However, under EU law, none of the CO2 emitted when wood is burned is counted. “65 per cent of the renewable energy that the EU uses is emitting carbon, but you’re just not counting the carbon,” says Booth. “So not only are your emissions reductions phoney, your renewable energy is phoney too.” According to the lawsuit, this violates one of the founding treaties of the EU, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. Its objectives include “preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment… and in particular combating climate change”.
3-4-19 Climate change: California wildfires 'can now happen in any year'
Wet winters are no longer a guide to the severity of wildfires in California, a new study suggests. Increased temperatures due to global warming and more effective efforts to contain fires mean there's now more dry wood to burn. This means that large wildfires of the kind seen in 2018 can now happen in any year, regardless of how wet the previous winter was. The researchers say huge blazes may be a sign of things to come. Their study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Last year was California's most destructive and deadly wildfire season on record. Pictures beamed around the world revealed the havoc wrought as fires devastated whole communities. During winter, moisture in the form of precipitation is delivered to California by a fast moving band of air called the jet stream. A US-German team of scientists reconstructed fire and moisture patterns, along with the position of the North Pacific jet stream, over the past 400 years. They combined instrumental and historical records of temperature, rainfall and fires, with the natural archives of climate and fires contained in tree rings. They found that from 1600 to 1903, the position of the North Pacific jet stream over California was linked to the amount of winter rainfall and the severity of the subsequent wildfire season.Wet winters brought on by the jet stream were followed by a less intense wildfire season, while dry winters were followed by more intense fires. But after 1904, the connection between winter moisture and wildfires was seen to weaken. This coincides with the beginning of a fire suppression policy on US federal lands. The connection then disappears completely after 1977.
3-4-19 Compensating for climate misdeeds can make you a worse carbon emitter
We have evolved to think we can balance good and bad behaviour in our social interactions, but when it comes to the environment, that’s flawed thinking, say Patrik Sörqvist and Linda Langeborg. “Climate compensation” is in fashion. We see it everywhere: restaurants claim to be “100% climate compensated” and you can pay extra to “climate compensate” your flight. Psychologically, this speaks to people’s tendency to think that good deeds can compensate for harmful ones. Humans have long benefited from making up for the harm they cause others, and natural selection has not been kind to those who have failed to understand this basic rule in relationships. This has made the human brain specialised in seeking balance between good and bad deeds. Seeking this balance works well in the context of social relations, but the thinking that has been crucial for our survival in the past can be terribly wrong when applied to environmental impact and global climate change. It can actually further damage the planet. In their attempts to compensate for mistreating the environment, people put their faith in misguided quick fixes and can end up consuming or wasting more overall: for example, by bulk-buying eco-labelled wares even though they may need only one or two of the products. The balancing between good and bad can even make people harm the environment because they recently did something environmentally friendly, like driving a fossil-fuel car to work because they have separated their waste. Research from our lab at the University of Gävle in Sweden shows what can happen when people apply the compensation logic to the environment. For example, people tend to erroneously think that the construction of “green” buildings in a neighbourhood not only keeps the neighbourhood from causing more environmental harm as a whole, but even reduces the neighbourhood’s overall environmental burden.
3-2-19 Climate change: Angela Merkel welcomes school strikes
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she supports school students' protests about climate change. It appears to contradict some education officials, who have criticised participants for skipping school and threatened them with exclusion. Mrs Merkel said students might be frustrated at the time taken to move away from coal-based energy but asked them to understand it was a challenge. Across the world, some students have been leaving school to demand action. On Friday thousands of high school students in the city of Hamburg marched against climate change, with Swedish activist Greta Thunberg - who started the series of school strikes - present. But the city's education official, Ties Rabe, wrote on Twitter: "No-one makes the world better by skipping school." Meanwhile the education minister in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia has told schools that students face disciplinary action up to and including expulsion if they do not comply with their legal duty to go to school. In a video released on her official website, Angela Merkel said protecting the climate was a "challenge that people can only tackle together" Asked about the Friday school strikes, which in Germany have been dubbed "Fridays for Future", Ms Merkel said the country's climate goals could only be reached with the support of wider society. "So I very much welcome that young people, school students, demonstrate and tell us to do something fast about climate change," she said. "I think it is a very good initiative," she added, without making reference to the fact that they were protesting during school hours. But, she said, in her role she had to let them know that there were many steps to take before the full switch-off of coal, planned for Germany by 2038. "From the students' point of view," Ms Merkel continued, "that may seem like a very long way away, but it will challenge us very much so I ask them to understand that too."
3-2-19 Climate change is the new normal but we don’t seem to notice
An analysis of Twitter data suggests weird weather is soon viewed as normal, which means we risk ignoring the effects of climate change, says Frances Moore. Climate change is creating bizarre weather around the world. Just this week, it was reported that Australia had experienced its hottest summer ever and the UK baked in winter temperatures that felt more like summer. These record-breaking temperatures get people talking, but what happens when climate change makes them a regular occurrence? Is there a risk that these exceptional events just become part of the “new normal”? Last week, my co-authors and I published a study that suggests people quickly get used to unusual weather, which has troubling implications for our ability to recognise the climate change happening all around us. We measured the literal remarkability of different temperatures by seeing how much comment they generated on Twitter. Hot and cold conditions both generated lots of posts, particularly if they were unusual for a particular place and time of year. But temperatures quickly became unremarkable: after just a couple of years of strange temperatures, people stopped tweeting about them. Our best estimate is that people base their idea of normal weather on what happened in just the past two to eight years. This is a concern if we think about climate change, which gradually shifts the weather people experience from year to year. Very large warming is projected for the 21st century in the absence of ambitious climate policy. But if people forget what weather was like more than eight years ago, these unprecedented conditions won’t feel particularly unusual to people experiencing them. Moreover, natural variability in the climate system means we could continue to be surprised by weather that seems cold, even when that “cold” weather is far warmer than the natural baseline.
3-1-19 The US has started burning recycling but it should only be temporary
People who take the time to recycle hope they are doing their bit to help the planet. It’s no surprise then that recent news reports of US waste facilities burning plastics and sending recycled paper to landfills has sparked outrage. Thankfully, this should be a temporary problem. It used to be that the US sent most of its recycling overseas. In 2016, the country was exporting more than 40 per cent of its paper and a third of its plastics to China. But last year, China closed its doors to foreign waste, and the US had to scramble for new buyers. Despite stories of recycling woes, the US seems to be finding them. “In the official trade data for 2018, covering the first 11 months of last year, we see the increase of exports in all scrap commodities does exceed the decline that went to China,” says Adina Renee Adler at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries in Washington, DC. “Next week we will have a final report and confirm that for the entire year.” Though US recyclables may have found a new home, the policy change from China still put a damper on the recycling market. According to a report by the National Waste and Recycling Association in Washington, DC, the prices of recyclable materials have plummeted. For example, in December 2017 mixed paper sold for $32 per ton, and a year later it was valued at $4.69 per ton. Before the ban, which first went into effect in March 2018, China was the biggest buyer of US recyclable materials. Last year, the Chinese government stopped allowing the import of 24 recyclable materials including mixed paper and post-consumer plastics, such as water bottles and yoghurt containers.
3-1-19 Jay Inslee: Washington governor to run on climate change
Washington State's Democratic Governor Jay Inslee has announced his 2020 bid for the presidential nomination, joining a lengthy list of contenders. Mr Inslee, 68, will make climate change his number one issue, calling it "the most urgent challenge of our time" in his first campaign video. He is the first governor to throw his hat into the ring, joining 12 other Democrats, including six senators. The two-term governor has been a fierce critic of President Donald Trump. "I'm running for president because I am the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation's number one priority," Mr Inslee says in the video, released on Friday. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders are among other declared contenders for the Democratic primary in 2020, the first time more than one woman has competed. Jay Inslee is someone who in the past would be a naturally formidable presidential candidate. He's a veteran politician with the kind of executive experience that comes from being a governor of a mid-sized state. This isn't your father's Democratic Party, of course, and with a diverse range of candidates already in the race, Mr Inslee will be pressed to find breathing room for his campaign. His answer is to fashion himself as the environmental candidate. With the Green New Deal getting traction among progressives, Mr Inslee is touting his work addressing climate change in Washington state. He's launching his presidential bid at a solar panel factory whose success he attributes to his policies as governor. If Mr Inslee gets the attention of Democratic voters with his environmental pitch, he can then pivot to talking about his efforts to fight the Trump administration's immigration policies, expand healthcare in his state, raise the minimum wage, enact paid family medical leave, end capital punishment and pardon Washington residents previously convicted of now-legalised marijuana drug offences. It's a record of progressive accomplishment that the half-dozen senators already in the race, having toiled in the minority since 2014, can't match.