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Hand Evolution by Megan Godtland

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Microwave Earth by Megan Godtland

2019 Science Stats

107 Global Warming News Articles
for May of 2019
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Climate Change Is Real. Donald Trump Thinks It's A Hoax.

5-31-19 The 'time machines' unlocking Antarctica's past
A group of scientists have set out in search of clues to the West Antarctic Ice Sheet's history. Drilling kilometre long sediment and rock cores in water thousands of metres deep, they are attempting to determine the age of what they are looking at in order to track Antarctica’s glacial history. To do this they use something unexpected. Understanding the history of the ice sheet and how it responded to past warm periods is crucial for predicting the future of the icy continent.

5-31-19 Climate change: Zero emissions law should be PM's legacy, scientists say
Leading climate scientists have called for Theresa May to make her "legacy" a target to cut greenhouse gases to zero by 2050. A group of experts have written to the prime minister calling for her to enshrine a target for "net zero" emissions in national law. Experts claim the target is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change. The government said the UK already leads the world in tackling global warming. In their letter, the scientists said the evidence was "unequivocal" that avoiding dangerous climate change means eliminating or offsetting all carbon emissions - not just reducing them. Among the signatories are emeritus professor Joanna Haigh from Imperial College London, Myles Allen from Oxford University, Sir Brian Hoskins, who chairs the Grantham Institute on Climate Change, and Professor Dame Julia Slingo, former chief scientist at the Met Office. They said Mrs May could make "a powerful statement of global leadership", which would compare to Margaret Thatcher's intervention 30 years ago when she became the first leader of a major nation to call for a United Nations climate change treaty. "To do so would be an act of global importance for future generations, and a worthy legacy," they said. The current target written into law is to reduce greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050. Their letter comes after the government's independent climate advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, urged ministers to set a new legal target for a 100% cut in all greenhouse gases by the middle of the century as soon as possible. Meeting this target would mean stopping all emissions from electricity generation, transport and heating, while offsetting pollution from areas like aviation using measures to capture carbon, such as planting trees, the committee said.

5-31-19 Thousands of birds perished in the Bering Sea. Arctic warming may be to blame
Emaciated puffins and other birds washed ashore on an Alaskan island in unusually high numbers. Thousands of puffins and other seabirds in the Bering Sea appear to have died in the winter of 2016 to 2017. The birds look like they starved to death, but the ultimate culprit was probably climate change, scientists say. From October 2016 to January 2017, more than 350 dead birds, mostly tufted puffins, washed ashore at St. Paul Island, Alaska, on the Bering Sea. The birds were emaciated, and many had been molting when they perished. The period when birds regrow new coats of feathers is a particularly high-stress time for puffins and other birds because the animals need extra food while also being temporarily unable to fly. The condition of the birds’ bodies points to starvation as the cause of death, scientists led by Timothy Jones, a biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, report May 29 in PLOS ONE. Based on wind speed and direction across the Bering Sea that fall and winter, as well as the number of carcasses that washed ashore on St. Paul Island, but not on a neighboring island, the researchers estimate that between 3,150 and 8,800 birds died during that period. The deaths are probably linked to elevated sea-surface temperatures in the eastern Bering Sea, a result of human-caused climate change, the team suggests. In the past, summertime sea ice melt has helped fuel blooms of plankton that form the base of the food web in the sea (SN: 3/16/19, p. 20). But sea ice has become scarce in the Bering Sea in the last few years, and there are fewer plankton blooms. That has had cascading effects through the sea's food web, including decreases in some species of small fish, such as capelin and herring, that puffins eat. Starvation may also have been responsible for recent mass die-offs of other seabirds in the region, such as of murres, auklets and kittiwakes.

5-31-19 Britain in two-week coal-free record
Britain has not used coal to generate electricity for two weeks - the longest period since the 1880s. The body which manages the way electricity is generated said coal was last used at 15:12 on 17 May. Fintan Slye, director of the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), said the British record for solar power had also been broken this month. Britain broke the record for a week of no coal earlier this month, which Mr Slye said would be a "new normal". The government plans to phase out the UK's last coal-fired plants by 2025 to reduce carbon emissions and Mr Slye said there was "still a lot of work to do". But he added: "As more and more renewables come onto the system, we're seeing things progress at an astonishing rate." The world's first centralised public coal-fired generator opened in 1882 at Holborn Viaduct in London. As coal plants take six hours to warm up, the ESO knows that it is on course to reach two weeks without coal after not using any since 17 May. The longest period without coal before now ended on 9 May, when Britain lasted just over a week. Before that, Britain had a coal-free period of 90 hours in April. "As more and more renewables come on to the system, we're seeing things progress at an astonishing rate.," said Mr Slye. "2018 was our greenest year to date, and so far, 2019 looks like it has the potential to beat it," he added. On 14 May, Britain generated a quarter of its energy from the sun - the largest proportion yet. When coal has not been used over the past fortnight, solar, wind, nuclear, gas and some hydro-generated power have been taking up the slack, the ESO said. Chris Skidmore, energy and clean growth minister, said: "The UK has the largest offshore wind capacity on the planet, can generate more than a quarter of our electricity needs from the sun and last year, more than half of our electricity came from low carbon sources."

5-31-19 Philippines sends tonnes of rubbish back to Canada
The Philippines has sent tonnes of rubbish back to Canada, after a weeks-long diplomatic spat that saw President Rodrigo Duterte threaten to "sail to Canada and dump their garbage there". The Philippines says the rubbish was falsely labelled as plastic recycling when it was sent to Manila in 2014. Canada has agreed to cover the full cost of its transfer and disposal. Some 69 containers of refuse were sent back in a cargo vessel that set sail from Subic Bay, north of Manila. "Baaaaaaaaa bye, as we say it," Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teddy Locsin Jr wrote on Twitter on Friday morning. The minister, who is known for his rambunctious tweeting style, posted pictures and video of the ship leaving port. The roughly 1,500 tonnes of repatriated rubbish will be shipped to the Canadian city of Vancouver, arriving before the end of June, to be treated at a waste-to-energy facility there. "This is a demonstration that we're going to comply with our international obligations to deal with waste that originates in Canada," Sean Fraser, Canada's parliamentary secretary to the environment minister, told the BBC. He said Canada had moved quickly in recent weeks to deal with the issue, which had dragged on for a number of years after the Philippines government made it "clear this is a very serious priority for them". A growing number of countries across South East Asia are calling for Western nations to take back rubbish that has been sent to their shores, arguing that some of it was imported illegally. The amount of rubbish exported by developed countries was revealed after China, which had imported the bulk of it for years, introduced a ban on "foreign garbage". As a result, the trash - sometimes falsely declared as recyclables - was sent to other developing countries which have now begun to push back.

5-31-19 Ancient Roman air pollution caused climate change in Europe
The Roman Empire lit so many fires that the resulting air pollution cooled the climate in Europe. The finding adds to the evidence that human societies have been affecting Earth’s climate for thousands of years. However, these past changes are dwarfed by the current global warming, which is caused by greenhouse gas emissions. Complex societies like the Roman Empire affect the climate in many ways. People burn fuel like wood to heat their homes, releasing greenhouse gases and soot. They also cut down forests to grow crops, and burn the residues of crops. Previous studies have estimated the impacts past societies made by releasing greenhouse gases and converting forests to farmland. For instance, in 2016, a team including Joy Singarayer at the University of Reading in the UK concluded that, in Europe and South-East Asia, human-induced temperature changes can be seen as early as 7000 years ago. However, these studies all neglected the ways air pollution affects climate. Soot particles from fires trap heat and have a warming effect, while particles of organic carbon scatter sunlight and cool the climate. The new study estimates the impacts of these aerosols. “We looked for the first time at whether anthropogenic aerosol impacts had an impact on climate a long time ago,” says Anina Gilgen of ETH Zurich in Switzerland. She and her colleagues estimated the amount of pollution the Roman Empire emitted, based on existing studies on how much land was used for farms, homes and other purposes. The team then used this to drive a climate model. Deforestation and other changes in land use had a small warming effect of up to 0.15°C. However, the air pollution had a cooling effect, which led to an overall temperature drop. Gilgen estimates that the climate in Europe cooled by 0.17°C to 0.46°C, depending on the true scale of the pollution.

5-30-19 Wild bees' nest made entirely out of plastic discovered in Argentina
Plastic waste is just about everywhere on the planet at this point, and some animals have been found to adapt to our litterbug ways. In Argentina, scientists have made the first report of a bee’s nest made only out of plastic pieces. At the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018, Mariana Allasino of the National Agricultural Technology Institute in Argentina, and her team were studying chicory pollinators in San Juan. At the edges of the crops, they put out 63 trap nests made of wood with holes where bees can use material to build brood cells. These are similar in shape to the tubes in honeycomb and hold larvae while they develop. The team checked the trap nests monthly, finding only three nests. Two had brood cells made of petals and mud and were created by a species called Megachile jenseni. They confirmed this when five adults of the species emerged from the cells. The other nest was made entirely of two types of plastic – thin, blue strips the consistency of disposable shopping bags, and white pieces that were a bit thicker. In this nest, one brood cell had dead larva in it, one was empty and may have contained an unidentified adult that emerged, and one cell was unfinished. “I find it rather sad, but interesting. It begs for a choice test in an enclosure to determine why this plastic might be more appealing or adaptive than use of natural materials,” says Theresa Pitts-Singer at the US Department of Agriculture. She says it will be important to determine whether plastic lining in brood cells can be harmful to the bees, as more trapped moisture may lead to higher pathogen levels, and plastic may be toxic in some way as it breaks down.

5-30-19 US energy department rebrands gas exports 'molecules of freedom'
US energy officials appeared to rebrand natural gas produced in the country as "freedom gas", in a statement announcing an increase in exports. The US Department of Energy said the expansion of a Texas facility meant more "molecules of US freedom" could be produced and exported worldwide. The facility, based in Quintana, produces liquified natural gas (LNG). The move was a clear indication of US commitment to promoting clean energy, the statement said. But the rebranding comes amid a Trump administration push to roll back climate change legislation introduced by Mr Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, which targeted vehicle emissions. Shortly after taking office, Mr Trump announced the US would withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate change agreement, saying that he wanted to negotiate a new "fair" deal that would not disadvantage US businesses and workers. The move was decried by climate change scientists and campaigners, and Mr Trump has faced accusations of hampering global efforts to cut carbon emissions. Wednesday's announced expansion of the facility on Quintana Island will support some 3,000 new jobs in the area, according to the Department of Energy statement. "Increasing export capacity from the Freeport LNG project is critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world by giving America's allies a diverse and affordable source of clean energy," Mark Menezes, the US undersecretary of energy, said. (Webmaster's comment: Free to create more global warming!)

5-30-19 Could fracking with carbon dioxide instead of water be greener?
Could a greenhouse gas be the answer to making fracking less controversial? Counterintuitive as the idea might seem, Chinese researchers claim that using carbon dioxide instead of water for fracturing rocks could be a greener way of extracting fossil fuels. Traditional hydraulic fracturing, as the name suggests, involves pumping large volumes of water underground to create cracks in shale rock to release oil and gas. Carbon dioxide has been proposed before as an alternative that could address the fracking industry’s significant water demand in dry areas. It could also tackle problems associated with polluted water flowing back to the surface after the process. To test how effective the gas might be, a Chinese research team drilled and fracked five wells with CO2 at Jilin oil field in north-east China, as well as conducting lab tests on rock samples from south-west China. They were “delighted” to find the wells produced up to 20 times as much oil after the fracking. “These real world results revealed that as compared to water fracturing, CO2 fracturing is an important and greener alternative,” the researchers concluded. Carbon dioxide could be a useful way of addressing fracking’s water consumption in arid areas of the US and even the UK, where water companies have said the fracking industry could put pressure on some local water supplies. It also holds the prospect of opening up more of China’s shale gas resource, which is the world’s largest but has not been exploited as rapidly as that in the US. “Reservoirs in China may be more suitable to be fractured by CO2,” says Nannan Sun of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. But he added it was too early to say if it could change the speed at which China’s fracking industry develops. While using the gas could be greener by reducing water use and potential water pollution, the research does not show CO2 fracturing is environmentally better overall. While some of the CO2 could be stored within the rocks, Nannan says it could also potentially leak out after fracking, which would add to global warming. If CO2 fracturing makes more oil and gas economically recoverable, that would add to the stock of fossil fuels we can burn too.

5-30-19 Climate change link to puffin deaths
Climate change played a role in the deaths of thousands of puffins in Alaska, according to a study. Scientists believe the birds starved to death when the fish they eat migrated north with rising sea temperatures. The bodies of dead, emaciated puffins began washing up on beaches on Saint Paul Island in autumn 2016. Up to 9,000 puffins and other seabirds died over the course of a few months, US scientists say. And climate-driven shifts in fish populations, combined with the onset of moulting, may have caused this mass die-off. "Mass mortality events are increasing in frequency and magnitude, potentially linked with ongoing climate change," researchers led by Timothy Jones of the University of Washington, Seattle, wrote in the journal Plos One. The findings add to fears that rising temperatures are having unpredictable effects on birds, bats and other wildlife. A recent study found birds nesting in the Arctic faced a bigger risk of having their nests raided by predators due to changes linked to climate change. And over two days last November, record-breaking heat in Australia's north wiped out almost one-third of the nation's spectacled flying foxes, according to researchers. The latest study looked at tufted puffins breeding in the Bering Sea, off the coast of Alaska. The birds feed on fish and marine invertebrates, which in turn feed on ocean plankton. Scientists fear that unusually warm waters can shift the ocean food web, spelling trouble for marine life, including puffins. More than 350 bodies of seabirds were found on beaches on Saint Paul Island between October 2016 to January 2017. Most were tufted puffins but bodies of a second seabird, the Crested auklet, were also found.

5-29-19 Hundreds of puffins are starving to death because of climate change
Hundreds of “severely emaciated” puffin carcasses have washed ashore on an Alaskan island, and researchers believe thousands more have died at sea as warming waters continue to shrink their food supply. Between October 2016 and January 2017, inhabitants of St Paul Island in the Bering sea found the starved bodies of more than 350 seabirds, primarily tufted puffins. Analysing the location of bird carcasses and wind data, Timothy Jones at the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues estimated that between 3000 and 9000 birds died in total. When they examined some of the bodies, they found no signs of infection or unsafe levels of toxins. “Collected specimens were severely emaciated, suggesting starvation as the ultimate cause of mortality,” Jones wrote. Tufted puffins, which accounted for 79 per cent of the bird carcasses found, eat fish and marine invertebrates, which in turn eat phytoplankton. But changes to atmospheric conditions, including the ongoing heatwave, have massively disrupted the marine ecosystems, he wrote. There is less winter sea-ice, and warmer temperatures have been linked to fewer forage fish, crustaceans and other prey animals as they either die off or move north to cooler waters. Almost all the puffins they found were adults in the process of moulting, which makes them flightless for up to 40 days and requires more nutritional energy than normal. This combination of factors likely led to the huge numbers of deaths, Jones wrote. These mass deaths are increasing in frequency and magnitude, and two other largescale seabird die-offs in the region have been directly linked to a marine heatwave starting in 2013, Jones wrote.

5-29-19 Himalayan glacier melting threatens water security for millions of people
Large bodies of ice are losing mass faster than they are accumulating it. Meltwater from glaciers in Asia’s high mountain ranges, including the Himalayas, meets the basic water needs of about 221 million people each year. But that store of freshwater is shrinking, a study finds, threatening regional water security within just a few decades. Glaciers can store water for decades or even centuries before releasing it into rivers, providing a steady supply to sustain downhill populations even in times of drought, writes glaciologist Hamish D. Pritchard of the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. But glaciers in the mountains are melting faster than they can be replenished by snowfall, Pritchard reports in the study, published online May 29 in Nature. To estimate the extent of the imbalance, Pritchard calculated summertime meltwater volumes and winter snowfall rates using a range of datasets, including altitude-adjusted precipitation and temperature records from 1951 to 2007, as well as observed changes in glacier volumes from 2000 to 2016. Based on those data, the overall volume of meltwater rushing down the mountains each year from 2000 to 2016 was 1.6 times as much as it would have been if the system were in balance. As the global average temperature continues to increase, summertime glacial melt will continue to outpace snowfall, shrinking the glaciers — until eventually, runoff from the mountains tapers off, Pritchard notes. If countries fail to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, the annual meltwater flowing into the region’s rivers could be noticeably decreased by 2090.

5-29-19 Stalled jet stream has caused two weeks of tornadoes in the US
A stalled weather pattern over the middle of the US has resulted in tornadoes running through several states every day for nearly two weeks. Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Ohio and northern Texas have been hit hardest, and millions of people in these states and neighbouring regions are under a state of emergency due to flooding and severe storms. Much of the damage is in a region known as Tornado Alley, where tornadoes are most common in the US. But the frequency of twisters – at least 8 storms have been reported each day over 12 days – is so high even by Tornado Alley standards that it breaks a 40-year record. Tornado warnings have also been issued as far east as New York City, far to the east of Tornado Alley, which is unusual. “A deep trough or southward dip in the jet stream has been in place over the western part of the country for a very long time,” says Jennifer Francis at Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. The fact that it’s so persistent is due to another feature in the jet stream out in the Pacific – a ridge where the jet stream shoots way northward, has been in that configuration for most of the winter, she says. She says that ridge is becoming more common and strengthening due to sea ice loss in the Arctic as the region warms. These storms are part of months of unusual weather across the entire country, driven by the persistence of the jet stream pattern. “This is actually much broader than just the tornadoes. There are also the unusual rains in California, recent snow in Denver, and the heat wave in the southeast. These things are all connected,” she says. There is light at the end of the alley. Francis says that in about a week, models suggest that the US Midwest will dry out as the jet stream finally shifts.

5-29-19 Superfog can cause fatal car accidents and now we know how it forms
A mysterious and deadly natural phenomena called superfog has been made in the lab for the first time. Formed when smoke and moisture mix to make a murky dense haze that is impossible to see through, superfog is rare. But it’s been blamed for several lethal pile-ups on roads in the United States. Five people died and 38 were injured when superfog caused 70 cars to smash together on the I-4 highway in Florida in January 2008. “It was clear, it was a little foggy, then it was total darkness,” a driver involved in the accident said at the time. The interstate pile-up was blamed on deliberate controlled burning of nearby brushland – a landscape management tactic intended to reduce fire risk and improve habitat for wildlife. The US burns a combined area the size of Switzerland in this way each year. Researchers have struggled to understand what turns regular smoke produced from such fires into occasional dangerous superfog. The new experiments to set fires in different lab conditions suggest it’s down to a combination of chilly nights, humidity and soggy fuel. Overnight smouldering of controlled fires produces large amounts of water vapour, which condenses on smoke particles into concentrated clouds of unusually small droplets, the research shows. These smaller and densely suspended water drops scatter more light and so reduce visibility so drastically. This could be the first step to finding a way to reduce the risk during controlled burns. But Marko Princevac, a mechanical engineer at the University of California, Riverside, who led the research says it’s still early days. “Now we know what are the proper mixtures of various ingredients that form superfog,” he says. “But we still do not know how to predict when those ingredients in the right mixture will form.”

5-28-19 What do the European Parliament results mean for climate change?
The European Parliament elections last weekend saw a collapse in support for traditional centrist parties, while that for populists and greens grew. For the first time ever, the centre-right European People’s Party and centre-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats don’t control a majority of the seats, meaning they will now probably have to partner with the liberal and green alliances to pass measures. As the world’s second largest democracy (India, the largest, just re-elected prime minister Narendra Modi), the European Union has a large role to play in tackling climate change. The EU’s green bloc is now in a good position to force more drastic action, having increased its seats from 52 to 69, its highest-ever result. There are a total of 751 seats in the European Parliament. The European Commission aims to make the European Union carbon neutral by 2050. This plan will need to be approved by the European Parliament, and that now seems more likely to happen. “We have begun to see that all of our competitors are beginning to speak about ecological policies and green policies and so things have changed,” Philippe Lamberts, co-leader of the Greens-European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, said in a statement. However, populist parties, which often vote against climate policies in the parliament, also saw success. In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party narrowly beat president Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party into second place. Macron is still feeling the heat from the “gilets jaunes” or “yellow vests” protests, which began partly as a reaction to fuel taxes designed to tackle climate change. Meanwhile in the UK, the Brexit Party surged to the top of the polls. The party has no official policies on climate change and didn’t publish an election manifesto, but its leader, Nigel Farage, has previously questioned the basis of climate science, as have many of its newly elected MEPs. These include the former Conservative minister Ann Widdecombe, who was previously one of only five members of the UK House of Commons to vote against the UK’s 2008 Climate Change Act. Were the UK to leave the EU, the country’s MEPs would have no say in the EU’s climate policies.

5-28-19 Malaysia orders tonnes of imported waste to be returned
Malaysia has ordered several thousand tonnes of imported plastic waste to be sent back to the countries it came from. The country's government says it has become a dumping ground for wealthier nations and that much of the refuse was imported illegally.

5-27-19 Climate activism failing to represent BAME groups, say campaigners
The mother of Ella Kissi-Debrah - the nine-year-old girl whose fatal asthma attack may have been linked to illegal levels of pollution - has said there is a lack of representation in climate activism. People living in parts of London with high proportions of black, mixed or other ethnic groups are disproportionately affected by air pollution compared to those in areas with a high proportion of white people, according to research by the Mayor of London. Yet people from BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) backgrounds are often invisible in climate protest, says Rosamund Kissi-Debrah - who is due to speak at the World Health Organization on Monday. Ms Kissi-Debrah, who lost her daughter in 2013, says black or ethnic minority people care about climate change as much as other groups. "I focus on air pollution, obviously because of what happened to my daughter, but also because people where I live care about pollution. "Pollution has a direct impact on their lives." Echoing Ms Kissi-Debrah's comment is Professor Akwugo Emejulu - a sociology lecturer at the University of Warwick specialising in women of colour's activism in Europe. She says the main reason for what she sees as their lack of representation in activism lies in some of the tactics used by action groups, such as Extinction Rebellion. One of the strategies adopted by Extinction Rebellion during their 10-day demonstration in April was to get as many activists as possible arrested. Prof Emejulu says some black campaigners are put off this approach because they fear violence and hostility from the police. Samantha Moyo is the coordinator for Extinction Rebellion Together - a section within the group that provides training on diversity. She says it took a lot of effort to overcome her fear of police when joining protest campaigns. "I don't know what it is about being black that makes you feel scared around police," she said. "I've always got a feeling of, 'they're going to get me - out of everyone here, they're going to come for me'." Ms Moyo says she only felt safe from police at the latest protests because she was "holding hands with a fellow protester, who was white". She says police could help to reduce the fear sometimes felt by people of colour if they behaved in a more approachable way. "Something as simple as a smile. Or maybe something like a declaration from a police department, saying: 'We admit this has been a problem', that would be quite healing. "Or even allowing or creating spaces for people who are traumatised by police to share their stories. A lot of people of colour are traumatised."

5-26-19 Welcome to the synthetic age
One fact about our time is becoming increasingly well-known. No matter how far you travel, no matter in which direction you point, there is nowhere on Earth that remains free from the traces of human activity. The chemical and biological signatures of our species are everywhere. Transported around the globe by fierce atmospheric winds, relentless ocean currents, and the capacious cargo-holds of millions of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, nowhere on Earth is free from humanity's imprint. Pristine nature has permanently blinked out of existence. (Webmaster's comment: Plastic pollution has been found in the deepest ocean trench and on the highest mountain peak.) These planetary changes have been characterized by geographers, geologists, and climate scientists as the end of one geological epoch — the Holocene — and the start of the next, the Anthropocene. In this newly designated "human age," our species' impact on the oceans, the land, and the atmosphere has become an inescapable feature of the Earth. This idea that humanity has forced a geological transition is capturing people's attention not just because changes in epochs are rare. It is attracting notice because our species is gripped by the idea that we possess planetary powers. A second fact about our age is much less widely appreciated. We are changing how the planet works. It is not just that human activities have stained every corner of the entire planet. The simultaneous arrival of a range of powerful new technologies are starting to signal a potential takeover of Earth's most basic operations by its most audacious species. From this time forward, technologies such as the gene-editing technique CRISPR and climate engineering will transform an already tainted planet into an increasingly synthetic whole. This February, when the entomologist Ruth Mueller pried open a container of genetically modified mosquitoes in a high-security lab in the Italian town of Terni, she wasn't just experimenting with a powerful new tool in biotechnology. She was implementing a change to the Mendelian laws of inheritance that govern all life on Earth. The mosquitoes she released, each of them carrying a CRISPR-enabled "gene drive" designed to spread through a group of mosquitoes, would test whether humans could successfully force a trait through the whole of a free-living population. The lab in which Mueller works has been carefully designed so that, for now, the change takes place on a limited scale and securely indoors. But gene drives can theoretically spread themselves unaided to any corner of the globe in which populations of interbreeding mosquitoes live. They change the genetic rules wherever they travel. If the question is "How much does your research amend the planetary rules?" the Mueller lab has plenty of company. This summer, a research team from Harvard University will conduct the first field test of geoengineering the climate. They plan to use a high-altitude balloon to place reflective particles into the stratosphere above the arid landscapes of the American southwest. There, they will examine how effectively the particles beat back incoming solar energy. Scaled up appropriately, the technology could in future be used to rewrite the planetary rules in a way that echoes the changes wrought by gene drives.

5-26-19 Meet Belfast's young climate change protesters
Inspired by Greta Thunberg, young people all over the world are walking out of school in protest of climate change and Northern Ireland is no different. Gathering on a monthly basis in the Cornmarket area of Belfast these young people are hoping to make their voice heard on the issue. The UK Government declared a climate emergency at the beginning of May with the current target being to reduce carbon emissions by 80% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2050.

5-25-19 Why is Norway the land of electric cars?
In Norway you can drive in the bus lane, park for free and get a 25% tax break when you buy an electric car. We've been taking a look beneath the bonnet of the Scandinavian country's electric car successes.

5-24-19 CO2 levels reach 3 million-year high
In a grim milestone for our warming planet, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have reached their highest level in more than 3 million years. Sensors at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded that concentrations of CO2—the greenhouse gas most responsible for climate change—reached 415 parts per million last Friday. In the 800,000 years before the Industrial Revolution, CO2 levels never surpassed 300 ppm; they have risen 2.5 ppm annually for the past decade. The last time there was this much CO2 in the atmosphere was during the Pliocene Epoch, between 5.3 million and 2.6 million years ago, when sea levels were about 50 feet higher than they are now. Scientists warn that if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t curbed, CO2 levels could hit 500 ppm within 30 years. “None of these specific numbers are really thresholds in the sense that anything particular happens when we cross them,” Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, tells NBCNews.com. “But as we go through them, we are putting our foot on the accelerator of climate change, and impacts and damage will continue to rise.” In a timely reminder of the extreme effects of greenhouse gas emissions, a heat wave in Russia pushed temperatures in the northwestern city of Arkhangelsk to 84 degrees Fahrenheit in mid-May—30 degrees higher than the monthly average.

5-24-19 Plastic at the bottom of the sea
An undersea explorer has broken the record for the deepest submarine dive—and found plastic trash on the seabed, 7 miles down. Victor Vescovo and his colleagues became only the third team ever to reach the bottom of the Challenger Deep, the deepest known part of the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench. They completed five descents between late April and early May, with the deepest clocking in at 10,927 meters, or about 7 miles. Vescovo, a Texas investor, identified four new species of sea creatures on the ocean floor—and some sort of plastic waste, the exact nature of which is still being determined. His team plans to perform tests on some of the creatures found, to see how much plastic they’ve ingested. “I was disappointed to see human contamination in the deepest point in the ocean,” he tells The Washington Post. “With over 7 billion people on the Earth, the oceans are going to be impacted negatively by mankind—but I hope we can at least minimize it in the future.”

5-24-19 School students walk out in global climate strike
School students around the world have gone on strike to demand action on climate change. Organisers expect more than one million young people to join the protests in at least 110 countries on Friday. They are calling on politicians and businesses to take urgent action to slow global warming. The strikes are inspired by student Greta Thunberg, who has become a global figurehead since protesting outside Sweden's parliament in 2018. Carrying a "school strike for climate change" sign, the then 15-year-old said she was refusing to attend classes until Swedish politicians took action. The solo protest led to various movements across Europe, the US and Australia, known as Fridays for Future or School Strike for Climate. The last co-ordinated international protest took place on 15 March, with an estimated 1.6 million students from 125 countries walking out of school. The action on Friday began in Australia and New Zealand. In Melbourne, 13-year-old Nina Pasqualini said she was joining the strike because she was worried about "weather disasters". "Every time we have huge a bushfire here another animal might go extinct," she told Reuters news agency. Australia just had its hottest summer on record and climate change is seen as the cause of the increasing frequency and severity of droughts, heat waves, floods and the melting of glaciers around the world. In 2018, global carbon emissions hit a record high and UN-backed panel on climate change last October warned that to stabilise the climate, emissions will have to be slashed over the next 12 years. Earlier this month, a UN report warned that one million animal and plant species were now threatened with extinction. Sophie Hanford, a national organiser in New Zealand, said Friday's strike was "only the beginning". The protesting students have vowed to continue boycotting classes on Fridays until their countries adhere to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which aims to prevent global temperatures from rising 1.5C (34.7F) above pre-industrial levels. (Webmaster's comment: But not American students! They are fightened sheep!)

5-24-19 Earth's methane emissions are rising and we don't know why
Levels of a powerful greenhouse gas jumped again last year, continuing a surge in the past few years that researchers still cannot fully explain. Atmospheric concentrations of methane climbed by 10.77 parts per billion in 2018, the second highest annual increase in the past two decades, according to provisional data released recently by US agency NOAA. Methane is a shorter-lived but much more powerful greenhouse than carbon dioxide. The amount finding its way from human and natural sources, which can include everything from oil and gas wells to wetlands, has been rising since 2007. The rate has accelerated in the past four years. Researchers warned earlier this year that if methane levels keep increasing at current rates then the Paris climate deal’s goals – of limiting global warming to 2°C and pursuing efforts to keep below 1.5°C – would be very difficult to meet. Euan Nisbet of Royal Holloway University of London says researchers are very worried about the latest rise. Perhaps even more concerning is the fact no one is entirely sure what is driving the trend. “The disturbing aspect is, we do not know which processes are responsible for methane increasing as rapidly as it is,” says Ed Dlugokencky of the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Keith Shine at Reading University echoes that view. “The fact that growth rates in the atmospheric concentrations of methane are approaching the levels we saw in the 1980s, after a period of relatively slow growth, is deeply concerning. The fact that we don’t understand the reasons for this surge deepen that concern.” One possibility is that a warmer world is causing more methane to be released from wetlands in the tropics, fuelling even more warming. That would suggest a feedback loop is underway. “I’m not sure but it looks as if the warming is feeding the warming,” says Nisbet. More evidence is needed to prove the idea though.

5-24-19 Climate change: Answers to your most asked questions
During the last worldwide school strikes in March, BBC News asked for your questions on climate change. Since then, thousands of you have been talking to our climate change chatbot on Facebook Messenger. Below are some of the topics that came up many times - with some answers from science and our climate team.

  1. You asked: Can we adapt to climate change instead of fighting it? Humans are already adapting. In South Korea, farmers are growing different crops to future-proof themselves against changing temperatures.
  2. You asked: Should I change my diet?: Avoiding meat and dairy products is one of the biggest ways to reduce your environmental impact.
  3. You asked: What can I do? Lots. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says the world cannot meet its emissions targets without changes by individuals.
  4. You asked: Why has so much changed in food labelling for personal health but not planet health? In 2013, the government set out plans for a consistent "traffic light" food labelling system to help people easily understand what's in their food.
  5. You asked: What about the world's increasing population? Human-induced climate change is happening. And the UN estimates the world has added approximately one billion humans since 2005.
  6. You asked: What are governments doing on climate change?: Individual governments are choosing to tackle climate change in various ways. But the one thing that has pulled the world together is the Paris agreement.
  7. You asked: How much hotter has the world got - and how hot will it get? Global temperatures rises are generally compared to "pre-industrial times". Many researchers define that as 1850-1900 - before the world was chugging out greenhouse gases on a global scale. The world is now about 1C warmer than it was back then, according to the IPCC.
  8. You asked: Why doesn't BBC News do more on climate change? Covering climate change and its impact on people around the world is a top priority for BBC News. We know climate change is an increasingly important subject. Younger audiences in particular tell us they would like to see more journalism on the issue, the BBC says. There has been a significant increase in the number and range of stories across our output.
  9. You asked: What if I can't afford to change my way of life? Being climate conscious can often feel very expensive, from changing your food habits to buying an electric car. But there are some things that will save you money - like eating wonky vegetables instead of red meat and cycling to work instead of driving. And making your home more energy efficient should actually bring down your bills.

5-24-19 The oceans are very slowly draining into the rock below Earth's crust
Water from the ocean has been steadily draining away into the interior of our planet over the last 150 million years. The loss of water is equivalent to a fall in sea level of at least 50 metres and possibly 130 metres. The drainage will not affect the current rise in sea levels, which is driven by climate change and ultimately our greenhouse gas emissions. The current rise is taking place over centuries, whereas the natural drainage is 10,000 times slower. Many processes have affected sea levels over Earth’s history, from warmer climates that melt ice sheets, to seafloor rocks becoming denser with age and sinking – causing sea levels to fall. However, a study published last year found another significant mechanism: subduction. When one continental plate moves under another and is dragged down into the mantle below, it takes water trapped inside the rock with it.To find out how much water is lost this way, Krister Karlsen of the University of Oslo in Norway and his colleagues conducted their own study. They built a mathematical model that estimates the flows of water in and out of the Earth’s interior over the last 230 million years. They found that the key factor is the speed of subduction. The rate increased dramatically around 150 million years ago. Before then, all the continents were linked together in a supercontinent called Pangaea. But by 150 million years ago Pangaea was disintegrating. “You have much more rapid subduction when you break up a supercontinent,” says Karlsen. “The rapid subduction is crucial for bringing water in hydrated rock deep into the mantle.” If the subduction is slow, water in the sinking rocks can escape back up into the sea. If no other processes were taking place, sea levels would have fallen 50-130 metres in the last 230 million years, with the fastest drops around 150 million years ago. In reality, other processes like sea floors sinking were also going on, so the effect of this drainage was masked.

5-23-19 High-tech wood could keep homes cool by reflecting the sun’s rays
Houses made of high-tech wood could help us stay cool and also reduce carbon emissions by cutting energy used on air conditioning. Liangbing Hu at the University of Maryland and his colleagues created the material by removing the lignin—a component of the cell walls in trees—from natural wood using hydrogen peroxide. The remaining wood is mostly made of cellulose, another component of plant cell wall. Cellulose reflects visible light and only absorbs very low levels of near-infrared light. This means the cooling wood reflects most of the components of sunlight right back to the environment. As a result, a building made from this material would transmit barely any heat indoors. The team also found that the material can absorb heat produced indoors, which is emitted at a different wavelength range to sunlight. During cooler nights, the wood helps release the heat outside, making it useful day and night. Hu says the cooling wood is very dense and has a tensile strength of around 404 megapascals, making it 8.7 times stronger than natural wood and comparable to metal structure materials including steel. To investigate how much energy the wood could save, the team simulated replacing the exterior walls and the roofs of some apartment buildings in 16 US states, representing a variety of climate conditions. They found the wood could reduce cooling energy requirements by an average of 20 to 35 per cent. However, because cooling wood prevents heat from the sun from getting indoors, it will result in additional heating costs in winter. Therefore, Hu says the material is best suited for warm areas with long summers and short winters, such as Arizona and Hawaii.

5-23-19 Letter makes plea to rich over climate
Britain’s wealthy elite are being asked to dip deep into their pockets to protect the environment and the climate. A group of scientists has written to the top 100 wealthiest charitable bodies and families to request funding. They say efforts to tackle what they call the ecological crisis are "desperately under-funded". The authors believe that less than 3% of philanthropic funding goes towards climate-related issues. The letter has a slightly desperate tone. It says: “We are taking the step to write to you as the most affluent individuals and families. “The rates of deforestation, of carbon emissions, of species extinction, of land degradation are a threat to us all. “We implore you to urgently consider significant investment to prevent further ecological catastrophe - whether through your personal investments or your philanthropy.“ The scientists think this is the first letter of its kind. It warns: “The changes to our natural world are critical to the lives of the communities you support.” The 11 signatories are distinguished academics including the physicists Myles Allen from Oxford and Joanna Haigh from Imperial College; the psychologist Lorraine Whitmarsh from Cardiff University and Sir David King, former government chief scientist. The letter was co-ordinated by Angela Terry, from the not-for-profit Climate Alliance. She told us: “We need the investment to rapidly adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change that are already being felt. “Let’s invest in EV charging infrastructure alongside educational programmes so people know it is perfectly okay to take an EV into a car wash. “Let’s combine flood defences with action plans to protect the most vulnerable members of our community from extreme weather. (Webmaster's comment: First they get rich by destroying our environment and now we have to beg them for money to help fix it!)

5-22-19 We need to talk about how population growth is harming the planet
Putting people in their place | Discussions of population's impact on Earth have been off limits, but scientists and conservationists are challenging the taboo and politicians must do the same. ONE occupational hazard of writing about the environment is readers criticising my failure to mention the P-word. No, not polar bears, or plastic. Population. There is no environmental crisis, I’m told, that cannot be blamed on there being too many people, or solved by – well, you can see the problem with following this line of argument. Last month, I spent a slightly weird Saturday afternoon at a public conference hosted by pressure group Population Matters, the true believers of the population movement. Some of the passionate but rather eccentric discussions reminded me of former prime minister David Cameron’s dismissal of the UK Independence Party as “fruit cakes and loonies” (yes, he also called them “closet racists” – we’ll get into that later). To be clear, I don’t think population activists are fruit cakes or loonies (or racists). Decades of beating your head against a brick wall is enough to make anyone’s eyes swivel. But, like UKIP, there are signs that their hobby horse is riding into the mainstream. Population wasn’t always a fringe issue. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was regarded as an urgent environmental problem. But it gradually faded from view as campaigners focused on more socially acceptable problems, such as overconsumption. Eventually, the P-word became taboo, tainted by what has been called “population shaming”. This is the idea that any calls for population control are hypocritical, racist and coercive, typically consisting of rich, white people lecturing poor, non-white people to have fewer children. Those same advocates consume rampantly while blaming environmental problems on population growth in the developing world. Given that most of the growth up to 2050 is projected to happen in Africa, you can see why accusations of racism and neocolonialism strike a chord. (Webmaster's comment: There is no natural check and balance on our population growth. We're breeding unchecked against all logic and commen sense.)

5-22-19 If Australia and Europe fail to act on climate they risk their future
Election results indicate a blow for efforts to fight climate change. Everyone should be clear that is in no one’s long-term environmental or economic interest NINE days, three elections – and a confusing mix of messages about what constitutes meaningful action on climate change. Start in Australia, where the ruling Liberal-National coalition won a surprise re-election last Saturday. The result followed sustained questioning of the cost, in money and in jobs, of the opposition Labor party’s plans to nearly double planned cuts to carbon emissions. In India, meanwhile, exit polls as New Scientist went to press suggest that the world’s largest democratic contest will have delivered another term as prime minister for Narendra Modi. Significantly, for the first time, the manifestos of both Modi’s BJP party and the opposition Congress party promised significant action on environmental issues: expanding renewables, reversing deforestation and cleaning up India’s polluted rivers and foul urban air. Move to the European Parliament elections between 23 and 26 May. These seem likely to deliver big gains for populist parties using climate-change denial as part of their anti-establishment messaging, but also for pro-environment Greens. New Scientist doesn’t endorse any candidate or party. But we do endorse a sustainable future for the planet. And this week’s results fit a pattern. Nations on the up such as India and China see green issues as compatible with their development – indeed, advantageous for it. Meanwhile, greying Western economies are stuck in the mud, polarising into pro and anti camps. The West should take heed. Dealing with climate change comes with a cost, that is clear. But not making the necessary adjustments to our lifestyles comes at an even bigger cost. Nowhere is that clearer than in Australia, with its recent record of extreme weather.

5-22-19 China confirmed as source of illegal ozone-destroying chemicals
Who is destroying the ozone layer? In recent decades, concentrations of chlorofluorocarbon gases have been declining in the atmosphere, which is good news for the ozone layer’s recovery and action on climate change. But levels of the second most abundant of those gases, trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11), have been rising since 2013, puzzling researchers when they detected the increase last year. The culprit appears to be illegal production of CFCs in eastern China, in defiance of a 2010 ban on their manufacture. An international team traced the source of the spikes in the pollutant back from two monitoring stations, one in Japan and one in South Korea. They were the only ones in the world which saw such events. To pinpoint which country was responsible, the team used models to simulate how the atmosphere would distribute the plumes. The results pointed clearly to the Chinese provinces of Shandong and Hebei. “We think the rise from this region explains the increase in CFCs,” says Matt Rigby of the University of Bristol. Globally, around 65,000 tonnes of CFCs leak into the atmosphere each year from existing buildings and refrigerators. The new research suggests China is responsible for 40-60 per cent of the previously unexplained rise in CFCs. China appears to have been emitting 10,000 tonnes a year between 2013 and 2017, more than doubling the country’s previous contribution. An investigation by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) last year found clues the culprit in China was small factories buying CFC-11 to make foam insulation for fridges, because it was cheaper than its legal alternative, HCFC-141b.

5-22-19 Emissions of a banned ozone-destroying chemical have been traced to China
Air monitoring data solve only part of the mystery of why CFC-11 pollution is on the rise. China has continued producing an ozone-destroying chemical called CFC-11 in violation of an international agreement, an analysis of atmospheric gas finds. Air samples collected in South Korea and Japan suggest that eastern China emitted around 7,000 metric tons more trichlorofluoromethane a year from 2014 to 2017 than it did from 2008 to 2012. This boost in emissions explains a large fraction of the estimated global increase in CFC-11 emissions — between 11,000 and 17,000 metric tons annually — after 2012, researchers report online May 22 in Nature. CFC-11 has been used to make foams for construction materials, refrigerators and consumer products. But chlorine from CFC-11 and similar molecules, collectively called chlorofluorocarbons, can destroy thousands of atmospheric ozone molecules per chlorine atom (SN: 12/1/12, p. 13). Under the 1987 Montreal Protocol, an international treaty that phased out the production of chlorofluorocarbons by 2010, no one should be producing CFC-11 anymore (SN: 7/7/90, p. 6). “Now there is a very clear indication that some places are not adhering to the Montreal Protocol,” says A.R. Ravi Ravishankara, an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins not involved in the work. These results demonstrate “the need for verification and continued vigilance” in enforcing the treaty, he says. Continuing illegal production of the chemical may delay the recovery of the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica.

5-22-19 Ozone layer: Banned CFCs traced to China say scientists
Researchers say that they have pinpointed the major sources of a mysterious recent rise in a dangerous, ozone-destroying chemical. CFC-11 was primarily used for home insulation but global production was due to be phased out in 2010. But scientists have seen a big slowdown in the rate of depletion over the past six years. This new study says this is mostly being caused by new gas production in eastern provinces of China. CFC-11 is also known as trichlorofluoromethane, and is one of a number of chloroflurocarbon (CFC) chemicals that were initially developed as refrigerants during the 1930s. However, it took many decades for scientists to discover that when CFCs break down in the atmosphere, they release chlorine atoms that are able to rapidly destroy the ozone layer which protects us from ultraviolet light. A gaping hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica was discovered in the mid 1980s. The international community agreed the Montreal Protocol in 1987, which banned most of the offending chemicals. Recent research suggests that the hole in the Northern Hemisphere could be fully fixed by the 2030s and Antarctica by the 2060s. CFC-11 was the second most abundant CFCs and was initially seen to be declining as expected. However in 2018 a team of researchers monitoring the atmosphere found that the rate of decline had slowed by about 50% after 2012. That team reasoned that they were seeing new production of the gas, coming from East Asia. The authors of that paper argued that if the sources of new production weren't shut down, it could delay the healing of the ozone layer by a decade. Further detective work in China by the Environmental Investigation Agency in 2018 seemed to indicate that the country was indeed the source. They found that the illegal chemical was used in the majority of the polyurethane insulation produced by firms they contacted.

5-22-19 Plastic straws will be banned in the UK from April 2020
The billions of plastic straws consumed in the UK each year will be banned from April 2020 as part of government efforts to protect marine life. Drinks stirrers and cotton buds will also be banned. The ban was first floated by ministers more than a year ago, and it was originally planned to come into effect in 2019, rather than 2020. Many cafes, bars and restaurants have already switched to alternatives made from paper, but the move should finally end the estimated annual use of 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds. There will be exemptions for people who need plastic straws for medical reasons. A consultation launched last October found overwhelming public support in the UK for a ban on the distribution and sale of the products. “These items are often used for just a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down, ending up in our seas and oceans and harming precious marine life,” environment secretary Michael Gove said in statement. Greenpeace welcomed the move, but says more is needed. “To really tackle the plastic crisis we need bigger, bolder action from this government – including targets to radically reduce the production of single-use plastics and an all-inclusive deposit return scheme,” says Sam Chetan-Welsh, a campaigner at the group. Gove is yet to make a final decision on a “latte levy” charge for single use coffee cups, a deposit return scheme for drinks containers or a tax on single use plastic with less than 30 per cent recycled content. If the UK remains a member of the European Union, even more single-use items, including cutlery and plates, will be banned by 2021, under measures agreed by the European Parliament.

5-22-19 Straws: UK government to bring in new controls on plastic
In a bid to limit ocean pollution, the UK government will introduce new controls on single use plastic items next year. The measures cover plastic straws, plastic drinks stirrers and plastic cotton buds in England from April 2020. Only plastic drinks stirrers will be totally banned from sale - currently 316 million are used a year. Environmental groups have praised the move but say the government needs to take far more decisive action. The government press release announcing the new restrictions talks of "a ban on the supply of plastic straws" but in reality the aim is instead to restrict their availability. Shops including supermarkets will not be allowed to sell the straws but they will on sale by registered pharmacies in stores and online. That's because disabled groups have highlighted how straws are essential for everyday life and that a total ban could lead to the risk of dehydration. According to the announcement, bars and restaurants will not be allowed to display plastic straws or automatically hand them out but they will be able to provide them if people ask. When asked who could request a straw, a spokesperson for the environment ministry Defra said: "Anyone can ask for a straw and be given one without needing to prove a disability - we've been working with disabled groups so that they don't feel stigmatised." Plastic stirrers will be subject to a total ban. However plastic-stemmed cotton buds, although restricted from general sale to the public, will still be available. Medical and scientific laboratories will be able to buy them for use in research and for forensic tasks in criminal investigations. Defra reckons 1.8bn plastic-stemmed cotton buds are used and thrown away every year in England.

5-21-19 Turning CO2 into animal feed could make it greener for us to eat meat
Carbon captured from industry could be channelled into the food chain – a process that might help to reduce the emissions from agriculture. UK-based company Deep Branch Biotechnology has recently finished testing a method for turning carbon dioxide into animal feed. It is now teaming up with two CO2 emitters – one that generates electricity and one that produces cement – for trials over 18 months, in which it will convert the gas into up to 100 kilograms of protein to be fed to fish and livestock. The firm’s method relies on an edible strain of bacteria that consumes CO2. The bacteria grow and reproduce when fed the gas, and can be regularly harvested, while still maintaining a colony. Once dried out, around 70 per cent of the remaining material is protein. These microbes can generate everything they need from CO2 and the basic building blocks of life, says Peter Rowe at Deep Branch. Around a third of all cropland is used to grow animal feed, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. And around 17 per cent of all fish caught globally are turned into feed for commercial fisheries, found an analysis by the UK’s Sea Fish Industry Authority. The hope is that Deep Branch’s technology can be used to reduce these numbers and provide an extra incentive for CO2 to be captured from industry before it enters the atmosphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that carbon capture will be necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C. “Every little bit helps,” says Ronald Hardy at the University of Idaho. However, he is sceptical this will be on a large enough scale to affect global emissions. Deep Branch plans to build a larger production facility by 2021 so it can produce several tonnes of protein per year.

5-21-19 Older people use more energy - and it's not just because of wealth
The average age is rising across populations around the world – a demographic shift that not only poses conundrums for social welfare systems, but may also pose a significant challenge to energy systems and efforts to rein in climate change. Hossein Estiri of Harvard University and Emilio Zagheni of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, in Germany, have found that energy use increases as we get older, and not just because we accumulate more wealth through life. A greying population could mean a greater proportion of society with high energy consumption levels, their study suggests. On average, children’s energy consumption climbs as they grow up, before dipping slightly when they leave home, their analysis of US data showed. Consumption then rises when people hit their thirties, peaks at 55 years old, and then briefly drops before beginning to climb again. The study controlled for factors such as income, local climate, and the age, type and size of a person’s home. The increase in energy use throughout lifespan seems to be down instead to lifestyle and how our needs change as we age. Why does demand surge so much in our thirties? “We need more of everything. More space. We need more: a bigger TV, we now need two fridges,” says Estiri. The study found that in warmer parts of the US, unlike in colder ones, energy use intensifies in people over the age of 65 – probably for air conditioning. This suggests that climate change and an ageing population may be increasing the effects of each other. Heatwaves have become more common in the US in recent years and are expected to become more frequent due to global warming. More older people using more energy to keep cool could contribute to more warming, until that energy supply is made fossil fuel-free.

5-20-19 Sea level rise could hit 2 metres by 2100 - much worse than feared
The world’s coastal cities have been warned to prepare for the possibility of a sea level rise exceeding 2 metres by the end of the century, with “profound consequences for humanity.” A new assessment found runaway carbon emissions and melting ice sheets could result in such a worst case scenario, potentially double the upper limit outlined by the UN climate science panel’s last major report. Such big sea level rises so soon would lead to nightmarish impacts, says Jonathan Bamber of the University of Bristol. “If we see something like that in the next 80 years we are looking at social breakdown on scales that are pretty unimaginable.” Around 1.79 million square kilometres of land could be lost and up to 187 million people displaced. “Many small island states, particularly those in the Pacific, will effectively be pretty much inhabitable. We are talking about an existential threat to nation states,” says Bamber. His team came to their conclusions after taking evidence from 22 leading researchers on how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets might respond to future climate change. Aggregating the responses revealed a one in twenty chance that seas could rise by more than 2 metres by 2100 if unchecked carbon emissions lead to average global warming of 5°C, about 2°C more than the temperature rises current government pledges would lead to. “It’s unlikely but it’s plausible. We are talking about a 5 per cent probability,” says Bamber, of how the ice would react to such extreme warming.

5-20-19 Climate change: Global sea level rise could be bigger than expected
Scientists believe that global sea levels could rise far more than predicted, due to accelerating melting in Greenland and Antarctica. The long-held view has been that the world's seas would rise by a maximum of just under a metre by 2100. This new study, based on expert opinions, projects that the real level may be around double that figure. This could lead to the displacement of hundreds of millions of people, the authors say. The question of sea-level rise was one of the most controversial issues raised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), when it published its fifth assessment report in 2013. It said the continued warming of the planet, without major reductions in emissions, would see global waters rising by between 52cm and 98cm by 2100. Many experts believe this was a very conservative estimate. Ice scientists are also concerned that the models currently used to predict the influence of huge ice sheets on sea levels don't capture all of the uncertainties about how these are now melting. To try to get a clearer picture, some of the leading researchers in the field carried out what is termed a structured expert judgement study, where the scientists make predictions based on their knowledge and understanding of what is happening in Greenland, West and East Antarctica. In the researchers' view, if emissions continue on the current trajectory then the world's seas would be very likely to rise by between 62cm and 238cm by 2100. This would be in a world that had warmed by around 5C - one of the worst-case scenarios for global warming. "For 2100, the ice sheet contribution is very likely in the range of 7-178cm but once you add in glaciers and ice caps outside the ice sheets and thermal expansion of the seas, you tip well over two metres," said lead author Prof Jonathan Bamber from the University of Bristol.

5-18-19 Funding crisis threatens crucial UK ocean monitoring project
Are we weakening an ocean current that is crucial to the global climate? It’s a vital question we may soon struggle to answer due to a funding crisis. For the past 15 years UK and US researchers have used a string of moorings, running from the Bahamas across the Atlantic to the African coast, to detect a weakening in the Atlantic conveyor belt. A heavily dramatised version of the slowing of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) played out in The Day After Tomorrow, in which the current’s collapse flipped the US into extreme cold. The extremes of the 2004 film bear little resemblance to the science, but the AMOC weakening could have real, major socio-economic effects. The current moves heat northwards up the Atlantic, so a slowing could lead to cooler temperatures in north-west Europe, significantly affect sea level rises on the US eastern seaboard, and could shift rainfall patterns in Africa. The UK-led scheme monitoring temperature, salinity and current velocities from near the Atlantic’s surface to the sea floor, known as as the RAPID array, has been in the water since 2004. The array’s funding has always been renewed in the past but will expire in 2020. A review in January recommended continuing backing it. But researchers have been unable to secure a green light for the £1 million-a-year needed from the body which decides, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Finding out whether the weakening of the AMOC is driven by artificial global warming or a natural cycle needs 20-40 years of observations, so stopping now would leave that question unanswered. Researchers say the need around a further decade of data. Climate models project the AMOC declining as the world warms.

5-18-19 How an electromagnetic pulse could cause our entire society to collapse
How can we avoid an electrical disaster? You might find your car dying on the freeway while other vehicles around you lose control and crash. You might see the lights going out in your city, or glimpse an airplane falling out of the sky. You've been in a blackout before, but this one is different. In critical facilities across the country, experts predict that it is only a matter of time before the electrical infrastructure holding society together undergoes catastrophic failure. According to a 2017 report of the United States Congressional Commission appointed to assess the risk, we face the threat of "long-lasting disruption and damage" to everything from power and clean water to electronic banking, first-responder services, and functioning hospitals. Until now, such a dire prediction has typically been associated with only the most extreme doomsday true believers but William Graham, the former chairman of the Congressional Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Commission, says that in this case they could be right. In the broadest sense, an EMP is a sudden burst of extreme electromagnetic interference that causes systems using electricity — especially devices controlled by chips or computers — to fail when the load gets too high. EMPs come in three basic varieties, including a ground-level or high-altitude EMP (HEMP) released by a nuclear burst that could potentially impact power lines, transformers and other critical devices; drive-by EMPs created by high-powered microwave weapons that could silently incapacitate equipment from hundreds of yards away; and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) resulting from solar storms that could interfere with the magnetic sphere surrounding the Earth, bringing down the grid that powers the electronic devices defining our contemporary way of life. According to the 2017 report, Russia, China, and North Korea could already have these weapons under wraps. And CMEs from solar storms are like metaphorical magnetic earthquakes: They vary in intensity from relatively harmless ripples all the way to a potential Big One that could take down a nation's grid within minutes, creating widespread destruction that would take years to repair. In the most widespread and catastrophic EMP scenario, even motorized vehicles that aren't damaged will be impacted by the lack of functioning fuel stations as gasoline stops flowing to and from the pumps. With regular deliveries interrupted by the lack of fuel and power, major urban populations will confront empty grocery shelves and a complete breakdown in essential services — from firefighting to garbage collection — in a matter of days. (Webmaster's comment: How long can you live without food? And how can you protect yourself from those who run out while you still have some? Cannibalism would be just around the corner. The carnage in cities would be unbelievable!)

5-17-19 Climate change: Will India's election energy lead to CO2 rise?
India's major political parties competing in the ongoing general elections have pledged free electricity to farmers, ambitious infrastructure projects and rapid expansion of the manufacturing sector. What impact could this have on carbon emissions in India, already the world's third largest CO2 producer? Hundreds of lorries each day haul tens of thousands of tonnes of coal out of massive open cast mines in the Korba district, Chhatisgarh state in central India. At night, the place illuminates with so much light that one can see plumes of smoke coming out of coal-fired power plants - just like in daylight. This is India's major power hub, with Chhatisgarh providing almost 25% of the country's electricity. More than 70% of it comes from coal burning, according to independent think tanks and global energy agencies. The Indian government puts the figure at below 55%. "Coal-fired power plants have always received the government's backing," says Sunil Dahiya, clean energy and climate campaigner with Greenpeace. "And coal demand is not going to decrease right now." Andhra Pradesh, the state just south of Chhatisgarh, has a solar park that until recently was the world's largest. With 4.5 million solar panels installed in an area of 6,000 acres (2,430ha), the park has a capacity of 1,000 MegaWatts (MW). There are other similar parks, and new ones are being built. India says its renewable energy capacity reached 70 GigaWatts (GW) last year. The country now ranks fourth in the world in wind power-based capacity and sixth in solar. The government's target is to reach 175 GW by 2022. Under the Paris climate agreement, India has committed to reduce the CO2 emission intensity of its GDP by 33-35% below 2005 levels by 2030. The world's second largest populous country emitted 2.3bn tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018 - a nearly 5% rise on the previous year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says. About 90% of India's energy still comes from fossil fuels and nearly two thirds of that from coal - the dirtiest of fossil fuels.

5-17-19 Crickets have hit the high street - can they save the planet?
Not that long ago, many of us would grimace at the idea of eating raw fish, crunching on kale or slurping on a chia smoothie. Now thousands of us munch on California rolls doused in soy sauce during our lunch break without a second thought. But what about adding some crispy crickets to your poke bowl? This week Abokado, a sushi chain based in London, has done just that and says the crickets are "healthy" and "sustainable". "In a few years insects will be a normalised food in our everyday diet," Abokado's managing director Kara Alderin says. Last year, Sainsbury's started selling grubs as snacks in 250 of its stores. Packets of Eat Grub's smoky BBQ crunchy roasted crickets are also now sold in Ocado at £1.50 a packet. They are marketed as a healthy, protein heavy, environmentally friendly alternative to traditional meat and fish options. But eating insects is nothing new - in fact insects are eaten by around two billion people around the world. It's known as "entomophagy". Many insects are eaten completely whole - wings and all - whereas we only consume around 40% of a cow. A 2013 UN report suggested that eating insects could help boost nutrition and reduce pollution. "I hope that eating insects will become more normalised because they have such enormous environmental benefits," Dr Tilly Collins from Imperial College London argues. "In the Western world we have a sustainability crunch looming where we simply can't eat the amount of meat we do. "In developing countries eating insects can be a really important source of nutrition where there's a real problem with food security." Farming insects uses only a fraction of the land, water and feed required for traditional livestock - insects are also estimated to release 80% less methane than cows. "We can grow insects on food waste so we convert something that is essentially a waste product into a protein," Dr Collins says.

5-16-19 Antarctic instability 'is spreading'
Almost a quarter of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet can now be considered unstable, according to a new assessment of 25 years of satellite data. By unstable, scientists mean more ice is being lost from the region than is being replenished through snowfall. Some of the biggest glaciers have thinned by over 120m in places. Losses from the two largest ice streams - Pine Island and Thwaites - have risen fivefold over the period of the spacecraft observations. And the changes have seen a marked acceleration in just the past decade. The driver is thought to be warm ocean water which is attacking the edges of the continent where its drainage glaciers enter the sea. The British-led study has been presented here in Milan at the Living Planet Symposium, Europe's largest Earth observation conference. It has also been published concurrently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The overview stitches together the data from four overlapping satellite missions of the European Space Agency (Esa) - ERS-1, ERS-2, Envisat and Cryosat. These spacecraft were all launched with radar altimeters to measure the change in height across both the eastern and western sectors of the ice sheet. Their unified record from 1992 to 2017 was then combined with weather models to tease apart the elevation trends due to short-term variations in snowfall from those longer-term shifts in ice mass resulting from melting and iceberg calving. "Using this unique dataset, we've been able to identify the parts of Antarctica that are undergoing rapid, sustained thinning - regions that are changing faster than we would expect due to normal weather patterns," said Dr Malcolm McMillan from Lancaster University and the UK's Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling. "We can now clearly see how these regions have expanded through time, spreading inland across some of the most vulnerable parts of West Antarctica, which is critical for understanding the ice sheet's contribution to global sea level rise," he told BBC News.

5-16-19 Plastic pollution: Flip-flop tide engulfs 'paradise' island
Close to a million plastic shoes, mainly flip flops are among the torrent of debris washed up on an "unspoilt paradise" in the Indian Ocean. Scientists estimated that the beaches of Australia's Cocos (Keeling) Islands are strewn with around 414 million pieces of plastic pollution. They believe some 93% of it lies buried under the sand, say the researchers. They are concerned that the scale of concealed plastic debris is being underestimated worldwide. Nearly half the plastic manufactured since the product was developed six decades ago has been made in the past 13 years, say scientists. Through failings in waste management, much of it has ended up in the oceans, with one estimate suggesting that there are now more pieces of plastic in the seas than there are stars in the Milky Way. This latest assessment will add to the feeling that the world hasn't yet fully appreciated the scale of the problem. The research team surveyed the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, a horseshoe chain of 26 small land masses 2,100km north-west of Australia. Around 600 people live in these remote places, which are sometimes described as "Australia's last unspoilt paradise". The researchers found that oceanic currents are depositing huge amounts of plastic on the beaches of these atolls. They calculated that the islands are littered with 238 tonnes of plastic, including 977,000 shoes and 373,000 toothbrushes. These were among the identifiable elements in an estimated 414 million pieces of debris. The scientists believe their overall finding is conservative, as they weren't able to access some beaches known to be hotspots of pollution.Of particular concern to the authors of the report is the amount of material they believe is buried up to 10cm below the surface. This accounted for around 93% of the estimated volume. The lead author Jennifer Lavers told BBC News that, based on what she had seen on the Cocos Islands and what she has found previously on another remote island called Henderson in the Pacific, the world has "drastically underestimated" the scale of this problem. The finding may also help explain a significant gap in our understanding of plastic pollution.

5-15-19 The world's supply of rubber is in jeopardy. Can we find new sources?
Rubber is essential to modern life, but the trees that provide it could be wiped out by a deadly disease. Some scrubby weeds may provide the unlikely solution. IN A classic episode of The Simpsons, Bart and his schoolmates watch an educational film called A World Without Zinc. For reasons unexplained, a man called Jimmy wants to live without zinc. His wish is granted, but he soon regrets it: he can’t go on a date because his car won’t start, and he can’t call his girlfriend because his telephone won’t work. Horrified at what he has done, he tries to shoot himself. But his gun won’t fire, because the firing pin is made of zinc. A real-life world without zinc would probably be survivable. But there are some commodities we would struggle without. Many are obvious: steel, oil, aluminium. But others are less so. In A World Without Zinc, Jimmy wakes up to find it was all a bad dream. In A World Without Rubber, however, the nightmare threatens to become all too real. Rubber is one of industrial civilisation’s great unsung heroes. Apart from its obvious uses in tyres, wellies, condoms and underwear elastic, it is a crucial ingredient in some 40,000 products, including shock absorbers, transmission belts, gaskets, hoses, medical devices, sports equipment, cement, paints, plastics and pharmaceuticals. According to agricultural scientist K. P. Prabhakaran Nair, rubber is “essential to the enjoyment of the conveniences and amenities of modern life”. Unfortunately, the prospect of a rubber crisis isn’t the stuff of fiction. Demand keeps growing, but supply isn’t keeping pace. With a deadly fungus threatening to wipe out rubber trees, and the rubber industry, the hunt is on for new sources of the stuff.

5-15-19 Climate change may make trees live fast and die young
Everyone from governments to oil companies is looking at tree-planting as a way to counter global warming, but this strategy could be less effective than we thought. In a warming world with growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, researchers have hypothesised that trees will grow faster. But this isn’t necessarily a good thing. Faster-growing trees may live shorter lives, reducing the amount of time they lock carbon away for. Now data is beginning to suggest that this is the case. Ulf Büntgen of the University of Cambridge and his colleagues have looked at tree ring records going back 2,000 years, and found that the longest-lived trees were those with the slowest growth rates. “We find that if a tree grows fast in its initial stage, there is a high probability that it will die younger,” he says. The team studied 1800 trees, all of which were mountain pines from the Spanish Pyrenees or Siberian larch from the Russian Altai region, which can live up to about 800 years. In a warmer world with more carbon dioxide, however, these trees might live just 150 years after growing rapidly. We should keep planting trees to tackle climate change, says Büntgen. But we should realise that, on a timescale of centuries, the carbon these trees sequester may not stay there as long, he says. We should also question whether the fast-growing poplars and willows currently favoured by tree-planting schemes are the best species to use. “It doesn’t mean that the carbon sink [of forests] will go away, just that we may not have as much as we thought,” says Pep Canadell of CSIRO Climate Science Centre in Australia.

5-14-19 Construction industry 'not reporting full carbon impact'
The boss of one of the UK's biggest infrastructure builders has told BBC Radio 5 Live that the construction industry is "not reporting its full impact" on the environment. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live's Wake Up To Money, Skanska UK's chief executive Gregor Craig said companies only calculate their own carbon emissions, and do not reflect the environmental cost of their supply chains. Skanska has set a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2045 in the UK. The company has directly emitted around 35,000 tonnes of CO2 every year since 2010 - about the same as 7,500 cars - but the figure is more than 10 times higher after taking into account suppliers' emissions. Mr Craig said: "At the moment, the construction industry is not reporting its full impact. "So what construction companies have been doing, is that we're reporting our direct emissions - from our offices, fleet and our plant. What we're not reporting is the full scale of the emissions from all of our projects; the large part of this is in the supply chain." Skanska is a Swedish company which employs nearly 6,000 people in the UK and it is worth almost £2bn. It helps maintain the London Underground and is building a £1bn link connecting up Victoria and Piccadilly stations in Manchester. Mr Craig said the one of the biggest carbon emitters is concrete - because of the cement products within it, and said there are easy ways to reduce the impact: "If our supply chain is constructing a 200mm thick concrete slab, if they could make it just 180mm thick, then it would automatically save 10% of their emissions. It can be as simple as that in some cases."

5-14-19 Joe Biden's climate denial
Joe Biden is leading the Democratic primary by a wide margin — nearly 27 points, according to the latest polling average. So what would he do on the most important problem facing America and humanity writ large? On climate change, Reuters reports that Biden wants a "middle ground approach" to appeal to both liberals and blue-collar Trump voters, whose "backbone … will likely include the United States re-joining the Paris Climate Agreement and preserving U.S. regulations on emissions and vehicle fuel efficiency," plus support for nuclear, natural gas, and carbon capture. It hardly needs to be said that this "approach" is pathetically inadequate for dealing with climate change. And if Biden is elected, the timidity and learned helplessness of the Democratic rank-and-file might just have wrecked the global climate. The problem with Biden's climate agenda, obviously, is that it isn't aggressive enough. Top climate scientists agree that the world has to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 — that would be two years from the end of a Biden presidency, if he wins two terms — to stay under 1.5 degrees of warming, and fully to zero by 2050. How to allocate those cuts is a tricky question, but given that the United States is responsible for a plurality of past emissions, and would find green upgrades considerably easier than most countries due to our wealth and inefficiency, it only makes sense for the U.S. to cut even faster than that. Essentially, what we must do to preserve a global climate is hack down our emissions as fast as we possibly can, and conduct a crash research program into zero-carbon agriculture, transportation, and industry as part of a coordinated similar effort with other countries, above all China and India. We may or may not be able to hit those targets, but every tenth of a degree of warming headed off means lower seas, less catastrophic weather, fewer crop failures, fewer climate refugees, and so on.

5-14-19 Jakobshavn Isbrae: Mighty Greenland glacier slams on brakes
European satellites have detailed the abrupt change in behaviour of one of Greenland's most important glaciers. In the 2000s, Jakobshavn Isbrae was the fastest flowing ice stream on the island, travelling at 17km a year. As it sped to the ocean, its front end also retreated and thinned, dropping in height by as much as 20m year. But now it's all change. Jakobshavn is travelling much more slowly, and its trunk has even begun to thicken and lengthen. "It's a complete reversal in behaviour and it wasn't predicted," said Dr Anna Hogg from Leeds University and the UK Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling (CPOM). "The question now is: what's next for Jakobshavn? Is this just a pause, or is it a switch-off of the dynamic thinning we've seen previously?" The glacier is sited in southwest Greenland. It's famous for its spectacular production of icebergs - colossal blocks calve from its terminus and drift down its fjord, out into Disko Bay and onwards to the North Atlantic. More than likely, it was Jakobshavn that spawned the iceberg that sank the Titanic. Scientists' interest in the glacier lies in its role as a drainage outlet for the Greenland Ice Sheet. It's a key channel for the export of ice that can then raise global sea levels. The rapid flow, thinning and retreat of Jakobshavn's front end in the mid to late 2000s were probably driven by warm ocean water from Disko Bay getting into the fjord and attacking the glacier from below. The phase change, scientists think, may be related to very cold weather in 2013. This would have resulted in less meltwater coming off the glacier, which in turn might have choked the mechanism that pulls warm ocean water towards Jakobshavn.

5-14-19 Butterfly temperature research 'could boost survival chances'
Thousands of wild butterflies have had their temperatures taken by researchers who hope the results could help safeguard the species' future. A team from the University of Cambridge and a wildlife trust tested 2,000 insects in Bedfordshire. They are investigating how effectively species can warm or cool themselves, which could help the insects cope with a warming climate. The full results will be published this summer. Twenty-five researchers and volunteers recorded information about more than 12,000 butterflies at four reserves owned by the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, taking the temperature of 2,073 of them. The team looked at how much certain butterfly species can change their body temperature compared to the air temperature. Dr Andrew Bladon, from the university's insect ecology group, said butterflies had well-known habits, such as basking in the sun with their wings open to warm up, but effectiveness varied between species. "That will have consequences in how active they are able to be. On a cold day, species good at heating themselves will be active earlier - feeding, mating and defending their territory," he said. Dr Bladon said butterflies able to regulate their body temperature relative to air temperature were less likely to be affected by climate change, allowing conservationists to predict which would be vulnerable. The team also examined micro-climates - pockets of air at a higher or lower temperature than the surrounding air - to understand how different habitats could provide ways for butterflies to warm or cool themselves. Beneficial micro-climates could then be created and maintained in nature reserves, researchers suggest. The chalk grassland site at Totternhoe was chosen as it is home to half the butterfly species recorded in the UK.

5-13-19 CO2 levels measured in Hawaii hit milestone not seen in human history
Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere measured at a facility atop Mauna Loa hit an alarming new daily baseline above 415 parts per million over the weekend. That’s a first in the modern life of the planet, and comes as scientists are predicting that carbon dioxide levels will increase faster in 2019 than in the last two years. Greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, are those responsible for climate change. And on Saturday, Mauna Loa Observatory’s daily baseline measurement for carbon dioxide levels was calculated at 415.25 parts per million. Earth’s atmosphere hasn’t contained that much carbon dioxide in more than three million years. Back then, the average temperature of the globe was much higher ? and Antarctica had forests. Ralph Keeling, the director of carbon dioxide program at the Scripps Institution of Oceangraphy — which runs the Mauna Loa lab with NOAA ? said the new baseline high is linked to the ongoing use of fossil fuels and the effects of a mild El Nino. “Every year it goes up like this we should be saying 'No, this shouldn’t be happening. It’s not normal," Keeling said. "This increase is just not sustainable in terms of energy use and in terms of what we are doing to the planet.” Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist and writer, reacted to the new daily baseline with: “We don’t know a planet like this.” Climate scientist Peter Gleick, meanwhile, put it this way: “The last time humans experienced levels this high was ... never. Humans didn’t exist.” Scientists have been recording carbon dioxide levels atop Mauna Loa since 1958. For measurements before that date, researchers rely on data culled from ice cores.

5-13-19 Greening the chemical industry requires massive amount of renewables
The really hard part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions could be even more difficult than we thought. While in theory carbon dioxide captured from the air could replace fossil fuels as a feedstock for the global chemicals industry, in practice it would likely require vastly more clean electricity than we currently have. Most chemicals we use, including plastics, contain carbon, which currently comes from fossil fuels. There’s been a lot of talk about greening the chemicals industry, says Andre Bardow of RWTH Aachen University in Germany, but no one has worked exactly what it would take to do it. So his team created a bottom-up model of the industry, looking what it takes to create the basic chemical components, or feedstocks. They calculated that using carbon captured from the air as the feedstock for making chemicals could reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by 3.5 gigatonnes by 2030, Bardow’s team found. However, this would require 18.1 petawatt hours of electricity per year, the study estimates. That’s not much less than the 26 PWh of electricity a year produced by the entire world in 2018 according to the International Energy Agency. And only a third of global electricity currently comes from clean sources, including nuclear and hydroelectric power. Even by optimistic growth projections, the total amount of renewable electricity available in 2030 is predicted to be less than 18 PWh. The reason the electricity demand is so massive comes down to the laws of thermodynamics, Bardow says. “What you are doing is inverting combustion.” For now, he says it makes more sense to use the renewable electricity we have to decarbonise heating and transport. “A switch today would be a waste of valuable resources.”

5-13-19 Mariana Trench: Deepest-ever sub dive finds plastic bag
An American explorer has found plastic waste on the seafloor while breaking the record for the deepest ever dive. Victor Vescovo descended nearly 11km (seven miles) to the deepest place in the ocean - the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench. He spent four hours exploring the bottom of the trench in his submersible, built to withstand the immense pressure of the deep. He found sea creatures, but also found a plastic bag and sweet wrappers. It is the third time humans have reached the ocean's extreme depths. The first dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench took place in 1960 by US Navy lieutenant Don Walsh and Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard in a vessel called the bathyscaphe Trieste. Movie director James Cameron then made a solo plunge half a century later in 2012 in his bright green sub. The latest descent, which reached 10,927m (35,849ft) beneath the waves, is now the deepest by 11m - making Victor Vescovo the new record holder. In total, Mr Vescovo and his team made five dives to the bottom of the trench during the expedition. Robotic landers were also deployed to explore the remote terrain. Mr Vescovo said: "It is almost indescribable how excited all of us are about achieving what we just did. "This submarine and its mother ship, along with its extraordinarily talented expedition team, took marine technology to a ridiculously higher new level by diving - rapidly and repeatedly - into the deepest, harshest, area of the ocean." Witnessing the dive from the Pacific was Don Walsh. He told BBC News: "I salute Victor Vescovo and his outstanding team for the successful completion of their historic explorations into the Mariana Trench. "Six decades ago, Jacques Piccard and I were the first to visit that deepest place in the world's oceans. "Now in the winter of my life, it was a great honour to be invited on this expedition to a place of my youth." The team believes it has discovered four new species of prawn-like crustaceans called amphipods, saw a creature called a spoon worm 7,000m-down and a pink snailfish at 8,000m. They also discovered brightly coloured rocky outcrops, possibly created by microbes on the seabed, and collected samples of rock from the seafloor. Humanity's impact on the planet was also evident with the discovery of plastic pollution. It's something that other expeditions using landers have seen before. The scientists now plan to test the creatures they collected to see if they contain microplastics - a recent study found this was a widespread problem, even for animals living in the deep. The dive forms part of the Five Deeps expedition - an attempt to explore the deepest points in each of the world's five oceans.

5-13-19 Mariana Trench: Deepest ocean 'teems with microbes'
The deepest place in the ocean is teeming with microscopic life, a study suggests. An international team of scientists found that the very bottom of the Mariana Trench, which lies almost 11km (7 miles) down in the Pacific Ocean, had high levels of microbial activity. The research is published in the journal Nature Geoscience. The underwater canyon was once thought to be too hostile an environment for life to exist. But this study adds to a growing body of evidence that a range of creatures can cope with the near-freezing temperatures, immense pressures and complete darkness. Dr Robert Turnewitsch, one of the authors of the paper from the Scottish Association for Marine Science, said: "The deepest parts of the deep sea are certainly not dead zones." In 2010, the scientists sent an unmanned submersible down into the vast underwater canyon, where it collected samples of the murky sediment that cakes the sea floor. An analysis of the levels of oxygen in the sample revealed the presence of a large number of microbes. Dr Turnewitsch explained: "These microbes, they respire as we do. And this oxygen consumption is an indirect measurement of the activity of the community." Surprisingly, these primitive, single-celled organisms were twice as active at the bottom of the trench than they were at a nearby 6km-deep (four miles) site.They were feasting on a plentiful supply of dead plants and creatures that had drifted down from the sea surface, the decomposing matter becoming trapped within the steep walls of the trench. "The amount of food down there and also the relative freshness of the material is surprisingly high - it seems to be surprisingly nutritious," said Dr Turnewitsch. The level of material found at the bottom of the trench was so high that it suggests the Mariana Trench - which is in an area of the ocean known as the Hadal zone - could play a key part in the carbon cycle and therefore in regulating the planet's climate. Dr Richard Turnewitsch said: "The fact that large amounts of organic matter that contain the carbon accumulate and are focused in these trenches also means they play an important role in the removal of carbon from the ocean and the overlying atmosphere. "The Hadal trenches may play a more important role in the global marine carbon cycle than was previously thought."

5-11-19 Political will to fight climate change is fading, warns UN chief
Political will to fight climate change appears to be fading, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned. Speaking in New Zealand, Mr Guterres praised the country for measures it had undertaken to combat climate change.

5-11-19 Climate change 'may curb growth in UK flying'
Concerns over climate change might restrict the growth of flying in the UK, the government has admitted. The advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recently said the UK's planned increase in aviation would need to be curbed to restrict CO2. Now a senior civil servant has told a green group that means ministers may have to review aviation strategy. The group says climate concern is so high the decision on Heathrow expansion should be brought back to Parliament. The Department for Transport defended the proposed Heathrow expansion, saying it would "provide a massive economic boost to businesses and communities" across the UK, all at "no cost to the taxpayer and within our environmental obligations". It is a crucial time for flying, with policy on aviation right up to 2050 currently out for consultation. When the government first laid out proposals for increasing aviation, the UK had an overall target of cutting CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. But the CCC recently raised the bar of ambition in recommending that Britain should adopt a target of net zero emissions. That will mean compensating for any greenhouse gases by either capturing the CO2 and storing it, or planting more trees. Under the previous 80% scenario, aviation had a privileged position. Its expansion would be counter-balanced by additional CO2 cuts in other sectors, like industry. The CCC makes it clear this is not an option in a zero-carbon Britain. It says people will continue flying using fuels made from waste, or - in the long-term - electricity. But crucially, the growth in aviation must be constrained. The CCC will make further recommendations on this issue in the coming months.

5-10-19 U.S. blocks climate resolution
For the first time in its 23-year history, a summit of the Arctic Council ended without a joint declaration, because the U.S. objected to a statement that described climate change as a serious threat to the Arctic. The council, made up of eight Arctic-bordering countries and several indigenous groups, has a mission to cooperate on protecting the region’s environment and resources. Most members used their speeches to warn of the dangers of melting permafrost and warming seas. But U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo emphasized the upside of global warming, saying, “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade.” The Arctic, which holds 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered reserves of oil, is a land of “opportunity and abundance,” he added.

5-10-19 A land scarred by abandoned oil wells
Bankrupt oil companies have left their abandoned wells all over Alberta, said Anthony Davis. These “orphan wells” often sit on farmland, because farmers were happy to earn $5,000 a year from a well lease—more than the $600 they’d get from growing crops on the land around each well. They’re not so happy when those same oil firms go broke and walk away from the rigs, and some property owners “attribute chronic health problems and even deaths to leakages” from the abandoned installations. The Orphan Well Association (OWA), a group financed by the oil and gas industry, is tasked with cleaning up the mess. But OWA is extremely overstretched. Years of low oil and gas prices have caused a rising number of energy firms to shutter. Some 300 have left western Canada since 2014. Right now, of the more than 300,000 wells in Alberta, at least 167,000 are inactive, abandoned, or orphaned. OWA decommissioned only 750 such wells last year. Landowners want oil and gas firms to up their funding for the group so it can work faster. The energy sector has claimed the cleanup will cost $18.5 billion, but internal industry documents suggest the actual price could be as high as $70 billion. Compared with the scale of the problem, the industry’s efforts “seem puny.”

5-10-19 Climate change: Scientists test radical ways to fix Earth's climate
Scientists in Cambridge plan to set up a research centre to develop new ways to repair the Earth's climate. It will investigate radical approaches such as refreezing the Earth's poles and removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The centre is being created because of fears that current approaches will not on their own stop dangerous and irreversible damage to the planet. The initiative is the first of its kind in the world and could lead to dramatic reductions in carbon emissions. The initiative is co-ordinated by the government's former chief scientific adviser, Prof Sir David King. "What we do over the next 10 years will determine the future of humanity for the next 10,000 years. There is no major centre in the world that would be focused on this one big issue," he told BBC News. Some of the approaches described by Sir David are often known collectively as geoengineering. The Centre for Climate Repair is part of Cambridge university's Carbon Neutral Futures Initiative, led by Dr Emily Shuckburgh. She, said the initiative's mission would be to "solve the climate problem". "It has to be. And we can't fail on it," she said. It will bring together scientists and engineers with social scientists. "This really is one of the most important challenges of our time, and we know we need to be responding to it with all our efforts," Dr Shuckburgh told BBC News. One of the most promising ideas for refreezing the poles is to "brighten" the clouds above them. The idea is to pump seawater up to tall masts on uncrewed ships through very fine nozzles. This produces tiny particles of salt which are injected into the clouds, which makes them more widespread and reflective, and so cool the areas below them.

5-10-19 Europe 'takes too much of Earth resources'
People in Europe are snatching more than their fair share of the world’s resources, a report says today. It says Europeans emit too much carbon, eat too much food, use large amounts of timber and occupy too much built space. The report for the green group WWF and the Global Footprint Network says Europeans contribute disproportionately to depleting resources. The UK government says it is leading the world in trying to reduce the impact of Europe on the planet. But the report says that if everyone in the world had the same environmental impact as the average EU resident, 10 May would be the date by which humans would have used as much from nature as the planet can annually renew. That's why the groups name 10 May as EU Earth Overshoot Day. For the rest of the year, they say, Europeans will live by depleting the “natural capital” of the Earth. This means more carbon emissions than the planet’s natural ecosystems can absorb; more plant life destroyed through deforestation than nature can regenerate; depleted fishing grounds; soil erosion and loss of species. The report says the EU and its citizens are currently using twice as many resources than the EU's own ecosystems are able to renew. It adds that the EU uses almost 20% of the Earth’s “biocapacity”, even though it comprises only 7% of the world population. In other words, 2.8 planets would be needed if everyone consumed at the rate of the average EU resident. The report comes a day after EU leaders held a summit on the Future of Europe in Romania, and two weeks before the European Parliament elections. It recommends urgent changes to fully protect and restore nature in Europe by 2030 and to cut EU carbon emissions almost completely by 2040.

5-10-19 Climate change: How frogs could vanish from ponds
Climate change is having an impact on frogs found in British ponds, research suggests. A deadly frog disease is spreading due to warmer temperatures and in the next 50 years could cause entire populations to vanish, according to a study. The virus could spell disaster for the common frog, which is a familiar sight in garden ponds and the countryside. Amphibians have been particularly hard hit by changes in the natural world. Four out of 10 species are on the edge of extinction globally due to factors such as disease, habitat loss and climate change. The study provides "strong evidence" of the impact of climate change on wildlife disease and how it might aid the spread of the virus across the UK, said Dr Stephen Price of ZSL's Institute of Zoology. "Climate change isn't something that's just happening in faraway places - it's something real and present that's already had hard-to-predict impacts on wildlife in our own back gardens here in the UK," he said. The prospect of entire populations of frogs being wiped out is "a real sadness" given the fond memories many people have of pond dipping and collecting tadpoles, he added. The research looked at a disease known as ranavirus, which can kill a large number of frogs in a short time. It found mass die-offs matched historic temperature changes, with outbreaks predicted to become more severe, widespread and over a greater proportion of the year within the next few decades, if carbon emissions continue unchecked. At present, the disease is confined largely to England, but climate change could lead to outbreaks across the UK and earlier in the year. If the disease were to hit tadpoles in spring, then whole populations could disappear "almost overnight", said the researchers.

5-10-19 Only a third of Earth’s longest rivers still run free
Mapping millions of kilometers of waterways allowed scientists to make the new calculation. Free-flowing rivers are an endangered species on Earth. Only about a third of the world’s longest rivers still flow freely along their entire lengths, unchained by dams or reservoirs, scientists report in the May 9 Nature. The study is the first global map of river “connectivity,” the ability of river water to move freely downstream, across floodplains and into and out of aquifers throughout the year. Connectivity signals river health, and is vital to protect freshwater biodiversity, support fish stocks and deliver sediment to coastal regions threatened by rising seas. The team, led by geographer Günther Grill of McGill University in Montreal, used satellite data to map 12 million kilometers of rivers around the globe. Of the planet’s 246 rivers that are longer than 1,000 kilometers, only 37 percent still run free, the team found. Most of the remaining free-flowing rivers are in more remote parts of the world, such as Canada’s Liard River in the Arctic and Zambia’s Luangwa in the Congo Basin.

5-10-19 Could desalination help prevent water wars in the Middle East?
In the Middle East it’s long been feared that increasing competition over shared natural supplies of fresh water – because of growing populations and climate change – could lead to water wars. But in the past decade, desalination technology has made huge advances. Israel now produces most of its drinking water from sea water, and other parts of the region are looking to do the same. But there are concerns about environmental damage caused by the shortage of rainfall and some desalination processes. Our Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell visited Hadera desalination plant in northern Israel and the Sea of Galilee.

5-9-19 Climate change: Half world's biggest airlines don't offer carbon offsetting
Less than half of the world's major airlines are giving passengers the opportunity to offset the carbon dioxide produced from their flights, BBC research found. When airlines do offer such a scheme, generally fewer than 1% of flyers are choosing to spend more. Carbon offsetting enables passengers to balance out their carbon footprint by paying towards environmental projects. Aviation accounts for 2% of global human-induced greenhouse gas emissions. Prices vary but a return flight from London to Malaga, Spain, would cost around £4 to offset. The BBC contacted the world's biggest airlines in terms of numbers of flights and numbers of passengers. Out of the 28 approached, less than half offered a carbon offset scheme and the majority declined to provide data on the number of passengers offsetting their flights during a one year period - often saying their figures were too low to report. Michael Gill, a director from the international aviation trade body Iata, said: "We strongly recommend all passengers to use high-quality projects to offset their own CO2 emissions as an individual contribution to addressing climate change." Carbon offsetting allows passengers to pay extra to help compensate for the carbon emissions produced from their flight. The money is then invested in environmental projects - like planting trees or installing solar panels - which reduce the carbon dioxide in the air by the same amount. Passengers can pay the additional charge when they buy their ticket from participating airlines, but independent offsetting companies also exist. The price varies between airlines, but a return flight from London and Cape Town, South Africa would cost roughly £20 to offset, according to ClimateCare. The CO2 emissions per passenger from that flight is roughly the same as those produced from heating the average home for a year.

5-9-19 How to reduce your carbon footprint when you fly
Travelling by plane has never been more popular, with four billion passengers flying every year. But aviation emissions contribute to climate change, and scientists say we need to do more to tackle the problem. BBC research has found that only a tiny fraction of passengers travelling with the world's biggest airlines are choosing to offset their carbon footprints. BBC research has found that only a tiny fraction of passengers travelling with the world's biggest airlines are choosing to offset their carbon footprints. Carbon offset schemes involve paying extra in order to contribute to environmental projects that reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, though some say it's just an excuse to continue polluting. But it's not the only way to reduce the impact of your flight on the planet. BBC environment reporter Laura Foster explains some of the things you can do to reduce the carbon footprint of your flight.

5-9-19 Climate change: England flood planners 'must prepare for worst'
England’s flood planners must prepare for the worst on climate change, the Environment Agency has warned. Its chairwoman, Emma Howard Boyd, said on current trends, global temperature could rise between 2C and 4C by 2100 and £1bn a year would need to be spent on flood management. She said some communities may even need to move because of the risk of floods. The government said it would be seeking evidence for its own flood policy in the autumn. Ms Howard Boyd, launching the consultation on the agency’s flood strategy, said government policy should ensure that all publicly-funded infrastructure is resilient to flooding and coastal change by 2050. “We can’t win a war against water by building away climate change with infinitely high flood defences,” she said. She called for more to be done to encourage property owners to rebuild homes after flooding in better locations, and with improvements such as raised electrics, hard flooring and flood doors, rather than just "recreating what was there before". However, she warned that in some places "the scale of the threat may be so significant that recovery will not always be the best long term solution" and communities would need help to "move out of harm's way". The agency expects more intense bursts of rain and continuing coastal erosion. It calculates that, for every person who suffers flooding, about 16 more are affected by loss of services such as power, transport and telecommunications. Ms Howard Boyd warned that climate change and population growth in England meant that properties built in the floodplain will double over the next 50 years. The agency points towards research from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership which suggests that losses on UK mortgages could also double if global temperatures increase by 2C and triple if warming hits 4C. These would be insurance-related losses related to outcomes of climate change such as more extreme weather.

5-9-19 Some UK coastal communities may have to move because of climate change
Some coastal communities around the UK may have to eventually be moved because of the scale of flooding that climate change threatens to bring, the Environment Agency has warned. In a report on the UK’s long term flooding strategy, the regulator said the country should be prepared for sea level rises and the flooding that 4°C of warming would bring. At 1°C higher than temperatures are expected to rise with governments’ climate plans today, and 2°C more than the Paris climate accord demands, the agency is saying the UK should be braced for the worst. Flooding has been repeatedly cited by government agencies, advisers and scientists as the biggest risk to the UK from climate change. The EA said the government will need to spend at least £1bn every year up to 2065 on flood defences to protect buildings and infrastructure, almost double the £520m it is spending each year between 2016 and 2021. All new housing developments and other building must be resilient to flooding, the group said, though it stopped short of calling for a ban on building on floodplains. But bigger and better flood defences alone will not be enough, said the agency’s chair, Emma Boyd. “It is not realistic to try to manage more increasingly intense flooding and sea level rise with limitlessly high walls and barriers,” she wrote in a foreword to the report. For example, homeowners recovering from flooding should be encouraged to build resilience to flooding into their property afterwards, such as by installing raised electrics and flood doors. Around 5 million people in England are currently at risk of flooding. Environment minister Therese Coffey said “preparing the country is a priority for the government”, which she added was launching a call for evidence on flood and coastal erosion risks.

5-8-19 Climate change is an emergency we can solve
CLIMATE change is having a moment in the UK. In recent weeks, diverse voices have called for urgent action on greenhouse gas emissions. Partly in response, the UK parliament has become the first in the world to declare a “climate emergency”. While we should welcome the fact that the urgent need to decarbonise has finally broken through in the public consciousness, there is a danger in going too far. As teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg says, the house is on fire – but our response should be to calmly exit the building and execute a rescue plan, not to run about in a panic while the entire thing burns down. Such a plan comes in the form of a detailed report that the UK Committee on Climate Change revealed last week (see “UK government told to adopt world’s most ambitious climate target”). Yes, we do need to make changes across the entirety of society, rethinking everything from boilers to buildings. But examine the detail, and you will find that we don’t need to live in mud huts to go green – technological developments and smart choices over the next two decades will allow us to be more eco-friendly without truly radical changes to our behaviour. Solving the climate emergency will also mean harnessing innovation in novel ways, such as repurposing oil rigs to harvest cobalt from the oceans to make electric car batteries (see “Cobalt for 500,000 electric cars could be harvested from the oceans”). We should see this as an exciting opportunity, not an apocalypse. As the first nation to industrialise, the UK has a moral duty to decarbonise, but if that is too woolly a reason for you, think of the financial benefits of becoming a green technology leader. The future of modern economies is inescapably carbon-free, which is why China is now the leading producer of electric cars and solar panels. The only way the UK can compete is to leap ahead and start selling its products and services to the rest of the world. Activists should be applauded for putting climate change at the top of the agenda, but we must ensure that dire warnings don’t obscure a message of hope. We can do this.

5-8-19 Humans have interfered with most of the world's greatest rivers
Nearly two thirds of the world’s longest rivers have had their flow tampered by humans in the form of dams, reservoirs and other forms of water engineering. A boom in hydropower is partly to blame, suggesting we may have been chasing renewable energy at a cost to biodiversity. The most detailed global assessment yet of long free-flowing rivers finds they have become increasingly rare, confined to remote regions in the Arctic, Amazon and the Congo basin. An international team spent a decade analysing over 300,000 rivers in global datasets of waterways, including manually checking the location of 25,000 dams against satellite images. Of the 246 rivers that are 1000 kilometres or longer, just 90 are still free-flowing. Eight of the longest free-flowing rivers are in the Amazon basin. The big driver has been tapping long rivers for electricity generation, a strategy China and other Asian countries have pursued. Hydropower booms are expected in both the Amazon and Balkans. “Dam construction is the major reason why river connectivity has been declining worldwide, with often negative consequences on river health,” says Günther Grill of McGill University, who led the work. Humans have interrupted and diverted the flow of rivers by constructing an estimated 2.8 million dams, as well as building irrigation and water-diversion schemes. We should care about free-flowing rivers because of the services they provide to humans and wildlife, by allowing the exchange of nutrients, sediment and species, says Grill. “They are among the most biodiverse habitats of the world, given their relatively small habitat space, and are very fragile to human alterations.” He hopes the falling price of solar power may mean hydropower becomes less attractive in future.

5-8-19 The idea that there are only 100 harvests left is just a fantasy
#FactsMatter | Headlines warn that our soil is becoming so degraded that we are heading for an agricultural Armageddon. Can that be right? WHEN it comes to science reporting, there are some headlines that are so frequently repeated, so intuitively plausible, so closely aligned to our cultural beliefs, that they can seem like incontrovertible truths. The general public, and indeed many scientists, may fervently believe that these claims reflect the overwhelming scientific consensus. However, sometimes when you dig a little beyond the surface, the evidence underpinning even the most ubiquitous headlines can seem surprisingly shaky. Perhaps the best example of such an assertion is that of an impending agricultural Armageddon, caused by decades of irresponsible farming practices that have degraded soils across the planet (or so the press narrative goes). A quick scan of the headlines reveals that despite the confidence with which these forecasts are proclaimed, the actual timescale to D-Day varies rather widely from story to story. While some report that we have 100 years until the end of our soil’s ability to support farming, citing a University of Sheffield study, others claim that this is a mere 60 years away, referencing a speech at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Recently, the UK government’s environment secretary even stated that the UK is as little as 30 years away from an “eradication of soil fertility” because we “drench it in chemicals”. If this is indeed a likely end-game scenario, we should probably determine which of these estimates is most plausible as a matter of urgency: 30, 60 or 100 years. So let’s take a closer look at this claim. Despite dozens of headlines quoting these predictions, surprisingly only one peer-reviewed paper from a scientific journal is ever cited as evidence to back them up. This 2014 study from the University of Sheffield compared the soil quality of a range of sites in the English city, including agricultural, garden and allotment soils.

5-8-19 Proposal to spend 25% of EU budget on climate change
Eight European countries have called for an ambitious strategy to tackle climate change – and to spend a quarter of the entire EU budget on fighting it. The joint statement says the EU should have net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 "at the latest". It was signed by France, Belgium, Denmark, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. The group says their plan can "go hand in hand with prosperity" and "set an example for other countries to follow." The position paper comes ahead of a major summit of European leaders in the Romanian city of Sibiu, beginning on Thursday, which will discuss the future of Europe and the EU's strategy for the next five years. But not everyone is on board - there are 28 countries in the EU, and several of those absent from the joint position statement are significant players - including Germany. The position of the eight countries is that climate change has "profound implications for the future of humanity" and that its impacts are already apparent - citing "the heat waves and scorching fires of last summer". The group also say that their citizens are clearly concerned "as shown by the recent mobilisation of young people" - in an apparent reference to the wave of walk-outs and marches by schoolchildren across the continent. The Extinction Rebellion protests in London in April also gained widespread attention and have spread to other countries. "The EU budget currently under negotiation will be an important tool in this respect: at least 25% of the spending should go to projects aimed at fighting against climate change," the paper said. It also added that "as a general principle" the EU budget should not fund anything which would add to climate emissions. The eight want the EU to announce a policy of zero emissions by 2050 at the United Nations climate summit in September, and strengthen its existing targets at the same time.

5-8-19 1 million species are under threat. Here are 5 ways we speed up extinctions
A report that analyzed 15,000 studies conducted in the last 50 years presents a stark view. Stories about individual species on the brink of extinction may be all too familiar. But a new tally now reveals the breadth of the conservation crisis: One million of the world’s species are now poised to vanish, some as soon as within the next few decades. That number, which amounts to 1 in every 8 animal or plant species on Earth, comes from a sweeping new analysis of about 15,000 studies conducted within the last 50 years on topics ranging from biodiversity to climate to the health of ecosystems. During that time, the human population has doubled, increasing from 3.7 billion in 1970 to 7.6 billion today. And people are behind the looming losses, an international group of scientists says. Thanks to human activities, the rate of global species extinctions is tens to hundreds of times faster than the average extinction rate was over the last 10 million years, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, or IPBES, concludes in a summary of the study published May 6. The intergovernmental group, which has 132 nations as members including the United States, will release its full 1,500-page report in about six months. The report contains many other sobering numbers: More than 40 percent of amphibian species are threatened, along with 33 percent of marine mammals, 33 percent of sharks and reef-building corals and 10 percent of insects. Right now, the rate of global species extinctions is tens to hundreds of times faster than the average extinction rate was over the last 10 million years. And if human activities continue unabated, the rate of extinctions will continue to accelerate, the report states.

5-8-19 UK goes a week without coal but the renewables revolution is stalling
Should we be thrilled that the UK has gone a whole week without using coal to make electricity for the first time in a century? While some are welcoming it as a sign the UK is going green, the bigger picture is less encouraging. For one thing, renewables supplied only 23 per cent of electricity during this coal-free week, with 45 per cent coming from natural gas. What is more, the UK is veering off track when it comes to meeting its long-term targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions – as is the entire world. The thing is, generating electricity without burning fossil fuels is relatively easy. It’s much harder to heat homes, power cars, ships and planes, make cement and steel, and grow food without producing any greenhouse gases. So if we’re struggling with the easy part, what chance do we have of doing the hard stuff? Let’s start with the UK. In the past decade, the country has gone from getting a third of its electricity from coal to getting more than a third from renewables, on average. Coal is expected to provide only 1 per cent of electricity this year and should be phased out by 2025. That’s not quite as brilliant as it seems. The UK is now getting 11 per cent of its electricity from biomass, much of it imported wood. Forest campaigners say swapping coal for wood isn’t truly renewable and is doing huge damage to the environment. Even the UK’s own official adviser on climate change says large-scale electricity generation from biomass is a bad idea. Wood should be used for things like building, it says, so the carbon remains locked away.

5-8-19 Festivals claim the description 'festival tent' implies they're single-use
It's the moment many of us dread at the end of every festival - taking down your tent and packing it up. This is perhaps one reason why more than 250,000 tents get left behind in UK fields from Glastonbury to Reading and Leeds. Now, more than 60 independent festivals are urging shops to stop marketing tents as single-use items. The Association of Independent Festivals (AIF) says some places advertise them as 'festival tents,' which gives the impression that you only need to use them once. It says the average tent is mostly made of plastic - which is equivalent to 8,750 straws or 250 pint cups. Jordan Bellamy, 23, has gone to Reading Festival a couple of times and admits he always leaves his tent behind. "After a whole weekend of dancing I'm so tired, and the thought of carrying the tent back was daunting as my legs were killing. "It's quite a sad time to be honest at the end of the festival - you get the festival blues don't you? "So at the end, we really only get our stuff together as in all our actual belongings and leave the tent." Paul Reed, AIF's chief executive, says a major problem is the huge misconception about what happens to your tent. "I think many people believe they'll go to charities and the reality is that most won't - they will go to landfill with no other option." This comes a year after the AIF's Drastic On Plastic campaign, which pledges for festival sites to get rid of single-use plastic by 2021. Paul says with the climate crisis more on people's minds, urgent action needs to be taken, with the help of retailers. (Webmaster's comment: Too much money and totally irresponsible! Jail time would put a stop to this.)

5-7-19 The search for new geologic sources of lithium could power a clean future
There’s a lot to learn about where and how to mine the lightest metal on the periodic table. The future of lithium is electrifying. Cars and trucks powered by lithium batteries rather than fossil fuels are, to many people, the future of transportation. Rechargeable lithium batteries are also crucial for storing energy produced by solar and wind power, clean energy sources that are a beacon of hope for a world worried about the rapidly changing global climate. Prospecting for new sources of lithium is booming, fueled by expectations that demand for lightweight, rechargeable lithium batteries — to power electric vehicles, cell phones, laptops and renewable energy storage facilities — is about to skyrocket. Even before electric cars, lithium was a hot commodity, mined for decades for reasons that had nothing to do with batteries. Thanks to lithium’s physical properties, it is bizarrely useful, popping up in all sorts of products, from shock-resistant glass to medications. In 2018, those products accounted for nearly half of the global lithium demand, according to analyses by the Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank. Batteries for consumer electronics, such as cell phones or laptops, accounted for another 25 percent or so of the demand. Electric vehicles accounted for most of the rest.

5-7-19 Will climate change destroy democracy?
Why our political systems are headed for an unprecedented stress test. Hardly a week goes by without some new study or report warning of impending calamity over climate change or some other environmental threat. This week’s entry is a 1,500-page assessment from the United Nations that points to a potentially catastrophic collapse in global biodiversity that is driven by human civilization and could have sweeping implications for that civilization’s very viability over the long term. The message of the report, like that of so many others, couldn’t be clearer: If we don’t address this enormous environmental problem immediately, we’re doomed. Like nearly everyone who hears such conclusions, from do-nothing skeptics on the denialist right to sky-is-falling alarmists on the environmental left, I lack the knowledge or expertise required to assess their accuracy. But let’s assume that the UN study is trustworthy and its quasi-apocalyptic predictions are sound. For the sake of argument, let’s go further and assume that all the recent major reports warning of existential environmental threats due to climate change are accurate: Major world cities inhabited by hundreds of millions of people will soon be under water. Storms will dramatically increase in severity. So will droughts, floods, and famines, spreading suffering across the globe and provoking refugee flows on a scale never seen or contemplated in human history. What kind of politics are we likely to see in such a world? It’s hard to know for sure, but it’s unlikely to be either liberal or democratic. There’s an oddly apolitical character to most of our talk about environmental threats. Environmental activists, climate scientists, and their journalistic popularizers blast the bad news as loudly and hyperbolically as possible, hoping to wake people up to the multitude of dangers confronting us on every side. Meanwhile, policy intellectuals propose myriad ideas for mitigating this or that part of the problem while largely ignoring the challenge of how to get any one of them, let alone all of them, enacted.

5-7-19 US climate objections sink Arctic Council accord in Finland
US objections to wording on climate change prevented Arctic nations signing a joint statement at a summit in Finland, delegates said. It is the first time such a statement has been cancelled since the Arctic Council was set up in 1996. A Finnish delegate, Timo Koivurova, said "the others felt they could not water down climate change sentences". There is international concern that Arctic temperatures are rising twice as fast as in the rest of the world. On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the forum in Rovaniemi, northern Finland, with a speech welcoming the melting of Arctic sea ice, rather than expressing alarm about it. "Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade," he said. "This could potentially slash the time it takes to travel between Asia and the West by as much as 20 days." "Arctic sea lanes could become the 21st-Century Suez and Panama Canals," Mr Pompeo said. At short notice he cancelled talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Tuesday, in a surprise move. Scientists and environmental groups warn that the retreat of Arctic sea ice threatens polar bears and marine species, but also contributes to rising sea levels, adding to the risk of coastal flooding. They also warn of a major pollution risk if energy and transport firms find it easier to exploit the pristine Arctic wilderness. The Arctic Council consists of the United States, Canada, Russia, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland. It meets every two years to address economic and environmental challenges in the Arctic. Sources at the forum told Reuters news agency that the US shunned the joint statement because of wording stating that climate change posed a serious threat to the Arctic.

5-7-19 A small YouTube design change could drastically cut its CO2 emissions
Huge amounts of energy are needed to power the servers and networks that let YouTube viewers watch more than one billion hours of video every day. Based on estimates of the electric energy used to provide YouTube videos globally in 2016, a team at the University of Bristol calculated that the firm’s carbon footprint is around 10 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, roughly the same as Luxembourg or Zimbabwe. A single design change – letting users listen to audio on YouTube with an inactive screen – could reduce its carbon footprint by between 100 to 500 thousand tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. This reduction is roughly equivalent to the annual carbon footprint of 30,000 UK homes. Currently, the feature is only available to YouTube Premium subscribers. For non-paying users, listening to music on YouTube requires the app to be kept open and the screen active. A radio mode is an example of a sustainability feature tech companies could implement to reduce digital waste, says researcher Daniel Schien. Other features could include the option to disable videos from autoplaying, or not letting podcasts download new episodes if there is an unplayed backlog, says Chris Priest. “It’s down to the companies to design these services so that they can be delivered efficiently to the whole planet,” he says. The team’s estimates were based on public data from YouTube, as well as Netflix data centres energy figures, which the team believes are similar in efficiency to YouTube’s networks. They estimated the proportion of viewers watching on different devices, such as smartphones and computers, based on user figures provided by the BBC.

5-7-19 How fireflies inspired energy-efficient lights
Electricity accounts for around 5% of greenhouse gas emissions. So how can we make it more efficient? Belgian physicist Jean-Pol Vigneron and his team found the answer could lie within a firefly's abdomen.

5-6-19 Kids can make sceptical parents change their minds on climate change
Schoolchildren around the world are going on strike to try to spur action on climate change. But what they do at school could also be really important. A study in North Carolina has shown that giving children hands-on lessons on climate change and getting them to talk to their parents about it can convince parents who were previously unconcerned that global warming really is a threat. Most strikingly, the biggest effect was on parents who described themselves as conservative. They flipped from being unconcerned on average to being quite concerned. “Engaging kids like this not only gives them the knowledge to prepare themselves to deal with climate change in the future, it empowers them to make a difference now,” says Danielle Lawson of North Carolina State University, whose team carried out the two-year study. “It supports the efforts we see across the globe, that kids are taking.” Lawson had 15 volunteer teachers delivera special curriculum to 11 groups of children aged 10 to 14 in North Carolina. This curriculum, developed by Lawson’s group, is specifically designed to encourage intergenerational learning – that is, kids teaching parents. For instance, parents sometimes accompanied their children on outdoor projects such as measuring plankton levels in the ocean or monitoring the nests of sea turtles. The children also had to interview their parents, asking questions such as “How many years have you lived in this area of North Carolina?”, “Since living here, have you noticed the typical weather patterns change over time?” and “Do you think the sea level is rising? Why or why not?”.

5-6-19 Destruction of nature is as big a threat to humanity as climate change
We are destroying nature at an unprecedented rate, threatening the survival of a million species – and our own future, too. But it’s not too late to save them and us, says a major new report. “The evidence is incontestable. Our destruction of biodiversity and ecosystem services has reached levels that threaten our well-being at least as much as human-induced climate change.” With these words chair Robert Watson launched a meeting in Paris to agree the final text of a major UN report on the state of nature around the world – the biggest and most thorough assessment to date, put together by 150 scientists from 50 countries. The report, released today, is mostly grim reading. We humans have already significantly altered three-quarters of all land and two-thirds of the oceans. More than a third of land and three-quarters of freshwater resources are devoted to crops or livestock. Around 700 vertebrates have gone extinct in the past few centuries. Forty per cent of amphibians and a third of coral species, sharks and marine mammals look set to follow. Preventing this is vital to save ourselves, the report says. “Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing,” says one of the the report’s authors, Josef Settele. “This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.” The main reason is simple. Our expanding farms and cities are leaving less room for wildlife. The other major causes are the direct exploitation of wildlife such as hunting, climate change, pollution and the spread of invasive species. Climate change is set to become ever more destructive.

5-6-19 Nature crisis: Humans 'threaten 1m species with extinction'
On land, in the seas, in the sky, the devastating impact of humans on nature is laid bare in a compelling UN report. One million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. Nature everywhere is declining at a speed never previously seen and our need for ever more food and energy are the main drivers. These trends can be halted, the study says, but it will take "transformative change" in every aspect of how humans interact with nature. From the bees that pollinate our crops, to the forests that hold back flood waters, the report reveals how humans are ravaging the very ecosystems that support their societies. Three years in the making, this global assessment of nature draws on 15,000 reference materials, and has been compiled by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). It runs to 1,800 pages. The brief, 40-page "summary for policymakers", published today at a meeting in Paris, is perhaps the most powerful indictment of how humans have treated their only home. It says that while the Earth has always suffered from the actions of humans through history, over the past 50 years, these scratches have become deep scars. The world's population has doubled since 1970, the global economy has grown four-fold, while international trade has increased 10 times over. To feed, clothe and give energy to this burgeoning world, forests have been cleared at astonishing rates, especially in tropical areas. Between 1980 and 2000, 100 million hectares of tropical forest were lost, mainly from cattle ranching in South America and palm oil plantations in South East Asia. Faring worse than forests are wetlands, with only 13% of those present in 1700 still in existence in the year 2000. Our cities have expanded rapidly, with urban areas doubling since 1992. All this human activity is killing species in greater numbers than ever before. According to the global assessment, an average of around 25% of animals and plants are now threatened.

5-6-19 Five things we've learned from nature crisis study
The most comprehensive and detailed review of the state of nature has been published in Paris. Our environment correspondent Matt McGrath extracts the key messages.

  1. "Boy, we are in trouble": This phrase was uttered by Prof Sir Bob Watson who has chaired this report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
  2. "We need to change the stories in our heads…": One key message from the assessment is that we need to re-evaluate what we mean by the idea of a "good life".
  3. The value of nature or the nature of value? One of the major themes of this assessment is the term "nature's contribution to people".
  4. Local is good for global…: One of the key differences in this report is that the authors have worked hard to include a broader range of knowledge than in many typically "western" scientific studies.
  5. 12 months to save the Earth? Not quite...: One key takeaway from this report is that political efforts to enshrine protection of nature have fallen desperately flat.

5-5-19 Nature's emergency: Where we are in five graphics
The felling of forests, the plundering of seas and soils, and the pollution of air and water are together pushing the natural world to the brink. That's the warning more than 500 experts in 50 countries are expected to give in a major UN-backed report, due to be published on Monday. The assessment will highlight the losses that have hit the natural world over the past 50 years and how the future is looking bleak for tens to hundreds of thousands of species. The document, from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), is also expected to set out an urgent rescue plan for nature. So what do we know about the health of the planet in terms of biodiversity (the variety of living things on Earth and the ecosystems they belong to)?

  1. The world's biodiversity is vanishing fast: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is a critical measure of our impact on nature. Almost 100,000 species have been assessed so far for this inventory of endangered species. Of these, more than a quarter are threatened with extinction, ranging from Madagascar's lemurs to amphibians like frogs and salamanders, and plants such as conifers and orchids.
  2. Among the biggest threats to wildlife are habitat loss, climate change and pollution: According to a recent study, while climate change is a growing threat, the main drivers of biodiversity decline continue to be the loss of natural habitat to farming for food, fuel and timber, and the overexploitation of plants and animals by humans through logging, hunting and fishing.
  3. Animals and plants are disappearing and so is the land they rely upon for natural habitat: Land degradation through human activities is negatively affecting the well-being of at least 3.2 billion people and pushing the planet towards a sixth mass extinction, according to IPBES.
  4. Habitat conversion drives biodiversity loss: According to IPBES, only a quarter of land on Earth is substantively free of the impacts of human activities. This is projected to decline to just one-tenth by 2050.
  5. Some of the last great rainforests are being wiped out: The Amazon region holds the largest tropical rainforest in the world, which is home to plant and animal species that are still being discovered. Rondônia, in the western part of the Amazon, is one of the most deforested parts of the Amazon region. Trees are being lost as forests are cut down for growing crops or for pastures to graze cattle, as well as for logging and mining.

5-5-19 Why is the US so bad at recycling?
Recycling has become so expensive that some US cities have suspended their programmes. One major issue is people throwing away things that can't be recycled.

5-5-19 The future of hamburgers
To address climate change, we'll have to reduce our consumption of beef. That's a tough sell in a country that loves its burgers and steaks. Politicians often rally their supporters with partisan red meat, but these days Republicans are using actual red meat. They're accusing Democrats of a plot to ban beef, trying to rebrand the "Green New Deal" for climate action as a nanny-state assault on the American diet. At a rally in Michigan, President Donald Trump portrayed a green dystopia with "no more cows." In a recent Washington speech, former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka warned conservatives that leftists are coming for their hamburgers: "This is what Stalin dreamt about, but never achieved!" Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) actually ate a burger during a press conference on Capitol Hill, an activity he claimed would be illegal under a Green New Deal. In reality, nobody's banning beef. Rep. Al­ex­an­dria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the driving force behind the Green New Deal, really did suggest that "maybe we shouldn't be eating a hamburger for breakfast, lunch, and dinner," and her office did release (and then retract) a fact sheet implying a desire to "get rid of farting cows." But the actual Green New Deal resolution calls only for dramatic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. It says nothing about seizing steaks, and no Demo­crats are pushing to confiscate cows, regardless of their tailpipe emissions. This Washington stir over the burger police is classic political theater, the latest tribal skirmish in America's partisan culture wars. But livestock really do have a serious impact on the climate — and the extreme rhetoric about cow farts and rounding up ranchers is obscuring a consequential debate over the future of animal agriculture in general and beef in particular. Red meat has a greater impact on the climate than any other food; if the world's cattle formed their own nation, it would have the third-highest emissions on Earth, behind only China and the United States.

5-5-19 War wrecked an African ecosystem. Ecologists are trying to restore it
Predators and prey roam Gorongosa in Mozambique once again, but there’s still a long way to go. The national park at the southern end of Africa’s Great Rift Valley was once considered a wildlife paradise. Hippopotamuses lolled in the lush waters of Mozambique’s Lake Urema, and thousands of antelope bounded across the park’s savannas and floodplains. Elephant herds and prides of lions drew international tourists. Then civil war erupted in the southeast African nation in 1977, leaving Gorongosa National Park in shambles. Closed in 1983, the sanctuary became a battleground, with animals slaughtered for food or — in the case of elephants — ivory to fund the fighting. Populations of African buffalo, blue wildebeest and zebra, thousands strong, plummeted until 15 or less of each remained. Hundreds of lions, leopards and wild dogs fled, starved or died in snares and steel-jaw traps. By the war’s end in 1992, only lions remained, their numbers in the single digits. The park’s ruined condition has inspired a complex scientific effort by Mozambique officials and an international team of scientists to restore not just the park’s wildlife but an entire ecosystem — an enormous challenge that has rarely been attempted. Probably the most well-known example of such an effort to date is the reintroduction of gray wolves into Yellowstone National Park about 25 years ago, so far with uneven results. Bringing back Gorongosa will require far more than the reintroduction of one species. It will take the reestablishment of at least 10 species and curtailing rampant poaching. About a decade into the project, the scientists have had mixed success.

5-4-19 Nasa instrument heads to space station to map CO2
Nasa has sent up an instrument to the International Space Station (ISS) to help track carbon dioxide on Earth. OCO-3, as the observer is called, was launched on a Falcon rocket from Florida in the early hours of Saturday. The instrument is made from the spare components left over after the assembly of a satellite, OCO-2, which was put in orbit to do the same job in 2014. The data from two missions should give scientists a clearer idea of how CO2 moves through the atmosphere. One way this will be achieved is through the different perspectives OCO-2 and OCO-3 will get. The former flies around the entire globe in what's termed a sun-synchronous polar orbit, which leads to it seeing any given location at the same time of day. The latter, on the other hand, because it will fly aboard the station, will only see locations up to 51 degrees North and South; and see them at many different times of day. That's interesting because plants' ability to absorb CO2 varies during the course of daylight hours. OCO-3's dataset will therefore have much to add to that of its predecessor. "Getting this different time of day information from the orbit of the space station is going to be really valuable," Nasa project scientist Dr Annmarie Eldering told BBC News. "We have a lot of good arguments about diurnal variability: plants' performance over different times of day; what possibly could we learn? So, I think that's going to be exciting scientifically." The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) missions are trying to tie down the uncertainties in the cycling of CO2 - how and where the greenhouse gas is emitted (sources), versus how and where it's absorbed (sinks). Humans are driving an imbalance in this cycle, increasing the concentration of the gas in the air. Currently, anthropogenic activities pump out just under 40 billion tonnes of CO2 year-on-year, principally from the burning of fossil fuels. Only about half of this sum stays in the atmosphere, where it adds to warming. (Webmaster's comment: Emissions of CO2 is predicted to rise 2.7% from 36 to 37 billion tons in 2018. So much for what we're doing about stopping global warming.)

5-3-19 Arctic warming’s $70 trillion bill
The release of greenhouse gases from thawing permafrost in the Arctic will accelerate global warming and add up to $70 trillion to the cost of climate change. That’s the conclusion of the most comprehensive study yet into the ramifications of permafrost melt in the world’s high north, reports NationalGeographic?.com. As the region’s icy ground thaws, soil microbes start to digest the gigatons of organic carbon—the remains of plants and animals—that have been buried in the permafrost for thousands of years. Those microbes exhale climate-warming carbon dioxide and methane. To calculate the impact of those emissions, researchers measured how much frozen organic matter was in the ground at multiple points across the permafrost zone—which covers a quarter of the land in the northern hemisphere—then ran the data through climate simulation software. They found that, even if the world meets the Paris Agreement climate targets, the released gases and the retreat of sunlight-reflecting ice will hike climate change’s price tag—the cost of rising seas, longer droughts, and so on—by up to 5 percent, or $70 trillion. That’s 10 times higher than the projected benefits of a melting Arctic, such as shorter shipping routes. The study’s key takeaway, said co-author Kevin Schaefer of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, “is the greater the warming, the stronger the feedbacks and the higher the costs to society.”

5-3-19 Greta Thunberg's climate crusade
A Swedish teenager with autism is trying to shame adults into action. Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl whose "School Strike for Climate" campaign has sparked a global youth movement involving hundreds of thousands of teenagers in more than 100 countries. In the past few months, she has met with Pope Francis and addressed the EU, the U.N., and the British Parliament. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, she told corporate executives and political leaders that their greed was robbing her generation of its future. For every audience, she delivers the same blunt message, drawing on last year's alarming report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Around the year 2030, 10 years, 252 days, and 10 hours away from now," she told Parliament last week in perfect English, "we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control." If adult leaders don't act, she says, their "irresponsible behavior will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind." Thunberg says she was inspired by the students from Parkland, Fla., who walked out of classes in March 2018 to protest gun violence after 17 of their classmates and teachers were massacred in a school shooting. Last summer, Sweden suffered through its most extreme heat spell on record, with temperatures in the 90s and forests bursting into flame above the Arctic Circle. Fed up with inaction, Thunberg decided one day last August not to go to school, and instead sat alone outside the Swedish parliament building with a sign saying "School Strike for Climate." On the second day of Thunberg's protest, other students joined her, and they kept it up for nearly a month until the Swedish elections. Thereafter, she led school strikes every Friday, and they soon spread to Belgium, the Netherlands, and other countries through the hashtag #FridaysForFuture. On March 15, some 1.5 million students in 2,000 cities around the world turned out for a global strike. Thunberg has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, and selective mutism, a disorder that interferes with speech. "I have always been that girl in the back who doesn't say anything," she says. She was just 11 years old when she became concerned about climate change through school, after viewing films about deforestation, plastic clogging the oceans, and the melting of polar ice. The discovery that her planet's future was in peril helped plunge the sensitive young girl into a deep depression. She stopped going to school, stopped talking, and even stopped ­eating — stunting her growth. Thunberg eventually emerged from her depression when she decided she could do something to prevent the bleak future that scared her so. The once silent child now routinely addresses crowds of thousands of people and gives eloquent interviews. "It is like day and night," says her father, Svante Thunberg. "It is an incredible transformation." People like Thunberg who have Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism, tend to be very literal and ruthlessly logical. Most neurotypical people can live with the cognitive dissonance that comes with accepting the reality of climate change but doing nothing about it; for Thunberg, that contradiction is intolerable. She is relentless in her marshaling of science, logic, and morality to make her case.

5-3-19 Banning the banning of banning?
A Michigan lawmaker has introduced a ban on the banning of bans of plastic bags. When bans on single-use plastic bags were sweeping the nation in 2016, Michigan lawmakers passed a law pre-emptively prohibiting any such ban. Now, Democratic Rep. Robert Wittenberg wants to overturn that law and ensure that it is never reimposed. “There was a push to ban, and then they banned banning,” Wittenberg said. “And now we are banning the banning of banning.”

5-3-19 The Greta effect? Meet the schoolgirl climate warriors
This Friday, like many Fridays before it, Haven Coleman will not be attending school. The 13-year-old is taking a stand. Coleman, from Denver, Colorado, is risking her education to strike for climate change action. She told the BBC her decision was down to one person: Greta Thunberg. "Once we found Greta, we were like, 'Oh that's amazing, let me try, let me do something similar'," Coleman said. When Thunberg sat outside Sweden's parliament on 20 August, 2018, aged 15, she cut a lonely figure. Carrying a "school strike for climate change" sign, she said she was refusing to attend classes until Swedish politicians took action. Nine months on, Thunberg is no longer alone. Energised by her climate strike movement, Fridays for Future (FFF), students are vowing to boycott school on Fridays until their countries adhere to the 2015 Paris agreement, which aims to prevent global temperatures from rising 1.5C (34.7F) above pre-industrial levels. On 15 March, an estimated 1.6 million students from 125 countries walked out of school to demand climate change action. The next co-ordinated international protest takes place on Friday, before another global strike on 24 May. Coleman, the co-director of US Youth Climate Strike, is one of them. She founded the organisation with Isra Hirsi, the 16-year-old daughter of Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Villaseñor, 13. "It's really cool because it's driven by girls. I think that's amazing," she said. Based on the "tonnes of people" she knows within the movement, she believes girls outnumber boys. Learning about the effects of deforestation on sloths - her "favourite animal" - was her gateway into climate activism. But it was Thunberg's school walk-out, she said, that prompted her to start striking on her own.

5-3-19 Environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion has deleted its online prison guide after a backlash from civil rights activists.
. More than 1,100 protesters were arrested in April, when the group shut down parts of London for 10 days, and future actions are planned. The guide advised supporters that the risk of violence inside was very low because "most prison officers are black and do not wish to give you a hard time". It also suggested people should use their time in prison to "practise yoga" and "learn from their experience". A spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion commented: "A number of inaccuracies in our guide have been brought to our attention. The guide has been removed from the website and is now being rewritten with the support of legal experts." Civil rights activists warned that the advice was "inaccurate and misleading" and added that violence and discrimination are commonplace in prisons. In England and Wales, assaults in prisons are currently at a record high and in 2018, there were 325 deaths in prison custody - up 10% on the previous year. (Webmaster's comment: In America there are ten times as many, over 3,300 deaths in prison.) And contradicting Extinction Rebellion's claim, 94% of prison officers in England and Wales were white as of March 2018. "Prison is not - and I cannot stress this enough - a yoga retreat," commented lawyer and anti-prison activist Eda Seyhan. "Prisons are dangerous and oppressive institutions where disproportionate numbers of black and brown men are locked away from the rest of society. "I've spent enough time in police stations and prisons to know that violence and discrimination are rife - no amount of yoga or meditation can change that," Ms Seyhan added. Extinction Rebellion aims to cause non-violent disruption resulting in arrest in order to highlight the risk posed by climate change. Three protesters have been charged and put on remand for a month for climbing on top of a train in Canary Wharf station. Representatives of the group met with Environment Secretary Michael Gove on Tuesday.

5-3-19 Climate change may turn octopuses partially blind from lack of oxygen
Marine animals temporarily lose the ability to see when they enter water that is low in oxygen. The finding suggests the animals may struggle in the coming decades, as climate change is causing low-oxygen zones in the ocean to spread. Lillian McCormick of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California and her colleagues studied the larvae of four marine animals: market squid, two-spot octopus, tuna crab and brachyuran crab. All these larvae rely heavily on vision. The team placed each larva in a small water-filled well and inserted tiny electrodes into the retina of one eye. This allowed them to track the electrical signals the retina made in response to light. Then they exposed the larvae to lights of varying intensity, including some very brief flashes, while lowering the amount of oxygen in the water. Retinas need a lot of energy, and therefore oxygen, to function, so it is not surprising that the larvae’s vision was impaired – but the effect was more severe than expected. “The retinal function started declining at oxygen levels we weren’t expecting to be stressful for these marine animals,” says McCormick. In lower oxygen levels, the retinal response fell by 60 to 100 per cent. However, there was a lot of variation. The market squid and brachyuran crab larvae were the most sensitive. “As soon as we started decreasing oxygen availability, their retinal responses started decreasing,” says McCormick. “The octopus held on a little bit longer.” The tuna crab was the most tolerant of low oxygen levels. The larvae’s retinas began to recover once they were put back into oxygenated water. However, McCormick says prolonged exposure might cause permanent harm, just as a stroke can permanently damage a person’s eyesight.

5-3-19 Cobalt for 500,000 electric cars could be harvested from the oceans
Strings of plastic balls dangled in the ocean could harvest enough cobalt for hundreds of thousands of electric car batteries. The heavy metal is a key battery ingredient, but onshore reserves are running low. So engineers in the US want to mine it from brine. Maha Haji and Alexander Slocum at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say the system could catch enough dissolved cobalt from seawater each year to make a battery for every Tesla Model 3 that has rolled off the production line so far. In total, repurposing 76 unused oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico could produce enough cobalt for half a million electric vehicle batteries. Growth in sales of electric cars mean global demand for cobalt could outstrip supply for the first time next year, according to Europe’s Joint Research Centre. However, seawater swims with dissolved minerals and the world’s oceans carry about 500 million tonnes of cobalt, dwarfing the 7 million tonnes in known reserves on land. The proposal would be to fill plastic spheres, each about the size of a beach ball and riddled with holes, with absorbent materials and strap them to long ropes immersed in the ocean. The absorbent materials, such as algae or lemon peel, would bind with the dissolved cobalt more than other minerals and pull it from solution. Every few weeks the chains of balls would be dragged back in to collect the cobalt they soak up. The technique has already been used in lab tests to harvest uranium. Cobalt is a stiffer challenge because its concentration in seawater is about eight times lower. The study does not tackle the economics and whether the process could be made cheap enough to be carried out on a large scale. However, one way to reduce costs could be to use waste materials, such as recycled plastic bottles to make the balls. The team says further studies would be needed to assess the environmental impact.

5-3-19 Biodiversity heroes: The teenagers saving Madagascar's wildlife
The island nation of Madagascar has a dubious accolade: it is the world-leader in deforestation. Now, some of the island's teenagers have started a farming revolution - working to stop food production from destroying the island's rich rainforest. The bridge across the river to Mangabe has collapsed. Probably many years ago. Just a few wooden stumps now protrude from the murky water separating densely forested riverbanks. The only way across is on an unnervingly wobbly canoe. We crouch low - backpacks at our feet - gripping the sides of that canoe as it is expertly steered across the water. We are less than 100 miles from the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, but this is a stark reminder of just how remote the communities of this protected area are. When we have crossed the river, it is still a two-hour walk to Mangabe village. We're going there to meet a group of Malagasy teenagers - young famers who are leading a small but vital revolution - transforming how people farm in order to save their forest. Almost 9,000km away in Paris, at a glossy, international gathering, scientists and politicians are finalising an assessment on humanity's relationship with nature. With its somewhat ungainly title, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) will publish a seminal upsum of the ecological emergency our planet is facing; humanity's impact on the natural world. There is little doubt that, worldwide, humanity struggles to coexist with other species that inhabit the planet - even some that we are keenly aware that we need. Biodiversity encompasses pollinating insects we rely on for food, trees and plants that provide clean air and water and the network of life underfoot that keeps soil fertile and productive. It is the network of life - we depend on it. The global report due on 6 May has the lofty goal of setting out a path to a more sustainable future. But here in Mangabe, communities live alongside one of the richest, most diverse rainforests in the world. They make their livelihoods entirely through farming; here the link between people and the forest is palpable and inextricable.

5-2-19 Climate change: UK 'can cut emissions to nearly zero' by 2050
The UK should lead the global fight against climate change by cutting greenhouse gases to nearly zero by 2050, a report says. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) maintains this can be done at no added cost from previous estimates. Its report says that if other countries follow the UK, there’s a 50-50 chance of staying below the recommended 1.5C temperature rise by 2100. A 1.5C rise is considered the threshold for dangerous climate change. Some say the proposed 2050 target for near-zero emissions is too soft, but others will fear the goal could damage the UK's economy. The CCC - the independent adviser to government on climate change - said it would not be able to hit “net zero“ emissions any sooner, but 2050 was still an extremely significant goal. The main author Chris Stark told me: “This report would have been absolutely inconceivable just a few years ago. People would have laughed us out of court for suggesting that the target could be so high.” The main change, he said, was the huge drop in the cost of renewable energy prompted by government policies to nurture solar and wind power. He said the BBC's David Attenborough climate documentary, protests by Extinction Rebellion and speeches by the teenage campaigner Greta Thunberg had persuaded the public that the problem needed urgent action. But Mr Stark said there was no way the 2050 target would be achieved unless the government backed it with policies and money. He noted that the UK was already slipping away from a legal obligation to cut its emissions step-by-step between now and 2032. The cost of the new proposal, the CCC estimates, is tens of billions of pounds a year and may reach to 1-2% of national wealth (as measured by GDP) each year by 2050. That doesn’t count the benefits of decarbonisation - such as cleaner air and water. The CCC said England can eliminate emissions by 2050, while Scotland could go carbon-free sooner - by 2045. Scotland has exceptional potential for planting trees (which absorb carbon dioxide) and is more suited for carbon capture and storage. Wales can only cut 95% of its emissions by 2050 because of its farm industry. Northern Ireland will follow England’s targets. The government is studying the report, which has substantial implications for public finances, and says it "sets us on a path to become the first major economy to legislate to end our contribution to global warming entirely".

5-2-19 UK government told to adopt world's most ambitious climate target
The UK’s climate advisers have urged the government to legislate for a world-leading target of effectively eliminating its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, ending the country’s contribution to global warming. In a sweeping assessment on how lifestyles, homes and every sector of the UK economy need to be transformed, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) said now was the right time to set a binding target of reducing emissions to net zero by mid-century. Unlike other countries contemplating a net zero target or those who have legislated for one, like Sweden, the CCC says international aviation and shipping emissions must also be counted. The UK already has a target of an 80 per cent emissions cut by 2050, but in a 600-page report the CCC said the falling costs of offshore windfarms, batteries and other technologies mean the new ambition could be achieved at the same cost, which is 1-2 per cent of GDP. The new advice, ordered by ministers in response to the UN climate science panel report last year on limiting global temperature rises to 1.5°C, arrives amid calls for stronger climate action from striking schoolchildren and the Extinction Rebellion protestors. The CCC said it was feasible for the UK to hit net zero by 2050 but an earlier date – as suggested by some politicians and campaigners – was not credible. Not all parts of the UK need to hit net zero at the same time, says the report. The target for Scotland should be 2045, because of its capacity to store carbon dioxide in old oil and gas fields and its space for tree-planting. Wales, partly due to relatively high farming emissions, would only be required to cut 95 per cent by 2050. The group’s report paints a picture of the dizzying scale of change need across every area of society. Low-carbon power production will have to quadruple to keep the lights on and clean up other sectors, such as heating and transport.

5-2-19 UK climate report: What your life could be like in a low-carbon future
The UK has already cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent since 1990. Most people will not have noticed, because the lion’s share of those reductions have come from switches to electricity supply behind the scenes – the closure of polluting coal plants, and more renewables and gas. But the measures needed to reach net zero by 2050, as laid out in a report released today by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change, require more drastic changes to daily life. If you buy a new UK home from 2025, it won’t be connected to the gas grid, but will use heat delivered from a central source, heat pumps or even hydrogen produced with carbon capture and storage. The 80 per cent of homes that rely on gas boilers today will have to eventually replace them with such alternatives. In general, homes and buildings will look much the same but consume much less energy through energy efficiency improvements. Within a decade, you may no longer be able to buy – or want to buy, because of running costs – a petrol or diesel car. Electric cars will become the norm as charging points proliferate. You will still be able to take a plane, but if you are a frequent flyer, you will have to fly much less. Zero-carbon planes will be not be ready even by 2050, but by the 2040s, you might be travelling on ones that are a hybrids running on electric batteries and jet fuel. People in the UK will need to eat at least 20 per cent less beef, lamb and dairy than now, something the CCC believes is conservative based on current trends – it is the equivalent of cutting out around 30 grams of beef or 300 grams of dairy per week. The figure could even by as high as 50 per cent, the group thinks. If that all sounds like hardship, there is some good news: the UK should become healthier, because of diet changes, being more active through walking and cycling, and breathing cleaner air. Electric vehicles should make towns and cities quieter, and less stressful.

5-2-19 Can Silicon Valley entrepreneurs make crickets the next chicken?
To feed the world, they'll need to scale up insect farming to make it efficient and sustainable. Trina Chiasson was raised in a log cabin, learned to spin plates in Chicago’s circus arts community, dreamed up a software company and three years later sold it to a bigger company. Her next challenge: building a business, called Ovipost, that brings better technology to cricket farming. “I didn’t know any cricket farmers growing up, I know you’ll be shocked to learn,” she says. Yet she’s jumped into this new frontier of insect agriculture and, she hopes, a more sustainable food system. It’s all about reinventing ranching, but with six legs. Humans have had thousands of years, including at least 50 years of industrial R&D, to figure out how to raise chickens, pigs and cattle. Today’s insect farmers in North America and Europe are racing to catch up, mixing ancient herder–style insights about domesticating wild animals with computer-vision algorithms and robot design. How to grow enough critters often gets overlooked in the buzz about insects as cuisine. There’s far more fuss about whether Westerners will join the rest of the world and swallow a bug. Yet it’s the behind-the-scenes inventions and decisions that will determine how environmentally gentle insect farming can be and whether insects become a weekly staple that a lot of people can afford or just a foodie indulgence. Chiasson’s cricket leap into farming will at least use her skills with data. Her first start-up company, Infoactive, developed software to turn raw data into easy-to-grasp charts and graphs. After she and a business partner sold the company in 2015 to the data visualization company Tableau Software for an undisclosed sum, Chiasson spent two years researching and strategizing about her next venture. Raised by back-to-the-land parents in Maine, she became a vegetarian around age 11, but now, she says, “I regularly chow down on insects.”

5-1-19 Signs of human climate change influence on drought traced back to 1900
We have been pumping out greenhouse gases for a very long time – and now we have evidence that humans were changing the climate over a century ago. DROUGHTS around the world dating to the early 20th century may have been made worse by greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists have previously hesitated to draw links between global warming and drought, due to a lack of observational data and the difficulty of distinguishing natural cycles of dry conditions from ones that are driven by climate change. But Kate Marvel at the University of Columbia in New York and her colleagues have found that the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on drought was clearly visible between 1900 and 1949 (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1149-8). “Climate change is not a recent phenomenon,” she says. “We’ve known about it for a long time, and it’s actually been happening for a long time.” By comparing climate models that can account for the impact of emissions on drought with tree ring, rainfall and temperature records, her team found clear evidence that human activity influenced droughts during the first half of the 20th century. But between 1950 and 1975, there was no evidence of an effect. The discrepancy is explained by another human impact that had a cooling effect – the amount of aerosols we released by burning huge amounts of coal, along with other industrial activities. “We put a bunch of junk in the atmosphere that blocks the sun,” says Marvel. From 1981 to 2017, there were signs of a link, but not enough to say unequivocally that droughts were influenced by human-induced climate change rather than by natural variations. That might sound odd, given that this period coincides with a large rise in greenhouse gas emissions. Marvel and her team are still examining possible explanations for this. One is that aerosols have declined but may still be playing a role.

5-1-19 Is there anything we can do to stop Greenland from turning green?
The speed and scale of Arctic melting is shocking even hardened researchers – the need to act now has never been clearer, says our chief reporter Adam Vaughan. IT’S not exactly a natural icebreaker, but Earth scientists are talking a lot about ice right now. I met quite a few of them at the European Geosciences Union general assembly in Vienna, Austria. One particularly eye-opening moment came when Harry Zekollari from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands showed me how his computer models indicate that half of Alpine glaciers are doomed by mid-century, whatever action we now take to curb carbon emissions. If anything, the models seem a conservative representation of facts on the ground. A few days later, NASA was highlighting satellite imagery of an Arctic glacier slipping at a rate that was “simply nuts”, according to one researcher involved: 20 metres a day, compared with 20 metres a year in 2013. And we have recently learned how increased rainfall in Greenland is melting way more ice than anyone expected. If Greenland starts to go green, we have a real problem. The ice cap there is up to 3 kilometres deep and contains enough water to raise sea levels by several metres. It is looking increasingly vulnerable. A study just out in the journal PNAS has looked at almost half a century of data to conclude that Greenland’s annual ice mass loss has grown nearly sixfold in 30 years. This year’s melt season has already begun, a month early. So much bad news begins to wash over you – and that’s exactly the researchers’ main worry. Eric Rignot, an author of the PNAS paper, says what surprises him the most is how much science people need before contemplating action. If Alpine glaciers disappear, that’s a blow to the region’s tourism and hydroelectric industries. But perhaps we can tolerate the loss of skiing holidays. Perhaps we should anyway. Greenland is in a different league: an unfolding environmental problem with incalculable, global economic risk attached.

5-1-19 How Atlanta plans to get to 100% green energy by 2035
Like any other city, Atlanta is woven with power lines, trams and buses. The electricity that makes Atlanta run comes mostly from coal, natural gas and nuclear energy. Only 6% to 8% comes from renewable sources. "Obviously, going from that number to 100% by 2035 is a bold goal," said Amol Naik, Atlanta's chief resilience officer. He says the green energy plan, approved by the Atlanta City Council in March - which aims to get to 100% green in 16 years - is "ambitious and achievable". But, he admits, there's no easy path to get there. "There's no five-run home run or four-point shot in basketball. This is something that needs to happen in an incremental way over a number of years," Mr Naik said. "It's a lot of folks sitting around a table figuring out the best way forward." More than 100 cities have recently pledged to run on 100% renewable energy, signing onto the Sierra Club's "Ready For 100" campaign. But turning commitment into action is where the even harder work begins, and Atlanta might be the ultimate test case. Former US Vice-President Al Gore has said that if Atlanta can get to 100% green energy, anybody can. So, how exactly will the folks in Atlanta increase the city's green energy supply from 8% to 100% by 2035? They're going to start by trying to use less energy. "There's an awful lot of low-hanging fruit left," said Matt Cox, CEO of the Greenlink Group, who helped craft Atlanta's new plan. Mr Cox says you start with the basics: insulating old homes and installing energy-efficient lights and better cooling and heating systems. "We identified an opportunity to reduce the consumption in the city 25% to 30%, just through the energy-efficiency side alone." And Mr Cox says studies found there's another benefit to investing in efficiency: "They were showing an internal rate of return of over 60%. That's six-zero percent. That kind of a return on an investment is a tremendous opportunity that you don't see hardly anywhere. "You look at the stock market, you're going to be happy to get 7% or 10% out of that." But efficiency is just a start. Atlanta's plan also relies on putting up a lot more solar panels - on homes, commercial buildings and at utility scale solar farms. It banks on things like improved battery storage for solar energy as well as renewable-energy credits from outside the state to offset coal and gas power still coming from the local grid. Atlanta's mix will also still include a lot of nuclear power, which environmentalists are split over.

5-1-19 Signs of human climate change influence on drought traced back to 1900
We have been pumping out greenhouse gases for a very long time – and now we have evidence that humans were changing the climate over a century ago. DROUGHTS around the world dating to the early 20th century may have been made worse by greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists have previously hesitated to draw links between global warming and drought, due to a lack of observational data and the difficulty of distinguishing natural cycles of dry conditions from ones that are driven by climate change. But Kate Marvel at the University of Columbia in New York and her colleagues have found that the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on drought was clearly visible between 1900 and 1949 (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1149-8). “Climate change is not a recent phenomenon,” she says. “We’ve known about it for a long time, and it’s actually been happening for a long time.” By comparing climate models that can account for the impact of emissions on drought with tree ring, rainfall and temperature records, her team found clear evidence that human activity influenced droughts during the first half of the 20th century. But between 1950 and 1975, there was no evidence of an effect. The discrepancy is explained by another human impact that had a cooling effect – the amount of aerosols we released by burning huge amounts of coal, along with other industrial activities. “We put a bunch of junk in the atmosphere that blocks the sun,” says Marvel. From 1981 to 2017, there were signs of a link, but not enough to say unequivocally that droughts were influenced by human-induced climate change rather than by natural variations. That might sound odd, given that this period coincides with a large rise in greenhouse gas emissions. Marvel and her team are still examining possible explanations for this. One is that aerosols have declined but may still be playing a role.

5-1-19 How to make the Green New Deal global
Earlier this week, socialists in Spain gave fans of a Green New Deal here in America something to cheer for. Their party won the country's latest round of snap elections, and central to the socialists' campaign platform was a sweeping program to cut Spain's carbon emissions 90 percent by the middle of the century, through mandates and massive public investment. But that victory also raises a challenge: For climate efforts to actually be meaningful, some version of the Green New Deal (GND) will need to happen in every major country. Even if the U.S. manages to pass some version of the initiative, how could it possibly take it global? As it turns out, a carbon tax might be the answer. That might sound a little surprising, as recent U.S. politics have painted a carbon tax and a Green New Deal as somewhat at odds. Some GND supporters are skittish about a tax policy that could be punitive and regressive towards the poor. And a lot of mainstream centrists are pushing a carbon tax as the bipartisan, market-friendly climate policy to go with instead of a GND. But the two policies are perfectly compatible. A GND could fill in the race- and class-justice gaps that a pure market mechanism couldn't deal with on its own. And a carbon tax would hasten the transition off of fossil fuels and onto the green energy infrastructure the GND builds out. Finally, most carbon tax proposals come with a dividend system that returns the revenue as an equal per person check to all Americans, to cushion the blow from any increase in energy prices. And there's another way they compliment as well. Right now, the GND has no concrete mechanism for pushing other countries to cut their own CO2 output with similar urgency. That's a problem, since at this point the U.S. only accounts for 15 percent or so of global carbon emissions. If we don't get the rest of the world on board, then passing a domestic GND will serve as little more than a symbolic gesture in the fight against climate change.

5-1-19 Scientists find cocaine in shrimps in Suffolk rivers
Scientists found cocaine in freshwater shrimps when testing rivers for chemicals, a study said. Researchers at King's College London, in collaboration with the University of Suffolk, tested 15 different locations across Suffolk. Their report said cocaine was found in all samples tested. Other illicit drugs, such as ketamine, were also widespread in the shrimp. The researchers said it was a "surprising" finding. Professor Nic Bury, from the University of Suffolk, said: "Whether the presence of cocaine in aquatic animals is an issue for Suffolk, or more widespread an occurrence in the UK and abroad, awaits further research. "Environmental health has attracted much attention from the public due to challenges associated with climate change and microplastic pollution. "However, the impact of 'invisible' chemical pollution (such as drugs) on wildlife health needs more focus in the UK." The study, published in Environment International, looked at the exposure of wildlife, such as the freshwater shrimp Gammarus pulex, to different micropollutants. Researchers collected the samples from the rivers Alde, Box, Deben, Gipping and Waveney. They said in addition to the drugs, banned pesticides and pharmaceuticals were also widespread in the shrimp that were collected. The potential for any effect on the creatures was "likely to be low", they said. Dr Leon Barron, from King's College London, said: "Such regular occurrence of illicit drugs in wildlife was surprising. "We might expect to see these in urban areas such as London, but not in smaller and more rural catchments. "The presence of pesticides which have long been banned in the UK also poses a particular challenge as the sources of these remain unclear."

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