8-31-21 Shipping has made slow progress on climate change – can methanol help?
Shipping is a bigger contributor to climate change than aviation, and remains one of the few sectors where emissions are growing instead of falling. It has yet to find a sure-fire way to decarbonise. Last week might mark the beginning of a turning point. On 24 August, Maersk, the world’s biggest shipping company, said it had ordered eight ships capable of running on both normal oil-based fuel and a type of alcohol, methanol. These won’t be the first ships running on methanol – there are about 20 globally already – but they will be by far the biggest. They would be cargo ships capable of holding 16,000 containers, large even by the gargantuan scales of modern sea transport. Importantly, Maersk has promised to not just have the shipping equivalent of a “4K-ready” TV, but to run them on methanol rather than oil “as soon as possible”. The step by the Danish shipping firm may be a big moment for cleaning up shipping, and the company has paid careful attention to detail on how the methanol will be made. “I was pleasantly surprised. It’s an impressive pace and scale,” says Bryan Comer at the International Council on Clean Transportation, a US non-profit organisation. So why methanol, and what impact could it have if more widely adopted in shipping? When burned, it emits less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than fuel made from oil, and that CO2 can theoretically be cancelled out by the way the methanol is made. It also hugely cuts air pollutants. Maersk disregarded generating methanol using fossil fuels – a method that can be even more polluting than today’s shipping fuels. Instead, it is looking at two methods for producing methanol. The first is “e-methanol” using green hydrogen and CO2 removed from the air or a power plant. The second is “bio-methanol” made from biomass, such as waste from landfill, crops or trees. Morten Bo Christiansen at Maersk sees biomethanol leading the way initially because it is cheaper, being eclipsed in 10 to 15 years’ time by e-methanol because it can reach larger scale.
8-31-21 The New Orleans levee system, rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina, passed the Hurricane Ida test
As it barreled into southern Louisiana as a Category 4 storm on Sunday, Hurricane Ida drew comparisons to 2005's Hurricane Katrina, which ravaged New Orleans and overwhelmed its aging levee system exactly 16 years earlier. Ida knocked out power to New Orleans and caused other damage, but the levees, flood walls, and floodgates held and protected the city from the storm surge. All across Louisiana, "we don't believe there is a single levee anywhere now that actually breached or failed," Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said Monday. "There were a few smaller levees that were overtopped to a degree for a certain period of time," but the lack of any breaches or failures is "good news." Ricky Boyett, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said the flood protection system "did what it's supposed to do" and "performed as designed." The Army Corps of Engineers oversaw a $14.5 billion effort to rebuild and improve the New Orleans levees and build out protections for the surrounding suburbs south of Lake Pontchartrain, starting with a 130-mile ring to block storm surges of up to 30 feet, The Associated Press reports. Half of New Orleans is below sea level. "We have a good system now and I'm pretty confident it worked," Sandy Rosenthal, founder of Levees.org, tells The Washington Post. "We found out what didn't work at horrific human cost. This system is better, stronger, and bigger." But the city is still vulnerable to a hurricane that stalled and dumped large amounts of rain on New Orleans — like Hurricane Harvey in Houston — and the New Orleans system didn't protect other suburbs like LaPlace, whose own levee project isn't scheduled for completion until 2024. And about 62 percent of Americans who live in communities protected by more than 2,300 miles of levees from California to Florida have seen no overhaul of their flood protection systems in recent years, the Post reports. And maintaining the New Orleans flood protections isn't cheap — it costs about $1 billion a year, Rosenthal says. Hurricane Katrina left 1,500 people dead in New Orleans. So far, only two confirmed deaths have been tied to Hurricane Ida in all of Louisiana, though that number will almost certainly rise.
8-31-21 Hurricane Ida: One million people in Louisiana without power
Louisiana residents may be in the dark for weeks as officials take stock of the damage from Hurricane Ida. Ida made landfall on Sunday with 150mph (240km/h) winds, the fifth strongest to ever hit the US mainland. About one million locals remain without power. "It's going to be a difficult life for quite some time," said one local leader in the Greater New Orleans area. About 5,000 National Guard members have been deployed to aid search and rescue. In addition, more than 25,000 workers from around the country have mobilised to support power restoration in the state, according to CNN. At least one person is dead after a tree fell on their home in Ascension Parish, in Louisiana's Baton Rouge area. State and local officials have conceded that number is likely to grow as search and rescue efforts continue, but argued the city had largely "held the line". "The systems we depended on to save lives and protect our city did just that and we are grateful, but there is so much more work to be done," said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell on Monday. She urged residents who had already evacuated their homes to stay put and not return until power and communications have been restored. As the slow-moving Ida continues to move inland, it has weakened to a tropical storm - but the National Hurricane Centre warned that heavy rain could still bring flooding to parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Ida was previously deemed "life-threatening", drawing comparisons to Hurricane Katrina, a 2005 storm that had a path similar to Ida and killed 1,800 people. But it seemed that New Orleans' flood defences, strengthened in Katrina's aftermath, have done their job. Governor John Bel Edwards said the levee systems had "performed magnificently" and none have thus far been breached. "But the damage is still catastrophic," he acknowledged on Monday. "We are still in a life saving mode."
8-31-21 Greta Thunberg: Scotland not a world leader on climate change
Campaigner Greta Thunberg says she doesn't regard Scotland as a world leader on climate change. The Swedish activist told BBC Scotland she recognised that some countries "do a bit more than others" but that none were coming close to what was needed. On the Scottish Greens' deal to enter government, she said some politicians were "less worse" than others. But she said tackling climate change was not as easy as voting for a green party. The 18-year-old said: "Of course there might be some politicians that are slightly less worse than others. That was very mean but you get the point. "It's a hopeful sign that people want something that's more 'green' - whatever green means - but in order to solve this we need to tackle this at a more systemic approach." The Scottish government has previously described its climate change legislation as "world leading." It includes a target to reach net-zero emissions by 2045. The legislation was praised as "inspiring" by the UN's climate chief Patricia Espinosa. Ministers say they recognise that every country needs to do more while the Scottish Greens say they agree that systemic change is necessary. In a wide-ranging interview with BBC Scotland exactly two months ahead of the UN climate change conference being held in Glasgow, Ms Thunberg spoke about COP26 and plans for a new oil field off Shetland. She said she was "not 100% sure" that she would attend the COP26 talks in November and that her decision would be based on whether the event was "safe and democratic". For her, that means ensuring participants from poorer countries are fully vaccinated and able to travel. Organisers are offering vaccines to all delegates as part of the accreditation process. Ms Thunberg still believes the conference will not lead to anything "if we don't treat this crisis like a crisis." She explained: "It should be all about climate justice and we can't achieve climate justice if everyone is not contributing on the same terms. "I've spoken to many people who say that they are trying to at least vaccinate all the delegates and making it more accessible. And if that is the case it's left to see, I guess."
8-31-21 Highly polluting leaded petrol now eradicated from the world, says UN
There is now no country in the world that uses leaded petrol for cars and lorries, the UN Environment Programme has announced. The toxic fuel has contaminated air, soil and water for almost a century. It can cause heart disease, cancer and stroke, and has been linked to problems with brain development in children. Most high-income countries had banned the fuel by the 1980s, but it was only in July that Algeria - the last country still to use leaded petrol - ran out. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called the eradication of leaded petrol an "international success story". "Ending the use of leaded petrol will prevent more than one million premature deaths each year from heart disease, strokes and cancer, and it will protect children whose IQs are damaged by exposure to lead," he said. Lead started being added to petrol in the early 1920s in order to improve engine performance. The alarm was raised as early as 1924, when five workers were declared dead and dozens more hospitalised after suffering convulsions at a refinery run by the US oil giant Standard Oil. But despite this, lead continued to be added to all petrol globally until the 1970s. Wealthier countries then started phasing out its use - but three decades later, in the early 2000s, there were still 86 nations using leaded petrol. North Korea, Myanmar and Afghanistan stopped selling leaded petrol by 2016, leaving only a handful of countries, including Iraq, Yemen and Algeria, still providing the toxic fuel in the latter half of the last decade. The UN's environmental body Unep has worked with governments, private companies and civic groups to end the use of leaded petrol since 2002. "Leaded fuel illustrates in a nutshell the kind of mistakes humanity has been making at every level of our societies," Inger Andersen, Unep executive director, said. But, she added, eradicating the fuel shows that "humanity can learn from and fix mistakes that we've made". Environmentalist campaign body Greenpeace hailed what it called "the end of one toxic era". "It clearly shows that if we can phase out one of the most dangerous polluting fuels in the 20th century, we can absolutely phase out all fossil fuels," Thandile Chinyavanhu, climate campaigner at Greenpeace Africa, said.
8-31-21 Cyprus on alert as Syrian oil slick spreads across Mediterranean
Authorities in Cyprus are monitoring an oil slick that originated from a power plant on Syria's Mediterranean coast and could soon affect the island. Syrian state media said last week there had been a spill from the plant, which is inside the Baniyas oil refinery. Satellite imagery showed that the slick spread north along the Syrian coast before moving eastwards towards Cyprus. Modelling suggests that it will reach the Karpas Peninsula in the Turkish-controlled north on Tuesday. The north's prime minister said it was taking all necessary measures to prevent the slick causing damage and was receiving assistance from Turkey. The Cypriot government said it was ready to provide help if requested. Syria's government said last Tuesday that there had been an accidental leak from a fuel tank at the Baniyas thermal power station, which is in a part of the war-torn country under its control. The following day, Syria's state-run Sana news agency reported that the slick had reached the town of Jableh, about 20km (12 miles) to the north. Teams had begun cleaning up the oil from rocky areas of the coast, applying sand to soak up the fuel as well as machines using suction, it said. Imagery from Europe's Sentinel-1 satellite meanwhile showed the slick had spread further along the coast, almost reaching the city of Latakia, and covered almost 150 sq km (58 sq miles) of sea. Syrian officials downplayed the scale of the spill as the clean-up continued over the weekend, with the head of the General Directorate of Syrian Ports telling state TV that the quantity of fuel that leaked "was not large". The Cypriot government issued a warning about the slick on Monday in response to new satellite imagery showing that it had grown in size and was close to Cape Apostolos Andreas. The cape is the north-eastern most point of the Karpas Peninsula, which is in the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and is about 130km (80 miles) from Baniyas.
8-31-21 Hurricane Ida was almost certainly made worse by climate change
Hurricane Ida, which reached wind speeds of 240 kilometres per hour, killed at least one person and left more than a million people without power, was almost certainly made worse because of climate change, say scientists. The category 4 storm intensified rapidly over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall in Louisiana on Sunday, 16 years to the day that Hurricane Katrina – a category 3 storm – devastated the state. US president Joe Biden told reporters that one person had been killed, and more deaths were likely. Studies that link extreme weather events like Ida to climate change take time, but past research has already connected global warming with the heavy rainfall of 2017’s Hurricane Harvey. Tropical storms such as Ida are fuelled by the evaporation of sea water. August is already warm in the Gulf of Mexico, and the ocean’s surface there was 0.3°C above the long-term average this month. “[Ida] moved over part of the Gulf of Mexico where the sea surface was really warm, so that was why it rapidly intensified. That patch of warm ocean really matters,” says Alex Baker at the University of Reading, UK. Research over the past two decades is beginning to pinpoint the conditions needed for such rapid intensification, and this includes higher ocean surface temperature, says Baker. He says it is fair to draw a likely link between Ida’s strength and climate change. “You probably can say that climate change made it more likely that part of the Gulf of Mexico was warmer, and so some of the intensity of Ida might be down to climate change. How much is difficult to quantify,” he says. “Climate change didn’t cause Hurricane Ida,” said Katherine Hayhoe at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, on Twitter. “But it’s virtually certain it made it worse.”
8-30-21 Why Hurricane Ida strengthened so rapidly
By the time Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana on Sunday it had strengthened into a ferocious Category 4 storm with 150 miles per hour winds, but the change didn't happen gradually. Less than two days before, Ida's winds were only half that fast, which means that it underwent an increasingly common transformation called rapid intensification, the term scientists use for when a storm's winds pick up by 35 mph or more within 24 hours. You can probably guess one of the causes behind the phenonemon. Climate change has indeed played a role in supercharging storms, Bloomberg reports. That's because rising ocean temperatures act as a fuel of sorts for storms, and scientists have begun to understand that warm deep ocean water in particular, as opposed to surface temperatures, is a key factor. "Deeper warm water tends to be more conducive to hurricanes than shallow warm water because as a hurricane moves overhead, its winds churn up the water in a process called upwelling, which brings deeper water up to the surface," Kimberly Wood, an assistant professor in the at Mississippi State University, told Bloomberg. "When that deeper water is a similar and also high temperature to the original sea surface temperature, that 'new' water will continue to provide fuel to the storm." The good news is that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has tools to measure temperature and salinity (another factor in intensification) conditions up to two kilometers deep. In the case of Ida, NOAA scientists realized there was no cold water deep down beneath the storm, which helped them predict that it would quickly gain steam. Read more at Bloomberg.
8-30-21 All residents of South Lake Tahoe ordered to evacuate as Caldor Fire flames inch closer
On Monday afternoon, Highway 50 leading out of South Lake Tahoe, California, was jam packed with vehicles, as 22,000 residents — and thousands of visitors on vacation in the resort town — left under a mandatory evacuation order triggered by the Caldor Fire. The order came on Monday morning, about 12 hours after an evacuation warning was issued. Flames from the Caldor Fire were about seven miles away from South Lake Tahoe early Monday, and officials wanted the town cleared before there wasn't enough time to get everyone out. With so many vehicles on the road, traffic was at a standstill for much of the afternoon, and South Lake Tahoe Police Officer Travis Cabral posted on social media that law enforcement "did expect" that to happen, "which is why we started the evacuation phase the way we did." By 5 p.m. PT, the traffic cleared, The Mercury News reports. As of Monday, the Caldor Fire has scorched more than 177,000 acres, and is just 14 percent contained. In addition to the residents of South Lake Tahoe, more than 28,000 other people living in El Dorado County are also under mandatory evacuation orders. Firefighters are working to keep the blaze away from South Lake Tahoe, and Sgt. Eric Palmberg with the El Dorado Sheriff's Office told reporters on Monday that he hoped "we made these evacuations as a precaution and that they weren't really needed, but it's always better to err on the side of caution."
8-30-21 California's national forests to close temporarily because of fire risk
With the risk of fire high across California, federal officials announced on Monday that the state's national forests — 20 million acres of land — will be closed temporarily, starting at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday. Officials said by keeping visitors out, it lowers the chances of new blazes starting and people getting stuck in the forest should a wildfire break out. With the exception of Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, every national forest in California is managed by the USDA Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Region, and Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien said officials did "not take this decision lightly, but this is the best choice for public safety. It is especially hard with the approaching Labor Day weekend, when so many people enjoy our national forests." There are several major fires burning in California, and officials said they are concerned that there is "significantly limited" resources to fight any new blazes. There is also dry brush across the state that could fuel fires, and meteorologists do not expect the hot and windy weather conditions hitting parts of the state to slow down until late fall, the Los Angeles Times reports. The temporary closure order is set to be lifted at 11:59 p.m. on Sept. 17. Because the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest isn't part of the Pacific Southwest Region, it will not close down under the order.
8-30-21 Hurricane Ida: One million people in Louisiana without power
A million people are without power in Louisiana as Hurricane Ida is downgraded to a tropical storm. The storm brought 150mph (240km/h) winds when it made landfall and those people who did not flee have been advised to shelter in place. One person was killed when a tree fell on their home in Ascension Parish, in the Baton Rouge area. Ida will test New Orleans' flood defences, strengthened after Hurricane Katrina killed 1,800 people in 2005. President Joe Biden said Ida would be "life-threatening", with immense devastation likely beyond the coasts. Over one million homes in Louisiana are without power, and Mr Biden said it could take weeks to restore supplies. The president has declared a major disaster in the state, releasing extra funds for rescue and recovery efforts. Ida gathered strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico during the weekend. It made landfall on Sunday south of New Orleans as a category four hurricane - meaning it would cause severe damage to buildings, trees and power lines. As it moves inland, Ida's winds have dropped to 95mph (153km/h), meaning it is now a category one storm. In some places the storm surge could be as high as 16ft (4.8m), potentially submerging parts of the low-lying coastline. Ida came ashore on the 16th anniversary of Katrina, a category three storm. Since then, billions of dollars have been spent on flood defences, known as levees. So far, the levees have held, though a flash flood warning is in place for New Orleans. "There is no doubt that the coming days and weeks are going to be extremely difficult for our state and many, many people are going to be tested in ways that we can only imagine today. But I can also tell you that as a state we've never been more prepared," state Governor John Bel Edwards said. High winds tore part of the roof off a hospital in the town of Cut Off, Louisiana, just inland from the Gulf of Mexico. The hospital said it had suffered "significant damage" but that its patients were safe. The impact of climate change on the frequency of storms is still unclear, but increased sea surface temperatures warm the air above, making more energy available to drive hurricanes.
8-30-21 New Orleans could be without power for up to 3 weeks after Hurricane Ida
All of New Orleans was without power Sunday after Hurricane Ida slammed Louisiana, and for some customers, restoring it could take weeks. Entergy Louisiana warned Sunday that customers who were in the "direct path" of the storm may be out of power for up to three weeks, Bloomberg reports. "While 90 percent of customers will be restored sooner, customers in the hardest-hit area should plan for the possibility of experiencing extended power outages," Entergy said. More than one million people in Louisiana and Mississippi were without power by Monday morning, and Entergy said it's "currently working to assess damage and identify a path forward to restore power," The Washington Post reports. The company previously said that power was out across all of New Orleans due to "catastrophic transmission damage." The National Hurricane Center said Monday that Ida had been downgraded to a tropical storm. Jefferson Parish President Cynthia Lee Sheng told NBC News, "We are ending what was a terrifying night for many individuals waiting for their rescue. Today is the day we are going to see the damage." FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell also told CNN that "we're hearing about widespread structural damage" in Louisiana, noting that Ida was a category 4 hurricane for "several hours." "I don't think that there could have been a worse path for this storm," Criswell said. "It's going to have some significant impacts."
8-30-21 California's Caldor Fire prompts evacuation warnings for South Lake Tahoe
Fire officials in California extended evacuation warnings to the southern end of Lake Tahoe on Sunday night and issued mandatory warnings for communities just south of South Tahoe as the Caldor Fire pushed northward to within a few miles of the Lake Tahoe Basin. "Today's been a rough day and there's no bones about it," said Jeff Marsoleis, forest supervisor for El Dorado National Forest. After earlier hopes of stopping the fire's eastward spread, "today it let loose." And fire crews are bracing for worse weather ahead. The National Weather Service on Sunday issued red flag warnings for Monday and Tuesday, predicting gusty wind conditions in the bone-dry Northern Sierra and temperatures that could reach into the triple digits. The mountainous terrain is making containing the fire hard, but fighting it in the Tahoe Basin would be treacherous, due to canyons and deep drainage fissures, fire behavior analyst Steven Volmer tells the Los Angeles Times. "We have a saying: Where water flows, fire goes." The Caldor Fire, which broke out Aug. 14, was 19 percent contained and has burned nearly 245 square miles and more than 600 structures, The Associated Press reports. Thousands more are under threat. More than 15,2000 firefighters are battling more than a dozen large fires across the state, including the second-largest fire in recorded California history, the Dixie Fire, now 48 percent contained. The Pentagon said Saturday it is sending 200 Army soldiers, eight modified Air Force C-130 aircraft, and other aid from Washington state down to Northern California to aid the firefighting effort.
8-30-21 Paris speed limit falls to 30km/h
A speed limit of 30km/h (18mph) has come into force across Paris in a drive to improve the environment. The aim is to cut accidents, and reduce noise and pollution. A poll suggests 59% of Parisians are in favour of the measure, but some businesses are among those opposed. Two-thirds of the city was already subject to the limit before Monday's change, which has been pushed through by Mayor Anne Hidalgo. Several key routes will remain exempt though. These include the Champs Elysées (50km/h) and the main ring road, the Boulevard Périférique (70 km/h). Similar limits are already in force Grenoble and Lille, as well as Bilbao in Spain, and the Belgian capital, Brussels. The measure is being introduced now so Parisians can get used to it during a period of lighter summer holiday traffic, city officials say. It's one of several policies proposed by Ms Hidalgo, who was re-elected last year, to wean Parisians off their cars. The number of street parking bays is being halved and most vehicles are expected to be banned from the city centre next year. Cycle lanes have increased and streets are being redesigned to make districts more pedestrian friendly. Ms Hidalgo, a Socialist, wants a greener city as Paris prepares to host the Olympic Games in 2024. Opponents include Pierre Chasseray, from campaign group 40 Million Motorists, who disputes the idea that pollution and noise are reduced by such measures. "There is no reduction in sound, there is no reduction in pollution and there is no reduction in accidents, except for a reduction in accidents which is the same as in all the other communes," he told AFP news agency. A speed awareness campaign would have been more effective, he said. Another campaign group, SaccageParis, or Trash Paris, accuses the authorities of allowing Paris to deteriorate through unkempt streets and what it sees as ugly cycle lanes.
8-29-21 Hurricane Ida: Thousands flee as category four storm bears down on Louisiana
Tens of thousands of people are fleeing the US state of Louisiana as Hurricane Ida closes in from the Gulf of Mexico. Ida is now a category four hurricane, one below the highest level, with up to 150mph (240km/h) sustained winds. It is expected to make landfall on Sunday, bringing a "life-threatening" storm surge. Ida is likely to be stronger than Hurricane Katrina, which devastated much of New Orleans in 2005. Traffic jams clogged motorways as residents heeded orders to evacuate. The National Hurricane Center said "potentially catastrophic wind damage and flooding rainfall will impact portions of the northern Gulf coast beginning later this morning" (Sunday). The current 150mph maximum sustained wind speed is only 7mph short of a category five hurricane. No category five has ever hit Louisiana. Governor John Bel Edwards warned residents on Saturday: "Your window of time is closing. By the time you go to bed tonight you need to be where you intend to ride the storm out and you need to be as prepared as you can be, because weather will start to deteriorate very quickly tomorrow." The governor of neighbouring Mississippi has declared a state of emergency. President Joe Biden said Ida was "turning into a very, very dangerous storm" and the federal government was ready to provide help. The NHC said that, at 12:00 GMT on Sunday, Ida was about 50 miles south-west of the mouth of the Mississippi river and was moving north-west at about 15mph. While still over water, it has the capacity to strengthen even further. Ida earlier battered part of Cuba, bringing down trees and tearing off roofs, while Jamaica suffered heavy rains. No-one was reported killed. Sunday marks the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans after making landfall as a category three. Katrina flooded 80% of the city and killed more than 1,800 people. With stronger storm defences now in place, there's hope that levees in New Orleans will be able to withstand the impact of the hurricane. But experts warn that if storm surges hit at a time that coincides with high tides, sea water could flood the New Orleans levee system and enter the city again.
8-28-21 Hurricane Ida: New Orleans braces for possible direct hit
The mayor of New Orleans has called for residents to evacuate unprotected city neighbourhoods as Hurricane Ida bears down on the Louisiana coastline. "Now is the time," said New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell in a Friday news conference, calling for those living outside the city levee system to flee. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says Ida is likely to be an extremely dangerous major hurricane by Sunday. It has already brought heavy rain and high winds to western Cuba. The impact of climate change on the frequency of storms is still unclear, but we know that increased sea surface temperatures warm the air above and make more energy available to drive hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons. As a result, they are likely to be more intense with more extreme rainfall. Forecasters say the hurricane will be at category 4 strength by the time it reaches the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday. "This will be a life-altering storm for those who aren't prepared," National Weather Service meteorologist Benjamin Schott said, quoted by the Associated Press. More than 80 oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico have been evacuated and half the region's oil and gas output has been suspended. Ida passed over western Cuba on Friday, hitting the Isle of Youth with maximum sustained winds of 75mph (120km/h). Coincidentally, Sunday marks the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005 after making landfall as a category 3. Katrina flooded 80% of the city and killed more than 1,800 people. Dangerous storm surges are also forecast both in Cuba and the US. Experts say that if they hit at a time that coincides with high tides, sea water could flood over the New Orleans levee system and into the city. The levees are a system of flood walls, built to protect low-lying New Orleans, and strengthened after the devastation of 2005. Warm waters across the Gulf of Mexico are fuelling the storm's rapid intensification, the agency said, adding that flooding could also affect the neighbouring states of Mississippi and Alabama.
8-27-21 Tropical Storm Ida expected to strengthen into a 'dangerous major hurricane'
Tropical Storm Ida is strengthening as it heads toward the Gulf Coast, and it's expected to become a major hurricane. The National Hurricane Center warned Friday that the tropical storm is "expected to be a dangerous major hurricane when it reaches the northern Gulf Coast on Sunday," and the "risk of hurricane-force winds continues to increase, especially along portions of the Louisiana coast, including metropolitan New Orleans." The NHC also said that there is an increasing risk of "life-threatening storm surge" along the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama coasts. According to Weather.com, Ida is currently in the Caribbean Sea and moving northwest toward Cuba, and "life-threatening storm surge and hurricane conditions are expected" in parts of western Cuba on Friday, the NHC said. Ida is the ninth named storm of this year's Atlantic Hurricane season, according to The New York Times. On Thursday evening, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) announced he was declaring a state of emergency as the storm approached, writing, "The people of Louisiana have been tested time and time again, and while it is my hope and prayer that this storm will not bring destruction to our state, we should be prepared to take the brunt of the severe weather."
8-27-21 Climate change linked to risk of viruses jumping species in the
Climate change may increase the risk of viruses becoming capable of infecting new hosts in the Arctic, suggests a study of genetic material from a Canadian lake. Canadian scientists found that an increase in glacier melt at Lake Hazen, the Arctic’s largest lake by volume and a location in George Clooney’s film The Midnight Sky, was linked to a greater risk of viral spillover, where a virus infects a new host for the first time. Melting glaciers were considered a proxy of climate change, which is causing their retreat globally. The team from the University of Ottawa, led by Audrée Lemieux, gathered soil and sediment from the lake and sequenced the RNA and DNA in the samples. The researchers found signatures of viruses and their potential hosts including animals, plants and fungi. They then ran an algorithm recently developed by a different research team, which assesses the chance of coevolution or symbiosis among unrelated groups of organisms. The algorithm allowed the team to gauge the risk of spillover, and suggested this was higher in lake samples nearer to the point where larger tributaries – carrying more meltwater from nearby glaciers – flow into the lake. “Our main finding is we show that for this specific lake, the spillover risk increases with the melting of glaciers. It’s not the same thing as predicting pandemics – we’re not crying wolf,” says Lemieux. She says the risk of infectious diseases emerging from the Arctic is low today due to the region’s paucity of “bridge vectors”, such as mosquitoes, that can spread viruses to other species. However, the researchers note that climate change not only melts glaciers, but is also expected to cause more species to move northwards, which they warn “could have dramatic effect in the High Arctic”. Exactly how glacier melt might increase spillover risk isn’t entirely clear from simply running the algorithm. Co-author Stéphane Aris-Brosou says one idea is that extra run-off simply increases the mixing of species because their local environment is disturbed, physically bringing together viruses and potential new hosts that wouldn’t otherwise encounter each other.
8-27-21 Climate Basics: Can carbon offsetting help the planet?
Is it really possible to buy your way out of creating harmful greenhouse gases that cause climate change? Governments, companies and individuals already participate in carbon offsetting schemes that try to balance their emissions by finding other ways to reduce carbon in the atmosphere by an equivalent amount. BBC Reality Check's Chris Morris considers whether carbon offsetting is a viable method to tackle climate change.
8-27-21 An incredibly resilient coral in the Great Barrier Reef offers hope for the future
The reef’s widest coral has survived for hundreds of years and weathered many bleaching events. A coral the size of a carousel is the widest known in the Great Barrier Reef. Found just off the coast of Goolboodi Island in Northeast Australia, this reef-building Porites measures 10.4 meters in diameter — earning it the nickname Muga dhambi, or “big coral,” from the Indigenous custodians of the island, the Manbarra people. In addition to its record-setting width, Muga dhambi stands a little over 5 meters tall, making it the sixth tallest coral in the Great Barrier Reef, researchers report August 19 in Scientific Reports. “It’s a stand-alone coral … and we don’t see many that size,” says marine scientist Nathan Cook of Reef Ecologic, a climate and environmental consulting firm in Townsville, Australia. Based on Muga dhambi’s height and estimated growth rate, Cook and colleagues calculate that the creamy brown, boulderlike coral is about 421 to 438 years old. It predates European colonization of Australia and has survived as many as 80 cyclones (SN: 5/28/20) and 99 coral bleaching events (SN: 7/4/21), the team says. Many of the recent stories about corals in the Great Barrier Reef read like obituaries, Cook says. “Knowing that these things [like Muga dhambi] exist, and have persisted for a long time, helps to provide a renewed sense of hope for the future.”
8-26-21 Climate change: Europe's 2020 heat reached 'troubling' level
Last year was the warmest on record across Europe, breaking the previous high mark by a considerable distance, say scientists. Temperatures across the region were more than 1.9C above the long-term average between 1981 and 2010. The State of the Climate 2020 report from the American Meteorological Society says temperatures in the Arctic are also rising rapidly. The temperature over land there was the highest since records began in 1900. Reports earlier this year had confirmed that 2020 was Europe's warmest on record and one of the three hottest globally. This new data shows that Europe's temperature margin over previous years was significantly greater than previously thought. Not only was the year 1.9C above the long-term average, it was more than 0.5C greater than the previous high mark. "This level of difference to the previous long-term average, which is a large difference, is something that is concerning," said Dr Robert Dunn, a senior climate scientist at the UK Met Office. "It is something to sit up and take notice of, but it's not just the temperatures that are increasing, the extreme events, the heat waves we're seeing this year, and last year as well. We're seeing these responses across the world." Other researchers agreed that the scale of the record-breaking heat in Europe was troubling. "The amount by which the previous record has been exceeded should worry us all," said Prof Gabi Hegerl, professor of climate system science at the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved with the study. "European temperatures are well measured and can be tracked back to the beginning of industrialisation and beyond, using documentary evidence and proxy records. This long-term context emphasises how unusual this warmth is." The warmth across Europe brought huge temperature differences from the long-term average in some countries with Estonia, Finland and Latvia all recording anomalies of 2.4C. Overall, Europe has seen its five warmest years on record all occur since 2014. One other area of the world experiencing rapid warming is the Arctic.
8-26-21 Light pollution from street lamps linked to insect loss
Scientists say light pollution may be contributing to "worrying" declines in insects seen in recent decades. n a UK study, artificial street lights were found to disrupt the behaviour of nocturnal moths, reducing caterpillars numbers by half. Modern LED streetlights appeared to have the biggest impact. There is growing evidence that insect populations are shrinking due to the likes of climate change, habitat loss and pesticides. Factors are complex and varied, including the steady loss of forests, heathlands, meadows and marshes, overuse of pesticides, climate change and pollution of rivers and lakes. The use of artificial lights at night-time has been proposed as another driver of insect decline, although the scale remains unclear. The researchers say their study, published in Science Advances, is the strongest evidence yet that light pollution can have detrimental impacts on local insect populations, with consequences for the birds and other wildlife that rely on caterpillars for food. "In a local setting we can now be quite confident that light pollution is important, but what's less clear is if we're looking at a whole landscape," said lead researcher Douglas Boyes of the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. "If insects are in trouble - as we believe they are, and have evidence to support that - perhaps we should be doing all we can to reduce these negative influences." The researchers think street lights may deter nocturnal moths from laying their eggs or put the insects at risk of being spotted and consumed by predators such as bats. In turn, caterpillars that are born under streetlights, particularly LEDs, alter their feeding habits. But there are practical solutions that don't compromise public safety, they say, including dimming streetlights in the early hours, fitting motion sensors or using colour filters to cut out the most harmful wavelengths.
8-25-21 Wildfires give a window into our planet's future
IF EVERYTHING goes to plan, by the time this is published, I will be on a beach. My family and I are heading to Pelion, on the Greek mainland. Ah, Greece… how I have missed you! I feel a bit guilty about jetting off at this difficult time, but the emissions are offset, we are all double-jabbed and will act responsibly. There’s still a lot that can go wrong, of course. Positive covid-19 tests. Sudden changes to quarantine rules. A careless failure to jump through a bureaucratic hoop. And, of course, wildfires. The village we are staying in is directly across the water from the infernos raging on the island of Evia. It looks like our destination remains untouched, but the north coast of Evia is visible from southern Pelion, and my holiday won’t be sheltered from the fire. Many people will be getting a similar sight and smell of the blazing world we have created. Wildfires have been sweeping across Greece, Italy and Turkey as southern Europe grapples with the worst heatwave for three decades. This follows devastating fire seasons in the Pacific Northwest, Amazon, Australia and even the Arctic. The world appears to be going up in flames. Some scientists have called this new normal the “pyrocene”. It now feels natural to look upon such scenes and see the infernal hand of climate change. Indeed, many newspapers illustrated their front-page stories about the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which concluded that humans are “unequivocally” to blame for global warming, with pictures of the Evia fires. But we should be wary about such simplistic connections. It might seem obvious that a hotter world will also be a fierier one; scientists have been sounding that alarm for years. But there is more to the pyrocene than heat, and we ignore other factors at our peril.
8-25-21 Caterpillar populations decline 50 per cent in areas with streetlights
Areas with LED streetlights have up to 50 per cent fewer moth caterpillars living in the immediate vicinity of the light, potentially having huge impacts on an area’s wildlife ecosystem. “We don’t think of light pollution as big a driver of biodiversity [loss] as climate change,” says Douglas Boyes at the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology. “But that doesn’t mean it’s not a significant factor.” Prior research about the impact of artificial light has looked at adult insects like moths, which are able to move around the landscape and could be double-counted. Moth caterpillars barely move more than a few metres in their lifetimes, meaning it is easier to be more precise in measuring light’s impact on them. Boyes and his colleagues used Google Maps and Google Street View to identify parts of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire in the UK where there were pairs of habitat areas that appeared identical, except that one had streetlights while the other didn’t. They then counted the number of caterpillars in each 14-metre-long habitat by beating the hedgerows and sweeping grass margins, finding about eight different species of moth caterpillars. The team also noted the type of streetlight – whether it was an LED light or an older, yellow, sodium lamp – and the intensity of light it produced. Sites where street lighting was present had 47 per cent fewer caterpillars in the hedgerows and 33 per cent fewer caterpillars in the grass margins. LED lights had a more pronounced effect than sodium lamps. Having a lower number of caterpillars is expected to have effects on future moth counts and on other wildlife nearby. Small birds, hedgehogs and predatory insects feed on the caterpillars, while larger birds and bats feed on adult moths. “[Moths] are also really important pollinators, so there could be knock-on effects,” says Boyes.
8-25-21 Madagascar on the brink of climate change-induced famine
Madagascar is on the brink of experiencing the world's first "climate change famine", according to the United Nations, which says tens of thousands of people are already suffering "catastrophic" levels of hunger and food insecurity after four years without rain. The drought - the worst in four decades - has devastated isolated farming communities in the south of the country, leaving families to scavenge for insects to survive. "These are famine-like conditions and they're being driven by climate not conflict," said the UN World Food Programme's Shelley Thakral. The UN estimates that 30,000 people are currently experiencing the highest internationally recognised level of food insecurity - level five - and there are concerns the number affected could rise sharply as Madagascar enters the traditional "lean season" before harvest. "This is unprecedented. These people have done nothing to contribute to climate change. They don't burn fossil fuels… and yet they are bearing the brunt of climate change," said Ms Thakral. In the remote village of Fandiova, in Amboasary district, families recently showed a visiting WFP team the locusts that they were eating. "I clean the insects as best I can but there's almost no water," said Tamaria, a mother of four, who goes by one name. "My children and I have been eating this every day now for eight months because we have nothing else to eat and no rain to allow us to harvest what we have sown," she added. "Today we have absolutely nothing to eat except cactus leaves," said Bole, a mother of three, sitting on the dry earth. She said her husband had recently died of hunger, as had a neighbour, leaving her with two more children to feed. "What can I say? Our life is all about looking for cactus leaves, again and again, to survive." Although Madagascar experiences frequent droughts and is often affected by the change in weather patterns caused by El Niño, experts believe climate change can be directly linked to the current crisis. "With the latest IPCC report we saw that Madagascar has observed an increase in aridity. And that is expected to increase if climate change continues.
8-25-21 Climate change: Consumer 'confusion' threatens net zero homes plan
Government plans to decarbonise homes are too complicated and confusing, according to a coalition of consumer and industry groups. They've written to the prime minister to say that current schemes to adapt homes go wrong far too often. The open letter, from Citizens Advice and others, calls for more financial support for making changes. Otherwise, they argue, efforts to curb emissions from millions of homes in the UK will be at risk. Tackling energy use in the residential sector is seen as key to the government's aim of getting to net zero by 2050. Net zero involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible and then balancing out any further releases by absorbing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere by, for example, planting trees. The carbon generated by home heating amounts to about 20% of all UK emissions. But the government's current efforts to help householders to adapt their homes are "too complicated", and too often things go wrong, say industry and consumer groups. The coalition includes Citizens Advice, the Federation of Master Builders, the Aldersgate Group and Which? They argue that the process of installing low-carbon heating, upgrading insulation or putting in smart technologies is "time consuming, confusing and stressful". They cite the example of the Green Homes Grant, a scheme that was designed to help people insulate their homes. It was scrapped in March this year after reaching just 10% of the houses that the government had promised would be improved. According to the coalition, simply choosing the right technology or finding a reputable installer demands huge amounts of time, knowledge and effort. Far too often, things go wrong with poor installation and technologies not working as expected. "Our evidence is clear. Right now, making green changes to homes is too confusing and too often things go wrong for those trying to do the right thing," said Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice. "The public is behind the net zero transition, but they need the right information and tools, particularly when it comes to adapting their home. "By getting things right now, the government can give people the confidence to make changes and play their part in getting to net zero."
8-25-21 Could this solar farm be a climate change solution?
Experts say rapid innovative solutions are needed to end our dependency on fossil fuels. Could a new project in the Swiss Alps provide an answer? Switzerland is committed to being climate neutral by 2050 and there are already plans to recreate the floating solar farm across the country and abroad.
8-24-21 Extreme heat and drought are crushing key crops and punishing U.S. farmers
As a summer full of extreme weather events broils on, U.S. farmers are watching their cash crops wither and blister under high heat and extreme drought conditions, The Wall Street Journal reports. The price for staples like corn and wheat continues to rise amid increased demand, but farmers' ability to cash in on the opportunity remains hampered, first due to COVID-19 shutdowns and now to hot, dry weather affecting their output. For instance, about 63 percent of the country's spring wheat crop is currently in "poor or very poor condition, versus 6 percent at this time last year," writes the Journal. Meanwhile, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska all "contain areas of extreme drought," and North Dakota and Minnesota in particular are experiencing "near-record lows in soil moisture," per the Journal. The USDA has consequently scaled back its expectations for U.S. crop production in 2021, and, in turn, domestic inventories are shrinking. "The impact of the drought is clear," said Chip Flory, leader of the western leg of the Pro Farmer Crop Tour. "There's no way around that." It's not just harvests in the U.S. that are suffering — worldwide grain inventories are "dwindling," reports the Journal. Drought has impacted both corn production in Brazil and wheat production in Russia, with the soil moisture in Russian wheat-growing regions at its lowest levels in a decade, says Andrey Sizov, head of a Russian agricultural research firm. "This season, dry July weather and smaller wheat area numbers were a game-changer for the Russian crop," he said. Read more at The Wall Street Journal.
8-24-21 Caldor Fire, moving closer to Lake Tahoe, threatens 17,000 structures
California's Caldor Fire is moving closer to Lake Tahoe, leaving firefighters, residents, and the recreational area's many resorts on edge. The blaze ignited on Aug.14 a few miles south of Grizzly Flats in El Dorado County. Since then, it has burned 184 square miles and destroyed 455 homes. Firefighters have been working nonstop to try to put out the fire, but it is only 9 percent contained and threatening more than 17,000 structures. A dozen major fires are burning in California now, with 14,000 firefighters trying to put them out. Heavy smoke is drifting into northern Nevada, and schools in Reno were closed on Monday and Tuesday because it's not safe for children to breathe in the air. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Chief Thom Porter said on Monday the Caldor Fire is the country's top priority for firefighting resources. "It is knocking on the door to the Lake Tahoe basin," he added. "We have all efforts in place to keep it out of the basin, but we do need to also be aware that it is a possibility based on the way the fires have been burning." Porter said he thinks the fire can be diverted from Lake Tahoe, but conceded that "Mother Nature has taken over and taken fires like the Dixie to places that I never thought was possible." The Dixie Fire, burning since July 13, has scorched 1,142 square miles in Northern California and destroyed 1,262 buildings.
8-24-21 Climate change made Europe’s flash floods in July more likely
July’s floods were a rare event, but such events will become more likely with additional warming. Climate change has increased the likelihood of heavy downpours in Western Europe such as the July rains that led to devastating flash floods, researchers affiliated with the World Weather Attribution network report August 23. Such extreme rains are 1.2 to 9 times more likely to happen — and those downpours are 3 to 19 percent heavier — as a result of human-caused climate change, the team found. The World Weather Attribution conducts quick analyses of extreme events to assess the contribution of climate change (SN: 7/7/21). The new study focused on two regions where record-setting rains fell July 12–15 and triggered floods that killed more than 200 people. In a single day, an average 93 millimeters of rain fell near Germany’s Ahr and Erft rivers; in just two days, 106 millimeters of rain fell in Belgium’s Meuse River region. With many river measurement stations destroyed, the researchers focused on assessing the contribution of climate change to the intense rainfall using climate simulations comparing conditions with and without human-caused climate change. That intense rainfall might occur once every 400 years under current climate conditions, but those odds are likely to increase as the world continues to warm, said coauthor Maarten van Aalst on August 23 at a news conference on the report. It’s “still a rare event, but a rare event we should prepare for,” said van Aalst, a climate and disaster risk researcher at the University of Twente in the Netherlands and the director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. That finding is consistent with data cited in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment report, which notes that as global temperatures continue to rise, western and central Europe will see more intense rainfall events (SN: 8/9/21).
8-24-21 Climate change: Europe's extreme rains made more likely by humans
The heavy rainfall behind deadly flooding in Europe in July was made more likely by climate change, scientists say. The floods in Germany, Belgium and other parts killed at least 220 people as towns and villages were swamped. Researchers say global heating made rainfall events like this up to nine times more likely in Western Europe. Downpours in the region are 3-19% more intense because of human induced warming. The dramatic and deadly floods that hit Germany, Belgium and elsewhere in mid-July were a shock to weather forecasters and local authorities. Lives were swept away and houses, motorways and railway lines destroyed by the rapidly rushing waters. The severe flooding was caused by heavy rainfall over a period of 1-2 days on already sodden ground, combined with local hydrological factors such as land cover and infrastructure. To analyse the impact of climate change in events like this, researchers from the World Weather Attribution group focused on the heavy rainfall that preceded the floods. They did this in part because some of the hydrological monitoring systems, which would have given them more accurate information about the floods, were destroyed by the waters. The rainfall data showed that in the areas around the Ahr and Erft rivers in Germany and in the Meuse region of Belgium, intense downpours brought 90mm of rain in a single day. While the scientists found a trend of increasing rainfall in these small regions, making a deduction about the influence of climate change was challenging, as there was also a large amount of natural variability from year to year in the local rainfall patterns. To really see the influence of rising temperatures, the researchers had to broaden their analysis and look at a larger section of Western Europe, including eastern France, western Germany, eastern Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and northern Switzerland.
8-24-21 Tennessee flash floods kill 22 with dozens missing
At least 22 people have been killed and dozens more are missing following flash floods in the US state of Tennessee. Rescue crews are still searching for dozens of people in rural Humphreys County, which is west of Nashville. The record-breaking flooding began on Saturday, submerging entire roads and taking out telephone and power lines. Emergency workers are searching door-to-door in the worst-hit areas, with rescuers also combing through the debris of homes that were washed away. The names of the missing have been listed on a notice board at an emergency centre in Humphreys County, with relatives left fearing the worst. On the county's Facebook page, people have been desperately seeking any information that could help locate their missing friends and relatives. "My niece was swept away," one woman wrote. "Her family is still looking for her. They were told she was found but it wasn't her." "Me and my family are looking for our 6-year-old cousin," another person wrote. "Any information is appreciated." Most of the missing are from the town of Waverly. The state's Governor Bill Lee visited on Sunday. "The loss of life and property damage is devastating," he said. "Our hearts are with the many Tennesseans experiencing loss and heartbreak." One woman, Shirley Foster, discovered that a friend had died and approached Governor Lee as he walked through the town. "I thought I was over the shock of all this," she told him, according to the Associated Press. "I'm just tore up over my friend. My house is nothing, but my friend is gone. Thousands of people in Humphreys County have been left without power, while a reunification centre has been set up at a school. People have been asked to donate items to help those displaced. Emergency officials expect the death toll to rise in the coming days.
8-23-21 Nature crisis: Talks resume on global plan to protect biodiversity
UN negotiators have resumed work on the text of world-wide plan to protect nature and species for the next decade. The draft Global Biodiversity Framework aims to conserve at least 30% of the world's land and oceans. It will also push to eliminate plastic waste and cut pesticide use by at least two thirds. The pact was due to be agreed at a UN biodiversity summit in China this October, but face to face talks have been delayed until April next year. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a UN treaty that has been ratified by 195 countries plus the European Union. The United States signed the agreement in 1993 but has failed to ratify it and remains outside the pact. Over the past three decades, countries have agreed a series of plans under the CBD to protect nature at the global level. More than a decade ago negotiators agreed goals to preserve plants and species, in the decade from 2010-2020. However, the nations of the world failed to fully meet any of the 20 targets which included protecting coral reefs and tackling pollution. Negotiators are now working on a new, enhanced plan that would set goals for the next decade and beyond. The framework document had been due for discussion between government ministers at the biggest conservation meeting in a decade in Kunming, China. The gathering, known as COP15, was due in October 2020, but has been delayed three times due to the Covid pandemic. There will now be a two-part meeting, with the first element taking place virtually this October. The second part with two weeks of face to face meetings will convene next April in China. It's expected that the key outcome of the October discussions will be the Kunming Declaration. The draft of the new agreement has already been published and proposes 21 targets for 2030 including:
- At least 30% of the land and seas should be conserved through effective, equitably managed measures;
- There should be a 50% or greater reduction in the rate of introduction of invasive alien species, with controls to eliminate or reduce their impacts;
- Nutrients lost to the environment should be cut by at least half;
- Reduce pesticide use by at least two thirds;
- Eliminate the discharge of plastic waste;
- Nature's contribution to global efforts to cut greenhouse gases should be increased;
- Redirect or eliminate incentives harmful to biodiversity by at least $50b a year;
- An increase in the funding for the conservation of nature to at least $200b a year.
8-23-21 Tennessee flash floods kill 22 with dozens missing
At least 22 people have been killed and dozens more are missing following flash floods in the US state of Tennessee. Rescue crews are searching for more than 50 people in rural Humphreys County, which is west of Nashville. The record-breaking flooding began on Saturday, submerging entire roads and taking out telephone and power lines. Emergency workers are searching door-to-door in the worst-hit areas, with rescuers also combing through the debris of homes that were washed away. The names of the missing have been listed on a notice board at an emergency centre in Humphreys County, with relatives left fearing the worst. On the county's Facebook page, people have been desperately seeking any information that could help locate their missing friends and relatives. "My niece was swept away," one woman wrote. "Her family is still looking for her. They were told she was found but it wasn't her." "Me and my family are looking for our 6-year-old cousin," another person wrote. "Any information is appreciated." Most of the missing are from the town of Waverly. The state's Governor Bill Lee visited on Sunday. "The loss of life and property damage is devastating," he said. "Our hearts are with the many Tennesseans experiencing loss and heartbreak." One woman, Shirley Foster, discovered that a friend had died and approached Governor Lee as he walked through the town. "I thought I was over the shock of all this," she told him, according to the Associated Press. "I'm just tore up over my friend. My house is nothing, but my friend is gone." Thousands of people in Humphreys County have been left without power, while a reunification centre has been set up at a school. People have been asked to donate items to help those displaced. Emergency officials expect the death toll to rise in the coming days. "I would expect, given the number of fatalities, that we're going to see mostly recovery efforts at this point rather than rescue efforts," Tennessee Emergency Management Director Patrick Sheehan said.
8-23-21 No councils in England introduced incentives for green number plates
Stripes of green began appearing on electric cars’ number plates last year, with the UK government hailing them as a step towards cleaner air in cities because they would “unlock” incentives from local authorities. However, freedom of information requests by New Scientist reveal that, nine months on from the introduction of green number plates, not one of England’s 343 local authorities has said it has offered any associated incentives. On 8 December 2020, transport minister Rachel Maclean said the UK government’s adoption of green stripes would not only raise awareness of the growing number of cleaner vehicles on roads, but “could also unlock a number of incentives for drivers”. A Department for Transport (DfT) press release added that they would help “motorists benefit from local initiatives such as cheaper parking and cost-free entry into zero-emission zones”. But the councils that responded to New Scientist’s enquiry said they hadn’t implemented any incentives that used green number plates. Several said they already had incentive schemes, such as free or discounted parking, in place for electric car drivers before the plates were introduced. Some said they were considering them for the future. Camden Council in London even went as far to say it wouldn’t contemplate using them as a basis for identifying an electric vehicle because it had seen a “few incidents” of them being used fraudulently. “It is very disappointing that no councils are currently offering incentives for vehicles displaying green number plates,” says Jack Cousens at the AA, a motoring organisation. “Several councils are working on providing some benefits, but we need more councils to step up to the plate and deliver them faster.” However, he says green number plates are a good idea and seeing more of them on roads will increase public interest in electric vehicles.
8-22-21 Algeria's desperate wildfire fight: Buckets and branches
The once verdant mountains of the Algerian region of Tizi Ouzou, peppered with olive groves and coniferous trees, were ravaged by more than 100 forest fires over the past fortnight. The heat could be felt from dozens of kilometres away. At a petrol service station in the province of Bouira, a man working the pump laboured with the suffocating atmosphere. "[The heat] is coming from over the mountain. I've never seen fires like this," he said, squinting into the distance. Forest fires are not a new phenomenon for Algeria, and the north-eastern region of Tizi Ouzou in particular. On the contrary, they are regular occurrences that first responders tussle with almost every year. Yet, in the midst of a heatwave, no rain, and unrelenting gusts of wind, this year's blazes caused extensive damage. Tens of thousands of hectares around the villages of Larbaâ Nath Irathen, Beni Douala and Aït Mesbah were completely engulfed in flames, leaving charred silhouettes of the evergreen trees that used to line the hills. Early reports conclude that this year's fires inflicted more damage to Algeria's forests than all the fires from 2008 to 2020 combined. At least 90 people died fighting the flames, including 33 military personnel who received honourable funeral processions - figures far higher than ever seen before. Despite fighting fires year after year, and boasting one of Africa's biggest military budgets, Algeria does not have amphibious firefighting airplanes. Instead, a handful of Mi-26 helicopters equipped with 1,000-litre buckets and overloaded fire engines tried their best to snuff out the infernos. As a result, the government had to resort to asking the European Union to help out, and, on 12 August, French President Emmanuel Macron quickly sent out two planes. The villagers of Beni Douala joined the fight with shovels, branches or whatever other supplies were readily available to them.
8-21-21 Climate change: Will I still be able to fly in a net zero world?
How much of an impact on UK lifestyles will the government's goal of net zero carbon emissions really have? A new report says that while the 2050 target will require significant efforts from consumers, these should not result in "massive lifestyle changes". The study from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change says that limitations on flying would need people to cut their travels by plane by 6% by 2035. For cars, the paper says that journeys should be cut by just 4%. Net zero is the phrase that is used to mean that any CO2 emissions that can't be curbed by clean technology by 2050 will either be buried using carbon capture and storage, or soaked up by plants and soils. This new report poses two key questions about that idea - what changes will people need to make in their lives to achieve it, and are they ready to make these changes? The study points out that most of the reductions in emissions to date have been achieved mainly by changing the nature of how we generate electricity. But reaching the UK's legally binding emissions targets for 2030, as well as hitting the net zero figure by 2050, will require "significant behavioural changes from consumers (and voters) across the country". A "politically deliverable" pathway to net zero, the Blair Institute report says, is one that "focuses on a limited number of specific behaviour changes, minimises the need for massive lifestyle changes such as an end to flying or mass conversion to plant-based diets." This view is shared by many environmentalists. "Most of the solutions needed to beat climate change can and should be designed to bring minimal disruption to our daily lives," said Caterina Brandmayr from Green Alliance. "Where some degree of change is required, politicians should be clear with the public about what's needed and make clear the wealth of benefits that would also follow, from cost savings to more comfortable homes and better health." So according to the study, the distance that people fly should be reduced by 6% per person, meaning most will still be able to fly when going on holiday in 30 years time. "I think you'll see changes to aviation by 2050, you'll see sustainable fuels and hydrogen, you'll see electric planes for shorter journeys," said Jess Ralston from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.
8-20-21 2021's extraordinary wildfires have released a record amount of CO2
Huge blazes from the north-east of Russia to North America have made global carbon dioxide emissions from wildfires this year the highest in nearly two decades of modern satellite records. “By many metrics, it has been an extraordinary fire season in many parts of the northern hemisphere,” says Daniel Swain at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We’ve seen big areas of fires before,” says Mark Parrington at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, “but for two months at a time, that’s not something we’ve seen so much of in the data.” This year started quietly for wildfires and looked to be following the trend of recent years, which have seen a global decline in their number, driven largely by land management changes in Africa, South America and Australia. That changed in July. While images of an anguished woman near a fire in Greece dominated media coverage of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on 9 August, 2021’s staggering wildfire CO2 emissions are largely due to blazes that took hold in July across a remote part of Russia. A heatwave has seen fires sweep across the boreal forests of Sakha in Siberia. The province’s capital city, Yakutsk, has been blanketed in thick, harmful smoke. By mid-August, the CO2 released by Sakha’s fires – a good proxy of how much vegetation has been burned – was more than double the previous high for June to August, according to Parrington’s satellite data. Fortunately, the fires now appear to be past their peak. The band of fire in the sub-Arctic region stands in contrast to the big story of the past two years, when heatwaves led to record fires in the Arctic itself, where fuel is usually too cold to burn. “Wherever that heatwave seems to land each year, we’re seeing a huge amount of fire activity,” says Thomas Smith at the London School of Economics. “That’s inevitably down to higher temperatures leading to the drying of fuels faster.”
8-19-21 Giant coral is the widest ever found in the Great Barrier Reef
A 10-metre-wide coral discovered in a remote part of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the widest ever found in the reef system, as well as one of the oldest. The dome-shaped coral was spotted by snorkelers undertaking a citizen science research project off the coast of Goolboodi, or Orpheus Island, in northern Queensland in March. It was named Muga dhambi – meaning “big coral” – by the Manbarra Traditional Owners of the region. Measuring 10 metres across and 5 metres high, Muga dhambi is the widest and sixth-tallest coral documented in the Great Barrier Reef. It belongs to the Porites genus of coral, which is commonly found in reefs worldwide and can sometimes grow to massive sizes. The largest known coral in the world is thought to be another dome-shaped Porites in American Samoa, which is about 22 metres across and 8 metres high, and is estimated to be between 420 and 652 years old. Muga dhambi is also very old. It is probably between 421 and 438 years old based on its size and growth rate, says Adam Smith at Reef Ecologic, an environmental consulting group in Queensland, who led a study of the coral. The Great Barrier Reef has experienced about 100 coral bleaching events and 80 major cyclones over the past four centuries, hinting that Muga dhambi may have genetic traits allowing it to survive these kinds of assaults, says Smith. If so, harnessing these traits could help save other corals that are at risk of being wiped out by climate change, he says. Big corals like Muga dhambi are crucial for reef ecosystems because they act as central hubs for reef life, says Smith. “It’s a bit like an apartment block in a town – it’s a real focus point, it’s where a whole lot of fish and other creatures gather to take shelter, rest, and feed.”
8-19-21 CFC ban bought us time to fight climate change, say scientists
A worldwide ban on ozone-depleting chemicals in 1987 has averted a climate catastrophe today, scientists say. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, banning chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons, has now simulated our "world avoided". Without the treaty, Earth and its flora would have been exposed to far more of the Sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has called it "perhaps the single most successful international agreement". Continued and increased use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) would have contributed to global air temperatures rising by an additional 2.5°C by the end of this century, the international team of scientists found. Part of that would have been caused directly by CFCs, which are also potent greenhouse gases. But the damage they cause the ozone layer would also have released additional planet-heating carbon dioxide - currently locked up in vegetation - into the atmosphere. "In past experiments, people have exposed plants - basically tortured plants - with high levels of UV," lead researcher Dr Paul Young, of the Lancaster Environment Centre, said. "They get very stunted - so they don't grow as much and can't absorb as much carbon." The scientists estimated there would be: 1. 580 billion tonnes less carbon stored in forests, other vegetation and soils 2. an extra 165-215 parts per million (40-50%) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. "What we see in our 'world-avoided experiment' is an additional 2.5C warming above any warming that we would get from greenhouse-gas increases," Dr Young said. But similar collective action to limit greenhouse-gas emissions was likely to be much more challenging. "The science was listened to and acted upon - we have not seen that to the same degree with climate change," he told BBC Radio 4's Inside Science programme. The experiment could appear to suggest hope for an "alternative future" that had avoided the worst consequences of climate change.
8-19-21 Haiti’s citizen seismologists helped track its devastating quake in real time
Two scientists explain new and ongoing efforts to understand Haiti’s seismic hazards. On August 14, a powerful magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck Haiti, triggering landslides, toppling buildings and killing at least 1,900 people, with over 9,000 people injured. Rescue workers are racing against time to find survivors in the rubble, hampered by heavy rains from Tropical Storm Grace that battered and flooded the country’s southern peninsula on August 16. Scientists, too, are rushing to the region to learn what they can from the devastation the quake left behind, in hopes of gaining a better understanding of the seismic hazards faced by the country. The epicenter of the quake was near Petit Trou de Nippes, a town on Haiti’s southern peninsula about 125 kilometers west of Port-au-Prince. The Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault zone passes straight through that peninsula, marking where the Caribbean tectonic plate to the south grinds against the small Gonâve tectonic plate to the north. Scientists often eye this fault zone as the likely source when a deadly quake strikes Haiti, such as the 2010 earthquake that killed at least 200,000 people (SN: 1/16/10). But several months after that quake, scientists discovered that its origin was on a previously unknown fault, near but not part of the well-known Enriquillo zone (SN: 8/11/10). The fault was within a region of faults not mapped before, in part due to a dearth of seismometers in Haiti. Since then, researchers have worked to increase seismic measurements and understanding of the country’s seismic hazards, including through the creation of a network of volunteer “citizen seismologists.” Data collected by those volunteers have already proved invaluable to tracking the most recent quake and its aftershocks, says geologist Dominique Boisson of the University of Haiti in Port-au-Prince.
8-18-21 The lost fossil meteorites carrying the secrets of Earth’s past
Fossil meteorites are one of the hardest geological treasures to discover – but now a spate of finds is revealing surprises about Earth’s ancient atmosphere. HE IS more or less over it now, but Birger Schmitz once had an odd habit. He would visit a train station or an airport – any public building with a large expanse of stone floor would do – and shuffle around on his hands and knees, eyes glued to the ground. “I have had problems with security guards,” he admits. “If you start crawling around in the dark corners of an airport, people become suspicious.” Schmitz is no terrorist. He is one of the world’s foremost hunters of fossil meteorites, ancient extra-terrestrial stones. It so happens that limestone floor tiles are an excellent place to look for them. Others prefer remote Australian deserts or Antarctic ice. But whether your searching ground is mundane or exotic, it is an inestimably difficult task. Only about two olive-sized meteorites fall on an area the size of Wales each year. Your odds of finding one aren’t good even if you know what to look for. Now imagine looking for a meteorite that fell millions of years agobefore being entombed in solid rock like the bones of a dinosaur. It is so difficult that it is almost laughable. But it isn’t impossible. That much has become apparent over the past few years, as fossil meteorite hunters have unearthed them, first in dribs and drabs, then in huge numbers. It turns out they have a unique story to tell: contemporary meteorites tell us about how the solar system grew into its current form. Fossil meteorites, on the other hand, hold information about the conditions on Earth during its deep history that we can’t get any other way. Distinguishing a meteorite from an Earth rock isn’t easy. Fresh falls often have a characteristic crust, their surfaces burnished to a shine during their passage through the atmosphere. Some are truly beautiful. But many, let’s face it, just look like rocks. The best way to decisively identify a meteorite is to delve into its chemistry. Large amounts of elements that are rare on Earth, such as nickel or iridium, are the surest sign of extraterrestrial origins.
8-18-21 Environmentalist Jonathon Porritt’s big idea to slow global warming
Regenerating natural systems will draw carbon out of the atmosphere and help tackle climate change. We must recarbonise Earth now, says Jonathon Porritt. COMMUNITY by affected community, the true nature of the climate emergency bears down on more and more people every year. Unprecedented wildfires and previously unthinkable floods, in what some glibly refer to as the new normal, prefigures a world of unpredictable, increasingly traumatic abnormality. As yet, however, neither extreme weather nor stronger warnings in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports has triggered a proper emergency response from politicians. As we head towards COP26, the big climate conference in Glasgow, UK, in November, incremental decarbonisation best sums up the name of their particular game: gradually reducing greenhouse gas emissions, investing a little bit more every year in low-carbon innovation and new technology. As with the pandemic, scientists are now exhorting politicians to level with their voters, to tell them how it really is – to explain why halving emissions of greenhouse gases over the next decade is an out-and-out imperative (as the science now tells us) if we are to avoid the horror story of runaway climate change. In essence, this means preventing those gases getting into the atmosphere in the first place by stopping the burning of all fossil fuels as fast as possible – not just in generating electricity, but in transport, heating buildings and manufacturing. We need to electrify pretty much everything and ensure the extra electricity we will need to power all the heat pumps and battery cars that ensue is 100 per cent renewable. However, this is only half the story. We have put so many billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the air over the past 30 years (much of which will hang around adding to the warming for many decades to come) that we are going to have to remove billions of tonnes of it to avoid that cumulative, long-term warming.
8-18-21 'Unprecedented' Caldor Fire burns 53,000 acres in Northern California
Northern California's Caldor Fire is burning uncontrollably in El Dorado County, with officials describing it as an "unprecedented" blaze. The fire has destroyed multiple structures, including a school and church, forced thousands to evacuate, and left two people injured. The blaze was sparked on Saturday evening south of Grizzly Flats, and by Tuesday morning had scorched 6,500 acres. The fire exploded on Tuesday thanks to high winds, and as of Wednesday morning had burned 53,772 acres. The Candor Fire has unusually high flame lengths, fire response spokesman Chris Vestal said, and is described in an incident report as being "unprecedented," the Los Angeles Times reports. It is at zero percent containment. Grizzly Flats and Leoni Meadows have both been "heavily impacted" by the fire, Mike Blankenheim with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said, and the full extent of the damage isn't yet known. The flames are spreading across rugged terrain, and there are more hand crews on the scene because the heavy machinery can't make it through some of the canyons, Blankenheim said. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
8-18-21 Ozone layer treaty will slow climate change by protecting plants
The international treaty to protect the ozone layer may have the inadvertent benefit of preventing up to a further 1°C of warming this century, through the protection it gives to plants. The Montreal protocol of 1987 banned ozone-destroying CFCs to stop an increase in ultraviolet radiation breaching Earth’s atmosphere and threatening the health of humans and ecosystems. The ozone “hole” has since begun to recover and is expected to have healed by the 2060s. The protocol has previously been described as “perhaps the single most successful international environmental agreement” by Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the UN. Scientists have now revealed a new way it may have helped us slow climate change, too. Past research has looked at the treaty’s impact on avoided cases of skin cancer, and also on reduced warming due to the fact that CFCs are potent greenhouse gases. Now, Paul Young at Lancaster University in the UK and colleagues are the first researchers to explore the global effects on plants of this lack of CFCs and the resulting change in UV radiation. They modelled future ozone, climate, UV and vegetation with and without the Montreal protocol, factoring in past experiments on how UV affects plants. They found that, if there had been no treaty, the extra UV that would have reached Earth’s surface would have disrupted plant growth so much that there would have been between 325 and 690 billion tonnes less carbon locked up in plants and soil by the end of the century. Without that carbon storage, the world would have warmed by a further 0.5 to 1°C by 2100. “The Montreal protocol, as well as protecting the ozone layer, is an extremely successful climate treaty. And it’s not just because CFCs are greenhouse gases, but it’s actually stopped additional CO2 going into the atmosphere,” says Young.
8-18-21 Inside the race to scale up CO2 capture technology and hit net zero
“Negative emissions” technologies involve sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere. They are essential to net-zero climate plans – but does anyone know how to make them work? A STAR attraction at the Science Museum in London right now is a tree. Not an elegant product of evolution, but something that looks rather like a steampunk collision of an industrial air-conditioning unit and an accordion. What researcher Klaus Lackner’s mechanical tree has in common with the natural variety, however, is that it is great at sucking carbon dioxide out of the air. We are going to need a lot of that in the coming decades if we are to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century and so head off the worst of the climate crisis. The key word here is “net”. Even when we have wiped out all the emissions we can, intractable sources will remain, from the likes of food production, flying and heavy industry. Negative emissions technologies are intended to bridge the gap – by removing CO2 already in the atmosphere. This past year, individuals and companies from Elon Musk to Microsoft and US oil firm Occidental Petroleum have committed significant sums to various schemes to do just that. But they are controversial. Campaigner Greta Thunberg recently derided governments for pinning their climate plans on “fantasy-scaled” versions of “barely existing” technologies. Even if they can scale up, there are concerns over whether the cure would be worse than the disease, due to potential downsides of negative emissions technology for biodiversity, water consumption, food production and energy use. Time to ask: when it comes to carbon removal, do we really know what we are doing? As last week’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made plainer than ever before, we are running out of time to stave off the worst of global warming. And for all the warm words on climate action, our carbon emissions continue on the up. Last year, even with the pandemic, they amounted to 39 gigatonnes of CO2. Back in 2014, AR5, the IPCC’s fifth climate science assessment report , reckoned that staying under 2°C of warming – the goal agreed at the Paris climate change summit in 2015, with a lower, desired target of 1.5°C – would mean removing around 730 gigatonnes of CO2 from the air this century.
8-18-21 Colorado River: First-ever shortage declared amid record US drought
For the first time ever, the US government has declared a water shortage on the Colorado River, a life source to millions in the southwest. The supply cuts now ordered by a federal water agency come as Lake Mead, the river's main reservoir and largest in the US, drains at an alarming rate. Officials tied the historic drought to climate change as they announced the water supply reductions on Monday. Around 40 million people in the US and Mexico rely on the river for water. Lake Mead, which was created near Las Vegas after the building of the Hoover Dam, supplies water to Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico. The lake is now at its lowest level since it was first formed in the 1930s. Federal water officials predict that by the end of 2021, the reservoir will be at 34% capacity. This first round of water supply cuts triggered by the shortage are expected to mainly affect farmers in Arizona starting in January. Nevada is also expected to shrink its water use starting next year, but state officials say they have already reduced water deliveries. Further cuts could hit next year if Lake Mead's level continues to fall. Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Commissioner Camille Touton said in a news conference on Monday the decision to enact water cuts was not taken lightly. She said that "additional actions will likely be necessary in the very near future". Most of the Western US is experiencing a historic multi-year drought. A UN report released last week warned that droughts are growing more frequent and more intense as the planet warms. Droughts that typically would occur ever 10 years now happen with 70% more frequency, the report's authors found. Not all droughts are due to climate change, but excess heat in the atmosphere is drawing more moisture out of the earth and making droughts worse. The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.
8-18-21 How extreme heat from climate change distorts human behavior
As temperatures rise, violence and aggression also go up while focus and productivity decline. On a sweltering summer afternoon almost a decade ago, Meenu Tewari was visiting a weaving company in Surat in western India. Tewari, an urban planner, frequently makes such visits to understand how manufacturing companies operate. On that day, though, her tour of the factory floor left her puzzled. “There were no workers there … only machines,” says Tewari of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The missing employees weren’t far away; they were resting in the shade under a nearby awning. Scorching temperatures had been causing workers to make mistakes or even faint near the dangerous machinery, Tewari’s guide told her. So the company had mandated that workers come in earlier and leave later so that they could rest during the midday heat. Physiologically, people’s bodies aren’t built to handle heat beyond wet bulb temperatures — a combined measure of heat and humidity — of around 35° Celsius, or about 95° Fahrenheit (SN: 5/8/20). Mounting evidence shows that when heat taxes people’s bodies, their performance on various tasks, as well as overall coping mechanisms, also suffer. Researchers have linked extreme heat to increased aggression, lower cognitive ability and, as Tewari and colleagues showed, lost productivity. With rising global temperatures, and record-breaking heat waves baking parts of the world, the effects of extreme heat on human behavior could pose a growing problem (SN: 6/29/21). And lower-income people and countries, with limited resources to keep cool as climate change warms the world, are likely to suffer the most, researchers say. “The physiological effects of heat may be universal, but the way it manifests … is highly unequal,” says economist R. Jisung Park of UCLA.
8-17-21 France wildfire: Thousands evacuated as blaze rages near Riviera
Thousands of people, including tourists in campsites, have been moved to safety as firefighters tackle a wildfire close to the French Riviera. Many were given only minutes to leave as hundreds of firefighters were deployed in the Var region to the west of Saint-Tropez. Fire officials say the blaze broke out on Monday and has consumed more than 5,000 hectares (12,350 acres). Nineteen people suffered smoke inhalation and three have been injured. The fire ignited during an intense heatwave, with forecasters expecting temperatures of up to 35C on Tuesday. Southern France is the latest area in Europe to be ravaged by wildfires this summer as temperatures soar to record levels around the Mediterranean. Scientists say heatwaves are becoming more likely and more extreme because of climate change driven by human-induced carbon emissions. Greece, Turkey, Spain and Portugal are among the countries that have been grappling with wildfires that have claimed lives and destroyed homes. The blaze in southern France started near the village of Gonfaron, about 50km (30 miles) west of of Saint-Tropez. By Tuesday morning, it had swept across more than 5,000 hectares of forest and scrubland, the local fire department said. Firefighting aircraft dumped water to help douse the flames. Var's local government said 900 firefighters and 120 police had been deployed. Most of the evacuations took place around the villages of Le Mole and Grimaud. Seven campsites were cleared of tourists, the local prefect told BFMTV, and some were destroyed by the fire as the flames - fanned by strong winds - spread rapidly. Tourists and residents in those areas have been sheltering in town halls, collages and gyms. Holidaymakers told French media they were evacuated from hotels at short notice. France's Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said he would travel to the scene of the fire on Tuesday.
8-17-21 Israel battles huge wildfire near Jerusalem
Israeli firefighters are battling a massive wildfire west of Jerusalem that has burned 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) of forest over the past three days. The blaze appeared to have been brought under control on Sunday night but strong winds and low humidity caused it to regain intensity on Monday. Authorities were forced to evacuate about 2,000 residents of nearby towns and villages as a precaution. Israel's foreign minister also asked neighbouring countries for help. Greece and Cyprus responded with offers to send firefighting aircraft, officials said, though it was not clear if they would be needed. On Tuesday morning, firefighters were reportedly racing to put out dozens of hotspots, with winds forecast to pick up in the afternoon. "We are deployed in many areas because the winds could bring the fire to new places," Israel Fire and Rescue Services official Niso Guetta told Army Radio. The blaze sent a plume of thick black smoke over Jerusalem, and residents have been advised to limit their outdoor activity because of the very high pollution levels. The wildfire is one of the largest in Israel's history, but so far no-one has been killed. In 2010, 44 people were killed by a fire on Mount Carmel, in the north of the country, that burned 2,500 hectares. Fire and Rescue Services Commissioner Dedi Simchi has said the fire was caused by humans, but investigators do not know yet if it was arson or negligence. Its rapid spread has been aided by the dryness of the vegetation in the Jerusalem Hills after a relatively dry winter and a hot summer. "The climate crisis will make such events more frequent and powerful, and Israel is particularly sensitive to drought and warming," Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg warned during a visit to a fire service command centre, according to the Times of Israel. The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.
8-17-21 Images show decline of California's 'life source'
Getty Images photojournalist Justin Sullivan has been following California's second-largest reservoir's declining water levels since 2014. Seeing first-hand the climate's impact through his lens, he's shocked at how fast the water is gone in one of California's most important water sources.
8-17-21 Hydrogen power offers jobs boost, says government
Thousands of new jobs could be created by investing in low-carbon hydrogen fuel to power vehicles and heat homes, the government says. Ministers have unveiled a strategy for kick-starting a hydrogen industry, which they say could attract billions of pounds in investment. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the fuel was also essential for UK efforts to reach net zero emissions. He said it had the potential to provide a third of UK energy in future. Because of the current higher cost involved in producing hydrogen compared to existing fuels, subsidies have been proposed to overcome the gap. The government has launched a consultation on this plan. Labour also backs hydrogen's potential, but said the government had failed to invest as much as other countries. Using hydrogen gas as a fuel produces no carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution. It can be used to power fuel cells - devices that generate electricity through an electrochemical reaction - used in a turbine for electricity or burned in a boiler and vehicle engine. As such, it is a low-carbon, versatile fuel that can be used by cars, trucks and trains, heat our homes and generate the power needed for industrial processes such as steel production. The government plans to deliver 5GW of hydrogen production capacity by 2030, estimating that the industry could be worth £900m and support more than 9,000 jobs by the same date. "Today marks the start of the UK's hydrogen revolution. This home-grown clean energy source has the potential to transform the way we power our lives and will be essential to tackling climate change and reaching net zero," said Mr Kwarteng. "Our strategy positions the UK as first in the global race to ramp up hydrogen technology and seize the thousands of jobs and private investment that come with it." Reaching net zero by 2050 will involve cutting emissions as much as possible and then balancing out any remaining ones by planting trees or burying CO2 underground. The potential role of hydrogen in achieving this target has been highlighted by a government analysis suggesting 20-35% of the UK's energy consumption by 2050 could be hydrogen-based. A low-carbon hydrogen economy could deliver emissions savings equivalent to the carbon captured by 700 million trees by 2032, the government claims. It would help decarbonise polluting industries such as chemical production and oil refining and heavy transport such as shipping and rail.
8-16-21 UK plan to boost hydrogen production relies on fossil fuels
The UK government has backed a plan to use the production of hydrogen from fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage to clean up heavy industry. This comes despite concerns that the technology doesn’t capture all CO2 emissions, remains commercially unproven and perpetuates natural gas extraction. In a 120-page hydrogen strategy published on 17 August, which follows in the wake of similar plans by the EU and other countries last year, the UK laid out how it will boost hydrogen production. A strategic decision on the role hydrogen could take in decarbonising heating in buildings will also be taken within five years, it said. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said it is mulling over subsidies similar to ones for offshore windfarms to bring down the cost of both blue hydrogen, made from natural gas but with most of the CO2 captured, and green hydrogen, where renewable electricity is used with electrolysers that produce hydrogen from water. “It’s not a surprise the UK is backing both,” says Anise Ganbold at Aurora Energy Research in the UK. “It’s what the UK has been pushing for, and not a surprise given how strong the gas lobby is. At the moment, it is cheaper to make hydrogen from blue, but we don’t think that will last for long. We think green will be cheaper by the 2030s.” Blue hydrogen is opposed by some environmentalists, partly because at best it only captures 95 per cent of the CO2, raising questions over its role in hitting net-zero targets. It is also untested at a commercial level, though Norwegian energy firm Equinor has plans to build a blue hydrogen plant near Hull in north-east England. Jess Ralston at Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit in the UK says: “The government should be wary about being lobbied by the gas industry and committing too heavily to blue hydrogen, which still uses fossil fuels in its production and relies on [the] not-yet-ready technology [of] carbon capture and storage to reduce its emissions.” Storing the carbon at sea, where the UK has the most storage capacity, could also be expensive, says Ganbold.
8-16-21 For the 1st time, federal government declares Colorado River water shortage
In a first for the federal government, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on Monday declared a shortage of water on the Colorado River, triggering cutbacks for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico starting in 2022. The Colorado River's largest reservoir, Lake Mead, is now at 1,068 feet above sea level — the lowest level since its creation in the 1930s — and the Bureau of Reclamation estimates that it will drop even more by January. Mandatory water cutbacks were previously set to go into effect when the water at Lake Mead hit below 1,075 feet above sea level, The Wall Street Journal reports. Arizona is expected to lose 512,000 acre-feet, or 18 percent of its annual allocation, while Nevada would lose 7 percent of its water allocation and New Mexico 5 percent. Under a water-sharing agreement with four other Colorado River Basin states, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico have the most junior rights, and states with more seniority — like California — will also face cuts if the reservoir continues to lose water. The cutbacks will hit farmers and ranchers the hardest. In a statement, Tanya Trujillo, assistant secretary for water and science at the Interior Department, said the Colorado River is "facing unprecedented and accelerating challenges. The only way to address these challenges and climate change is to utilize the best available science and to work cooperatively across the landscapes and communities that rely on the Colorado River." The Colorado River supplies drinking water to 40 million people, irrigates 5.5 million acres of farmland, and is responsible for an estimated 16 million jobs, the Journal said. Years of drought, fueled by climate change, have made the ground bone dry, so runoff from the Rocky Mountains is soaked up before making it to the Colorado River. Although there have been several intense monsoons this summer in southern Utah and Arizona, the rain wasn't nearly enough to make the river rise significantly.
8-16-21 Power could be cut in Northern California Tuesday to reduce risk of wildfires
The lights could go out in parts of Northern California, as Pacific Gas & Electric Co. announced on Monday it is considering cutting power Tuesday night over fears high winds may bring down lines. If the company does turn off the power, it will affect about 39,000 residents in 16 counties, the Los Angeles Times reports. Strong winds are expected to start picking up overnight, and with gusts possibly hitting 35 mph on Tuesday, PG&E said it does not want to risk power lines falling down in dry brush and sparking wildfires. Northern California's Dixie Fire, which started July 13 and is now the second-largest wildfire in state history, may have been started by a tree falling onto a PG&E power line, company officials said. The Fly Fire, a blaze that was sparked 30 miles away on July 22, may also have been ignited by PG&E equipment, and investigations are underway. As of Monday morning, the Dixie Fire has burned 569,707 acres, including 50,000 since Friday. The blaze has swept through forests and remote areas, destroying more than 1,173 structures and more than $1 billion worth of timber and leveling the town of Greenville. Officials said the fire is threatening 14,800 additional structures.
8-16-21 Colombia's peace treaty accidentally sparks increase in deforestation
It turns out that decades of civil war in Colombia was better for the preservation of wild lands than the country’s more recent years of peace. Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries, with more bird, amphibian and butterfly species than anywhere else in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund. This is partly due to the country’s high variety of ecosystems, from the central Andean mountains to the Amazon rainforest in the east. The country has also spent much of the past five decades in a civil war that has killed more than 220,000 people. During the civil war, Marxist guerrillas called the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) controlled most of the wild territory sitting between the Andes and the Amazon until they finalised a peace treaty with the Colombian government in 2016. Now, research tracking land use from 1988 to 2019 across this area using satellite images reveals that the loss of forest cover was relatively slow until after the FARC’s demobilisation. Although the end of the civil war is undoubtedly a positive event, it is “sad to see deforestation increasing [as a result]”, says Paulo Murillo Sandoval, a researcher with NASA. Murillo Sandoval, then at Oregon State University in Corvallis, and his colleagues analysed satellite images of four departments in the country, determining the land cover of 30-metre-squared plots. They compared these with conflict data from Uppsala University in Sweden, which included information on deaths, locations, dates and who was involved in conflicts. The team also used information on droughts and other climate events that could cause land changes in order to be able to better separate out the effects of conflict on the landscape. The researchers found that forest loss increased massively since the 2016 peace treaty – particularly in areas where the population was lowest in the Amazon. They also have new, unpublished, research showing the pace of deforestation is also increasing – 2020 saw more land clearing than 2019.
8-16-21 Will the IPCC report help focus politicians' minds on climate change?
World leaders must drastically scale up their plans to curb CO2 emissions if humanity is to avoid the worst consequences of a warming world outlined in last week’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Unfortunately, there is no sign of that happening yet, but observers say the publication should boost political action on emissions. The report, coupled with current extreme weather events such as Greece’s wildfires and a record 48.8°C temperature in Europe, has been seen by many as a wake-up call that should galvanise societies to take action. Environmental leaders have called for new versions of the climate plans that countries are meant to submit every five years as part of the 2015 Paris Agreement’s framework. Without stronger plans, “the Paris Agreement goals will be out of reach,” tweeted Patricia Espinosa at United Nations Climate Change, the body that oversees international climate talks, which will reach a crunch moment at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, UK, this November. Nations’ current plans are estimated to put the world somewhere around the middle of the five emissions scenarios considered in the IPCC report. This scenario would see Earth warm by 2.7°C by the end of the century – well above the 1.5°C and 2°C goals of the Paris Agreement. COP26 president Alok Sharma has asked countries to produce bolder plans before the meeting. Last week, he called for “major emitters to play their part”, a phrase that is typically used to refer to China, the US, the European Union and India, which together account for more than half of global emissions. In response to the IPCC report, China gave no hint that a new plan is in the works, instead referring back to its existing long-term plan of carbon neutrality by 2060. Nonetheless, the IPCC’s work should give a boost to COP26 and politicians who are in favour of climate action, according to veterans of international climate talks. “I think the IPCC report is a massive wake-up call,” says Peter Betts, a former lead EU negotiator on climate and now an associate fellow at UK think tank Chatham House. “It is really worrying. Coupled with these extreme weather events, I think this does reinforce the politics for action.”
8-16-21 The zero-power sewage plant inspired by cows
Untreated sewage leads to poor sanitation and disease around the world. Its effects are felt strongly in India, and Bangalore resident Tharun Kumar turned to cows for a solution. With help from the Biomimicry Institute, he has designed and built 50 sustainable sewage plants that work in a similar way to a cow’s stomach. The system has no moving parts, so doesn't require any power or people to operate it.
8-15-21 Japan rain: Nearly two million residents told to seek shelter
Nearly two million people have been urged to evacuate their homes amid heavy rainfall in parts of Japan. Highest-level rain warnings have been issued in a number of prefectures, including Fukuoka and Hiroshima. One woman has died and her husband and daughter are missing after a landslide destroyed two homes in Nagasaki prefecture. More than 150 troops, police and firefighters have been sent to help with rescue operations in the area. "They are carefully searching for the missing residents, while watching out for further mudslides as the heavy rain continues," a local official told the AFP news agency. The west of the country is worst affected but heavy downpours are expected across the country in coming days. In Saga prefecture, a hospital evacuated patients to its upper floors on Saturday after the nearby Rokkaku river overflowed and flooded the building, Kyodo News agency reported, citing local authorities. In total, non-compulsory evacuation warnings are now in place for more than 1.8 million people across seven prefectures, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK. Yushi Adachi, from Japan's meteorological agency, described the current rainfall as "unprecedented". "It's highly likely that some kind of disaster has already occurred," he said. Local television footage showed submerged roads. Rivers in Saga and Fukuoka have overflowed with water levels still rising, local media reports said. An official in Kumamoto, south-western Japan, said a 76-year-old man was missing after trying to secure his fishing boat. The flooding comes just weeks after heavy rain caused landslides and prompted rivers to burst their banks, killing dozens.
8-15-21 Japan rain: Nearly two million residents told to seek shelter
Nearly two million people have been urged to evacuate their homes amid heavy rainfall in parts of Japan. Highest-level rain warnings have been issued in a number of prefectures, including Fukuoka and Hiroshima. One woman has died and her husband and daughter are missing after a landslide destroyed two homes in Nagasaki prefecture. More than 150 troops, police and firefighters have been sent to help with rescue operations in the area. "They are carefully searching for the missing residents, while watching out for further mudslides as the heavy rain continues," a local official told the AFP news agency. The west of the country is worst affected but heavy downpours are expected across the country in coming days. In Saga prefecture, a hospital evacuated patients to its upper floors on Saturday after the nearby Rokkaku river overflowed and flooded the building, Kyodo News agency reported, citing local authorities. In total, non-compulsory evacuation warnings are now in place for more than 1.8 million people across seven prefectures, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK. Yushi Adachi, from Japan's meteorological agency, described the current rainfall as "unprecedented". "It's highly likely that some kind of disaster has already occurred," he said. Local television footage showed submerged roads. Rivers in Saga and Fukuoka have overflowed with water levels still rising, local media reports said. An official in Kumamoto, south-western Japan, said a 76-year-old man was missing after trying to secure his fishing boat. The flooding comes just weeks after heavy rain caused landslides and prompted rivers to burst their banks, killing dozens.
8-14-21 Climate change: July world's hottest month ever recorded - US agency
July was the world's hottest month ever recorded, a US federal scientific and regulatory agency has reported. The data shows that the combined land and ocean-surface temperature was 0.93C (1.68F) above the 20th Century average of 15.8C (60.4F). It is the highest temperature since record-keeping began 142 years ago. The previous record, set in July 2016, was equalled in 2019 and 2020. Experts believe this is due to the long-term impact of climate change. In a statement, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that July's "unenviable distinction" was a cause for concern. "In this case, first place is the worst place to be," NOAA administrator Rick Spinrad said in a statement. "This new record adds to the disturbing and disruptive path that climate change has set for the globe." The combined land and ocean-surface temperature was 0.01C higher than the 2016 record. In the Northern Hemisphere, land-surface temperature reached an "unprecedented" 1.54C higher than average, surpassing a previous record set in 2012. The data also showed that July was Asia's hottest month on record, as well as Europe's second hottest after July 2018. The NOAA statement also included a map of significant climate "anomalies" in July, which noted that global tropical cyclone activity this year has been unusually high for the number of named storms. Earlier this week, a report from the United Nations said that climate change is having an "unprecedented" impact on earth, with some changes likely to be "irreversible for centuries to millennia." UN Secretary General António Guterres said that the findings were "a code red for humanity." "If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But as today's report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses," he said. The authors of the report say that since 1970, global surface temperatures have risen faster than in any other 50-year period over the past 2,000 years.
8-14-21 Turkey floods: Death toll near Black Sea rises to at least 40
A huge search-and-rescue operation is under way in northern Turkey after flash floods along the Black Sea coast killed at least 40 people. Kastamonu province is the worst-hit area. Apartment buildings in the town of Bozkurt were destroyed when the Ezine river burst its banks. This month Turkey has also had to battle huge wildfires in the south. Eight people died when a fire-fighting plane crashed in Adana on Saturday, just before it was due to land. Five Russian servicemen and three Turkish citizens were on board the aircraft, Interfax agency reported. Those fires - which are now under control - forced thousands of locals and tourists to flee Marmaris and surrounding areas. Eight people died and more than 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of vegetation was devastated. The floods, triggered by torrential rain, caused some buildings to collapse, smashed bridges, clogged streets with wrecked cars and cut power supplies. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Kastamonu on Friday and attended a funeral for some of the flooding victims. "We can't bring back the citizens we lost, but our state has the means and power to compensate those who lost loved ones," Mr Erdogan said after leading prayers. Mr Erdogan's government has faced criticism for its handling of Turkey's recent natural disasters. In the flooded areas, helicopters plucked some people from rooftops while others were rescued by boat. More than 1,700 people have been evacuated, and as many as 330 villages are without electricity. Turkey's latest disaster came in the week that a major UN report warned of more extreme weather events because of human-induced global warming. Flash floods and severe heatwaves are afflicting much of Europe this summer. Mountainous areas along Turkey's Black Sea coast are prone to flooding in the summer.
8-14-21 Japan rain: Nearly two million residents told to seek shelter
Nearly two million people have been urged to evacuate their homes amid heavy rainfall in parts of Japan. Highest-level rain warnings have been issued in a number of prefectures, including Fukuoka and Hiroshima. One woman has died and her husband and daughter are missing after a landslide destroyed two homes in Nagasaki prefecture. More than 150 troops, police and firefighters have been sent to help with rescue operations in the area. "They are carefully searching for the missing residents, while watching out for further mudslides as the heavy rain continues," a local official told the AFP news agency. The west of the country is worst affected but heavy downpours are expected across the country in coming days. In total, non-compulsory evacuation warnings are now in place for more than 1.8 million people across seven prefectures, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK. Yushi Adachi, from Japan's meteorological agency, described the current rainfall as "unprecedented". "It's highly likely that some kind of disaster has already occurred," he said. Local television footage showed submerged roads. Rivers in Saga and Fukuoka have overflowed with water levels still rising, local media reports said. An official in Kumamoto, south-western Japan, are looking for a 76-year-old man who disappeared after trying to secure his fishing boat at a surging river. The flooding comes just weeks after heavy rain caused landslides and prompted rivers to burst their banks, killing dozens.
8-14-21 Probiotics help lab corals survive deadly heat stress
A lab experiment suggests good bacteria could help make reefs more resilient to climate change. Warming seas threaten to turn coral reefs from kaleidoscopes of color into bleached fields of rubble. To stop this degradation, some scientists are exploring a surprising salve: probiotics. Dosing corals with a mix of beneficial bacteria staved off death in a heat wave simulated in an aquarium, researchers report August 13 in Science Advances. In comparison, nearly half of corals given a benign saline solution instead did not survive those same conditions. The research offers a proof of concept that probiotics could help some corals survive heat stress. “The results are incredibly promising,” says Blake Ushijima, a microbiologist at the University of North Carolina Wilmington who wasn’t involved in the research. The work lends legitimacy to using probiotics as coral medicine, he says, “but we’re just scratching the surface. We don’t understand how a lot of these beneficial microbes work.” Corals are not singular entities, but coalitions of cooperative players. Center stage are the photosynthetic algae that harness the power of the sun, providing energy to their animal host, the coral polyp. Scores of bacteria live in the coral too, many supporting their host by cycling nutrients or fighting pathogens. Collectively referred to as the coral “holobiont,” corals and their microbial partners form the bedrock of one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. Worsening marine heat waves are testing the integrity of healthy holobionts (SN: 4/10/18). Under heat stress, corals’ algae spew toxic chemicals, prompting polyps to kick them out. This process, known as bleaching, can kill corals (SN: 10/18/16). For example, bleaching from a 2016 heat wave wiped out 29 percent of shallow water corals in the northern Great Barrier Reef. Bacterial communities shift under heat stress too, disrupting the benefits some bacteria provide.
8-13-21 Bacterial probiotics could help protect corals from ocean warming
Coral reefs around the world are threatened by warming temperatures which cause them to bleach – but they might get some relief through probiotics. In healthy reefs, corals get up to 80 per cent of their energy from the photosynthetic algae that live within their tissue alongside other microorganisms like bacteria. Heat stress disturbs these relationships and can ultimately lead to coral death. Erika Santoro at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Raquel Peixoto at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia and their colleagues have found that introducing a cocktail of bacteria found in healthy reefs can help corals hit by heat stress, by making them more resilient. “We know that it’s biologically possible to develop a medicine for corals that can actually prevent mortality,” says Peixoto. “The idea is that we would try to find common bacteria that we always find in the reef – so native bacteria that live in the reef – that could [help] several different [coral] species.” The team selected beneficial bacteria taken from a healthy heat-resistant coral and gave it as a probiotic to coral heated to 30°C in a simulated heat stress event in an aquarium in the lab. Corals that hadn’t been given the probiotic died after being exposed to heat stress – but the probiotic enhanced corals recovered and survived. This may be because bacteria have far shorter generation times than corals, and so can evolve on much faster timescales to adapt to the higher temperatures. Not only that, but the bacteria seem to evolve features that enhance the survival prospects of their coral hosts. This would explain why, after changing the bacteria present within the coral microbiome, the team saw a knock-on effect on the expression of particular coral genes that enhances coral survival rates. “We saw a real genetic reprogramming of the coral host triggered by the beneficial bacteria,” says Peixoto.
8-13-21 US wildfire pollution linked to more covid-19 cases and deaths
Polluted air caused by smoke released from the record-breaking wildfires in the US last year has been linked to a strong increase in covid-19 cases and deaths. Francesca Dominici at Harvard University and her colleagues say 19,742 recorded covid-19 cases and 748 covid-related deaths can be linked to spikes in tiny particulate matter, PM2.5, released by the blazes in California, Oregon and Washington. Links between long-term exposure to dirty air and greater risk of death and severe illness from covid-19 have already been well-documented. But the new research puts numbers on how short-term exposure to pollution, in this case from wildfires, may have made the pandemic’s health impact worse. “What this is saying is, number one, especially for the counties affected by wildfires, people should absolutely get vaccinated and wear a mask,” says Dominici. The team looked at daily data on covid-19 cases and deaths and PM2.5 levels between March and December 2020 in 92 counties which cover 95 per cent of the population in California, Oregon and Washington. They then accounted for other possible explanations for links, including looking at the weather and Facebook data on how much people moved around, and considered a counterfactual world without the fires. Across the counties as a whole, they found each extra 10 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre of air over 28 days was linked to an 11.7 per cent increase in coronavirus cases, and a 52.8 per cent increase in covid-19 deaths. Some counties saw PM2.5 levels higher than 500 micrograms per cubic metre for days in a row due to fires, well above the level deemed “hazardous” by US environmental authorities. The impact of pollution on covid-19 cases and deaths varied widely between areas. Dominici says that is probably because “the trajectory of the pandemic within each county was very, very different”. The team thinks cases increased due to PM2.5 exposure because it led to more severe illness. This might also have had an impact even on people with mild illness. For instance, people with what would ordinarily have been an asymptomatic infection might have developed symptoms.
8-13-21 It's so hot in Floridia, Sicily that snails are burning in their shells
It was so hot in the small Sicilian town of Floridia this week that the snails for which the region is known began burning in their shells, The New York Times reports. Temperatures may have reached a sweltering 124 degrees on Wednesday, as a blistering heat wave that's been ravaging Italy and the surrounding areas for weeks hit its climax, writes the Times. As a result, snails were cooked inside their shells, unable to move as their feet burned to the hot ground. Meanwhile, lemons, farmed by field laborers, began quickly rotting, as orange trees sizzled in the heat. "It's terrible for everybody, for the workers and the plants," said laborer Mario Pignato. "The damage is awful. We're not talking about a day or a few days, we're talking about months of heat and hot winds." If and when the number is validated by international officials, Floridia's 124-degree peak would become "possibly the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe," the Times writes. Such frightening heat — punctuated by extreme weather events in both Greece and the Pacific Northwest — serves as an omen of what's to come for Italy and the Mediterranean, as well as a stark reminder of the ongoing threat from climate change. "Floridia is now the center of the world when it comes to the climate," said the town's mayor, Marco Carianni. However, "when you take the broad view," added agriculture worker Viviana Pappalardo, "Europe is dying." Read more at The New York Times.
8-13-21 Can Americans pull the plug on petrol-powered cars?
US President Joe Biden wants Americans to switch to electric vehicles. Carmakers are on board - but are consumers willing to pull the plug on petrol? Tom Beckett, a former truck and bus driver, says he's driven at least two million miles in his lifetime, and he is all for burning less gasoline to protect the environment. But like many Americans, he is "just not ready" to buy a low-emission electric car because of so-called range anxiety - the fear he won't be able to go far enough on a single charge. The 62-year-old lives in rural Arkansas where he regularly has to drive long distances to get around, and electric vehicle (EV) charging points are few and far between. "Unless the battery capacity and the range doubles, I don't think electric cars will ever become a big deal in states like this," he tells the BBC. "People need the confidence to know their cars won't run out of juice. Otherwise they'll just stick with gas." Transport accounted for almost of a third of US emissions in 2019 and the White House has pledged to bring this down. But people like Mr Beckett pose a big challenge to a new administration plan to make zero-emission vehicles account for half of all automobiles sold in the US by 2030. The goal, which is non-binding, has the backing of major automakers Ford, General Motors and Chrysler-owner Stellantis. Mr Biden has also restored tailpipe emissions rules from the Obama era, weakened under Donald Trump, which will put pressure on car companies to make greener vehicles. But none of it will make much difference if consumers don't buy in. Outside of a few major metropolitan areas, EVs still aren't very common in the US and the country accounted for just 2% of new EV sales globally last year, compared to 10% from Europe. Moreover, while just under half of US adults say they would support a proposal to phase out production of gasoline-powered cars and trucks, a similar proportion would oppose it, according to a Pew Center survey published in June. A major concern about low-emission vehicles is price. Even with federal subsidies, EVs and hybrids tend to cost more than pure petrol cars, even though the vehicles are more economical to run.
8-13-21 Council policies 'inconsistent' with climate goals
More than a third of English councils support policies that could increase carbon emissions despite having declared a "climate emergency", BBC research suggests. Road building and airport expansion are among examples provided by 45 out of 121 questionnaire respondents who say they have passed climate motions. Environmentalists say the findings reveal "inconsistencies" in approach. Local leaders insist they are taking action but need more funding. Between March and June the BBC surveyed all 149 top tier councils in England, of which 136 responded. Almost nine in 10 councils (121 out of 136 respondents, 89%) have declared a "climate emergency." Of those, more than one in three councils (45 out of 121 respondents, 37%) said they supported at least one policy that could increase carbon emissions, such as new road building or airport expansion. About two-thirds of councils (91 out of 136 respondents, 67%) said the pandemic had affected their plans to tackle climate change.The government has committed to cutting greenhouse gases to almost zero by 2050 - this target is known as net zero. This means reducing emissions as far as possible, then balancing out any remaining releases by, for example, tree planting. The similar term of carbon neutrality refers to doing this for CO2 emissions rather than all greenhouse gases. The BBC's findings highlight the tensions faced by councils trying to balance economic, social and environmental challenges. Leeds, for example, aims to become a carbon neutral city by 2030, but the city council also backs plans to upgrade Leeds Bradford Airport. Helen Hayden, councillor for infrastructure and climate for Leeds City Council, told BBC News: "It would seem like an inconsistency. I would say that in terms of carbon emissions the airport accounts for 1.5% of our carbon emissions. "So we do have to keep it in context and not let it distract us from doing all those things that will actually tackle the bigger issues that are in our city. "We need that National Policy framework so that Leeds Bradford airport does not feel it is being punished as opposed to other airports in the country - and we can therefore work with them to get our green and sustainable future."
8-13-21 Turkey floods: Death toll near Black Sea rises to 27
A huge search and rescue operation is under way in northern Turkey after flash floods along the Black Sea coast killed at least 27 people. Kastamonu province is the worst-hit area, accounting for 25 of the deaths. Two others died in Sinop on the coast. The floods caused some buildings to collapse, smashed several bridges, clogged some streets with wrecked cars and cut power supplies. This month Turkey has also had to battle huge wildfires in the south. Those fires - which are now under control - forced thousands of locals and tourists to flee Marmaris and surrounding areas. Eight people died and more than 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of vegetation was devastated. In the flooded area near the Black Sea, helicopters plucked some people from rooftops; others were rescued by boat. More than 1,700 people have been evacuated, and as many as 330 villages are now without electricity, after the floods damaged power lines. Turkey's latest disaster came in the week that a major UN report warned of more extreme weather events because of human-induced global warming. Flash floods and severe heatwaves are afflicting much of Europe this summer. Mountainous areas along Turkey's Black Sea coast are prone to flooding in the summer. But Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on a visit to the area on Thursday "this is the worst flood disaster I have seen". In neighbouring Greece, the authorities say widespread wildfires are more controllable now since much-needed rainfall came in the past 48 hours.
8-13-21 Giant iceberg A74 kisses the Antarctic coast
It was the briefest and gentlest of icy kisses. A massive iceberg that's nearly the size of Greater London was pictured by satellite this week squeezing past the coast of Antarctica. The block, known as A74, made only the faintest of contacts. Had it been any firmer, it would probably have knocked off a similarly sized iceberg. UK scientists were watching the icy liaison with keen interest because one of their bases is close by. The Halley research station is currently mothballed as there is uncertainty about the way all the ice in the region might behave in the near future. "We've been monitoring the situation very closely for the past six months because A74 has been drifting around in the same kind of area," explained Dr Ollie Marsh from the British Antarctic Survey. "But then there were some really strong easterly winds and these seemed to trigger a rapid movement in A74 that saw it scrape along the edge of the western Brunt," he told BBC News. The Brunt is what's called an ice shelf. It's an amalgam of glacier ice that has flowed off the land and floated out to sea. It's still attached to the train of ice behind - but only just. An enormous crack, called Chasm 1, has opened up in recent years in the shelf's far-western sector. An area measuring some 1,700 sq km is on the verge of breaking free. Many thought a big nudge from the passing A74 iceberg might be the event that made it all happen. But it didn't; or at least, it hasn't happened yet.
8-11-21 The illegal gold mines killing rivers and livelihoods in Ghana
Sixty percent of Ghana’s water bodies are now polluted, largely due to illegal mining activities. Ghana is the leading producer of gold in Africa and about 35% of it is extracted by small-scale miners, most of them operating illegally. Over the last few years, the government has been clamping down on their activities, but some communities say they're frustrated that they're not seeing enough change.
8-12-21 Pacific Northwest braces for 2nd brutal heat wave as new analysis sees 600 deaths from 1st wave
The National Weather Service has issued heat warnings and advisories through Friday for parts of the Midwest, Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic regions, but the Pacific Northwest, especially, is bracing for a second round of dangerously hot temperatures this week. Portland is projected to top 100 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday and Friday and Seattle should hit the mid-90s; both cities "would break all-time records this week if the late June heat wave had not done so already," The Associated Press reports. Portland and other Oregon cities have set up cooling stations and Gov. Kate Brown (D) has declared a state of emergency. Temperatures in the region typically top out in the 80s during the summer, and few people have air conditioning. Oregon officially recorded 96 heat-related deaths from the June onslaught and Washington registered 95 deaths, but a new New York Times analysis of excess deaths suggests the real numbers were nearly 160 deaths in Oregon and 450 in Washington. Climate scientists concluded that the June heat wave would not have possible without the influence of human-caused climate change, and a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change this week warned that more extreme weather events are now inevitable. But heat deaths are largely preventable, Kristie Ebi, a professor in the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the University of Washington, told the Times. "The more we understand about these deaths, the better we can prepare."
8-12-21 How North American cities are bracing for more heatwaves
This summer's extreme heatwave in western Canada and the Pacific Northwest was linked to hundreds of deaths. How can cities better prepare for dangerously high temperatures? Shane Sanders says it was some of the worst working conditions he's ever experienced in his eight-year career. The paramedic was on 12-hour shifts in a Vancouver suburb during the record-shattering heatwave in late June. He and his colleagues were "dripping through their uniforms, taking their shirts off just to cool down" and "kicking back as much water as they could between calls" in 35C (95F) temperatures, without factoring in humidity. "There were paramedics puking outside after calls because they were so fatigued and rundown - just getting heat exhaustion symptoms themselves," he says. A few times he ended up treating more than one patient during calls, because the wait for an ambulance meant more people in a home had been overcome by heat once they arrived, he says. Troy Clifford heard similar stories from other paramedics: one who treated an elderly woman whose home had reached a broiling 50C, another who responded to 11 cardiac arrest calls in just one shift. Clifford, president of the Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia union, called the extreme heat a "perfect storm" for the paramedic services in the province, which were already straining under staffing shortages and increased call volumes during the Covid pandemic. At some points during the heatwave, there were waits of an hour or more for critical calls coming into the dispatch centre, he says. From 25 June to 1 July, over 700 deaths were reported to the BC coroner's office - three times the normal amount - the majority of which are believed linked to the extreme heat. The province and its health services were both pushed to explain why they weren't better prepared - and Vancouver has since vowed to implement a plan to be ready for when temperatures spike again, like they are expected to through this weekend. Heatwaves are becoming more likely and more intense because of human-induced climate change, but have often taken a back seat when it comes to how cities prepare for extreme weather.
8-12-21 Sicily hits 48.8°C (119.8°F), the highest temperature ever recorded in Europe
The highest temperature ever recorded in Europe was provisionally reported on 11 August. The town of Syracuse on the Italian island of Sicily reached 48.8°C, 0.8°C higher than the previous European record. High temperatures are also being recorded elsewhere. In Tunisia, the capital Tunis hit 49°C on 11 August according to Reuters, more than 2 degrees higher than the previous record of 46.8°C in 1982. These record extreme temperatures across a swathe of southern Europe and northern Africa are almost certainly a result of global warming. The hot and dry conditions have led to many devastating fires. Italy has declared a state of emergency, and in Greece thousands of people had to be evacuated from the island of Evia as flames spread. The immediate cause of the heatwave is a ridge of high pressure over the Mediterranean, forming what is known as a heat dome. “Record-breaking temperatures in June 2019 saw the French temperature record exceed 45.0°C for the first time, and our analysis found that event was five times more likely because of climate change. Although we haven’t yet been able to run an in-depth study on the current situation, I think it’s going to be clear that climate change has made this current event more extreme,” said Peter Stott at the UK’s Met Office in a statement. The previous record for Europe, according to the World Meteorological Organization, is 48°C in Athens in 1977. The new record has to be validated by the WMO before it becomes official, which means checking that the local weather station is accurate and correctly set up. Maximiliano Herrera, who monitors extreme temperatures around the world, told The Washington Post that the weather station has high-quality instruments and is well-maintained, suggesting the record will be confirmed.
8-12-21 Climate: WWF warns UK spending is lagging behind targets
A new analysis suggests the current level of UK spending to combat climate change is lagging behind what advisers say is needed. A study by the pressure group WWF says new green policies in the March 2021 Budget add up to just 0.01% of GDP. But the government's own advisory Climate Change Committee has said 1% of national wealth - or GDP - must be spent every year in the UK to ensure climate targets are met. In November the prime minister promised £12bn for a 10-point plan "green industrial revolution". WWF says its research also shows that some Budget policies that encourage pollution totalled £40bn - far more than the PM's green plan. It says that the freeze on fuel duty is costing the Treasury some £11.2bn in the financial year 2019-20 alone, rising to £13.9bn in 2022-23 if the freeze continues. A Treasury spokesman defended the government's record and said a comprehensive strategy for financing the "green revolution" would be outlined in the autumn. But WWF says the UK won't remotely deliver on its own promise of a 78% CO2 cut by 2035 at the current rate of annual spending. Isabella O'Dowd from WWF said: "It's not yet too late to prevent global warming from rising above 1.5°C - it is in our hands. "But to do that, the UK government must play its part by keeping every climate promise it has made." The government's aim is to reduce UK emissions to almost nil by 2050 - that's a trajectory the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said would save the world from the very worst catastrophes that lie ahead. A Treasury spokesman said: ""The UK is a world leader in the global effort to tackle climate change, growing our economy by 78% while cutting emissions by 44% over the past three decades and being the first major economy to legislate to reach net zero emissions by 2050." The government has been urged recently by some of its own backbench MP to spell out exactly how the low-carbon transition will be funded. They fear the UK may take expensive action to cut emissions when other nations sit back. The Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told the BBC recently that policies to shield poor families from higher heating bills would be published soon.
8-11-21 As climate crisis grows, vaccine push shows we can turn things around
A CRISIS urgently needs solving. Science can provide the tools to help, but we must be willing to change our lifestyles. Solutions will be very expensive, yet the cost of inaction is even higher. This isn’t the first time we have drawn parallels between climate change and the coronavirus pandemic. We first did so in our leader of 7 March 2020, when total global cases of covid-19 numbered fewer than 100,000, and there was as yet officially no pandemic. “We are facing a global emergency, and politicians who appear to not believe in science are putting us all at risk,” we said back then. The difference now is that we have seen what happens when we put our minds (and wallets) to tackling a global emergency. The development of multiple successful coronavirus vaccines in under a year is utterly astonishing – one that, while we’re keeping score, we got a little wrong, saying it would take at least 12 to 18 months. As our special report on vaccines details, it has been a truly global effort, too. Over 4 billion doses have already been administered worldwide, though much more needs to be done to get jabs to people in lower-income countries. We first mentioned climate change in our 20th issue, in 1957. Even if humanity had only begun taking action at the turn of this century, a gradual change to how we work, live and travel would have been sufficient to counter the worst effects. Now, as the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report says, we are afforded no such luxury. Even extremely rapid action is unlikely to be enough to avoid hitting the 1.5°C of warming that global governments pledged to avoid at the Paris meeting in 2015. Current plans put us on track for a temperature rise of around 3°C – and the catastrophic effects of the warming so far, of just over 1°C, are becoming plain.
8-11-21 Climate change: Curbing methane emissions will 'buy us time'
An aggressive campaign to cut methane emissions can buy the world extra time to tackle climate change, experts say. One of the key findings in the newly released IPCC report is that emissions of methane have made a huge contribution to current warming. The study suggested that 30-50% of the current rise in temperatures is down to this powerful, but short-lived gas. Major sources of methane include agriculture, and leaks from oil and gas production and landfills. For decades, the main focus of efforts to curb global warming has been the ever-rising emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) from human activities, such as generating power and clearing forests. There's been good scientific reasons for this, as CO2 is the biggest driver of temperatures responsible for around 70% of the warming that's taken place since the industrial revolution. Methane (CH4), though, hasn't had the same focus. That may be changing, as earlier this year, a major UN study highlighted its environmental impact. Now, as this week's IPCC report points out graphically, methane's influence has been calculated as adding about 0.5C to the warming the world is experiencing right now. So where is all this methane coming from? Around 40% of the gas comes from natural sources such as wetlands - but the bigger share now comes from a range of human activities. "It's a combination of sources, from agriculture, including cattle and rice production, another large source of methane is rubbish dumps," said Prof Peter Thorne, an IPCC author from Maynooth University in Ireland. "One of the biggest is from the production, transport and use of natural gas - which is really misnamed and should be called fossil gas." Since 2008, there's been a big spike in methane emissions, which researchers believe is linked to the boom in fracking for gas in parts of the US. In 2019, methane in the atmosphere reached record levels, around two-and-a-half times above what they were in the pre-industrial era.
8-11-21 American government is heading for a climate-induced legitimacy crisis
Revolutions happen when a political system fails to address huge, obvious problems. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, probably the largest scientific collaboration in human history, has produced its Sixth Assessment Report on climate change. The science is complicated and the pile of evidence is immense, but the basic conclusion is fairly straightforward: Scientists are ever more certain that the global temperature is rising, that it is caused by humans, and that all manner of extreme weather events are connected to this warming. As a pseudonymous physicist summarized, "It's real, it's us, there's strong agreement amongst relevant experts, the impacts could be really severe, we can still do things to limit the impact." The threat is dire. Every part of the United States will be harmed by unchecked global warming — some are getting hit worse than others, but nowhere is immune — while poorer countries will have it worse still. With just one degree Celsius of warming, America has experienced a summer of rolling climate disasters. At 1.5 degrees and beyond, the damage will be much, much worse. And yet there is no sign that the American political system is taking this threat at all seriously. It raises the question of whether climate change will be the thing that finally topples the already creaking American constitutional system. In Washington, nearly the whole summer has been eaten up with negotiations around a bipartisan infrastructure that includes little climate policy. Democrats are hoping to pass a separate reconciliation bill with about $3.5 trillion in additional spending over 10 years (or roughly 1 percent of GDP, a modest bill), but even if that was entirely climate stuff (only a small part is), it is maybe a fifth the size of what a serious attack on climate change would be. Progress is being made, but it just is not anywhere near the scale of the problem. Then, because Democrats will likely lose control of the House of Representatives at least next year, and Republicans don't believe in doing anything about the climate problem, that will probably be it for climate policy for the rest of the decade, if not longer. If conservatives succeed in their plot to destroy fair elections at all levels of government and set up one-party rule, that will be it for the indefinite future. Traditionally, when a government fails to address a giant, looming threat, it raises the chance of revolution. Now, such an event is quite scary, and both conservative and moderate forces have spent generations whipping up fear of Jacobins and guillotines. This leads to a common misconception, though — that revolutions are the result of people deciding to overthrow the government. As listeners of historian Mike Duncan's excellent Revolutions podcast can tell you, this gets the causality (mostly) backwards. Actions from revolutionaries of course do matter, but the primary causal factor in virtually every revolution in history has been the rottenness and incompetence of the status quo political regime. If a government can ensure a modicum of economic prosperity and keep a solid grip on the armed forces, revolutions almost never have a chance. For instance, by the end of his reign, Tsar Nicholas II's record of constant failure was so appalling that nearly the entire Russian political spectrum, from communists to ultra-conservative monarchists, was united against him. His horrifying misrule convinced even die-hard autocrats that the country could not survive with an incompetent dolt at the apex of power. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith made a similar observation about the failure of the elite in Ancien Régime France to head off revolution.
8-11-21 Tropical Storm Fred: Sixth Atlantic storm hints at above-average hurricane season
Meteorologists have named the sixth Atlantic storm of 2021, hinting at an above-average season ahead. The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) has bestowed the name Tropical Storm Fred on a low pressure system barrelling through the Caribbean. The sixth named storm of the year usually forms at the end of August. In coming days, it could bring strong winds, heavy rain and high seas to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. In early July, Tropical Storm Elsa became the earliest fifth named storm on record. In the month since, the Atlantic has been very quiet. But we're now entering what are historically the busiest months of the season. Tropical Storm Fred will track west through the Leeward Islands before passing over many of the Caribbean's largest islands. It is likely to remain a tropical storm as it moves towards the Bahamas and Florida later in the week. While this season is not expected be as active as the 2020 record-breaking season, when the Greek alphabet was used to name storms for only the second time, forecasters are confident that it will still be a busy season. "A mix of competing oceanic and atmospheric conditions generally favour above-average activity for the remainder of the Atlantic hurricane season, including the potential return of La Niña in the months ahead," said Matthew Rosencrans, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at Noaa's Climate Prediction Center (CPC) in College Park, Maryland. La Niña and a counterpart - El Niño - are climate patterns in the Pacific Ocean that can affect weather worldwide. During La Niña, trade winds are stronger than usual, pushing more warm water toward Asia. El Niño has the opposite effect. In a recent update to the seasonal forecast, experts at the CPC increased the expected number of storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes by a small amount based on the latest atmospheric and Atlantic ocean conditions. In their early August update, forecasters at Colorado State University in Fort Collins actually reduced the number of named storms expected from 20 to 18. However, "overall, we still think that we will have an above-average season, just slightly less active than anticipated last month", Phillip Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State told BBC Weather.
8-11-21 Wildfires: How are they linked to climate change?
Recent heatwaves and wildfires around the world have caused alarm - with warnings that parts of Europe and North America could be experiencing the worst fire season ever. So how do wildfires compare with previous years? Parts of the western US have seen record-breaking temperatures this year, which - along with severe drought conditions - have triggered a series of major wildfires. So far this year in California, more than twice as many acres of land have been burned by wildfires compared with the five-year average. Dr Susan Prichard, from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences at the University of Washington, says: "We now have the conflagrations in California that we feared, following the record-setting heatwaves. "Given that California wildfires have burned all the way into November in recent years, I'm afraid that we might be set up for another record-breaking fire season." Across the United States, more than 3.5 million acres have been burned so far this year. That's one million more than at this point in the 2020 fire season - which ended as the most destructive season on record. The acres burned across the US in 2021 so far sit below the 10-year average, with some other states not being as badly hit as California. But experts are warning it is still very early, in what is looking like an exceptionally dry and long fire season. Climate change increases the risk of the hot, dry weather that is likely to fuel wildfires. Dr Prichard says: "Extreme fire weather events including increased lightning and strong winds, are also becoming more common under climate change." The wildfires in Turkey have been labelled 'the worst in its history' by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. More than 200 have affected western and southern Turkey, although the authorities say the majority of these are now contained. About 175,000 hectares have been burned so far this year, according to the European Forest Fire Information System. That's more than eight times the average for this time of year - measured between 2008 and 2020.
8-10-21 Wildfire smoke reaches the North Pole for 1st time in recorded history
With hundreds of blazes burning in Siberia, for the first time in recorded history smoke from wildfires has reached the North Pole. The smoke traveled more than 1,864 miles to get to the North Pole, NASA said in a press release. The smoke is also covering areas of Mongolia and is visible in some western regions of Greenland and Canada. The fires are burning in the Sakha Republic, an unusual occurrence because of how much snow covers the ground and the fact that its northern region is one of the coldest places on Earth, NASA said. Climate change has resulted in the area reporting higher temperatures, with the ground temperature reaching a record high of 118 degrees Fahrenheit and the air temperature hitting 89.4 degrees in June, NPR reports.
8-10-21 At least 42 killed in Algeria wildfires
At least 42 people, including 25 soldiers, have died in wildfires ripping through forests and villages east of Algiers, Algeria. The soldiers were killed while saving 100 residents of two neighborhoods, President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said, referring to them as "martyrs." Algeria's defense ministry said 11 other soldiers have been burned while fighting the fires, including four whose injuries are serious. The fires are sweeping through the mountainous Kabyle region, killing cattle and chickens and destroying olive trees. The villages are not easy to get to and there is a limited supply of water, The Associated Press reports, and some residents are staying behind to try to fight the fires using buckets and branches. Both Prime Minister Aïmene Benabderrahmane and Interior Minister Kamel Beldjoud say the fires, which broke out on Monday, may have been set by arsonists. "Thirty fires at the same time in the same region can't be by chance," Beldjoud suggested.
8-10-21 Greece fires: Foreign teams join battle on Evia island
Firefighters from several European countries are helping Greek teams on the island of Evia to contain wildfires raging near a major town. Water-bombing helicopters are dousing the flames near Istiaia, at the island's northern tip. Ukraine, Romania and Serbia sent help to the fire zone. Evia is just north of Athens, where fires on the northern outskirts are now less intense. Besides Greece, there are also big wildfires in Italy, Algeria and Russia. Thousands of people have been evacuated from villages in Greece, which is also getting firefighting help from some other EU countries, Switzerland and the UK. The EU said it was mobilising "one of Europe's biggest-ever common firefighting operations" to help Greece and other affected countries. Firebreaks have been created around Istiaia, where Mayor Yiannis Kontzias said: "We have managed to control this front because we doused it from the land and air." More than 850 firefighters are being assisted by more than a dozen helicopters. More than 500 wildfires have been raging across Greece this month, fuelled by strong winds and parched vegetation. Foreign teams are also helping to tackle blazes in the Peloponnese. The current heatwave has pushed temperatures to 45C (113F) in Greece and parts of southern Italy. On Monday Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis apologised for failures in tackling the wildfires. "We may have done what was humanly possible, but in many cases it was not enough," he said. Villagers on Evia have complained that the water-bombing aircraft arrived on the scene too late, and had to contend with thick smoke, making their job more difficult. "I completely understand the pain of our fellow citizens who saw their homes or property burning," Mr Mitsotakis said on TV. But he said Greece was "facing a natural disaster of unprecedented dimensions".
8-10-21 Greece fires: PM apologises as blazes rage on Evia island
Greece's prime minister has apologised for failures in tackling the wildfires tearing across the country. Hundreds of firefighters have been battling huge blazes that have forced thousands of people to flee their homes and destroyed dozens of properties. "We may have done what was humanly possible, but in many cases it was not enough," Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. Thick smoke is still pouring off the island of Evia, north-east of Athens, which has been ablaze for a week. Dozens of homes and acres of forest have already been scorched to the ground in Evia, on the outskirts of the capital, and in other parts of Greece. Hundreds of residents have been ordered to leave the island to escape the fires, though some were determined to stay to defend their properties. "I completely understand the pain of our fellow citizens who saw their homes or property burning," Prime Minister Mitsotakis said in a TV address. But he said the country was "facing a natural disaster of unprecedented dimensions". Public anger has been growing at delays and breakdowns in the government's response, including an apparent lack of water-dropping planes. Mr Mitsotakis said "any failures will be identified", but insisted firefighters were in a battle with "supernatural powers that often exceed their strength". He blamed the fires on the "climate crisis" that causes "fires that last for weeks". Hours earlier, the UN released a major report saying human activity was making extreme weather events more common. Fuelled by strong winds and Greece's worst heatwave in decades, over 580 fires have broken out across the country since late July. The biggest is on Evia, where 650 firefighters are still struggling to control the blaze. "The fire was our destiny, no one could have put it out," Vangelis Katsaros, who lost his entire farm to the blaze, told the BBC.
8-10-21 IPCC author Tamsin Edwards: 'Still possible to limit warming to 1.5°C'
The landmark report released yesterday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has left many people reeling about the current and future state of our planet. But Tamsin Edwards at King’s College London, a lead author on the report, says it is understandable that it takes time for the gravity of the situation to sink in. “I think many people aren’t that aware that we have already committed ourselves to changes that are irreversible. That is a profound thing to take on board,” she says. Those changes include warmer ocean temperatures, ocean acidification and a decline in oxygen levels in our seas. All are now irreversible on centennial to millennial time scales because of humanity’s fossil fuel burning and other activities. “We are changing the planet. It will continue to change no matter what we do in terms of our emissions, for hundreds of thousands of years. That is beyond our comprehension in many ways,” says Edwards. Her involvement in reviewing the global environmental crisis is intimately connected to her own personal health crisis. Edwards was appointed a lead author on the report in 2018, around the same time she was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Three years ago, she delayed chemotherapy to attend a vital meeting in China with some of the 234 other authors of the report. The covid-19 pandemic pushed those meetings online, culminating in the past fortnight where the final text was approved by 195 governments, a process that adds to the report’s gravitas. For Edwards, one key message from the report is the upgrade from human influence on global warming from “clear” in a 2013 IPCC report, to “unequivocal”. “The much, much stronger statements on human influence is really striking,” she says. “To see that human influence is the main driver of air temperatures, ocean temperatures, hot extremes, Arctic sea ice loss, glacier loss, sea level rise, and many other aspects as well, it’s an incredibly strong message.”
8-10-21 Climate change: At-risk nations fear extinction after IPCC report
Nations vulnerable to climate change have warned they are on the "edge of extinction" if action is not taken. The warning by a group of developing countries comes after a landmark UN report argued that global warming could make parts of the world uninhabitable. World leaders including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson have called the report a "wake-up call to the world". But some of the strongest reaction to its findings has come from countries that are set to be the worst hit. "We are paying with our lives for the carbon someone else emitted," said Mohamed Nasheed, a former Maldives president who represents almost 50 countries that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The Maldives is the world's lowest-lying country and Mr Nasheed said the projections by UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) would be "devastating" for the nation, putting it on the "edge of extinction". According to the latest IPCC report, heatwaves, heavy rainfall and droughts will become more common and extreme. The UN's chief has labelled it a "code red for humanity". The report says there is "unequivocal" evidence that humans are to blame for increasing temperatures. Within the next two decades, temperatures are likely to rise 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, it adds. That could lead to sea levels rising by half a metre, but a rise of 2m by the end of the century cannot be ruled out. That could have a devastating impact on low-lying coastal countries, said Diann Black-Layne, ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda, and lead climate negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States. "That is our very future, right there," Ms Black-Layne said. The report comes less than three months before a key climate summit in Glasgow known as COP26. Boris Johnson, who is hosting the conference, said the report showed help was needed for countries bearing the brunt of climate change. "Today's report makes for sobering reading, and it is clear that the next decade is going to be pivotal to securing the future of our planet," he said. "We know what must be done to limit global warming - consign coal to history and shift to clean energy sources, protect nature and provide climate finance for countries on the frontline."
8-10-21 Windbreaks, surprisingly, could help wind farms boost power output
Low walls in front of turbines could improve performance by 10 percent, simulations show. Windbreaks may sound like a counterintuitive idea for boosting the performance of a wind turbine. But physicists report that low walls that block wind could actually help wind farms produce more power. Scientists already knew that the output of a single wind turbine could be improved with a windbreak. While windbreaks slow wind speed close to the ground, above the height of the windbreak, wind speeds actually increase as air rushes over the top. But for large wind farms, there’s a drawback. A windbreak’s wake slows the flow of air as it travels farther through the rows of turbines. That could suggest that windbreaks would be a wash for wind farms with many turbines. But by striking a balance between these competing effects, windbreaks placed in front of each turbine can increase power output, new computer simulations suggest. It comes down to the windbreaks’ dimensions. Squat, wide barriers are the way to go, according to a simulated wind farm with six rows of turbines. To optimize performance, windbreaks should be a tenth the height of the turbine and at least five times the width of the blades, physicists report July 30 in Physical Review Fluids. Such an arrangement could increase the total power by about 10 percent, the researchers found. That’s the equivalent of adding an additional turbine, on average, for every 10 in a wind farm. In the simulations, the wind always came from the same direction, suggesting the technique might be useful in locations where wind tends to blow one way, such as coastal regions. Future studies could investigate how this technique might apply in places where wind direction varies.
8-10-21 Climate change: Make coal history says PM after climate warning
Coal needs to be consigned to history to limit global warming, says PM Boris Johnson, describing a UN report on climate change as "sobering". He said the world must shift to clean energy and provide finance to help countries at risk from changing climates. The landmark study found it was "unequivocal" that human activity was responsible for global warming. Green campaigners said the UK must halt planned new fossil fuel projects. Despite the call to end the use of coal, the UK is considering plans for a new coking coal mine in Cumbria, as well as proposals to tap a new oil field near Shetland. The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the UN group on the science of climate change - said climate change was already here and causing chaos in some places. Its authors said some of the changes, including rising sea levels, would not be reversed for hundreds or maybe thousands of years. The publication comes less than three months before the UK hosts a key climate summit, known as COP26, in Glasgow. Mr Johnson said: "Today's report makes for sobering reading, and it is clear that the next decade is going to be pivotal to securing the future of our planet. "We know what must be done to limit global warming - consign coal to history and shift to clean energy sources, protect nature and provide climate finance for countries on the frontline." The UK government, which has adopted a 2035 deadline for a 78% emissions cut, is due to publish its strategy on cutting UK emissions to zero overall by 2050 this autumn. Net zero means cutting carbon emissions as far as possible then balancing out any remaining releases, for example by tree planting. "The UK is leading the way, decarbonising our economy faster than any country in the G20 over the last two decades," the prime minister said.
8-9-21 Extreme weather: How it is connected to climate change?
Heatwaves, deadly floods and wildfires - this summer people are having to confront the link between extreme weather and climate change. Emissions from the burning of fossil fuels have been trapping heat in the atmosphere since the start of the industrial era. As a consequence, average temperatures have risen by 1.2C. This additional energy is unevenly distributed and bursts out in extremes like the ones we've been seeing this summer. Without reductions in global emissions, this cycle will keep going. Here are four ways climate change is contributing to extreme weather. 1. Hotter, longer heatwaves: To understand the impact of small changes to average temperatures, you need to to think of them as a bell curve, with extreme cold and hot at either end, and the bulk of temperatures in the middle. A small shift in the centre means that more of the curve touches the the extremes - and so heatwaves become more frequent and extreme. 2. More persistent droughts: As heatwaves become more intense and longer, droughts can worsen. Less rain falls between heatwaves, so ground moisture and water supplies run dry more quickly. 3. More fuel for wildfires: Wildfires can be sparked by direct human involvement - but natural factors can play a huge part. The cycle of extreme and long-lasting heat caused by climate change draws more and more moisture out of the ground and vegetation.4. More extreme rainfall events: In the usual weather cycle, hot weather creates moisture and water vapour in the air, which turns into droplets to create rain. The warmer it becomes, however, the more vapour there is in the atmosphere, resulting in more droplets - and heavier rainfall, sometimes in a shorter space of time and over a smaller area.
8-9-21 13 things we learned from the landmark IPCC climate report
The world’s top climate scientists today released their first major review in eight years on the physical science of climate change, in a report approved by 195 countries. Here are 13 things we learned from the 4000-page Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, about 3000 pages of which are simply a list of citations for the 14,000 scientific papers assessed.
- The world has warmed by 0.1°C more than previously thought:
- We have even greater certainty that our fossil fuel burning and activities are to blame:
- Earth is expected to reach or breach 1.5°C of warming within two decades:
- Staying below 1.5°C in the longer term is still possible:
- We have already locked in climate changes that will last thousands of years:
- Some air pollution cuts will likely increase climate change:
- Each fraction of warming and every extra tonne of CO2 matters:
- The pandemic has had little impact on climate change:
- CO2 removals are going to be important:
- We cannot rely on nature as an excuse for business as usual:
- Geoengineering the planet is probably a bad idea:
- There’s no longer any doubt about the links between climate change and extreme weather:
- The Arctic will likely be ice-free at points in coming decades:
8-9-21 Climate change: Five things we have learned from the IPCC report
The UN report on the science of climate change is set to make a huge impact. Our environment correspondent Matt McGrath considers some of the key lessons from it.
- Climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying - and it's down to us: For those who live in the West, the dangers of warming our planet are no longer something distant, impacting people in faraway places.
- The 1.5C temperature limit is on life support: When the last IPCC report on the science of climate change was published in 2013, the idea of 1.5C being the safe global limit for warming was barely considered.
- The bad news: No matter what we do, the seas will continue to rise: In the past, the IPCC has been criticised for being way too conservative when it came to assessing the risk of sea-level rise: A lack of clear research saw previous reports exclude the potential impacts of the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
- The good news: Scientists are more certain about what will work: The warnings are clearer and more dire - but there is an important thread of hope running through this report.
- Politicians will be nervous, the courts will be busy: The timing of this report, coming just a couple of months before the critical COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, means that it will likely be the bedrock of the negotiations. The IPCC has some form here: their previous assessment in 2013 and 2014 paved the way for the Paris climate agreement.
8-9-21 Climate change: IPCC report is 'code red for humanity'
Human activity is changing the climate in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways, a major UN scientific report has said. The landmark study warns of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding, and a key temperature limit being broken in just over a decade. The report "is a code red for humanity", says the UN chief. But scientists say a catastrophe can be avoided if the world acts fast. There is hope that deep cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases could stabilise rising temperatures. Echoing the scientists' findings, UN Secretary General António Guterres said: "If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe. But, as today's report makes clear, there is no time for delay and no room for excuses. I count on government leaders and all stakeholders to ensure COP26 is a success." The sober assessment of our planet's future has been delivered by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of scientists whose findings are endorsed by the world's governments. Their report is the first major review of the science of climate change since 2013. Its release comes less than three months before a key climate summit in Glasgow known as COP26. In strong, confident tones, the IPCC's document says "it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land". According to Prof Ed Hawkins, from the University of Reading, UK, and one of the report's authors, the scientists cannot be any clearer on this point. "It is a statement of fact, we cannot be any more certain; it is unequivocal and indisputable that humans are warming the planet." Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, said: "By using sports terms, one could say the atmosphere has been exposed to doping, which means we have begun observing extremes more often than before." The authors say that since 1970, global surface temperatures have risen faster than in any other 50-year period over the past 2,000 years. This warming is "already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe". Whether it's heatwaves like the ones recently experienced in Greece and western North America, or floods like those in Germany and China, "their attribution to human influence has strengthened" over the past decade.
8-9-21 Earth will hit 1.5°C climate limit within 20 years, says IPCC report
Earth is expected to hit the critical threshold of 1.5°C warming due to climate change within the next 20 years, regardless of how deeply global governments cut greenhouse gas emissions under all five scenarios considered by a landmark scientific report. In a summary on the state of climate science, agreed by 195 countries on 6 August and published today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said humanity’s role in driving climate change was “unequivocal”, an upgrade on the language of “clear” used eight years ago. Researchers said each of the past four decades has been successively warmer than any decade since 1850, and warned of more extreme weather if emissions aren’t checked. This year has already seen deadly floods and heatwaves, from Canada to China. “Climate change is not a problem of the future, it’s here and now, and affecting every region of the world,” says Friederike Otto at the University of Oxford, a lead IPCC author. the world faces a catastrophic 4.4°C average temperature rise by 2100, the IPCC concluded. Under all five scenarios, in the next two decades warming reaches or exceeds the 1.5°C goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which also set a weaker goal of holding warming to 2°C. However, the good news is the most ambitious scenario, with emissions cut to net zero and removed from the atmosphere, would see warming later fall back to 1.4°C by 2100. “The 1.5°C or 2°C goals, they are not cliff edges,” says Ed Hawkins of the University of Reading, UK, an author on the IPCC report. “We don’t fall off a cliff if we go over those thresholds. Every bit of warming matters. The consequences get worse and worse and worse as we get warmer and warmer and warmer. Every tonne of CO2 matters.” Those consequences include more extreme heat, heavier and more variable rainfall of the kind that caused floods recently in Germany, plus more snow loss and permafrost thaw. The Arctic is expected to be ice-free in summer at least once before 2050 under all emissions scenarios, further endangering polar bears and speeding up warming as less of the sun’s energy is reflected back to space.
8-9-21 U.N.-backed climate panel issues a dire report that contains a sliver of positive news
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a dire report Monday warning that the world was already locked into more weather-related disasters, higher sea levels and more acidic oceans, and other significant changes to the planet due to greenhouse gases humans have sent into the atmosphere since the 1850s. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres called the report's findings "a code red for humanity" and said we owe it to "the entire human family" to cut emissions fast and sharply to avoid irreversible catastrophe. But amid the stark warnings of "unprecedented" environmental changes human actions are provoking, the IPCC said the worst-case scenario it laid out in its 2013 report is actually less likely eight years later. The 234 climate scientists who compiled IPCC's sixth report laid out five scenarios, based on how much action countries take to combat climate change. In each scenario, the world fails to meet the most ambitious target from the 2015 Paris climate agreement: keeping the rise in global temperatures under 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. The world is now expected to surpass that mark in the 2030s. Under the best-case scenario — humanity replaces fossil fuels with renewable energy by 2050 and changes how it eats, lives, and travels — the temperature would drop slightly after hitting 1.5 degrees next decade. In the worst case, in which the world takes no action, global temperatures would be about 3.3 degrees Celsius above 19th century levels by the end of the century. The past five IPCC reports assumed the world was on this hottest "business as usual" path, but now the climate scientists see us somewhere in between either slowing emissions considerably or reducing them slightly, according to study co-author Claudia Tebaldi, a scientist at the U.S. Pacific Northwest National Lab. "We are a lot less likely to get lucky and end up with less warming than we thought," said Zeke Hausfather at the Breakthrough Institute and a report co-author. "At the same time, the odds of ending up in a much worse place than we expected if we do reduce our emissions are notably lower." "Things are going to change for the worse. But they can change less for the worse than they would have, if we are able to limit our footprint now," Tebaldi said. "Every little bit counts."
8-9-21 COP26: Minister says summit must be a turning point
Environment Minister Zac Goldsmith has urged Conservative MPs to back the government's net zero carbon target following the publication of the UN report on climate change. Lord Goldsmith has said today's report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) "makes appalling reading". Its release comes less than three months before a key global climate summit in Glasgow known as COP26. But a small group of rebel Tory MPs, led by Craig McKinlay, say they fear the costs of tackling climate change will harm poor families. The environment minister told the BBC the IPCC report "adds to the urgency and importance of making this COP a turning point. "The alarm bells couldn't be clearer or louder. We really need to get behind it," Lord Goldsmith said. The government has consistently stated that poorer households will be helped to get low-carbon, cosy homes. But it hasn't yet come up with a plan to make that happen, with its Buildings Strategy delayed until the autumn. The target of net zero emissions by 2050 was in the Conservative's 2019 general election manifesto. But former cabinet minister Esther McVey is one of the Tory MPs worried about the cost of changing boilers and insulating homes. She said: “What I would never want to do is bankrupt the country. We don't go green and go red as a country at the same time." Lord Lawson, former Conservative chancellor and long-term climate change “sceptic” told the prime minister: “The [advisory] Committee on Climate Change has shown you some extraordinary estimates of the cost of decarbonising the economy – extraordinary in the sense of being highly implausible.” Last week four articles authored by Conservatives appeared in newspapers on the same day, suggesting a co-ordinated, albeit small, anti-green initiative. Lord Goldsmith re-tweeted an accusation by the head of Natural England, Tony Juniper, that a campaign is underway to sabotage COP26.
8-9-21 Climate change: Make coal history says PM after climate warning
Coal needs to be consigned to history to limit global warming, says PM Boris Johnson, describing a UN report on climate change as "sobering". He said the world must shift to clean energy and provide finance to help countries at risk from changing climates. The landmark study found it was "unequivocal" that human activity was responsible for global warming. Green campaigners said the UK must halt planned new fossil fuel projects. Despite the call to end the use of coal, the UK is considering plans for a new coking coal mine in Cumbria, as well as proposals to tap a new oil field near Shetland. The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - the UN group on the science of climate change - said climate change was already here and causing chaos in some places. Its authors said some of the changes, including rising sea levels, would not be reversed for hundreds or maybe thousands of years. The publication comes less than three months before the UK hosts a key climate summit, known as COP26, in Glasgow.Mr Johnson said: "Today's report makes for sobering reading, and it is clear that the next decade is going to be pivotal to securing the future of our planet. "We know what must be done to limit global warming - consign coal to history and shift to clean energy sources, protect nature and provide climate finance for countries on the frontline." The UK government, which has adopted a 2035 deadline for a 78% emissions cut, is due to publish its strategy on cutting UK emissions to zero overall by 2050 this autumn. Net zero means cutting carbon emissions as far as possible then balancing out any remaining releases, for example by tree planting. The UK has already drastically reduced the use of coal, with consumption falling from 61 million tonnes in 2013 to eight million tonnes last year. But the UK remains dependent on other fossil fuels such as natural gas, which provides most home heating and about 40% of electricity. "The UK is leading the way, decarbonising our economy faster than any country in the G20 over the last two decades," the prime minister said. "I hope today's IPCC report will be a wake-up call for the world to take action now, before we meet in Glasgow in November for the critical COP26 summit."
8-9-21 Thunberg calls out climate impact of fashion brands in Vogue interview
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has condemned the fashion industry over its "huge" contribution to climate change, in a magazine interview. Ms Thunberg told Vogue Scandinavia that fashion brands needed to take responsibility for the environmental impact of their products. In a tweet, she accused some companies of "greenwash" ad campaigns designed to make their clothes appear sustainable. Vogue Scandinavia featured Ms Thunberg, 18, on the cover of its first issue. On Sunday Ms Thunberg tweeted a picture of the front cover, which showed her wearing an oversized trench coat while petting a horse in a forest. In the tweet Ms Thunberg - one of the world's best-known climate campaigners - criticised "fast fashion that many treat as disposables". The term "fast fashion" is used to describe the rapid, low-cost production of clothing to service demand for seasonal trends. Calling for a "system change", Ms Thunberg said fashion could not be mass produced and consumed "sustainably as the world is shaped today". The United Nations says the fashion industry is "widely believed to be the second-most polluting industry in the world". It accounts for more than 20% of wastewater globally, the UN says. About 93bn cubic metres of water - enough for five million people to survive - is used by the fashion industry every year. As for carbon emissions, the industry is responsible for about 8% of the total worldwide. That's more than all international flights and shipping combined, the UN says. In response to this, fashion brands have started to take action to reduce their environmental footprint. But environmental campaigners like Ms Thunberg say many of these brands are promoting solutions that only appear to address the problem. These companies are often accused of greenwashing, which is a form of marketing spin designed to mislead consumers about the environmental merits of a product. In the interview, Mr Thunberg said she last bought a new item of clothing three years ago and "it was second-hand". "I just borrow things from people I know," Ms Thunberg said.
8-9-21 Why China's climate policy matters to us all
China's carbon emissions are vast and growing, dwarfing those of other countries. Experts agree that without big reductions in China's emissions, the world cannot win the fight against climate change. China's President Xi Jinping has said his country will aim for its emissions to reach their highest point before 2030 and for carbon neutrality to be achieved by 2060. President Xi has not said how China will achieve this extremely ambitious goal. While all countries face problems getting their emissions down, China is facing the biggest challenge. China's per-person emissions are about half those of the US, but its huge 1.4 billion population and explosive economic growth have pushed it way ahead of any other country in its overall emissions. China became the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide in 2006 and is now responsible for more than a quarter of the world's overall greenhouse gas emissions. Getting China's emissions down is achievable, according to many experts, but will require a radical shift. Coal has been the country's main source of energy for decades, and its use is increasing. President Xi says China will "phase down" coal use from 2026, but the announcement was criticised by some governments and campaigners for not going far enough. Researchers at Tsinghua University in Beijing say China will need to stop using coal entirely for generating electricity by 2050, to be replaced by nuclear and renewable energy production. But far from shutting down coal-fired power stations, China is currently building new ones at more than 60 locations across the country, with many sites having more than one plant. New stations are usually active for 30 to 40 years, so China will need to reduce the capacity of newer plants as well as close old ones if it is to bring emissions down, says researcher Philippe Ciais of the Institute of Environment and Climate Science in Paris. It may be possible to retrofit some to capture emissions, but the technology to do so at scale is still developing, and many plants will have to be written off after minimal use. China argues it has a right to do what Western countries have done in the past, releasing carbon dioxide in the process of developing its economy and reducing poverty. It has also financed coal-fired power stations outside China through its Belt and Road initiative though it does now appear to be scaling back new investments. (Webmasters Comment: United States has twice the carbon emissions per capita than China has!)
8-9-21 Dixie Fire: Firefighters tackle historic California wildfire
Firefighters are continuing to tackle a wildfire in northern California which has become the second largest in state history. The Dixie Fire has already destroyed nearly all of the historic Gold Rush town of Greenville and authorities warn it could take weeks to contain. There are currently 11 major wildfires burning in the state. Rescue workers are bracing for higher temperatures of 38C (100F) in the coming days. The Dixie Fire started on 13 July and has since ravaged more than 489,000 acres (198,000 hectares). Just 21% of the blaze is contained, according to officials. It is second in size only to last year's August Complex fire, which burned through more than 1m acres, and is currently around 2.5 times the size of New York City. Four people are missing and thousands have been evacuated, some of those now residing in tents. About 39% of Pumas County is under an evacuation order. "We're seeing fire activity that even veteran firefighters haven't seen in their career," Edwin Zuniga, a spokesman for Cal Fire told the Washington Post. "So we're just in really uncharted territory," he said. More than 5,000 firefighters are currently tackling the Dixie Fire. After ravaging through Greenville last Wednesday, the fire is now threatening the small town of Crescent Mills, three miles (five kilometres) southeast of Greenville. Authorities have warned that low moisture levels have made the area vulnerable to fast-spreading fires. In a video briefing on Sunday, a California fire official said that living trees in the area now contain less moisture than a plank of wood bought at a lumberyard. "It's that dry, so it doesn't take much for any sort of embers, sparks or small flaming front to get that going," said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection section chief Mark Brunton. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, there are wildfires across 15 states in the country. There are about 107 large blazes that have burned through more than two million acres. It warned of a "high potential for severe wildfire activity throughout the western United States through the rest of summer and into the fall".
8-9-21 Greece wildfires: Evia island residents forced to evacuate
Wildfires are continuing to rip through the Greek island of Evia, prompting residents to flee to safety by sea. More than 2,000 people have already been evacuated, with elderly residents carried on to ferries. Local officials said not enough help had been sent to fight the fires, adding that parts of the island had already been destroyed. Greece is experiencing its most severe heatwave in 30 years in which temperatures have spiked to 45C (113F). A number of wildfires have struck the country in recent days. One blaze in the northern suburb of Athens is said to have subsided. Heatwaves such as this are becoming more likely and more extreme because of human-induced climate change. The subsequent hot, dry weather is likely to fuel wildfires. On Evia, a large island to the north and east of Athens, two fire fronts have destroyed thousands of hectares of land, along with a number of houses and businesses. Firefighters have been struggling to keep fires at bay in a number of villages on the island. Images on Sunday show more people being evacuated including elderly people who were pictured being carried on to ferries. With no sign of the fire subsiding, residents and officials are calling for more help. Giannis Kontzias, mayor of the municipality of Istiaia in the northern part of Evia, told local news: "It's already too late, the area has been destroyed." He appealed for more help from water-bombing planes and helicopters. But Civil Protection Chief Nikos Hardalias said the planes faced a number of difficulties including poor visibility caused by the fires. Some people are finding it hard to breathe because there is so much smoke and ash in the air. Yesterday we were in one of the villages that was evacuated and the whole place was covered in a pall of orange smoke. One Serbian tourist who was waiting on the beach for a ferry said it was like an apocalyptic movie. People here are on alert and there is a lot of distress. There is a feeling that the authorities are letting people down and not helping enough but the government says it is doing all it can.
8-9-21 Greece wildfires: 'It's like a horror movie but it's real life'
Thousands of people have had to evacuate Greece's second biggest island as severe wildfires rage. Standing under red skies, one tourist on Evia described the scenes as "apocalyptic", while another woman fleeing by ferry said: "It's like a horror movie but it's not... it's real life". Drone footage has also been filmed that shows the extent of the damage caused by wildfires on the mainland, north of Athens.
8-8-21 Dixie Fire now 2nd largest blaze in California history
The Dixie Fire in California has now burned more than 463,000 acres, making it the second largest wildfire in state history. The blaze, which started on July 13, has swept through four counties in Northern California — Plumas, Butte, Lassen, and Tehama — and destroyed the town of Greenville, Lassen National Park's historic Mount Harkness Fire Lookout, and more than 400 homes and commercial buildings. Sheriff's officials in Plumas County also say that four people in the area threatened by the fire are missing. As of Sunday morning, the fire was 21 percent contained. The Dixie Fire is the largest wildfire currently burning in the United States, forcing thousands to evacuate from their homes. Fire officials said the massive smoke cloud is helping keep temperatures lower and humidity slightly higher, making it a bit easier to suppress the fire, but it also has made it unsafe for some water-dropping aircraft to fly, the Los Angeles Times reports. The largest fire in California history was the Complex Fire, which burned more than 1 million acres in 2020. An investigation into what started the Dixie Fire is underway, with the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. saying it could have been sparked by a Douglas fir falling onto a power line.
8-8-21 Climate change: Time running out to stop catastrophe - Alok Sharma
The world is "dangerously close" to running out of time to stop a climate change catastrophe, the UK government's climate chief Alok Sharma has said. Mr Sharma - who is leading COP26, the climate summit hosted by the UK this year - said the effects were already clear with floods, fires and heatwaves. "We can't afford to wait two years, five years, 10 years - this is the moment," he told the Observer. But he did not condemn the government for allowing more fossil fuel projects. And he defended his decision to travel to more than 30 countries in seven months. Mr Sharma's interview with the Observer comes ahead of a major report being released on Monday from the United Nations' climate change researchers. The report is set to be the strongest statement yet from the UN group on the science of climate change - and will likely give details about how the world's oceans, ice caps and land will change in the next decades. The summary has been approved in a process involving scientists and representatives of 195 governments, which - having signed off on the findings - will be under pressure to take more action at COP26 in November. Doug Parr, chief scientist with Greenpeace UK, said "world leaders have done a terrible job of listening" to warnings about climate change. "This year, this has to change. We don't need more pledges, commitments and targets - we need real action right here right now." Wildfires are currently raging in Greece, forcing thousands to evacuate their homes - and fires have also been burning in Turkey and California in the US. This summer, western Europe also saw its worst flooding in decades, which killed dozens of people. Mr Sharma said if urgent action was not taken, the consequences would be "catastrophic". "I don't think there's any other word for it," he said. "You're seeing on a daily basis what is happening across the world. Last year was the hottest on record, the last decade the hottest decade on record."
8-8-21 Climate change: Low-income countries 'can't keep up' with impacts
Low-income countries are struggling to protect themselves against climate change, officials and experts have told the BBC. Organisations representing 90 countries say that their plans to prevent damage have already been outpaced by climate-induced disasters, which are intensifying and happening more regularly. The UN says the number of developing countries with climate adaptation plans has increased. But it stresses that there's limited evidence these plans have reduced any risks. "We need to adapt our plans to the worsening climate crisis. Our existing plans are not enough to protect our people," says Sonam Wangdi, chair of the UN's Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group on climate change. Their call for action comes as the UN's climate science body prepares to publish its latest assessment on Monday about the state of global warming. The report, compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will provide a scientific assessment of current and future climate change, and be a key reference for policymakers at the UN climate summit in Glasgow this November. The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since the industrial era began, and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions. Last year, the Caribbean had a record-breaking 30 tropical storms - including six major hurricanes. The World Meteorological Organisation says the region is still recovering. On islands like Antigua and Barbuda, experts say that many buildings have been unable to withstand the intense winds these storms have brought. "We used to see category four hurricanes, so that's what we have prepared for with our adaptation plans, but now we are being hit by category five hurricanes," says Diann Black Layner, chief climate negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States. "Category five hurricanes bring winds as strong as 180 miles per hour which the roofs cannot withstand because it creates stronger pressure inside our houses," she said.
8-8-21 Greece wildfires: Hundreds more evacuated as uncontrolled fires rage
Hundreds more people have been forced to flee their homes in Greece as firefighters struggle to contain huge, days-old, wildfires. Tourists and locals were evacuated by boat from Evia, the country's second-largest island, on Sunday. More than 2,000 people have now been evacuated in total. Houses and power lines have also been destroyed. While the fire on Evia is the most severe, dozens of smaller blazes are burning around the country. The fires broke out after the most severe heatwave in 30 years, in which temperatures spiked to 45C (113F). Heatwaves such as this are becoming more likely and more extreme because of human-induced climate change. The subsequent hot, dry weather is likely to fuel wildfires. "We have ahead of us another difficult evening, another difficult night," Civil Protection Deputy Minister Nikos Hardalias said on Sunday. "On Evia we have two major fire fronts, one in the north and one in the south," he said, adding that the situation around the capital Athens had improved. "We are afraid of the danger of flare-ups," Mr Hardalias warned. Hundreds of firefighters have been deployed to Evia, and a total of 17 planes and helicopters are assisting with the efforts there. The army has also been sent in. The coastguard has evacuated more than 2,000 people from the island since Tuesday. Dramatic footage showed ferries full of people surrounded by the burning landscape and bright red skies. "I feel angry. I lost my home... nothing will be the same," one resident, Vasilikia, told Reuters news agency as she boarded a rescue ferry on Sunday. "It's a disaster. It's huge. Our villages are destroyed, there is nothing left from our homes," she added. Authorities have warned that the risk of further fires remains high in many regions, including Athens and Crete. Greece's prime minister, meanwhile, has warned that the country could face a "nightmarish summer" of continuous forest fires.
8-8-21 Greece fires: Hundreds rescued by coastguard
Hundreds of people in Greece have been rescued from an island near Athens as wildfires spread to the coast. The coastguard moved 650 people from Limni, in the north of the island of Evia, after a severe heatwave sparked fires across the country.
8-8-21 North Korea: Kim Jong-un calls for relief in flood-hit areas
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called on the military to carry out relief work in areas recently hit by heavy rains, state media report. More than 1,000 homes were damaged and about 5,000 people evacuated after the ensuing flooding, state television reported earlier this week. The move comes amid concerns over an economic crisis and food shortages. Agricultural land has been damaged, and Kim Jong-un said in June the country faced a "tense" food situation. He said at the time the agricultural sector had failed to meet its grain targets due to typhoons last year, which caused flooding, and that much would depend on this year's harvest. Footage from the state-run KCTV showed homes flooded up to their roofs, as well as damaged bridges and railroads in the eastern province of South Hamgyong. It also said about 17km (10 miles) of roads and bridges had been damaged. The report said "hundreds of hectares of farmland" were also submerged or lost as river levees collapsed, AFP news agency reports. The ruling Workers' Party's Central Military Commission held a meeting on Thursday to discuss recovery from the disaster, the official KCNA news agency said. Mr Kim did not attend the meeting, but party officials conveyed his message that the military should provide necessary supplies in the region, KCNA said. With the soil already saturated, further rains could cause more damage. Heavy rain was forecast until 10 August, with eastern areas expected to be particularly hit, according to the country's meteorological agency. North Korea is struggling under international sanctions, imposed because of its nuclear programme. The country has also closed its borders to contain the spread of Covid-19, leading to trade with China - which North Korea relies on for food, fertiliser and fuel - plummeting as a result. North Korea suffered from a nationwide famine in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union left it without crucial aid. The total number of people who starved to death at the time is not known, but estimates range up to three million.
8-8-21 North Korea floods: Homes destroyed and thousands evacuated
The east of North Korea has been struck by severe flooding after heavy rain, leading to homes being destroyed and thousands of people being evacuated. The state broadcaster said some regions had seen over 50cm (20in) of rain in three days.
8-7-21 Climate change: New report will highlight 'stark reality' of warming
UN researchers are set to publish their strongest statement yet on the science of climate change. The report will likely detail significant changes to the world's oceans, ice caps and land in the coming decades. Due out on Monday, the report has been compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It will be their first global assessment on the science of global heating since 2013. It is expected the forthcoming Summary for Policymakers will be a key document for global leaders when they meet in November. The politicians are due to gather for a climate summit, known as COP26, in Glasgow. After two weeks of virtual negotiations between scientists and representatives of 195 governments, the IPCC will launch the first part of a three-pronged assessment of the causes, impacts and solutions to climate change. It is the presence of these government officials that makes the IPCC different from other science bodies. After the report has been approved in agreement with governments, they effectively take ownership of it. On Monday, a short, 40-page Summary for Policymakers will be released dealing with the physical science. It may be brief, but the new report is expected to pack a punch. "We've seen over a couple of months, and years actually, how climate change is unfolding; it's really staring us in the face," said Dr Heleen de Coninck, from Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, who is a coordinating lead author for the IPCC Working Group III. "It's really showing what the impacts will be, and this is just the start. So I think what this report will add is a big update of the state of the science, what temperature increase are we looking at - and what are the physical impacts of that?" According to many observers, there have been significant improvements in the science in the last few years.
8-7-21 Dixie Fire: California town decimated by largest active US blaze
The Dixie Fire - the largest active blaze in the US - has destroyed homes, historic buildings, and even warped the street lights in Greenville, California
8-7-21 Greece wildfires spread, causing mass evacuations
Thousands of tourists and residents have been evacuated from towns north of the Greek capital, Athens, as wildfires spread across the country. Strong winds and high temperatures are making it difficult to control the blazes, which have killed at least two people, including a firefighter. Huge clouds of smoke and ash near Athens has meant some people there have also been urged to leave their homes. More than 150 fires have been reported. Six areas have been put on high alert. Greece, like many parts of Europe, has been grappling with extreme weather this summer. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the fires showed "the reality of climate change". Hundreds of firefighters are trying to control the fires with about 20 water-bombing aircraft. Extra firefighters and planes are being sent in from countries including the UK, France and the US. The UK government said Home Secretary Priti Patel was sending "experienced firefighters" after witnessing the "devastating effect" of the fires while in Greece earlier this week. Fanned by unpredictable winds, the worst blazes are around the north of Athens. A 38-year-old volunteer firefighter was killed by a falling electricity pole in a suburb of the city. The other victim was the president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce, Konstantinos Michalos. He was found unconscious in a factory close to where a fire was raging. A further 20 people have been injured. The fires are expected to continue to burn and spread on Saturday, despite a drop in temperatures to around 35C (95F) from above 40C earlier this week. Thousands of people were earlier ordered to leave their homes outside Athens as the blaze tore through houses, cars and businesses. Fires have also been raging on the nearby island of Evia, and areas close to ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games.
8-7-21 The activist entrepreneurs running zero-waste shops
In 2017, National Trust colleagues Stacey Fordham, 43, and Lidia Rueda Losada, 37, had a casual chat about how they wished everything they bought wasn't packaged in so much plastic. The conversation spurred an idea to open a shop selling food and household items entirely without packaging, and in March 2018 they took the plunge. They opened Zero Green, believed to be the second store in the country and first in Bristol. Zero Green sells more than 1,000 product lines: including pasta, grains and pulses in dispensers; frozen vegan pasties; eco-cleaning products; cosmetics and sustainable non-plastic toiletries. Consumers are encouraged to bring their own containers or use recycled jars and packaging to take their shopping home. "We put in just over £30,000 to start from our own savings," says Ms Fordham, who also previously worked for Sainsbury's. "You have to really believe in what you're doing in order to do this, otherwise it's very hard." The first UK shop was Earth.Food.Love in Totnes, set up by former Manchester United footballer Richard Eckersley and his wife Nicola in 2017. The pioneering couple are credited by the zero-waste community with sharing how they established their business, offering full supplier lists, business plans and pricing lists for free, online. Ms Fordham and Ms Rueda Losada used their tips. But there was a lot of trial and error, they say, plus additional challenges as they were determined to live by their green principles. "It was really important for us to not buy virgin wood or racking off a shelf - everything we used in the shop was upcycled. "We went to electrical companies and got big cable drums, upcycled pallets and salvaged scaffolding boards," says Ms Fordham. They were "really lucky", she adds, as within six months Zero Green had broken even and eventually moved to a retail space four times bigger.
8-6-21 California Gold Rush town 'destroyed' by state's largest wildfire
The largest wildfire currently burning in California, known as the Dixie Fire, has destroyed nearly all of the historic Gold Rush town of Greenville. The estimated 800 residents of the northern California community were told to evacuate before the blaze tore through the downtown area. Officials say some people may not have heeded the order to leave. There have been no reports of deaths or injuries. The three-week old Dixie Fire is now the eighth largest in state history. Pictures from the scene show tall trees that have caught on fire, and structures that have been scorched and hollowed out by flames. One photographer tweeted a photo of a metal light pole that had melted due to the intense heat. Firefighters had been working for days to fight back the blaze. But on Wednesday night, it broke through the line and swept into the downtown area. "We lost Greenville tonight," said Congressman Doug LaMalfa, who represents the region. "There's just no words." The fire now covers around 322,000 acres, and was only 35% contained as of Thursday morning. Dozens of structures, including homes, have been burned. Climate change increases the risk of the hot, dry weather that is likely to fuel wildfires. The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.
8-6-21 Greece battles wildfires near Athens and on Evia island
Greece carried out mass evacuations overnight in the northern suburbs of Athens and on the nearby island of Evia as wind whipped up huge wildfires. Thousands had to leave their homes near Athens and 600 left Evia by boat. Acrid smoke hangs over the Greek capital. Gale-force winds are forecast to fan the many blazes. Firefighters from France, Switzerland, Sweden, Cyprus and Romania are assisting Greece. Wildfires are also raging in North Macedonia and southwestern Turkey. North Macedonia has declared a state of emergency, and there are several blazes in neighbouring Albania and Bulgaria. The fires began spreading in the region in late July. A fire that flared up in the north Athens suburb of Varybobi gained strength on Thursday and spread to adjacent areas, near Mount Parnitha, the Kathimerini newspaper reported. Further east, residents of Vothonas and Marathon were told to head to the coast on Friday as wildfires spread along several fronts. Dozens of homes have been destroyed or damaged. No deaths have been reported, but several dozen injured people are now in hospital. "If some people still doubt if climate change is real, let them come and see the intensity of phenomena here," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. Climate change increases the risk of the hot, dry weather that is likely to fuel wildfires. Greece has had a week of temperatures above 40C (107 Fahrenheit) and vegetation is bone-dry. The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions. In Kourkoloi on the island of Evia resident Ioannis Aslanis told AFP news agency "it's a disaster, everything burnt in the village". The heatwave has also made Turkey's wildfires the most intense on record - the fires have killed eight people, injured several hundred and forced thousands of residents and tourists to flee.
8-6-21 Will Turkey's bees return after the wildfires?
Wildfires have devastated Turkey's coastline and left at least eight people dead. But people in Marmaris region are also mourning the loss of their bees. This corner of Turkey produced most of the world’s pine honey, a special kind of honey that depends on a delicate ecosystem, now largely destroyed. BBC Turkish has spoken to beekeepers, who are facing a bleak future.
8-6-21 50 years ago, scientists developed self-destructing plastic
Excerpt from the August 7, 1971 issue of Science News. Public indignation over litter and garbage has caused industry to ask chemists whether self-destroying, or quickly degradable, plastics might be devised to replace indestructible … glass, aluminum and plastics, which comprise the largest segment of consumer waste.… [Chemist James] Guillet and his team … devised a self-destroying plastic that is about ready for marketing — a wrapping paper that disintegrates in about a month. Guillet’s work on polymers that degrade via light helped pave the way for their wider commercial use. But these materials may have created more problems than they solved. Most plastics wind up in landfills where the materials don’t get enough light to degrade as intended (SN: 1/30/21, p. 20). Plastics that do break down turn into microscopic pieces that can wind up in ecosystems and harm animals. Scientists are trying to make more eco-friendly plastics, such as compostable plastics that can be totally broken down with enzymes (SN: 6/5/21, p. 5).
8-5-21 Scientists fear a critical Atlantic Ocean system might collapse, triggering 'extreme cold' and sea level rise
Scientists are worried the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), a "critical aquatic conveyer belt" that drives currents in the Atlantic Ocean, is at risk of near-complete collapse due to climate change, The Washington Post reports. A shutdown of the crucial circulation system could "bring extreme cold to Europe and parts of North America, raise sea levels along the U.S. East Coast, and disrupt seasonal monsoons that provide water to much of the world," the Post reports. The effects, in short, would be devastating. "The mere possibility that the AMOC tipping point is close should be enough for us to take countermeasures," warns Levke Caesar, a climate physicist at Maynooth University. Scientists previously believed the AMOC would in fact weaken this century, but didn't imagine total collapse within the next 300 years except in absolute worst-case warming scenarios. Now, according to a new study, that critical threshold "is most likely much closer than we would have expected," said Niklas Boers, the study's author and a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Any exact date, however, is still unknown. It would take years of monitoring and data collection to officially confirm the AMOC slowdown, but there is a degree of "jeopardy" associated with waiting for that proof, scientists say. Besides, possible consequences, like a "cold blob" in the ocean south of Greenland, are already being felt. Frighteningly, if the system does devastatingly shut down, the switch off would be irreversible in human lifetimes. "It's one of those events that should not happen, and we should try all that we can to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible," said Boers. "This is a system we don't want to mess with." Read more at The Washington Post.
8-5-21 COP26: What is the UN climate conference in Glasgow and why is it so important?
Leaders from 196 countries are meeting in Glasgow in November for a major climate conference. They are being asked to agree action to limit climate change and its effects, like rising sea levels and extreme weather. What is the climate conference? The summit is widely seen as crucial if climate change is to be brought under control. It is the moment world leaders will discuss whether enough has been achieved since 2015's landmark Paris climate agreement. This was the most important attempt so far to commit all the countries of the world to limit global warming. They agreed to try to keep temperature increases "well below" 2C (3.6F) and to try to limit them to 1.5C. But many scientists say efforts have fallen far short and global warming could be set to reach 3C. Organised by the UN, the conference is called COP26 (COP stands for Conference of the Parties). What action needs to be agreed at COP26? Countries are being asked for "ambitious" targets to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases - which add to global warming - going into the atmosphere by 2030. And they will be asked how they will achieve "net zero" - no more going into the atmosphere than is removed - by 2050. Burning fossil fuels is a major cause of emissions. So, the steps needed could include: 1. Ending the use of coal, 2. Stopping deforestation, 3. Switching to electric vehicles, 4. Investing in renewable energy. What is climate change? Climate change describes a long-term change in the weather patterns of the planet. The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since factories became widespread, and temperatures will keep rising unless governments take action. Food shortages, heatwaves, storms and rising water levels are among the possible effects.
8-5-21 Climate Change: Half US cars to be zero-emission by 2030 - Biden
President Biden wants half of cars sold in the US by 2030 to be zero-emission vehicles, the White House says. Achieving this would reduce carbon emissions and help the US compete with China, a statement said. Transport accounted for 29% of US emissions in 2019. Sales of zero-emission vehicles in the US lag behind those in Europe and China. The three biggest US carmakers have welcomed the target, though it is not legally binding. The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since the industrial era began, and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions. Under President Trump the US loosened many environmental regulations and climate protections. Mr Biden is now working to convince the world the US is serious about tackling climate change. Responding to the Biden announcement, Ford, General Motors and Stellantis expressed their "shared aspiration" for 40-50% of sales to be electric vehicles including battery electric, fuel cell and plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2030. One of America's largest unions, United Auto Workers (UAW), supports the initiative, while European and Japanese carmakers BMW, Honda, Volkswagen and Volvo have applauded it. Only about 2% of US car sales last year were electric vehicles compared to about 10% in Europe, according to the International Energy Agency. Many of the electric vehicles sold in the US are Teslas, with the company reporting surging profits last month. Mr Biden's move does not go as far as the US state of California, which requires that by 2035 all new cars sold be zero-emission vehicles. Cars produce more than half of all the state's carbon emissions. China is aiming for 20% of cars sold in 2025 to be zero-emissions, rising to half by 2035. The EU meanwhile has proposed limits that would effectively end new petrol and diesel vehicle sales by 2035. The White House said Mr Biden also planned to toughen fuel consumption and emissions regulations but did not give details. The current rules introduced by the Trump administration require carmakers to improve their vehicles' fuel efficiency by 1.5% between 2021 and 2026. The previous Obama administration had demanded a 5% fuel efficiency improvement.
8-5-21 Floods: Research shows millions more at risk of flooding
A new study shows that the percentage of the global population at risk from flooding has risen by almost a quarter since the year 2000. Satellite images were used to document the rise, which is far greater than had been predicted by computer models. The analysis shows that migration and a growing number of flood events are behind the rapid increase. By 2030, millions more will experience increased flooding due to climate and demographic change, the authors say. Flooding is the environmental disaster that impacts more people than any other, say researchers. That view has echoed around the world in recent weeks, with huge inundations destroying lives and property. In Germany and China, record downpours overwhelmed defences, amid arguments about levels of preparation. One of the challenges with flooding, according to researchers, is that most maps of where the waters will likely penetrate are based on models. These simulate floods based on information such as elevation, rainfall and data from ground sensors. But they have significant limitations: they fail to consider population or infrastructure changes and are unable to predict random events such as dam breaches. So when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in 2017, around 80,000 homes were flooded that were not on government risk maps. In this new study, researchers looked at daily satellite imagery to estimate both the extent of flooding and the number of people exposed to over 900 large flood events between 2000 and 2018. They found that between 255 and 290 million people were directly affected - and between 2000 and 2015, the number of people living in these flooded locations increased by 58-86 million. This represents an increase of 20-24% in the proportion of the world population exposed to floods, some 10 times higher than previous estimates. The increase was not evenly spread throughout the world. Countries with increased flood exposure were mainly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. In European and North American nations, the risk was stable or decreasing.
8-4-21 How the fossil fuel era ends – and four possibilities for what follows
Ever cheaper wind and solar power means the decline of coal, oil and gas is unstoppable. The trillion-dollar question is how, and how quickly, their demise comes about. When will the fossil fuel era end? While we don’t know exactly how the energy transition will pan out, the fossil fuel age is ending as it began, as we learn to exploit a vast, cheap, easy-to-use energy resource that is self-evidently superior to the existing options. Now, it is wind and solar power. “The peak of the fossil fuel era is here or hereabouts,” says Kingsmill Bond, a strategist at energy think tank Carbon Tracker. “The plateau is going to last a bit, but then go off a cliff.” How high the cliff is and what is at the bottom depends on which of the scenarios available to us we choose. For the various fossil fuels, however, it will be first in, first out. “Coal is finished,” says Andreas Goldthau at the University of Erfurt in Germany. Regulatory pressure, changing economies and the competitiveness of renewables are doing for old king coal. Even where governments have tried to prop up or revive coal, as in Poland and the US under President Trump, they have failed. “The question is not how coal ends,” says Goldthau. “It’s more about how we manage the transition to give workers and mining communities a smooth landing.” That’s especially relevant in China, India and Indonesia, the biggest remaining coal-burners. According to a road map by the International Energy Agency (IEA), often seen in the past as an apologist for fossil fuels, old-fashioned, dirty coal power should account for 1 per cent of global energy output at most by mid-century if we are to hit net zero. Oil will stick around for longer. “The reality is, the world is going to need oil for decades to come,” said Occidental Petroleum CEO Vicki Hollub at the Climate Science and Investment Conference in New York in May. “There’s still going to be an oil market in 2050,” says Goldthau. “But it’s going to be much smaller.” The IEA forecasts a decline from 90 million barrels a day in 2019 to 24 million barrels a day in 2050, mostly driven by a switch to electric transport.
8-4-21 We know how to build a green energy future. Now we need to do it
A NEW world is within our grasp. That’s the message emerging from our special report on the greatest challenge we face in bending the climate curve: rebuilding our energy systems for a cleaner, greener, more sustainable future. Our current fossil-fuelled system has brought unprecedented prosperity and comfort for billions – and wrought damage on Earth’s climate and support systems the full extent of which we have been all too slow to grasp. Bald economic reality dictates the end of the fossil fuel era is coming. Just as coal, oil and gas in their time displaced wood, wind, water and human and animal muscle power, we now have vast, cheap and hugely superior energy sources at our disposal: solar and (once again) wind. Managing the transition to these energy sources is now not a question of can or can’t, but will or won’t – and whether we do it as expeditiously as our current emergency dictates. Heatwaves in the western US and Canada, wildfires ripping across Siberia, Turkey and south-east Europe, record-breaking floods carrying away lives and livelihoods in Germany and China – the accumulation of extremes just in the past few weeks leaves no room for doubt that climate change is already here. Our report from the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard gives a foretaste of even more dramatic changes that may be to come. So far, action has been pitiful, the influence of those who either don’t recognise the painful reality of the science, or who would rather continue to profit from burning the house down, still all-too evident. The COP26 climate conference this November in the UK is perhaps a last chance to set in train an orderly energy transition that limits global warming to a halfway liveable level and ensures our future prosperity.
8-4-21 How we can transform our energy system to achieve net-zero emissions
Killing fossil fuels to halt global warming is the greatest challenge we face. We now have a masterplan of what we must do when – and there’s no time to delay. TURN on the nearest switch. You won’t notice anything different; that is kind of the point. Yet in many places, there is a better chance than ever that the electricity coming out of the socket was generated by clean, renewable sources such as solar panels and wind turbines. That is progress, of a sort. In most countries, however, most electricity still comes from climate-polluting, fossil-fuel sources. Your heating, too, almost undoubtedly uses fossil fuels, as does your car, if you have one. Most goods you buy require fossil fuels to make them and transport them to the shop or to your front door. And if this is the world you live in, you are a lucky one: access to affordable, reliable, convenient energy of any sort is far from a given in many parts of the globe. That is the background for an energy revolution that needs to happen over the next three decades if we are to hit net-zero carbon emissions, and limit global warming to a “safe” 1.5°C. “The scale and speed of the efforts demanded by this critical and formidable goal make this perhaps the greatest challenge humankind has ever faced,” said Fatih Birol, the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), in May, as he unveiled the agency’s landmark report Net Zero By 2050. That report contained few surprises about what we need to do. The big two questions remaining are whether we will actually do it, and what sort of world we end up making in the process. Stories about renewable energy’s rise can make it seem as if we were already doing brilliantly at boosting its use. Not so, sadly. Back in the 1960s, 6 per cent of global energy came from low-carbon sources, mainly nuclear energy. By 1994, this was 14 per cent, but since then, growth has largely stalled. In 2019, the last year for which we have good figures, fossil fuels supplied 84 per cent of the world’s total energy, once “traditional” biomass – wood used for cooking and so on – is excluded. Of the remaining 16 per cent, hydroelectricity supplied 6 per cent, with nuclear on 4 per cent. Wind and solar supply less than 4 per cent of global energy. Meanwhile, global energy demand has been growing steadily, from 40,000 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 1965 to 160,000 TWh today. Installed renewables capacity isn’t growing fast enough to cover this rising demand.
8-4-21 Fatih Birol interview: Using energy isn’t evil – creating emissions is
People think using more energy is a bad thing, says International Energy Agency chief Fatih Birol – but as long as we can make it cleanly, it needn’t be Adam Vaughan: How do we need to change the world’s energy systems to reach net-zero emissions by 2050? Fatih Birol: Between now and 2030, we have to make the most of the existing clean energy technologies: solar, wind, electric cars, energy efficiency. But this alone is not enough. To use renewables at a maximum level, in an economically efficient way, requires more than having solar photovoltaic panels and windmills. We need strong and distributed grids and storage – in batteries, hydrogen and hydropower. I think there is not enough attention on the second part. It is a major handicap of our push for renewable energies. Some 50 per cent of the reductions to reach net zero in 2050 will need to come from technologies not on the market today. We have a very short period to innovate those technologies, such as hydrogen, batteries and carbon capture, utilisation and storage. We will also need clean-energy technologies in the industrial sector, from cement to steel. [Use of] unabated coal, oil and gas will need to be extremely minimal. This is a major point. A total transformation of the energy system is needed, a Herculean task. How far off-track are we? We are not only off-track, the gap is widening and widening. With the rebound of the [global] economy, we expect an increase of about 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions this year, which would be the second largest increase in history. Most [emissions reduction] pledges are lacking what specific energy policies will be put in place, and how those policies will be financed. It will be much more difficult and much more costly if we do not start to abate emissions as soon as possible. For me, the biggest challenge is coal in Asia. China, India and Indonesia are altogether almost 45 per cent of the global population, and more than 60 per cent of their electricity comes from coal. How to retire those coal plants will be key.
8-4-21 How to understand world energy use – in 10 graphs
How fast is renewable energy rising and fossil fuel use declining? Who’s using how much energy – and for what? Find out in our quick graphical guide to the world energy scene. To limit global warming to a nominally safe level of 1.5°C as laid out in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, we must replace fossil fuels with practically inexhaustible, clean, renewable alternatives, primarily derived from sun, wind and water. The aim is to hit net-zero carbon emissions – pumping no more carbon dioxide into the Earth system than it can absorb – by mid-century. A lot of changes will be needed before we get there. Our demand for energy is still rising year-on-year. Discounting the burning of traditional biomass such as wood, fossil fuels cover almost 85 per cent of “primary” energy demand, namely energy in its raw form, before conversion into heat, electricity or transport fuels. Of the big three fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – only demand for coal is falling. More of the increase in primary energy consumption in 2019 was covered by fossil fuels than by renewable resources. Broadly, our demand for energy can be split into three main sectors, each accounting for roughly a third of energy demand. First, there is the energy used in the buildings in which we live, work and spend our leisure time. About 77 per cent of this goes on heating (and to a lesser extent cooling). Just 10 per cent of that energy comes from modern renewable sources, which excludes things such as biomass and wood used for heating. The remaining 23 per cent of buildings-related energy use is electricity for lighting and appliances. Modern renewables supply about 26 per cent of that, with this proportion rising rapidly year-on-year. The second broad sector is industry and agriculture. About 75 per cent of energy used here is for heat, for example in making steam to power industrial processes and for drying and refrigeration; the rest is for electricity for purposes such as operating machinery and lighting. Some of the most energy-intensive industries, for instance making steel and cement, have the lowest shares of renewable energy. Paper-making, meanwhile, covers 46 per cent of its energy needs with renewable energy. In the third sector, transport, fossil fuels – chiefly oil – account for almost 97 per cent of all demand, principally to fuel cars and aeroplanes. Encouraging walking and cycling rather than car use can help, as can replacing petrol and diesel cars with electric vehicles, and using biofuels and hydrogen as alternative fuels – if these can be made greener.
8-4-21 Can low-income countries leapfrog to clean energy technologies?
THE world has an energy dilemma. On the one hand, we need to drastically clean up energy use in higher-income countries to tackle climate change. But on the other, there are still millions of people who don’t have reliable access to energy. As their energy access improves, there is a risk that this could offset some of the world’s shift to low-carbon energy. It doesn’t have to be that way: this is also an opportunity for some countries to skip much of the fossil fuel stage altogether. For low-income countries, making big improvements in access to electricity is crucial. Better access to energy is linked to improvements in education, economic development and health, for example. According to the latest data from international organisation Sustainable Energy for All, more than 750 million people lack access to electricity and over 2.5 billion people don’t have access to clean cooking technologies or fuels. Many more have limited or unreliable access to electricity. Improving this situation could be a chance to do things differently. Instead of developing energy infrastructures based on fossil fuels, low-income countries could leapfrog straight to cleaner, low-carbon technologies. This isn’t a pipe dream. In the telecommunications sector, for example, landlines never fully took hold in many low-income countries. Instead, people moved straight to using mobile phones. This has also enabled services such as banking via “mobile money”. The potential for leapfrogging in the electricity sector has been strengthened recently by the steep fall in the costs of renewable technologies, and reductions in the costs of complementary technologies such as batteries. According to a recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, the cost of large-scale solar has fallen by 85 per cent in the past decade, while wind power costs have fallen by about 50 per cent. The conventional assumption that fossil fuel electricity is cheaper is now on its way out, as is the idea that improved access is all about centralised electricity grids.
8-4-21 E xtreme heat in Pacific Northwest ruined crops of sweet onions, devastating small farmers
The brutal heatwave that hit the Pacific Northwest in June devastated several farms in Washington that grow sweet onions, with some seeing nearly all of their crops ruined. Scientists say the extreme heat event was due to climate change. Onions can thrive in warm weather, but when the temperature hit 120 degrees, Fernando Enriquez Sr. of Enriquez Farms in Walla Walla saw that the tops of his onions were blistered and baked. By the next day, the thousands of onions in the field that hadn't been harvested were ruined, as were most of the seeds that would have been used to plant next year's crop. "There was nothing we could save," he told The Seattle Times. His son, Fernando Enriquez Jr., said the family lost about 98 percent of their crop. Because of the pandemic, they had scaled back their operation, growing only 40 acres of onions in 2021 compared to 140 acres in 2020. The heat wave was "unprecedented," he told the Times. "I was born and raised here in the valley, my parents have been in this valley for over 50 years, and it's just never that hot at the beginning of June." Walla Walla Organics owner Sarah McClure told the Times that many of her onions were sunburned and their growth was stunted because of how hot it has been. When there is "114 degree heat for days and days," she said, it's "hard" on onions. The farmers are all concerned about what the future holds, with Enriquez Jr. saying if his farm is unable to get federal aid, his family will only be able to grow about two or three acres of onions in 2022. Read more at The Seattle Times.
8-4-21 Timber shortage due to 'unprecedented' post-lockdown demand
The price of timber has risen sharply with builders struggling to get supplies, as post-lockdown construction and DIY projects create huge demand. The Timber Trade Federation (TTF) said suppliers were "working around the clock" but are "struggling to keep up". Climate change is also increasing the pressure on supply with more wildfires and pests that kill trees. The UK imports around 80% of its timber and many are calling for the UK's forestry industry to be nurtured. The government said it was "committed to trebling tree planting rates by the end of this Parliament" and creating many more woodlands to boost the supply and demand for UK-grown timber. Sweden, which supplies almost half of the structural wood used in the UK, has recorded its lowest stock levels for 20 years. David Hopkins, chief executive of the TTF, said: "The pandemic has been the biggest factor causing the problems between supply and demand… but there are other factors at play. We've got these huge forest fires raging across North America that will take lots of timber out of production. "The fires, and now the bugs, are taking out a significant volume from the market." Graham Taylor, managing director of Pryor and Rickett Silviculture, manages around 50,000 acres of forestry across the UK. He said there was "no doubt" the world's natural forests were suffering with climate change, and that yields were dropping. "Canada is reducing its annual cut because its own natural forests are under threat from fire, pest and disease. Because it is such a big producer, when it pulls back, the rest of the world catches a cold." One of those affected is Wilf Meynell, an architect and project manager at Studio Bark, which has created a sustainable, modular, all-timber system used in many self-build projects called U-Build. He said: "Everyone's taking a hit. Our entire business is focused around timber. The price of birch ply has doubled, and the cost of our standard work has risen by 25%."
8-4-21 Climate change: Wales set to build 20,000 low-carbon social homes
Plans to build 20,000 low-carbon social homes for rent in Wales by 2026 have been set out by the Welsh government's climate change minister. The hope is to tackle both a housing shortage and the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. Housing associations say it could lead to thousands of jobs and training opportunities. But the Welsh government's opponents have said they would have gone further and built more. All the houses will meet what the government describes as "bold, new quality and environmental standards". Some could even become miniature power stations, using green technology to generate more electricity than they need. This could then be exported to the national grid to supply other homes. Spending on social housing for rent in 2021-22 is to be doubled, with ministers committing £250m to the project. Julie James, Climate Change Minister, said: "We are building at scale to address the supply and demand imbalance, homelessness, the growing second homes crisis, and the climate emergency." Bethan Proctor, policy and external affairs manager at Community Housing Cymru, said it was a "hugely significant" move. "It's really going to allow housing associations to begin to decarbonise at pace and scale and will have huge positive impacts." These could include the creation of 7,000 jobs, 3,000 training opportunities and help produce almost £2bn of economic output in Wales over the next five years, she claimed. Homelessness charity Shelter Cymru said it welcomed the shift towards building social housing as opposed to so-called "affordable homes", which remained out of reach for many. "To put it into context, we have approaching 70,000 households in Wales who are on waiting lists seeking social housing," said Shelter's chief executive Ruth Power. "We also have more than 6,000 people in temporary accommodation and under the right-to-buy policy up to 2016, we lost 139,000 social homes.
8-4-21 Keir Starmer attacks government record on green jobs
Sir Keir Starmer has urged the government to invest urgently in jobs that benefit the environment. The Labour leader wants £30bn spent to support up to 400,000 “green” jobs in manufacturing and low-carbon industries. The government says it will create thousands of green jobs as part of its overall climate strategy. But official statistics show no measurable increase in environment-based jobs in recent years. Speaking to the BBC as he begins a two-day visit to Scotland, Sir Keir blamed this on a "chasm between soundbites and action”. He and PM Boris Johnson are both in Scotland this week, showcasing their green credentials ahead of November's COP 26 climate summit in Glasgow. Criticising the government's green jobs record, Sir Keir points to its decision to scrap support for solar power and onshore wind energy, and a scheme to help householders in England insulate their homes. He said: “It’s the government’s failure to match its rhetoric with reality that’s led to this, They have used soundbites with no substance. “They have quietly been unpicking and dropping critical commitments when it comes to the climate crisis and the future economy. “It’s particularly concerning when it comes to COP 26. "Leading by example is needed, but just when we need leadership from the prime minister on the global stage, here in the UK we have a prime minister who, frankly, is missing in action." Writing for the Guardian, he said the UK should follow the example of US President Joe Biden, who has put jobs at the centre of his climate change policy. The Labour leader added that the UK government's response to the climate threat had been "small," adding it was "implausible" the UK was on track to meet its emissions targets. A government spokeswoman said ministers would follow the advice of their expert panel, the Green Jobs Taskforce, on how to seize the economic opportunities presented by the shift to a climate-friendly economy.
8-3-21 In the last 24 hours, 81 wildfires have broken out in Greece
An extreme heatwave has brought high temperatures and dry conditions to Greece, with 81 wildfires starting in the country over the last 24 hours. The biggest fire, in a forest north of Athens, entered a residential area on Tuesday. Thousands of people have left their homes, and because of the smoke and flames, there has been a partial closure of the main north-south highway through Greece. There are 500 firefighters working to put out the blaze, which is being fueled by strong winds. Officials are hoping the winds die down by Wednesday morning, giving firefighters the chance to use more water-dropping aircraft. Civil Protection Chief Nikos Hardalias said Greece is "undergoing one of the worst heatwaves of the past 40 years," with temperatures in Athens reaching 113 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday. This is putting a strain on the country's power supply, and forcing early closures at historical sites like the Acropolis. Greece isn't the only country in the region dealing with extreme heat and wildfires — there are dozens of blazes burning in Turkey, Italy, and Albania.
8-3-21 COP26 'should be hybrid event' says former climate chief Figueres
The main architect of the Paris climate agreement has said COP26 needs to be a hybrid event with some negotiations happening virtually. Christiana Figueres told BBC Scotland that some form of in-person conference would still be needed if the talks were to be a success. But she said it was unlikely 25,000 would attend as originally planned. Organisers needed to find the "sweet spot" that would allow for safe and efficient negotiations, she added. Speaking from Chicago, she admitted she did not know whether the historic Paris Agreement could have been achieved if the negotiations had been carried out virtually. Ms Figueres, who used to head the UN's climate change arm, told BBC Scotland: "Could we have done it differently? I honestly do not know. "Over the past 18 months we have actually shifted our mindset and realised that much can be done without our physical presence. So, therein lies the answer to your question. "Somewhere that is only virtual I think is going to be extremely difficult. It will probably not be possible to have 25,000 people descend on Glasgow as was originally planned. And so the big question is going to be, what is the sweet spot in between that will allow for successful and efficient negotiations?" As executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres was the woman who steered the world - against all the odds - towards an international agreement on limiting global warming. After five years at the helm, that happened in Paris in 2015 when the world's nations committed to limiting global warming to between 1.5-2C. Now an observer, and with three months to go until COP26, she told me she wanted world leaders to continue that success when they come together again in Glasgow.
8-3-21 Finance firms plan to close coal plants in Asia
Some of the world's biggest financial institutions are working on a plan to speed the closure of coal-fired power plants in Asia, the BBC has been told. The initiative was developed by UK insurer Prudential, is being driven by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and includes major banks HSBC and Citi. The ADB hopes the plan will be ready for the COP26 climate conference, which is being held in Scotland in November. The plan aims to tackle the biggest human-made source of carbon emissions. Don Kanak, the chairman of Prudential Insurance Growth Markets, who developed the initiative, told the BBC: "The world cannot possibly hit the Paris climate targets unless we accelerate the retirement and replacement of existing coal fired electricity, opening up much larger room in the near term for renewables and storage." "This is especially true in Asia where existing coal fleets are big and young and will otherwise operate for decades," he added. Under the proposal, which was first reported by the Reuters news agency, public-private partnerships will buy coal-fired plants and shut them far sooner than their usual operating lifespan. "By purchasing a coal-fired power plant with, say, 50 years of operational life ahead of it and shutting it down within 15 years we can cut up to 35 years of carbon emission," Ahmed M Saeed, ADB's Vice President for East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific said. The ADB hopes to launch a pilot programme in a developing South East Asian nation - potentially Indonesia, the Philippines or Vietnam - in time for the COP26 event in November. A key feature of the initiative is that it aims to raise the money for the purchases at well below the normal cost by giving lower than usual returns to investors. Aspects of the plan that are yet to be finalised include how coal plant owners can be convinced to sell them, what to do with the plants after they are closed, and what role if any carbon credits could play.
8-3-21 Greece’s Santorini volcano erupts more often when sea level drops
Lower sea levels over the last 360,000 years are linked with more eruptions. When sea level drops far below the present-day level, the island volcano Santorini in Greece gets ready to rumble. A comparison of the activity of the volcano, which is now partially collapsed, with sea levels over the last 360,000 years reveals that when the sea level dips more than 40 meters below the present-day level, it triggers a fit of eruptions. During times of higher sea level, the volcano is quiet, researchers report online August 2 in Nature Geoscience. Other volcanoes around the globe are probably similarly influenced by sea levels, the researchers say. Most of the world’s volcanic systems are in or near oceans. “It’s hard to see why a coastal or island volcano would not be affected by sea level,” says Iain Stewart, a geoscientist at the Royal Scientific Society of Jordan in Amman, who was not involved in the work. Accounting for these effects could make volcano hazard forecasting more accurate. Santorini consists of a ring of islands surrounding the central tip of a volcano poking out of the Aegean Sea. The entire volcano used to be above water, but a violent eruption around 1600 B.C. caused the volcano to cave in partially, forming a lagoon. That particular eruption is famous for potentially dooming the Minoan civilization and inspiring the legend of the lost city of Atlantis (SN: 2/1/12). To investigate how sea level might influence the volcano, researchers created a computer simulation of Santorini’s magma chamber, which sits about four kilometers beneath the surface of the volcano. In the simulation, when the sea level dropped at least 40 meters below the present-day level, the crust above the magma chamber splintered. “That gives an opportunity for the magma that’s stored under the volcano to move up through these fractures and make its way to the surface,” says study coauthor Christopher Satow, a physical geographer at Oxford Brookes University in England.
8-2-21 Turkey's southern resort area is now battling big wildfires as well as COVID-19
Italy is fighting wildfires in Sicily and Greece is battling fires in the west of the country, but neither country is facing the conflagrations that have swept along Turkey's southern coast since last Wednesday. At least eight people have died in Turkey due to the wildfires, including two in the town of Manavgat on Sunday, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca. Five other people in Manavgat and one person in Marmaris have also died in recent days. Bodrum and other vacation areas on Turkey's southwestern coast were struggling with a sharp drop in tourism from the COVID-19 pandemic before the fires broke out last week. "We closed the last tourism season down 75 percent," Aras had said in late June. "We expect a recovery from July with the start of flights from Russia and Europe." Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in June that, "God willing, we will jump-start tourism and have a tourist push." Tourism did jump dramatically in July, but so did COVID-19 cases. The damage from the wildfires and spread of the Delta variant are expected to hit Turkey's tourism sector just as it was rebounding, but the damage extends much further. "The animals are on fire," Muzeyyan Kacar, a 56-year-old farmer in the village of Kacarlar, told CNN. "Everything is going to burn. Our land, our animals, and our house." The southern coast of the northern Mediterranean has been unseasonably hot and dry, leaving the region susceptible to fires. But in Turkey at least, investigators are trying to determine if some of the raging fires were the result of arson.
8-2-21 Then and now: The burning issue of wildfires
In our monthly feature, Then and Now, we reveal some of the ways that planet Earth has been changing against the backdrop of a warming world. In recent years, the devastating impact of wildfires has been dominating headlines around the world. Although fires have long been part of natural history, scientists are voicing concern that recent fires are becoming more frequent, more intense and more widespread. In recent years, the widespread devastation of wildfires has dominated headlines around the world, as millions of acres were destroyed and thousands of people left homeless. Fires in the western US and Australia have been among the most deadly. In the first few hours of the new year in 2020, a devastating bushfire arrived in the New South Wales village of Cobargo. Within hours, the fire had ripped through the main street, leaving little but smoky, charred ruins in its wake. The destroyed village became one of the defining symbols of what is now being referred to as Australia's Black Summer, which killed at least 34 people, an estimated three billion animals, and scorched 46 million acres (186,000 square kilometres). Although wildfires have long been part of the landscape, they are becoming more frequent, more widespread, and more intense. Each summer, parts of the world are gripped by these natural infernos, with flames travelling at speeds similar to the bulls rampaging through the Spanish streets of Pamplona. At these speeds, it becomes almost impossible for firefighters to stop and control the spreading fire, and to protect homes and properties in its path. However, it is worth noting that wildfires have long been part of the natural cycle in many habitats. Without these natural fires, we would not have many of the species that thrive in these environments. There are trees that actually need fire in order to germinate and produce the forests of the future.
8-2-21 Firefighters make progress against Oregon's massive Bootleg Fire
Nearly a month after it was sparked by a lightning strike, the Bootleg Fire in Southern Oregon — the largest wildfire burning in the U.S. — is now 74 percent contained, officials said Sunday. The blaze, which has burned more than 646 square miles since it started on July 6, was 56 percent contained on Saturday. Fire spokesman Al Nash told reporters on Sunday that the results "reflects several good days of work on the ground where crews have been able to reinforce and build additional containment lines." In Northern California's Plumas National Forest, the Dixie Fire was just 32 percent contained on Sunday. The fire has destroyed 42 homes and other buildings, and scorched nearly 383 square miles. The fire has been burning since July 13, and investigators are still working to determine what caused it. Fire officials warn that because of high winds, there could be flare ups, The Associated Press reports. The National Interagency Fire Center said there are 91 large fires now burning in the United States, most out west, with almost 22,000 firefighters on the scene. Scientists say because of climate change, the western U.S. is hotter and drier, making fires more destructive.
8-2-21 Turkey's southern resort area is now battling big wildfires as well as COVID-19
Italy is fighting wildfires in Sicily and Greece is battling fires in the west of the country, but neither country is facing the conflagrations that have swept along Turkey's southern coast since last Wednesday. At least eight people have died in Turkey due to the wildfires, including two in the town of Manavgat on Sunday, according to Health Minister Fahrettin Koca. Five other people in Manavgat and one person in Marmaris have also died in recent days. Authorities say more than 100 fires have erupted in Turkey in the past six days and most of them have been contained. Russia, Ukraine, Iran, and Azerbaijan have deployed teams to help Turkish firefighters and volunteers battle the blazes, and the European Union said Sunday it has helped mobilize three fire-fighting planes to fight the fires on Turkey's coast. The wildfires prompted boat evacuations in the popular resort town of Bodrum on Sunday in conditions Mayor Ahmet Aras described as "hell." Bodrum and other vacation areas on Turkey's southwestern coast were struggling with a sharp drop in tourism from the COVID-19 pandemic before the fires broke out last week. "We closed the last tourism season down 75 percent," Aras had said in late June. "We expect a recovery from July with the start of flights from Russia and Europe." Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in June that, "God willing, we will jump-start tourism and have a tourist push." Tourism did jump dramatically in July, but so did COVID-19 cases. The damage from the wildfires and spread of the Delta variant are expected to hit Turkey's tourism sector just as it was rebounding, but the damage extends much further. "The animals are on fire," Muzeyyan Kacar, a 56-year-old farmer in the village of Kacarlar, told CNN. "Everything is going to burn. Our land, our animals, and our house." The southern coast of the northern Mediterranean has been unseasonably hot and dry, leaving the region susceptible to fires. But in Turkey at least, investigators are trying to determine if some of the raging fires were the result of arson.
8-2-21 Turkey wildfires: Eight dead as blazes sweep through tourist resorts
At least eight people have been killed in wildfires that have ripped through southern Turkey, ravaging coastal resorts and forcing tourists to flee. The blazes have been raging for six days as Turkey grapples with its worst fire crisis in a decade. On Monday Turkish authorities said more than 130 blazes had been contained as firefighting efforts continued. Elsewhere, firefighters are trying to contain wildfires in parts of Greece, Spain and Italy. Italy's national fire service said it had to deal with more than 1,500 flare-ups across the country on Sunday. In the eastern city of Pescara, at least five people were injured after a fire forced the evacuation of hundreds from beach resorts and homes. In Greece, five villages have been evacuated in the Peloponnese region, where temperatures are expected to reach up to 45C this week. Strong winds and soaring heatwave temperatures across southern Europe have fuelled the destructive fires. Experts say climate change increases both the frequency and intensity of such blazes. The worst fires have occurred along Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean coasts - a major tourist region. Over the weekend dramatic videos showed tourists being evacuated from beach resorts by boat, with Turkish Coastguard vessels involved in rescue operations. Satellite photos showed vast burnt forests after nearly 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) were consumed by flames. Turkish media said firefighters in planes and helicopters resumed their operations in the south-western towns of Marmaris and Koycegiz on Monday. Resident Susan Dogan told the BBC she could see "smoke, flames and helicopters overhead" from her home in the village of Turunc, about 20km (12 miles) from Marmaris. The British expatriate said many residents had already left and that she had packed bags in case she needed to evacuate. Emergency rescue boats were on standby along the Marmaris shoreline to evacuate anyone should the fires spread and the town be cut off.
8-2-21 Turkey: People flee popular tourist spots to escape wildfires
Turkey is continuing to battle deadly wildfires sweeping through the country, forcing tourists to flee in boats and turning the sky red. More than 120 fires have now been brought under control, but local and international firefighters are still battling another seven blazes. A total of eight people are known to have died. Over the weekend, tourists and local residents had to be evacuated from Bodrum and Marmaris, with private boats coming to their rescue as the flames crept closer to the shoreline. Investigators are trying to establish whether some of the fires were started deliberately, amid reports that one suspected arsonist has been detained.
8-2-21 Finding answers to the world's drinking water crisis
Without a doubt, water is the most abundant resource on Earth. After all, it covers over 70% of the planet - yet despite this we are facing a looming crisis as a species. Without a doubt, Climate change, global conflict and overpopulation are just some of the factors that are devastating the water supply in many areas around the world. It means that two billion people - one-quarter of the human population - are without access to safe drinking water. As the world's population creeps ever closer to eight billion, attention is being focused on developing technologies that can help address this before it is too late. One of those offering a potential solution is Michael Mirilashvili, head of Watergen, an Israel-based firm that is using its air-to-water technology to deliver the drinking water to remote areas of the world hit by conflict or climate change. Pulling water out of thin air may sound like science fiction, but the technology is actually simpler than it seems. The Earth's atmosphere contains 13 billion tonnes of fresh water. Watergen's machines work by filtering this water vapour out of the air. He says if used correctly, Watergen's technology could spark a major shift within the water industry that could have a lasting impact on the planet. "A big advantage of using atmospheric water is that there's no need to build water transportation, so no worries about heavy metals in pipes for example or cleaning contaminated water from the ground or polluting the planet with plastic bottles." One obvious obstacle would appear to be air pollution, which has become a widespread cause for concern in some of the world's major cities. In the UK for example, research by Imperial College London found lead, which is toxic to the human body, still present in the city's air in 2021 despite it being banned in 1999. However, this may not matter. A study conducted by scientists from Israel's Tel Aviv University found that even in urban areas such as Tel Aviv, it is possible to extract drinking water to a standard set by the World Health Organization. In other words, clean water can be converted from air that is dirty or polluted.
8-2-21 Iran water: What's causing the shortages?
Protests in Iran against a range of grievances - including a severe lack of water and power blackouts - have drawn attention to the country's wider water problems. Experts have raised concerns about the situation for many years, so what's to blame for Iran's water crisis? In April, the Iranian Meteorological Organisation warned of an "unprecedented drought" and rainfall levels which were substantially below long-term averages. In the oil-producing province of Khuzestan, residents took to the streets over water shortages, and there were protests against hydroelectric power cuts in other cities. The government has responded with emergency assistance for the hardest-hit areas. Iran faces a range of environmental challenges from high temperatures, pollution, flooding and vanishing lakes. The amount of rainfall in Iran's main river basins between September 2020 and July 2021 was, in most places, substantially lower compared to the same period last year, according to data from the Ministry of Energy's website. We haven't been able to access government figures for historical trends, but researchers in the United States have gathered data using satellite imagery. This data compares rainfall up to March of this year against the 40-year average. The first three months of 2021 were all well below that average, according to the Center for Hydrometeorology at the University of California Irvine. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation has estimated about one-third of valuable wheat fields in Iran are irrigated, so no rain can be costly. Amid a very dry spell in the province, locals have been out protesting - some shouting "I am thirsty!" For a region which used to have plentiful water, the vital Karun river now often runs dry. Satellites show its water level has steadily fallen over the last year, according to data gathered by researchers at Stuttgart University. The spike in 2019 was due to severe flooding.
8-2-21 Artificial mini-reefs are helping clean Florida's waters
The artificial mini-reefs Garrett Stuart is installing along the Florida coastline are cleaning millions of gallons of water every year and giving marine life a place to call home. Stuart is a scientist and educator who has earned the nickname Captain Planet thanks to his efforts to save the environment. The mini-reefs are "universally tested and proven to filter an average of 30,000 gallons of water every single day, and an average of 300 fish and 200 crab per year that they house," Stuart told Fox 13. The mini-reefs help fight against blooms of the red tide organism karenia brevis, with Stuart saying the marine life that grows on the reefs "literally eat algae, they eat the red tide." He recently installed mini-reefs under the dock at the Pelican Alley restaurant in Nokomis, and crabs have already moved in. Pelican Alley owner Tommy Adorna told Fox 13 he will "do what I can to help with the environment. The water quality is very important because people don't want to come down and have dinner on the water if the water is disgusting."
8-2-21 China flood death toll rises sharply to over 300
The death toll from the floods in China's central Henan province last month has risen sharply to at least 302, officials have confirmed. About 50 people remain missing after the region was engulfed by severe flooding caused by heavy rainfall. Almost 13 million people were affected and nearly 9,000 homes were damaged. The majority of the deaths were reported in the city of Zhengzhou where floodwater inundated the city's subway system and vehicles were swept away. The city reported a year's rainfall within the space of three days. On Monday the mayor of Zhengzhou, Hou Hong, confirmed the death toll in a news conference, telling reporters that 39 people were found dead in underground car parks. Another 14 people were killed after water inundated Line 5 of the city's subway system, she said. Video footage posted to social media last month from inside train carriages showed people just managing to keep their heads above water. Last week, a floral tribute at the subway station was sealed off by authorities. Several dams and reservoirs in the province breached warning levels and soldiers were mobilised to divert rivers which had burst their banks. At the time, President Xi Jinping warned of "significant loss of life and damage to property".
8-1-21 Turkey: Foreign tourists evacuated as wildfires threaten resorts
Tourists have been evacuated from beaches in south-western Turkey, where raging wildfires are now threatening hotels and homes. Turkish Coastguard vessels - assisted by private boats and yachts - were deployed to bring holidaymakers to safety, according to local media. In the city of Bodrum, three five-star hotels were reportedly evacuated. The fires, which have been burning since Wednesday, have left six people dead. Two more fatalities were confirmed on Saturday. They were among the thousands of people who have been battling almost 100 separate blazes in resorts and villages on Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean coasts - a major tourist region. Officials say all but 10 of the fires have now been brought under control. Images shared by Bodrum's mayor on Twitter show fires still burning into the early hours of Sunday morning. Local media have also shared dramatic footage showing people with their belongings fleeing the area as a fire was fast approaching the city from a forested mountain. It is unclear exactly when it was filmed. Investigators are trying to establish whether some of the fires were started deliberately, amid reports that one suspected arsonist has been detained. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday visited the town of Manavgat, were five fire-related deaths have been confirmed. Mr Erdogan vowed that the government would do everything to help hundreds of people affected by the disaster to rebuild their lives. The president has been heavily criticised for the shortage of firefighting aircraft in the country. But he said that "the main reason for these issues with planes is that the Turkish Aeronautical Association has not been able to update its fleet and technology". He added that more aircraft from Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Ukraine were now involved in the massive firefighting operation.