9-30-21 The 5 roles you may have to affect climate change
We are often encouraged as individuals to reduce our personal impact on the climate, but the truth is some people’s actions have greater effect than others. The super-rich “polluter elite” immediately come to mind. But if, like us, you are college educated, have a white-collar job, live in a prosperous neighborhood or earn more than $38,000 (£28,000) a year, you are of “high socio-economic status” globally and you have disproportionate power and responsibility that will be critical for averting catastrophic climate change. This group makes up the top 10 per cent of income globally and is responsible for half of the carbon pollution emitted by households. As you ascend the income scale to $109,000 (£80,000), you reach the global 1 per cent, whose individual climate pollution is 30 times above the sustainable limit for 2030. Collectively, this group emits as much as the poorest 4.75 billion people in the world. The majority of this climate pollution is created through frequent and long-distance travel by plane and car, followed by home energy use. Reducing fossil energy overconsumption quickly is key to halting global warming. But as we show in a new study, there are four other critical roles through which the 10 per cent leave an outsized climate footprint, and through which ambitious climate action can be promoted or hindered: where their money is invested, how they communicate with and behave around other people, the actions they press for in organisations, and as citizens. These are the ways individuals can most affect businesses, governments and society as a whole. If you have a pension, or savings in investment accounts at a major bank, chances are you are currently financing climate destruction via loans and investments to expand and support fossil fuel pipelines and power plants. To support climate stability instead, shift your money from banks, pension funds and stocks that still finance fossil fuel companies and support campaigns to get universities, schools and businesses to divest from fossil fuels.
9-30-21 Norwegian reservoirs power homes in Great Britain via 724km cable
Norwegian reservoirs will begin powering homes in Great Britain today as the world’s longest subsea power cable was switched on, in a boost to renewables and tight energy supplies this winter. The 724-kilometre North Sea Link is the sixth of a growing network of electricity interconnectors between Great Britain and its European neighbours, to trade energy and adapt to grids increasingly reliant on the variable output of wind, solar and hydro. First tested in June, the copper cable along the seabed of the North Sea will operate at half its potential for three months before reaching its 1400 megawatt capacity, enough to power 1.4 million homes. Power is expected to initially mostly flow from Norway, which generates almost all its electricity from hydro, to Great Britain, where electricity prices are higher. The link may eventually be used to export electricity from offshore wind farms for storage at pumped hydro facilities in Norway, pumping water uphill and releasing it to generate electricity when needed. The start of commercial operations will help Great Britain’s tight margins of electricity supply this winter, which are squeezed by a fire taking out half of the capacity of a separate link to France. “It couldn’t have come at a better time,” says Tom Edwards at energy analysts Cornwall Insight. However, he says the new link isn’t going to “significantly shift the dial” on the steep electricity wholesale prices Great Britain is experiencing due to high gas prices. The interconnector, a joint venture with the UK’s National Grid and Norway’s Statnett, is a feat of engineering, made possible by a 2.3-kilometre tunnel through a mountain. But it is far from alone. A new one through the Channel Tunnel switches on early in 2022, followed by one to Denmark in 2023 and one to Germany in 2024, among others.
9-29-21 Tomorrow Is Too Late review: Young activists speak out on the climate
“WE YOUNG people are powerful. We deserve to be heard and listened to,” writes 15-year-old Grace Maddrell in their first book, about the activism and work of youth climate strikers across the globe. Based in Somerset, UK, Grace went to their first climate strike in February 2019. It sparked their passion for the environment and they have since become an activist, fighting for both environmental justice and LGBTQ+ rights, working for Fridays for Future, the youth-led movement that started with Greta Thunberg’s protests in 2018. After they took part in the global climate justice strike in September 2019, Grace was inspired to collect the voices of other youths fighting climate change. They sent out a tweet, calling for young climate activists across the globe to tell their stories. Within hours, Grace was flooded with responses. Tomorrow Is Too Late is a collection of essays from some of those who responded. With contributors aged between 8 and 25 years, from places including Brazil, Uganda, Australia and Palestine, this book provides a powerful snapshot of how climate change is affecting the world today. It also shows how the younger generation is fighting back, whether by giving speeches at United Nations summits about the effects of climate change or striking to raise awareness. Each essay is given a short introduction by Grace, providing background on the person telling their story. Some of the writers are already seeing the effects of the climate crisis at first-hand. Michael Bäcklaund, a 17-year-old from Israel, says he has seen friends die because of more frequent floods. He also says the climate crisis is often ignored to focus on political conflicts: he was told by Israel’s minister of energy that it was for the younger generation to fix the climate problem. Coming from an Indigenous background, 20-year-old Lucila Auzza from Argentina feared that she wouldn’t survive to adulthood because of a lack of drinkable water as a child. She says the media there aren’t showing what the government is really doing to the rainforests and how many lives have been put at risk as a result. “Throughout 2017, 42 per cent of deforestation in the country took place where regulations did not allow it,” she says. Auzza says that rich countries care more about their economies than the environment.
9-29-21 Futuristic farm may use 250 times less water than normal
THIS futuristic set-up looks like something out of a sci-fi film, but is in fact a simple way to grow some greens, albeit using different tools than usual. The impressive shot, taken by photographer Alastair Philip Wiper, shows the grow hall at Nordic Harvest, a 14-storey vertical farm on the outskirts of Copenhagen in Denmark. Instead of relying on sunlight and soil to grow its crops, Nordic Harvest employs a less conventional approach: it uses robots to seed mainly leafy vegetables, such as salad leaves and herbs, in a nutrient-rich gel substrate that dissolves in water as the plants grow. Meanwhile, LED light (responsible for the pink hue of the grow hall) and carbon dioxide are added, with renewable energy from wind turbines powering the entire process. Pesticides aren’t needed as the hall is kept free of harmful creatures, and the only water leaving the farm comes from the plants themselves. Nordic Harvest says this means the farm consumes 250 times less water than agricultural farms and 80 times less than greenhouses. It also requires 250 times less space, according to the company. Alternative farming could play a role in curbing some of the pressures fuelling climate change, as the increasing demand for food drives carbon emissions and deforestation.
9-30-21 Climate change: Youth have 'every right to be angry' says UK PM
Boris Johnson says young people have every right to be angry about the state of climate change. The UK prime minister told climate activists in Milan that they were paying the price for the "reckless actions of their elders". The penitent mood here was underlined by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who said politicians needed to be "whipped into action." Both agreed that urgent action to limit warming was now desperately needed. For several days around 400 young activists have been working on proposals for tackling climate change here in Milan. They've heard from a host of voices including Greta Thunberg who castigated politicians for dashing the hopes and dreams of young people. She mocked their promises on climate as just more "blah, blah, blah". Speaking here today, several senior politicians conceded that Ms Thunberg was essentially correct in her analysis. "Young people around the world are already paying the price for the reckless actions of their elders," said Mr Johnson. "Hundreds of millions of you are facing rising seas, failing crops, burning forests, and evermore ferocious storms, daily challenges that lead to lost opportunity. And your future is literally being stolen before your eyes." Some young activists had interrupted a previous speech by Italian Prime Minister Draghi. Mr Johnson said he understood their actions. "I saw the protesters earlier on. And frankly, you have every right to be angry with those who aren't doing enough to stop it." All the senior politicians who've addressed this meeting say that lessons have been learned and that action on climate is now happening. Mr Johnson pointed to the COP26 meeting in Glasgow at the start of November as a pivotal moment in tackling the issue. If significant changes could be agreed on some key areas, COP26 would mark "the beginning of the end of climate change." To get there, Mr Johnson said, would need major progress on phasing out coal, ending the use of petrol and diesel cars, and planting "trillions of trees". A long-standing promise of cash for developing countries would have to be honoured, he said.
9-30-21 Climate change: Money on the agenda at Milan talks
With the jeers of Greta Thunberg ringing in their ears, climate ministers are holding final talks before a key UN conference in Glasgow. The Swedish activist criticised the efforts of politicians to tackle climate change as "30 years of blah, blah, blah". But despite the mockery, ministers say some progress is being made on a range of issues. The meeting in Italy's financial capital Milan lasts until Saturday. Earlier this week Greta Thunberg lambasted the efforts of political leaders at a youth climate summit. She was one of 400 young people who came to Milan to formulate a response to rising temperatures that will be presented to ministers here on Thursday. Ms Thunberg will also meet Italy's prime minister Mario Draghi. Officials believe that despite the criticism about the slow pace of progress, the wheels are beginning to move on a number of fronts. Last week at the UN General Assembly, announcements from China and the US on coal and climate finance, helped improve the prospects for the upcoming UN conference, known as COP26. Negotiators meeting at this "pre-COP" event are under pressure to clear the way for their bosses, the world's presidents and prime ministers who will meet in Glasgow at the start of COP26 in early November. One of the big issues holding up progress is the question of money. Despite significant new promises, the wealthy nations are still around $20bn short of the long-promised $100bn a year that's meant to help poorer countries cope with rising temperatures. "Isn't it ridiculous, that in the midst of a trillion dollar emergency response economy that we're seeing right now, we are haggling over a $20bn price tag to essentially unleash hundreds of billions of dollars, if not trillions of dollars of developing country investments," said the head of UNDP Achim Steiner. Mr Steiner is a senior leader in the UN and has been a close observer of the climate talks process for many years. "Time is running out, and we can't find a way in which we can finance this? It's just not acceptable," he told BBC News. While ministers will look to make progress on cash and other outstanding questions in their discussions here over the next few days, they will be heartened by new research showing that the 1.5C temperature threshold can be kept in sight at a relatively low cost over the next decade.
9-29-21 Japan 2011 earthquake and tsunami linked to increased risk of dementia
The magnitude-9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011 killed 20,000 people and saw as many as 100,000 children uprooted from their homes. Now there is evidence that they may also have contributed to cognitive decline in certain people. Koichiro Shiba at Harvard University and his colleagues wanted to know whether directly experiencing the earthquake and tsunami, as well as the disruption both left in their wake, had an effect on cognitive decline among people aged 65 years or older at the time. “Identifying particularly vulnerable subpopulations is important because it will contribute to allocating public health resources in future emergencies,” says Shiba. The researchers turned to a national study of people in Japan aged 65 years or older called the Japan Gerontological Evaluation Study. They focused their efforts on data taken from Iwanuma in Miyagi Prefecture, which was severely hit by the tsunami. About 3350 adults with an average age of 73.2 took part in the initial survey, which occurred seven months before the disaster, and they were surveyed again in a follow-up study 2.5 years later. In a second follow-up survey that took place 5.5 years after the earthquake, 2664 of the adults took part. In each survey, participants completed a questionnaire that helped caregivers assess their current cognitive state. After analysing the data, the team concluded that individuals who lost their home during the disaster typically experienced an increase in their rate of cognitive decline. Surprisingly, the researchers also found that the loss of a loved one during the disaster wasn’t associated with an increase in the subsequent rate of cognitive decline. Shiba says it is unclear why this was the case.
9-29-21 Greta Thunberg mocks world leaders' words at Youth4Climate
The Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg, used her speech at the Youth4Climate conference in Milan to mock the words of world leaders, including UK PM Boris Johnson. The 18-year-old used soundbites from Mr Johnson, such as "expensive bunny hugging" and "build back better", to highlight what she called the "empty words and promises" of politicians. Later in the speech, she urged people not to give up hope, saying that change is "not only possible, but urgently necessary". Many countries have announced ambitious targets to reduce their emissions to tackle climate change. Analysts say some recent announcements, such as China's statement that it would not build any more coal plants overseas and the US, EU and others pledging to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030, are signs that progress is being made. But they caution that some major challenges remain. The UK, for example, has pledged to cut 78% of its emissions by 2035, from a 1990 baseline. But the government's current plans are projected to deliver less than a quarter of the cuts needed to meet the goal. Mr Johnson has said he will push for action on coal, climate, cars and trees in particular at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November.
9-29-21 Drones are 'sniffing' ship exhaust for illegal fuel in European waters
Drones are routinely being used for anti-pollution missions off the coast of Europe to “sniff” the exhaust fumes from ships and catch operators using illegal fuel. At the start of last year, the UN’s International Maritime Organization introduced new legislation to reduce the limit on the percentage of sulphur in fuel used by ships from 3.5 per cent to 0.5 per cent. Certain congested areas, such as the English Channel and the Strait of Gibraltar, have special limits of 0.1 per cent. Sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions from ships have been found to be a factor in cardiovascular and lung disease and can lead to acid rain. In a recent operation off the coast of Gibraltar, 294 ships were analysed by drone patrols carried out by the EU’s European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). Some 27 of the ships were found to be in breach of emissions levels. Drone operators are still carrying out two daily flights near Gibraltar with an average of 10 inspections per day, and other missions around Europe are ongoing. The Camcopter S-100 drones used in the patrols – which are manufactured by Austrian company Schiebel – can travel at up to 240 kilometres per hour and reach altitudes of 5500 metres. The 200-kilogram machines, constructed with a carbon fibre skin and 3D-printed titanium parts, are more than three metres long and can operate remotely at distances of up to 200 kilometres. They can also remain in continuous flight for six hours, which is three times longer than a Royal Navy Lynx helicopter. The drones were used in Malta between 2013 and 2015 at the peak of the refugee crisis and helped locate 30,000 people making risky crossings and coordinate their rescue, Schiebel claims. But in 2018, EMSA contracted a fleet of the same drones for emissions monitoring. The devices are fitted with gas sensors and cameras covering optical and infrared ranges to better detect vessel exhaust plumes. One detector measures sulphur oxide and one measures carbon dioxide, and this information can be used to accurately estimate the concentration of sulphur in the fuel being burned. These measurements are sent to the proper authorities in real time.
9-29-21 Daintree: World Heritage rainforest handed back to Aboriginal owners
Australia's Daintree - the world's oldest tropical rainforest - has been returned to its Aboriginal custodians in a historic deal. The Unesco World Heritage site is over 180 million years old and has been home to generations of Aboriginal people. The Eastern Kuku Yalanji people will now manage the national park with Queensland's state government. The Daintree borders the Great Barrier Reef and is one of Australia's top tourism drawcards. It is famed for its ancient ecosystem and rugged, natural beauty which includes forest vistas, wild rivers, waterfalls, gorges and white sandy beaches. The deal also includes other Queensland national parks including Cedar Bay (Ngalba Bulal), Black Mountain (Kalkajaka) and Hope Islands - a combined area of over 160,000 hectares. In handing formal ownership back to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people on Wednesday, the Queensland government recognised "one of the world's oldest living cultures". "This agreement recognises their right to own and manage their Country, to protect their culture, and to share it with visitors as they become leaders in the tourism industry," said Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon in a statement. It followed four years of discussions, local media reported. The Eastern Kuku Yalanji people wished to eventually solely manage the forests and other wet tropics regions, said negotiator Chrissy Grant. "Bama [people] across the wet tropics have consistently lived within the rainforest. That in itself is something that is pretty unique to the world heritage listing," she told Guardian Australia. The agreement takes in both the Mossman Gorge and Cape Tribulation sides of the forest. The Daintree region attained World Heritage listing in 1988, following a campaign in Canberra to push back against logging and agricultural clearing endorsed by the then state government.
9-28-21 Climate Change: Don't sideline plastic problem, nations urged
Scientists are warning politicians immersed in climate change policy not to forget that the world is also in the midst of a plastic waste crisis. They fear that so much energy is being expended on emissions policy that tackling plastic pollution will be sidelined. A paper from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and Bangor University says plastic pollution and climate change are not separate. It says the issues are actually intertwined - and each makes the other worse. Manufacturing plastic items adds to greenhouse gas emissions, while extreme weather such as floods and typhoons associated with a heating planet will disperse and worsen plastic pollution in the sea. The researchers highlight that marine species and ecosystems, such as coral reefs, are taking a double hit from both problems. Reefs and other vulnerable habitats are also suffering from the seas heating, from ocean acidification, pollution from farms and industry, dredging, development, tourism and over-fishing. And in addition, sea ice is a major trap for microplastics, which will be released into the ocean as the ice melts due to warming. The researchers want politicians to address all these issues – and not to allow climate change to take all the policy “bandwidth”. Professor Heather Koldewey from ZSL said: “Climate change is undoubtedly one of the most critical global threats of our time. Plastic pollution is also having a global impact; from the top of Mount Everest to the deepest parts of our ocean. “Both are having a detrimental effect on ocean biodiversity; with climate change heating ocean temperatures and bleaching coral reefs, to plastic damaging habitats and causing fatalities among marine species. “The compounding impact of both crises just exacerbates the problem. It’s not a case of debating which issue is most important, it’s recognising that the two crises are interconnected and require joint solutions.”
9-28-21 Antarctic seal numbers rose and fell with climate over 50,000 years
The Antarctic fur seal population has grown and shrunk over the past 50,000 years as the climate has changed, a genetic analysis suggests – and the finding could help us predict where the marine predators will choose to live as the climate continues to warm. Today, Antarctic fur seals (Arctocephalus gazella) appear loyal to the same islands, particularly those of South Georgia in the south Atlantic Ocean. During the annual breeding season, some return to within a few metres of the same spot on the rocky shore year after year. Alison Cleary at the British Antarctic Survey examined the fur seals’ history while at the University of Agder in Norway. With her colleagues, she sequenced DNA samples from four existing populations on South Georgia, Bouvet Island and the South Shetlands in the south Atlantic and on the Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean. They paid special attention to DNA variation, as larger populations carry more genetic diversity. They then used software that analyses genetic data and estimates how an animal species’ population size has changed through time, and when two or more distinct populations today were last part of a single larger population. They found that despite seals’ tendency not to move to new areas, populations have grown and shrunk over longer periods of time. For example, before the last glacial maximum, which occurred 26,000 to 13,300 years ago, the seals seemed to exist as one global genetic population in which any two animals could interbreed. But then, seal numbers shrank and the population in the southern Indian Ocean became genetically isolated and distinct from the others. “You see that the populations decline when the ice increases, then you see them moving out to new colonies as the ice decreases again,” says Cleary.
9-27-21 Limiting warming to 1.5°C may save billions from tropical storms
Some 1.8 billion fewer people will experience one or more tropical storms in their lifetimes if we limit global warming this century to 1.5°C instead of letting temperatures rise to 3.1°C above pre-industrial levels. Right now, about 150 million people experience the effects of one or more cyclones each year – with those living in countries including Bangladesh and Myanmar particularly likely to do so. “Tropical cyclones are one of the most damaging impacts of climate change and knowing specifically that risk may foster stronger policy responses,” says Tobias Geiger at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Geiger and his colleagues devised a model to look at how people’s lives may be affected by an increase in frequency of cyclones. “We developed a model which looked at global risk and made it more orientated around [cyclone] landfall and how real people will be affected,” says Geiger. The researchers looked at cyclone risk if we keep to specific commitments made in line with the Paris Agreement – which right now Geiger says are likely to limit temperature rise by 2100 to 3.1°C. They then compared this figure with the number of cyclones predicted if we successfully limit the rise to either 2°C or 1.5°C – the formal target set out in Paris. From 2015 to 2100, limiting climate change to 1.5°C, as opposed to letting the climate warm to 3.1°C, will save an additional 1.8 billion people from experiencing at least one cyclone in their lifetime. Geiger says it is too difficult to predict how many people would actually lose their lives in the storms. Warmer temperatures increase the frequency of cyclones as warmer oceans make it easier for the extreme weather events to occur. This can also lead to longer and more intense cyclones, says Geiger. Countries already frequently affected by cyclones, such as the Philippines and Japan, will not only face more cyclones but each may last longer too, and so cause more damage. Nations ill-prepared for tropical storms – including Russia and Canada – will also be hit in future. Such storms will happen even if we limit temperature rise to 1.5°C.
9-27-21 Germany’s new coalition government may boost climate change action
A new German government is expected to be far more ambitious on climate change, with extra support for renewables and action against fossil fuels. But the three parties hoping to form a coalition must first compromise on different visions of how to do that, which could take months. Against a backdrop of climate change protests in German cities on 24 September, the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) won 25.7 per cent of the vote on 26 September, narrowly beating the incumbent conservative Christian Democratic Union-Christian Social Union (CDU-CSU) group. Olaf Scholz, the SPD’s candidate to lead Germany, who pitched himself as the “climate chancellor” during the election campaign, has claimed victory and said he wants to form a coalition with the Green party, which won a record share of the vote, and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP). Climate change will be at the top of the agenda in those coalition talks. “It was quite remarkable because climate change was one of the top two issues at the centre of the election campaign,” says Martin Kaiser at Greenpeace Germany. Apart from the far right, all the political parties in the campaign committed to meeting the Paris Agreement’s goal of holding the global temperature rise to 1.5°C, says Niklas Höhne at the NewClimate Institute in Germany. On the table in the talks are the future of Germany’s domestic carbon pricing schemes, bringing forward its belated 2038 coal phase-out date and how to issue stronger support for wind and solar power. “If they are serious, they must get serious now,” says Ottmar Edenhofer at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. “The new government must tackle a targeted energy tax reform, make the CO2 price the guiding instrument, introduce a fair social compensation in the CO2 price and create a strong expansion of renewable energies.”
9-27-21 Today's kids will experience 3 times as many climate disasters as their grandparents, new study predicts
If the Earth continues to warm at its current pace, a 6-year-old child will experience about three times as many climate disasters as their grandparents, a first-of-its-kind study in the journal Science predicts, based on a wide array of climate and demographic models. The study, published online Sunday, attempts to quantify how much kids will be affected by the "intergenerational inequality" of climate change. The average 6-year-old will live through twice as many wildfires, 3.4 times as many river floods, 2.3 times as many droughts, 2.5 times more crop failures, and 1.7 times as many tropical cyclones as someone born in 1960, the 37 researchers determined. Compared with people who lived 150 years ago, in pre-industrial times, today's children will experience five times more climate disasters — or if they live in sub-Saharan Africa, 50-54 times as many heat waves, The Washington Post reports. And those numbers are almost certainly an underestimate, says co-author Joeri Rogelj at Imperial College London, noting that the researchers were unable to quantify certain risks, like floods from rising ocean levels, and did not account for the increased severity of climate-related events, just frequency. Georgia Institute of Technology's Kim Cobb, who did not work on the study, said the climate scientist in her was not surprised by the findings — but the "robust study" did hit her on the parental level. "It brings into sharp focus what so many economic models of climate change impacts fail to capture — the vast toll of human suffering that is hanging in the balance with our emissions choices this decade," she tells the Post. "The moral weight of this moment is almost unbearable." Lead author Wim Thiery said the study was partly inspired by his three young sons. "Young people are being hit by climate crisis but are not in position to make decisions," he said. "While the people who can make the change happen will not face the consequences." But Thiery also wanted to hit home to world leaders that the most dire of these outcomes can be avoided by taking dramatic steps to reduce emissions at the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow this fall. "We can still avoid the worst consequences," he said. "That is what gives me strength as a father." Read more at Science and The Washington Post.
9-27-21 How climate change is making inequality worse, especially for children
Children born in high-income countries will experience twice as many extreme climate events as their grandparents, new research suggests. But for children in low-income countries, it will be worse. They will see three times as many, say researchers at the University of Brussels. The BBC’s population reporter Stephanie Hegarty has been looking at how climate change is already making poverty worse.
9-27-21 COP26: Australia PM undecided on attending crucial climate summit
Australia's prime minister has signalled he may not attend the UN's landmark climate conference in November as his government faces continued criticism of its poor climate record. In an interview, Scott Morrison said he had "not made any final decisions" on attending, suggesting it was a burden. "It's another trip overseas... and I've spent a lot of time in quarantine," he told the West Australian newspaper. The COP26 summit will be the biggest global climate crisis talks in years. It is hoped that the 12-day meeting between world leaders in Glasgow, Scotland will produce the next emissions standards to slow global warming and keep temperature rise below 1.5C. But Mr Morrison said he would consider other priorities, including the reopening of Australia's borders. "I have to focus on things here and with Covid. Australia will be opening up around that time. There will be a lot of issues to manage and I have to manage those competing demands," he told the newspaper. Australia - one of the world's top exporters of coal and gas - is one of 200 countries expected to present their updated 2030 emissions cuts at the meet. Mr Morrison has said he wishes Australia to achieve net zero emissions "as soon as possible", but has not outlined any measures to do so. His government has resisted committing to net zero by 2050 - a goal already pledged by the US, the UK and many other developed nations. Australia has consistently been criticised for its slow climate progress and heavy reliance on coal-fired power - which makes it the most carbon polluting nation in the world per capita. Canberra is also staunchly protective of its fossil fuel industry - and has pledged to continue mining and trading dirty fuels as long as there is demand in Asia. In July, a UN report ranked it last out of 170 member nations for its response to climate change. And despite Australia's claims to the contrary, the UN has previously said the nation is not on track to reach its modest Paris Agreement targets of a 26-28% cut on 2005 levels by 2030.
9-27-21 Northern Forest plan for 50 million trees gets £15m funding boost
More than a million new trees will be planted after a project creating a Northern Forest stretching across the country received £15m of funding. The government money will help create 1,660 acres of woodland for the scheme, which aims to link trees from coast to coast, the Woodland Trust said. It hopes to establish 50 million trees in cities including Liverpool, Chester, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and Hull. Three million trees have so far been planted as part of the scheme. The funding will help another million trees go in the ground in 2022, according to the Woodland Trust which is working with community forests to create the new woods. The area to be covered by the Northern Forest is one of the most denuded in England, with tree cover at less than 8%. TV presenter George Clarke, who backs the scheme, said: "Being a northerner myself we are proud of some of the glorious countryside we have up here but it's always surprising to me how low tree cover is in the region. "We desperately need more trees up here for both people and wildlife." The whole project will cost £500m over 25 years, with the majority of the funds needing to be raised through charitable giving. Simon Mageean, the Woodland Trust's programme director for the Northern Forest, said: "This new funding is massively significant for this project and enables us to push on with this new phase. "Not only do these new trees have the power to transform people's lives through all the green space they bring in areas of traditionally low tree cover, they are also set to bring a big boost to our fight against climate change and encourage nature recovery." Friends of the Earth previously criticised ministers for allowing ancient woodland to be cut down for HS2, stating the planting of new trees was not comparable to the value in biodiversity of ancient forest.
9-27-21 Landsat-9 mission seeks to maintain vital Earth record
What is arguably the world's most important satellite will go into orbit on Monday from California. Landsat-9 is the continuation of a series of Earth-observing spacecraft stretching back almost 50 years. No other remote-sensing system has kept a longer, continuous record of the changing state of our planet. Landsat-9 will be sent up on an Atlas rocket from the Vandenberg Space Force Base. The scheduled lift-off time is 11:11 PDT (19:11 BST). It was the pictures taken by Apollo astronauts, looking back towards Earth, that cemented the idea of having a permanent eye on our home world. And in 1972, The American space agency (Nasa), in partnership with the US Geological Survey (USGS), proceeded to launch their Earth Resources Technology Satellite. Today, the ninth imaging spacecraft in what subsequently became known as the Landsat programme is ready to blast off. The Nasa/USGS spacecraft series is the ultimate record of change. Landsat has catalogued the growth of the megacities, the spread of farming and the evolving outlines of coasts, forests, deserts and glaciers. It's even been used to monitor from orbit the behaviours of a diverse range of animals - from wildebeest and wombats to woodpeckers and walrus. "We've assembled an amazing history of how the planet has changed over the last half century," explained Dr Jeff Masek, Nasa's Landsat-9 project scientist. "For example, we're able to see the natural disturbances that occur, (such as) fires, hurricanes, and insect outbreaks; and then the long-term recovery of ecosystems that takes place for decades after that. "And we're able to look specifically at climate and climate-change impacts on ecosystems. We've mapped areas of increased plant cover at high latitudes due to a warming climate. We've also seen areas of vegetation decline in water-limited semi-arid environments."
9-27-21 Power cuts hit homes in north-east China
Residents in north-east China are experiencing unannounced power cuts, as an electricity shortage which initially hit factories spreads to homes. People living in Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces have complained on social media about the lack of heating, and lifts and traffic lights not working. Local media said the cause was a rise in coal prices leading to short supply. The country is highly dependent on coal for power. One power company said it expected the power cuts to last until spring next year, and that unexpected outages would become "the new normal". Its post, however, was later deleted. The energy shortage at first affected manufacturers across the country, many of whom have had to curb or stop production in recent weeks. But over the weekend residents in some cities saw their power cut intermittently as well, with the hashtag "North-east electricity cuts" and other related phrases trending on Twitter-like social media platform Weibo. The extent of the blackouts is not yet clear, but nearly 100 million people live in the three provinces. In Liaoning province, a factory where ventilators suddenly stopped working had to send 23 staff to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning. There were also reports of some who were taken to hospital after they used stoves in poorly-ventilated rooms for heating, and people living in high-rise buildings who had to climb up and down dozens of flights of stairs as their lifts were not functioning. One video circulating on Chinese media showed cars travelling on one side of a busy highway in Shenyang in complete darkness, as traffic lights and streetlights were switched off. City authorities told The Beijing News outlet that they were seeing a "massive" shortage of power. Social media posts from the affected region said the situation was similar to living in neighbouring North Korea. The Jilin provincial government said efforts were being made to source more coal from Inner Mongolia to address the coal shortage.
9-27-21 Manta rays inspire new device to filter microplastics
Wastewater treatment plants release microplastics into the environment, where they accumulate and pose a threat to wildlife. But by studying the way a manta ray feeds on plankton, scientists in the US have designed a filtration system that captures the tiny fragments without getting clogged.
9-25-21 Climate change: Whisper it cautiously... there's been progress in run up to COP26
With just five weeks left until world leaders gather in Glasgow for a critical climate summit, the BBC's Matt McGrath and Roger Harrabin consider progress made at this week's UN gathering and the outstanding issues that remain. Climate change was the dominant theme at this year's UN General Assembly (UNGA) as countries recognised the seriousness of the global situation. All across the planet, the hallmarks of rising temperatures are being keenly felt with intense wildfires, storms and floods taking place on scales rarely seen. Against this backdrop, Boris Johnson told the UN it was "time to grow up" on the climate issue. The prime minister fought to bring November's UN climate summit to Britain, and it's clear he sees himself and the UK as global leaders in tackling this planetary threat. His bizarre if powerful speech at the UN harnessed the Greek tragedian Sophocles and TV's Kermit the Frog to accuse some other leaders of behaving like adolescents waiting for someone else to tidy up their mess. Did it encourage or annoy them? That's not yet clear. But how's Mr Johnson faring with his own policies? Well, even the most grudging environmentalist would give him high marks for target-setting. The UK pledges to cut 78% of its emissions by 2035 - that's from a 1990 baseline. That doesn't include emissions created abroad in the process of manufacturing the goods bought in the UK - but leave that to one side for the moment, because Britain is not on course for that 78% target anyway. A report showed its current plans are projected to deliver less than a quarter of the cuts needed to meet the goal. The government didn't deny that. It warned little progress has been made recently in areas such as agriculture, power, and waste (a major source of emissions). The government has promised to put effective policies in place before the November conference, known as COP26, is held in Glasgow. But it's had policy rows over gas boilers, farm subsidies, aviation - and especially over how the zero-carbon revolution will be funded.
9-25-21 Can green energy power Africa's future?
While much of the world is looking at how it can use more green energy and cut C02 emissions ahead of the COP26 climate summit, across Africa the challenge is somewhat different. For many across the continent, it's the challenge of accessing any energy supply at all. Some 600 million people in Africa don't have access to energy - limiting their ability to start and run businesses. Even in the mega-cities of South Africa and Nigeria, businesses have to deal with rolling power blackouts. So governments, entrepreneurs and innovators are working to fix this. In Ghana, the country's Ministry of Power says more than 80% of the population has access to electricity on the national grid. But reaching those in remote communities has been a challenge. So the country is using microgrids - independent energy systems serving specific areas - to provide low-cost, clean energy, powered by solar and wind power to isolated communities. In Pediatokope, an island community on the Volta river in Ghana, shopkeeper Eric Pupulampu is delighted. His business has been helped because he is now able to stock and sell cold drinks and perishables - thanks to a microgrid project that gives him the power to keep his freezer going. But the challenge is not just rural, as major cities have power problems too. Approximately 15 million people live in Lagos in Nigeria, making it one of Africa's busiest cities, but the energy supply in the city is neither stable nor secure. This unreliability means that the majority of those with access to grid electricity still have to use alternative power sources - mainly petrol and diesel generators. And according to the Energy Commission of Nigeria, Nigerians spend $22bn (£16bn) a year paying for generators to power their offices and homes. Not surprisingly, companies are looking for solutions that will offer stable power that is also greener. Many see the gas sector as being kinder to the environment than oil, and therefore a viable proposition alongside renewable energy. Gas-fired plants already account for about 80% of Nigeria's electricity capacity. According to some experts, natural gas plants are more than twice as reliable as solar plants and produce four times more energy per acre of land.
9-24-21 Power company PG&E hit with manslaughter charges over deadly California wildfire
Power company Pacific Gas and Electric has been hit with manslaughter charges in connection with a "completely preventable" California wildfire that left four people dead last year. Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett on Friday announced 31 charges against PG&E after determining the company was "criminally liable" for the 2020 Zogg fire that killed four people and destroyed about 200 homes, The Associated Press reports. In March, officials determined that the fire was sparked by a pine tree coming into contact with PG&E electrical lines, according to CNN. The company has been blamed for a number of fires and in 2019 filed for bankruptcy protection. "PG&E has a history of repeatedly causing wildfires that is not getting better — it's getting worse," Bridgett said in a press briefing, Bloomberg reports. "Those who lost loved ones need justice. They need to have those who are responsible for killing their loved ones to be held criminally responsible, especially since this fire was completely preventable." Bridgett also said that the company "failed to perform their legal duties" by not removing the tree that caused the fire, even though contractors marked it as hazardous in 2018, The Wall Street Journal reports. Last year, PG&E pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in connection to a separate deadly California wildfire that left 84 people dead. "I'm here today on behalf of the 23,000 men and women of PG&E to take responsibility for the fire that killed these people," PG&E's then-CEO Bill Johnson said in court, per The New York Times. "No words from me can ever reduce the magnitude of that devastation." PG&E CEO Patti Poppe said in a statement Friday that the company consists of "40,000 people who get up every day to make it safe and to end catastrophic wildfire and tragedies like this," adding, "Let's be clear, my coworkers are not criminals. We welcome our day in court so people can learn just that."
9-24-21 German election: Climate protesters rally in cities
Climate change activists are rallying in cities around Germany ahead of federal elections on Sunday. "No political party is doing enough," Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg told a gathering of thousands in Berlin. The activists are calling for Germany to do more to limit global heating to 1.5 degrees C and to end the use of coal for power generation by 2030, instead of 2038. Climate change has been a central theme in the election campaign. In July, record floods swept western Germany, killing more than 180 people. However, this failed to translate into greater support for the Green Party, which is running third in opinion polls, at about 15%. The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) are in the lead, on about 25%, with the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel trailing on about 22%. Activists from the "Fridays for the Future" campaign staged protests in about 470 German towns and cities on Friday. Germany signed up to the targets of the 2015 Paris accord, pledging to limit warming to a maximum of 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. However, it has consistently fallen short of its own targets. insufficient and violated fundamental freedoms by putting the burden of curbing CO2 emissions on the young. "It is clearer than ever that no political party is doing close to enough. But it's even worse than that. Not even their proposed commitments are close to being in line with what would be needed to fulfil the Paris agreement," Ms Thunberg said on Friday. Voting was essential, but not enough, she said, as she urged the crowds to be "active citizens" and go out on the streets.
9-24-21 ‘Ice Rivers’ invites you to get to know our world’s melting glaciers
A scientist’s memoir mixes personal recollections about fieldwork with a dash of science and history. I’ve always been a sucker for glacier lingo, whimsical words for a harsh landscape gouged, smoothed and bulldozed by ice. Moulins, drumlins, eskers and moraines. Cirques and arêtes. Cold katabatic winds blowing down a mountain, huffed from a glacier’s snout and said to be its spirit. Jemma Wadham’s Ice Rivers: A Story of Glaciers, Wilderness, and Humanity leans into this duality of whimsy and harshness, cheerfully pulling readers into this strange, icy world. Wadham, a glaciologist at the University of Bristol in England, confesses that her goal is to give readers a sense of connection to glaciers, which she knowingly anthropomorphizes: In her writing, glaciers have heavy bodies, dirty snouts and veins filled with water. “When I’m with them, I feel like I’m among friends,” she writes. “It is, in many ways, a love story.” And knowing the glaciers, she reasons — perhaps coming to love them — is key to trying to save them. Accordingly, the book’s chapters are anchored by site, and each chapter documents a different field expedition or series of expeditions to a particular glacier. Wadham takes us from the Swiss Alps to Norway’s Svalbard islands, from India’s Himalayas to Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys. It’s a breezy read, with an eager party host vibe (“let me introduce to you my friend the glacier; I think you two will get along”). While describing each site, Wadham dives into an engaging mishmash of personal recollections about her fieldwork, snippets of accessible glacier and climate science (I now know that these rivers of ice have three different manners of flow), a dash of alpine and polar exploration history, and many bits of local color. Ötzi the 5,300-year-old iceman, Erik the Red, Svalbard’s many polar bears and wild Patagonian horses all make an appearance, not to mention the mummified corpses of seals and penguins littering the Dry Valleys (SN: 7/12/18).
9-24-21 Rice feeds half the world. Climate change’s droughts and floods put it at risk
Scientists and growers will need to innovate to save the staple crop. Under a midday summer sun in California’s Sacramento Valley, rice farmer Peter Rystrom walks across a dusty, barren plot of land, parched soil crunching beneath each step. In a typical year, he’d be sloshing through inches of water amid lush, green rice plants. But today the soil lies naked and baking in the 35° Celsius (95° Fahrenheit) heat during a devastating drought that has hit most of the western United States. The drought started in early 2020, and conditions have become progressively drier. Low water levels in reservoirs and rivers have forced farmers like Rystrom, whose family has been growing rice on this land for four generations, to slash their water use. Rystrom stops and looks around. “We’ve had to cut back between 25 and 50 percent.” He’s relatively lucky. In some parts of the Sacramento Valley, depending on water rights, he says, farmers received no water this season. California is the second-largest U.S. producer of rice, after Arkansas, and over 95 percent of California’s rice is grown within about 160 kilometers of Sacramento. To the city’s east rise the peaks of the Sierra Nevada, which means “snowy mountains” in Spanish. Rice growers in the valley below count on the range to live up to its name each winter. In spring, melting snowpack flows into rivers and reservoirs, and then through an intricate network of canals and drainages to rice fields that farmers irrigate in a shallow inundation from April or May to September or October. If too little snow falls in those mountains, farmers like Rystrom are forced to leave fields unplanted. On April 1 this year, the date when California’s snowpack is usually at its deepest, it held about 40 percent less water than average, according to the California Department of Water Resources. On August 4, Lake Oroville, which supplies Rystrom and other local rice farmers with irrigation water, was at its lowest level on record.
9-23-21 Boris Johnson: Humanity is reaching a turning point on climate change
A climate summit of world leaders in 40 days' time will be the "turning point for humanity", PM Boris Johnson has said in a speech to the United Nations. He warned that global temperature rises were already inevitable, but called on his fellow leaders to commit to major changes to curb further warming. Four areas needed tackling - "coal, cars, cash and trees", he said. Countries must take responsibility for "the destruction we are inflicting, not just upon our planet but ourselves". "It's time for humanity to grow up," he added ahead of the UK hosting the COP26 summit in Glasgow. The prime minister also said it was time to listen to the warnings of scientists. "Look at Covid if you want an example of gloomy scientists being proved right." Setting the tone for November's meeting, he said countries must make "substantial changes" by the end of the decade if the world is to stave off further temperature rises. "I passionately believe that we can do it by making commitments in four areas - coal, cars, cash and trees," he said. Mr Johnson praised China's President Xi Jinping for his recent pledge to stop building new coal-fire energy plants abroad. But he called on the country - which produces 28% of global greenhouse gas emissions - to go further and end its domestic use of coal, saying the UK was proof that it could be done. The UK used coal to generate 25% of its electricity five years ago - but that is now down to 2%. Mr Johnson said it would be "gone altogether" by 2024. But Labour's shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband accused the UK government of "facing both ways" on climate change, urging other nations to take action while it considered plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria and cut money for improving home insulation. He told BBC Radio 4's World at One that a UK trade deal had also allowed Australia to renege on their climate commitments.
9-23-21 Alok Sharma: COP26 is for ordinary people, not just climate warriors
The man charged with leading a successful climate change summit in five weeks’ time insists he is no environmentalist – but is now convinced of the urgency of tackling global warming. “I’m a normal person, right, I’m not someone who’s some great climate warrior coming into this,” says Alok Sharma, the president of the COP26 meeting, who took up the job in February 2020. “But it has given me a real appreciation and understanding of why it is so vital that we get this right.” Sharma says that understanding is also spreading among the public, citing a recent chat with a nurse performing a routine covid-19 test. “She said ‘thank you for what you said about taking care of the climate yesterday on the news.’ This is resonating with ordinary people like me, who weren’t focused on this necessarily. We have to get this right, for our generation and future generations.” It is an attitude shared by his boss, UK prime minister Boris Johnson. “I am not one of those environmentalists who takes a moral pleasure in excoriating humanity for its excess,” Johnson told the UN General Assembly in a speech on 22 September, where he called on the world to “grow up” on climate change and said the COP26 summit in Glasgow, UK, this November is “turning point” for humanity. COP26 is seen as the most important international climate meeting since 2015, when the world adopted the Paris Agreement to hold global warming to below 1.5°C at best and well below 2°C at the worst. A hundred world leaders have said they will attend the summit in Glasgow, making it the largest political gathering the UK has ever hosted. Sharma says that number will grow, though key players such as Chinese president Xi Jinping have not yet confirmed they will attend. “Of course we want to see as many [heads of state] as possible,” he says. US president Joe Biden has said he will attend, along with high profile figures including Pope Francis.
9-23-21 Air pollution: Even worse than we thought - WHO
Air pollution is even more dangerous than previously thought, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned, as it slashes maximum safe levels of key pollutants such nitrogen dioxide. An estimated seven million people die prematurely each year from diseases linked to air pollution, the WHO says. Low- and middle-income countries suffer the most, because of their reliance on fossil fuels for economic development. The WHO puts air pollution on a par with smoking and unhealthy eating. It is urging its 194 member states to cut emissions and take action on climate change, ahead of the COP26 summit in November. Decade by decade, the limits for what's considered a safe amount of pollution are being ratcheted down. It's not news to people suffering from heart and lung problems that toxic particles and gases can harm people at much lower levels than previously thought. The changes to the guidelines mean the UK's legal limits for the most harmful pollutants are now four times higher than the maximum levels recommended by the WHO. The trouble is that the worst pollution - tiny particles which can be breathed into the lungs - is so terribly hard to stop. The new guidelines, released on Wednesday, halve the recommended maximum for exposure to tiny particles called PM2.5s. These are produced by burning fuels in power generation, domestic heating and vehicle engines. "Almost 80% of deaths related to PM2.5 could be avoided in the world if the current air pollution levels were reduced to those proposed in the updated guideline," the WHO said. It is also cutting the recommended limit for another class of microparticles, known as PM10s, by 25%. Other pollutants singled out in the guidelines include ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide. Air pollution is linked to conditions such as heart disease and strokes. In children, it can reduce lung growth and cause aggravated asthma. "Improving air quality can enhance climate change mitigation efforts, while reducing emissions will in turn improve air quality," the WHO says.
9-22-21 The UK energy crisis shows why it is time to look beyond fossil fuels
MANY critiques of the UK’s unfolding gas supply crisis have focused on the peculiarities of how its energy market is regulated. But that is to ignore the global scope of this crisis. In Europe, for example, gas prices are up 170 per cent since this January. The UK is particularly vulnerable to gas volatility due to its “dash for gas” to replace coal for electricity generation since the 1990s. That was largely driven by economics, with a happy by-product of reducing carbon emissions. Now countries the world over are attempting to replicate it. In 2019, demand for gas rose more than any other energy source. It is forecast to be up strongly this year and to keep growing until 2024. Gas advocates like to push the fuel as a “bridge” to transition the world from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Even if it weren’t for the gas industry’s manifold failings, from continued leaks to huge flaring emissions, it would be a distinctly ropey bridge. A path to net-zero emissions by mid-century needs deeper cuts than gas can deliver. Even the conservative International Energy Agency says there can be no new gas fields in a net-zero world. Yet many still argue that more fossil fuels are the answer. If only Russia would stop limiting its gas supplies to Europe, say some. Others call on the UK to exploit its shale gas reserves. Here’s news for them: last year, 62 per cent of electricity from new renewables projects was more affordable than the cheapest low-cost fossil fuel option. That figure will only increase as wind and solar technologies mature still further. Meanwhile, volatile fossil fuel prices were the main reason Norway’s central bank advised the country’s sovereign wealth fund to ditch oil and gas. The gas crisis should be taken for what it is: cutting the last support to the idea that fossil fuels in any shape provide a stable, economically viable solution to satisfying our future energy needs. The way forward is clear: accelerated investment in energy efficiency, low-carbon heating and renewable electricity generation and grid and storage technologies. The UK – and the world – needs to hear that message, and act on it.
9-22-21 Ecological grief is devastating but it may help us stop climate change
A WEEK into our family holiday in Greece, the thing we feared the most happened: a fire broke out on the hillside next to our house. Through the smoke, we could see trees and brush going up in flames. When an outhouse on the neighbouring property caught fire, we grabbed passports, wallets and phones, piled into the car and fled. There was nothing for it but to go to a beach and wait. A few hours later, we returned. The fire was out, the house and village intact. We were relieved and grateful, but shaken, and edgy for the rest of the holiday. Having briefly feared the loss of a rented holiday home and a longed-for family break, I can only imagine what it feels like to lose an actual home to a natural disaster, or to live in fear of it. Yet this is the experience of increasing numbers of people around the world as fires, floods, storms and melting ice invade our safest spaces. Such climate-fuelled natural disasters are obviously a danger to life, limb and property. But what is often overlooked is that they also take a psychological toll. According to the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists, the climate emergency is also a mental health emergency, because our psychological well-being is entwined with the natural world. For now, the people on the front line of this crisis are Indigenous communities who have a profound connection to the land, and who are being psychologically obliterated by the destruction they see being wrought upon it. One vivid example comes from Tikigâksuagusik, a coastal Inuit community in Labrador, Canada. There is no road in or out of the town, and its 300 or so inhabitants still live largely as their ancestors did. According to Ashlee Cunsolo, a researcher at the Labrador Institute who has worked with the community for 12 years, the people of Tikigâksuagusik are deeply connected to their environment. They use the land and sea to hunt, trap, fish and forage, and derive a sense of belonging from being in the wild. Above all, she says, they identify as “people of the sea ice”.
9-22-21 The American coffee farming opportunity created by climate change
As climate change-driven extreme heat, changing rain patterns, and even unexpected frosts harm coffee crops in Colombia, Brazil, and Vietnam, some U.S.-based farmers and researchers are seizing the opportunity created by rising temperatures, Reuters writes. The U.S. is the "world's largest" coffee consumer, but produces just 0.01% of the global crop, writes Reuters. However, as the climate warms, particularly in the southern part of the country, researchers at the University of Florida have begun investigating Florida as a potential region for coffee harvesting. "With climate change, we know many areas in the world will have difficulties growing coffee because it is going to be too hot, so Florida could be an option," said Diane Rowland, a lead researcher on the project. Farmers in California have also had luck growing coffee as of late. The plant "uses 20 percent less water than most fruit and nut trees," perfect for Golden State farmers plagued with droughts and forest fires, notes Reuters. And with production in top-producing Brazil hurt for both this year and next, farmers in new regions — like California — stand to benefit from the "the largest-ever coffee growing endeavor in the United States." Read more at Reuters.
9-22-21 WHO calls for lower limits on air pollution to save millions of lives
Millions of deaths could be avoided if the world adopts tough new air pollution limits set out today by the World Health Organization (WHO). The guidelines call for much lower daily and annual levels of exposure to six pollutants from cars, power stations and other sources, in the first major overhaul of the recommendations in 16 years. The stricter ceilings are due to an increase in research on the health impacts from even low levels of pollution. “We have even stronger evidence than before on the effect of air pollution on health. Before our evidence was huge, now it’s even stronger,” says Maria Neira at the WHO. Stephen Holgate at the University of Southampton, UK, says population-based studies have shown “there are no safe levels of air pollution”. The WHO’s air quality guidance isn’t legally binding but influences governments, and clean air campaigners have increasingly been calling for stricter measures. Under the new advice, annual limits on people’s exposure to tiny particulate matter known as PM2.5, which mostly comes from burning fossil fuels in cars and industry, are halved. Annual exposure to nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas from diesel vehicles, is cut by 75 per cent. Air pollution is currently the world’s greatest environmental threat to health, resulting in 7 million premature deaths a year, according to the WHO, although some estimates are even higher. The WHO calculates that if the world met the new PM2.5 limits, ignoring other measures, it would cut deaths due to PM2.5 by about 80 per cent, or 3.3 million people a year. “How can you refuse to reduce by 80 per cent?” says Neira. Air quality experts say the new limits are in line with the science on the health impact of exposure to dirty air. “These are really quite significant developments. It’s very dramatic. But it does reflect the current state of the literature,” says Jonathan Grigg at Queen Mary University of London.“Harms to health occur throughout the entire life course, but pregnancy and childhood are especially vulnerable periods, with mounting evidence for effects on long-term growth and cognitive ability,” says Frank Kelly at Imperial College London. “We need to view air pollution much more seriously, as it is a major public health problem.” Meeting the new guidelines is feasible but will be a challenge, especially in many UK cities, he adds.
9-22-21 COP 26: How much is the developing world getting to fight climate change?
President Biden has promised to double the amount of money the United States is providing to help poorer countries deal with climate change. His speech at the United Nations came a day after Boris Johnson said it was going to be 'tough' to meet climate finance goals in advance of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference (Cop26), which takes place in Glasgow in November. The developed world had pledged to provide $100bn (£720m) a year by 2020 to poorer countries, to help them cope with climate change, but this has still not been achieved. It is going to be hard enough for rich countries to adjust to the need to remove fossil fuels and carbon from their own economies. But it is going to be a lot more challenging in developing nations, where there is far less money to pay for new infrastructure and technology. And there are an awful lot of people under threat. As long ago as 2009, the developed world agreed it would provide $100bn a year by 2020 to help poorer countries. But, although official figures have not yet been released, an expert report commissioned by the United Nations concludes the target has not been reached - even though a new and more ambitious target is now supposed to be set for 2025. "The $100bn commitment should be seen as a floor not a ceiling," lead author Amar Bhattacharya, from the Brookings Institution, says. "Some progress has been made - but a lot more needs to be done." For many countries, this is the biggest issue to resolve in the run-up to Cop26 - and the very poorest are demanding action. It is quite hard to calculate what money should be included in the overall figure, because it is a complicated mix of money from governments, international lenders and private companies. But the UN and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimate that by 2019 the figure had reached just over $79bn, only a small increase on the previous year, and they say it won't have got to $100 billion by 2020.
9-22-21 Life at 50C: Heat hitting home in Australia
Australia is one of the countries already seeing an increase in the number of extremely hot days because of climate change, with places like Sydney experiencing temperatures around 50C. The intense heat has led to unusually strong bushfires and some indigenous species dying en masse. As the BBC’s Life at 50 degrees season continues, this film explores how this new reality is hitting home in Australia.
9-22-21 Thailand is turning plastic waste into personal protective equipment
Millions of discarded plastic bottles in Thailand have found a new purpose amid the coronavirus pandemic. In a factory near Bangkok, plastic bottles are being shredded and turned into thread, which is woven into fabric that is treated to become waterproof. That fabric is then used to create personal protective equipment (PPE) for people working at hospitals and monks who are cremating COVID-19 victims. "What was trash is now valuable," Phra Maha Pranom Dhammalangkaro, abbott of the Chakdaeng temple, told Reuters. It can sometimes be hard to find traditional PPE in Thailand, and while these upcycled suits are not medical grade, they offer some protection while helping the environment. It takes about 18 plastic bottles to make one suit, which can be washed up to 20 times.
9-22-21 Gas price crisis: Food firms face huge price rise for carbon dioxide
The British food industry will be forced to pay five times more for carbon dioxide as part of a government deal with a US company to restart production in the UK. Environment Secretary George Eustice said carbon dioxide prices would rise from £200 per tonne to £1,000. The government has agreed to pay out tens of millions of pounds to CF Industries to reopen a plant in the UK. The closure had raised fears over food supplies and the nuclear industry. US-owned CF Industries recently shut two UK sites that produce 60% of the country's commercial carbon dioxide supplies, because of a sharp rise in gas prices. Farms, food producers and supermarkets have warned that a shortage of carbon dioxide will lead to significant disruption to the manufacture and supply of fresh produce. The Times also reported that ministers were concerned that the UK might have to close its six advanced gas-cooled nuclear reactors, which also use CO2. The government announced late on Tuesday night that it would meet the full operating costs to run CF Industries' Billingham plant in Teesside for three weeks. The costs are expected to be in the "low tens of millions" and will be below £50m. Mr Eustice said that the deal with CF Industries "will be not a loan, it will be a payment to underwrite some of their fixed costs". At the end of the three-week period, it is hoped that the price of carbon dioxide will have risen sufficiently to make it economically viable for CF Industries to keep production running. Mr Eustice said the food industry would have to accept "a big, sharp rise" carbon dioxide prices from £200 to £1,000 a tonne. "The critical thing was to get the production up and running expeditiously. That's why we've needed this government intervention," he said. "But we've had meetings with the food industry. They all recognise that the price of carbon dioxide is going to increase substantially and when that price increases, then the market signal will be then for these plants to continue producing." Mr Eustice insisted that the rise in cost would not have a "significant impact" on food prices.
9-22-21 China pledges to stop building new coal energy plants abroad
China will not build new coal-fire projects abroad, a move that could be pivotal in tackling global emissions. President Xi Jinping made the announcement in his address at the United Nations General Assembly. China has been funding coal projects in countries like Indonesia and Vietnam under a massive infrastructure project known as the Belt and Road initiative. But it has been under pressure to end the financing, as the world tries to meet Paris climate agreement targets. "China will step up support for other developing countries in developing green and low-carbon energy, and will not build new coal-fired power projects abroad," Mr Xi said in a video recording at the annual summit. No further details were provided, but the move could limit the expansion of coal plants in many developing countries under China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI has seen China fund trains, roads, ports and coal plants in numerous countries, many of them developing nations. For the first time in several years however, it did not fund any coal projects in the first half of 2021. China is also the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter and is heavily reliant on coal for domestic energy needs. Mr Xi mentioned promises made last year about China achieving peak emissions before 2030 and then transitioning to carbon neutrality by 2060. The US Climate Envoy John Kerry welcomed the announcement, saying in a statement that he was "absolutely delighted to hear that President Xi has made this important decision". The head of the COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference due to be held in Scotland next month also applauded the news. "It is clear the writing is on the wall for coal power. I welcome President Xi's commitment to stop building new coal projects abroad - a key topic of my discussions during my visit to China," Alok Sharma said on Twitter.
9-21-21 Xi Jinping may have just signaled the end of international coal financing
International funding for coal may have just met its end. Chinese President Xi Jinping said during his video address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday that Beijing will no longer build coal plants overseas and instead support developing countries in the transition to green and low-carbon energy. Politico's Karl Mathieson notes that China is by far the largest financer of international coal, and considering the next largest backers — Japan and South Korea — previously made similar commitments, the practice will no longer have much, if any, actual weight behind it. While Xi's announcement appears to be a big deal, Belinda Schäpe of climate think tank E3G points out that China still hosts more than 50 percent of the world's coal fleet, so Beijing still needs to "lend credibility" to its domestic climate targets and unveil a clear timeline for phasing coal out at home.
9-21-21 Climate reporting reaches melting point
A trip to a melting glacier will shape how the BBC's new climate editor, Justin Rowlatt, reports on the story of climate change. You cannot help but be awed by the scale of Antarctica, the great white continent. I visited just before the pandemic struck and it is impossible not to feel humbled in the presence of something that seems so much bigger and more powerful than you. But that sensation is an illusion. When we finally flew over the front of the enormous glacier after weeks of travelling, I found myself staring down at an epic vision of shattered ice. As I wrote at the time, it felt like I'd reached the frontline of climate change; a place where the equilibrium that has held our world in balance for thousands of years was slipping and crashing. Satellite monitoring shows that the overall rate of ice loss from West Antarctica has increased five-fold over a 25-year period. This one glacier - Thwaite's glacier - alone now accounts for 4% of global sea level rise. Needless to say, this acceleration is a result of us humans polluting the air with greenhouse gases. That fact explodes any impression that the ice is overwhelming. The opposite is true, we are overwhelming the ice. I was surprised how moved I was by what I'd seen. In the weeks it took to travel home, I tried to process my emotions. I thought about the men and women who had set our camp, who flew the planes, cooked the meals, processed the rubbish and groomed the ice runways. And I thought about the scientists who have been studying the processes at work for decades. Our research trip was only possible because of a huge chain of human enterprise culminating with the hardworking people in the UK and US whose taxes paid for it all. As I flew back to the UK, I reflected how it is often claimed that selfishness, greed and conflict are the hallmarks of humanity, but that is wrong.
9-21-21 Rich nations must increase climate support funds, says Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has renewed his call for richer countries to increase financial support to poorer ones fighting the effects of climate change. Speaking at a UN gathering in New York, the UK PM said he was "increasingly frustrated" at support offered to countries hit hard by global warming. He added many richer economies had pledged "nowhere near enough". A longstanding promise to give $100bn (£73bn) a year to poorer countries has not yet been met. Some 100 world leaders are meeting at the UN General Assembly this week, ahead of a key UN climate conference hosted in Glasgow next month. Mr Johnson said "history will judge" countries who "lacked the courage to step up" once the Glasgow conference, called COP26, has finished. As far back as 2009, the developed world agreed it would provide $100bn a year by 2020 to help poorer countries deal with the effects of climate change. But the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently estimated that by 2019 the figure had reached just over $79bn. Addressing other leaders at the UN climate meeting, Mr Johnson said the gap between what had been promised and what had been delivered "remains vast". "Too many major economies - some represented here today, some absent - are lagging too far behind," he added. On his way to New York, Mr Johnson had downplayed the chances of the $100bn target being hit by the Glasgow summit, saying it was "six out of 10". However, US President Joe Biden's climate envoy, John Kerry, has since raised hopes it could be met, hinting his boss could announce more money during his speech to the UN assembly on Tuesday. Mr Kerry told Sky News: "I think we're going to get it done by COP , and the US will do its part." Asked if Mr Biden will announce more funds this week, he added: "I'm telling you to stay tuned into the president's speech, and we'll see where we are."
9-21-21 Why is there a CO2 shortage and how will it hit food supplies?
The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) the UK produces has halved - prompting warnings of supermarket shortages. That's because food and drink firms use CO2 in hundreds of products, from fizzy drinks to bagged salads. Food grade CO2 is used in hundreds of products. The CO2 issue is "escalating quickly" and causing a "big supply issue", one supermarket executive told the BBC. "The big meat suppliers are saying they have two to three days' supply and are now having to prioritise how they use what they have," he said. Ranjit Singh Boparan - owner of the Bernard Matthews poultry brand and 2 Sisters Food Group - said the shortage was a "body blow" to the industry. And supermarket delivery firm Ocado said it had "limited stock" of some frozen items, because of the CO2 shortage. The Food and Drink Federation, stressed the UK was not going to run out of food, but there would be "major concerns" over supply to supermarkets and other food outlets. It said: "The knock-on effects of this may well be felt right the way through to the end of the year and particularly over the key Christmas trading period." Remaining UK carbon dioxide production is being prioritised for medical uses. It is used during some invasive surgeries to stabilise body cavities, to stimulate breathing and to get rid of warts and moles. CO2 is also used by the nuclear industry as a coolant. And it is used commercially in fire extinguishers, for inflating life rafts and life jackets, and as a liquid solvent. Two large UK fertiliser factories, on Teesside and in Cheshire, have stopped work because of soaring wholesale gas prices. The plants, owned by CF Industries, also make CO2 - as a by-product. Because the fertiliser factories have stopped working, there has been a cut of 60% of the UK's food-grade carbon dioxide supply.
9-20-21 Climate pledges tough to secure before COP26 summit, PM warns
There is a "six out of 10" chance of getting other countries to sign up to financial and environmental targets ahead of November's key COP26 climate change conference, the UK PM has said. Boris Johnson is in the US for a UN meeting where he will urge leaders to take "concrete action" on the issue. But he said it would be "tough" to persuade allies to meet their promise to give $100bn a year to developing nations to cut carbon emissions. The UK is hosting COP26 in Glasgow. Mr Johnson also defended new International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan over her past social media posts that rejected the science of climate change, acknowledging that he himself had not always supported action on global warming but "the facts change and people change their minds". With some 100 world leaders expected in New York at the UN General Assembly this week, Mr Johnson will seek to galvanise action during a series of high-level meetings. Speaking during his flight, Mr Johnson told reporters: "I think getting it all done this week is going to be a stretch. But I think getting it all done by COP, six out of 10. "It's going to be tough but people need to understand that this is crucial for the world." Downing Street has said developed countries have "collectively failed" on their annual $100bn (£73bn) target, with OECD figures last week showing that only $79.6bn in climate finance was mobilised in 2019. COP26 president Alok Sharma, who is with the PM, earlier revealed that Chinese President Xi Jinping had not yet committed to attending the conference. Mr Johnson said Mr Sharma had had "some great conversations already with his Chinese counterparts about the things they want to do". "I think China is massively important to this and I think China shows real signs of making progress," he added. Mr Johnson also insisted new International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan would do an "outstanding job" after social media posts emerged showing her previously denying climate change.
9-20-21 Blame fossil fuels, not renewables, for the UK's winter energy crisis
Soaring wholesale gas prices have left the UK in an energy crisis, with fears for vulnerable households as bills rise and a wave of energy firms folding. In the 1990s, the UK made a “dash for gas”. In recent years, it has leaned on the fuel to ease the phase out of an even more polluting fossil fuel, coal. That makes the UK heavily reliant on gas for energy, with 86 per cent of homes using it for heating and more than a third of electricity supplies coming from gas power plants. The main reason for the current crisis is a shortage of gas supplies, due in part to outages in production in Norway and elsewhere, and demand from Asia. It is also, to a much lesser degree, due to low output from wind power and a fire last week leaving a UK-France power link offline. Prices and carbon emissions are up, with ageing coal and mothballed gas power stations firing up again. Wholesale gas prices are up 176 per cent since the start of the year, and power prices in the past month are up 266 per cent on the average this year. The UK government is reportedly considering offering loans to energy companies that are struggling to cope with the higher wholesale prices, due to both the government’s cap on how much firms can charge consumers and a lack of financial hedging against the increase. It didn’t have to be this way. Energy crises like these are a cyclical feature of being at the mercy of the volatile nature of fossil fuel prices, subject to global and geopolitical factors beyond the control of any one nation. Countries that have prioritised domestic low-carbon energy are much more insulated to such shocks. The UK should know this: its last crisis was only in 2018, when the situation wasn’t as dire as today, but wholesale gas prices were surging and many energy suppliers were going bust, leaving society to pick up the bill.
9-19-21 Boris Johnson to call for climate action during US visit
Boris Johnson will urge world leaders to take "concrete action" on climate change during meetings at the UN's General Assembly in New York this week. The PM will also visit the White House for the first time since Joe Biden became US president. He is expected to push Mr Biden on the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the potential of reopening UK to US travel. The visit comes ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November. With some 100 world leaders expected in New York at the UN General Assembly this week, Mr Johnson will seek to galvanise action during a series of high-level meetings. Mr Johnson said he would push for action on coal, climate, cars and trees in particular. Downing Street said he would focus on supporting developing nations to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis, as well as on adapting to its consequences. Ahead of the visit, the PM said: "World leaders have a small window of time left to deliver on their climate commitments ahead of COP26. "My message to those I meet this week will be clear: future generations will judge us based on what we achieve in the coming months. "We need to continue to make a case for a sustainable recovery from coronavirus rooted in green growth. And we have a responsibility to ensure the benefits of that growth extend to all, no matter where they are born." The COP26 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. The task facing Boris Johnson is huge, because nations are falling way behind on plans to cut emissions. Scientists say to avoid the worst climate impacts, carbon emissions must be cut by 45% by 2030, but the latest UN analysis shows the trend is heading in the wrong direction. On current national policies, emissions could rise by 16% in this period. That could lead to a temperature increase of 2.7C (4.9F) above pre-industrial times. Meanwhile the climate has already dangerously heated, with deadly temperatures, wildfires, and floods - and that's with a temperature rise of just 1C at present. The PM will attempt to persuade China to quicken its timetable for reducing emissions, even though China's not primarily to blame for climate change so far.
9-19-21 From Katrina to Ida: How US presidents react to climate change and natural disasters
Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, US presidents have realised that their reactions to natural disasters can make or break them. A public policy expert analyses the responses of four presidents - from Bush to Biden - to superstorms over the past 16 years, and discusses how their views on climate change have differed.
9-18-21 Climate change: Biden urges world leaders to cut methane gas emissions
US President Joe Biden has urged world leaders to commit to cutting methane gas emissions by at least 30% below 2020 levels by the end of the decade. He said it would "rapidly reduce the rate of global warming" if other countries joined the US and the EU in signing up to the pledge. Methane is a greenhouse gas that experts say is a harmful contributor to global climate change. Mr Biden has made tackling the climate crisis one of his main priorities. The president reversed his predecessor Donald Trump's decision to withdraw the US from the Paris agreement - a legally binding international climate treaty adopted by nearly 200 countries - on his first day in office. Addressing world leaders at a virtual meeting on Friday, Mr Biden said cutting global methane emissions would not just help tackle climate change in the short term, but also improve public health and agricultural and fuel output. "We believe the collective goal is ambitious but realistic, and we urge you to join us in announcing this pledge at [the UN climate conference] COP26," he said. According to the White House, the virtual meeting was attended by leaders from the UK, EU, Argentina, Bangladesh, Indonesia, South Korea and Mexico, among others. In April, Mr Biden pledged to cut US carbon emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by the end of this decade. Major sources of methane include agriculture, and leaks from oil and gas production and landfills. Methane is also produced when living things decompose and is also a natural gas. It persists for just a short time in the atmosphere - unlike carbon dioxide - but methane is a much more potent global warming gas than CO2. Methane is also a source for another gas - ozone - in the lowest layer of the Earth's atmosphere. Ground-level ozone is a pollutant that can be harmful to the human body.
9-18-21 Climate change: UN warning over nations' climate plans
Despite all the promises to take action, the world is still on course to heat up to dangerous levels. That's the latest blunt assessment of the United Nations. Its experts have studied the climate plans of more than 100 countries and concluded that we're heading in the wrong direction. Scientists recently confirmed that to avoid the worst impacts of hotter conditions, global carbon emissions needed to be cut by 45% by 2030. But this new analysis shows that those emissions are set to rise by 16% during this period. That could eventually lead to a temperature rise of 2.7C (4.9F) above pre-industrial times - far above the limits set by the international community. "The 16% increase is a huge cause for concern," according to Patricia Espinosa, the UN's chief climate negotiator. "It is in sharp contrast with the calls by science for rapid, sustained and large-scale emission reductions to prevent the most severe climate consequences and suffering, especially of the most vulnerable, throughout the world." It's a stark warning about the scale of the challenge faced at the COP26 climate conference, scheduled to take place in Glasgow in just over six weeks' time. The central aim of the giant event is to keep alive hopes of limiting the rise in global temperatures by persuading nations to cut their emissions. Under the rules of the Paris Agreement on climate change, countries are meant to update their carbon reduction plans every five years. But the UN says that of 191 countries taking part in the agreement, only 113 have so far come up with improved pledges. Alok Sharma, the British minister who will chair the COP26 conference, said nations that had ambitious climate plans were "already bending the curve of emissions downwards". "But without action from all countries, especially the biggest economies, these efforts risk being in vain." A study by Climate Action Tracker found that of the G20 group of leading industrial nations, only a handful including the UK and the US have strengthened their targets to cut emissions.
9-18-21 Climate change: Should green campaigners put more pressure on China to slash emissions?
China will be urged at the UN next week to speed up the timetable for curbing its planet-heating carbon emissions. It will be nudged by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who's experiencing climate pressure himself from activists blocking motorways. But is the UK, with its world-leading emissions targets, the right target for demonstrators? China produces 28% of global emissions and the UK just 1%. So shouldn't they be picketing the Chinese embassy instead of the M25 motorway? On the face of it, that seems a reasonable question. And some veteran activists would indeed support a well-judged China protest - we'll come to that later. But when I initially asked the radical green group Extinction Rebellion (XR) if they had considered demonstrating against China, it triggered a furious response. An XR member tweeted accusing me of perpetuating anti-Chinese racist stereotypes and failing to report climate change properly. Why so vitriolic? Well, there are two reasons. The first is practical: climate campaigning groups like Greenpeace and WWF have offices in Beijing and if they rattle China too hard, they could be swiftly closed down. The second reason touches a sore spot on the geopolitical history of climate change. For the purposes of climate negotiations, China has been regarded as a developing country because major industrialisation occurred from the mid-20th Century - after some other countries. Picketing the Chinese embassy would ostensibly transfer blame for the current crisis on to Beijing - while easing pressure for carbon cuts in historically wealthy nations such as the UK. That's exactly what some newspaper columnists want. But it runs counter to global climate diplomacy, which acknowledges that it's rich countries with a longer history of industrialisation that have caused most of the warming so far. What's more, much of the CO2 on China's carbon accounts is created by manufacturing stuff that Western consumers buy. So much stronger action from Beijing is certainly essential to prevent global heating getting even worse. But to be fair, China's not quite as blameworthy as it seems.
9-17-21 UN says global carbon emissions set to rise 16 per cent by 2030
A UN analysis today revealed a bleak upward trajectory for global carbon dioxide emissions, despite new CO2-curbing plans by scores of countries, including major emitters such as the US and the European Union’s 27 member states. Global emissions will rise 16 per cent by 2030 on 2010 levels under governments’ plans put forward since the start of 2020, according to the synthesis report from UN Climate Change. That puts the world ruinously off track for the 45 per cent cut that climate scientists say is needed to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of holding global warming to 1.5°C. “This report is really showing us sobering numbers,” says Patricia Espinosa at UN Climate Change. “But it is also still showing the progress to the 1.5°C goal is possible. The latest IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report says there is still this window open. It’s a very, very small window, that is true. The 1.5°C goal is, in my view, alive.” There are some reasons to be hopeful. One is that the report doesn’t count political announcements that haven’t yet been translated into official plans submitted to the UN, such as China’s promise to reach an emissions peak before 2030 after which they will drop. A second is that the 16 per cent increase ignores pledges in developing countries’ plans that are conditional on greater finance or support from developed countries. Thirdly, looking at the 113 parties to the Paris Agreement that did put forward new plans, their emissions will decrease 12 per cent by 2030, compared with 2010 levels. Nonetheless, Jennifer Morgan at Greenpeace International said: “The report today does not paint a hopeful picture of progress.” In a statement, she continued: “Governments are letting vested interests call the climate shots, rather than serving the global community.” Next Monday will mark an important stepping stone towards COP26. UN secretary general António Guterres is gathering a select group of heads of state, including Boris Johnson of the UK and Joe Biden of the US, in a bid to elicit stronger ambition for the summit. Espinosa, referring to today’s UN synthesis analysis, says: “I certainly hope this report is going to be one element for reflection for leaders when they meet on Monday. It shows everyone needs to increase ambition in all areas.”
9-17-21 Carbon emitters 'failing to disclose climate risks'
A lack of detail in financial reporting will dramatically reduce firms' chances of meeting global emissions targets, researchers have warned. There is no way of knowing if money is being put into sustainable activities, Carbon Tracker said. Firms also need to be more transparent as to how they will hit sustainability targets, the think tank said. But the Institute of Economic Affairs said firms should not have to focus on "ticking boxes for activists". In a study of 107 global businesses working in carbon-intensive sectors, researchers said there was a "glaring absence of climate risks in financial reporting". More than 70% of the companies studied fail to include their climate impact in their financial statements. Plans for net zero targets and limiting climate risks were also omitted. Eight out of 10 audits of these firms also showed no evidence of assessing climate risk. The research looked for effects of material climate-related matters already required to be included in the financial statements and assessed by auditors today. Researchers assessed the 202 financial statements of 107 listed companies, from oil and gas firms to construction, car manufacturers and aviation businesses. The study, conducted by the independent charity group-funded Carbon Tracker and the Climate Accounting Project (CAP), said the lack of detail in their financial reporting would dramatically reduce the chances of meeting global emissions targets. "The fact that we don't have transparency means we have no idea if capital is being allocated to sustainable activities so we can actually transition to a greener future," Barbara Davidson, analyst at Carbon Tracker and lead author of the report, told the BBC. Researchers also found that none of the accounts reflected aims set by the Paris Agreement - an international treaty on climate change which aims to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
9-17-21 California fires: General Sherman and other sequoias given blankets
Firefighters are wrapping fire-resistant blankets around ancient trees as blazes tear through California's world-famous Sequoia National Park. Officials fear the fire could reach the Giant Forest, a grove of some of the world's biggest trees, within hours. The forest hosts some 2,000 sequoias, including the 275ft (83m) General Sherman, the biggest tree by volume on Earth and about 2,500 years old. The Colony and Paradise fires have been growing for a week. More than 350 firefighters, along with helicopters and water-dropping planes, have been mobilised to battle the blazes. They have wrapped several trees, including the General Sherman, with aluminium foil to protect them. "It's a very significant area for many, many people, so a lot of special effort is going into protecting this grove," Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks spokesperson Rebecca Paterson told the LA Times. By volume, the General Sherman is the largest known living single-stem tree on Earth and is estimated to be around 2,300 to 2,700 years old. Experts say sequoia trees are very fire-resistant and have evolved to survive flames. Sparked by lightning, the Paradise and Colony fires have been growing across rugged shrubland in the Sierra Nevada. The fires are the latest in a long summer of blazes in California. More than 7,400 wildfires have burned in the state this year, scorching more than 2.2 million acres. They have been driven by higher temperatures and extreme drought conditions. Climate change increases the risk of the hot, dry weather that is likely to fuel wildfires. The Dixie fire, the second-largest ever recorded in California, has now been largely contained.
9-16-21 Canada election: Lytton fire puts village at centre of debate
A summer of deadly heatwaves and wildfires has put climate change on the top of the agenda at Canada's snap federal election. The village of Lytton in British Columbia has been used by candidates as a cautionary tale. It took only minutes for Lytton to go up in flames. It was the end of June, and the tiny community in British Columbia had been making headlines worldwide for recording Canada's highest-ever temperature of 49.6C (121.3F). Meriel Barber remembers it being "too hot for words". "I was getting up at four in the morning to do things outside because you couldn't function in the middle of the day," she said. Other residents were also staying indoors in an effort to keep cool. The streets were quiet, even by Lytton's standards. Just 250 people lived in the village, while its surrounding indigenous reserves were home to over 1,000. The picturesque community is located about 260km (162 miles) north-east of Vancouver, and is the point where two rivers - the Thompson and the Fraser - meet. Residents describe it as being a close-knit community that was steeped in indigenous history. It was a place, one said, where "everybody pretty much knows everybody". Ms Barber moved to the area about a decade ago, and felt instantly at home. "I found a place with these people and was welcomed in many different ways," she said. "I call them family." On the day of the fire on 30 June, Ms Barber remembers boiling temperatures and "ferocious" winds. She was focused on getting home after a day of work when she first saw a plume of smoke across the town. Fires in British Columbia during the summer are common, and Ms Barber gave it only a passing thought, assuming it would soon be under control. But after dropping off her work vehicle and heading back towards the town, a fire truck came "screaming past" with its lights flashing. The truck pulled up across the road, blocking her route, and the fire chief warned her that Lytton was ablaze.
9-16-21 Canadian prairie ranchers struggle with drought conditions
Canada's prairie provinces - agricultural heartlands - have been hit hard by drought. In the face of climate change, ranchers like Ryan Boyd are experimenting with new ways to work with nature and its extremes.
9-16-21 Australian fires in 2019–2020 had even more global reach than previously thought
Blazes dumped a vast amount of CO2 into the air and triggered faraway algae blooms in the ocean. The severe, devastating wildfires that raged across southeastern Australia in late 2019 and early 2020 packed a powerful punch that extended far beyond the country, two new studies find. The blazes injected at least twice as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as was previously thought, one team’s satellite-derived estimates revealed. The fires also sent up vast clouds of smoke and ash that wafted far to the east over the Southern Ocean, fertilizing the waters with nutrients and triggering widespread blooms of microscopic marine algae called phytoplankton, another team found. Both studies were published online September 15 in Nature. Meteorologist Ivar van der Velde of the SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research in Leiden and colleagues first examined carbon monoxide data collected over southeastern Australia by the satellite-based instrument TROPOMI from November 2019 to January 2020, during the worst of the fires. Then, to get new estimates of the carbon dioxide emissions attributable to the fires, the team used previously determined ratios of carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide emitted by the region’s eucalyptus forests — the predominant type of forest that was scorched in the blazes — during earlier wildfires and prescribed burns. Van der Velde’s team estimates that the fires released from 517 trillion to 867 trillion grams of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. “The sheer magnitude of CO2 that was emitted to the atmosphere … was much larger than what we initially thought it would be,” van der Velde says. The emissions “from this single event were significantly higher than what all Australians normally emit with the combustion of fossil fuels in an entire year.”
9-16-21 Are UK energy supplies in trouble after fire at French power link?
. A fire broke out on 15 September at a facility that is part of the UK’s biggest electricity cable to continental Europe, causing wholesale power prices to spike and raising concerns over squeezed energy supplies in the coming months. So is the UK heading for a winter energy crisis? Here’s what you need to know. The fire occurred at a converter hall in Sellindge, Kent, which takes DC electricity running along the 2 gigawatt Interconnexion France Angleterre (IFA) interconnector from France, and converts it into AC power that UK energy networks can use. The fire was still going last night, but is now out. National Grid, which runs the interconnector, says it has a team at the site carrying out an early investigation into the damage. The cause of the blaze is not yet known, the company says. IFA is the oldest and biggest interconnector to the UK, and has two cables with 1GW of capacity each. These types of long-distance copper cables provide the UK, and other countries, with flexibility in a world where electricity supplies are increasingly variable because of the growing uptake of wind and solar power. In recent days the UK has largely been using IFA to import rather than export electricity. Half of the interconnector’s capacity, 1GW, was already offline due for planned maintenance. The other 1GW that was running until yesterday is now out of action, as the fire is believed to have damaged converter equipment at Sellindge. National Grid says that half is not expected to be back until March next year. So far, the company has said the half out for maintenance should be back on 25 September. But there is a big question mark over that, as the estimate was made while the fire was still going – it’s possible that damage to converter hardware will render the full 2GW unusable until next March. Half of IFA’s capacity was taken offline when a ship accidentally damaged one of the cables during a storm in 2016 and the damage then took several months to repair.
9-15-21 Most CO2 from Australia’s megafires has been offset by algal blooms
Most of the carbon dioxide released by Australia’s extreme wildfires of 2019-2020 has already been sucked out of the atmosphere by giant ocean algal blooms that were seeded by the nutrient-rich ash, a surprising new study suggests – though it is unclear how long this carbon capture will last. Australia experienced its worst wildfires on record between November 2019 and January 2020. More than 70,000 square kilometres of bushland – an area the size of the Republic of Ireland – burned to the ground. As the vegetation combusted, about 715 million tonnes of carbon dioxide were released into the atmosphere – roughly equivalent to the entire annual emissions of Germany. This led to fears that the fires would be a major contributor to global warming. However, new research suggests that approximately 80 per cent of this carbon dioxide has been absorbed by ocean algal blooms that began growing when iron-rich ash from the fires rained down into the water. Ash contains iron that can promote growth of microscopic marine algae called phytoplankton, says study author Richard Matear at CSIRO, Australia’s national science research body. As phytoplankton grow, they capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis. While analysing data from satellites and floating measurement stations, Matear and his colleagues found that two large phytoplankton colonies – known as algal blooms – grew in regions where ash from the wildfires drifted out to sea. One was to the south of Australia and the other was thousands of kilometres east in the Pacific Ocean. Based on the rate of growth of the algal blooms and the length of time they existed – about three months – the researchers were able to estimate how much carbon dioxide they removed from the atmosphere.
9-15-21 The ozone hole over the South Pole is now bigger than Antarctica
The hole in the ozone layer that forms annually over the South Pole has grown larger than Antarctica in the past week. Each year between August and October – during the southern hemisphere’s spring season – the ozone depletes over the Antarctic region, with the hole reaching a maximum size between mid-September and mid-October. This year’s hole is now larger than 75 per cent of previous ozone holes at this point in the season since 1979, though it is unclear why it has grown more than usual. In 2020, the ozone hole reached a peak of about 24 million square kilometres at the start of October, which was relatively larger than the preceding years. At the beginning of this year’s season, the ozone hole started out developing in a way that suggested it would be about the same size, but it has grown considerably bigger over the past week. This change is being closely monitored by the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) through computer modelling and satellite observations. “As far as we can see, it’s no longer growing very fast, but we could still see some increases in the beginning of October,” says Vincent-Henri Peuch at CAMS. The ozone layer provides us with protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays. The use of synthetic compounds, such as chlorofluorocarbons, over the past century has contributed to holes in this layer, as they can reach the stratosphere where they break down and release chlorine atoms that destroy ozone molecules. Signs of recovery have been observed since these synthetic compounds were banned, but the recovery of the ozone layer is still slow. “It’s not because one year is super big or super small that the process of the ozone hole recovery is necessarily in danger,” says Peuch. “There is big variability from year to year, and in order to assess the process of the recovery of the ozone layer, one has to look at several years to see the difference.”
9-15-21 Call for English households with bulging waste bins to pay extra
Households in England should be made to pay for the amount of rubbish they throw away and be banned from putting plastic in their bins to boost recycling, UK government advisers have urged ministers. Domestic recycling rates in England have stalled at about 45 per cent of waste since 2012, leaving significant amounts of rubbish still being sent to landfill or burned at incinerators. The idea of a “pay-to-throw” rubbish scheme was last seriously examined in England 14 years ago; it would use microchips on bins to weigh rubbish and rebates on council tax as an incentive to recycle more. But a national roll-out was rejected after criticism, and local authorities failed to exercise powers for pilot programmes. Now the concept has been put back on the agenda after the Advisory Committee on Packaging (ACP), an expert group appointed by the government, said it should be explored to minimise waste and spur recycling. Another option would be reducing the frequency of “black bag” waste collections, the group said in a response to a consultation on consistency of recycling across England, seen by New Scientist. “Pay-as-you-throw could increase householder involvement in waste issues and introduce a market mechanism – money – to influence their and business’s waste generation,” says Deep Sagar at the ACP. He says the measure would probably cut the total waste each home generates, similar to reductions seen after the implementation of a 10 pence charge on single-use plastic bags in England. Sagar suggests that the idea could be tested in a small area first. The potential downsides of the approach, he adds, are primarily the cost of administering such a scheme, and the risk of people dumping rubbish illegally instead of reducing their waste or recycling more. The UK’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs told New Scientist that it has no plans to introduce pay-as-you-throw, but would be using powers in the environment bill currently going through the UK Parliament to make collections more consistent regionally. “This will make recycling easier and ensure there is a comprehensive, consistent service across England, reducing recycling confusion and ensuring more recycled material is used in the products we buy,” said a Defra spokesperson in a statement.
9-15-21 New climate plans fall far short of limiting global warming to 1.5°C
Countries have failed to come forward with enough bold new plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions under the Paris Agreement, according to a new analysis, meaning emissions in nine years’ time are expected to be roughly double the level needed to meet the treaty’s goal of holding global temperature rises to 1.5°C. Despite extreme weather in the northern hemisphere, a landmark climate science report and exhortations by UN leaders in recent months, greater ambition on emissions hasn’t materialised in the run-up to the critical COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, UK. The nearly 200 countries that signed up to the Paris Agreement in 2015 agreed to raise the ambition of their emissions reduction plans every five years, starting at the end of 2020. In the past year, the UK, European Union and, in particular, the US put forward significant new plans to slash emissions by 2030. But not enough countries have followed suit to shift the dial globally, the analysis finds. “With current pledges we predict that emissions in 2030 would be kind of stable from today – but they would have to be cut in half by 2030 to be in line with the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement,” says Niklas Höhne at the non-profit NewClimate Institute, which partnered with Climate Action Tracker (CAT) to carry out the analysis. “So we are roughly emitting twice as much in 2030 under all the proposals as we should.” The gap between the emissions cuts needed for 1.5°C and countries’ pledges has closed by up to 15 per cent, or up to 4 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent, since last December. “It has narrowed, a bit. But not much,” says Höhne. A further 20 to 23 billion tonnes of CO2e cuts will be needed to close the gap entirely. Almost 90 countries plus the European Union’s 27 member states, covering about half of global emissions, have put forward new plans. The UK’s plan of a 68 per cent cut by 2030, announced last December, makes it the only high-income country considered by CAT to have a domestic target compatible with the Paris goal of 1.5°C. But factoring in a shortfall of policies to meet the target, and the UK not paying enough climate finance to lower-income countries, the country’s contribution is overall ranked “almost sufficient” in the new report.
9-15-21 Younger generations are the most fatalistic about climate change
The idea that younger generations care the most about the climate while older people downplay the issue and refuse to take action is a widespread myth, according to new research. To better understand differences between generations, including how they perceive one another and the biggest challenges of the day, my team at the Policy Institute at King’s College London and New Scientist commissioned a survey of more than 4000 people aged 18 and over in the US and UK. Responses were collected from 2 to 9 August. Previous research has made clear that one of the most pervasive and destructive generational myths is that older cohorts don’t care about the environment or social purpose more generally. The new survey shows how dangerously caricatured this is. In the UK, over three-quarters of baby boomers - who are defined as those currently aged 56-76 - agree that climate change, biodiversity loss and other environmental issues are big enough problems that they justify significant changes to people’s lifestyles. This was as high as any other generation (see chart). Seven in 10 of this group say they are willing to make changes to their own lifestyle, completely in line with younger generations. Older generations are also less fatalistic than the young: only one in five baby boomers say there is no point in changing their behaviour to tackle climate change because it won’t make any difference, compared with a third of Generation Z - those aged 18-25. This is an important driver of how we act: a sense that all is already lost leads to inertia. But our study shows that people have a rather different impression of who thinks what: when we ask people which age group is most likely to say there is no point in changing their behaviour, the oldest group is the most likely to be picked out. We wrongly think they have given up. Social psychologists call this misconception “pluralistic ignorance”. It is an important effect, because it shapes our views of others.
9-15-21 Pakistan: How to cool Karachi as temperatures rise
With 2021 set to be one of the hottest years recorded on earth, some big cities are struggling with rising temperatures. This can cause respiratory problems, exhaustion and heat strokes. But in Pakistan, whilst some struggle with air conditioning, one man is trying to find a solution by planting urban forests. Farhat Javed reports from Karachi for the BBC’s Life at 50C season.
9-14-21 Life at 50C: The toxic gas flares fuelling Nigeria's climate change
Joy and her family are among two million Nigerians living within 4km of a gas flare in Nigeria's oil-rich south. Climate change has had a devastating impact on Nigeria. Fertile lands are turning into deserts in the north, while flash floods have become more common in the south. The country's oil industry is making things worse as the practice of flaring - the burning of natural gas that is released when oil is extracted from the ground - is common despite its illegality. The practice is a major source of greenhouse gases and a contributor to climate change.
9-14-21 Climate change: World now sees twice as many days over 50C
The number of extremely hot days every year when the temperature reaches 50C has doubled since the 1980s, a global BBC analysis has found. They also now happen in more areas of the world than before, presenting unprecedented challenges to human health and to how we live. The total number of days above 50C (122F) has increased in each decade since 1980. On average, between 1980 and 2009, temperatures passed 50C about 14 days a year. The number rose to 26 days a year between 2010 and 2019. In the same period, temperatures of 45C and above occurred on average an extra two weeks a year. "The increase can be 100% attributed to the burning of fossil fuels," says Dr Friederike Otto, associate director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford. As the whole world warms, extreme temperatures become more likely. High heat can be deadly for humans and nature, and cause major problems to buildings, roads and power systems. Temperatures of 50C happen predominantly in the Middle East and Gulf regions. And after record-breaking temperatures of 48.8C in Italy and 49.6C in Canada this summer, scientists have warned that days over 50C will happen elsewhere unless we cut fossil fuel emissions. "We need to act quickly. The faster we cut our emissions, the better off we'll all be," says Dr Sihan Li, a climate researcher at the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford. "With continued emissions and lack of action, not only will these extreme heat events become more severe and more frequent, but emergency response and recovery will become more challenging," warns Dr Li. The BBC analysis also found that in the most recent decade, maximum temperatures increased by 0.5C compared with the long-term average from 1980 to 2009. But these increases have not been felt equally around the world: Eastern Europe, southern Africa and Brazil saw some maximum temperatures rise by more than 1C, and parts of the Arctic and Middle East recorded increases of more than 2C.
9-14-21 How AI can help forecast how much Arctic sea ice will shrink
IceNet can predict the future of Arctic sea ice months in advance with 95 percent accuracy. In the next week or so, the sea ice floating atop the Arctic Ocean will shrink to its smallest size this year, as summer-warmed waters eat away at the ice’s submerged edges. Record lows for sea ice levels will probably not be broken this year, scientists say. In 2020, the ice covered 3.74 million square kilometers of the Arctic at its lowest point, coming nail-bitingly close to an all-time record low. Currently, sea ice is present in just under 5 million square kilometers of Arctic waters, putting it on track to become the 10th-lowest extent of sea ice in the area since satellite record keeping began in 1979. It’s an unexpected finish considering that in early summer, sea ice hit a record low for that time of year. The surprise comes in part because the best current statistical- and physics-based forecasting tools can closely predict sea ice extent only a few weeks in advance, but the accuracy of long-range forecasts falters. Now, a new tool that uses artificial intelligence to create sea ice forecasts promises to boost their accuracy — and can do the analysis relatively quickly, researchers report August 26 in Nature Communications. IceNet, a sea ice forecasting system developed by the British Antarctic Survey, or BAS, is “95 percent accurate in forecasting sea ice two months ahead — higher than the leading physics-based model SEAS5 — while running 2,000 times faster,” says Tom Andersson, a data scientist with BAS’s Artificial Intelligence lab. Whereas SEAS5 takes about six hours on a supercomputer to produce a forecast, IceNet can do the same in less than 10 seconds on a laptop. The system also shows a surprising ability to predict anomalous ice events — unusual highs or lows — up to four months in advance, Andersson and his colleagues found.
9-14-21 Green jobs: The new generation of workers making it work for them
From running huge wind farms out at sea to making new devices to heat our homes, the UK is seeing a rise in interest in so-called green jobs. What counts as a green job? The simplest answer is that it directly contributes to tackling climate change, although many think it should also cover roles that indirectly support that ambition. Either way, the UK government wants to create more of them, going from 410,000 now to two million of these jobs by 2030, as part of its plans for an economy with zero fossil fuel emissions. It's not a plan without risks, but some areas will provide opportunities to many. Here are three jobs in sectors that are growing - and what it's like to do them. Gas boilers give out emissions that contribute to overheating the planet, and the International Energy Agency think tank says sales need to stop soon if the world is to meet its energy goals. In Livingston, near Edinburgh, the Mitsubishi Electric factory is making one alternative: air-source heat pumps, which draw warmth from the air to heat your home and water, without releasing any carbon in the process. Paul McGoogan, 27, started seven years ago on the production line, shaping the metal panels that house the units. He now runs the team. He says that working in a rising industry doesn't just bring the benefit of job security. "My girlfriend and I have just bought a new home and the next step for us is to hopefully start a family, so knowing we are doing our bit for a more sustainable future is a big deal for me." And it's also sustainable for people installing heat pumps: in 2019 there were 900 - by 2028 there are expected to be 15,000. Visiting 21-year-old Beth Campbell at work in Scunthorpe is like stepping into a world from science fiction. She works as a research assistant for Jones Food Company, which is the largest vertical farm in Europe. There she checks thousands of basil plants growing on huge trays stacked above each other, all bathed in a gentle purple light and fed a carefully controlled supply of nutrients. The water is recycled, the power comes from solar panels on the roof, there's no chemical run-off, no heavy diesel machinery and the crops are sold locally - all to avoid environmental costs.
9-14-21 Climate change: Young people very worried - survey
A new global survey illustrates the depth of anxiety many young people are feeling about climate change. Nearly 60% of young people approached said they felt very worried or extremely worried. More than 45% of those questioned said feelings about the climate affected their daily lives. Three-quarters of them said they thought the future was frightening. Over half (56%) say they think humanity is doomed. Two-thirds reported feeling sad, afraid and anxious. Many felt fear, anger, despair, grief and shame - as well as hope. One 16-year-old said: "It's different for young people - for us, the destruction of the planet is personal." The survey across 10 countries was led by Bath University in collaboration with five universities. It's funded by the campaign and research group Avaaz. It claims to be the biggest of its kind, with responses from 10,000 people aged between 16 and 25. Many of those questioned perceive that they have no future, that humanity is doomed, and that governments are failing to respond adequately. Many feel betrayed, ignored and abandoned by politicians and adults. The authors say the young are confused by governments' failure to act. They say environmental fears are "profoundly affecting huge numbers of young people". Chronic stress over climate change, they maintain, is increasing the risk of mental and physical problems. And if severe weather events worsen, mental health impacts will follow. The report says young people are especially affected by climate fears because they are developing psychologically, socially and physically. The lead author, Caroline Hickman from Bath University, told BBC News: "This shows eco-anxiety is not just for environmental destruction alone, but inextricably linked to government inaction on climate change. The young feel abandoned and betrayed by governments. "We're not just measuring how they feel, but what they think. Four out of 10 are hesitant to have children. "Governments need to listen to the science and not pathologise young people who feel anxious."
9-14-21 Your gas stove is polluting your home. There's a better way.
Time for induction? Many Americans love to cook on gas — including myself, when I got my first experience of doing so after many years cooking on electric. But alas, gas cooking is polluting, dangerous, and fuels climate change. Gas stoves have got to go. Luckily, there is a cutting-edge technology to replace them that is better in almost every way. The most convincing argument against gas stoves is straightforward: They poison the air in your home. Burning natural gas or propane creates nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and particulate pollution. In unventilated spaces especially, this can lead to vastly greater concentrations of these toxic chemicals — up to 100 times the outdoor level, as shown in a literature review from the Rocky Mountain Institute — which are a risk factor in asthma, heart disease or other cardiovascular problems, and other illness, particularly for children. To be fair, the research on gas stoves directly causing asthma or other respiratory problems is at this point still being ironed out. But the circumstantial case is obvious and convincing — at bottom, anyone who studies the chemistry of combustion will understand intuitively that having an open flame in an indoor space is an extremely bad idea. Vent hoods can help with pollution, but they're not completely effective, they dump your heated or cool air outside, and many homes don't have them in any case. Gas stoves are also a source of greenhouse gas emissions. Now, they don't emit nearly as much as furnaces or water heaters (since they are not used nearly as often), but they also tend to leak more unburned methane, which is 86 times as effective as carbon dioxide at trapping heat over a 20-year period. Every little reduction in greenhouse emissions helps fight climate change. I can already hear the reaction from some quarters — but electric stoves are terrible! They're so much clunkier and more inconvenient than gas! And it's true, radiant electric stoves using circular or coil heating elements are annoying. They're slow to both heat and cool down, making fine temperature control more difficult (though for my money I would still prefer them over gas, given the health concerns). However, there is a better way: induction electric stoves. These use electromagnetism to directly heat up a pan, rather than getting an element hot through electrical resistance and then heating up the pan that way. This is not only faster than radiant heating, it is faster than gas — much faster, in fact. Heating up a quart of water via induction can take something like one-fourth the time. Speed and direct energy delivery also make induction much more precise — very useful for frying, making candy, or anything else requiring accurate temperatures. Induction is also much more efficient, because the energy is delivered directly into the pan itself. That in turn cuts down on ambient cooling needs, since less heat leaks into the cooking space — meaning less energy used on air conditioning, and more comfortable kitchens (especially in busy restaurants).
9-14-21 Cows toilet trained to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Cows can be toilet trained in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, researchers have said. In the study, which took place in Germany, scientists trained the animals to use a designated toilet. Their urine was then collected and treated. The ammonia from cows' urine turns into the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide when it's mixed with soil. Worldwide, about 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions from human activities comes from cattle. Researchers attempted to teach 16 cows to use the toilet, dubbed the "MooLoo", at a farm owned by the Research Institute for Farm Animal Biology. The animals were placed in the MooLoo pen and were rewarded with food for urinating. After this, they were then placed in an area next to the MooLoo and rewarded for walking into the pen and urinating. Those who urinated outside of the MooLoo were sprayed with water for three seconds. As part of the third stage of training, the distance from the toilet was extended, and the rewards and punishments continued. By the end of the 10 training sessions, researchers found that 11 of the animals were successfully toilet trained. "Very quickly, within 15 to 20 urinations on average, the cows would self-initiate entry to the toilet," Lindsay Matthews, a researcher involved in the study told Radio New Zealand. "By the end, three quarters of the animals were doing three-quarters of their urinations in the toilet," he said. "The calves showed a level of performance comparable to that of children and superior to that of very young children," the study said. Researchers say that capturing 80% of cattle urine in a model like the MooLoo could lead to a 56% reduction in ammonia emissions. They also say that reducing the levels of urine in the animals' living area will improve their hygiene and welfare.
9-14-21 Tropical storm Nicholas brings heavy rain to Texas and Louisiana
Tropical storm Nicholas has been downgraded from a hurricane after making landfall on the Texas coast in the US, bringing heavy rain and the risk of life-threatening flooding. The storm was upgraded to a hurricane after reaching land at 00:30 (05:30 GMT), but has now weakened. More than 500,000 power outages have been reported in Texas, according to PowerOutage.us. President Joe Biden declared an emergency in Louisiana. It comes just weeks after Hurricane Ida - the fifth strongest to ever hit the US mainland - killed dozens and left more than a million Louisiana residents without power. Nicholas is carrying maximum sustained winds of 70mph (110km/h), weather officials said, and is expected to hit the Texas coast and upper Louisiana with five to 10 inches of rain. There could be rainfall of up to 20 inches across central to southern Louisiana, they said. The US National Hurricane Centre said that Nicholas "has continued to move slowly inland and has weakened during the past few hours". But it warned that "life-threatening flash flooding impacts, especially in highly urbanised metropolitan areas, are possible", and the National Weather Service called it a "life-threatening situation". "We want to make sure that no one is caught off guard by this storm," Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards told a news conference. He warned that drainage systems still clogged from Ida could trigger flash floods. More than 119,000 homes and businesses remain without power in Louisiana due to Ida, he added. Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared states of emergency in 17 counties and three cities. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner warned of flooding and urged the city's roughly 2.3 million residents to stay off streets and motorways. "Take things seriously and prepare," Mr Turner said at a news conference. "This is primarily a rain event and we don't know how much rain we will be getting." Dozens of schools across the two states have been closed, and hundreds of flights have been cancelled or delayed at airports in the Texas cities of Corpus Christi and Houston.
9-14-21 Hurricane Nicholas makes landfall in Texas, threatening Houston and Ida-ravaged Louisiana
Hurricane Nicholas grew into a Category 1 storm by the team it made landfall near Matagorda Bay, Texas, early Tuesday, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. The National Hurricane Center warned late Monday night that "life-threatening flash flooding impacts, especially in urbanized metropolitan areas, are possible across portions of the upper Texas Gulf Coast into far southwestern Louisiana." The streets of Matagorda Beach were already flooded from storm surge, meteorologist and storm chaser Reed Timmer documented early Tuesday. Even before Nicholas made landfall, tens of thousands of Texans in the greater Houston area and elsewhere on the coast were without electricity. The major concern with Nicholas is that it will move slowly across Texas and into southwestern Louisiana, dumping more than a foot of rain in areas, especially in flood-prone Houston. Nearly the entire Texas coastline was under a tropical storm warning, and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) declared a state of emergency Sunday night, noting that his state is still recovering from not just Hurricane Ida but also last year's Hurricane Laura and flooding in May. Houston, soaked by 2017's slow-moving Hurricane Harvey, is preparing for more flooding Tuesday and Wednesday, but University of Miami Hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said he thinks Nichola "will be magnitudes less than Harvey in every regard." Houston's school district, the largest in Texas, is closed through Tuesday, and Harry Styles had to cancel his show in Houston on Monday night. "Safety must take priority, so please go home and be safe," he tweeted. "I'm so sorry, thank you for understanding." Nicholas is the 14th named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurrican season. The only other years since 1996 with 14 or more storms by Sept. 12 were 2005, 2011, 2012, and 2020, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.
9-13-21 Tropical Storm Nicholas could bring 20 inches of rain to parts of Texas
Tropical Storm Nicholas is expected to make landfall late Monday or early Tuesday, and could cause flash flooding along the middle and upper Texas coast. Forecasters say Nicholas will likely make landfall between Corpus Christi and Galveston, and could strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane. As of late Monday afternoon, the storm was about 70 miles south of Port O'Connor, Texas, and moving north-northeast at 12 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph. Up to 20 inches of rain could fall in cities along the middle and upper Texas coast, and the Houston metro area is already seeing heavy rain from the storm's outer bands, NBC News reports. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has asked people to stay off the roads starting on Monday night, and to turn around if they encounter high water.
9-13-21 Cows have been potty-trained to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Young cows have learned to urinate in a dedicated “latrine” that whisks the waste away before it can pollute waterways or trigger the release of harmful gases. Nitrates from livestock urine can contaminate groundwater, potentially threatening human health. What’s more, nitrous oxide that arises when livestock urine and faeces mix can cause respiratory problems and contribute to global warming. By training cattle to void directly into a sort of “cow toilet”, however, Lindsay Matthews at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and his colleagues have potentially found a way to keep water and air cleaner, improving health and welfare for both humans and animals. Matthews’s team taught 16 5-month-old Holstein heifers to use a custom-built, plastic-grass-floored latrine when they felt the need to urinate, using a three-step training process. First, the team placed pairs of calves in the latrine until they urinated; then gave them a treat – either diluted molasses or barley – through an automatic dispenser and opened the exit door. Next, the team placed the calves in a 2-metre-long alley next to the latrine, which had a gate that the animals could push open in order to enter the latrine. When the heifers urinated inside the latrine, they received the tasty treat, but if a calf urinated in the alley, the team activated a water sprinkler that sprayed it for 3 seconds – an experience thought to be unpleasant for the animals. In the final step, the team opened up the alleyway to form a wider enclosed space for the cows to move around within. The calves continued to either get a either reward or a spraying depending on whether or not they urinated in the latrine. Unlike humans and many other animals, cows don’t naturally make efforts to restrict waste to a particular place or to hold their bladders, says Matthews. Even so, within 10 training sessions, 11 of the heifers were using the latrine 77 per cent of the time. Their performance topped that of human toddlers learning to toilet train, he says. “It was fascinating how fast they learned,” he says. “The average was 20 urinations from beginning to end. It was unbelievable.”
9-13-21 Food production emissions make up more than a third of global total
Food production contributes around 37 per cent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, showing the huge impact that our diets have on climate change. What’s more, animal-based foods produce roughly twice the emissions of plant-based ones. “There are many studies that have already been published on this topic, but ours is the first one that quantifies the emissions explicitly from plant-based production and animal-based production on a global scale,” says Atul Jain at the University of Illinois. Jain and his colleagues used data from more than 200 countries to estimate that food production makes up about 35 per cent of total GHG emissions, rising to 37 per cent when emissions from food-related disturbances, such as burning savannah to clear space for farming, are included. They looked at the emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide from the production of 171 different crops and 16 animal products in 2010, as the most recent available data was from 2007 to 2013. The researchers found that rice production had the highest plant-associated GHG emissions, while beef production contributed the most to animal-associated emissions. According to their estimates, global food production contributes about 17.3 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, almost 19 times the amount from the commercial aviation industry. Of these emissions, 57 per cent were related to the production of animal-based foods and plant-based food production accounted for 29 per cent. The remaining emissions came from agricultural land being converted from non-food crops like cotton to food production. South and South-East Asia had the highest plant-food-related emissions overall, while South America had the highest animal-food-related emissions. “Some regions are showing much higher emissions. It’s not only because of the consumption side but also the production side,” says Jain. Changing the types of fertilisers used on land for plant-based food production could help reduce production emissions, he says.
9-13-21 Shifting jet stream due to warming could threaten Europe from 2060
The northern polar jet stream, a band of high-altitude winds that circles the Arctic and influences the climate of the northern hemisphere, is forecast to start noticeably shifting in the 2060s if greenhouse emissions remain high, leading to dramatic changes in temperature and rainfall, especially in Europe. “This would have drastic consequences for society,” says Matthew Osman at the University of Arizona. “But the ultimate trajectory of the jet stream is still largely under our control.” Direct observations of this polar jet stream only began a few decades ago thanks to the proliferation of weather satellites, says Osman, so it hasn’t been clear how global warming is affecting it. Now he and his team have worked out how the average position and intensity of the jet stream over the North Atlantic has changed over the past 1250 years by analysing Greenland ice cores. The position of the jet stream determines storm tracks over the North Atlantic, which in turn determines the temperature of Greenland and how much snow falls there. The results show that the position and intensity of the jet stream naturally vary a lot. “It seems to be fairly random,” says Osman. Because there is so much variability, global warming hasn’t yet had a discernible effect. The situation is like being on a beach when the tide turns – if the waves are big, it takes time before the rising tide is obvious. But climate models forecast that the jet stream will shift north as the world warms and the temperature gradient between the Arctic and lower latitudes weakens. Osman’s findings suggest that this effect will start to become obvious from around 2060. By 2100, the average position of the jet stream could be 1 to 3 degrees further north in high-emissions scenarios. This would have a dramatic effect on Europe, with southern regions becoming even drier, and even more rain or snow falling over already wet parts of Scandinavia. In moderate emissions scenarios, the northward shift is halved.
9-13-21 Fire sparked by lightning threatens giant sequoias in California
A fire sparked by lightning last Thursday entered the Peyone Sequoia grove in California's Giant Sequoia National Monument on Monday, and authorities say it's unclear if it has destroyed any of the massive trees. Called the Windy Fire, this blaze started in the Tule River Indian Reservation, and as of Monday has burned 974 acres and is at zero percent containment. More than 130 lightning strikes were recorded in the area on Thursday, and two other fires were also started that day: the Paradise and Colony fires in the Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks. Together, those have burned 1,037 acres and are at zero percent containment. Sequoia trees can grow to more than 250 feet and live for 3,000 years. They have also adapted to fire and need it to reproduce, Mark Ruggiero, a public information officer for the national parks, told the Los Angeles Times, but "fires are burning so intense that it's really affecting the sequoia population." The 275-foot tall General Sherman tree — the world's largest tree by volume — is in the Sequoia National Park, and while the fire burning there isn't close to the landmark, it is a "threat," Ruggiero said.
9-13-21 Record number of environmental activists murdered
A record number of activists working to protect the environment and land rights were murdered last year, according to a report by a campaign group. 227 people were killed around the world in 2020, the highest number recorded for a second consecutive year, the report from Global Witness said. Almost a third of the murders were reportedly linked to resource exploitation - logging, mining, large-scale agribusiness, hydroelectric dams and other infrastructure. The report called the victims "environmental defenders" killed for protecting natural resources that need to be preserved, including forests, water supplies and oceans. Since the Paris Agreement on climate change was signed in 2015, the organisation says on average four activists have been killed each week. It said this "shocking figure" was likely to be an underestimate because of growing restrictions on journalists and other civic freedoms. Logging was the industry linked to the most murders with 23 cases - with attacks in Brazil, Nicaragua, Peru and the Philippines. Indigenous peoples, most often on the frontline of climate change, accounted for a further one third of cases. Colombia had the highest recorded attacks, with 65 people killed last year. A senior campaigner for Global Witness, Chris Madden, called on governments to "get serious about protecting defenders." He said companies must start "putting people and planet before profit' or he warned that "both climate breakdown and the killings" would continue. "This dataset is another stark reminder that fighting the climate crisis carries an unbearably heavy burden for some, who risk their lives to save the forests, rivers and biospheres that are essential to counteract unsustainable global warming. This must stop''. The organisation called on governments to formally recognise the human right to a safe, healthy and sustainable environment, and ensure commitments made at November's UN climate change conference, COP26, integrate human rights protections. In response, COP26 president Alok Sharma told the BBC he had "prioritised meeting people on the front line of climate change," to ensure the voices of all are heard."
9-13-21 Can carbon capture technology save the planet?
Humans have been spewing planet-warming greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for years. Can emerging innovations reverse the damage done? Scientists are calling for drastic reductions in carbon in the atmosphere if we are to avoid the worst climate outcomes in the coming decades. Could carbon-capture technology help? Here's everything you need to know.
- What role does carbon dioxide play in climate change? Carbon dioxide is a heat-trapping gas. It's released naturally in some cases through processes like volcanic eruption, but over the last 170-plus years it has rapidly increased in abundance thanks in large part to human activity, particularly the burning of fossil fuels.
- How do you do that? There are multiple processes for capturing carbon. Trees absorb carbon, and forests serve as natural carbon sinks, so reforestation efforts are part of the decarbonization plan.
- Such as? There are two main tech-based carbon capture methods. Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) involves trapping the gas at its emission source — say, a smokestack or a natural gas plant — before it can be released into the atmosphere. The other method is direct air capture (DAC), which aims to suck carbon dioxide from the air, even if it was released a long time ago.
- How common is direct air capture? The technology is definitely still in its nascent stage, but is quickly gaining traction. There are already a few systems up and running in mainland Europe, and on Sept. 8, a major new facility known as Orca and built by the Swiss company Climeworks, which specializes in DAC technology, went online in Iceland.
- Will removing that amount of carbon be enough to save the climate? Definitely not. Last month's U.N. report estimated that to facilitate the most optimistic scenario of limiting the rise in global average temperatures to 1.5 degrees celsius, a whopping 17 billion tons of carbon dioxide would need to be removed annually.
- What are the chances of that happening? Ask experts, and you'll probably get a wide range of answers. Some believe DAC will remain a niche technology, but others think demand will grow. In the end, a lot will depend on cost.
- What about government investments? Governments are also prepared to invest, including the U.S. at the federal and state level. If the Senate's bipartisan infrastructure bill passes the House this month, as expected, and heads to President Biden's desk, it will allocate as much as $3.5 billion to help construct large DAC plants.
- Has carbon capture been successful so far? It's probably too early to tell for DAC, but CCS has experienced some significant failures. One notable example is a Chevron project that sought to bury carbon under an island off Western Australia.
- Are environmentalists jazzed about the technology? Not necessarily. Many think it will give the oil and gas industry an easy out without encouraging the much-needed shift away from fossil fuels.
- Is that the consensus? Although there is a decent amount of opposition to the idea, many other environmentalists remain neutral or in favor of carbon capture technology, so long as it works in tandem with other efforts to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions.
9-13-21 COP26: UK still lagging on climate policy, report says
Britain is lagging way behind its schedule for cutting carbon emissions in the run-up to November's climate summit in Glasgow, a report says. Think tank the Green Alliance says current plans will deliver less than a quarter of the cuts needed to meet the UK’s 2030 climate goal. Little progress has been made in areas such as farming (a 7% improvement), power (12%), and waste (15%), it warns. The government said the UK is committed to meeting future climate commitments. The UK has vowed to cut emissions by 78% by 2035 - a world-leading target. Ministers promise that the coming Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) and net zero strategy - an over-arching plan to de-carbonise the whole economy - will deliver carbon-cutting policies in time for November's summit, known as COP26. But Caterina Brandmayr, from the Green Alliance, said: “This is a make-or-break moment for the government. “COP26 will fail without the major emitters making genuine commitments in these final 50 days - and as president of COP, the UK has to lead the way to raise ambition globally. “Unless the net-zero strategy and CSR meet the scale of the challenge and opportunity, the UK will be headed into Glasgow with little to show by way of progress on cutting its emissions in this crucial decade.” Its report said over the past six months, transport has been the best performing government department. It is now almost half way to hitting its departmental target, thanks largely to plans to electrify motoring. As other departments lag behind, the report’s authors are urging swift government action in five areas. The buildings strategy has been held up as ministers struggle with the practicalities of helping people to insulate their homes and install expensive low-carbon heating when their gas boiler packs up. Ms Brandmayr said: “The delay has been very disappointing. We need a comprehensive set of measures that will insulate homes, install low-carbon heating and create jobs.” Green Alliance’s net zero policy tracker reports on progress every three months. It reinforces criticism by green groups that the UK is a leader in setting targets, but not in sticking to them.
9-13-21 Spain fire: Thousands flee blaze near Costa del Sol town
Around 2,000 people have left their homes after wildfires broke out in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. One emergency worker has been killed in the blaze, which began on Wednesday on high ground above the popular resort town of Estepona on the Costa del Sol. The Spanish government has deployed a military unit to help firefighters in the mountainous region. Six more towns and villages were evacuated on Sunday, and huge plumes of smoke could be seen from miles away. Residents of five other communities were told to leave their homes on Friday. The wildfires have burned about 7,400 hectares (18,200 acres), according to Spanish media. Andalusia's regional forest fire agency said hundreds of firefighters were tackling the blaze, supported by 41 aircraft and 25 vehicles. Juan Sánchez, a senior official for the regional fire service, described it as the "most complex" fire seen there in recent times. He said there had been ongoing discussions about the consequences of climate change, adding: "Today we are living them." "This is inhuman, nothing like this has ever been seen," one evacuee, Adriana Iacob told Reuters news agency. "The flames of the fire as they ran through the mountains, it was amazing." "Since the fire started, we haven't slept for days. It's awful," another local resident, Pepa Rubio, said. Europe has seen a number of wildfires this summer. 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.
9-12-21 TUC: Jobs at risk if UK fails to hit carbon emissions target
Up to 660,000 jobs could be at risk if the UK fails to reach its net-zero target as quickly as other nations, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has warned. The government has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035. But the TUC fears many jobs could be moved offshore to countries offering superior green infrastructure and support for decarbonisation. The union body is calling for an £85bn green recovery package to create 1.2 million green jobs. TUC research from June shows the UK is currently ranked second last among G7 economies for its investment in green infrastructure and jobs. However, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) says the TUC's claims are untrue and that it does not recognise their methodology. The government is currently considering the recommendations of an independent report into the future of green jobs, a BEIS spokeswoman stressed. "In recent months we've secured record investment in wind power, published a world-leading Hydrogen Strategy, pledged £1bn in funding to support the development of carbon capture and launched a landmark North Sea Transition Deal - the first G7 nation to do so - that will protect our environment, generate huge investment and create and support thousands of jobs," she added. The TUC says steel industry jobs are at great risk are jobs because their manufacturing process is dependent on burning coal at high temperatures. Other nations such as Sweden are already bringing to market new technologies that enable steel production without using coal. In August, Hybrit, a joint venture between Swedish firms SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall, made its first delivery of green steel using hydrogen from the electrolysis of water with renewable electricity, while another firm H2 Green Steel is planning to open a hydrogen plant in 2024. SSAB has a partnership with Mercedes-Benz to introduce fossil-free steel into vehicle production as soon as possible. The German carmaker wants its entire car fleet to be carbon-neutral across the supply chain by 2039.
9-10-21 COP26: Poorest countries fear not reaching UK for climate summit
The world's poorest countries say they are worried about getting to the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November. Twenty are on the UK's Covid red list - meaning hotel quarantine for arrivals. They say the fortnight-long talks may involve being away for seven weeks as they will also have to isolate on return. And they warn that flights from Pacific islands have virtually stopped and that some transit hubs are refusing non-residents. The warning comes from the group made up of the world's 46 poorest countries which are on the United Nations' list of Least Developed Countries (LDC). The 20 countries that are also on the UK's foreign travel red list include Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Nepal. The chairman of the LDC group, Bhutan's Sonam Phuntsho Wangdi, said: "It's our people who are hardest hit by this ever worsening crisis. They must be well represented in the climate talks. "The world cannot risk unambitious and unfair decisions being taken at COP26, there is far too much at stake." This follows a coalition of 1,500 green groups calling for the summit to be delayed because of Covid arrangements. But the UK government and the UN say they are planning to go ahead because the massive gathering is so important and they are working to keep it safe. Bringing together 30,000 people from every country on the planet - regardless of whether they've got the disease under control or not - is a challenge. Especially when the talks will be face-to-face, last for two weeks indoors during a Scottish winter when few will welcome opening windows to bring in virus-dispersing fresh air. And the event will be opened by people in the most vulnerable demographic: the Queen (aged 95), David Attenborough (95), the Pope (84) and President Biden (78). It comes as other events on a similar scale have not gone ahead as planned. China was due to hold a UN conference on biodiversity next month but switched to virtual sessions for the opening and normal talks next year. And while France has just hosted a congress in Marseilles on nature conservation, the numbers were far lower than usual with many joining via video. By contrast, officials planning COP26 say the future of the planet is at stake and that Zoom is no substitute for meeting in-person. And they insist the risks can be minimised.
9-10-21 Even tiny green spaces in cities help urban wildlife biodiversity
Increasing the number of plants in cities rapidly provides a big boost to biodiversity, according to a four-year study in Melbourne, Australia. The findings add to the evidence that the greening measures many cities are starting to take can make a huge difference to wildlife, in addition to their other benefits. “Adding more indigenous plant species to a small green space can greatly contribute to positive ecological outcomes in a short period of time,” says Luis Mata at the University of Melbourne. Around the world, many efforts are underway to try to green cities. In 2020, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization launched its Green Cities Initiative, which supports measures such as tree planting. In the European Union, the Green Cities Europe initiative in the EU is encouraging city planners to do more to green cities. Proponents of such efforts list many benefits: improving physical and mental health by reducing air pollution, providing a better environment and encouraging people to get out more; helping keep cities cooler as the climate gets warmer; boosting social interactions and, of course, increasing biodiversity. But there is surprisingly little scientific evidence that urban greening projects boost biodiversity. What evidence there is based on comparing areas with different numbers of plant species, says Mata. As far he is aware, his team’s study is the first to measure biodiversity in a city area before it was greened and then how it changed afterwards. The study involved 14 insect surveys done over four years. “This is the first study to track how ecological benefits accrued across the lifespan of a specific urban greening action,” Mata says. The study was of a small green space in Melbourne, Australia, just 200 square metres in size. The site, which is adjacent to a major road and surrounded by large buildings, just had two gum trees on a kikuyu lawn prior to greening. Twelve indigenous plant species were added. A year later, there were five times as many insect species. After three years, there were seven times as many, even though three of the added plant species had died out. Overall, the team recorded 94 insect species at the site, almost all of which were indigenous.
9-9-21 Clouds affected by wildfire smoke may produce less rain
Water droplets were, on average, half the size of those generated by unaffected clouds. When smoke rises from wildfires in the western United States, it pummels clouds with tiny airborne particles. What happens next with these clouds has been largely unstudied. But during the 2018 wildfire season, researchers embarked on a series of seven research flights, including over the Pacific Northwest, to help fill this gap. Using airborne instruments to analyze small cumulus clouds affected by the smoke, the scientists found that these clouds contained, on average, five times as many water droplets as unaffected clouds. That in itself was not a huge surprise; it’s known that organic and inorganic particles in smoke can serve as tiny nuclei for forming droplets (SN: 12/15/20). But the sheer abundance of droplets in the affected clouds astounded the team. Counterintuitively, those numerous droplets didn’t make the clouds more likely to produce rain. In fact, the opposite occurred. Because the droplets were about half as big as those found in a typical cloud, they were unlikely to collide and merge with enough other droplets to result in rain. The chances of rain were “virtually zero,” the researchers write in the August Geophysical Research Letters. The new research suggests that wildfires could lead to clouds producing less rain in the U.S. West, feeding into drought conditions and potentially increasing future wildfire risk. But the environmental dynamics involved are complex, says Cynthia Twohy. She’s a San Diego–based atmospheric scientist at NorthWest Research Associates, a research organization specializing in geophysical and space sciences headquartered in Redmond, Wash. For instance, Twohy and her colleagues found that “the ratio of light-absorbing to light-scattering particles in the smoke was somewhat lower than measured in many prior studies,” she says.
9-9-21 Ida's Louisiana death toll rises to 26 with 11 newly reported New Orleans fatalities
Louisiana on Wednesday reported 11 more deaths attributed to Hurricane Ida, nine of them New Orleans residents 64 to 70 who suffered "excessive heat during an extended blackout" after the storm hit. The other two deaths were New Orleans residents killed by carbon monoxide poisoning. New Orleans officials said earlier this week that many elderly people were trapped in residential apartments with no electricity or air conditioning in the sweltering heat. The 11 new victims died between Aug. 30 and Monday, but the Orleans Parish coroner just confirmed that they were tied to Ida, state officials said. Louisiana's death toll from the hurricane now stands at 26. At least 50 more people died as Ida dumped rain on the East Coast, from Virginia to New England. Although power is now restored to most of New Orleans, about 342,000 people in the state still have no electricity, gas shortages are common, and 250,000 students in southeastern Louisiana are still unable to return to school.
9-9-21 North Sea's hidden ice age past is revealed in 3D
Spectacular ice age landscapes have been revealed beneath the North Sea. These deep, kilometres-wide channels, known as tunnel valleys, were cut by fast-flowing rivers that ran under Northern Europe's ancient ice sheets. Today, the landforms are all hidden by the North Sea's bottom-muds, but new survey work has traced their outline in remarkable 3D detail. Scientists say the channels should give us clues as to how modern-day ice sheets, such as Greenland, will decay. That's because these features were all incised during periods of great melt. "These tunnel valleys were formed during the death throes of an ice sheet in extremely warm climates," said James Kirkham, from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and Cambridge University. "This makes them a great analogue for what Greenland, or even Antarctica, might begin to look like in the future, perhaps several 100 years down the line," he told BBC News. Today, if you visit Greenland during summer months, you'll see huge lakes of meltwater pooling on the ice sheet's surface. This water funnels down holes to reach the bed, where it then spreads out and drains to the sea. But as it does so, this water also lubricates the flow of the ice sheet above. Researchers have used all manner of sensors to try to understand the sub-glacial processes involved. The US space agency Nasa even sent an armada of bath-time rubber ducks on a mission to see if they could traverse Greenland's under-ice rivers. The landforms described by Mr Kirkham and colleagues in the journal Geology provide this information in a different way - at huge scale and with super-fine resolution. This is made possible by new seismic (sound wave) survey techniques that ordinarily would be used to image the structure of sea-floor sediments to see that they're suitable to host oil and gas, or renewables, infrastructure. But scientists can exploit that same data to recall the glacial history of the North Sea. The past 800,000 years have seen repeated incursions of thick ice over Northern Europe during cold periods, to be followed by mass retreat when temperatures rose again. It was during the very warm phases that the tunnel valleys were cut.
9-9-21 Climate change: Fossil fuels must stay underground, scientists say
Almost 60% of oil and gas reserves and 90% of coal must remain in the ground to keep global warming below 1.5C, scientists say. The forecast is based on close analysis of global energy supply and demand. It is a "bleak" but realistic assessment of "what the science tells us is needed", the researchers say. And they have "painted a scenario of the future" that leaves much less room for fossil fuels to be extracted than previously estimated. Scientists say that limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5C should help the world avoid the most dangerous effects of climate change. Globally, the researchers calculated, production of fossil fuels needed to have peaked in 2020 and be on a steady decline of 3% every year until 2050. "Through the Covid pandemic, we have seen a large decline in production - but that is bouncing back," UCL associate professor of energy systems Dr Steve Pye told BBC News. The research focuses on how much energy is required and what the limit must be on carbon emissions. Dr James Price, also at UCL, said: "We say to our model, 'Meet all those demands from now until 2100 without emitting too much carbon dioxide.' "The result we get is a rapid reduction in fossil fuels - and a large amount of fossils fuels [left in the ground] - simply because the carbon budget is so tight." The study, in the journal Nature, also found the decline in oil and gas production required globally by 2050 - to stick to that tight carbon budget - means many regions face peak production now or during the next decade. A carbon budget is the cumulative amount of CO2 that can be released in a period of time while keeping within a temperature threshold - in this case 1.5C. Many fossil-fuel extraction projects already planned or in operation are likely to hurt the world's chances of meeting internationally agreed target limits on global warming set out by the 2015 Paris Agreement. And this "bleak picture", the scientists say, "is very probably an underestimate of what is required".
9-8-21 58 per cent of oil must stay in the ground to meet 1.5°C climate goal
Energy companies and nations must leave nine-tenths of Earth’s coal and almost two-thirds of its known oil and gas in the ground if the world is to hold temperatures to below 1.5°C of global warming, a target beyond which climate change’s impacts are dangerously amplified, researchers have calculated. Their analysis of which fossil fuel reserves are effectively “unextractable” if we are to meet the Paris Agreement temperature pledge makes the situation look dire for petrostates. Globally, oil and gas production must fall by 3 per cent a year to meet the target. “We’re painting quite a bleak picture for the future of the global fossil fuel industry,” says James Price at University College London (UCL), who was part of the team behind the analysis. Price and his colleagues built on an influential 2015 study on how much of the world’s coal, oil and gas reserves must go unused to stay under 2°C of warming, but this time looked at the 1.5°C goal. The researchers assumed a “carbon budget” that was about half the size of the earlier study’s, allowing the world to emit just 580 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels between 2018 and 2100. They then updated energy system models to reflect the falling cost of renewables and calculated the carbon within global fossil fuel reserves using data from BP, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others. “A key output is we see near a doubling of unextractable oil reserves,” says study author Dan Welsby, also at UCL, meaning that much more must go unused to remain under 1.5°C instead of 2°C. For a 1.5°C future, 89 per cent of coal, 58 per cent of oil and 59 per cent of gas must stay in the ground by 2050. However, the researchers say those figures are probably an underestimate. The first reason is that they only modelled scenarios with a 50 per cent chance of hitting 1.5°C. “You wouldn’t get on a plane if you had a 50 per cent probability [of making it],” says Welsby.
9-8-21 Biden sets a lofty solar power goal
Last year, solar energy provided less than 4 percent of the United States' electricity. On Wednesday, the Biden administration said it wants to get that number up to 45 percent by mid-century. The Energy Department's announcement is the latest example of the White House's ambitious goals aimed at fighting climate change. To get to the point they want to reach, the U.S. will have to double the amount of solar energy installed every year over the next four years compared with last year, and then double that amount again by 2030. That won't be an easy task The New York Times notes, while The Washington Post points out that much of the execution will ultimately be decided by Congress, which will have to continue to fund such projects. With that in mind, there's certainly skepticism about the U.S. hitting the target in time. The good news for proponents of solar energy is that the cost of installations has declined significantly in recent years, seemingly making it more feasible to scale up. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm added in a statement that the shift to solar could employ as many as 1.5 million people without boosting energy prices. Read more at The Washington Post and The New York Times.
9-8-21 The toxic error at the heart of efforts to curb heavy metal pollution
ACROSS the world, insects are in decline. Intensive pesticide use, new diseases, habitat destruction and climate change are all contributing. Sadly, we are increasingly discovering that there is another impact of our everyday activities that is just as important: heavy metal pollution. These substances are all around us. They are naturally present in Earth’s crust and are released at low levels through weathering of rock and volcanic activity. But this gets a significant boost from human activity. We release these metals in various ways, ranging from dust that comes from vehicle brakes to the burning of fossil fuels for power and transport. All of this raises concentrations above natural levels. And once metallic dusts are out there, they stay for millennia. While some of the compounds of these metals are essential for living organisms, most of them are highly toxic even at low concentrations. There are international guidelines designed to protect us from such pollution, but it turns out they aren’t strong enough to do the same for insects. In our recent work, we surveyed the scientific literature from the past 45 years that looked at the most monitored metals: arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead. From this, we were able to identify the concentrations of these that are harmful to terrestrial invertebrates, the majority of which are insects. We then compared them with thresholds for the metals recommended by international regulatory bodies, for food, water and soil. Though amounts of these in the environment should be below “human-safe” limits, in almost half of the studies the levels in natural conditions exceeded these figures. Not so surprisingly, at these concentrations the metals almost always killed invertebrates. More alarmingly, 90 per cent of the studies investigating metal levels within “human-safe” limits reported harmful effects on insects.
9-8-21 Climate change: Vulnerable nations call for 'emergency pact'
The countries most vulnerable to climate change are calling for an "emergency pact" to tackle rising temperatures. The group wants all countries to agree radical steps to avoid "climate catastrophe" at the upcoming COP26 meeting in Glasgow. Green campaigners are urging a postponement of the gathering, citing problems with vaccines for delegates. The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) says the event is critical and cannot wait. Representing some 1.2 billion people, the CVF consists of countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific. The group has been key in pushing the rest of the world to accept the idea of keeping the rise in global temperatures to under 1.5C this century. This was incorporated into the Paris agreement in 2015. Recent research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that the threshold will be passed in little over a decade at current rates of carbon emissions. In less than two months, global leaders will gather in Glasgow for COP26, the most critical meeting on climate change since Paris. Ahead of the Glasgow meeting, the CVF has issued a manifesto for what the conference must deliver to keep the planet safe and protect the most vulnerable. Environmental groups have suggested postponing the meeting, on the grounds that vaccine distribution is inequitable and that delegates from poorer countries face huge bills for quarantine hotels when they arrive in the UK. However, the CVF member states insist the meeting must go ahead in person, and are calling for support and "facilitated access" to ensure inclusive participation. The UK government has responded to these calls by agreeing to pay the quarantine hotel expenses of any delegate, observer or media from a developing country. The vulnerable group says that progress on climate change has stalled and COP26 should move forward with what it terms a "climate emergency pact". This would see every country put forward a new climate plan every year between now and 2025. At present, signatories of the Paris agreement are only obliged to put forward new plans every five years. The vulnerable nations say that richer countries must fulfil their obligations to deliver $100bn in climate finance per year over the 2020-24 period.
9-8-21 Wildfire pollution linked to at least 33,000 deaths worldwide
Wildfires akin to those that visibly devastated parts of Greece, Siberia and North America this year are also invisibly taking a deadly toll on human health. The fraction of deaths linked to short-term exposure to smoke released by the fires are nearly as high as those from heatwaves, a new estimate suggests. “This is a little bit of a surprise, because wildfires are not very frequent. Smoke is a serious problem [for public health],” says Yuming Guo at Monash University, Australia. Guo and colleagues took data on daily deaths for all causes across 749 cities in 43 countries between 2000 and 2016, and matched those against modelling of how much those people were exposed to tiny particulates (PM2.5) released by wildfires. The team linked 33,510 of 65.6 million total deaths a year to the wildfire pollution, or 0.62 per cent of all deaths, after adjusting for other possible explanations such as temperature. By contrast, heat-linked deaths are estimated to be about 0.91 per cent. Guatemala had the biggest fraction of deaths linked to PM2.5 released by the fires, at 3.04 per cent, followed by Thailand, Paraguay, Mexico and Peru. The US had a relatively small percentage, at 0.26 per cent, along with Greece on 0.33 per cent, despite recent wildfires in these countries. However, the absolute number of global deaths linked to wildfire smoke is likely a significant underestimate as the analysis does not include many countries regularly plagued by wildfire pollution, such as Indonesia and Malayisa. More widespread monitoring of PM2.5 on the ground would help paint a more precise figure, Guo says. A separate study by Guo and another team, looking at the impact of wildfire pollution in Brazil on different age groups, suggests that children and older people are more vulnerable to its effects. Guo says governments should focus resources on those two groups during fire seasons. And he says his new research offers yet another reason to tackle climate change, because it is fuelling wildfires: “The fundamental thing is to reduce the bushfires, and that means a reduction of our CO2 emissions.”
9-8-21 Climate change: Animals shapeshifting to stay cool, study says
When you hear the word "shapeshifting" you probably think of a sci-fi or horror film, and not the climate. But that's what scientists say is happening to some animals in response to climate change. Warm-blooded species are evolving to have larger beaks, legs and ears to regulate body temperature as the planet warms up, a new study suggests. The scientists behind the study warn the physiological changes do not mean animals are coping with climate change. "A lot of the time when climate change is discussed, people are asking 'can humans overcome this?' or 'what technology can solve this?'" says the study's author, Sara Ryding, from Deakin University. "It's high-time we recognised that animals also have to adapt to these changes." If animals fail to control their body temperature, they can overheat and die. Some animals in warmer climates have historically evolved to have larger beaks or ears to get rid of heat more easily. A larger wing, ear or beak relative to body size gives smaller animals a greater surface area from which to lose excess heat. everal species of Australian parrot have shown a 4-10% increase in bill size since 1871, which correlates with the rising summer temperatures over the years, the study says. The scientists do say it's hard to put the climate as the only cause of shapeshifting, but that other examples of species changing show the effect of heat. Wood mice are evolving to have longer tails, masked shrews are getting longer tails and legs, and bats in warm climates have bigger wings. Though the adaptations species are making are currently small, Sara says they could be more pronounced as the planet becomes hotter. "Prominent appendages such as ears are predicted to increase, so we might end up with a live-action Dumbo in the not-so-distant future." The study suggests that shapeshifting is likely to continue as the climate becomes warmer because higher temperatures will influence the demand on animals to regulate their body temperature. This year has seen some countries record their highest temperatures in decades - with July recorded as the world's hottest month ever.
9-7-21 High-res carbon emission maps reveal climate impact of commuting
High-resolution maps of carbon emissions have revealed how our day-to-day patterns of behaviour, such as commuting, affect the release of greenhouse gases, and could help governments quickly see the impact of green policies. Zhu Liu at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, and his colleagues combined data from various sources to provide daily global maps of carbon emissions at a 10-kilometre resolution. The researchers used country level emission inventories, data from industrial sites and power plants, satellite measurements of nitrogen dioxide and modelling estimates. This allowed them to assess differences between weekend and weekday carbon emissions from ground transportation, finding that emissions fall at the weekend due to a lack of commuters. The weekend-weekday difference was smaller in 2020 compared with 2019 due to lockdowns and home-working policies implemented during the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 has reduced weekday carbon emissions, Liu says, making the “lifestyle of weekdays more like weekends”. Liu and his colleagues plan to update the data set regularly, giving a near-real-time picture of how changes in policies affect emissions. Ajay Gambhir at Imperial College London says such information could potentially sway governments towards encouraging long-term flexible working patterns. There’s “clearly a tension”, Gambhir says, between governments’ desires to buoy the commercial activities of city centres and their need to meet legislative net-zero carbon emission targets. “It can often take years to see what the impact of a particular policy might be in terms of emissions reductions,” he says. “It might well be that this kind of data is a countervailing force.”
9-7-21 Climate change: Dragonflies spread north in warming world
Dragonflies are moving northwards across Britain and Ireland as temperatures rise. More than 40% of species have increased their distribution since 1970, while only about 10% have declined, according to a new report. Experts from the British Dragonfly Society say it's an indicator of the effects of climate change. There is concern over the loss of populations of insects due to factors such as pollution and habitat loss. Conservation officer Eleanor Colver said while their data can determine where dragonflies are, it cannot determine exactly how many there are - and whether numbers have increased overall. "Factors such as the use of pesticides (reducing their flying insect prey), water pollution and habitat loss continue to threaten the health of dragonfly populations within species' existing ranges," she said. The report, State of Dragonflies 2021, incorporates 1.4 million records from 17,000 recorders gathered from 1970 onwards. It assesses the fortunes of 46 species of dragonflies and their close relative - the damselflies - across Britain and Ireland. Since 1995, several species have reached Britain from southern Europe for the first time - and at least two more have reappeared after long absences. Species expanding their range include the emperor dragonfly, migrant hawker, ruddy darter, black-tailed skimmer and small red-eyed damselfly. In contrast, some upland and northern dragonflies are in retreat, including the common hawker and black darter, perhaps because of the loss of peatbogs or extreme droughts. "The increase in many species, if not all, we can put down to a combination of climate warming and more or better wetland habitats such as an increase in the number of ponds, lakes, gravel-pits and reservoirs in recent decades," said Dave Smallshire, co-editor of the report. But people should not get the message that all is "tickety-boo with dragonflies", he added. "The overwhelming message is that global climate change - and in the case of Britain and Ireland - significant climate warming is likely to have had an over-riding effect on many of these changes," he said.
9-7-21 Climate change: Green groups call for COP26 postponement
Green groups say that the COP26 climate conference due to be held in Glasgow in November should be postponed. They argue that vaccine inequity and unaffordable accommodation will lock out "huge numbers" of developing country delegates. But the UK government now says it will fund quarantine hotel stays for delegates, observers and media arriving from red list countries. Vaccines are being rolled out for any delegate who needs one, ministers say. The COP26 negotiations are seen as the most crucial gathering on climate change since the Paris agreement came into being in the French capital in 2015. Around 200 heads of state and government are expected to attend, with thousands of delegates, civil society members and media. Environmental groups are an important element in these global talks process. While they have no direct power to influence outcomes, they act as observers and as advisers to many poorer countries that have limited personnel and resources to cover every aspect of this sprawling negotiation. The Climate Action Network represents more than 1500 civil society organisations in over 130 countries. They have been concerned for some time that the global response to Covid-19 was likely to impact delegates, campaigners and journalists from Global South countries, many of which are on the UK's red list for the virus. In a statement, they point to the fact that, according to the WHO, around 57% of people in Europe are now fully vaccinated, while in Africa the figure is around 3%. "Our concern is that those countries most deeply affected by the climate crisis and those countries suffering from the lack of support by rich nations in providing vaccines will be left out and be conspicuous by their absence at COP26," said Tasneem Essop, executive director of Climate Action Network. "There has always been an inherent power imbalance within the UN climate talks and this is now compounded by the health crisis. Looking at the current timeline for COP26, it is difficult to imagine there can be fair participation from the Global South under safe conditions and it should therefore be postponed," she added. While the UK has repeatedly said that vaccines will be made available for any delegate who needs them, environmentalists point out that attendance at COP26 is about far more than just access to a jab.
9-7-21 New Orleans says 'independent' seniors left to swelter without power on upper floors after Ida
Officials in New Orleans found elderly wheelchair-bound residents trapped on the upper floors of privately owned senior living facilities with no electricity and no way to escape the heat after Hurricane Ida swept through the city, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Monday. Hundreds of people were evacuated on Saturday, nearly a week after Ida hit, The Associated Press reports, and officials said five residents of these facilities died in the days after the storm. Some of the managers of the senior living apartment buildings evacuated to other states before Ida hit without making sure the residents of their facilities would be safe and have working generators, New Orleans City Council member Kristin Palmer told reporters. "They're hiding under the loophole of 'independent living,'" she said. "It's not independent living if there's no power and you're in a wheelchair on the fourth floor." Cantrell said New Orleans is creating inspection teams from health, code enforcement, permits, and other departments to check the senior living facilities, make sure they are safe, and evacuate people from ones that aren't. Then, she said, management will be held accountable and the city will update its regulations to ensure such facilities have contingency plans to ensure generator power in emergencies. The power has been restored to about 70 percent of the New Orleans area and nearly all of Baton Rouge, but the rural areas outside those large cities are still mostly dark and restoring power there will take weeks, Entergy Louisiana executives said Monday. The New Orleans coroner's office will determine whether the five deaths at the senior living facilities are attributable to Hurricane Ida, but the official death count for Louisiana from the storm is 13, and more than 50 people died on the East Coast when the remnants of the storm dumped huge amounts of rain from Virginia northward.
9-7-21 This pictogram is one of the oldest known accounts of earthquakes in the Americas
The written chronology in a 16th century codex was created by a pre-Hispanic civilization. A 50-page codex of colorful, complex pictograms that dates to the early 16th century includes the most complete — and one of the oldest — written chronologies of early earthquakes in the Americas. The Telleriano-Remensis, which was created by an unknown pre-Hispanic civilization, describes 12 separate earthquakes that rocked what’s now Mexico and Central America from 1460 to 1542, researchers report August 25 in Seismological Research Letters. The famous codex was written by specialists called tlacuilos, meaning “those who write painting” in the Nahuatl language spoken by Aztecs and other pre-Hispanic civilizations in the area (SN: 3/13/20). Using other codices from the region, researchers had previously identified the combination of two pictographs that denotes an earthquake. One shows four helices around a central circle or eye, and stands for ollin, meaning “movement” in Nahuatl. The other pictograph shows one or more rectangular layers filled with dots, and means tlalli, or “earth.” For daytime earthquakes, the eye is open; for nighttime quakes, it’s closed. Seismologist Gerardo Suárez of the National Autonomous University of Mexico and social anthropologist Virginia García-Acosta of the Center for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology, both in Mexico City, pored over the Telleriano-Remensis. The researchers were looking for representations of quakes, comparing what they found to accounts of quakes in other pre-Hispanic codices and texts written later by Spanish friars. The Telleriano-Remensis uses a pictorial representation of a 52-year cycle to roughly date the quakes. Years are represented by four signs— tecpatl (knife), calli (house), tochtli (rabbit) and acatl (reed) — arranged in 13 permutations. Those images helped the researchers match some pictorial accounts of quakes, including one in 1507, to later descriptions of the events.
9-7-21 Some animals are evolving new body shapes as the climate changes
Endotherms, commonly called warm-blooded animals, have changed the shape of their bodies over the past century to keep themselves cooler in response to rising global temperatures. Many animals have body parts that stick out, such as ears, beaks, limbs and tails. Sara Ryding at Deakin University in Australia and her colleagues have found that a variety of animals have been responding to increasing global temperatures by increasing the size of these appendages. “I would classify the changes as not something that might be visibly obvious,” says Ryding. “You might not hold a bird from the 1800s in your hand and then hold a bird from the 2000s and see an immediate difference. But the reported estimates of increases that we found are still functionally important.” The team combined the findings of previous studies that looked at appendage size in various animals across the globe, including Australian parrots and thrushes, Galapagos finches, Chinese bats and European mice. Changes included larger bills in bird species like the crimson rosella (Platycercus elegans), larger wing size in bats like the great roundleaf bat (Hipposideros armiger), and increased tail length in mammals like the masked shrew (Sorex cinereus). Larger appendages are one way an animal can increase its surface area relative to its body volume which, for an endotherm, makes it easier to lose excess body heat. Some species, such as the fruit bat Leschenault’s rousette (Rousettus Leschenaultii), didn’t display these increases in appendage size. This may be because appendages in these species are used in important ways by these animals that constrain their size, says Ryding. “There’s enough evidence there to say that there might well be something interesting going on here, but I think it’s too early to say if it’s a general phenomenon that’s occurring in response to climate change,” says Thomas Reed at University College Cork in Ireland. “We need more studies of different types of animals from different places.”
9-6-21 Will plans for new UK coal mine scupper net-zero ambitions at COP26?
The fate of the UK’s potential first deep coal mine in 30 years will be fiercely debated at a public inquiry starting tomorrow, in what is expected to be a landmark test case on what new fossil fuel projects should be allowed as countries act to hit net-zero emissions. The mooted Woodhouse Colliery near Whitehaven, Cumbria, has escalated from a local planning issue to a national one with international implications, as the UK prepares to host the COP26 climate summit. Supporters say it will provide jobs for a region that desperately needs them and displace coal imports. Critics highlight the carbon dioxide emissions from the most polluting of fossil fuels, say it risks undermining the crucial COP26 conference and argue the coal isn’t needed. The mine proposed by West Cumbria Mining (WCM), which is backed by an Australian private equity group, would produce about 2.8 million tonnes of coking coal a year, which is used in steel-making, not burning in power stations. The latter has been almost eliminated in the UK, but decarbonising the steel industry is seen as a much harder task. Normally, planning approval would be a decision for the local authority, Cumbria County Council, which has already given the go-ahead three times. However, amid an outcry over the climate impact of the mine, the UK government on 11 March said it would instead take the decision to block or allow it. Tomorrow sees the start of a 16-day public inquiry, to a backdrop of protests planned in Cumbria and London, that will play a key role in a government decision expected early next year. “Our law is really not clear on whether the coal mine is legal or not,” says Rebecca Willis at Lancaster University in the UK. The UK’s national planning policy is to block permission for coal extraction by default, but allows exemptions if developments are deemed “environmentally acceptable” or provide enough local benefits to outweigh wider impacts.
9-6-21 First full survey of Peru and Chile’s threatened fog island ecosystems
Dotted along the arid coasts of Peru and Chile are islands of green space called fog oases that provide local sources of clean air, water and medicinal plants. The fog islands are poorly understood by scientists, but a satellite survey suggests they can grow across an area of land more than four times larger than previously thought. “I’m sure the local people living there know about them, but it gives us that knowledge of where it is in the landscape,” says Justin Moat at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in the UK. “The understanding of how changeable these areas are is incredibly exciting.” Fog oases are pockets of green space within the desert where plants, including so-called air plants (Tillandsia) that can grow outside of soil, have adapted to capture water from fog coming into the land from the sea. The fogs are driven primarily by the Humboldt current, an ocean current flowing north along the west coast of South America. Moat and his colleagues have combined 20 years of satellite imagery data to provide the most accurate map of these ecosystems to date. “The vegetation is quite ephemeral,” says Moat. “It pops up [and] disappears. Sometimes, they may not be seen for five or 10 years and then they’ll pop back up again depending on if the conditions are exactly right for them, which makes it incredibly hard to map.” Continuous fog coverage has also been a barrier to mapping these ecosystems via satellite, and the remote location of many fog oases means they are difficult to reach for direct study. The fog oases, known locally as lomas or oasis de niebla, were thought to cover just 4000 square kilometres, but the team found that they actually extend for 17,000 square kilometres. The fog oases react quickly to changes in sea temperature, which could allow them to serve as an early warning system for climate phenomena like El Niño. This also means that these delicate ecosystems are threatened by climate change.
9-6-21 There's a new oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and nobody knows who is responsible
The fallout from Hurricane Ida continues, as the death toll mounts, hundreds of thousands remain without power, and residents in hard-hit areas clean up their devastated homes and communities. One relatively underreported result of the storm is an oil spill in the Bay Marchand area of the Gulf of Mexico. A "miles-long" oil slick was first spotted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Sept. 1, but its source remained an unfortunate mystery until Sept. 5, when divers at the site discovered a broken 12-inch-diameter pipeline on the ocean floor. So the source of the leak has been identified, but what remains unclear is who owns or is responsible for the broken pipeline. Houston-based Talos Energy is paying for the cleanup but says the pipe doesn't belong to them. While any organization responsible for a sizable oil spill is required to alert the government, that can be tricky in an area so pockmarked with drilling infrastructure, new and old. As NPR explained, the Gulf "has been drilled for oil and gas for decades. Federal leasing maps show it contains a latticework of old pipelines, plugged wells and abandoned platforms, along with newer infrastructure still in use." The good news is the oil slick isn't near the Louisiana shoreline, where it could do significantly more environmental damage, and it's being addressed. The bad news is this pipe appears to still be leaking, and it is "one of dozens of reported environmental hazards state and federal regulators are tracking in Louisiana and the Gulf" in Ida's wake, NPR said.
9-6-21 Climate change: Massive Attack gig data to cut live music impact
Artists and bands must swap private jets for trains, festivals and venues need to generate more of their own renewable energy and gig tickets should include free public transport. These are just some of the recommendations being made by scientists at the University of Manchester to help the music industry reduce its carbon emissions to stop climate change. The roadmap for live music was based on tour data supplied by the band Massive Attack. The findings are being shared across the industry and, it's hoped, will inspire millions of fans to live more sustainably, too. Since 2019, scientists at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research have been poring over every detail of Massive Attack's last tour. They then used lessons learned to create a roadmap for the whole industry. Their recommendations for "super low carbon practices" deal with how musicians, promoters, tour managers and agents should work in order to keep the rise in global warming restricted to 1.5C. The suggestions cover how artists move around, the venues they play at, and how fans get to events. Prof Carly McLachlan from the Tyndall Centre led the research and says "to really decarbonise live music, you need to start doing it right from the inception of a tour". The report says the music industry should only pay to carbon offset its emissions when reducing them was no longer possible. It's also suggested that a central independent body be appointed to monitor the progress the sector is making against "clearly defined measurable targets". "This is so we can scale up the practice that works, learn where things didn't work and really accelerate that change." Robert "3D" Del Naja from Massive Attack says the findings aren't surprising because the solutions to climate change are already known. He says the idea of making "plug and play" tours more routine - where artists hire things like sound systems from the venue rather than bringing their own - already happens, but not at such a large scale.
9-5-21 Rush to contain large oil spill in Gulf of Mexico after Storm Ida
Clean-up crews and the US Coast Guard are trying to locate the source of an oil spill spotted in the Gulf of Mexico after deadly Hurricane Ida. Recent satellite photos by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showed the slick about two miles (3km) off Port Fourchon, Louisiana. It appears to be coming from a source underwater at an offshore drilling site, the Associated Press reports. Ida hit Louisiana last week, leaving about one million people without power. President Joe Biden declared a major disaster and released federal funds for rescue and recovery efforts. The hurricane then moved north-east, killing dozens of people and causing devastation in a number of US states. The source of the miles-long oil spill was believed to be in the Bay Marchand area of the Gulf of Mexico, the US Coast Guard said. Spokesman Lt. John Edwards said it was thought to be crude oil from an undersea pipeline owned by Talos Energy. Houston-based Talos Energy said it did not believe it was responsible for the oil in the water, according to the Associated Press. The company has nonetheless hired Clean Gulf Associates, a non-profit group that responds to oil spills, to help contain the pollution. A team of private divers are also trying to locate the source. In a statement, Talos Energy said the company "will continue to work closely with the US Coast Guard and other state and federal agencies to identify the source of the release and co-ordinate a successful response".
9-4-21 Climate change is not going to wait for America to get its act together
Joe Manchin is fiddling while New York drowns. There has been a recent change in verb tense with respect to climate change: What was once the future is now the present. Louisiana just got hammered by a hurricane that — in what is becoming a signature characteristic of a warming climate — strengthened very rapidly thanks to super-hot temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico, giving residents barely enough time to evacuate. The remnants of that hurricane then caused flooding all the way from Louisiana to Maine. Philadelphia saw the worst flooding since 1869. The National Weather Service issued the first flash flood warning for New York City in its history. At time of writing, at least 45 people were confirmed dead across the Northeast. I find it hard to grapple with this reality. Following the science, I have been predicting this kind of thing for many years. But now that climate change is truly undeniably here, and highly unusual if not totally unprecedented weather disasters are hitting on a weekly basis, it is still somehow shocking. I suppose arid scientific predictions will always feel a lot different than one's own city being heavily flooded. It's a reaction that Americans — in particular Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), who recently launched a broadside against Democrats' $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, which contains a great deal of climate policy — need to get over soon. It is tempting to read some kind of cosmic justice into these events. America spewed forth greenhouse gas emissions with reckless abandon for two centuries, 50 years of which were after the basics of climate science were well-understood and widely publicized, and now a vengeful nature is inflicting retribution. The truth, of course, is even scarier. An angry nature god would imply that something powerful cared about humanity enough to punish us. In reality every human being could die tomorrow and the world would go on spinning without interruption in an inconceivable vast universe. It would be a drop of water in the Atlantic Ocean. In the colossal expanse of cosmic time, humanity's entire lifespan is barely an eyeblink. Our only significant accomplishment is how rapidly we are changing the climate, which is in the same league as a major asteroid strike or continent-scale volcanic eruptions. But even that is nothing new. Planet Earth has seen worse than us before and it'll see worse after we are gone. Nobody is coming to teach us lessons about our hubris, and there is no appealing the laws of physics. Some form of denial must be part of the reason why Manchin is now raising questions about the reconciliation bill, not to mention the giant corporate lobbying campaign that undoubtedly explains his sudden change of heart. The reconciliation bill would — in large part because Manchin himself insisted that it can't raise the deficit — raise taxes on corporations, people making high incomes, and especially wealthy heirs. Obviously corporate interests and the oligarch class don't want that, because no amount of money is ever enough for them. Very few people are so evil that they can willfully consign their own society to catastrophe for the sake of avoiding a fairly modest tax increase. It's just the common behavior of ultra-privileged humans: When faced with a situation requiring any sacrifice, they make up excuses why it shouldn't have to happen. And they'll keep denying they could be hit by disaster — like a wildly unusual tornado ripping up a wealthy New Jersey suburb — until the rising seas close over their heads.
9-4-21 Then and now: Why deforestation is such a hot topic
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. For decades, deforestation has been seen as a leading cause of environmental damage. Now, the full cost that losing our tree cover is having on the world's climate is being realised, and politicians are taking notice. If there was a poster-child of environmental degradation, surely it is deforestation. The removal of trees - for example, through logging or fires - has, for many decades, been listed as one of the main factors behind nature loss and environmental harm. In recent years, the loss of tree cover around the world has also been firmly linked to the increasingly volatile changes to the climate. Plants and trees absorb up to a third of our CO2 emissions from the atmosphere each year. Yet, as we fell vast swathes of primary forests around the globe, we are reducing our planet's ability to lock away, or sequester, the harmful gas that is released from burning fossil fuels. According to the UN, an estimated 420 million hectares (one billion acres) of forest have been lost through conversion to other land uses since 1990 - that is an area roughly equivalent to the size of Libya. However, campaigns to protect forests have had an impact during the past three decades. UN data suggests the rate of deforestation between 2015 and 2020 was an estimated 10 million hectares per year, down from 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s. While the issue of deforestation is taken very seriously at a global level, the implementation of strategies and policies to reduce deforestation ultimately rests with national governments. At this level, the track record is much more patchy. For example, Brazil - for a succession of governments - seemed to be heeding international advice and deforestation rates had been falling steadily since 2004. However, scientists writing in Nature journal last year listed the Brazilian Amazon deforestation rate for the previous 12 months as the highest in a decade.
9-4-21 Will Hurricane Ida cause a spike in Covid-19?
Problems caused by Hurricane Ida in southern US states are being compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic. Fortune has not been kind to Joey Cirilo of late. In March 2020, his girlfriend - who has a pre-existing heart condition - was left immobilised for weeks with a "really bad" case of Covid-19. Then this year Mr Cirilo, 36, lost his job at a local charity, leaving him without a steady source of income. And now, his life has been "completely changed" again, he said, this time because of Hurricane Ida. The most powerful Atlantic storm of the 2021 hurricane season has forced the evacuation of thousands from Louisiana, Mr Cirilo among them. The Navy veteran knows of the destruction of hurricanes. Even before he moved to New Orleans years ago, he deployed to nearby Mississippi as a young sailor to help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But this time, he and others fear that the damage wrought by floods and winds will be compounded by another scourge, the pandemic. Only a little over 40% of Louisiana's population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus - one of the lowest rates in the US - and hospitals are already overburdened. On 2 September alone, the state's department of public health reported 2,099 new cases and 74 new deaths. The new cases bring the total to over 694,000, with a death toll of over 12,600 in the state. Now, concerns are mounting that the combination of the storm and the virus may result in Covid-19 outbreaks spreading far beyond areas hit by Ida. "I don't want to be displaced and also get sick," Mr Cirilo said. "The last thing I want to do is catch Covid and start spreading it to other people. I already have enough that I'm dealing with." During his visit to Louisiana on Friday, US President Joe Biden promised no community would be left behind in recovery efforts. The government has provided $100m (£72m) in direct assistance to Louisiana, with $500 being given to people to help with immediate needs. But many of the strategies used to control pandemics are "incompatible" with the requirements of a mass evacuation, said Dr Irwin Redlener of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University.
9-3-21 Storm Ida: Before and after images of US flooding
Storm Ida has unleashed flash flooding and tornadoes across the north-east of the US, killing dozens and causing devastation in a number of states. New York City and New Jersey have been hit by unprecedented levels of rainfall, with residents left trapped in flooded basements and cars. Tornadoes, spawned by the storm, ripped off roofs and sent debris thousands of feet into the air. Satellite images taken by Maxar on Thursday showed large areas of New Jersey submerged - with business and homes devastated by floodwater. The rising waters reached a baseball stadium in Bridgewater, home to the Somerset Patriots. The city of New Brunswick in New Jersey was also badly hit. Memorial Parkway and key roads on the banks of the Raritan River were completely inundated. Large areas of Manville, New Jersey, were also completely inaccessible. Flooding prevented emergency vehicles from reaching properties on fire. A tornado ripped apart homes in the New Jersey neighbourhood of Mullica Hill, with high winds tearing off roofs and walls. Residents described how it took just seconds for homes to be destroyed. The latest destruction caused by the storm - the fifth strongest to ever hit the US mainland - follows widespread flooding of communities in Louisiana and Mississippi earlier this week. Ida's remnants brought 6-8ins (15-20cm) of rain to large areas or the north east - including New York, the National Weather Service said. It set an hourly rainfall record of 3.15ins (8cm) for Manhattan, breaking one set by Tropical Storm Henri less than two weeks ago. Weather mapping from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows the wide band of heavy rain, which hit the area between 1 and 2 September. New York Governor Kathy Hochul described a "Niagara Falls level of water". US president Joe Biden has now declared an emergency in both New Jersey and New York, enabling both states to receive federal funding to support local disaster relief efforts. Ida arrived in New Orleans on 29 August, 16 years after Hurricane Katrina followed a similar path in 2005, killing 1,800 people.
9-3-21 Climate change: Arctic warming linked to colder winters
A new study shows that increases in extreme winter weather in parts of the US are linked to accelerated warming of the Arctic. The scientists found that heating in the region ultimately disturbed the circular pattern of winds known as the polar vortex. This allowed colder winter weather to flow down to the US, notably in the Texas cold wave in February. The authors say that warming will see more cold winters in some locations. Over the past four decades, satellite records have shown how increasing global temperatures have had a profound effect on the Arctic. Warming in the region is far more pronounced than in the rest of the world, and has caused a rapid shrinkage of summer sea ice. Scientists have long been concerned about the implications of this amplification of global change for the rest of the planet. This new study indicates that the warming in the Arctic is having a significant impact on winter weather in both North America and East Asia. The researchers detail a complex meteorological chain that connects this warmer region to a rotating pattern of cold air known as the polar vortex. The authors show that the melting of ice in the Barents and Kara seas leads to increased snowfall over Siberia and a transfer of excess energy that impacts the swirling winds in the stratosphere above the North Pole. The heat ultimately causes a stretching of the vortex which then enables extremely cold weather to flow down to the US. There has been an increase in these stretching events since satellite observations began in 1979. The scientists believe this vortex stretching process led to the deadly Texas cold wave in February this year. "We're arguing that melting sea ice across Northwest Eurasia, coupled with increased snowfall across Siberia is leading to a strengthening of the temperature difference from west to east across the Eurasian continent," explained lead author Dr Judah Cohen, who's a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a director of Atmospheric and Environmental Research, a weather risk management company. "We know when that temperature difference increases, that leads to more disruptions of the polar vortex. And when it's weakened, that leads to more extreme winter weather such as the Texas cold wave last February."
9-3-21 Climate-above-all plea by US fails to stir China
US climate envoy John Kerry has told China that climate change is more important than politics as tensions between the two countries continue. He made the remarks following two days of talks with Chinese leaders in the city of Tianjin. But China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned on Wednesday that the worsening relationship could hamper future co-operation on climate issues. Both countries have outlined steps to tackle climate change. But Mr Kerry has called on China to increase its efforts to tackle carbon emissions. Tensions between the two countries have worsened in recent months with disputes over China's human rights record, the South China Sea and the Covid-19 pandemic. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Mr Kerry said he had told the Chinese that "climate is not ideological, not partisan and not a geostrategic weapon". "It is essential... no matter what differences we have, that we have to address the climate crisis," he said. Earlier, Mr Wang called on the US to "stop seeing China as a threat and an opponent", accusing Washington of a "major strategic miscalculation towards China". "It is impossible for China-US climate co-operation to be elevated above the overall environment of China-US relations," he said. 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. President Xi Jinping has said he will aim for China's emissions to reach their highest point before 2030 and for the country to be carbon neutral by 2060. But it is not yet clear how he plans to achieve this. Mr Kerry said he aimed to meet Chinese leaders again ahead of the upcoming COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow this year and push for stronger emission reduction targets. "We have consistently said to China and other countries... to do their best within their given capacity," he said on Thursday. "We think that China can do more."
9-3-21 North Korea: Kim Jong-un calls for urgent action on climate change
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un called on his officials to deal with food supply issues and highlighted the danger of climate change. Typhoons last year badly impacted vital crops, while weeks of drought followed by heavy monsoon rains have damaged them this year as well. He said measures to overcome "abnormal climate" were needed, and asked also officials to tackle drought and floods. His comments came in a speech to the ruling party's Politburo on Thursday. Mr Kim had said that the "danger" of climate change had become "higher in recent years adding that "urgent action" needed to be taken. Mr Kim also called for improvements to the country's flood management infrastructure saying: "River improvement, afforestation for erosion control, dyke maintenance and tide embankment projects", should be prioritised. Apart from the damage caused by natural disasters, North Korea's economy has been hit hard by international sanctions, as well as border closures and harsh lockdowns to prevent the spread of Covid. Although North Korea has not reported any Covid cases, it has sealed its borders and imposed lockdowns. The border closures have affected vital imports from China. "Tightening epidemic prevention is the task of paramount importance which must not be loosened even a moment under the present situation," said Mr Kim, according to state media. Earlier this week, the UN said North Korea had rejected an offer of almost three million Covid-19 jabs. A spokesperson said the country had asked that the shots be relocated to harder hit nations in view of global vaccine shortages.
9-3-21 EPA report warns people of color face disproportionate harm from climate change
In a new analysis released Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency warns that if the global temperature rises 2 degrees Celsius, it will result in higher sea levels, flooding, and excessive heat — all of which will disproportionately harm Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, and Alaska Natives. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the planet has warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius, and by the early 2030s will likely warm by more than 1.5 degrees, The Washington Post reports. The EPA determined that should the Earth warm by 2 degrees, American Indians and Alaska Natives are 48 percent more likely than other groups to live in a region that is susceptible to flooding because of rising sea levels. Black people are currently 40 percent more likely than other groups to live in areas that experience extreme high temperatures that can cause death, and that number jumps to 59 percent as the planet heats up. Latinos would be 43 percent more likely than other groups to lose work hours because of high temperatures. The report is the "first of its kind," Joe Goffman, acting head of the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, told the Post, and one of its underlying lessons is that "so many communities that are heavily Black and African American find themselves in the way of some of the worst impacts of climate change, as was the case with Katrina and, we may find, turns out to be the case with Ida." Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana as a Category 4 storm on Sunday, strengthened by ocean water that was hotter than average because of climate change. The storm caused destruction across the state, tearing roofs off of houses and bringing down electrical poles, before moving up through Mississippi and Alabama. Ida's remnants brought torrential rain to the Northeast, which caused deadly flooding in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maryland. The EPA report's release "couldn't be more perfectly timed," Moms Clean Air Force co-founder Dominique Browning told the Post. Ida and the devastation it caused are likely a glimpse into the future, and proof that "we are in such an emergency," Browning said. Read more at The Washington Post.
9-3-21 Storm Ida: Death toll climbs to 45 across four US north-east states
US President Joe Biden says "historic investment" is needed to deal with the climate crisis, as the north-east reels from flash flooding and tornadoes that have killed at least 45 people. The US is facing climate-related destruction across the country and tackling it is "a matter of life and death", the president said. New York City and New Jersey saw unprecedented levels of rainfall Some residents became trapped in flooded basements and cars. Six states suffered loss of life: 1. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said at least 23 people had died in his state - most of them stuck in their vehicles as the waters rose. 2. At least 14 people lost their lives in New York City, including a two-year-old boy. Eleven of them drowned while trapped in their flooded basements, officials said 3. Five people died in Pennsylvania, while a state trooper in Connecticut was swept away as he responded to a call 4. Deaths were also reported in Maryland and Virginia. President Biden has declared an emergency in both New Jersey and New York, enabling both states to receive federal funding to support local disaster relief efforts. 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. 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. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio criticised weather experts, saying their forecasts were being "made a mockery of in a matter of minutes". He said he had been warned to expect between three and six inches (7.5 and 15cm) of rain over the course of the day. However a record 3.15 inches fell in Central Park in just one hour.
9-2-21 Death toll from Ida rises to 45, after remnants of storm devastates the Northeast
At least 45 people died in the Northeast on Wednesday and Thursday, as the remnants of Hurricane Ida brought torrential rain to the region that triggered extraordinary flooding. The deaths were reported in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said 23 people were killed in his state, most of them in cars that were overtaken by flood waters. During a Thursday news conference, he asked residents to "please stay off the roads. We're not out of this yet." Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) said the extreme rains and flooding should be "a wake-up call. Anybody who believes that it's too expensive to stop climate change ... has got to wake up to the fact that we cannot afford not to." In New York, 15 people died, including 12 in New York City. Amid a rare flash-flood emergency, water flooded the city's streets, subway stations, and basement and ground floor apartments. Two busy roadways — Manhattan's FDR Drive and the Bronx River Parkway — were underwater on Wednesday night, and Central Park set a record when the National Weather Service determined 3.15 inches of rain fell in the park in just one hour. Less than two weeks ago, Tropical Storm Henri drenched New York, dropping a then-record 1.94 inches of rain in Central Park in an hour. Ida made landfall early Sunday afternoon in Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane. At least nine deaths related to the storm were recorded in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and the states are all now slowly trying to recover from Ida, which destroyed homes, businesses, and schools, and has left hundreds of thousands without electricity. The center of Ida was 100 miles east of Massachusetts on Thursday night and moving northeast.
9-2-21 Texas cold crisis early this year linked to melting Arctic sea ice
The extreme cold snap that left millions of people in Texas without power last winter appears to have been made more likely by melting Arctic sea ice thousands of kilometres away, research suggests. For the past decade, evidence has been building in support of the counterintuitive idea that some of the recent cold winter spells at mid-latitudes in North America and Eurasia are linked to the Arctic warming faster than the rest of the world due to climate change. That link still isn’t fully established. However, a group led by Judah Cohen at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that vanishing sea ice and greater snowfall in the Arctic over the past 40 years, effects caused by climate change, may be driving cold winter weather in North America and Eurasia via the stratospheric polar vortex, the cold winds high above the pole. The rapid warming in the Arctic appears to be disrupting – that is, stretching – this vortex in a way that has a knock-on effect on atmospheric circulations above North America, generating unusually cold spells in winter. “If you expected global warming to help you out with preparing for severe winter weather, our paper says the cautionary tale is: don’t necessarily expect climate change to solve that problem for you,” says Cohen. “This is an unexpected impact from climate change that we didn’t appreciate 20 years ago.” The researchers arrived at their findings using modelling of Arctic snow and sea ice, as well as observations snow and sea ice from October 1980 to February 2021. They also used data on the polar vortex and temperature data for North America. Cohen and his colleagues say their analysis suggests that the cold that hit Texas in February was likely a response to disruption in the stratospheric polar vortex in the same month. “I think it made it more likely,” he says. Jennifer Francis at Woodwell Climate Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts, says: “By analysing both observations and model simulations, the conclusions are well supported and help explain how extreme cold spells like the debilitating one in Texas this past February are still likely – and perhaps more so – as the climate crisis unfolds.”
9-2-21 New York City crushes 2-week-old rainfall record and Newark gets downpour expected every 200-500 years
New York City's Central Park got a record 1.94 inches of rain in one hour on Aug. 21, as Tropical Storm Henri doused the city. On Wednesday night, between 8:51 p.m. and 9:51 p.m., 3.15 inches of rain fell on Central Park. Another weather station in Manhattan recorded 3.76 inches of rain in one hour, as Tropical Depression Ida dumped so much water on the area that the National Weather Service issued its first-ever flash flood emergency for New York City. Across the Hudson River in New Jersey, more than 7.2 inches of rain fell on Newark, easily breaking a record set in 1977, according to Fox Weather meteorologist Greg Diamond. During Newark's daily deluge record, "it received 3.24 inches of rain in one hour," The Washington Post recounts. "That one-hour rainfall, its most on record, is expected to occur only once every 200 to 500 years." Over a three-hour span Wednesday night, 6.42 inches of rain fell at Newark International Airport, meteorologist Alex Lamers noted on Twitter. "That's basically the equivalent of about 7 weeks of average rainfall falling in a few hours."
9-2-21 Storm Ida: Flash flooding in New York and New Jersey kills nine
At least nine people have died after flash flooding and tornadoes hit the north-eastern US, local media report. Some people were trapped in flooded basements of their homes, while one body was found in a vehicle that was swept away. The governors of New York and New Jersey declared a state of emergency, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called it a "historic weather event". At least 3in (8cm) of rain fell in just one hour in New York's Central Park. Almost all New York City subway lines have been closed, and non-emergency vehicles banned from roads. Many flights and trains out of New York and New Jersey have been suspended. The mayor of the city of Passaic in New Jersey, Hector Lora, told CNN the body of a man in his 70s had been recovered from a vehicle that had been swept away in the floods. NBC New York has reported that at least one more person died in New Jersey. NBC and AFP reported that seven people had died in New York City, some after becoming trapped in their basements. A two-year-old boy was among the victims in New York City. Footage on social media showed water pouring into subway stations and people's homes, and flooded roads. New York resident George Bailey told the BBC: "Right in the middle of dinner I hear gurgling, and the water's coming up out of the shower drain in our bathroom. "I went to check the main water line in the utility room, and by the time I walked back into the living room there was nearly a foot of water. It was incredible how fast it came through." The US National Weather Service declared a flood emergency in New York City, Brooklyn, Queens and parts of Long Island, and issued tornado warnings for parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. A flood emergency, as opposed to a warning, is issued in "exceedingly rare situations when a severe threat to human life and catastrophic damage from a flash flood is happening or will happen soon", the NWS said.
9-2-21 At least 9 dead after Northeast gets 'caught off guard' by historic flooding
At least nine people have died in the catastrophic flooding that hit the Northeast on Wednesday evening, which New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) acknowledged caught residents "off guard." Nine deaths have been reported in New York City and in New Jersey after the historic flooding, with eight people in New York City having become trapped in basements that were flooded, according to The Associated Press. A 2-year-old was among those who died in the flooding, NBC News reports. While the Northeast was expected to see heavy rainfall after Hurricane Ida slammed the Gulf Coast earlier this week, Hochul acknowledged on CNN's New Day the scale of the storm was "stunning" and that "people were just caught off guard and so shocked," including residents who "thought they would safely be able to go down into their basements or take the trains" until this "absolutely unprecedented storm event changed everything. CNN Weather's Michael Guy noted that what was "so surprising" about the storm was the "span of the rainfall and the area impacted," observing, "It is such a large area across the northeast, and it only happened within a span of a few hours." But Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall was among those to write that leading up to the storm, they "had little sense during the day yesterday that we were set for anything more than normal rainfall from the remnants of Ida." New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) told CBS News the storm, which was "absolutely different than everything that had been projected," served as a "sobering" reminder that weather "has become so unpredictable, so violent, so fast." And, CBS News Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli said, while this was "by some measurements" a "once in a 500 year type event ... climate change makes the impossible not only possible, but it makes it probable."
9-2-21 Fires may have affected up to 85 percent of threatened Amazon species
Since 2001, an area up to the size of Washington state has burned. Much of the Amazon’s biodiversity is under fire — literally. In the last two decades, deforestation and forest fires have encroached on the ranges of thousands of plant and animal species in the Amazon rainforest, including up to 85 percent of threatened species in the region, researchers report September 1 in Nature. The extent of the damage is closely tied to the enforcement, or lack thereof, of regulations in Brazil aimed at protecting the forest from widespread logging as well as the fires often used to clear open space in the forest and other encroachments. The findings illustrate the key role that forest use regulations have in the fate of the Amazon rainforest, the researchers argue. Threats to the survival of this biodiversity could have long-term effects. Biodiversity boosts a forest’s resilience to drought, says Arie Staal, an ecologist at Utrecht University in the Netherlands who was not involved with this research. A deep bench of tree species allows the plants to replace those that may not survive drought conditions, he says. “If fire-impacted area continues to rise, not only does the Amazon lose forest cover, but also some of its capacity to cope with the changing climate.” And as fires advance deeper into the rainforest, more species will experience fire for the first time, Staal says. “These species, including many threatened ones, have not evolved under circumstances with regular fires, so the consequences for those species can be severe.” Such consequences may include increased risk of population declines or extinction, similar to the fears following the major outbreak of fires in Australia in 2019 and 2020 (SN: 3/9/21). In recent decades, ongoing deforestation and periodic drought in the Amazon basin have been associated with intensifying fires there (SN: 11/20/15). In 2019, a particularly severe series of fires scorched the region (SN: 8/23/19).
9-1-21 Why the UK doesn't need a new coal mine
THE past few months have seen temperature records smashed. Global warming has cranked up extreme weather events that have wrecked towns by fire and flood. So it seems an odd time for the UK to consider opening a new coal mine. Woodhouse Colliery, near Whitehaven in Cumbria, would be the first new deep coal mine in the UK for decades. Although the county council approved the project in principle in 2019, the UK government vacillated over the decision and then announced a public inquiry, which is due to start on 7 September. As the UK prepares to host the COP26 climate summit in November, many argue that Woodhouse Colliery is incompatible with the UK’s climate goals. The colliery’s coal wouldn’t fuel polluting power stations. Instead, the mine would supply “coking coal” to the steel industry in the UK and Europe. Coke is a dense form of carbon that plays three vital roles in steel-making. Inside a blast furnace, carbon chemically removes oxygen from iron oxide ore to create crude iron. Burning coke also raises the temperature to 2000°C or more, allowing molten iron to be tapped from the bottom of the furnace. Finally, a dash of carbon in the iron strengthens the metal, helping it to become steel inside a second furnace. Coke-based steel-making generates billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide every year and accounts for 7 to 9 per cent of all human-made CO2 emissions. But advocates for the mine say that a domestic supply of coke could help UK steel-makers curb their emissions because it would avoid the CO2 released by transporting steel-making coal from abroad. In March, West Cumbria Mining, the company behind the colliery proposal, said: “Until an alternative for coking coal is found, such coal production is essential.” But alternatives already exist. More than 100 commercial plants around the world can use natural gas to convert iron ore into iron. By feeding that iron into an electric arc furnace to make steel, the whole process emits about 35 per cent less CO2 than the conventional blast furnace route.
9-1-21 We finally have the tools to build a net-zero world
“Yes we can.” Barack Obama’s political slogan is the perfect mantra for the net-zero targets that now apply to more than two-thirds of the global economy. As our feature imagining a day in a net-zero life demonstrates, most of the technologies that are required to achieve those objectives already exist, or are in early development. This isn’t an expression of unthinking, technophile optimism in the face of the dire findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s recent report. We aren’t dismissing the technical, regulatory, economic and social challenges that will be involved in decarbonising buildings, transforming transport, upending diets and reshaping our landscapes. Neither are we saying that it will be easy to remove the large amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that the IPCC thinks we must do if we wish to avoid the climate impacts of a world that breaches 1.5°C of warming. But what is clear is that the tools exist for countries to reach net zero by 2050. We have the technologies and, increasingly, the right costs and scale. Wind and solar power can clean up electricity. Electrify almost everything, including heating and cars. Then pick truly green fuels – green hydrogen and more – for tricky stuff like heavy industry, trucks and ships. How well governments pitch their policies to speed up the progress of these technologies will be key to winning buy-in from citizens that will shoulder the costs of the transition. The UK faces that test in coming weeks, with the publication of its net-zero strategy. The extreme weather of 2021 illustrates how the costs of shifting to net zero must be weighed against the price of inaction. Politicians will also be aided by the fact that, as our feature spells out, a net-zero world should be a better one: healthier, cleaner, wilder. “Yes, we can” is the message for individual countries on the road to net zero. Can the whole world do it? This is the open question that leaders at the UN COP26 summit must address in two months’ time.
9-1-21 Net-zero living: How your day will look in a carbon-neutral world
We fast-forward to 2050 and imagine what an average day will be like when we have slashed our carbon emissions – a picture informed by the latest research, ongoing trials and expert opinion. FEW of us have fully digested the transformation of economies and our own behaviour that is implied by the existential fight against climate change – even as last month’s report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) laid bare how little time we have left to accelerate the transition to a cleaner world. It isn’t that the world is lacking in commitments. If you live in the UK, EU, US or scores of other places, the declared aim is that you should be living somewhere with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions within three decades. Eleven nations – Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the UK – have already written this goal into law, and dozens more have signalled their intent to do so. But most of us are lacking a visualisation of what daily life will be like at net zero, from our homes and food to travel and the landscapes around us. “I think we probably don’t do that enough. It’s a really helpful thing to do, to take away the fear and get people excited,” says Mike Thompson at the Climate Change Committee (CCC), a statutory adviser to the UK government. What follows is an attempt to fill in that gap and show you a day in the life of Isla, a child today, in 2050. By its nature, it is speculative – but it is informed by research, expert opinion and trials happening right now. When the alarm goes off, the torrential rain outside is almost enough to send Isla back under her duvet. That’s unusual for a late summer day. Drier and much hotter summers have been the norm for years here in the south of the UK. Mind you, unpredictable weather has become a feature of life in recent years.k
9-1-21 Hurricane Ida: Before and after images reveal devastation
Parts of Louisiana and Mississippi have been left devastated by Hurricane Ida, which flooded communities, knocked out power lines and littered roads with debris. Satellite images taken by Maxar on Tuesday show extensive damage along the Gulf Coast and southern Louisiana following the fifth strongest storm to ever hit the US mainland. Coastal areas have been particularly badly hit, including the small towns of Jean Lafitte, Barataria, and lower Lafitte. Jean Lafitte Mayor Tim Kerner said the town - 20 miles (32 km) south of New Orleans and outside the city's levee protection system - had suffered "catastrophic" flooding. One estimate suggested 90% of homes had suffered serious damage. The local police chief said at least 400 people had chosen not to leave ahead of the storm - and dozens needed rescuing from attics and rooftops. Aerial images show whole neighbourhoods submerged. In other areas gardens and roads were littered with debris. Galliano, on the Gulf Coast, has also been badly affected. The hurricane passed through the area, flattening trees and ripping apart smaller buildings. The roof of Lady of the Sea Hospital in the town was blown off in Ida's winds. Many homes and businesses have also been devastated and boats capsized. Homes in the town of Laplace, to the west of New Orleans, were also flooded. Residents told of hours of harsh winds and rising water as the storm blew through. Images showed streets under water and gardens submerged. Trees and power lines were also brought down. Across the region, many continue to be without power, after the winds downed power lines and other infrastructure. Night-time imagery from Nasa captured the extent of blackouts across the affected area after the storm, with lights knocked out in many places, including New Orleans. Energy companies say they are working to restore power, but residents are being warned it could take weeks in some areas. Much of New Orleans has been plunged into darkness, with only emergency lighting seen in many areas.
9-1-21 Post-Ida New Orleans is facing triple-digit heat with no power, little gas, scarce tap water
As southeastern Louisiana worked to clean up the mess of Hurricane Ida, the heat arrived. "Temperatures rose along with tempers on Tuesday amid dwindling access to gas, groceries, and patience across the greater New Orleans region, as an extended period without electricity began to take its toll in Hurricane Ida's wake," The New Orleans Advocate reports. There are worse things than hunting for supplies in heat-index temperatures of 106 degrees without power or water, but it isn't pleasant. "I love my city. I'm built for this. But I can't make it without any air conditioning," Renell Debose, who spent a week suffering in the Superdome 16 years ago after Hurricane Katrina, told Politico while waiting in line for gas at Costco. Shelly Huff, also waiting in line, said she has "great neighbors — one who evacuated left us a generator" — but any longer than a week without power "and I'm going have to get out of town." New Orleans resident Algon Greenberry told The Associated Press he'll "make it through" the heat, even if he can't obtain a generator to run air conditioning. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), touring the area with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell on Tuesday, said about 25,000 line workers are hustling to restore power to the more than a million customers without, but "we have a lot of work ahead of us and no one is under the illusion that this is going to be a short process." Entergy initially predicted it could take weeks or even a month to get power restored — all eight of its main transmission lines to New Orleans failed — but the utility told New Orleans officials on Tuesday that some parts of the city could get power back on as soon as Wednesday night. Federal officials said about 441,000 people across the region have no running water, and 319,000 more were under boil-water advisories. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said the city is setting up centers to distribute water and food, charge electronics, and cool off from the heat, and she put New Orleans under curfew Tuesday night, citing "several" looting incidents.
9-1-21 Climate change: Big increase in weather disasters over the past five decades
The number of weather-related disasters to hit the world has increased five-fold over the past 50 years, says the World Meteorological Organization. However, the number of deaths because of the greater number of storms, floods and droughts has fallen sharply. Scientists say that climate change, more extreme weather and better reporting are behind the rise in these extreme events. But improvements to warning systems have helped limit the number of deaths. As global temperatures have risen in recent decades, there has been a significant uptick in the number of disasters related to weather and water extremes. In the 50 years between 1970 and 2019, there were more than 11,000 such disasters, according to a new atlas from the WMO that charts the scale of these events. Over two million people died as a result of these hazards, with economic losses amounting to $3.64 trillion. "The number of weather, climate and water extremes are increasing and will become more frequent and severe in many parts of the world as a result of climate change," said WMO Secretary-General Prof Petteri Taalas. "That means more heatwaves, drought and forest fires such as those we have observed recently in Europe and North America. We have more water vapour in the atmosphere, which is exacerbating extreme rainfall and deadly flooding. The warming of the oceans has affected the frequency and area of existence of the most intense tropical storms," he added. More than 90% of the deaths related to weather disasters have occurred in developing countries. The biggest killers have been droughts, responsible for 650,000 deaths; while at the other end of the scale, extreme temperatures took nearly 56,000 lives. While more people have been saved in the face of an increasing number of extremes, the economic toll has mounted. Reported losses in the decade between 2010-2019 were around $383m per day, a seven-fold increase on the $49m per day between 1970-1979.
9-1-21 Caldor fire: Lake Tahoe deserted as Californians evacuate
Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from the shores of Lake Tahoe in northern California as a major wildfire continues to spread. The Caldor Fire has already burned more than 191,000 acres, with just 16% of the fire brought under control. More than 3,500 firefighters have been deployed to combat the blaze, which began more than two weeks ago. One hospital has been forced to evacuate, with patients transferred to other facilities in the region. Five people have been injured, while more than 700 properties have been damaged or destroyed, according to authorities. The 22,000 residents of the city of South Lake Tahoe, a popular holiday destination, and surrounding areas were issued with an evacuation order on Monday morning. The US Forest Service has also announced the closure of all Californian national forests from late on Tuesday until 17 September because of the wildfires. The Caldor Fire is one of seven blazes currently active in California. The largest, the Dixie Fire, has burned more than 800,000 acres since it broke out in mid-July, and is the second-largest in California's history. 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.
9-1-21 South America's drought-hit Paraná river at 77-year low
The water levels of the Paraná river, the second-longest in South America after the Amazon, are at their lowest since 1944. The river is key to commercial shipping and fishing but also provides 40 million people with drinking water. A drought in the region means water levels have dipped so low that fishers' livelihoods are at risk. Environmentalists fear that the drought has been made more severe by deforestation and climate change. The Paraná is 4,880km (3,032 miles) long and flows south from south-east Brazil through Paraguay and Argentina. It merges with the Paraguay and Uruguay rivers to form the Río de la Plata Basin. "The Paraná is the largest, most biodiverse and the most important socio-productive wetland in Argentina," geologist Carlos Ramonell told the AFP news agency. Southern Brazil, where the Paraná's source is located, has seen three years of below-average rainfalls. As a result, the Parana's flow rate has dropped from an average of 17,000 cubic meters a second to just 6,200. The low water levels are causing problems for energy production with the hydroelectric plant that spans the Parana river between Argentina and Paraguay running at only 50%. It is also hampering the transport of goods with ships not able to load up fully in case they run aground. The Paraná is a key waterway for the transport of grains and the situation is forcing exporters to consider using land routes. Forecasters say the drought could last until 2022.
9-1-21 Air pollution may reduce life expectancy of Indians by nine years, says study
Air pollution can reduce the life expectancy of Indians by nine years, says a report by a US research group. The study says 480 million people in northern India face the "most extreme levels of air pollution in the world" and, over time, these high levels have expanded to cover other parts too. Strong clean air policies can add up to five years to people's lives, it adds. Indian cities routinely dominate global pollution rankings and bad air kills more than a million people every year. The report by The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) says that north India breathes "pollution levels that are 10 times worse than those found anywhere else in the world". This air pollution has spread over decades beyond the region to western and central Indian states such as Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh where the average person is now losing between two and a half-to-three years of life expectancy as compared to early 2000, it adds. New data from the Air Quality Life Index report by EPIC says that residents in the capital, Delhi, could see up to 10 years added to their lives if air pollution was reduced to meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline of 10 µg/m³. In 2019, India's average particulate matter concentration was 70.3 µg/m³ - the highest in the world. The report says that Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, which together account for nearly a quarter of the global population, consistently figure in the top five most polluted countries on earth. EPIC acknowledges certain policy changes made by the Indian government to fight air pollution, such as the 2019 National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), which aims to reduce dangerous particulate pollution in the country. "Achieving these goals would have a major impact on the life expectancy levels of Indians - it would increase the national life expectancy level by nearly two years, and three-and-a-half years for residents of Delhi," it says. China, the report says, is one example of how effective policy can produce "sharp reductions in pollution in short order". Since 2013, the country has reduced its particulate production by 29%.