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Hand Evolution by Megan Godtland

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2019 Science Stats

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

12-31-19 Aviation chief criticises Greta Thunberg and 'flight-shaming' movement
The aviation industry is planning a pushback against the “flight-shaming” movement and Greta Thunberg, according to the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). IATA chief executive Alexandre de Juniac said Thunberg has pushed the environmental impact of flying up the agenda, but he argued that she unfairly singles out aviation, which emits more than 2 per cent of global CO2 emissions. “We are not the only polluter on this planet, and we have taken the subject frontly, directly and massively,” he told New Scientist. He said her message will lead to a world where people will be unable to connect. “Everybody would stay in his own small village, behind his walls,” he said. “It’s a move backwards, almost a century ago.” De Juniac said he would like to meet Thunberg, saying she is too pessimistic about the industry’s ability to find solutions. “I would like to tell her that what we are targeting is to fly more and pollute less,” he said. A representative for Thunberg said she wouldn’t be able to respond to de Juniac’s remarks. IATA, the trade body that represents the world’s airlines, will join forces with others in the aviation industry to launch a campaign in 2020 in a bid to reassure people who fly but are wavering because of climate concerns. There are already signs that the Flygskam (flight-shaming) movement that began in Sweden may have started to reduce flights in Sweden and the Netherlands, with aviation emissions in both countries falling between January and June. The industry is targeting what de Juniac said are the 40 per cent of passengers who are concerned about their flights’ climate impact, rather than focusing on those who have already stopped flying or will fly regardless. Those people should be reassured by airlines’ efforts to halve net emissions by 2050, he added. “They shouldn’t worry to fly more, they shouldn’t.” (Webmaster's comment: Greta Thunburg is an easy target for male brutes!)

12-31-19 Death toll rises as thousands seek shelter from Australian bush fires
Two more people died, five others were missing feared dead and thousands were evacuated to beaches as Australia’s most devastating wildfire season on record worsened on Tuesday. Police said a father and son died in the early hours of Tuesday defending their home in Cobargo, near the coast in the state of New South Wales (NSW), around 400 kilometres south of Sydney. The town was hit by a fire that roared into the community in the middle of the night, with its main street bearing the main impact. Further south, fires continued to blaze out of control in the state of Victoria, where some 4000 people were forced to take shelter on the beach in the holiday town of Mallacoota, in the East Gippsland district along the Pacific coast. Around 4000 more people were sheltering in community centres in the town. Those on the beach were advised to go in the water if the fire situation worsened. Similar advice was given to people in several NSW coastal towns, where residents and holidaymakers had also abandoned their dwellings to move onto beaches. People in Mallacoota posted on social media about hearing the roar of the fire, circulating photos showing how, in the words of some, the smoke had turned “the day into night”. Four people were missing in the area, where more than 200,000 hectares of forest have been burned and where the intense heat and smoke from fires has been creating localised storm systems. “Mallacoota is currently under attack,” Victoria’s state emergency commissioner Andrew Crisp said on Tuesday. “It is pitch-black. It is quite scary… the community right now is under threat, but we will hold our line and they will be saved and protected.” Emergency services officials said it was possible that towns in the Gippsland area could be evacuated by sea as the fires, fanned by strong winds, continued.

12-31-19 Australia fires: Military to be deployed to help rescue effort
Australian military aircraft and vessels will be deployed to help emergency services in the fire-ravaged states of New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria. Thousands of people fled to beaches in the south-eastern states on Tuesday as emergency-level fires spread. In Mallacoota, Victoria, about 4,000 people sought shelter on the coast. Two more people have been confirmed dead in NSW, bringing the fire-linked death toll to 12. Authorities say four people are missing in Victoria and another in NSW. "We've got literally hundreds, thousands of people up and down the coast, taking refuge on the beaches," said Shane Fitzsimmons, commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service. Mr Fitzsimmons said it was "the worst fire season we have experienced here in NSW". The Australian Defence Force will send Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and navy vessels to Victoria and NSW, the two worst-affected regions. The military is expected to provide humanitarian assistance and carry out evacuations if needed in the coming days. The US and Canada have also been asked to provide "specialist aviation resources" to help the emergency effort. In his New Year message, Mr Morrison hailed the "amazing spirit of Australians" but warned that the weeks and months ahead would "continue to be difficult". The bodies of the latest victims - a 63-year-old man and his 29-year-old son - were found near the town of Corbargo in NSW. Police said the men, named as Robert Salway and his son Patrick by Australian media, had stayed behind to protect their family home, where their bodies were found on Tuesday.

12-31-19 Going vegan for January? Find out how much difference it really makes
Millions of people will try a vegan diet this month for Veganuary. But can short-term or part-time vegans really reap health and environmental benefits? New Scientist put it to the test. JANUARY is the time of year when many of us take a rain check on our indulgences. We politely wave away puddings, gyms heave with new recruits and plenty of us lay off the booze. This year, it is estimated that at least 1 million people will do something even more challenging: eat a vegan diet for the month. Choose to follow suit and you can forget about that juicy bacon sandwich, say goodbye to scrambled eggs and there will be no more milk in your coffee. It is a challenge not to be sniffed at. But it is a worthy one: the evidence suggests that, done carefully, veganism is good for our health and great for the planet. Perhaps that explains the growing trend towards part-time veganism, of which Veganuary is just one example. The vegan before 6 pm (VB6) diet is gaining popularity in the US, principally as a means of losing weight. And the meat-free Mondays campaign is also getting traction, with more restaurants offering vegan options as well as vegetarian ones. “The thought of never eating meat again is, for most people, overwhelming,” says Toni Vernelli at Veganuary, a UK charity. A part-time vegan diet is more manageable and surely offers a portion of the same benefits. Or does it? It is conceivable that some of those who dip briefly into vegan eating might not get the right balance of nutrients. With a lack of experience in making vegan meals, it is easy to opt for pre-prepared dishes, which may cancel out the positives. Can you really be a casual vegan and still reap the benefits?

12-30-19 Australia fires worsen as every state hits 40C
Scores of fires are burning out of control across Australia amid a heatwave that has seen temperatures exceed 40C (104F) in every state. The most dangerous fires on Monday were in the state of Victoria. About 30,000 residents and tourists were urged to flee East Gippsland - a popular holiday region - but evacuations were later deemed too risky as fires encroached on major roads. A volunteer firefighter died battling a blaze in the state of New South Wales. In total, 10 people have died in the nation's bushfire crisis since September. Meteorologists say a climate system in the Indian Ocean, known as the dipole, is the main driver behind the extreme heat in Australia. Authorities said the volunteer firefighter was killed and two others suffered burns after their truck rolled over in extreme winds while they were battling a blaze east of the city of Albury. New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian described the death as "heartbreaking". "Words fail at times like this," she wrote on Twitter. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said another firefighter was injured in a separate vehicle. "This is awful news for the families and our sympathies are with them. These are testing times. We are so grateful for the courage and dedication of our firefighters," he tweeted. The volunteer firefighter is the third to be killed so far this fire season. Two volunteer firefighters, both fathers to young children, died on 19 December battling a blaze near Sydney. Prime Minister Morrison was widely criticised for being abroad on holiday at the time, and returned home early. Scorching temperatures, strong winds and thunderstorms created dangerous conditions in Victoria on Monday. In East Gippsland, three fires burning near the towns of Bruthen, Buchan and Bonang rapidly expanded as temperatures soared to the mid-40Cs. Officials said the wind-driven blazes were "racing" towards the coast, and had moved faster than predicted.

12-30-19 Bank of England chief Mark Carney issues climate change warning
The world will face irreversible heating unless firms shift their priorities soon, the outgoing head of the Bank of England has told the BBC. Mark Carney said the financial sector had begun to curb investment in fossil fuels – but far too slowly. He said leading pension fund analysis "is that if you add up the policies of all of companies out there, they are consistent with warming of 3.7-3.8C". Mr Carney made the comments in a pre-recorded BBC Radio 4 Today interview. The interview, by presenter Mishal Husain, is one of several items on the programme which are focusing on climate change, on the day the show is guest edited by environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg. Mr Carney added that the rise of almost 4C was "far above the 1.5 degrees that the people say they want and governments are demanding”. Scientists say the risks associated with an increase of 4C include a nine metre rise in sea levels - affecting up to 760 million people – searing heatwaves and droughts, and serious food supply problems. Mr Carney, who will next year start his new role as United Nations special envoy for climate action and finance, continued: “The concern is whether we will spend another decade doing worthy things but not enough... and we will blow through the 1.5C mark very quickly. As a consequence, the climate will stabilise at the much higher level.” Speaking to the Today programme, he re-iterated his warning that unless firms woke up to what he called the climate crisis, many of their assets would become worthless. “If we were to burn all those oil and gas [reserves], there’s no way we would meet carbon budget,” he said. “Up to 80% of coal assets will be stranded, [and] up to half of developed oil reserves. “A question for every company, every financial institution, every asset manager, pension fund or insurer: what’s your plan? “Four to five years ago, only leading institutions had begun to think about these issues and could report on them. “Now $120tn worth of balance sheets of banks and asset managers are wanting this disclosure [of investments in fossil fuels]. But it’s not moving fast enough.”

12-30-19 When Greta Thunberg met Sir David Attenborough
Greta Thunberg and Sir David Attenborough have met for the first time (via Skype as they did not want to add to their carbon footprints) to discuss the climate crisis and share their thoughts on how to make an environmental impact. Greta, who spoke to Sir David from Stockholm, is guest editing the BBC's Today programme on Monday 30 December. A podcast will be available here and via the BBC Sounds app.

12-29-19 Australia fires: Thousands told to evacuate in Victoria
Tens of thousands of residents and holidaymakers in the Australian state of Victoria have been told to evacuate amid worsening bushfire conditions. Temperatures of over 40C (104F), strong winds, thunderstorms and a change of wind direction meant Monday would be a day of extreme danger, officials said. Emergencies chief Andrew Crisp said those in the East Gippsland area should leave no later than Monday morning. More than 100 fires are continuing to burn across Australia. The biggest are raging near the city of Sydney in New South Wales, where more than a quarter of a million people have signed a petition calling for the New Year's Eve fireworks to be cancelled and the money spent on fighting fires. In East Gippsland, three fires burning near the towns of Bruthen, Buchan and Bonang were forecast to grow significantly. Officials said they could burn towards the coast, potentially crossing and cutting off the region's main road. An estimated 30,000 people are currently holidaying in the threatened area, according to ABC News. Mr Crisp, Victoria's state emergency management commissioner, said anyone in the area to the east of Bairnsdale - about 280km (175 miles) east of Melbourne - should move. "What we are saying now, based on the conditions that will be confronting us tomorrow across the state, but in particular in East Gippsland, is that if you're holidaying in that part of the state, it's time that you left," he said. It was no longer possible to provide assistance to all the visitors in the East Gippsland region, emergency authorities said. Extreme fire warnings were in place across most of Victoria. Any lightning strikes in dry, drought-affected forests had the potential to quickly become fires that threaten lives and homes, officials said. A major music festival in the state has also been cancelled, with organisers saying it was too dangerous for the popular Falls New Year's Eve festival in Lorne, about 140km east of Melbourne, to go ahead.

12-27-19 Conservationists are ignoring climate change, risking mass extinctions
Efforts to save many endangered animals from extinction are doomed to fail as conservationists are not taking climate change into account. CLIMATE change is the greatest threat humanity faces – and we aren’t the only ones at risk. Global warming will harm millions of other species, including iconic endangered animals such as polar bears and tigers. Despite this, conservationists often don’t take climate change into account, meaning plans to preserve these species are doomed to fail. “It’s astonishing,” says Miguel Araujo at the National Museum of Natural History of Spain. “I don’t really understand the lack of action.” The outlook for wildlife would be grim even if the world wasn’t warming. According to a major report last year, 1 million species could soon be wiped out – a sixth mass extinction. The main cause at present is the loss of habitat, but over this century the changing climate is expected to push ever more species over the brink. A warming world poses numerous challenges to wildlife. For many plants and animals, their current habitats will simply get too hot. Lots are already moving to stay in their comfort zone. In the oceans, some organisms have shifted their ranges by hundreds of kilometres. But on land there are few spaces left for animals to relocate to, and those that do exist are highly fragmented, which makes it very hard for wildlife to adapt, says Araujo. In polar regions, the loss of sea ice is posing problems for the polar bear and other animals. At least one species has already been driven to extinction by climate change. Bramble Cay, a tiny, low-lying Australian island on the northern edge of the Great Barrier Reef, used to be home to a unique rodent called the Bramble Cay melomys. In 2016, a review found that the animals died out as rising sea levels led to the island being inundated during storms.

12-27-19 Climate change: Migrant species do well in warm and wet UK in 2019
It's been a good year for migrant butterflies, moths and dragonflies in the UK, according to a review of 2019 by the National Trust. The charity says warm and wet weather saw the biggest influx of painted lady butterflies in a decade. But the impacts of drought and wildfires in some parts mean it's not been a good year for natterjack toads and water voles. The fires saw the habitats of mountain hares impacted as well. The changeable nature of the weather in 2019 meant there were mixed outcomes for species around the country. The warm spells in the earlier part of the year saw lots of moths, butterflies and dragonflies from Europe arrive en masse. Chief among them was the painted lady butterfly. This orange and black spotted species is commonly seen in the UK but the last mass arrival was in 2008. Some 420,000 of the creatures were recorded in this year's big butterfly count. This butterfly has quite the range, capable of travelling 7,500 miles from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle. Another exotic visitor was the long tailed blue butterfly with 50 seen across the south coast of England. It was the third time in six years that the numbers of this delicate creature appeared to be increasing but successive generations haven't yet made it through a British winter. There were also large numbers of migrant dragonflies, while a rare moth, the Clifden nonpareil was recorded in Devon. It became extinct in the UK in the 1960s but has been trying to re-establish itself over the past few years. "Sightings of migrant insects and birds are becoming more common. This is a result of our changing climate," said Ben McCarthy, head of nature conservation and restoration ecology at the National Trust. "Although this can seem exciting, the obvious flipside is how these changes will start to affect some of our native species already under pressure from intensive land use, habitat fragmentation and climate change."

12-27-19 Is 'super coral' the key to saving the world's reefs?
Scientists in the Seychelles have started the world's first large scale coral reef restoration project to help stop the impact of rising sea temperatures. Over half of the world's coral has succumbed to the effects of climate change so a team based in the Indian Ocean has been growing coral on land and planting them back in the sea to see if they are resilient to coral bleaching. The technique has been taken to countries including Colombia and the Maldives, with Kenya, Tanzania and Mauritius to follow.

12-24-19 Oil spills could be cleaned up by giving local microbes extra genes
We could give bacteria a helping hand to tackle oil spills on land and at sea by equipping them with enzymes for breaking down hydrocarbons, according to new research. This could be much cheaper and more eco-friendly than other clean-up methods. “At the moment, there really are not any good ways to clean up oil spills,” says Katherine French at the University of California, Berkeley. Common methods include dumping the contaminated soil elsewhere or spraying chemicals that can themselves be damaging. Some microbes naturally possess enzymes that can break down the hydrocarbons that make up oil, but these microbes are seldom found near oil spills. Instead, French and her colleagues want to give local bacteria the genes to make such enzymes themselves. In addition to their main genome, almost all bacteria also carry extra pieces of DNA called plasmids that can be passed on to other species of bacteria. French and her colleagues created a plasmid with genes for five enzymes involved in breaking down hydrocarbons, then added it to a strain of E. coli. When the E. coli were added to highly polluted soil from an oil refinery, they all died within five days, but the plasmid was rapidly passed on to more than a dozen different wild species of bacteria, which then began breaking down the oil. The total amount of hydrocarbons in the soil fell by almost half in 60 days. Levels in samples to which the plasmid wasn’t added fell by less than 5 per cent. French thinks adding genes to local microbes in this way could be more effective than genetically engineering a microbe to do the job, as it might not cope in a new environment. “It’s a super-interesting idea,” says James Hall at the University of Liverpool in the UK, who studies plasmids. Manipulating whole communities of microbes by adding genes in this way could have all kinds of uses, he says.

12-23-19 World 'faces 80% calorie increase by end of century'
The amount of food needed to feed the world's population by the end of the century could increase by almost 80%, a study has suggested. Researchers from Germany said a trend of increasing Body Mass Index (BMI) is resulting in individuals requiring more calories. The authors warn that failure to meet the need for more calories could lead to greater global inequality. The findings have been published in the journal Plos One. The study, carried out by a team from the University of Gottingen, calculated that 60% of the calorie increase would be a result of the growing number of people in the world. According to the UN World Population Prospects, the global population was estimated to increase from almost seven billion in 2010 to almost 11 billion in 2100. Yet, more that 18% of the increase in the calories from 2010 levels would come from a projected increase in height and weight figures in the global population. "The increase in the average daily required energy rises by 253 kcal per person between 2010 and 2100 in our estimations, assuming a rising BMI and height," explained co-author Lutz Depenbusch from the World Vegetable Center.He told BBC News: "On a global scale, we calculate that the effect of the BMI and height increases in our model would lead to additional calorie requirements that match the 2010 requirements of India and Nigeria combined." In terms of what food would equate to an increase of 253 calories in someone's daily diet, Dr Depenbusch said an extra two large bananas or a portion of French fries would be on the menu. Dr Depenbusch and his colleague, Prof Stephan Klasen from the University of Gottingen, Germany, said their modelling suggested that sub-Saharan nations would be most affected by such an increase in future global calorie requirements. They explained that the region was already witnessing a sharp increase in the need for calories as it was undergoing a rate of rapid population growth.

12-22-19 The teenage activists taking after Greta Thunberg
From climate change protester Greta Thunberg to Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong, young people have been making headlines this year. And politicians are being forced to pay attention. So how do young people make themselves heard where adults have failed? These three teenagers are passionate about issues they see around them. They are learning what it takes to be activists at a youth organisation called The Advocacy Academy in Brixton, London.

12-22-19 Australia fires: 'Not much left' of town ravaged by bushfire
The leader of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, says "catastrophic" fire conditions have almost completely razed one Australian community to the ground. She said there was "not much left" of the town of Balmoral, south-west of Sydney, where about 400 people live. Firefighters are struggling to contain wildfires burning across three states amid dry and hot conditions. One Balmoral resident, Steve Harrison, shared his dramatic story of surviving the destructive blaze. "I ran to my [vehicle] but my garden was already on fire here, and the driveway was on fire and the road was on fire, so I realised I couldn't evacuate," the 67-year-old artist told ABC. "So the day before I had actually built myself a small kiln down the back. A coffin-sized kiln, just big enough for me to crawl inside. I hid in there for half an hour while the fire storm went over." Since September, Australia's bushfire emergency has killed at least nine people, destroyed hundreds of homes and scorched millions of hectares of land. On Saturday Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison apologised for causing "great anxiety" by going on holiday during the mounting crisis. A number of small towns have reportedly sustained significant damage this weekend. Balmoral was hit, for the second time in days, as wind conditions changed around the Green Wattle Creek fire on Saturday. Residents are currently not allowed to return to the town, amid safety concerns, and an unknown number of homes have been destroyed. "We want people to have access to their land, to their property, as soon as they can. But it has to be safe," Ms Berejiklian said. "Even if people have lost their properties, they still want to go back to see what's left and if there is anything they can salvage." No fatalities were reported in the town, but several firefighters were reportedly injured when fighting the blaze.

12-21-19 Australia fires: Catastrophic warnings in place across New South Wales
Warnings of 'catastrophic conditions' are in place across the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), where firefighters are tackling more than 100 blazes. The NSW Fire Service described Saturday as an "awful day", as strong winds and high temperatures increased the threat level. Some residents were advised to take shelter where they were because it was too late to leave. More than 700 homes have been destroyed since the blazes started in September.

12-21-19 Australia fires: Travel warnings issued over 'catastrophic' conditions
Catastrophic fire warnings are in place across the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW), where firefighters are tackling more than 100 blazes. Authorities have urged Christmas travellers to delay their journeys as conditions threaten to intensify the bushfire crisis. Rising temperatures and strong winds have worsened fires in three states. Three blazes around Sydney are burning at emergency level, the second highest level of danger after catastrophic. "We are asking everybody not to travel on roads anywhere near the vicinity of an active fire unless you absolutely have to," Gladys Berejiklian, premier of NSW, said at a news conference. A combination of temperatures above 40C (104F), low humidity and strong winds have worsened the struggle for the almost 10,000 emergency personnel mobilised to deal with the bushfires in NSW. "We are in a period of unbelievable drought and some areas haven't seen rain for more than 12 months", NSW Rural Fire Services Inspector Ben Shepherd told the BBC. "These fires are likely to continue to spread well past Christmas", he added. Two volunteer firefighters died on Thursday as they were tackling a large blaze near Sydney. Fires have also been ravaging the states of Victoria and South Australia, where two civilians died on Friday. Since September, Australia's bushfire emergency has killed eight people, destroyed more than 700 houses and scorched millions of hectares.

12-20-19 Did Ethiopia plant four billion trees this year?
Ethiopia undertook a major national reforestation programme this year, with the ambitious target of planting four billion trees in just three months. The highlight was a single day in July, on which people across the country turned out to help with planting 350 million tree seedlings. At the end of August, the government claimed to have just about achieved these goals. But is it really possible to plant that many trees in such a short time and what evidence is there that the overall target has been met? The campaign, known as the Green Legacy Initiative, has been championed by the country's Nobel peace prize-winning Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed. Politicians around the world have pointed to Ethiopia as an example of what can be done to reforest their own countries and reverse the effects of both damaging farming techniques and climate change. During the recent UK election campaign, major political parties made expansive promises to plant millions more trees, and referred to Ethiopia's initiative. The Labour party pledged to plant two billion trees by 2040, the Conservatives at least 30 million more trees every year, and the Green Party 700 million by 2030. Canada has plans to plant two billion trees over 10 years. Ethiopia held a one-day tree planting event on 29 July, with an initial target to plant 200 million tree saplings across the country. The government announced that the target had been exceeded, with more than 350 million planted over a 12-hour period. They gave a very precise number - 353,633,660 trees planted that day. The government had promoted the day as an attempt at an official Guinness World Record (GWR). But GWR told the BBC they are yet to receive any evidence. "We would encourage the organisers to get in touch with this for our records management team to review," said spokeswoman Jessica Spillane. The prime minister's office declined to comment on the figures and the status of the record verification, saying the country has already answered most questions around the tree planting.

12-20-19 Searing heat
Australia experienced its hottest day on record this week, with the national AVERAGE temperature hitting a sweltering 105.6 degrees. Some places were much hotter, including the town of Ceduna in South Australia, where the mercury shot up to nearly 114 degrees. The record highs come as the nation continues to battle an extreme drought and raging bushfires that have cloaked Sydney in smoke. Suffering Australians lambasted Prime Minister Scott Morrison for taking a pre-Christmas vacation in Hawaii, with many slamming Morrison on social media with the hashtag #WhereTheBloodyHellAreYou, a former tourism slogan. Climate scientists say Australia’s soaring temperatures are linked to climate change, and activists have criticized the conservative Morrison for his refusal to wean Australia from its dependence on coal.

12-20-19 Failure on climate
After two weeks of bickering, delegates from nearly 200 countries failed to achieve their two key goals at U.N. climate talks in Madrid: setting bolder targets for emissions cuts and creating a global carbon-trading system. Delegates agreed there was an “urgent need” to cut planet-heating greenhouse gases in line with the goals set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. Yet none of the major emitters—China, the U.S., the European Union, and India—is on track to meet its Paris commitments. China, the biggest emitter, continues to build coal-fired plants, while under President Trump, the U.S. has repealed emissions-reducing rules on energy and transport. (Webmaster's comment: As long as there is money to be made from fossil fuels the U.S. has no intention of combating global warming.)

12-20-19 Netherlands climate change: Court orders bigger cuts in emissions
The highest court in the Netherlands has upheld a ruling requiring the government to slash greenhouse gas emissions to at least 25% of 1990 levels by the end of next year. The case was brought six years ago by the Urgenda environment group in a bid to force ministers to go well beyond EU targets. However, the chances of the government reaching the target look slim. By the end of 2018, emissions were down only 15% on 1990 levels. Dutch environment researchers believe that levels could be cut by 23% by the end of 2020 but believe the reduction could be as low as 19%. The government in The Hague presented its climate accord at the end of June, with plans for a 49% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and phasing out coal-fired power generation starting in 2020. While there have been cuts in methane and nitrous oxide as well as other gases, levels of carbon dioxide emissions have changed little in the Netherlands since 1990. Last month, under pressure to act over a nitrogen oxide pollution crisis, Dutch ministers announced a cut in the daytime speed limit to 100km/h (62mph). The Council of State forced the government to act in that case as well, by declaring that rules for granting building and farming permits were in breach of EU law protecting nature. In its decision on Friday, the Council of State said it had based its ruling (in Dutch) on the UN climate convention and the state's legal obligation to protect the lives and well-being of Dutch citizens. "There is a great deal of consensus in the scientific and international community over the urgent need for a reduction in greenhouse gases by at least 25% by developed countries," the court said. While the EU target for a cut in carbon emissions is 20% of 1990 levels, Urgenda took up the case on behalf of 886 Dutch citizens, arguing that their government had a legal duty to prevent climate change and should seek a bigger reduction. They first won their case in June 2015 but it was challenged by the government all the way to the Council of State.

12-20-19 Australian bushfire anger explained
Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison has returned early from holiday as the country continues to battle a major bushfire crisis. Ros Atkins, presenter of Outside Source on BBC World News, explains how the fires, a heatwave and drought have led to rising public anger in Australia.

12-19-19 Ozone hole recovery will probably be delayed by banned gas from China
The recovery of the ozone hole over Antarctica is likely to be delayed by the illegal production of an ozone-destroying gas in China, according to the first assessment of the banned chemical’s impact. In the worst case, the recovery will be delayed by around 18 years if production of trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11), used to make foam insulation in fridges, continues unabated. But such an extreme scenario is seen as unlikely because of signs Chinese authorities have begun cracking down on the problem. If production of the gas is phased out over the next decade, which seems more likely, the result would be a two-year delay in the ozone hole’s recovery, says Martyn Chipperfield at the University of Leeds, UK. Were production to stop immediately, there will be virtually no impact on its recovery, according to modelling by his team. That is because the increase in CFC-11 emissions took place between 2013 and 2017, which was noticeable but not enough to have a large impact among all the other factors that affect ozone recovery. The ozone hole, which is usually open between September and November, is expected to recover by around 2060. “We can get things back on track quite quickly. The implications for the ozone layer need not be too damaging,” says Chipperfield. The new research follows scientists raising the alarm last year that CFC-11 levels in the atmosphere were rising, despite their production being banned internationally in 2010 under the Montreal Protocol. Researchers later pinpointed the source as the eastern China provinces of Shandong and Hebei, where it is believed CFC-11 has been illegally used to make foam. Clare Perry at the Environmental Investigation Agency says that due to the response from China and the international community, “it’s highly unlikely that illegal CFC-11 production will continue at the same level in China, and therefore the 18-year delay is very unlikely”.

12-19-19 Australia heatwave: All-time temperature record broken again
A state of emergency has been declared in New South Wales, Australia, amid fears a record-breaking heatwave will exacerbate the state's bushfire crisis. The nation endured its hottest-ever day on Tuesday, but that record was smashed again on Wednesday - which saw an average maximum of 41.9C (107.4F). Tuesday's 40.9C had eclipsed the previous record of 40.3C, set in 2013. Authorities in New South Wales (NSW) are currently fighting about 100 fires, in a crisis that has lasted months. Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a seven-day state of emergency due to forecasts of worsening conditions. "The biggest concern over the next few days is the unpredictability, with extreme wind conditions [and] extremely hot temperatures," she told reporters on Thursday. Parts of NSW, of which Sydney is the capital, hit temperatures in the early 40s on Thursday. More intense heat was forecast for the rest of the week. A state of emergency gives fire authorities additional powers to cope with the crisis. It is the second such declaration in NSW since last month. The Bureau of Meteorology (Bom) said individual December temperature records had been broken in a number of places - with temperatures in the southern city of Adelaide hitting 45.3C. Nullarbor, also in southern Australia, reached the scorching temperature of 49.9C (122F). Bushfires have been raging in Australia for months, killing six people, destroying hundreds of homes and burning millions of hectares of land. The crisis - worsened by tinder-dry conditions from a severe drought - has spurred criticism of the nation's climate policies. A lot of outrage on social media has also been directed at Prime Minister Scott Morrison for going on an overseas holiday during the emergency. According to local media, he is in Hawaii with his family. Some 500 people on Thursday protested outside his Sydney residence, demanding action on climate change.

12-19-19 Climate change: Met Office says warming trend will continue in 2020
Next year will continue the global warming trend with temperatures again likely to rise more than one degree above pre-industrial levels. According to the Met Office, 2020 will likely be 1.11C warmer than the average between 1850-1900. The year ahead is set to extend the series of the warmest years on record to six in a row. Scientists say the strongest factor causing the rise is greenhouse gas emissions. The world first broke through one degree above pre-industrial temperatures back in 2015. Each year since then has seen temperatures close to or above this mark. The warmest year on record is 2016 when a strong El Niño made a significant difference. This weather phenomenon sees sea surface temperatures increase in the central and eastern Pacific and it's associated with a range of impacts around the world, including the overall global level of warming. According to the Met Office, the chances of a strong El Niño in 2020 are low. They forecast that the global average temperature next year will be in the range of 0.99C to 1.23C with a central estimate of 1.11C. The researchers say that the key factor will be emissions of CO2 and other warming gases. "Natural events - such as El Niño-induced warming in the Pacific - influence the climate system, but in the absence of El Niño, this forecast gives a clear picture of the strongest factor causing temperatures to rise - greenhouse gas emissions," said Professor Adam Scaife, the Met Office head of long-range prediction. According to researchers, carbon dioxide emissions this year have risen slightly, despite a drop in the use of coal. The Global Carbon Project's annual analysis of emission trends suggests that CO2 will go up by 0.6% in 2019. The rise is due to continuing strong growth in the utilisation of oil and gas. The scale of emissions has a direct bearing on temperatures, scientists say.

12-18-19 The world started to wake up to climate change in 2019 – now what?
At last, the public is calling for urgent action to tackle global warming and politicians are falling over themselves to get on board, says Adam Vaughan. REPORTING on the doomsday beat, which is how I often think about climate change, is fascinating, but can also be deeply depressing. This year, scientists predicted even higher future sea level rises, carbon emissions marched upwards and the Amazon was on fire. Donald Trump recently started the formal process of taking the US out of the Paris climate deal. Despite this backdrop, there are signs 2019 may have been the year the world woke up to the need for fast and serious action on climate change. A year ago, the names of Greta Thunberg, the protest group Extinction Rebellion and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were unfamiliar to many. The impact of Thunberg, and the Fridays for the Future movement she kick-started with her school climate strike, has been extraordinary. She was nominated for the Nobel peace prize, dominated a UN climate summit in September and was the catalyst for a global climate protest that month, which appears to have been the biggest yet. Many schoolchildren who took part told me she inspired them to take to the streets. Nick Nuttall at the Earth Day 2020 environmental campaign, who was a spokesperson at the UN at the time of the 2015 Paris climate summit, says: “The strikers have certainly changed the debate and fired up the level of conversation among citizens and governments.” Elsewhere on the streets, whether you love or hate it, there is no denying that Extinction Rebellion (XR) has moved the dial. Adam Corner at communications group Climate Outreach says XR deserves credit for changing how the debate is framed. When the UK government was passing its law for net-zero emissions by 2050, many questioned if that was fast enough, something XR had pushed hard on (Webmaster's comment: We must shut down the Fossil Fuel Industry ASAP!)

12-18-19 Heat waves expose city dwellers to higher temperatures than forecast
People living in cities are disproportionately affected by extreme weather, becoming exposed to higher than predicted temperatures during heat waves. Leiqiu Hu at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and her colleagues analysed temperature and census data from 16 metropolitan areas in the US. They found that during heat waves people living in urban areas experienced temperatures an average of 1.9°C higher than what was forecast. The difference was highest in Salt Lake City, where urban temperatures were 3.8°C higher than predicted. The discrepancy is significant considering that a heat wave is already associated with temperatures on average 3.6°C hotter than normal, says Hu. Different areas within a city have temperature discrepancies throughout the day, which need to be taken into account to make accurate predictions about a population’s heat exposure. “If we consider the population movement and population distribution within a city, actually we have to add another 1.9°C to really represent the city’s exposure temperature to extreme heat,” she says. Much of this was due to the urban heat island effect, in which metropolitan areas are warmer than rural areas as a result of human activity. Materials commonly used in urban areas for roads and roofing, for example, absorb more solar radiation than natural land surfaces. This also has a warming effect in cold weather. The researchers found that during cold waves, urban areas were on average 0.6°C warmer than predicted. The researchers estimated the temperature variability by combining weather and census data, including patterns of daily commuting within urban areas. They found that exposure to heat waves is more likely to be underestimated in spread-out cities such as Los Angeles, where the daily commute between residential areas and urban centres was associated with a large discrepancy in exposure temperature.

12-18-19 Could vacuum airships go from steampunk fantasy to 21st century skies?
First imagined in the 17th century, blimps borne aloft by nothing but nothing are finally ready for lift off, carrying goods and even passengers in gondolas in the clouds. IN 1670, Francesco Lana, a Jesuit mathematician from Brescia, published a small volume describing his various inventions, including a chapter entitled “A demonstration of the feasibility of constructing a ship with rudder and sails, which will sail through the air”. A sketch showed what it would look like: a typical wooden sailing boat, except that the vessel would be suspended below four copper spheres, each containing a vacuum that, being lighter than air, would provide lift. The idea didn’t fly. No one could make spheres with walls as thin as Lana calculated he would need – and in any case, they would have collapsed from external air pressure as soon as they were evacuated. But maybe Lana was on to something. There is now renewed interest in his vision of airships sailing through the clouds, borne aloft by nothing – and this time we might have the engineering solutions to get them off the ground. Airships have already graced the skies, of course. The earliest ones featured simple balloons filled with hydrogen. Their heyday came in the 1920s, when the familiar elongated shape of the Zeppelin carried passengers across the Atlantic in the lap of luxury: the gondola on the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin, for instance, featured a dining room and cabins with beds. That golden age ended abruptly in 1937 with the Hindenburg disaster, in which 36 passengers died when a Zeppelin caught fire. But the dream of travelling by such elegant airborne means has never faded. Airships have several advantages over jet aircraft. They are greener, for starters, because they need much less fuel – their propellers might even be solar-powered – and they don’t need runways because they can take off and land vertically almost anywhere. “You become like a ship in the ocean, but with a port that exists in any place,” says Igor Pasternak, founder of Worldwide Aeros Corp, a company based in California that is developing commercial rigid-shell helium airships for freight transport.

12-18-19 Australia heatwave: Nation endures hottest day on record
Australia has experienced its hottest day on record with the national average temperature reaching a high of 40.9C (105.6F). The Bureau of Meteorology (Bom) said "extensive" heat on Tuesday exceeded the previous record of 40.3C set on 7 January 2013. Taking the average of maximum temperatures across the country is the most accurate measure of a heatwave. The record comes as the nation battles a severe drought and bushfire crisis. Forecasters had predicted the most intense heat would come later in the week, meaning the record could be broken again. As hundreds of fires rage, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been criticised for his response to the natural disasters and his government's climate policies. Australia heated up this week as a mass of hot air swept east across the continent, with meteorologists forecasting "severe to extreme heatwave conditions". Several individual heat records for towns and cities have already been shattered. On Tuesday, places across the nation's centre recorded temperatures above 45C. At the start of the week, Perth, the capital of Western Australia, recorded three days in a row above 40C - a record for December. The dominant climate driver behind the heat has been a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) - an event where sea surface temperatures are warmer in the western half of the ocean, cooler in the east. The difference between the two temperatures is currently the strongest in 60 years. The warmer waters cause higher-than-average rains in the western Indian Ocean region, leading to flooding, and drier conditions across South East Asia and Australia. But Australia has been enduring a drought for a long time - several years in some places. Bom says the dry soil has meant less evaporation - which would normally exert a cooling influence on the landscape.

12-18-19 Air pollution linked to increased risk of depression and suicide
Exposure to air pollution is linked to a greater risk of depression and suicide, the first overview of studies on the subject has found. While the effects on the body from breathing dirty air are well-established, an emerging body of research has suggested pollution may also affect mental health. Isobel Braithwaite at University College London and her colleagues looked in detail at 25 studies published up to late 2017, for a meta-analysis on the links between the two. They found that someone living for at least six months in an area with twice the World Health Organization’s recommended limit for fine particulate matter, PM2.5, would have roughly a 10 per cent increased risk of developing depression as a person living in an area that met the limit. The WHO’s guideline is that PM2.5s shouldn’t exceed 10 micrograms per cubic metre of air (µg/m3) on average over a year. This is the average level in the UK. In London the average figure is higher at 13.3µg/m3, and in Delhi it is around 133µg/m3. For suicide, an association was found with short-term exposure to a slightly larger type of pollution, PM10. Each 10µg/m3 increase in PM10 a person was exposed to during a three-day period was linked to a 2 per cent greater risk of suicide. Braithwaite says teasing out the links between pollution and mental health is important because there is still a long way to go on reducing air pollution. She notes the UK hasn’t yet adopted the WHO guidelines on PM2.5, though London mayor Sadiq Khan has committed to do so. “Knowing it not only affects physical health but it could also be affecting our mental health, which is something that does affect large numbers of people, I think adds to the weight of the argument for cleaner air and policies that achieve it,” says Braithwaite.

12-18-19 $5bn fund unveiled for climate-friendly shipping
A group of ship owners have announced plans for a $5bn (£3.8bn) fund to design zero-emissions vessels. They says $2 (£1.50) should be levied on every tonne of ships' fuel - to support research into clean engines. Shipping creates about 3% of the emissions that are over-heating the climate - equivalent to all of Germany's CO2. Environmentalists welcomed the proposal but also described it as too little, too late. They say it's outrageous that international shipping pays no fuel taxes, unlike lorry owners. Green groups argue that if ships were taxed at the same level as lorries, 70 times more cash for developing clean engines would be raised in Europe alone. Around 250m tonnes of fuel a year are burned by ships. The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) says that 90% of owners globally are behind the $2 levy on fuel. Guy Platten, secretary-general of the ICS told BBC News: "I have seen a massive change in the opinion of ships' owners over the past few years. "They've realised that we've got to do our bit by decarbonising shipping - and that means designing zero-carbon ships. That's why we need the levy. "At the moment we can't yet see what the best clean fuel would be for ships. But there's a real urgency about solving the problem." He defended the size of the levy, saying it was small enough to be agreed by ship owners in the developing world, but big enough to make a difference. However, Faig Abbasov from the green group Transport and Environment responded: "The proposed levy is a tiny amount. It's outrageous that the shipping industry has avoided taking responsibility for its emissions for years - that's why it's facing difficulty now." Speed limits for ships can have 'massive' benefits. "What's needed is a huge programme to incentivise owners to buy zero-carbon vessels - as well as researching new technologies." The ICS says its proposal is supported by the owners of 90% of the merchant fleet.

12-17-19 Climate change may be why birds are migrating earlier across the United States
Birds are migrating earlier in recent decades, which could disrupt feeding and nesting cycles. A large-scale analysis of bird migrations in the contiguous United States confirms what ornithologists and amateur birders already suspected: Overall, birds’ seasonal long-distance flights are happening earlier than they did a quarter of a century ago. This shift is probably due to higher temperatures, which have risen on average around half a degree Celsius per decade, researchers report December 16 in Nature Climate Change. Looking back over 24 years, the researchers found that warmer seasons often predicted earlier migrations. One reason for this could be that birds may rely on a variety of cues, including temperature and length of day, to sync their flights with the availability of food and nesting-friendly conditions. Previous studies of individual species have shown that some birds are migrating earlier in the year. But “that you can see these kinds of shifts at a broad scale… it’s a striking statement about how powerful these impacts of climate change can be,” says Andrew Farnsworth, a migration ecologist at Cornell University. Farnsworth and his colleagues collected data from 13 million radar scans taken on 2,115 spring nights and 2,152 fall nights by 143 weather surveillance stations across the continental United States from 1995 to 2018. On radar maps, groups of migrating birds show up as circular blobs, whereas storms and precipitation look more like irregular patches. While the researchers couldn’t identify specific species from the radar blobs, the breadth of the data meant that their analysis encompassed hundreds of species. The researchers found that, in the spring, birds migrated half a day earlier on average each decade. The effect is most noticeable around 45° N latitude (roughly the border separating Montana and Wyoming), where the average was about 1.5 days earlier. There, the peak of northward migration — meaning that half the birds had passed overhead — occurred around May 10 in the mid-1990s, but had moved closer to May 5 by 2018.

12-16-19 Are cities bad for the environment?
Our cities are increasingly under scrutiny over their impact on climate change. But in terms of carbon dioxide - one of the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming - could life away from the UK's big towns be doing more damage? According to the most recent government statistics, the UK's 63 largest towns and cities - defined here as built-up urban areas with 135,000 or more people - account for almost half of all of the country's carbon dioxide (or CO2) emissions. London alone makes up 11% of the total. But are these headline stats masking a more nuanced picture about the role of cities as contributors to climate change? If we look at carbon emissions on a per resident basis, it could be that life in smaller towns, villages and the countryside has a greater impact. The European Commission calculates UK emissions at 5.7 tonnes per person. That ranks the UK as one of the lowest carbon emitters per person among major economies. The US produces 15.7 tonnes per resident, while China - despite being the world's largest CO2 polluter - emits a mid-range 7.7 tonnes per person. UK government statistics for 2017 place the average slightly lower, at 5.3 tonnes per head. All but 10 of our 63 largest towns and cities emit below that average, with Ipswich coming out as the greenest major town in the UK from a climate perspective. It emits three tonnes of CO2 for every resident. Even London, despite valid worries about air quality, has the ninth-lowest carbon emissions per resident at 3.6 tonnes per person. Meanwhile, energy-intensive steel and chemicals industries contribute to the Swansea area - including Neath Port Talbot - and Middlesbrough (combined with Stockton, and Redcar and Cleveland) having the highest carbon emissions per person in the UK, at 22.4 and 12.1 tonnes per head respectively. Examining the sources of carbon emissions helps us understand why cities produce comparatively little CO2. Though the differences are not huge, on average, homes in large towns emit slightly less CO2 per person than their more rural counterparts. They tend to be smaller, denser and easier to heat.

12-16-19 COP25 climate summit ends in 'staggering failure of leadership'
The UK faces the task of breaking the deadlock on international climate negotiations next year, after the COP25 talks ended in Madrid yesterday with no new ambition and little progress. The meeting overran to become the longest climate summit yet as delegates from nearly 200 countries struggled to reach agreement on key issues on the framework underpinning the Paris climate deal. Drawing up rules on a carbon market between countries has been deferred until next year, when the UK hosts a landmark climate summit in Glasgow. António Guterres, the UN secretary general, said he was disappointed with the outcome, and that leaders had missed an opportunity to be more ambitious on climate change mitigation, adaptation and finance for poorer countries. “But we must not give up, and I will not give up,” he tweeted. Claire Perry O’Neill, the former UK climate minister who will be president of the Glasgow summit, argued it was better to have no deal on the carbon markets than a bad one. The UK would “pull no punches” in making the scheme work for everyone next year, she tweeted. There was also no progress on “loss and damage” – the principle of vulnerable countries hit by climate-linked damage being able to claim economic losses from richer ones – and long-term financing to help poorer countries. Scientists said the “minimum compromise” achieved in Madrid means the Glasgow meeting will now need to be a turning point. “Postponing all the relevant issues is hardly in line with the climate emergency that we scientists highlighted during COP25,” said Johan Rockström at the University of Potsdam, Germany, in a statement. The WWF said the summit showed “a staggering failure of leadership by some countries”. (Webmaster's comment: Thanks to Trump, his government lackeys, and the very rich executives of the fossil fuel industry!)

12-16-19 Climate change: Five things we've learned from Madrid talks
At the conclusion of UN climate talks in Madrid, our environment correspondent Matt McGrath considers the key lessons.

  1. Leadership is REALLY important: COP25 in Madrid only happened because the Chilean government, faced with mounting civil disorder, decided to cancel the meeting in Santiago. Spain stepped in and in three weeks organised a well-resourced and well-run event.
  2. Disconnect is the key word: This was the word that was most widely used to describe COP25. There was a yawning gap between the demands of those outside the process and the actions of those within.
  3. Leipzig in September: This will be the most critical climate encounter in 2020. The next conference of the parties may be in Glasgow, but the chance of any real success there will be determined, to a large extent by what happens in the EU-China summit taking place in the German city of Leipzig next September.
  4. The elephant in the room: At Paris in 2015, countries submitted their first climate plans, which was relatively easy for many of the larger developing countries. But in 2020, they are supposed to do much more and as Madrid proved, many are fighting this hard.
  5. Glasgow has a mountain to climb: The key takeaway from Madrid is that making progress in climate talks requires huge preparation, strong diplomacy and very committed leadership. Because Madrid failed to clarify so many key issues the onus now falls on the UK to resolve many of the most challenging questions.

12-16-19 Australia bushfires: 'Mega blaze' destroys homes ahead of heatwave
Authorities in Australia have issued fresh warnings about a "mega blaze" after it spread beyond containment lines and razed 20 houses near Sydney. The fire, burning over about 400,000 hectares (over 1,500 square miles), has moved further into the Blue Mountains - a popular tourist area which lies west of the city. It is a blow to crews who are already battling over 100 fires and bracing for extreme temperatures this week. The heatwave could bring the nation's hottest day on record, forecasters say. Temperatures could exceed the 50.7C (123.26F) record set in Oodnadatta, South Australia, in 1960, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. Since September, six people have died in a bushfire crisis that has engulfed the eastern states of New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland. The blazes have destroyed more than 700 homes and blanketed towns and cities in smoke. The bushfires and extreme weather has Australia's landscape, sparking public debate about the need for stronger climate action. Last week, parts of Sydney suffered air quality 22 times worse than the clean air standard. Australia's largest city has about five million residents. The smoke prompted an increase in hospital admissions and calls for a public health emergency to be declared. Blazes are burning to the city's north-west and south-west. The mega blaze, also known as the Gospers Mountain fire, has encroached further in recent days. Firefighters had tried to use cooler temperatures for "back-burning" - a tactic of deliberately starting small fires to remove vegetation before dangerous conditions arrive. But in this instance the tactic backfired and crews lost control of the back-burn, said NSW Rural Fire Service deputy commissioner Rob Rogers. About 20 homes were destroyed as a result amid 70m-high (229 ft) flames, he added."In these drought conditions, whatever we try doesn't seem to be working," Mr Rogers told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday. The heatwave forecast for later this week will exacerbate those conditions. Across the nation, temperatures are set to exceed 40C in many areas. Parts of Sydney could reach 46C (115F) by the end of the week, meteorologists say.

Australia has been getting warmer.

12-15-19 How Africa will be affected by climate change
Africa is more vulnerable than any other region to the world's changing weather patterns, explains climate specialist Richard Washington. The African continent will be hardest hit by climate change. There are four key reasons for this:

  • First, African society is very closely coupled with the climate system; hundreds of millions of people depend on rainfall to grow their food
  • Second, the African climate system is controlled by an extremely complex mix of large-scale weather systems, many from distant parts of the planet and, in comparison with almost all other inhabited regions, is vastly understudied. It is therefore capable of all sorts of surprises
  • Third, the degree of expected climate change is large. The two most extensive land-based end-of-century projected decreases in rainfall anywhere on the planet occur over Africa; one over North Africa and the other over southern Africa
  • Finally, the capacity for adaptation to climate change is low; poverty equates to reduced choice at the individual level while governance generally fails to prioritise and act on climate change
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Is Africa sleepwalking into a potential catastrophe? African climate is replete with complexity and marvels. The Sahara is the world's largest desert with the deepest layer of intense heating anywhere on Earth. In June and July the most extensive and most intense dust storms found anywhere on the planet fill the air with fine particles that interfere with climate in ways we don't quite understand. The region is almost completely devoid of weather measurements yet it is a key driver of the West African monsoon system, which brings three months of rain that interrupts the nine-month long dry season across the Sahel region, south of the desert. For the decades following the 1960s and peaking in 1984, there was a downturn of rainfall of some 30% across the Sahel, which led to famine and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of many millions.

12-15-19 Climate change: Longest talks end with compromise deal
The longest United Nations climate talks on record have finally ended in Madrid with a compromise deal. Exhausted delegates reached agreement on the key question of increasing the global response to curbing carbon. All countries will need to put new climate pledges on the table by the time of the next major conference in Glasgow next year. Divisions over other questions - including carbon markets - were delayed until the next gathering. After two extra days and nights of negotiations, delegates finally agreed a deal that will see new, improved carbon cutting plans on the table by the time of the Glasgow conference next year. All parties will need to address the gap between what the science says is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change, and the current state of play which would see the world go past this threshold in the 2030s. Supported by the European Union and small island states, the push for higher ambition was opposed by a range of countries including the US, Brazil, India and China. However a compromise was agreed with the richer nations having to show that they have kept their promises on climate change in the years before 2020. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was disappointed by the result. "The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis," he said, quoted by AFP. Meanwhile, Laurence Tubiana from the European Climate Foundation, and an architect of the Paris agreement, described the result as "really a mixed bag, and a far cry from what science tells us is needed." "Major players who needed to deliver in Madrid did not live up to expectations, but thanks to a progressive alliance of small island states, European, African and Latin American countries, we obtained the best possible outcome, against the will of big polluters." Decisions on other issues including the thorny question of carbon markets have been delayed until Glasgow.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions By Type

12-15-19 Greta Thunberg apologises for 'put leaders against the wall' comment
Greta Thunberg has apologised for saying world leaders should be "put against the wall" in a speech. The teenage climate activist made the comment while addressing a Fridays For Future protest in Turin, Italy. In English the phrase is associated with execution by firing squad, but Ms Thunberg said it had a different meaning in her native language Swedish. "That's what happens when you improvise speeches in a second language," she added on Saturday. Ms Thunberg was speaking in Turin after attending the UN climate summit COP25 in the Spanish capital Madrid. She said she feared the summit alone would not lead to adequate climate action, and that activists should continue to take world leaders to task. "World leaders are still trying to run away from their responsibilities, but we have to make sure they cannot do that," she said. "We will make sure that we put them against the wall, and they will have to do their job to protect our futures." After some initial concern over her use of the phrase - which usually means to execute people by firing squad, against a wall - she tweeted a clarification. "Yesterday I said we must hold our leaders accountable and unfortunately said 'put them against the wall'," she wrote. "That's Swenglish: 'att ställa någon mot väggen' (to put someone against the wall) means to hold someone accountable." She continued: "Of course I apologise if anyone misunderstood this. I cannot enough express the fact that I - as well as the entire school strike movement - are against any possible form of violence. It goes without saying but I say it anyway." Ms Thunberg was recently named Time magazine's youngest ever Person of the Year, for inspiring a global movement to fight the climate crisis.

12-15-19 Australia bushfires: Footage shows fire 'crowning' across treetops
The moment a bushfire spread across a tree canopy – in a phenomenon known as "crowning" – has been filmed by Australian firefighters.

12-14-19 UN climate talks hit rough waters
UN climate talks appear to be in trouble as they head into extra time. Fault lines have re-appeared between different negotiating blocs, with one delegate describing a new draft text as "totally unacceptable". Alden Meyer, from the Union of Concerned Scientists said the situation in Madrid was unprecedented since climate negotiations began in 1991. Negotiators are working towards a deal that would see countries commit to make new climate pledges by the end of 2020. Saturday saw the release of a new draft text from the meeting, designed to chart a way forward for the parties to the Paris agreement. The Paris pact came into being in 2015, with the intention of keeping the global average temperature to well below 2C. This was regarded at the time as the threshold for dangerous global warming, though scientists subsequently shifted the definition of the "safe" limit to a rise of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. But Mr Meyer commented: "The latest version of the Paris Agreement decision text put forward by the Chilean presidency is totally unacceptable. It has no call for countries to enhance the ambition of their emissions reduction commitments. "If world leaders fail to increase ambition in the lead up to next year's climate summit in Glasgow, they will make the task of meeting the Paris Agreement's well below 2C temperature limitation goal - much less the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal - almost impossible." Hi view was echoed by David Waskow, international climate director for the World Resources Institute (WRI). "If this text is accepted, the low ambition coalition will have won the day," he said. The conference in the Spanish capital has become enmeshed in deep, technical arguments about a number of issues including the role of carbon markets and the financing of loss and damage caused by rising temperatures.

12-14-19 Can kitchen gardens combat climate change?
Growing fruit and veg in the garden is already seen as environmentally friendly, but it could also be a weapon in the fight against climate change. That's been the experience of a community in Bangladesh, whose rice crop - the source of their food and income - was ruined when seasonal rains came early. It was in April 2017 that the rain came to the north-eastern floodplain of Sylhet Division, ruining the rice crop. It should have come two months later. Farmers lost most or all of their harvest, It meant no income - and not enough food - for their families. Scientists warn that climate change is affecting the crops people can grow and the nutrients they get in their food. Sabine Gabrysch, professor for climate change and health at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said: "It's so unfair because these people have not contributed anything to climate change." Speaking to the BBC at a conference of health and climate experts in Berlin, organised by the Nobel Foundation, Prof Gabrysch said: "They're very directly hit by climate change, because then they lose their livelihoods and they lose their nutrients. And their children are suffering most, because they're growing fast and they need many nutrients." Even before the early rains, she said, a third of women were underweight and 40% of children chronically undernourished. "People are already at the brink of existence where they suffer from many diseases and they don't have much to buffer," Prof Gabrysch added. "They have no insurance." She is leading a study into the impact of the floods in Sylhet Division, and is working with more than 2,000 women in villages across the area. Half said their families were significantly affected by the flood. The most common way they tried to cope was to borrow money, mainly from money lenders who were charging high interest rates, and families then fell into debt.

12-14-19 Australia heatwave: Next week could see hottest day on record
Australia could experience its hottest day on record next week as a severe heatwave in the country's west is set to make its way east, forecasters say. Temperatures are likely to exceed 40C in many areas from Wednesday, the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) says. The current record of 50.7C (123 F) was set on 2 January 1960 in the outback town of Oodnadatta in South Australia. Fire weather warnings have been issued for parts of Western Australia and Queensland. In Perth, in Western Australia, temperatures are forecast to remain high on the weekend, reaching 40C on Saturday and 41C on Sunday. Next week, the extreme heat is likely to continue in parts of Western Australia and also affect much of South Australia, where Adelaide should see highs of 40C on Tuesday and Wednesday, 41C on Thursday and 42C on Friday. In Melbourne, in Victoria state, the temperature is forecast to hit 41C on Friday. The heatwave is also expected to affect areas of New South Wales and southern parts of the Northern Territory. "We're expecting some incredibly warm conditions as we head into next week, potentially record-breaking for a number of areas across southern Australia over the next seven days or so," BOM meteorologist Diana Eadie was quoted by ABC as saying. "It is not out of the realms of possibility that we could break our highest ever recorded temperature." The country, she added, could also see its highest average temperature record - when all of the maximum temperatures recorded on any given day are combined - broken next week. That record is 40.3C from 7 January 2013.

12-13-19 Emissions up, but slowing
Global emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide are expected to hit a new high this year, breaking the previous record, which was set in 2018. By Dec. 31, it’s predicted, emissions from industrial activity and the burning of fossil fuels will have thrown another 40.6 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. But the figures, from the Global Carbon Project’s annual analysis, do contain glimmers of hope: Fossil fuel emissions are expected to rise an estimated 0.6 percent this year, much less than the 1.5 percent increase in 2017 and the 2.1 percent bump in 2018. Global emissions from coal, the most polluting of all fossil fuels, unexpectedly dropped by about 0.9 percent this year, but the increased use of natural gas and oil more than offset that decline. Scientists warn that slowing the growth of CO2 emissions isn’t enough—to prevent the worst effects of climate change, emissions need to decline each year and hit zero well before the end of the century. “Every year that emissions go up, even if it’s just a small amount,” co-author Glen Peters tells The New York Times, “makes the task of bringing them back down that much harder.”

12-13-19 Climate: New York loses Exxon lawsuit
Exxon Mobil was cleared of fraud by a New York state court this week, said Pippa Stevens in CNBC.com, ending a weeks-long trial over whether the oil company had “deceived investors about the true cost of climate change.” New York’s attorney general accused Exxon of presenting one set of numbers on the costs of climate change to the public while using greater estimates internally. But Judge Barry Ostrager said the state was unable to prove the company violated New York’s Martin Act, a broad statute meant to “protect investors from false statements from corporations.”

12-13-19 Airbus to test flying planes closer together to cut carbon emissions
The aviation industry is planning to test whether mimicking the way birds fly in formation can significantly reduce fuel use, in an effort to cut emissions. Plane manufacture Airbus will run two demonstrator flights in the first half of next year. The idea, inspired by the v-formation that geese migrate in, is for one plane to take off soon after another, following closely and precisely enough to take advantage of the air vortex produced in the first plane’s wake. It could cut fuel use by 5-10 per cent per trip, says Airbus. If initial tests go well, the firm will then try the technique with a real passenger plane following an Airbus demonstrator flight, says Sandra Bour Schaeffer at Airbus. The company is already working with two airlines on the project, she says, for a test in 2021. Bour Schaeffer says that if challenges can be overcome, the technique could be used on normal flights by 2025. A key issue will be working out whether planes’ on-board systems can help pilots find the sweet spot in the wake created by the plane in front, because the vortex wouldn’t be visible to them. “We have to demonstrate the safe operation, we have to demonstrate that we can find a spot where passenger comfort is not affected because we basically want to benefit from the updraft of the vortex,” says Bour Schaeffer. She doesn’t expect more turbulent take-offs, but says there is the possibility that fuel savings might not be as great as hoped. Should the idea prove safe and is more widely deployed, Airbus wants to focus first on flights over oceans, where the technique could be easier because the airspace is less congested.

12-13-19 EU carbon neutrality: Leaders agree 2050 target without Poland
European Union leaders meeting in Brussels have agreed to make the currently 28-member bloc carbon neutral by 2050. However Poland, which is heavily reliant on coal, remains opposed and has been exempted for the time being. European Council President Charles Michel admitted that it was more difficult for some countries and regions to adapt. He said the EU would continue to work to convince Poland to support the deal. Several eastern European countries wanted financial and other guarantees before they agreed to the EU cutting to zero its net amount of greenhouse gas emissions. The Czech Republic and Hungary were brought on board after assurances that nuclear energy could be included in the final mix. On Thursday, the EU's new executive unveiled a €100bn (£84bn; $110bn) European Green Deal for the net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described it as Europe's "man on the Moon" moment. The EU summit came as UN climate talks in Madrid, COP25, were due to wrap up on Friday. There are fears that a final statement of ambition from COP25 may be watered down, with major decisions put off until a key meeting in Glasgow at the end of 2020. After 10 hours of debate, a joint statement from the summit said that the European Council endorsed the objective of achieving a climate-neutral EU by 2050. Without naming Poland it said that "one member state, at this stage, cannot commit to implement this objective" but said the European Council would return to the issue next June. The statement acknowledged the right of member states to make their own decisions on energy production, saying that some had "indicated that they use nuclear energy as part of their national energy mix". On funding the transition, the council welcomed an announcement by the European Investment Bank (EIB) - the EU's lending arm - that it would provide €1tn of investment in climate action and environmental sustainability from 2021 to 2030.

12-13-19 Climate change: Stalemate at UN talks as splits re-appear
UN climate talks in Madrid enter their final scheduled day with divisions emerging between major emitting countries and small island states. Negotiators are attempting to agree a deal in the Spanish capital that would see countries commit to make new climate pledges by the end of 2020. But serious disagreements have emerged over how much carbon-cutting the major emitters should undertake. The talks have also become bogged down in rows over key technical issues. Negotiators arrived in Madrid two weeks ago with the words of the UN secretary general ringing in their ears - António Guterres told delegates that "the point of no return is no longer over the horizon". Despite his pleas, the conference has become enmeshed in deep, technical arguments about a number of issues including the role of carbon markets and the financing of loss and damage caused by rising temperatures. The key question of raising ambition has also been to the forefront of the discussions. Responding to the messages from science and from school strikers, the countries running this COP are keen to have a final decision here that would see countries put new, ambitious plans to cut carbon on the table. According to the UN, 84 countries have promised to enhance their national plans by the end of next year. Some 73 have said they will set a long-term target of net zero by the middle of the century. In a rare move, negotiators from the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) pointed the finger of blame at countries including Australia, the United States, Canada, Russia, India, China and Brazil. They had failed to submit revised plans that would help the world keep the rise in global temperatures under 1.5C this century. As well as naming names, AOSIS members were angry at the pressure being put on the island nations to compromise on key questions. "We are appalled at the state of negotiations - at this stage we are being cornered, we fear having to concede on too many issues that would undermine the very integrity of the Paris agreement," said Carlos Fuller, AOSIS chief negotiator. "What's before us is a level of compromise so profound that it underscores a lack of ambition, seriousness about the climate emergency and the urgent need to secure the fate of our islands."

12-12-19 Climate change: Anger as protesters barred from UN talks
Environmentalists and observers have been barred from UN climate talks in Madrid after a protest inside the conference. Around 200 climate campaigners were ejected after staging a sit in, preventing access to one of the negotiating halls. Protesters said they were "pushed, bullied and touched without consent." In the wake of the disruption all other observers were then barred from the talks. Observers play an important role in the talks, representing civil society. They are allowed to sit in on negotiations and have access to negotiators on condition that they do not reveal the contents of those discussions. Just hours after Greta Thunberg had delivered a powerful speech to COP25, young campaigners staged a noisy demonstration in front of the main halls where the UN secretary general was due to update the conference on the progress of the talks. They were expressing a rising sense of disappointment with the slow progress of the conference, which is in marked contrast to the urgency of scientists and the clamour for action from school strikers. As the group banged pots and pans and chanted slogans, UN security staff intervened to move the protestors outside "abruptly and roughly," from the building, protesters said. Julius Mbatia, 25, a climate youth leader in Africa who works with Christian Aid said: "It's displeasing that young people here to peacefully make the case for strong action on climate change, are being kettled and kicked out of the summit so that the UN climate process can conclude an outcome that will seemingly be weak and doesn't protect their future." Around 200 had their badges removed, preventing them from returning to the talks. The executive director of Greenpeace International, Jennifer Morgan, was one of those who went outside in solidarity with the protestors. Ms Morgan was also barred from entry when she tried to return, despite playing no part in the protest. Earlier in the day, Ms Morgan had sat on a panel with Greta Thunberg - part of an effort by the UN to include the voices of young people around the world. "I call on the UN secretary general to intervene here to make sure that youth and citizens around the world can engage and have their voices heard in these negotiations - it's absolutely imperative that he get involved," Ms Morgan said, speaking outside the venue.

12-12-19 How international conservation groups are betraying indigenous peoples
Discrimination towards indigenous communities is rife among conservation groups – and sometimes enforced at the barrel of a gun, says Curtis Abraham. THE murder of “guardian of the forest” Paulo Paulino Guajajara by armed loggers in the Brazilian Amazon reserve he called home garnered headlines around the world last month. It threw a spotlight on the contribution of indigenous communities to conserving ecosystems and biodiversity. Too often, that contribution is overlooked and even belittled by the wider conservation movement. A default assumption is that indigenous rights conflict with the demands of conservation – an attitude sometimes enforced at the barrel of a gun. The past year, for example, saw evidence uncovered by Buzzfeed News that armed anti-poaching units working with the conservation charity WWF shot, sexually assaulted and killed members of indigenous communities around wildlife parks in Asia and Africa. The human rights charity Survival International has alleged that WWF worked with Cameroon’s government in evicting Baka people from their forest home in the name of conservation. WWF has disputed these claims and commissioned an independent review into its activities, the results of which are not yet known. But mistreatment of indigenous communities in the conservation sphere is part of a wider pattern of marginalisation. It is the result of a toxic mix of racism, discrimination, lack of political representation, struggles over land rights and ignorance and arrogance from governments and international bodies. The planet’s 370 million indigenous people inhabit and manage lands that are home to an estimated 80 per cent of the world’s remaining forest biodiversity. The idea that they are often better stewards of that biodiversity is more than just a romantic notion of “peoples at one with nature”.

12-11-19 Punching holes in solar cells turns them into transparent windows
Your office windows could soon be replaced with solar panels, as scientists have found an easy way to turn the green technology transparent. The trick is to punch tiny holes in them that are so close together that we see them as clear. See-through solar panels will be crucial to increasing the uptake of solar power in cities, says Kwanyong Seo at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, South Korea. This is because roof space remains relatively fixed, whereas window space is growing as buildings get taller. “If we apply transparent solar cells on windows of buildings, they can generate huge amounts of electric power every day,” says Seo. The problem with recently developed transparent cells is that they are often less efficient. They also tend to give the light that passes through them a red or blue hue. To overcome this, many scientists are searching for new materials to build transparent cells with. However, Seo and his colleagues wanted to develop transparent solar cells from the most commonly used material, crystalline silicon wafers, which are found in about 90 per cent of solar cells worldwide. They took 1-centimetre square cells made from crystalline silicon, which is entirely opaque, then punched tiny holes into them to let the light through. The holes are 100 micrometres in diameter, around the size of a human hair, and they let 100 per cent of the light through without changing its colour. The solid part of the cell still absorbs all of the light that hits it, which results in a high power-conversion efficiency of 12 per cent. This is substantially better than the 3 to 4 per cent that other transparent cells have achieved, but remains lower than the 20 per cent efficiency that the best entirely opaque cells currently on the market have.

12-11-19 Arctic sea ice may vanish sooner than we thought – it happened before
Summer sea ice could vanish from the Arctic sooner than we thought. That is according to climate models that explain an unexpectedly warm period in Earth’s history. Our planet’s climate 6000 to 8000 years ago is a bit of a mystery. Some proxies – the things we use to gauge ancient temperature, such as pollen records – indicate global temperatures during the interval were perhaps 0.5°C higher than climate models suggest they should have been. This discrepancy is known as the “Holocene temperature conundrum”. However, a Korean-US team believes it may have the answer to the problem – and it lies in the Arctic. The researchers ran 13 climate models to investigate temperatures during this warm period and compared them with proxies, including oxygen isotopes in ice cores. They found the most state-of-the-art simulations, which model atmospheric physics differently, were able to close the temperature mismatch because they included more Arctic sea ice loss lasting beyond summer and into winter. Sea ice loss speeds up warming, because ice reflects more of the sun’s energy than dark water. The results are bad news for efforts to tackle climate change now. The research implies today’s warming will lead to a more rapid decline in Arctic sea ice than most models suggest. That is because the Holocene conundrum is easiest to explain using the climate models that predict particularly pronounced sea ice loss in the decades to come. The work also goes some way to explaining why the rapid loss of Arctic sea ice seen in recent years – 2012 saw summer ice diminish to its lowest extent ever – is at the more extreme end of what climate models expected.

12-11-19 Greta Thunberg named Time Person of the Year for 2019
Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl who inspired a global movement to fight climate change, has been named Time magazine's Person of the Year for 2019. The 16-year-old is the youngest person to be chosen by the magazine in a tradition that started in 1927. Shortly before the announcement, she told a UN climate change summit in Madrid that the next decade would define the planet's future. She urged world leaders to stop using "creative PR" to avoid real action. Last year, the teenager started an environmental protest outside the Swedish parliament building, sparking a worldwide movement that became popular with the hashtag #FridaysForFuture. Announcing Time's decision on NBC, editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said: "She became the biggest voice on the biggest issue facing the planet this year, coming from essentially nowhere to lead a worldwide movement." The magazine's tradition, which started as Man of the Year, recognises the person who "for better or for worse... has done the most to influence the events of the year". Last year, it named killed and imprisoned journalists, calling them "The Guardians". At the COP25 Climate Conference in Madrid, Greta Thunberg accused world powers of making constant attempts to find loopholes to avoid making substantial changes. "The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening when, in fact, almost nothing is being done apart from clever accounting and creative PR," she said, drawing applause. Summits on climate change seemed "to have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition", she added. The clock was ticking as the decade comes to a close, she said. "In just three weeks we will enter a new decade, a decade that will define our future. Right now, we are desperate for any sign of hope."

12-11-19 Greta Thunberg : 'Almost nothing is being done'
Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg has addressed the COP25 summit, criticising politicians and CEOs for their lack of response to environmental issues. She said "clever accounting and creative PR" were being used make it look like real action was happening when "almost nothing is being done".

12-11-19 Climate change: Major emitters accused of blocking progress at UN talks
Delegates from developing countries have reacted angrily to what they see as attempts to block progress at the COP25 meeting in Madrid. One negotiator told the BBC that the talks had failed to find agreement on a range of issues because of the blocking actions of some large emitters. Carlos Fuller from Belize said that Brazil, Saudi Arabia, India and China were "part of the problem". Other observers said there was a serious risk of failure at the talks. Ministers from all over the world have arrived in Madrid for the high-end negotiations that will determine the final outcome of this conference. Despite a huge climate demonstration on the streets of the Spanish capital last Friday, hopes of an ambitious declaration at COP25 have smacked straight into the realities of politics and entrenched positions. The central aim of the meeting is to "raise ambition" and set out a plan by which countries will put new climate pledges on the table before the end of next year. But already there are signs that some major emitters are trying to limit the scale of what can be achieved in Madrid. "There's an effort right now to block the words 'climate urgency' in text from Brazil and Saudi Arabia, saying we haven't used these words before in the UN, so we can't use them now," said Jennifer Morgan, executive director of Greenpeace International. "This gap between what's happening on the outside and what's happening in the science, and this 'UN speak' that won't react and drive something is very frustrating." Negotiators have told the BBC that the obstinacy of some countries was limiting agreement on non-contentious questions. "I am very disturbed and angry," said Carlos Fuller, the chief negotiator for the small island developing states group of countries.

12-11-19 Fingerprints of climate change are increasingly appearing in extreme weather
Fires, floods and vanishing sea ice are among the 2018 disasters attributed to human activity. Extremely low sea ice in the Bering Sea. Heavy rainfall in the mid-Atlantic United States. Wildfires in northeast Australia. Examinations of these and 16 other extreme weather events that occurred in 2018 found that all but one were made more likely due to human-caused climate change, scientists reported December 9 at a news conference at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting. Insufficient observational data made it impossible to assess the influence of climate change on the one event, heavy rains in Tasmania. The new report marks the third year in a row that scientists have identified specific weather events that they said would not have happened without human activities that are altering Earth’s climate. The findings are part of a climate-attribution special issue, called “Explaining extreme events in 2018 from a climate perspective,” published online December 9 in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Over the 11 years that BAMS has published the special issue, it’s included 168 studies examining specific weather events. Of those, 122, or 73 percent, found that climate change likely played some role in the event, the special issue’s editor Stephanie Herring said at the news conference. In some cases, that means the event was more likely to occur due to human actions; in a few studies, researchers have concluded that the event would not have occurred without climate change. Finding a role is becoming more common; the special issues tied to events in 2017 and 2016 found that climate change was linked to 95 percent of the events studied (SN: 12/14/17; SN: 12/11/18).

12-11-19 See how an Alaskan glacier has shrunk over time
47 years of satellite images capture the Columbia glacier’s retreat. A mesmerizing new series of images shows the retreat of Alaska’s Columbia glacier over the last 47 years in gorgeous, excruciating detail. The images were presented December 10 at the American Geophysical Union’s annual meeting. Landsat satellites operated by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey have been collecting images of Earth since 1972, making the program the longest space-based observer of Earth’s land surface. That record provides an unprecedented opportunity to watch the movement of ice through time: the flow and rapid retreat of glaciers, the calving off of large chunks of ice and when landslide debris gets caught up in the action, says glaciologist Mark Fahnestock of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. To illustrate the dynamic dance of the ice over time, Fahnestock and colleagues selected annual Landsat images of several of Alaska’s glaciers, including fast-retreating Columbia glacier on Prince William Sound, and turned them into mini movies. The images show how Columbia glacier has retreated by more than 20 kilometers since about 1980.

12-11-19 Climate change: Methane pulse detected from South Sudan wetlands
Scientists think they can now explain at least part of the recent growth in methane levels in the atmosphere. Researchers, led from Edinburgh University, UK, say their studies point to a big jump in emissions coming from just the wetlands of South Sudan. Satellite data indicates the region received a large surge of water from East African lakes, including Victoria. This would have boosted CH4 from the wetlands, accounting for a significant part of the rise in global methane. Perhaps even up to a third of the growth seen in the period 2010-2016, when considered with East Africa as a whole. "There's not much ground-monitoring in this region that can prove or disprove our results, but the data we have fits together beautifully," said Prof Paul Palmer. "We have independent lines of evidence to show the Sudd wetlands expanded in size, and you can even see it in aerial imagery - they became greener," he told BBC News. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and - just like carbon dioxide - is increasing its concentration in the atmosphere. It's not been a steady rise, however. Indeed, during the early 2000s, the amount of the gas even stabilised for a while. But then the concentration jumped in about 2007, with a further uptick recorded in 2014. CH4 (methane) is now climbing rapidly and today stands at just over 1,860 parts per billion by volume. There's currently a debate about the likely sources, with emissions from human activities such as agriculture and fossil-fuel use undoubtedly in the mix. But there is a large natural component as well, and a lot of current research is centred on contributions from the tropics. The Edinburgh group has been using the Japanese GOSAT spacecraft to try to observe the greenhouse-gas behaviour over peatlands and wetlands in Africa, and found significant rises in methane emissions above South Sudan centred on the years 2011-2014.

12-11-19 Will Sydney's bushfire smoke pollution have long-term health effects?
Smoke from the bushfires raging near Sydney in Australia has been blanketing the city in recent weeks, reaching a crisis point on Tuesday when air pollution in parts of the city rose to over 10 times the level deemed hazardous. Health authorities are warning the public to be careful. Children have been forced to stay indoors during lunchtime at school, ferries were cancelled and office workers were evacuated from buildings as the smoke triggered fire alarms. These unprecedented conditions have prompted questions over what effect they could have on the population’s long-term health. Bushfires are so dangerous because they billow fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, into the air. When this is inhaled, it can go deep into the lungs, where it causes inflammation, and enter the bloodstream to affect other parts of the body. The link between several hours or days of poor air quality and health problems is well-established. Such exposure can worsen asthma and lung conditions, such as chronic bronchitis, and lead to heart attacks in people with heart disease. People who are hospitalised or die as a result of poor air tend to have pre-existing respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Last week, health authorities recorded a roughly 30 per cent increase in ambulance call outs across New South Wales, and hospitalisations for respiratory issues in the area rose by 25 per cent. Less severe but longer-term exposure, such as the circumstances in Beijing or New Delhi, has been linked to heart, lung and kidney disease, strokes, type 2 diabetes, sepsis and urinary tract infections. It is also associated with smaller babies, miscarriage and stillbirth. But this isn’t necessarily true of people in Sydney, who typically enjoy relatively unpolluted air.

12-11-19 New Zealand volcano: Can we predict eruptions?
Following the eruption of New Zealand's most active volcano, questions are being asked about why tourists were allowed to visit it. "These questions must be asked and they must be answered," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in parliament after the eruption. There were warning signs in the weeks prior to the eruption and last month the alert level was raised to two indicating moderate to heightened volcanic unrest. However, the imminent and dramatic nature of the eruption took people by surprise. So how good are we at predicting when a volcano will erupt and how severe it will be? A volcanic eruption is when steam or lava is released from a volcanic vent. It can be notoriously difficult - with devastating consequences - to know when an explosion might happen, especially when a volcano has been dormant for many years. However, scientists can look for particular signs and trends to make predictions. They monitor the activity of volcanoes by looking at: earthquakes, emissions of gases, inflation or deflation of the volcano. If scientists start to see an acceleration of gas from volcanic vents or nearby tremors, for instance, they may start to get concerned about an eruption. However, predicting whether those signs indicate an eruption will be in one hour, a month or even longer away depends on the individual volcano. The more data volcanologists have on a specific volcano, the better they'll be able to anticipate its behaviour and the possibility of an eruption. Most volcanoes tend to show these signs in the weeks or months prior to an eruption but some explosions are much more sudden and unexpected. It's also more difficult to judge eruptions when volcanoes have been dormant for a while or were active prior to the introduction of modern monitoring technology.

12-10-19 Greenland lost almost 4 trillion tonnes of ice in less than 30 years
The Greenland ice sheet is melting rapidly. Between 1992 and 2018, it lost 3.8 trillion tonnes of ice, according to a comprehensive assessment. That is roughly in line with the most extreme scenario of future ice losses set out in the 2014 Fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In that scenario, global sea level will rise by 52 to 98 centimetres by 2100, partly due to ice loss from Greenland. “The ice losses are tracking the upper scenario from the IPCC,” says Andrew Shepherd at the University of Leeds, UK. Shepherd and his colleagues combined 26 satellite data sets to reconstruct how the ice sheet has changed due to the warming climate. “The uncertainty on our estimate is a lot smaller than that on any individual estimate,” he says. As late as the 1990s, Greenland’s ice sheet was in a state of balance. Ice was lost as glaciers flowed into the sea and when the ice surface melted in summer, but this was replaced by winter snowfall. The climate had already warmed, but temperatures on Greenland were still mostly below 0°C. However, since the early 2000s, the losses have outweighed the gains. “The glaciers are flowing too quickly because the oceans are too warm,” says Shepherd. “The surface is melting because the air is too warm. It’s a two-pronged assault for Greenland.” Since 1992, ice losses from Greenland have contributed 1.06 centimetres to sea level rise, according to the new analysis. Ice losses from other glaciers and from Antarctica, plus the expansion of seawater as it warms, combine to give a total rise of about 7.5 centimetres over roughly the same period. Such small rises aren’t enough to permanently submerge much land, but they dramatically increase the risk of coastal flooding during storms. The flooding from big storms like Hurricane Sandy, which affected swathes of North America in 2012, is being worsened by sea level rise.

12-10-19 Climate change: Greenland ice melt 'is accelerating'
Greenland is losing ice seven times faster than it was in the 1990s. The assessment comes from an international team of polar scientists who've reviewed all the satellite observations over a 26-year period. They say Greenland's contribution to sea-level rise is currently tracking what had been regarded as a pessimistic projection of the future. It means an additional 7cm of ocean rise could now be expected by the end of the century from Greenland alone. This threatens to put many millions more people in low-lying coastal regions at risk of flooding. It's estimated roughly a billion live today less than 10m above current high-tide lines, including 250 million below 1m. "Storms, if they happen against a baseline of higher seas - they will break flood defences," said Prof Andy Shepherd, of Leeds University. "The simple formula is that around the planet, six million people are brought into a flooding situation for every centimetre of sea-level rise. So, when you hear about a centimetre rise, it does have impacts," he told BBC News. The British scientist is the co-lead investigator for Imbie - the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise. It's a consortium of 89 polar experts drawn from 50 international organisations. The group has reanalysed the data from 11 satellite missions flown from 1992 to 2018. These spacecraft have taken repeat measurements of the ice sheet's changing thickness, flow and gravity. The Imbie team has combined their observations with the latest weather and climate models. What emerges is the most comprehensive picture yet of how Greenland is reacting to the Arctic's rapid warming. This is a part of the globe that has seen a 0.75C temperature rise in just the past decade. The Imbie assessment shows the island to have lost 3.8 trillion tonnes of ice to the ocean since the start of the study period. This mass is the equivalent of 10.6mm of sea-level rise. What is more, the team finds an acceleration in the data. Whereas in the early 90s, the rate of loss was equivalent to about 1mm per decade, it is now running at roughly 7mm per decade.

12-10-19 Why this cattle farmer moves his cows every day
Gases which help to heat the atmosphere and contribute to climate change are a by-product of the dairy industry. They include direct emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from cows, and carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from the likes of packaging, transportation and fertilisers. But one farmer in the US state of Georgia believes a different way of farming means his cows can be part of the solution. Will Harris says "it’s not the cow, it’s the how".

12-10-19 Refugees at 'increased risk' from extreme weather
Refugees and people displaced within countries because of conflict are increasingly vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather, experts say. Humanitarian agencies told the BBC this posed significant challenges for their operations in different parts of the world. Temporary camps for the displaced in Africa and Asia have been affected. Extreme weather has even caused secondary displacements for populations that have already had to move. Scientists say that extreme weather events will be the new normal if warming continues at its present rate. But experts said climate change could not be linked directly to those weather-related disasters. However, they argue, many of them concur with scientific predictions that the intensity and frequency of extreme weather will grow in a warming world. "This has become our major challenge," Shabia Mantoo, a spokesperson with the UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency), told the BBC. "An increasing number of camps for refugees and internally displaced people are being hit by extreme weather events and managing them in such conditions is proving to be increasingly difficult." In most cases, flooding has been the major challenge. When tropical cyclone Idai hit South East Africa, killing more than 1,000 people in March this year, a refugee camp in Zimbabwe was affected too, according to UNHCR officials. They said many were injured in the Tongogara refugee camp that hosts some 13,000 refugees in Chipinge district. "Around 2,000 refugee houses, mainly built using mud bricks, were completely or partially damaged," the UNHCR said at the time. "Over 600 latrines have collapsed, and borehole water is feared to be contaminated due to flood waters. There is a real danger of an outbreak of waterborne diseases." The UN refugee agency said it faced a similar situation in South Sudan, last October when a refugee camp in Maban county, with 15,000 displaced people from the country's neighbour Sudan, was hit by unprecedented flooding.

12-10-19 Climate change: Amazon oil boom under fire at UN talks
A report presented at COP25 says that plans are in place for a huge expansion of oil drilling in the upper Amazon. The analysis says that Ecuador and Peru are set to sanction oil extraction across an area of forest the size of Italy. Indigenous leaders from both countries have travelled to Madrid to urge a moratorium on using the oil. They say using the five billion barrels under the forest would harm the region and the world. The area in question is known as the sacred headwaters of the upper Amazon and spans some 30 million hectares (74 million acres) in Ecuador and Peru. The region is home to around 500,000 indigenous peoples from 20 nationalities, and is a hotspot of biodiversity. But a report prepared by campaign group, Amazon Watch, says that Ecuador and Peru are actively planning to expand extraction and auction new oil blocks across the area. Right now this is a pristine area, with few roads. The indigenous people have title to these lands and in the area several tribes are living in voluntary isolation. Campaigners fear that if the oil blocks are sold it will see new roads built, which will lead to illegal logging, deforestation and poor outcomes for the residents of the region. Ecuador is due to leave the OPEC oil consortium in 2020, allowing it to boost its oil production. The country is also under pressure from China to supply oil because of financial debts. "There's about $14bn that Ecuador owes China right now and that's a big part of the drive to expand production and look for new oil," said Kevin Koenig, from Amazon Watch who authored the report. "In addition there are about $6bn in hidden debt in these oil for loan deals between PetroChina and Petroecuador which Ecuador is paying in barrels of oil." It's estimated that around five billion barrels of oils are to be found in the upper Amazon region, which would equate to two billion metric tonnes of CO2.

12-10-19 Refugees at 'increased risk' from extreme weather
Refugees and people displaced within countries because of conflict are increasingly vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather, experts say. Humanitarian agencies told the BBC this posed significant challenges for their operations in different parts of the world. Temporary camps for the displaced in Africa and Asia have been affected. Extreme weather has even caused secondary displacements for populations that have already had to move. Scientists say that extreme weather events will be the new normal if warming continues at its present rate. But experts said climate change could not be linked directly to those weather-related disasters. However, they argue, many of them concur with scientific predictions that the intensity and frequency of extreme weather will grow in a warming world. "This has become our major challenge," Shabia Mantoo, a spokesperson with the UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency), told the BBC. "An increasing number of camps for refugees and internally displaced people are being hit by extreme weather events and managing them in such conditions is proving to be increasingly difficult." In most cases, flooding has been the major challenge. When tropical cyclone Idai hit South East Africa, killing more than 1,000 people in March this year, a refugee camp in Zimbabwe was affected too, according to UNHCR officials. They said many were injured in the Tongogara refugee camp that hosts some 13,000 refugees in Chipinge district. "Around 2,000 refugee houses, mainly built using mud bricks, were completely or partially damaged," the UNHCR said at the time. "Over 600 latrines have collapsed, and borehole water is feared to be contaminated due to flood waters. There is a real danger of an outbreak of waterborne diseases." The UN refugee agency said it faced a similar situation in South Sudan, last October when a refugee camp in Maban county, with 15,000 displaced people from the country's neighbour Sudan, was hit by unprecedented flooding.

12-9-19 Climate change: 1.9 billion people rely on natural 'water towers'
In a unique study, scientists have assessed and ranked the importance of Earth's great "water towers". These are the 78 mountainous regions that are able to generate and then store vast quantities of water. They deliver it in a controlled way to major populations living downstream. The Dutch-led team finds Asia's Indus basin - fed by the Himalayan, Karakoram, Hindu-Kush, and Ladakh ranges - to be the most important storage unit on the planet. Its waters, produced at high elevation from rain and snow, and draining from lakes and glaciers, support more than 200 million people settled across parts of Afghanistan, China, India and Pakistan. But the Indus water tower, the researchers point out, is also the most vulnerable on their list of 78. It's subject to a range of current and future pressures, from ever greater demand - for more drinking water, for increased irrigation and industry, etc - to issues that could severely curtail supply. The latter will include geopolitical tensions, given the Indus intersects national boundaries; but the most obvious threat is climate change. A warming world will disrupt precipitation patterns and denude glaciers of their storage capacity. "If, basically, the demand is higher but the supply decreases, then we really have a problem," said research team-member Dr Tobias Bolch from the University of St Andrews, UK. "And this is, I think, one of the major strengths of our study - that we have looked closely at both sides, so the supply index and the demand index," he told BBC News. Dr Bolch is speaking here at the American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting, the largest annual gathering of Earth scientists. His and colleagues' work is being published simultaneously in the journal Nature. The team conducted the assessment across the major continents, identifying what it regarded as the five most relied-upon, natural water tower systems in those regions. Africa does not appear in this listing, principally because it is devoid of major glacier systems. Ice bodies do exist on the continent, in places such as on Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, but their contribution to downstream catchments is limited.

12-9-19 Climate change: UN negotiators 'playing politics' amid global crisis
UN negotiators meeting in Madrid have been accused of "playing politics" while the climate crisis grows. The talks - now in their final week - are bogged down in technical details as key countries seek to delay efforts to increase their pledges, observers say. Ministers are due to arrive in the Spanish capital this week to try to secure an ambitious outcome. US presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg is due to attend, while Greta Thunberg will also address the meeting. Up to half a million people took part in a march in Madrid in support of rapid climate action, but according to observers, negotiators haven't got the message. "The problem is while hundreds of thousands of people are marching outside in Madrid, and school children are striking, countries are playing politics with the negotiations," said Mohammed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, a climate and energy think tank based in Nairobi, who's an observer at these talks. "We need ministers to arrive this week and make some real progress." Inside the convention centre, the central question of increasing country pledges to cut their carbon has been pushed aside as negotiators resort to protecting national interests. Back in 2015, everyone signed up to the Paris agreement and put new plans on the table that are due to run from 2020. However the richer countries were supposed to undertake specific carbon cutting actions in the years between 2015 and 2020, which many haven't yet achieved. Here in Madrid a group of countries including China, India and Saudi Arabia are pushing for these pre-2020 commitments be adhered to - even if it means achieving them post-2020. Observers believe this is partly a negotiating tactic designed to put pressure on richer nations in any discussions about improving pledges in the period after 2020.

12-9-19 Polluting firms 'will be hit by climate policies'
Carbon-intensive firms are likely to lose 43% of their value thanks to policies designed to combat climate change, a report says. Meanwhile the most progressive companies will see an uplift of 33% in their value. The forecast was commissioned by the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). Representatives of fossil fuel companies told the BBC they were already adapting their businesses to take climate change into account. But the PRI study suggests major winners and losers will emerge between, and within, big sectors. Car-makers with the swiftest transition to electric vehicles (EVs), for instance, are projected to increase in value by 108%, according to the study by Vivid Economics. Manufacturers slow to move to EVs will see their value fall, as governments realise that petrol and diesel models must be phased out faster for climate targets to be met. Meanwhile, the study predicts that the world’s largest listed coal companies could fall in value by 44%. And the 10 biggest firms in oil and gas could lose 31% of current value. Electric utilities with the strongest strategy for renewables could see values increase by 104%, while laggards could see them fall by two-thirds. Miners producing minerals critical for the transition may see a 54% upside, while those with the smallest share of “green minerals” will witness valuations almost halving. Agricultural firms with high exposure to “sustainable” biofuels and non-beef protein sources could gain at least 10% of current value. Those exposed to under-pressure sectors such as cattle may lose between 15% and 43% - depending on their links with deforestation. The figures are inevitably speculative, and rely on an assumption that politicians will be forced to respond strongly to the growing climate crisis – which, given current political progress, remains debatable.

12-9-19 Madrid climate talks will set the tone for Glasgow 2020
World leaders are heading to Madrid for the high-level stage of the COP25 UN climate conference. The outcome of the talks could have a huge bearing on the Glasgow event next year. So far the negotiations have been slow and frustration at the speed of progress is growing. But climate scientist Prof Sandy Tudhope from Edinburgh University believes there is still time to turn them around. He said: "I'm going to be optimistic about that because it is doable but what it will require is a lot of goodwill - a lot of really open transparent but astute diplomacy. "I'm optimistic because we have to be optimistic. Climate change is a challenge but we can use it as a way to have a fairer and better environment." About 29,000 delegates are registered to attend the event in Madrid where the rulebook for the 2015 Paris Agreement is being finalised. The arrival of environment ministers and - for some countries - prime ministers and presidents might jolt negotiations into action on the main sticking points: carbon markets and financing for loss and damage. But those issues don't go away if an agreement isn't reached at the end of the week and it could hang over to the Glasgow COP. Prof Piers Forster, a member of the Committee on Climate Change which advises governments, said the UK would then have to step up. He added: "We have to build it around creating a good story about the different world we want to create and what sort of world we want for our children and grandchildren. "We have to really make sure that we do bring everyone with us on this kind of journey." While there is much excitement about Glasgow being the focus next year, there is also concern. Friends of the Earth Scotland wants poorer, developing nations to have more involvement, and not just at the top table.

12-8-19 Seychelles: The island nation with a novel way to tackle climate change
On board Darryl Green's small fishing boat, just off the island of Praslin in the Seychelles, the water is so clear we can see the seabed. Brightly coloured fish swim around the hull. "You know at my age I've seen the fish size decrease dramatically," the fisherman reminisces. He's on board his boat with his young grandson in tow. "If as fishermen, we do not take responsibility for our fish stocks, who's going to do it? If we don't start somewhere then in the future we're going to be very hard pushed to find fish to feed our children." Mr Green has been fishing his local bay for decades - but not any more. He's set up a project with his fellow fishermen to voluntarily stop fishing here for six months of the year, hoping that this will allow fish stocks to replenish. "This is our office," he says. "You go to the office to work. We come here to work. This is where we earn our livelihood. So we've got to protect it." During the six months off, they have to fish further out to sea, while some of them do other things like carpentry too. Mr Green's project is one of many which have been funded by a pioneering marine conservation plan. In the first deal of its kind, the East African nation swapped 5% of its national debt for a cash injection to fight the effects of climate change on the ocean. In return, it promised to protect 30% of its national waters, which is an area twice the size of the UK - by the end of next year. It's a huge undertaking for this tiny nation. The Seychelles government agreed the debt swap with the Nature Conservancy, a US charity, and a number of investors in 2016. Under the terms of the $21m (£16m) deal, the charity and the investors - who include the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation - bought a portion of the Seychelles' national debt from European nations, such as the UK and France. The debt is now held by a trust, the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), which offers the country lower interest rates on its repayments. The savings - over $8 million - are ring-fenced for projects designed to protect marine life and handle the effects of climate change.

12-7-19 Scientists issue wake-up call on dangerous loss of oxygen from oceans
The world’s oceans have lost around 2 per cent of their oxygen on average over half a century, alarming scientists who have warned of the trend’s impact on fisheries and endangered species. The number of low oxygen sites along coasts globally has spiralled from 45 in the 1960s to around 700 now, according to a peer-reviewed report by 67 researchers for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Presented at the ongoing UN climate talks in Madrid, the research projects the oceans will lose 3-4 per cent oxygen globally by the end of the century if carbon emissions continue unchecked. Climate change makes deoxygenation worse by warming the oceans, changing ocean circulation and reducing the mixing of waters vital for bringing oxygen from the atmosphere to deeper waters. “It’s almost insane that it’s 2019, we’ve heated the ocean and there’s hardly anyone talking about what this is doing as a combined stressor. We’ve managed to successfully do [raise awareness of] acidification and ocean heating, but deoxygenation is the ultimate wakeup call,” says Dan Laffoley at the IUCN. Species including tuna and marlins are both vulnerable when oxygen levels drop because of their high oxygen demand. Such zones can also wreak devastation on coral reefs – one event off Australia killed a million reef fish. The 2 per cent average global decline between 1960 and 2010 masks big regional differences. While a handful of places may have gained oxygen, Laffoley says off the coast of California, some areas have lost 30-40 per cent. The figures are almost certainly an underestimate due to poor monitoring in some regions, such as off China, he adds. Alongside ocean warming, the other big driver for deoxygenation is the polluting nutrients from agriculture that run off into rivers and then into coastal waters. The nutrients fuel algae growth, and when bacteria eventually break down the algae they use up the oxygen in the water.

12-7-19 Climate change: Oceans running out of oxygen as temperatures rise
Climate change and nutrient pollution are driving the oxygen from our oceans, and threatening many species of fish. That's the conclusion of the biggest study of its kind, undertaken by conservation group IUCN. While nutrient run-off has been known for decades, researchers say that climate change is making the lack of oxygen worse. Around 700 ocean sites are now suffering from low oxygen, compared with 45 in the 1960s. Researchers say the depletion is threatening species including tuna, marlin and sharks. The threat to oceans from nutrient run-off of chemicals such as nitrogen and phosphorus from farms and industry has long been known to impact the levels of oxygen in the sea waters and still remains the primary factor, especially closer to coasts. However, in recent years the threat from climate change has increased. As more carbon dioxide is released enhancing the greenhouse effect, much of the heat is absorbed by the oceans. In turn, this warmer water can hold less oxygen. The scientists estimate that between 1960 and 2010, the amount of the gas dissolved in the oceans declined by 2%. That may not seem like much as it is a global average, but in some tropical locations the loss can range up to 40%. Even small changes can impact marine life in a significant way. So waters with less oxygen favour species such as jellyfish, but not so good for bigger, fast-swimming species like tuna. "We have known about de-oxygenation but we haven't known the linkages to climate change and this is really worrying," said Minna Epps from IUCN. "Not only has the decline of oxygen quadrupled in the past 50 years but even in the best case emissions scenario, oxygen is still going to decline in the oceans." For species like tuna, marlin and some sharks that are particularly sensitive to lack of oxygen - this is bad news. Bigger fish like these have greater energy needs. According to the authors, these animals are starting to move to the shallow surface layers of the seas where there is more of the gas dissolved. However, this make the species much more vulnerable to over-fishing.

12-7-19 PG&E: California power firm to pay $13.5bn to wildfire victims
Californian utility giant Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has agreed a $13.5bn (£10.2bn) settlement with victims of wildfires in the state. The company's equipment has been linked to several blazes including the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in state history, 2018's Camp Fire. PG&E filed for bankruptcy this year and has already settled with insurers and local authorities. The agreements should allow the firm to emerge from bankruptcy. PG&E's settlement relates to claims over several deadly blazes:

  1. The 2018 Camp Fire which killed 85 people in and around the town of Paradise. Investigators blamed the fire on PG&E transmission lines
  2. The 2017 Northern California wildfires, which swept through the state's wine country killing more than 30 people
  3. The 2016 Ghost Ship Fire in Oakland, when a blaze tore through a warehouse that had been converted into a music venue and artist collective. 36 people died
  4. The 2015 Butte Fire, which caused two deaths and burned down hundreds of structures. Authorities said a PG&E power line came in contact with a tree, sparking the blaze

PG&E President Bill Johnson said since entering the bankruptcy process "getting wildfire victims fairly compensated, especially the individuals, has been our primary goal. "We want to help our customers, our neighbours and our friends in those impacted areas recover and rebuild after these tragic wildfires," he said. This year saw yet more rampant wildfires and the firm sought to prevent them by cutting off power to customers in California. (Webmaster's comment: And why aren't all the PG&E executives in prison for manslaughter?)

12-7-19 Indian Ocean Dipole: What is it and why is it linked to floods and bushfires?
Flooding and landslides in East Africa have killed dozens of people and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in Australia, a period of hot, dry weather has led to a spate of bushfires. Both weather events have been linked to higher-than-usual temperature differences between the two sides of the Indian Ocean - something meteorologists refer to as the Indian Ocean Dipole. What exactly is the dipole and how does it work? The Indian Ocean Dipole - often called the "Indian Niño" because of its similarity to its Pacific equivalent - refers to the difference in sea-surface temperatures in opposite parts of the Indian Ocean. Temperatures in the eastern part of the ocean oscillate between warm and cold compared with the western part, cycling through phases referred to as "positive", "neutral" and "negative". The dipole's positive phase this year - the strongest for six decades - means warmer sea temperatures in the western Indian Ocean region, with the opposite in the east. The result of this unusually strong positive dipole this year has been higher-than-average rainfall and floods in eastern Africa and droughts in south-east Asia and Australia. "When an Indian Ocean dipole event occurs, the rainfall tends to move with the warm waters, so you get more rainfall than normal over the East African countries," Dr Andrew Turner, a lecturer in monsoon systems at the UK's University of Reading, told the BBC. "On the other hand, in the east of the Indian Ocean, sea surface temperatures will be colder than normal and that place will get a reduced amount of rainfall." A negative dipole phase would bring about the opposite conditions - warmer water and greater precipitation in the eastern Indian Ocean, and cooler and drier conditions in the west. A neutral phase would mean sea temperatures were close to average across the Indian Ocean.

12-6-19 The ‘bleak’ outlook on climate change
The world has acted so slowly to combat global warming that the eventual temperature increase will be double what has been deemed safe. That’s the conclusion of a new United Nations report, whose authors say the future is “bleak” unless there are rapid, unprecedented cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, reports The Washington Post. The latest annual Emissions Gap Report found that global temperatures are on track to rise by up to 5.8 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100—nearly twice the maximum increase pledged by world leaders in the 2016 Paris Agreement. If temperatures continue to climb, scientists say, the world will experience a cascade of disastrous consequences. Coral reefs will die in increasingly acidic oceans. Many coastal cities will be frequently flooded by rising seas. And intense heat could make parts of the world unlivable. To meet the Paris Agreement’s ambitious target, keeping temperatures from rising more than 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels, global emissions will have to fall 7.6 percent a year over the next decade. That would require countries to raise their emissions-reduction targets fivefold—not likely, given that global emissions have risen about 1.5 percent a year for the past decade. U.S. carbon dioxide emissions jumped 3.4 percent last year. “Our collective failure to act early and hard on climate change means we now must deliver deep cuts to emissions,” says Inger Andersen, head of the U.N. Environment Program. “We need to catch up on the years in which we procrastinated.”

12-6-19 Greta Thunberg: 'They try so desperately to silence us'
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg says young people are "bringing change" to the Madrid climate talks and will not be silenced. At a news conference Miss Thunberg said that she hoped the negotiations would yield "something concrete" The 16-year-old was mobbed by press and spectators when she visited the conference centre earlier on Friday. She had to be escorted away for her own safety amid shouts of "leave her alone" from concerned observers. Having arrived via overnight train from Lisbon to large crowds waiting for her in Madrid, Miss Thunberg was set to join a large demonstration in favour of rapid climate action this evening. Speaking before the gathering she said that the voices of the young would not be drowned out. "People want everything to continue like now and they are afraid of change," she told reporters. "And change is what we young people are bringing and that is why they want to silence us and that is just a proof that we are having an impact that our voices are being heard that they try so desperately to silence us. Miss Thunberg is due to address the climate negotiations that have been going on in Madrid for the past week. She remains hopeful that they will lead to a positive outcome. "I sincerely hope that COP25 will lead to something concrete and it will lead to also to an increase in awareness in people in general and that the world leaders and people in power grab the urgency of the climate crisis because right now it doesn't seem like they are," she said. "We will do everything we can to show that this is something that cannot be ignored, that they cannot just hide away any longer." Miss Thunberg has arrived in Europe after a voyage across the Atlantic by yacht. The hope among many here is that the scale of the march and her speech to the COP next week will give a big boost to the talks process that seem badly in need of a lift.

12-6-19 Greta at United Nations climate talks one year apart
At last year's United Nations climate change talks, not many people knew who Greta Thunberg was. But in the last 12 months, her school strikes have inspired millions to do the same and to call for more action on climate change. Now the teenager is back, for this year's Conference of the Parties (COP) in Madrid.

12-6-19 Christmas Without Ice
Winter wonderlands, with news that the annual “Christmas in Ice” sculpture garden in North Pole, Alaska, has been canceled for the first time ever due to lack of ice. “Is this another one of a series of warm winters in Alaska that are part of our changing climate?” said local climatologist Rick Thoman. “You bet.”

12-6-19 'Sydney mega fire getting out of control'
Sydney in Australia has been blanketed by thick smoke all week due to bushfires. Authorities warned they could not contain the blaze as more than eight fires joined together to form a "mega fire". Scientists said prolonged drought and climate change were the reason for this year's early and intense bushfire.

12-6-19 Giving money to set the Amazon on fire?
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro blamed a new culprit last week for the devastating Amazon rain forest fires: Leonardo DiCaprio. Bolsonaro has accused foreign environmental organizations of setting fires this year that ravaged thousands of square miles of Brazil in order to attract donations. He told supporters, “DiCaprio is a cool guy, isn’t he? Giving money to set the Amazon on fire.” DiCaprio’s environmental group pledged $5 million to help locals battle and recover from the fires, which scientists believe are largely the result of deliberate deforestation to make way for farms and cattle. “The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake, and I am proud to stand with the groups protecting them,” DiCaprio said.

12-6-19 Climate change: Greta Thunberg mobbed at UN climate talks
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was mobbed by press and delegates as she made her first visit to UN climate talks in Madrid. Ms Thunberg joined a youth demonstration inside the conference which was quickly swamped by spectators eager to catch a glimpse of Greta. Amid shouts of "leave her alone" from concerned observers, she was escorted away by UN security staff. Ms Thunberg has arrived in Madrid following a voyage across the Atlantic by yacht. The hope among many here is that the scale of the march and her speech to the COP next week will give a big boost to the talks process that seems badly in need of a lift. This COP started with great hope last Monday, with strong words from the UN secretary-general and others, warning that time is running out and that negotiators should be guided by the science. Since then, the urgency has given way to frustration. Little obvious progress is being made on the central question of raising countries ambitions to cut carbon. Indeed, the UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa said the issue of increased pledges wasn't even on the agenda for the final outcome from this conference. "We don't have in the agenda one item that's called 'ambition' and, therefore, it's not like we are expecting to have a specific decision on that." In the face of several recent scientific reports stating that countries were falling further behind when it comes to meeting the Paris agreement targets, this was a little disturbing to say the least. According to some experts at these talks, extra ambition would be great but equally important would be a firm timetable to deliver their pledges over the next 12 months, ahead of the Glasgow COP this time next year. Right now, that's not certain. "It would be extremely concerning if the countries here in Madrid did not agree that there is a timeline for next year in coming forward with their commitments," said David Waskow from the World Resources Institute.

12-6-19 Measures to reduce air pollution quickly result in big health benefits
Reducing air pollution in homes, cities or countries can have a dramatic effect on health almost immediately, and the benefits can far outweigh the costs, according to a review of evidence from around the world. At a World Health Organization meeting earlier this year, respiratory doctors were asked, “If you stopped air pollution, what would you expect?” So a group led by Dean Schraufnagel of the University of Illinois at Chicago have tried to answer this question. Even the doctors were surprised by how big the benefits can be, and how quickly they kick in. “With some of this stuff, I had to do a double take,” Schraufnagel says. For instance, when Ireland banned smoking in workplaces in 2004, the number of people dying from any cause fell by 13 per cent after just a week. There were also big falls in heart disease, strokes and a lung condition called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Non-smokers benefited the most. These health benefits can lead to dramatic cost savings. The benefits of the 1970 Clean Air Act in the US exceeded the costs of implementing it by a factor of 32 to 1, the US Environmental Protection Agency has estimated, and will amount to $2 trillion for the year 2020. Local measures such as shutting factories or reducing traffic can also have big benefits, especially for children. When a steel mill in Utah Valley in the US was shut for a year, hospitalisations for pneumonia, pleurisy, bronchitis and asthma fell by half. Traffic restrictions during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, nearly halved the number of people needing medical care for asthma. And factory closures and traffic restrictions during the 2008 Beijing Olympics led a fall in deaths from heart disease and strokes.P

12-5-19 Genetics can play key role in saving trees
Tree conservation strategies based on genetic data are best suited for landscapes affected by a rapidly changing climate, a study suggests. Researchers found using genetic markers of climate resilient traits are more effective than traditional seed-selection methods. The team also found that the current generation of trees are struggling to cope in current conditions. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Co-author Prof Victoria Sork, from the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) explained why the team of researchers felt there was a need to carry out the study. "Trees, which are long lived, and climate change - which is happening quickly - could be out of sync with each other," she explained. "The question is that if they are out of sync with each other, how can we manage tree populations so that they can better cope with increased temperatures?" Prof Sork said that current conservation strategies often worked on the assumption that plants were currently growing in conditions well-suited to the species. However, the team found that this was not the case. Prof Sork: "I became concerned about oak because it was a very important species for the ecosystem. "When a site burns down, as we are getting an increasing number of fires, people will often replant to quickly re-establish the ecosystem that was destroyed. "But the question is, are they planting the right seedlings?" Writing in their paper, the researchers observed: 'In California, valley oak (Quercus lobate) is already mismatched to current temperatures and will likely experience further declines in growth rate as temperatures rise over the next century." Failure to achieve optimal growth could leave the trees less resilient to future climatic conditions." The rapid climate change that we are seeing now, the reason trees are so vulnerable is because their lifespan exceeds the rate of climate change," Prof Sork suggested.

12-5-19 A vital project for monitoring ocean currents has been saved - for now
An under-threat flagship science project that monitors an ocean current crucial to weather on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean has been given a reprieve after funding was secured for its short-term future. New Scientist revealed in May that a string of moorings that has been recording the slowing of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC) for the past 15 years, called the RAPID array, faced closure due to a funding crisis. Researchers feared the end of RAPID would stop efforts to see the long-term trend of the current – which needs more than 20 years of data – and what its future holds under climate change. “The continuity of long-term ocean observations is critical to understanding the role of the oceans in climate, especially at present in light of the discussions at COP25,” says Meric Srokosz at the UK’s National Oceanography Centre, referring to the UN climate talks under way in Madrid. The funding for the project was due to run out next year, but will now continue until at least 2021. The £1 million funding needed for the year came from several sources, including the National Oceanography Centre and the US National Science Foundation. Laura Jackson at the Met Office says the project has been critical for monitoring the AMOC and helps inform climate change models. “We have seen how changes measured by the RAPID array affect the ocean temperatures in the North Atlantic, and that these can impact weather patterns,” she says. A collapse of the AMOC – as heavily dramatised in the film The Day After Tomorrow – is considered unlikely this century, but RAPID would be key for detecting the start of such an event. The slowing of the AMOC was raised by a group of influential scientists last week as one of a series of dangerous tipping points in Earth’s systems that may be close because of human activities.

12-5-19 Ryrkaypiy: Far-north Russian village overrun by polar bears
More than 50 polar bears have descended on a village in Russia's far north. All public activities in Ryrkaypiy, in Chukotka region, have been cancelled, and schools are being guarded to protect residents from the bears. Conservationists say climate change could be to blame, with weak coastal ice forcing the bears to search for food in the village rather than at sea. Other experts have said polar bear visits are now so frequent, Ryrkaypiy should be permanently evacuated. Tatyana Minenko, head of Ryrkaypiy's bear patrol programme, told Ria Novosti that they had counted 56 polar bears in the village. The animals were "both adult and young... there were females with cubs of different ages", she said - adding that almost all of them appeared to be thin. The polar bears normally live on Cape Schmidt, just 2.2 km (1.4 miles) from Ryrkaypiy. WWF conservationist Mikhail Stishov said the area had been experiencing unusually warm weather. "If the ice were strong enough the bears, or at least some of them, would have already gone to sea, where they could hunt for seals or sea hares," he said. While waiting for the ice to freeze they are drawn to villages for food, Mr Stishov added. Last week, a polar bear specialist from the US-based Institute of the North said the bears now visit Ryrkaypiy so often that the village should be evacuated, and its roughly 700 residents resettled. Anatoly Kochnev told Tass news agency that polar bear visits are increasingly frequent - and that just five years ago, only about five bears got close to the village."I as a scientist believe [Ryrkaypiy village] should not remain there," he said. "We try to control the situation, but nobody would want to think what may happen there in three to five years." The region's animal protection official Yegor Vereshchagin told Tass that if residents wished to leave, "they could organise a referendum".

12-5-19 Plastic pollution has killed half a million hermit crabs, study says
An estimated 570,000 hermit crabs have been killed after being trapped in plastic debris, a new study has said. The researchers said piles of plastic on beaches create physical barriers and "deadly traps" for the crabs. The study looked at strawberry hermit crab populations on two remote tropical island locations. The scientists say more research is needed into how plastic pollution is affecting wildlife populations worldwide, especially on land. "The potential for plastics on beaches and in other terrestrial ecosystems to cause harm is under-acknowledged," said co-author Alex Bond, a senior curator in the department of life sciences at the Natural History Museum in London. He says plastic in the ocean entangles and is ingested by wildlife, but on land it acts as a trap and a barrier to species going about their daily lives. The researchers surveyed sites on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean and Henderson Island in the South Pacific. They say both locations are littered with millions of pieces of plastic. They say crabs had crawled into plastic containers and were unable to get out, eventually dying. The containers had openings that allowed the crabs to enter, but were positioned with the opening facing an upward angle, so that the crabs would have difficulty crawling back out. The researchers counted how many hazardous containers there were and how many contained trapped crabs, and extrapolated their findings to estimate totals for the islands. "These results are shocking but perhaps not surprising," said lead researcher Jennifer Lavers from the institute for marine and Antarctic studies at the University of Tasmania in Australia. "It is inevitable that these creatures will interact with and be affected by plastic pollution," she said. The problem is worsened by the fact that hermit crabs don't have a shell of their own. As they grow, they need to move into larger shells. When one crab dies, it emits a smell that tells another crab a new shell is available. Meaning, "the very mechanism that evolved to ensure hermit crabs could replace their shells, has resulted in a lethal lure," according to the paper.

12-4-19 We need to wake up to the potential threat from microplastics
“CAN’T be seen, can’t be smelled, can’t be heard, but can be stopped.” That warning, issued by the US Department of Health and Human Services, is about carbon monoxide poisoning from faulty heaters. It could equally apply to a newly recognised threat, except for the last part. Microplastics can’t be seen, can’t be smelled, can’t be heard – and can’t be stopped. As a result of our 50-year addiction to plastics, microplastics are now ubiquitous in the environment. These tiny fragments, formed as plastic breaks apart into ever-smaller pieces, are found in soil, water and air. They rain down on us 24/7 and have entered the food chain and water supply. There is little or no prospect of cleaning them up, and the load will inevitably get worse as the approximately 8 billion tonnes of plastic we have manufactured over the past century or so breaks up but doesn’t biodegrade. “The 8 billion tonnes of plastic we have manufactured over the past century or so will break up but not biodegrade” Concern about microplastics has so far largely focused on wildlife and the environment, and there is evidence of harms to both. But now attention is turning to us. What, if anything, do these particles do to the human body? At this point, there are more questions than answers. To put our ignorance into perspective, we don’t even know for sure that the very smallest fragments, called nanoplastics, actually exist – even though they are hypothesised to be the most harmful to our health. The good news is that researchers are waking up to the potential threat and scrambling to find some answers. The bad news is that it will take years to properly evaluate the problem. As yet, funding is paltry: just a few million euros. Plastic manufacturers who have made a fortune out of the stuff might consider putting a hand into their pocket, perhaps to kick-start research on technologies to clean up the ever-increasing amounts of waste. It may turn out to be a false alarm. If microplastics posed a specific threat to human health, perhaps we would have seen it by now. If that feels like clutching at (plastic) straws, that is because it is. Even if we get lucky this time, the natural world will be paying the price of our so-called ingenuity for decades to come.

12-4-19 Climate change is causing birds to shrink, study suggests
As the climate warms, birds are shrinking and their wingspans are growing, according to a new study. Researchers analysed 70,716 specimens from 52 North American migratory bird species collected over 40 years. The birds had died after colliding with buildings in Chicago, Illinois. The authors say the study is the largest of its kind and that the findings are important to understanding how animals will adapt to climate change. "We found almost all of the species were getting smaller," said lead author Brian Weeks, an assistant professor at the school for environment and sustainability at the University of Michigan. "The species were pretty diverse, but responding in a similar way," he said. "The consistency was shocking." He said studies of animal responses to climate change often focus on shifts in geographical range or timing of life events, like migration and birth. But this study suggests body morphology is a crucial third aspect. "That's one major implication," he said. "It's hard to understand how species will adapt without taking all three of these things into consideration." The findings showed that from 1978 to 2016, the length of the birds' lower leg bone - a common measure of body size - shortened by 2.4%. Over the same time, the wings lengthened by 1.3%. The evidence suggests warming temperatures caused the decrease in body size, which in turn caused the increase in wing length. "Migration is an incredibly taxing thing they do," Mr Weeks said, explaining that the smaller body size means less energy available for the birds to complete their long journeys. He says the birds most likely to survive migration were the ones with longer wingspans that compensated for their smaller bodies. The scientists aren't exactly sure why warmer temperatures cause birds to shrink. One theory is that smaller animals are better at cooling off, losing body heat more quickly due to their larger surface-area-to-volume ratios.

12-4-19 Jane Fonda protests against climate change
Actress Jane Fonda suggested that fossil fuel companies be held accountable "like at Nuremberg." The actress has been arrested several times for civil disobedience while protesting in Washington DC, where she has relocated to. She participates in weekly demonstrations which began in October.

12-4-19 Climate-warming CO2 emissions will hit a record high in 2019
While coal burning emissions ebb, those from other fossil fuels continue to climb. Despite decades of warnings from scientists about the dangers of climate change, the world is on track to hit a new record high for climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. By year’s end, fossil fuels will have flooded the atmosphere with about 36.8 billion metric tons of CO2 in 2019 — up from 36.57 billion tons in 2018, according to monthly emissions data reported by and estimated for different regions. And increasing use of oil and natural gas means those emissions levels will probably keep rising, researchers predict online December 4 in Environmental Research Letters. Many countries are harnessing renewable energies. In the United States alone, wind power generation rose about 8 percent in 2019 from 2018, while solar went up an estimated 11 percent. But that trend hasn’t been enough to stem the global emissions that are driving climate change, melting polar ice caps and revving up hurricanes (SN: 9/25/19). “Most of the renewables being built today aren’t displacing coal and other fossil fuels — they’re [just] adding new energy,” says environmental scientist Rob Jackson of Stanford University. In another paper published December 4 in Nature Climate Change, Jackson and colleagues argue for global climate policies that directly cut fossil fuel use, such as retiring coal-fired power plants and deploying technology that siphons carbon from the atmosphere. “Coal is the only fossil fuel that has shown a hint of declining,” Jackson says. Global coal usage is down slightly, by 0.9 percent in 2019 — with a 10.5 percent drop in the United States and a 10 percent decline in the European Union, his team estimates. But global natural gas and oil use rose 2.6 percent and 0.9 percent respectively, canceling out the benefit of coal’s marginal decline.

12-4-19 Global carbon emissions up 0.6 per cent as oil and gas grow in 2019
Global carbon emissions kept growing this year, but have continued to fall in the US despite Donald Trump’s pro-coal rhetoric and his rollback of Barack Obama’s clean power plan. As delegates discuss how to cut emissions at UN climate talks in Madrid, the annual Global Carbon Project report shows that they are set to grow 0.6 per cent to just under 37 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide in 2019. That is slightly less than the 0.9 per cent per year on average this decade, a slowdown that was caused mainly by a 0.9 per cent global fall in coal use, which plunged by a tenth in the US and European Union. Glen Peters at the Center for International Climate Research says the figures show that Trump is failing to protect coal in the US, because of the economics of old coal plants squeezed out by gas and renewables. US emissions are projected to fall 1.7 per cent this year. Not counting the exceptional effect of the 2009 financial crash, that means average annual US emissions cuts have been “more or less the same” under Trump and Obama, says Peters. High carbon trading prices have put the EU on track for a 1.7 per cent emissions cut too, while India’s usual 5 per cent annual increase dropped to just 1.8 per cent due to a strong monsoon, which hit the economy and boosted hydropower to record levels.But globally the picture is gloomier. Electric cars failed to dent oil use, which is up 0.9 per cent, while gas rose 2.6 per cent and is now the biggest driver of emissions growth. Emissions from deforestation fires were up because of fires in the Amazon. China, which accounts for more than a quarter of humanity’s emissions, is set for 2.6 per cent growth. “The urgency of action has just not sunk in yet. There is a lot of talk. There is action, it’s not that there isn’t,” says Corinne Le Quéré at the University of East Anglia, UK. “But this action is still quite confined to relatively specific technologies rather than penetrating across society.”

12-4-19 Climate change: Emissions edge up despite drop in coal
Researchers say that carbon dioxide emissions this year have risen slightly, despite a drop in the use of coal. The Global Carbon Project's annual analysis of emission trends suggests that CO2 will go up by 0.6% in 2019. The rise is due to continuing strong growth in the utilisation of oil and gas. Since the Paris agreement was set out in 2015, CO2 emissions have risen by 4%. Last year saw a strong rise in emissions of almost 3%, with strong demand for coal in China being the main factor. There was also a surge in demand for oil, driven by a booming global market for cars, particularly SUVs. This year's modest rise, if indeed it is a rise, as the margin of error is large, reflects some significant changes in the demand for fossil fuels. While global emissions from coal use fell by less than 1%, this masks some huge drops in countries like the US and across the European Union. "Through most of 2019 it was looking as if coal use would grow globally, but weaker than expected economic performance in China and India, and a record hydropower year in India - caused by a strong monsoon - quickly changed the prospects for growth in coal use," said Robbie Andrew, a senior researcher at the Cicero Centre for International Climate Research, part of the Global Carbon Project. "Coal use in both the US and the EU28 has dropped substantially, possibly by as much as 10% in both regions in 2019 alone, helping push down global coal consumption," Mr Andrew said. The drop in coal as a source of energy was offset by the continued rise of oil and gas. The data comes as the COP25 climate summit continues in Madrid amid a growing sense of crisis. Gas use rose by a robust 2.6%, and while renewable sources like wind and solar have also grown substantially, according to the authors the greener fuels have merely slowed the rise in the growth of fossil fuel emissions. "Compared to coal, natural gas is a cleaner fossil fuel, but unabated natural gas use merely cooks the planet more slowly than coal," said Dr Glen Peters, also from Cicero.

12-3-19 Climate change: Last decade 'on course' to be warmest
Scientists say that average temperatures from 2010-2019 look set to make it the warmest decade on record. Provisional figures released by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) suggest this year is on course to be the second or third warmest year ever. If those numbers hold, 2015-2019 would end up being the warmest five-year period in the record. This "exceptional" global heat is driven by greenhouse gas emissions, the WMO says. The organisation's State of the Global Climate report for 2019 covers the year up to October, when the global mean temperature for the period was 1.1 degrees C above the "baseline" level in 1850. Many parts of the world experienced unusual levels of warmth this year. South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania were warmer than the recent average, while many parts of North America were colder than usual. Two major heat waves hit Europe in June and July this year, with a new national record of 46C set in France on 28 June. New national records were also set in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and the UK. In Australia, the mean summer temperature was the highest on record by almost a degree. Wildfire activity in South America this year was the highest since 2010. The WMO clearly links the record temperatures seen over the past decade to ongoing emissions of greenhouse gases, from human activities such as driving cars, cutting down forests and burning coal for energy. In 2018, concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide all reached new record highs. The WMO says the warming experienced over the past decade is taking its toll on the natural world. The ice is melting at both poles and sea level rise has accelerated since the start of satellite measurements in 1993. Much of the heat generated by greenhouse gas emissions is going into the oceans, says the WMO. The waters are more acidic as a result and marine heat waves are becoming more common. As well as hurting nature, the increased heat is also affecting humans, with heat waves posing a particular risk to the elderly.

12-3-19 Greta Thunberg: Young are 'angry' over climate change
Climate activist Greta Thunberg said that adults should stop making young people "angry" over global warming. Ms Thunberg was speaking after her arrival in Lisbon, Portugal, after a two-weeks-plus journey across the Atlantic from her starting point in Virginia, US. "People are underestimating the force of angry kids," she told reporters. The 16-year-old is on her way to the COP25 climate summit in Madrid. She is taking a stand on more polluting forms of transport by sailing, rather than flying or travelling in cars. Responding to a question from a journalist who said some adults viewed her as "angry", Ms Thunberg said: "We are angry, we are frustrated and it's because of good reasons. Climate summit told of nation's 'fight to death' "If they want us to stop being angry, maybe they should stop making us angry." She had originally planned to travel from the US to a UN climate summit in Chile. But the South American nation had to give up the event due to civil unrest. The venue changed to Spain, and so Ms Thunberg hitched a ride on a 48ft sailing catamaran called La Vagabonde. She travelled with Australian YouTubers Riley Whitlum and Elayna Carausu, as well as Briton Nikki Henderson - who is a professional yachtswoman. Their boat uses solar panels and hydro-generators for power.

12-2-19 Climate defenders: Taking wind power to another level
Henrik Stiesdal has been thinking about wind turbines since he was a teenager and now he wants to take the next big step. Henrik thinks offshore wind farming, using floating turbines, is the key and he talked to the BBC's Freya Cole about his vision.

12-2-19 What is the UN's COP25 climate summit, and why does it matter?
What is the COP25 climate summit? The Conference of the Parties – United Nations jargon for the annual meeting of nearly 200 countries to discuss international action on climate change. Around 25,000 people are expected to descend on the talks, which start today. Where is it happening? There has been a game of musical chairs concerning who is hosting. Originally, it was Brazil, which later changed its mind. Then Chile stepped in, but social unrest in Santiago saw the conference moved to Madrid at the eleventh hour. The fortnight-long summit kicks off against the backdrop of a high level of climate interest in the UK election, as well as warnings by the UN that global emissions have climbed 1.5 per cent a year on average for the past decade. Who is going? Around 30 heads of state, and the UN secretary general, António Guterres. Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg is en route aboard a catamaran in the Atlantic, as she didn’t want to fly back from the US, where she gave a passionate and often angry address at a UN climate summit in September. What is the aim of the talks? They are largely a stepping stone to 2020, the most important year for global climate efforts since the Paris deal was agreed in 2015. That’s because countries are expected to upgrade their carbon-curbing plans for the first time and potentially also outline their long-term plans to get to net zero emissions, ahead of a crunch summit in Glasgow next year, COP26. In the meantime, the talks in Madrid need to tidy up outstanding questions about the rules of the Paris Agreement. (Webmaster's comment: It's now harder to find a government that is not authoritarin and not a global Warming denier.)

12-2-19 Climate change: COP25 island nation in 'fight to death'
The president of an island nation on the frontline of climate change says it is in a "fight to the death" after freak waves inundated the capital. Powerful swells averaging 5m (16ft) washed across the capital of the Marshall Islands, Majuro, last week. But President Hilda Heine said the Pacific nation had been fighting rising tides even before last week's disaster. Political leaders and climate diplomats are meeting in Madrid for two weeks of talks amid a growing sense of crisis. This conference of the parties, or COP25, was due to be held in Chile but was cancelled by the government due to weeks of civil disturbances. Spain then stepped in to host the event, which will see 29,000 attendees over the two weeks of talks. The world's average surface temperature is rising rapidly because human activities release greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2). These gases trap heat in the atmosphere, a bit like the glass roof of a greenhouse. At the meeting, Ms Heine commented: "Water covers much of our land at one or other point of the year as we fight rising tides. As we speak hundreds of people have evacuated their homes after large waves caused the ocean to inundate parts of our capital in Majuro last week." She added: "It's a fight to the death for anyone not prepared to flee. As a nation we refuse to flee. But we also refuse to die." Ms Heine is not alone in the view that small nations like the Marshall Islands face an imminent existential threat. At the Madrid summit, ambassador Lois Young, from the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which represents low-lying coastal countries and small island nations, launched a rebuke to the world's big polluters. "We are disappointed by inadequate action by developed countries and outraged by the dithering and retreat of one of the most culpable polluters from the Paris Agreement," she said. "In the midst of a climate emergency, retreat and inaction are tantamount to sanctioning ecocide. They reflect profound failure to honour collective global commitment to protect the most vulnerable.

12-2-19 A critical 12 months in the battle against rising temperatures begins in Madrid this week, as UN delegates gather for key talks.
The 25th Conference of the Parties, or COP, will see negotiators from almost 200 countries in attendance. Ahead of the meeting the UN secretary general has warned that the world is at the point of no return. António Guterres said the global response to date has been "utterly inadequate". The conference takes place amid a welter of bad news on climate change in recent days. The World Meteorological Organisation announced that greenhouse gas concentrations reached their highest recorded level in 2018. The UN Environment Programme showed that there's a huge gap between the plans that governments currently have on the table to cut emissions and what's needed to keep under 1.5C. Keeping to that guardrail will need a five-fold increase in the carbon cutting ambitions of countries. The UN Secretary General warned delegates ahead of the meeting "the point of no return was no longer over the horizon". "We simply have to stop digging and drilling and take advantage of the vast possibilities offered by renewable energy and nature-based solutions," Mr Guterres said. As well as demanding that the negotiators increase their level of carbon cutting ambition at this meeting, Mr Guterres announced that the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney will take on the role of UN Special Envoy on climate action and climate finance. The Spanish argue that it is critical to support a UN process that depends on global co-operation in the face of rising nationalism around the world. "COP25 will reaffirm that multilateralism is the best tool to solve global challenges such as climate change," said Spain's minister for the ecological transition Teresa Ribera. "Neither the UN nor the international community have let the climate agenda fall, despite the challenges to organise this event, because this is a vital moment to drive implementation and action. Spain immediately offered to organise the summit in record time. There is no turning back."

12-2-19 Climate change: Study underpins key idea in Antarctic ice loss
It's long been suspected but scientists can now show conclusively that thinning in the ring of floating ice around Antarctica is driving mass loss from the interior of the continent. A new study finds the diminishing thickness of ice shelves is matched almost exactly by an acceleration in the glaciers feeding in behind them. What's more, the linkage is immediate. It means we can't rely on a lag in the system to delay the rise in sea-levels as shelves melt in a warmer world. The glaciers will speed up in tandem, dumping their mass in the ocean. "The response is essentially instantaneous," said Prof Hilmar Gudmundsson from Northumbria University, UK. "If you thin the ice shelves today, the increase in flow of the ice upstream will increase today - not tomorrow, not in 10 or 100 years from now; it will happen immediately," he told BBC News. The edge of Antarctica is bounded by thick platforms of floating ice. These "shelves" have formed as the continent's many glaciers have drained off the land into the sea. On entering the water, their buoyant ice fronts have lifted and joined together to form a single protrusion. But these shelves are being besieged by the invasion of warm ocean water that's now eating their undersides. And satellite data over the past 25 years has shown many to be thinning as a consequence. "That's a problem because the ice shelves act as a kind of architectural buttress, slowing the movement of the ice sheet behind them," explained Prof Helen Fricker, a satellite expert from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, US. "So, if you thin an ice shelf, the grounded ice behind can speed up, but what we didn't know was by how much - and that's where our work with Hilmar and his modelling comes in." Prof Gudmundsson put Scripps' satellite data of shelf thinning into a numerical ice sheet model to see how the land ice should respond based on the current best understanding of the physics involved. What the UK-US team found was that the predicted changes in the patterns of speed-up tallied precisely with what has been observed in the real world. What was previously just a correlation is now supported by quantifiable evidence.

12-2-19 Is China going to destroy itself and everyone else with coal?
It doesn't look good. For many years, China has been the world leader in green energy, directing massive subsidies toward solar panels, wind, and other renewable technology. But it has also been the world leader in greenhouse gas emissions, putting out about twice as much as the United States, the second largest emitter, today. It appeared as recently as 2017 that the Chinese government — recognizing its extreme vulnerability to climate change, and its ability to cook human society completely by itself — would tip toward the green end of the scale. But not now. China is radically scaling back its green subsidies, and ramping up its coal power investment. China, it seems, cannot be relied on for any kind of climate leadership. If it is up to Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), they and everyone else will be fried. "Chinese investment in clean energy is plummeting — down from $76 billion during the first half of 2017, to $29 billion during the first half of this year," reports Leslie Hook at the Financial Times. Meanwhile it is planning to add 148 gigawatts of new coal power capacity — just one gigawatt short of the entire European Union coal fleet. Meanwhile, China's massive Belt and Road imperial investment project is spreading low-grade coal power across half the planet, including to places that previously had little access to it like Egypt and Pakistan. Partly as a result, world greenhouse emissions were up 1.7 percent last year. The Chinese pivot back to coal, should it be completed, all but ensures devastating climate impacts for the world in general and China in particular. So what is going on? The main reason, FT reports, is the slowing economy. China has run squarely into middle-income country problems, where mainly investment-led growth must give way to consumer-led growth. That's a challenging transition for any country, and it's happening at the same time that its largest trade partner started an enormously damaging trade war for no good reason. Growth is at its lowest point in more than 20 years, and so the party has dropped everything to try to boost it back up.

12-2-19 Australia’s push for hydrogen power may prop up fossil fuel industry
Australia aims to become a major global exporter of hydrogen fuel, but critics fear its new strategy will prop up the fossil fuel industry and lock out green energy sources. The country’s energy ministers recently announced around £200 million in funding and a suite of recommendations aimed at launching an industry ready to capitalise on growing demand for hydrogen in Asia and Europe over the next decade. But efforts to ensure that hydrogen production would be primarily from renewable energy sources have been blocked, with federal energy minister Angus Taylor declaring the strategy to be “technology neutral”. Producing hydrogen from renewables, known as green hydrogen, is predicted to become as cheap as other methods within the next decade. But without specific policies to favour renewables, cheaper fossil fuels will have the advantage in the meantime, says Richie Merzian, spokesperson for the think tank The Australia Institute. Infrastructure designed for fossil fuels won’t necessarily help green hydrogen, says Merzian. For instance, green hydrogen plants need to be located near water sources, whereas fossil fuel hydrogen plants need to be close to the source of fossil fuels. “There is a real risk that the national hydrogen strategy will lock in fossil fuel-based hydrogen, which will squander an opportunity for a renewable hydrogen industry,” says Merzian. Fiona Beck, at the Australian National University, says that allowing fossil fuels into this space could advance the field more rapidly than if it was limited to renewables. Converting fossil fuels into hydrogen and capturing the carbon dioxide would also, in principle, be a way of reducing the carbon emissions of those types of fuels, she says. Hydrogen doesn’t emit carbon dioxide when burnt – and when produced using renewable energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, the overall emissions are low. But extracting it from natural gas or coal does emit carbon dioxide, so the strategy recommends that plants using fossil fuels would need to adopt carbon capture and storage. It says capture rates of 90 per cent or more will be needed to bring emissions down to “acceptably low levels”.

12-2-19 Sperm whale dies with 100kg 'litter ball' in its stomach
A sperm whale which died after stranding on the Isle of Harris had a 100kg "litter ball" in its stomach. Fishing nets, rope, packing straps, bags and plastic cups were among the items discovered in a compacted mass. Whale experts said it was not immediately clear whether the debris had contributed to the whale's death. But locals who found the carcass on Seilebost beach on Thursday said it highlighted the wider problem of marine pollution. Dan Parry, who lives in nearby Luskentyre, said: "It was desperately sad, especially when you saw the fishing nets and debris that came out of its stomach. "We walk on these beaches nearly every day and I always take a bag to pick up litter, most of which is fishing-related. "This stuff could have easily been netting or the like lost in a storm, we just don't know, but it does show the scale of the problem we have with marine pollution." Members of the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme (Smass), an organisation that investigates the deaths of whales and dolphins, dissected the whale to try and determine its cause of death. A post on the group's Facebook page stated: "The animal wasn't in particularly poor condition, and whilst it is certainly plausible that this amount of debris was a factor in its live stranding, we actually couldn't find evidence that this had impacted or obstructed the intestines. "This amount of plastic in the stomach is nonetheless horrific, must have compromised digestion, and serves to demonstrate yet again the hazards that marine litter and lost or discarded fishing gear can cause to marine life." The debris is believed to have originated from both the land and the fishing industry. The Coastguard and workers from Western Isles Council helped with the examination of the whale on Saturday, as well as digging a giant hole on the beach to bury the sub-adult male. According to Smass figures reports of whale and dolphin strandings in Scotland are on the increase. There were 204 reports in 2009, rising to more than 930 in 2018.

12-2-19 Chennai: Children play as 'toxic' foam blankets Indian beach
Waves of white foam blanketed Marina Beach in Chennai, India over the weekend, attracting local children who were seen playing in the froth. But local reports say the foam is toxic, caused by pollutants in sewage mixing with sea water and frothed up by waves. One local pollution control official told the Indian Express newspaper that authorities hoped that the pollutants in the water would subside "within a day or two".

Donald Trump's Plan: Gut The EPA

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Global Warming News Articles for November of 2019