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74 Global Warming News Articles
for February of 2022
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2-28-22 Photosynthesis rates are increasing globally due to rising CO2 levels
An analysis of plants at 68 sites around the world finds evidence that rates of photosynthesis have risen since the year 2000. Since the early 2000s, the growing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has led to an increased rate of photosynthesis around the world, climate scientists have found. Plants produce energy through photosynthesis which takes in CO2 from the atmosphere or from water – a process known as primary production. The rate of this can increase in response to rising concentrations of the gas. This phenomenon is known as the CO2 fertilisation effect. Now, Chi Chen at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues have quantified the CO2 fertilisation effect globally for plants on land. The team collected data from 68 sites around the world – with croplands, grasslands and forests – that measured the changes in CO2 concentration in the air directly above the plants between 2001 and 2014. Across the sites, the rate of photosynthesis increased, with an extra 9.1 grams of carbon taken up per square metre per year since 2001. The team calculated that around 44 per cent of this increase can be attributed to enhanced CO2 levels in the atmosphere, while 28 per cent was down to rising temperatures. The team then combined the data from these sites with satellite data and a global vegetation model to estimate the change over time worldwide. They found that global primary production increased, with an extra 4.4 grams of carbon taken up per square metre by plants every year since 2001. The difference between the CO2 fertilisation effects at the sites and globally is due to a patchier global distribution of plants and the fact that vegetation regions will vary in productivity. In recent decades, the total surface area of leaves around the world has increased. “This is largely due to this CO2 fertilisation,” says Chen.

2-28-22 Climate change causing widespread and irreversible impacts, says IPCC
A new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that up to 3.6 billion people are highly vulnerable to climate change, largely from extreme heat, heavy rainfall, drought and fire. Climate change is already wreaking widespread, pervasive and sometimes irreversible impacts on people and ecosystems globally, according to a landmark report warning it has become increasingly clear there are limits to how much humanity can adapt to a warming world. The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that up to 3.6 billion people live in areas highly vulnerable to climate change, largely from extreme heat, heavy rainfall, drought and weather setting the stage for fires. During a press conference, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres called it “an atlas of human suffering”. Since the last assessment by the panel eight years ago, it has increasingly been possible to pin the impacts of extreme weather events on human-made climate change. A clear message from the 35-page summary for policy makers (the full report is 3675 pages) is that holding warming to the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement will limit the impacts and make adaptation more feasible. “We have an increased understanding that there are limits to adaptation,” says Rachel Warren, a lead author on the report, based at the University of East Anglia, UK. “What has come out is a really, really strong message that at 2°C the risks are several times greater than they are at 1.5°C. Many things become much, much more difficult to manage at 2°C than 1.5°.” Guterres put it bluntly: “Delay means death.”

2-28-22 Climate change: IPCC report warns of ‘irreversible’ impacts of global warming
Many of the impacts of global warming are now simply "irreversible" according to the UN's latest assessment. But the authors of a new report say that there is still a brief window of time to avoid the very worst. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that humans and nature are being pushed beyond their abilities to adapt. Over 40% of the world's population are "highly vulnerable" to climate, the sombre study finds. But there's hope that if the rise in temperatures is kept below 1.5C, it would reduce projected losses. Just four months on from COP26, where world leaders committed themselves to rapid action on climate change, this new UN study shows the scale of their task. "Our report clearly indicates that places where people live and work may cease to exist, that ecosystems and species that we've all grown up with and that are central to our cultures and inform our languages may disappear," said Prof Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC. "So this is really a key moment. Our report points out very clearly, this is the decade of action, if we are going to turn things around." This report from the IPCC is the second of three reviews from the world's foremost body of climate researchers. Last August, the first instalment highlighted the scale of the effect that humans were having on the climate system. This new report looks at the causes, impacts and solutions to climate change. It gives the clearest indication to date of how a warmer world is affecting all the living things on Earth. The report is a stark account of the fierce consequences that the world is already experiencing, like growing numbers of people dying from heat. But the authors say that there is still a brief window of time to avoid the very worst. "One of the things that I think is really, really clear in the report is that yes, things are bad, but actually, the future depends on us, not the climate," said Dr Helen Adams, a lead author on the report from King's College, London. The report shows that extreme weather events linked to climate change like floods and heatwaves are hitting humans and other species much harder than previous assessments indicated.

2-28-22 Record flooding in Australia driven by La Niña and climate change
A slow-moving low-pressure system has dropped 790 millimetres of rain on Brisbane in one week, causing floods that have claimed eight lives. Record-breaking rain on the east coast of Australia over the past week has caused severe flooding that has claimed eight lives and damaged thousands of properties. The same region was hit by devastating floods last year and wildfires the year before, suggesting that predictions of more extreme weather due to climate change are coming true. The city of Brisbane in Queensland is one of the worst-affected areas, having been pounded by a record 790 millimetres of rain in the week up to 28 February. In comparison, London records 690 millimetres in an average year. “This rain bomb is just really, you know, it’s unrelenting… It’s just coming down in buckets,” state premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told media on 27 February. About 18,000 homes in Brisbane and surrounding areas have been flooded and more than 50,000 are without power. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said on 27 February it was receiving 100 requests for help every hour. An emergency services officer whose vehicle was swept away on the way to rescue a trapped family was among those who have lost their lives. Many others are missing. The deluge is now edging south into northern New South Wales. The city of Lismore is experiencing its worst flooding ever after its river rose to 14.4 metres on 28 February, 2 metres higher than its previous record from 1954. Videos from Lismore posted on social media show homes and shops underwater and people waiting to be rescued from their roofs. The intense rainfall is due to a very slow-moving low-pressure system dragging moist air from the Coral Sea onto the east coast, says Nina Ridder at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. “Because it’s so slow-moving – it’s basically stationary – it’s dumping all the water that it has on the same area,” she says.

2-28-22 Australia floods: Eight dead in ‘unprecedented’ weather emergency
Intense rain and record-breaking floods have hit eastern Australia, killing eight people. A river in the northern New South Wales town of Lismore has broken its banks and risen to 14.37m (47ft). Meanwhile in Queensland, the Brisbane River is flooding, causing extensive damage.

2-26-22 Cleaning products cause indoor pollution levels similar to a busy road
Fragrant chemicals in scented surface cleaners react with ozone to produce pollutant particles that may be harmful to the respiratory system. Scented surface cleaning products can expose you to a similar amount of pollutant particles as a busy urban road used by 28,000 vehicles a day. The findings suggest that professional cleaners may be especially at risk of harm caused by indoor pollutants. Surface cleaning products often contain fragrant chemicals called monoterpenes that smell like citrus or pine. Monoterpenes easily evaporate into the air where they react with unstable molecules such as ozone to produce pollutant particles called secondary organic aerosols (SOAs). SOAs – which are also generated by vehicle fumes – can irritate your airways. “The smaller the particles are, the deeper they go into the lung,” says Colleen Rosales at Indiana University. “Smaller particles cause serious respiratory problems, such as inflammation. They can also introduce chemicals into the bloodstream.” Rosales and her colleagues cleaned the floor of an office room for 15 minutes using a mop soaked in a scented commercial cleaning product and repeated this a few hours later. The team used particle counters to track the levels of small SOAs – with a diameter of 10 nanometres or less – in the air during and after cleaning. By modelling how particles enter the respiratory system, they calculated that being in a room during 1.5 hours of mopping would expose the lungs to similar pollutant particle levels as spending 1.5 to 6 hours by a busy road. This comparison was based on previously published pollution data from a road used by thousands of vehicles a day and lined by multistorey buildings. More research is needed to establish the health effects of these indoor pollutants, the team says.

2-24-22 Government climate advisers say cut fossil fuels to lower energy bills
The best way to ease consumers' pain from high energy prices is to stop using fossil fuels rather than drill for more of them, the government's climate advisers say. Some Tory MPs want the government to expand production of shale and North Sea gas, saying it would lower bills. But advisers said UK-produced gas would be sold internationally and barely reduce the consumer price. They said wind and solar power, as well as home insulation, is a better route. The report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC) comes at a time when household energy bills are rising quickly. There is also international uncertainty over gas supplies due to the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The committee warned that new fossil fuel projects in the North Sea would, in some cases, not deliver gas until 2050. That’s the date when climate laws stipulate that the UK must be almost completely weaned off gas. The committee said it favours tighter restrictions on drilling in the North Sea, and it favours a "presumption against exploration". But it won’t go so far as recommending these actions to ministers because it said there are finely-balanced arguments for and against drilling. British-produced gas, for instance, is extracted causing less damage to the climate than imports, although it’s impossible to say whether other exporters will reduce their own emissions in future. What’s more, a so-called windfall tax might be imposed on the rising profits of oil firms – and the cash given back to consumers. These uncertainties mean that decisions on whether to drill more in the North Sea must be left to ministers, the committee says. The oil and gas industry feels it has a strong case because of its lower-than-average emissions. Environmentalists are angry that the committee hasn’t followed the recommendation of the International Energy Agency (IEA) and ruled out further fossil fuel exploration because enough has been discovered already. “We think the UK - with its diversified economy and its large historic emissions - should be the ones leading the way on recommending no further oil and gas exploration,” Doug Parr from Greenpeace told BBC News. Chris Stark, chief executive of the CCC, said the committee was disappointed with the UK oil and gas industry's ambitions to cut its own operational emissions.

2-24-22 UK advisers urge tougher climate tests on new oil and gas projects
It is naive and wrong to think increasing domestic oil and gas production is the answer to the UK energy crisis, says Chris Stark of the Climate Change Committee. Ending new UK oil and gas production is credible and would send a clear signal to the world that the country is serious about meeting global temperature goals, according to the UK government’s climate advisers. But the Climate Change Committee (CCC) stopped short of urging an end to issuing new oil and gas exploration licences, calling instead for a tightening of proposed government tests to decide whether new projects are compatible with climate targets. The independent group also said it wanted to “bust the myth” that drilling for more oil and gas was the answer to the current shock of high energy prices, as some have suggested. Chris Stark, the chief executive of the CCC, said those advocating ramping up UK production are “naive” because it will take too long and won’t change what consumers pay because prices are set internationally. “The very best way to shelter ourselves from the kind of price volatility we are seeing is to pursue net zero,” says Stark. “It’s a winning strategy for the climate; it’s also a very good strategy for energy security.” In a letter to the UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng today, the CCC said there should be a “presumption against exploration” and that ending new exploration would send a “clear signal” the UK is committed to the goal of keeping the world’s temperature below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. “We think an end to UK production is credible,” says Stark. However, the advisers said they couldn’t tell the government to stop approving new fields because the impact of such a move on global oil and gas production was too unclear and there are energy security and job issues that are beyond the CCC’s remit and are for politicians to consider.

2-24-22 Cost of new UK underground nuclear waste facility jumps to £53 billion
A larger volume of waste and 'more realistic' scope of costs has resulted in a bigger price tag for building and operating a long-term storage facility for radioactive waste. The cost of a proposed underground storage facility to safely house the UK’s nuclear waste for millennia has risen to as much as £53 billion in the past four years, more than double the previous estimate, according to a new government report. The UK currently stores its 133,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste above ground, and the quantity is projected to swell to more than 4 million cubic metres in future. In 2018, the government rebooted its search for a community in England willing to host an underground store, known as a geological disposal facility, after a previous effort was rejected by local authorities in 2013. Four years ago, the project was estimated to cost between £12 billion and £20 billion to build and operate for 150 years. However, in an annual report published last Friday, UK government agency Nuclear Waste Services (NWS) revised the figure up to between £20 billion and £53 billion. John Corderoy at NWS says the huge increase is due to a broader scope of costs and being more realistic. The wide range of the estimate is due to the potentially large differences in where the facility could be situated, including factors such as transport, flooding and geology. But the biggest increase comes from expecting more waste, including legacy radioactive material from a fleet of new nuclear plants, as well as uranium and plutonium that were considered an asset in the past, but is now be considered waste. “We’re counting more things,” says Corderoy. Roy Payne at GDFWatch, a UK non-profit, says: “The initially eye-popping increase in the upper projected costs can probably be explained by the change of management and culture at NWS that takes a more informed and realistic view of the project, the external market and geopolitical factors.”

2-24-22 Fix the Planet newsletter: Climate action needs more than technofixes
Why climate action will require both societal and behavioural change to be effective. Welcome back to Fix the Planet. Last week the newsletter took a break while I was in Germany’s Ahr valley reporting on the aftermath of last year’s devastating floods in the region. The flooding was exactly the sort of climate impact that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is expected to warn about in a landmark report due out on Monday. You can read my report on the Ahr valley here. Today’s newsletter, however, is about climate solutions, not impacts and adaptations. I often focus on technofixes, energy innovation and big bits of hardware, from battery-powered planes and unusual new forms of energy storage to mini nuclear plants and tidal power. But as the UK’s Climate Change Committee has made clear, 62 per cent of the measures needed to meet the country’s net zero goal will require some form of behaviour or societal change: from diet shifts to overhauls in how we heat our homes. That’s why this week I spoke to Patrick Devine-Wright at the University of Exeter, UK, about the role the social sciences have to play in hitting net zero. Earlier this month, the UK government , headed by Devine-Wright. One of the project’s key aims will be to help researchers from different disciplines, such as geographers and psychologists, work in a more interdisciplinary manner, and prevent social scientists being siloed off from engineers and other players. “In the new landscape of big, complex problems like climate change, single disciplines are unlikely to tackle the problem,” says Devine-Wright. A key sign that social sciences are coming to the forefront of climate action will arrive in early April with another big report from the IPCC, titled Mitigation of Climate Change. For the first time the report will include a social sciences chapter.

2-24-22 'Dinosaur asteroid' wrought springtime devastation
Scientists can't pinpoint the exact year that an asteroid came out of the sky to wipe out the dinosaurs but they're sure now that the huge space rock struck Earth in the Northern Hemisphere springtime. And they think the seasonal timing may have been a critical factor that influenced which animal groups managed to live through the calamity. Clearly, it made no difference for the dinosaurs, but it might have done for certain mammals, birds and plants. It could have made all the difference. This was perhaps particularly so for those species living in the Southern Hemisphere, where it would have been autumn or early winter at the time of impact. "In the Southern Hemisphere, many organisms would have been in hibernation or sheltering. That could have helped them," says Melanie During from Uppsala University, Sweden. "In spring, you expect animals to be tending to their offspring which are very fragile, or perhaps they are still tending to eggs, waiting for them to hatch or be looking for food. That puts them in a vulnerable position." Ms During has just published her analysis of fossil paddlefish and sturgeon at a site called Tanis in North Dakota, US. These investigations suggest very strongly that the fish died in springtime. If you haven't yet heard of Tanis, you're going to - a lot - over the next few years. It's the place that records in extraordinary detail not just the day 66 million years ago that a 12km-wide asteroid slammed down on the planet, but the minutes and hours that followed the catastrophic impact. The giant space rock actually struck Earth in what is now the Gulf of Mexico, some 3,000km away from Tanis, but such was the energy imparted in the event, its devastation was felt far and wide. The North Dakota fossil site holds the remains of fish hurled on to land and buried in sediment by waves of water set in train by unimaginable earth tremors. The fish have particles stuck in their gills. These are the spherules of molten rock kicked out from the impact to then rain down across the planet.

2-23-22 Are we on the verge of a global initiative to clean up ocean plastics?P
A global summit on clearing up the oceans has produced big promises – is it just blah, blah, blah, or can we make the future of plastic fantastic, asks Graham Lawton. IN JUNE 2021, the government of the Seychelles decided it was time to stamp out what it had come to see as a dangerous recreational substance: balloon latex. Too many people were taking balloons to the beach and the popped remains were finding their way into the ocean to be swallowed by turtles. The government had already banned most other single-use plastic items, including straws, bags, eating utensils and cups. The balloon ban was the final warning that, in the Seychelles at least, the party is over. The country’s war on plastic was inspired in part by its stewardship of Aldabra, a large coral atoll 1120 kilometres south-west of the main island Mahé. Nobody lives there apart from a dozen or so scientists. Visitor numbers are restricted to a few hundred day trippers per year. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and a strict nature reserve. And still it has a major plastic pollution problem. “We removed thousands of tonnes of plastic from the atoll,” Seychelles president Wavel Ramkalawan told the recent One Oceans Summit in Brest, France. There was much discussion of the pervasive plastics problem at the summit, which was convened by President Emmanuel Macron of France – the world’s largest ocean country by virtue of its overseas departments and regions – and attended by many world leaders. “It’s a high-level summit with the presence of heads of state,” said marine ecologist Enric Sala, a National Geographic explorer in residence, ahead of the meeting. And things happen at heads-of-state summits.”Things did happen. As at last year’s COP26 conference in Glasgow, world leaders fell over themselves to make promises about ocean conservation and sustainable development. With both meetings, it remains to be seen whether these lofty words will translate into action. But on plastic pollution, the action has already begun. “We are now seeing growing backing for a strong, comprehensive, source-to-sea global agreement,” says Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme.

2-23-22 Rising seas could submerge Rio and Jakarta by 2100 – what can we do?
Smart engineering solutions such as “sand motors” and artificial reefs will defend our coasts for a while. But in many places, conversations are already turning to a managed retreat inland. A MINATH SHAUNA grew up on the Addu Atoll, a small group of islands in the Maldives whose villages and beach resorts are spread around a central lagoon. When viewed from above, it all looks about as permanent as the ring left by a coffee cup. Low-lying islands like those of the Maldives, where half a million people live barely a metre above the Indian Ocean, are ground zero when it comes to the threat of rising sea levels driven by global warming. “One of my earliest memories is of a tidal swell and a big breadfruit tree falling down right in front of our house,” says Aminath, now in her 30s. “This is something I have grown up with.” But the effects of rising seas will be felt far and wide. In the worst-case scenario, average sea level could rise by nearly 2.5 metres this century. Even a fraction of this would be catastrophic. Globally, over a quarter of a billion people live less than 2 metres above sea level, including in cities such as Jakarta, Rio de Janeiro and Miami. Aminath knows this all too well. As the environment and climate change minister for the Maldives, she is part of a community of politicians and scientists trying to work out how quickly sea levels will rise, if this can be slowed and what it means for us all. In some places, new ways of holding back the tide may buy us a few decades. Elsewhere, this won’t be possible. We are facing a disaster unfolding in slow motion. Responding effectively means a sea change in the way we think. Earth’s water lives almost entirely in the oceans or in polar ice caps. Sea levels are largely determined by the balance between evaporating seawater and melting ice returning as liquid to the oceans. If evaporation and melting are equal, all is well. “But as the climate warms, evaporation and snowfall increases a little bit, but the amount of water returned goes way, way up,” says glaciologist Sridhar Anandakrishnan at Pennsylvania State University.

2-23-22 After deadly floods, can Germany adapt to its climate future?
As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prepares to release a major report on adapting to climate change, Adam Vaughan visits the site of 2021's deadly floods in Ahr, Germany, to discover how locals are rebuilding. “I SAW a tree with people sitting in it, crying and screaming. I could hear them despite all the noise. But I couldn’t help them. I didn’t know what to do,” says Melanie Schultz-Coerne, crying too as she recalls the traumatic night last year when Germany experienced its worst floods in six decades. She doesn’t know what happened to the campers she saw, but 134 people in the country’s Ahr valley died during the floods in mid-July, with hundreds more injured. The increasing threat of such extreme weather events and their economic and human costs will come to the fore on 28 February when scientists release a major assessment of the impacts of climate change and, crucially, how we adapt to them (see “A road map for adaptation“). The last version of this report, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2014, identified the harm wrought by floods as a key risk facing Europe. One of the worst-hit areas last year was Ahr, named after the usually placid river snaking through it. Weeks after the flood hit Ahr, researchers linked it to climate change, finding the event to be a 1-in-500-year disaster. Walking alongside the Ahr now, it is hard to imagine the river wreaking destruction on this affluent wine-growing region, which is popular with hikers and tourists. “We were a little paradise, with vineyards, a small river, bicycles. Then, one night, everything’s gone,” says Markus Kelter in Walporzheim. Standing in the gutted interior of the house where his family have lived since the 19th century, he is thankful that this time only the building was damaged. In 1804, children in his family died in a flood here.

2-23-22 Global warming and land use change to drive more extreme wildfires
Extreme wildfires are set to become more frequent, increasing by around 50% by the end of this century, according to a new UN report. The report finds there's an elevated risk in the Arctic and other regions previously unaffected by fires. The scientists define extreme fires as extraordinary conflagrations that occur roughly once in a hundred years. Researchers say that rising temperatures and changes to the way we use land will drive the increase. The new study calls for a radical reallocation of financial resources from fighting fires to prevention. The scientists from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) say that large fires that burn for weeks are already becoming hotter and burning longer in many parts of the planet where wildfires have always occurred. But they are now beginning to flare up in remote northern areas, in drying peatlands and on thawing permafrost. This latest study says that there will be a global increase in extreme fires of up to 14% by 2030, compared to the number recorded in 2010-2020. The increase could reach 30% by 2050 and 50% by the end of the century. "The analysis was based on the definition of a catastrophic fire being one that would occur once every 100 years, so it's a very low frequency fire event," said Dr Andrew Sullivan from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Canberra, Australia. "The result was that the potential for that sort of fire would increase by a factor of 1.3 to 1.5 times, based on global analysis of fire frequency." The results were similar in a low or high carbon emissions scenario. The study defines extreme conflagrations as fires that are extraordinary or unusual - but this definition can differ markedly depending on your location. "If you imagine a peat fire in the Arctic, it's spreading at centimetres an hour. It's not necessarily a raging inferno, but it's unusual and spreading over immense areas because there's no one there to do anything about it," said Dr Sullivan.

2-23-22 Climate change: Can the UK afford its net zero policies?
With the cost of living rising, are Britain's plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions too expensive? A small but vocal group of Conservative MPs are arguing that with energy prices soaring, the government should rethink how it reaches what's known as 'net zero' by 2050. The group has made a number of key arguments. So what are they saying, and what does the data tell us? Three years ago the goal of net zero was written into UK law with the backing of MPs from all sides. Broadly speaking it's a commitment to transform the way our economy operates. Net zero means not adding to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Achieving it means reducing emissions as much as possible, as balancing out any that remain. There's consensus among the world's scientists that it's vital if we're to have a chance of keeping global temperature rises to manageable levels. The Net Zero Scrutiny Group is made up of about 20 Conservative MPs and peers and was set up last summer by prominent Eurosceptics Craig Mackinlay and Steve Baker. In a letter published in the Telegraph in January the group argued that while the rise in the global cost of gas was contributing to the crisis, the UK government was causing energy prices to increase "faster than any other competitive country" through "taxation and environmental levies". In the weeks that have followed there have been a steady flow of articles in sympathetic newspapers, questioning the logic behind the net zero strategy. The NZSG argue that the price of reaching net zero is too great, the plans too hasty, and that Britain in 2022 is not in a position to afford it. "It would be more sensible to 'backload' Net Zero closer to 2050 than 'frontload' now as we're attempting to do," Mr Mackinlay told BBC News in an email. That's at odds with the Treasury's Office for Business Responsibility which says that delaying decisive action on climate change by ten years could end up doubling the total cost.

2-22-22 Deforestation threat to Amazon indigenous areas if protected status changed - report
Areas of Amazon rainforest with a combined area the size of England could be threatened by new mining and deforestation, a new report claims. It is currently illegal to mine in these protected indigenous territories of the Amazon. But Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro wants to change this to allow more exploitation for economic development. US and UK companies are among those who had applied to open new mines, the report says. But Anglo American and Vale both say they have withdrawn their applications. Protecting the Amazon is crucial in the fight to curb climate change because its enormous number of trees soak up carbon from the atmosphere. Thousands of indigenous people who live in these areas are also threatened by new developments. "We are looking at deforestation in some of the most pristine areas of the Amazon. It will be a tragedy if mining on indigenous lands goes ahead," researcher Rosana Miranda, who wrote the report for NGO Amazon Watch, told BBC News. "Are we willing to give up incredibly rich biodiversity and cultural diversity just to extract more gold and copper for international shareholders?" she added. Amazon Watch and the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil are identifying in real-time live applications to Brazil's National Mining Agency to begin mining projects in protected areas. The latest figure is 2,622 applications. Brazilian company Vale has filed the largest number with 75 applications, while UK multi-national Anglo-American has 65. Both companies had previously promised to withdraw some applications for mining in these areas after pressure from campaigners. In total, 570 companies have filed for permission to begin work in areas affecting 260 indigenous lands, covering 101,000 square kilometres (10.1 million ha). Almost half are for gold mining. Anglo American told BBC News that it made applications to mine on indigenous lands but withdrew them "several years ago". It added: "Several of these applications have not yet been removed from the database of the National Mining Agency (ANM). Anglo American is working with Brazilian government representatives to ensure that on-line tenement databases actually reflect those that have been formally approved."

2-22-22 Research stations and tourists are hastening snow melt in Antarctica
Vehicles and power generators in Antarctica produce black carbon pollution that settles on the snow, causing more of it to melt in the summer. Pollution from increasing human activity in Antarctica is darkening the snow, causing it to melt sooner than usual near research facilities and popular tourist sites. During Antarctica’s summer, which typically runs from November to March, up to 5500 research personnel live there. Between 2016 and 2020, 53,000 tourists also visited the continent each summer on average. Rising human activity in the region has led to an increase in pollution, including black carbon, also known as soot, which comes from planes, ships and helicopters as well as the generators that power research stations. Raúl Cordero at the University of Santiago, Chile, and his colleagues decided to measure the impact of this black carbon pollution on the snow in Antarctica. Over four summers between 2016 and 2020, the team collected 155 samples of snow from 28 sites along the path of tourist routes and research stations. The sites spanned 2000 kilometres, from King George Island near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula to the Union Glacier Camp in the south. The researchers found there was an average of 3 nanograms of black carbon per gram of snow in the samples. This is up to four times higher than the levels in Antarctica’s more remote regions, says Cordero. The highest levels of soot, of around 8 nanograms per gram of snow, were found in the north near the Argentinian Esperanza Base, where there are more research facilities. The black carbon that settles on the snow can accelerate its melting. “When the snow becomes a bit darker, it absorbs extra solar radiation,” says Cordero. “That extra energy facilitates the melting of the snow.”

2-22-22 Can a tech billionaire squash Australia’s coal industry by buying it?
Frustrated with the Australian government’s inaction on climate change, software king Mike Cannon-Brookes is trying to buy several big coal plants so he can shut them down in favour of renewables. Mike Cannon-Brookes, the third-richest person in Australia, has launched an audacious bid to buy the country’s biggest electricity company – and shut its coal-fired power plants. It is a bold approach to decarbonisation, but can he pull it off? Australia currently produces the highest carbon emissions per capita in the world from burning coal for power generation. The country’s government is highly attached to fossil fuels. Not long before becoming the current prime minister, Scott Morrison brought a lump of coal to parliament and announced: “This is coal. Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you.” Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of software giant Atlassian, has been a vocal critic of the government’s climate inaction. Now, he is using his net worth of A$20 billion to try to take matters into his own hands. On 19 February, he made an A$8 billion bid in partnership with Canadian asset management firm Brookfield to buy electricity company AGL, which owns three of Australia’s 16 coal plants. If successful, they will spend another A$20 billion replacing these coal plants with renewable assets like solar, wind and battery infrastructure by 2030.AGL knocked back the bid, saying it was too low. But Cannon-Brookes told Australian broadcaster ABC on 21 February that negotiations are ongoing. If the takeover goes ahead, it will mark the beginning of the largest decarbonisation project in the world. AGL is currently Australia’s biggest single greenhouse gas emitter and produces more emissions each year than Sweden’s annual total. But is a software maker up to the task of running an electricity company? Tim Buckley at Climate Energy Finance, an advisory firm in Sydney, believes that Cannon-Brookes’s tech background could actually come in handy, since smart software is increasingly being used to deliver renewable energy more efficiently.

2-21-22 Base of the Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than we thought
As meltwater trickles down through the Greenland ice sheet, it heats up – which means that some areas at the base of the ice sheet are melting 100 times faster than we thought. A new source of melting at the bottom of ice sheets could mean they thaw more quickly and raise sea levels faster than previously thought. Ice sheets, glacial features which cover an area greater than 50,000 square kilometres, are difficult to measure at their base because of the ice depth. This makes it hard to model the dynamics by which they move and melt. Now, Poul Christoffersen at the University of Cambridge and his colleagues have found a way to measure the rate of melting underneath the Greenland ice sheet, the second largest ice sheet in the world, using radar with a wavelength of just a few millimetres and direct borehole measurements. Christoffersen and his team found that the rate of melting at the bottom of a vertical crack which water flows down was 100 times greater than previous estimates, almost as high as the melting at the sun-exposed surface. They think the enhanced effect comes from the conversion of gravitational energy that the meltwater has at the surface into heat as it trickles downwards, which drives the melting of the ice at the bottom. “Models do not include this effect, but it’s actually quite substantial,” says Christoffersen. “The melting that’s generated through this process is several orders of magnitude higher than [melting from] other heat sources such as friction and geothermal heat flux [meaning the effect of heat from Earth’s interior].” The Greenland ice sheet is already thought to be the largest global contributor to sea level change, but this new effect could make it an even larger source. Christoffersen and his team estimate that, as more meltwater is generated at the surface in future, the heat source [at the base] could grow to be seven times as large as it is today by 2100. Because the heating comes from gravity, it could mean that other deep ice sheets also have a higher rate of melting than previously thought.

2-21-22 Engineered bacteria produce chemicals with negative carbon emissions
Bacteria have been modified to produce chemicals found in paint remover and hand sanitiser from carbon dioxide in the air, meaning they have negative emissions compared with traditional industrial methods. Bacteria engineered to turn carbon dioxide into compounds used in paint remover and hand sanitiser could offer a carbon-negative way of manufacturing industrial chemicals. Michael Köpke at LanzaTech in Illinois and his colleagues searched through strains of an ethanol-producing bacterium, Clostridium autoethanogenum, to identify enzymes that would allow the microbes to instead create acetone, which is used to make paint and nail polish remover. Then they combined the genes for these enzymes into one organism. They repeated the process for isopropanol, which is used as a disinfectant. The engineered bacteria ferment carbon dioxide from the air to produce the chemicals. “You can imagine the process similar to brewing beer,” says Köpke. “But instead of using a yeast strain that eats sugar to make alcohol, we have a microbe that can eat carbon dioxide.” After scaling up the initial experiments by a factor of 60, the team found that the process locks in roughly 1.78 kilograms of carbon per kilogram of acetone produced, and 1.17 kg per kg of isopropanol. These chemicals are normally made using fossil fuels, emitting 2.55 kg and 1.85 kg of carbon dioxide per kg of acetone and isopropanol respectively. This equates to up to a 160 per cent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, if this method were to be broadly adopted, say the researchers. The technique could also be made more sustainable by using waste gas from other industrial processes, such as steel manufacturing. “As a population, we are looking for ways to better partner with the planet right now,” says team member Michael Jewett at Northwestern University, Illinois. “What is exciting about this work is that really advances and applies our capacities to partner with biology, to make what’s needed when and where it’s needed on a sustainable and renewable basis.”

2-20-22 Ethiopia starts generating power from River Nile dam
A controversial Ethiopian dam on the Blue Nile river began generating electricity for the first time on Sunday, according to state TV. The $4.2bn (£3.8bn) dam, located in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region, has been a source of contention between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan since its construction started in 2011. Sudan and Egypt fear the project could reduce their share of Nile waters. Ethiopia insists the dam is key to its development. The so-called Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd) is Africa's biggest hydroelectric project to date. The Gerd is expected to generate over 5,000 megawatts of electricity, doubling the nation's electricity output when it is fully completed. It is currently 83.9% complete, the state-owned ETV News channel said on Sunday. The Ethiopian government insists it will transform the national economy, which has been severely damaged by drought and war, when it is fully operational. In a televised opening ceremony on Sunday, Mr Abiy toured the dam's power generation station and pressed a number of buttons which initiated production, according to officials. "This is good news for our continent and the downstream countries with whom we aspire to work together," Mr Abiy wrote on Twitter. But the dam's construction has led to discord with Egypt and Sudan. Ethiopia has been diverting Nile water to fill a vast reservoir behind the dam. Egypt, which lies downstream and depends almost completely on the Nile for its irrigation and drinking water, is worried this will affect the levels of water flowing into the country. It therefore wants a guarantee of a certain of volume of water coming into Egypt. But Ethiopia is reluctant to be tied to a certain figure of how much water to release as its priority is to make sure there is enough water to operate Africa's largest hydroelectric plant. Sudan is also worried about how the dam will affect its water levels.

2-18-22 Most carbon capture technologies create more emissions than they save
Carbon capture and utilisation technologies, which aim to pull carbon dioxide from the air and use it for emissions-lowering processes, emit more carbon than they removet. Most carbon capture and utilisation (CCU) technologies, which pull carbon dioxide from the air and use it for other emissions-lowering processes, emit more carbon than they capture. This finding suggests that CCU projects, which have attracted billions of dollars in investment, won’t do much to achieve the Paris Agreement‘s emissions targets to prevent warming by more than 1.5°C. CCU technologies take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, either capturing it directly from the air or absorbing it at polluting sources, and puts it to use in processes such as making fuel, plastics and concrete. Unlike straightforward carbon capture technology, CCU doesn’t store the CO2 for long periods. CCU technologies either use energy to convert CO2 into fuels or use CO2 itself to drive other industrial processes like oil extraction or growing plants. Kiane de Kleijne at Radboud University in the Netherlands and her colleagues assessed the life cycles of more than 40 CCU processes against three criteria: could they permanently store CO2; does the CO2 they collect come from atmospheric and natural sources; and does the process have zero emissions. Kleijne and her team found that the majority of these technologies failed to meet these criteria, with 32 of the 40 emitting more carbon than they captured. Only four methods appeared to be ready for use while also emitting low amounts of carbon. These include technologies that make use of CO2 in concrete production and for oil extraction. “If you’re stuck with such a technology that does not have the potential to really reduce emissions drastically, and preferably to net zero, then that could be a situation that’s undesirable,” says de Kleijne.“Engaging in some of these utilisation activities actually uses more carbon,” says Stuart Haszeldine at the University of Edinburgh in the UK.

2-18-22 Climate change: Covid shutdown linked to record rainfall in China
Scientists say that a rapid drop in emissions because of Covid played a key role in record rainfall in China in 2020. The decline in greenhouse gases and small particles called aerosols caused atmospheric changes that intensified the downpours. Hundreds of people died and millions more were evacuated during a summer of record rainfall. But long-term cuts in emissions are unlikely to trigger similar events. Many parts of eastern China experienced severe flooding in June and July in 2020. The researchers say the reductions in emissions contributed about one third of the extreme summer rain. The Yangtze river saw the heaviest rainfall since 1961, with a 79% increase in June and July compared to the average for the period over the previous 41 years. A number of scientific studies have looked at what caused the flooding events, some pointing to the extreme conditions in the Indian Ocean. Now an international team has put forward a new theory. They argue that the abrupt reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols, caused by shutdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic, was a key cause of the intense downpours. In their study the authors show that over the past four decades summer rainfall over eastern and central China has decreased significantly due to the increase in the number of aerosols in the atmosphere. These particles, often associated with the burning of coal, can reduce the occurrence of large-scale storms which resulted in lower rainfall. This new study says that the absence of these particles, and lower greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 caused the opposite effect - a major increase in rain. However, the chain of events that connects the pandemic shutdown to the floods is quite complex. "There was heating over land due to aerosol reductions but also cooling over the ocean due to a decrease in greenhouse gases, which intensified the land/sea temperature difference in the summer," explained lead author Prof Yang Yang from Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, in China. "This in turn, increased sea level pressure over the South China/Philippines sea and intensified the winds bringing moist air to eastern China which then saw intense precipitation."

2-17-22 Sunlight helps clean up oil spills in the ocean more than previously thought
Solar radiation may have dissolved up to 17 percent of the surface oil from Deepwater Horizon. Sunlight may have helped remove as much as 17 percent of the oil slicking the surface of the Gulf of Mexico following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. That means that sunlight plays a bigger role in cleaning up such spills than previously thought, researchers suggest February 16 in Science Advances. When sunlight shines on spilled oil in the sea, it can kick off a chain of chemical reactions, transforming the oil into new compounds (SN: 6/12/18). Some of these reactions can increase how easily the oil dissolves in water, called photodissolution. But there has been little data on how much of the oil becomes water-soluble. To assess this, environmental chemists Danielle Haas Freeman and Collin Ward, both of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, placed samples of the Macondo oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill on glass disks and irradiated them with light using LEDs that emit wavelengths found in sunlight. The duo then chemically analyzed the irradiated oil to see how much was transformed into dissolved organic carbon. The most important factors in photodissolution, the researchers found, were the thickness of the slick and the wavelengths of light. Longer wavelengths (toward the red end of the spectrum) dissolved less oil, possibly because they are more easily scattered by water, than shorter wavelengths. How long the oil was exposed to light was not as important. Though the team didn’t specifically test for seasonal or latitude differences, computer simulations based on the lab data suggested that those factors, as well as the oil’s chemical makeup, also matter. The researchers estimate irradiation helped dissolve from 3 to 17 percent of surface oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill, comparable to processes such as evaporation and stranding on coastlines. What impact the sunlight-produced compounds might have on marine ecosystems, however, isn’t yet known.

2-16-22 Oil giants accused of greenwashing for failure over energy transition
An analysis of BP, Shell, Chevron and ExxonMobil finds a mismatch between their rhetoric on low-carbon energy and their actions and spending Four of the world’s biggest oil companies have been accused of greenwashing for failing to match their words on climate change with action, after a study concluded the firms aren’t seriously transitioning to low-carbon energy. Many international oil and gas giants have trumpeted their transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy and hydrogen in recent years, with European companies making the boldest claims. In 2020, BP and Shell both promised to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. However, an analysis of the corporate reports, statements and spending of BP, Shell and US-based Chevron and ExxonMobil found a mismatch between rhetoric and reality. “Their claims about efforts to transition to clean energy are not supported by actions and investments,” says Gregory Trencher at Kyoto University, Japan. Searching through the four firms’ annual reports from 2009 to 2020, Trencher and his colleagues found a clear increasing trend in the use of 39 keywords and phrases such as “climate change” and “transition”. However, the researchers found a lack of concrete actions to meet clean-energy targets set over the period. They also discovered that the companies were spending only a tiny fraction of the billions they invest in energy projects each year on low-carbon projects. From 2010 to the third quarter of 2018, the latest data the team could access, BP spent on average 2.3 per cent of its annual capital expenditure on low-carbon energy. Shell was on 1.33 per cent, followed by Chevron at 0.23 per cent and ExxonMobil at 0.22 per cent. The team also found “considerable evidence” of strategies hampering the companies’ ability to transition to green energy, says Trencher. For example, the companies haven’t reduced oil and gas production across the period studied: since 2015, Shell and Chevron have increased production, and BP had too until 2020.

2-16-22 The race is on to tackle climate change by pulling carbon from the air
A CATTLE shed near Edinburgh sucking up methane emissions and a team altering the acidity of seawater in the English Channel might seem unlikely prospects for avoiding increasingly dangerous climate change. But they are just two of 24 projects taking part in a £100 million UK competition for innovative ways of sucking greenhouse gases out of the air. Governments worldwide have been waking up to the need to develop ways of removing emissions from the atmosphere to meet net-zero targets, which now cover 90 per cent of the global economy. And last year’s landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was clear: removal strategies work and will be needed to “stabilise” temperature rises this century. To date, such technologies have largely existed only in virtual simulations. But 2022 looks to be the year that pilot schemes will get off the ground. “They are filling a really useful niche, going from computer models to fields and factories, where we can see how they work in real life,” says Steve Smith at the University of Oxford. Governments worldwide have been waking up to the need to develop ways of removing emissions from the atmosphere to meet net-zero targets, which now cover 90 per cent of the global economy. And last year’s landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was clear: removal strategies work and will be needed to “stabilise” temperature rises this century. To date, such technologies have largely existed only in virtual simulations. But 2022 looks to be the year that pilot schemes will get off the ground. “They are filling a really useful niche, going from computer models to fields and factories, where we can see how they work in real life,” says Steve Smith at the University of Oxford. The UK is near the forefront of the international race to develop carbon dioxide removal technologies, but is far from alone. The US passed a law that will see $447 million going to research on machines to capture CO2 from the air. Norway is working on a multibillion-dollar carbon capture and storage project, dubbed Longship, and other Nordic countries are exploring using bioenergy to draw down CO2.

2-16-22 Mudslides, flooding kill at least 94 people in Brazil
At least 94 people have been killed in Petropolis, Brazil, after heavy rains caused mudslides that destroyed homes and washed away vehicles, local government officials said Wednesday. Petropolis, also called the "Imperial City," is a mountain town above Rio de Janeiro that was a destination for Brazilian monarchs during the 19th century. On Tuesday, rainfall in Petropolis exceeded the average for all of February, Reuters reports, and widespread flooding and mudslides wreaked havoc on this town of about 300,000 people. "The situation is almost like war," Rio de Janeiro Gov. Claudio Castro told reporters on Wednesday. There are "cars hanging from poles, cars overturned, lots of mud and water still." The search continues for survivors, with some people and animals pulled from the rubble on Wednesday. More than 300 people have had to evacuate from their houses, with many finding shelter at schools and community centers. Local officials believe the death toll will continue to rise. Shopkeeper Henrique Pereira told Reuters the water came through Petropolis "very fast and with great force. My loss was 100 percent. Our life was already tough with the pandemic and less movement, and this tragedy still comes."

2-16-22 Megadrought in Southwest US worst in a millennium
The American West is experiencing its worst drought since 800AD - around the time Charlemagne ruled - according to a newly released study. The ongoing drought has seen lakes, reservoirs and rivers in California fall to record lows, exacerbating wildfires, according to scientists. The current drought is the worst 22-year dry period in the last 1,200 years - dating back to Vikings and Mayans. The last multi-decade drought occurred in the 1500s, but was not so severe. The new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change relied on data from the rings in trees and wood beams preserved at Native American archaeological sites. Images of shrunken lakes, landscape affected by wildfire followed with snow and communities without water lay bare the effects of the historic drought. The western half of the United States has been experiencing drought for much of the past two decades, according to data from the US Drought Monitor. Last year, water monitors declared a water shortage on the Colorado River, one of the biggest life sources for the US west, triggering cuts to some 40m Americans. "We have a society that's relying on there being the amount of water there was in the 1900s," the study's lead author, UCLA Professor Park Williams, told National Public Radio. "But now with the number of water molecules available to us declining, it really is time for us to get real about how much water there is for us to use." Not all droughts are due to climate change, but excess heat in the atmosphere is drawing more moisture out of the earth and making droughts worse. The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.

2-16-22 More than eight million trees lost this winter in the UK
It is the untold story of the winter storms. More than eight million trees have been brought down and many are now threatened by another two named storms bearing down on Britain. Forest managers warn that already "catastrophic" damage will be made worse by Storms Dudley and Eunice. There are warnings that the heating climate is making our weather more severe and unpredictable, and that management and planting strategies must adapt more quickly. Forest ranger Richard Tanner says that he's never seen a real battlefield, but the west shore of Windermere now reminds him of photographs he has seen. "It looks like someone's set off a bomb." All around are the giant root plates of fallen trees, some the size of caravans, studded with rocks torn from the earth. "There's three tonnes of tree and then five or six tonnes of earth maybe. And that's all got to be dealt with. We've lost thousands and thousands of trees just on this one property." Mr Tanner has looked after the South Lakes property of the National Trust for a decade, which includes the crested beech at Wray Castle. It was a champion, with the biggest girth in Britain and Ireland. "But Arwen's 90mph winds were too much." We head south to the other end of Windermere, and Great Knott Wood. In November 2021 Storm Arwen knocked down over a third of it in one night, including dozens of ancient oaks and yew trees. It's still too dangerous to allow the public back in - thousands of trees are weakened and precariously balanced. "Put it this way, we wouldn't be here if it was windy," says Heather Swift. She has cared for this site on behalf of the Woodland Trust for two decades. "We did have this nice, dappled light and shade, but now all the spring plants that are trying to come up, they're stuck under this wet, dark blanket of fallen trees." Kelvin Archer manages all the Trust's forests from the Scottish border, down to the Midlands, and across to both coasts. He says almost a quarter of the charity's standing woods - hundreds of thousands of trees - have fallen. "Climate change means that storms normally only seen in north-east Scotland are now hitting Northumberland and right across to Cumbria."

2-15-22 In new report, climate scientists estimate U.S. sea levels will rise rapidly by 2050
A new report from federal climate scientists warns that by 2050, sea levels along coastlines in the United States will rise by 10 to 12 inches. In the last century, climate change accelerated the melting of glaciers and ice caps, causing oceans to rise by about a foot. Scientists are confident that the pace will pick up even more, with the same amount of sea level rise taking place in the next 30 years. William Sweet, a sea level rise expert at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and one of the report's authors, told NPR on Tuesday that it's like "history is repeating itself, but in fast forward." The report was written by 24 leading climate scientists, using computer models and real-world information to make "the most concrete and certain sea level projections ever published for the U.S.," NPR says. The scientists said by having a more solid grasp on the situation, it will help people plan and prepare. Rising sea levels are detrimental for a range of reasons, including because it makes flooding during hurricanes more destructive and increases the likelihood of salty water entering water reservoirs, sewers, and storm drains. Because of ocean currents and the way ice is melting in different regions, sea level rise will not be uniform in the United States. The report estimates that in the Gulf Coast, there will be about a foot and a half of sea level rise by 2050, because land is also collapsing due to extraction of underground oil, gas, and drinking water. On the West Coast, the rise won't be as dramatic, with scientists predicting it will be about six inches. The report says one way to try to control rising sea levels is by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. "This is unfolding in front of our eyes, whether you're in Miami or Charleston or Norfolk or Annapolis," Sweet told NPR. "It's best to plan before the problems surface. But it's not to say we can't engineer our way out of this. We will find ways to live with the water."

2-16-22 Megadrought in Southwest US worst in a millennium
The American West is experiencing its worst drought since 800AD - around the time Charlemagne ruled - according to a newly released study. The ongoing drought has seen lakes, reservoirs and rivers in California fall to record lows, exacerbating wildfires, according to scientists. The current drought is the worst 22-year dry period in the last 1,200 years - dating back to Vikings and Mayans. The last multi-decade drought occurred in the 1500s, but was not so severe. The new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change relied on data from the rings in trees and wood beams preserved at Native American archaeological sites. Images of shrunken lakes, landscape affected by wildfire followed with snow and communities without water lay bare the effects of the historic drought. The western half of the United States has been experiencing drought for much of the past two decades, according to data from the US Drought Monitor. Last year, water monitors declared a water shortage on the Colorado River, one of the biggest life sources for the US west, triggering cuts to some 40m Americans. "We have a society that's relying on there being the amount of water there was in the 1900s," the study's lead author, UCLA Professor Park Williams, told National Public Radio. "But now with the number of water molecules available to us declining, it really is time for us to get real about how much water there is for us to use." Not all droughts are due to climate change, but excess heat in the atmosphere is drawing more moisture out of the earth and making droughts worse. The world has already warmed by about 1.2C since since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.

2-16-22 More than eight million trees lost this winter in the UK
It is the untold story of the winter storms. More than eight million trees have been brought down and many are now threatened by another two named storms bearing down on Britain. Forest managers warn that already "catastrophic" damage will be made worse by Storms Dudley and Eunice. There are warnings that the heating climate is making our weather more severe and unpredictable, and that management and planting strategies must adapt more quickly. Forest ranger Richard Tanner says that he's never seen a real battlefield, but the west shore of Windermere now reminds him of photographs he has seen. "It looks like someone's set off a bomb." All around are the giant root plates of fallen trees, some the size of caravans, studded with rocks torn from the earth. "There's three tonnes of tree and then five or six tonnes of earth maybe. And that's all got to be dealt with. We've lost thousands and thousands of trees just on this one property." Mr Tanner has looked after the South Lakes property of the National Trust for a decade, which includes the crested beech at Wray Castle. It was a champion, with the biggest girth in Britain and Ireland. "But Arwen's 90mph winds were too much." We head south to the other end of Windermere, and Great Knott Wood. In November 2021 Storm Arwen knocked down over a third of it in one night, including dozens of ancient oaks and yew trees. It's still too dangerous to allow the public back in - thousands of trees are weakened and precariously balanced. "Put it this way, we wouldn't be here if it was windy," says Heather Swift. She has cared for this site on behalf of the Woodland Trust for two decades. "We did have this nice, dappled light and shade, but now all the spring plants that are trying to come up, they're stuck under this wet, dark blanket of fallen trees." Kelvin Archer manages all the Trust's forests from the Scottish border, down to the Midlands, and across to both coasts. He says almost a quarter of the charity's standing woods - hundreds of thousands of trees - have fallen. "Climate change means that storms normally only seen in north-east Scotland are now hitting Northumberland and right across to Cumbria."

2-15-22 In new report, climate scientists estimate U.S. sea levels will rise rapidly by 2050
A new report from federal climate scientists warns that by 2050, sea levels along coastlines in the United States will rise by 10 to 12 inches. In the last century, climate change accelerated the melting of glaciers and ice caps, causing oceans to rise by about a foot. Scientists are confident that the pace will pick up even more, with the same amount of sea level rise taking place in the next 30 years. William Sweet, a sea level rise expert at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and one of the report's authors, told NPR on Tuesday that it's like "history is repeating itself, but in fast forward." The report was written by 24 leading climate scientists, using computer models and real-world information to make "the most concrete and certain sea level projections ever published for the U.S.," NPR says. The scientists said by having a more solid grasp on the situation, it will help people plan and prepare. Rising sea levels are detrimental for a range of reasons, including because it makes flooding during hurricanes more destructive and increases the likelihood of salty water entering water reservoirs, sewers, and storm drains. Because of ocean currents and the way ice is melting in different regions, sea level rise will not be uniform in the United States. The report estimates that in the Gulf Coast, there will be about a foot and a half of sea level rise by 2050, because land is also collapsing due to extraction of underground oil, gas, and drinking water. On the West Coast, the rise won't be as dramatic, with scientists predicting it will be about six inches. The report says one way to try to control rising sea levels is by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. "This is unfolding in front of our eyes, whether you're in Miami or Charleston or Norfolk or Annapolis," Sweet told NPR. "It's best to plan before the problems surface. But it's not to say we can't engineer our way out of this. We will find ways to live with the water."

2-14-22 New study finds Western U.S. megadrought is the worst in 1,200 years
The Western United States is the driest it has been in at least 1,200 years, a new study finds. The region is experiencing a megadrought, now in its 22nd year, and 2021 was one of the driest years ever recorded, researchers wrote in a study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. The megadrought does not show signs of getting better anytime soon, the researchers said, and it's believed that 42 percent of it can be directly attributed to human-caused climate change triggered by the burning of fossil fuels, The Associated Press reports. Park Williams, a climate hydrologist at the University of California Los Angeles and the study's lead author, said climate change is "changing the baseline conditions toward a drier, gradually drier state in the West and that means the worst-case scenario keeps getting worse. This is right in line with what people were thinking of in the 1900s as a worst-case scenario. But today I think we need to be even preparing for conditions in the future that are far worse than this." The researchers studied soil moisture levels in California, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, most of Oregon and Idaho, and much of New Mexico, western Colorado, northern Mexico, and the southwest corners of Texas and Montana. Using tree rings, they were able to get estimates dating back to the year 800. Williams began studying the current megadrought a few years ago, and didn't believe it would last as long as a severe, 23-year megadrought that took place in the 1500s. Usually, megadroughts start to get better after 20 years, but Williams said that even though 2019 was a wet year, 2020 and 2021 were extremely dry and "we're nowhere close to the end." Roughly 55 percent of the Western U.S. is in drought, and Williams said while the megadrought will end if there are a few good years of rain, another one will quickly replace it. Jonathan Overpeck, dean of the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan, told AP that the study, which he was not part of, is "an important wake-up call. Climate change is literally baking the water supply and forests of the Southwest, and it could get a whole lot worse if we don't halt climate change soon."

2-14-22 Flower growth in Antarctica is accelerating due to warming climate
There are only two flowering plants native to Antarctica and both have seen an explosion in their numbers in the decade from 2009 to 2019. Plants in Antarctica are growing more quickly due to climate change, which could represent a potential tipping point for the region’s changing ecosystem. Scientists have already observed increased plant growth due to climate warming in the northern hemisphere, but this is the first recorded change in the southern Antarctic. Nicoletta Cannone at the University of Insubria, Italy, and her colleagues measured the growth of the Antarctic’s only two native flowering plants, Deschampsia antarctica and Colobanthus quitensis, at a number of sites on Signy Island from 2009 to 2019. The researchers then compared their observations with surveys from the previous 50 years and found that not only had the sites become more densely populated by the plants, but they had grown faster each year as the climate warmed. The Deschampsia grew as much in the 10-year period as it had in the 50 years from 1960 to 2009, and the Colobanthus had grown five times more over the same periods. “The most novel feature of this is not the idea that something is growing faster,” says team member Peter Convey at the British Antarctic Survey, but rather that the growth seems to be accelerating. “It’s that we think we’re starting to see what is almost like a step change or a tipping point.” Matthew Davey at the Scottish Association for Marine Science in Oban, UK, agrees that “accelerated expansion is now clearly evident in the region”. “This research gives us the first comprehensive data set showing how fast and how dense the plant community may expand,” he says. Though other factors may have positively affected plant growth, such as a declining fur seal population, the link with a warming climate is clear, says Cannone.

2-12-22 Amazon deforestation: Record high destruction of trees in January
The number of trees cut down in the Brazilian Amazon in January far exceeded deforestation for the same month last year, according to government satellite data. The area destroyed was five times larger than 2021, the highest January total since records began in 2015. Environmentalists accuse Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro of allowing deforestation to accelerate. Protecting the Amazon is essential if we are to tackle climate change. Trees are felled for their wood as well as to clear spaces to plant crops to supply global food companies. At the climate change summit COP26 in Glasgow last year, more than 100 governments promised to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030. The latest satellite data from Brazil's space agency Inpe again calls into question the Brazilian government's commitment to protecting its huge rainforest, say environmentalists. "The new data yet again exposes how the government's actions contradict its greenwashing campaigns," explains Cristiane Mazzetti of Greenpeace Brazil. Greenpeace are calling on supermarkets in the UK and elsewhere to drop suppliers who are involved in deforestation from their meat and dairy supply chains suppliers. Deforestation totalled 430 square kilometres (166 square miles) in January - an area more than seven times the size of Manhattan, New York. Felling large numbers of trees at the start of the year is unusual because the rainy season usually stops loggers from accessing dense forest. Brazil's vast rainforest absorbs huge amounts of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, acting as what's known as a carbon sink. But the more trees cut down, the less the forest can soak up emissions. But the area is also home to communities who say they need to use the forest for mining and commercial farming in order to make a living. At the same time, indigenous communities living in the Amazon fight to protect the rainforest and their ways of life. Mr Bolsonaro has weakened environmental protections for the region and argued that the government should exploit the area to reduce poverty.

2-11-22 Cold blob in Atlantic may be slowing ice loss from Iceland’s glaciers
Iceland’s glaciers are melting as a consequence of climate change, but the rate of loss has fallen in the last decade perhaps because a blob of cold water in the Atlantic is cooling the island. Iceland’s glaciers are not melting as fast as expected, because they are close to a temporary cool blob in the North Atlantic Ocean. Brice Noël at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and his colleagues devised a model to reconstruct the shrinking of Iceland’s glaciers between 1958 and the present day. The model was based on regional data from the surrounding North Atlantic, as well as atmospheric data and information from the glaciers themselves. The team then used this data to predict what will happen to the country’s glaciers between now and 2100. The researchers found that while Iceland’s glaciers – which cover about 10 per cent of the country – started melting more quickly around 1995. But, in agreement with previously published work, they found that this rate of loss slowed after 2011. “We already knew Iceland’s glaciers were melting slower from satellites but with this model we could link this to the development of a cool blob in the ocean,” Noël says. This ‘cool blob’ is a spot in the North Atlantic, just south of Greenland, which is particularly cold. “We don’t have conclusive evidence for what caused this blob or how big it really is as it’s always fluctuating,” says Noël. The team estimate that before 2011, Iceland was losing about 11 gigatonnes of ice a year, whereas post-2011, the losses were about half of this figure. The researchers’ model predicts that the blob will keep cooling Iceland’s glaciers till about 2050 when it will dissipate. At this point, Iceland’s glaciers will start melting more quickly again. “By the end of the 21st century, these glaciers will have lost a third of their total volume,” Noël says. Moreover by 2100, according to the model, the glaciers will have lost the same amount of volume as they would have done regardless of whether the cool blob in the North Atlantic existed or not.

2-11-22 The engineers battling to stop global warming ruining roads
Australia's floods of 2010-11 spread devastation and damage across Queensland, with 33 people losing their lives and causing billions in losses across the state. The floods also damaged 19,000km of roads, including those needed for emergency and delivery vehicles. It was a stark lesson in the importance of weather-proofing Queensland's most vulnerable roads, to ensure that future flooding would lead to fewer people being cut off. Since then, Queensland has been using a process called foamed bitumen stabilisation. This injects small amounts of air and cold water into hot bitumen, the sticky dark substance typically used for road surfaces. The bitumen then expands and forms a water-resistant layer. The result is a stronger yet flexible road surface or pavement that is better able to withstand flooding. "This was actually tried and tested on Queensland's roads during Tropical Cyclone Debbie in 2017," says Caroline Evans, chair of the climate change and road network resilience committee for the World Road Association (PIARC). "When the waters receded the pavements were still intact, so they didn't need to be fully rehabilitated afterwards." Foam bitumen stabilisation has also been applied to other roads as part of Queensland's move to makes its roads more flood-resistant, and is proving more cost-effective than traditional asphalt. Queensland faces considerable challenges as it has the longest state-controlled road network of any Australian state or territory with over 33,300km of roads. So far it has built 1,000km of foamed bitumen road surfaces and is "continuing to develop foamed bitumen techniques", according to its transport department. This is one of many technologies that authorities are testing on streets around the world. From landslide-blocked roads in Nepal, washed-out coastal highways in the US, collapsed bridges in Kenya to melting ice roads in Canada - an increasingly volatile global climate is threatening to disrupt essential transport networks. Yet it is also inspiring a great deal of innovation. One of the biggest problems with roads is their vulnerability to high temperatures. Extreme heat can soften pavements, leading to more cracks, buckling and rutting or surface depressions. The exact effects depend on local conditions, says Refiloe Mokoena, a research engineer at South Africa's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). "There are so many variables that determine a road failure and the road can actually fail in many different ways."

2-11-22 Fracking: UK's only shale gas wells to be sealed and abandoned
The UK's only two shale gas wells are to be abandoned after the industry regulator ordered them to be sealed. The Lancashire wells have not been used since 2019 after test drilling was suspended due to earth tremors and the government halted shale gas extraction in England. The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) ordered that they now be plugged with concrete. The site's owners, energy firm Cuadrilla, said the decision was "ridiculous" amid rising gas prices. The wells at Preston New Road were the first to frack horizontally onshore in the UK - a process which releases gas from shale rock. The process has been controversial and test drilling has been hit by many delays and protests, including one which lasted just short of 100 hours. After an earthquake with a magnitude of 2.9 was recorded near to the site in August 2019, it was concluded by the OGA it was not possible to predict the size of tremors caused by the practice. The following November, the government halted fracking and exploration with immediate effect. Cuadrilla's chief executive Francis Egan said the OGA order "had not been properly thought through" amid an "energy crisis". "It will be incredibly costly and difficult to rectify this mistake," he said. "What is more ridiculous is that leaving our own shale gas in the ground will make reducing global emissions even harder. "Shale gas from the North of England has the potential to meet the UK's energy needs for decades to come, yet ministers have chosen now, at the height of an energy crisis, to take us to this point."

2-10-22 Over 190 African heritage sites threatened by rising seas this century
As sea levels rise due to climate change, heritage sites all around the African coast will come under increasing risk of flood damage – including Carthage and sites linked to the Ancient Egyptian civilisation. Rising seas will more than triple the number of African heritage sites exposed to the risk of dangerous coastal floods. By 2050, over 190 of these locations could be in peril. They include the ancient remains of Carthage in Tunisia – which was the capital of the powerful Carthaginian civilisation in the first millennium BC – and a region of the Egyptian Mediterranean coast rich in archaeological sites connected to the Ancient Egyptian civilisation as well as to the Greeks and Romans. “Understanding climate risk to heritage is critical,” says Nicholas Simpson at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. Simpson and his colleagues mapped 213 natural sites and 71 cultural sites on the African coast, which were recognised by the UNESCO World Heritage Centre or the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. “We didn’t know the spatial extent, the actual boundaries of most African heritage sites, believe it or not,” he says. The team then combined this with a state-of-the-art model of sea level rise, which is one of the main consequences of climate change as warming seawater expands and ice sheets melt. Higher seas mean that major coastal floods, when they come, go higher and reach further inland. At the moment, 56 of the 284 coastal heritage sites the team mapped would be in danger if a once-in-a-century flood struck. However, by 2050 that number will rise dramatically. Under a moderate emissions scenario, 191 will be at risk, and higher emissions will put 198 in danger. The threatened sites also include Sabratha, a former Roman town in Libya with a spectacular open-air theatre that the Beatles considered as a venue for their final concert, and Kunta Kinteh Island in the Gambia, which has the remains of a fort used by British slave traders.

2-10-22 Fix the Planet newsletter: When net zero means not zero
Is it possible for corporations to draw up better net-zero targets? Or should we be looking to scrap the term entirely? The report by NewClimate Institute, a Germany-based non-profit, compared the firms’ pledges with their actions and found they will, on average, cut their emissions by 40 per cent rather than the 100 per cent you’d expect. (Our explainer here unpacks how the “net” bit works.)The findings will provide fuel for critics of the very idea of net-zero targets. In the past year, some have argued that the term, and the rush of companies and countries setting goals without action, has enabled a “burn now, pay later” approach based on wishful thinking about removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. At the COP26 climate summit last year, the disconnect between nations’ net-zero targets and their short-term goals only heightened that criticism. So how can corporations draw up better net-zero targets? Or should we be looking to scrap the term entirely? This week’s Fix the Planet takes a look. Silke Mooldijk at NewClimate Institute and her colleagues first looked at the world’s biggest companies by revenue, before screening for corporations that had made bold climate change pledges. They then looked for a spread of sectors and countries, landing with a list that runs from Apple and supermarket giant Carrefour to Google, IKEA, Maersk (the world’s biggest shipping company), Sony, consumer goods firm Unilever and more. Together, they account for about 5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Maersk, whose green plans I’ve written about here, was the only one of the 25 whose target was rated as having “reasonable integrity”, the second highest of five categories. None made the top class. 11 fell into the bottom ranking, very low integrity, including BMW Group, energy firm E.ON and Nestlé. If delivered properly, the pledges should shave 2.7 billion tonnes of CO2 off global emissions. In reality, they look set to cut around 0.6 billion tonnes of CO2. Simply trying to scrutinise the targets was a huge effort, says Thomas Day at NewClimate Institute. “We were astonished at the time it took to assess the integrity of companies’ claims,” he says. It’s worth noting that several of the companies disagreed with how their targets were characterised.

2-10-22 Fusion race kicked into high gear by smart tech
A US company is speeding up the path to practical fusion energy by using Google's vast computing power. By applying software that can improve on its own, TAE Technologies has cut down tasks that once took two months to just a few hours. Google has lent the firm its expertise in "machine learning" in order to help accelerate the timeline for fusion. Nuclear fusion promises a plentiful supply of low-carbon energy, using the same process that powers the Sun. Existing nuclear power is based on fission, where a heavy chemical element is split to provide a lighter one. Nuclear fusion works by combining two light elements to make a heavier one. For fusion to become economically-viable, it must first generate more energy than the amount being put in. But no one has yet reached this point, despite an eight-decade effort to "build a star on Earth". The challenges are immense, but some in the fusion community hope that new thinking and disruptive technologies could help shatter this paradigm. "I want to deliver fusion first, but anyone who does it is a hero," TAE's chief executive Dr Michl Binderbauer told BBC News. TAE, located in leafy Foothill Ranch, south-east of Los Angeles, has raised over $880m in private funding - more than any other fusion company. High-profile backing has come from Goldman Sachs, the Rockefeller family and the late Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. Its board of directors includes a former US Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz. The company's 30m (100ft) -long fusion cylinder - called C2W "Norman" after TAE's founder, physicist Norman Rostoker, who died in 2014 - represents a different approach to the doughnut-shaped "tokamak" to be used for the world's biggest fusion experiment, the multi-billion-euro ITER project. Controlling plasma at tens of millions of degrees requires a finely-tuned system. Google's expertise in machine learning - where computer algorithms improve with experience - has been used for "optimising" TAE's fusion device. Optimisation, or tuning for best performance, is carried out when something on the device changes, such as new hardware being added. This process once took around two months, but with machine learning, "we can now optimise in fractions of an afternoon," Dr Binderbauer explained.

2-10-22 UK must move faster to insulate homes - climate chief
The UK must do more to insulate the country's draughty homes, warns Britain's climate change chief. Chris Stark, head of the UK's Climate Change Committee, told the BBC he rates government policy on insulation as "very poor". Insulation, together with renewable power, is the way out of the current energy crisis, he says. Two-thirds of homes, or 19 million, need better insulation, according to government data. That raises an obvious question: if it is such a good idea, why aren't we all doing it? The key issue is the cost. Britain is frequently described as having some of the oldest and least energy efficient housing in Europe. Retrofitting - adding insulation to existing homes - can be very expensive and Mr Stark says the government isn't doing enough to help fund this costly work. The government needs to provide "a sharper incentive for most people to make these investments in improving the energy efficiency of the home that they live in," he told BBC News. Rob Jones' four-bed Edwardian family home in Rusholme, Manchester illustrates the challenges. When he moved, it had an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating of "E", putting it amongst the least energy efficient homes nationwide. The government estimates that 19 million of the UK's 29 million homes are on the bottom rungs of the Energy Performance rankings with a rating of "D" or below. Lifting Rob's home into the "B" category meant improving the lagging in the roof, installing more double glazing, insulating the floors as well as putting insulated cladding on some inside and outside walls. The makeover cost £36,000. Rob says they now use 40% less gas for heating, which is good news as energy prices soar. But, at current energy prices, it'll take at least 20 years to cover the cost. Retrofitting homes is an even greater challenge for the providers of social housing.

2-9-22 It is possible to remake our economy so we use less and waste less
NO ONE looking at the state of Earth in 2022 can be in any doubt that we are facing three grave environmental crises. The climate emergency is well-established; an appreciation of the disastrous scale of biodiversity loss is growing; and our pollution of air, soil and water is becoming recognised as an existential risk. What is perhaps lacking is an awareness of how interlinked these crises are. As a result, solutions tend to be piecemeal: targets to increase renewable energy or electric vehicle uptake; campaigns to encourage greener eating; bans on plastic straws. Sometimes, they can even be counterproductive, as with creating space for biofuel crops, which can displace food production and increase deforestation. A key theme links all three crises: waste. The carbon dioxide at the root of global warming is a waste gas. The seas are poisoned by plastic and other waste materials. We clear forests, among other things, to grow more food – a third of which goes to waste. A shocking statistic lies at the heart of our special report on our material world. Of the 100-odd billion tonnes of stuff that humans use each year, barely 10 per cent is recycled. That makes plain how far a comprehensive war on waste can go to tackling all three environmental crises simultaneously. This means far more than just better recycling. It requires moving away from a “take, make, dispose” mindset, towards a more circular one. It means redesigning the material world so that when goods reach the end of their useful lives, they can be reused or recycled, or even restore the environment from which they were taken. This implies huge changes to the way economies operate. A rare few countries, notably France, should be commended for ushering in bold laws to limit waste. Companies are increasingly on board too, seeing an uplift for their bottom line if they can reduce the amount of virgin material they use.

2-9-22 Six graphics that reveal what materials we consume – and what we waste
We are devouring ever more biomass, fossil fuels, metals and minerals each year. These graphics show how, and the shocking picture of how much we throw away. The sheer scale and complexity of the material economy makes it difficult to grasp how much of each different material we extract, what it is used to make and what happens when stuff gets thrown away. There are some surprises in the data though. For all the focus on plastic and consumer goods like clothes, for instance, there really isn’t a lot of that in the grand scheme of things. The materials used to produce consumables are massively outweighed by those used in construction and to feed us all. The extraction, processing and disposal of all materials have environmental and health impacts, from particulate pollution and the greenhouse gases that drive global warming to the depletion of water resources and land use change. These burdens are unevenly distributed across the world. Higher-income countries have greater impacts per capita. They also outsource them to lower-income countries that have more intensive industrial and manufacturing bases, creating a negative “trade flow” in impacts. The stuff we use can be divided into four main categories: biomass (crops and animal products), fossil fuels, metal ores and non-metal minerals such as aggregates and sand used in construction. The amount we use has more than tripled in 50 years, with latest estimates suggesting it has probably now topped 100 gigatonnes (Gt). Rising population is one factor in this, as is increasing affluence and consumption, especially in some parts of Asia and South America. Those parts of the world are playing catch-up, however: North America remains by far and away the greatest per-capita consumer of material resources.

2-9-22 The end of waste: The grand plan to build a truly circular economy
We hack almost 100 billion tonnes of stuff from Earth’s surface every year, and most of it goes to waste. Changing that means a complete overhaul of how we live. MANY of us, at least in richer parts of the world, are familiar with the feeling of buying, owning and discarding too much stuff. We probably feel a bit guilty about it. We may even have tried to do something about it, ditching the plastic straws, keeping a tote bag for the shopping and diligently separating out the recycling. We might also be aware that this isn’t enough. To fulfil our material wants, humanity now uses some 100 billion tonnes of stuff every year. More than 90 per cent of it is virgin material that is mined, drilled and hacked from the planet’s surface. Only 30 billion tonnes of it makes anything of permanence. The rest is burned as fuel or used fleetingly and discarded – at each stage polluting land, water and air and creating climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions. Can we do better? Ideas of “circular” economies, in which pretty much everything is reused and waste doesn’t really exist, have been around for a while. They are usually dismissed as woolly utopianism, but just lately the tone has been changing. That isn’t just because of our late-dawning realisation of the scale of our impact on the planet and the trouble it is storing up for us. It is also because we increasingly have the ideas and the technologies to make ourselves and our consumption patterns not just less bad for the planet, but perhaps even beneficial for it. A more circular, sustainable way of satisfying our material wants is certainly possible. But it will require nothing less than a complete reimagining of the way we live our lives. Our current “linear” economy is actually a relatively recent innovation. For most of human history, simple, mainly natural substances supplied our material needs: wood, stone, metals and other things we could gather, dig up or cut down. Fashioning them into useful items required toil and sweat, so goods were mainly built to last, and repaired many times throughout their lifetimes. When they did finally crumble, many of their components would either rot away, replenishing the soil, or be reused elsewhere.

2-9-22 Janez Potocnik interview: How a circular economy can help us go green
A sustainable future means using less stuff more wisely – but politicians aren’t yet grasping the nettle, says the head of the UN International Resource Panel. Janez Potocnik: I think the nicest definition was given decades ago by one of the founders of this idea, Walter Stahel, who said a linear economy is like a river and a circular economy is like a lake. More specifically, it’s about keeping resources in production and keeping consumption cycles going for as long as possible, and keeping their value high. I see the circular economy as an instrument, a way of decoupling economic growth from resource use and environmental impacts. At the IRP, our focus is on managing natural resources in the most sustainable way. Sometimes people talk about “resource efficiency”, but that’s really just about how to improve the current economic model. The circular economy is more of a systemic driver of wider change and that’s why it is becoming quite central to our work. If you want to address the climate challenge, you need to use all the policy armoury at your disposal. At the moment, we’re concentrating on supply-side solutions, how we produce things. Energy is considered the most important sector because it produces so much of our greenhouse gas emissions. But we must look at the demand side too. Imagine you live in a world where we have abundant, cheap renewable energy, but you also have current models of production and consumption in sectors like clothing, housing and other consumer goods. How can we transform these sectors so that we meet human needs in a more sustainable way? Let me give you the example of steel. Normally we ask: how can we make the steel-making process more green? But from the demand side, you might instead think that a lot of steel is used to meet the human need for mobility. Can we design the system of mobility in a different way so that we use, say, half as many cars and so a lot less steel? This is a really important way of thinking to help us reduce our use of resources and therefore our emissions too.

2-9-22 Major breakthrough on nuclear fusion energy
European scientists say they have made a major breakthrough in their quest to develop practical nuclear fusion - the energy process that powers the stars. The UK-based JET laboratory has smashed its own world record for the amount of energy it can extract by squeezing together two forms of hydrogen. If nuclear fusion can be successfully recreated on Earth it holds out the potential of virtually unlimited supplies of low-carbon, low-radiation energy. The experiments produced 59 megajoules of energy over five seconds (11 megawatts of power). This is more than double what was achieved in similar tests back in 1997. It's not a massive energy output - only enough to boil about 60 kettles' worth of water. But the significance is that it validates design choices that have been made for an even bigger fusion reactor now being constructed in France. "The JET experiments put us a step closer to fusion power," said Dr Joe Milnes, the head of operations at the reactor lab. "We've demonstrated that we can create a mini star inside of our machine and hold it there for five seconds and get high performance, which really takes us into a new realm." The ITER facility in southern France is supported by a consortium of world governments, including from EU member states, the US, China and Russia. It is expected to be the last step in proving nuclear fusion can become a reliable energy provider in the second half of this century. Operating the power plants of the future based on fusion would produce no greenhouse gases and only very small amounts of short-lived radioactive waste. "These experiments we've just completed had to work," said JET CEO Prof Ian Chapman. "If they hadn't then we'd have real concerns about whether ITER could meet its goals. "This was high stakes and the fact that we achieved what we did was down to the brilliance of people and their trust in the scientific endeavour," he told BBC News. Fusion works on the principle that energy can be released by forcing together atomic nuclei rather than by splitting them, as in the case of the fission reactions that drive existing nuclear power stations. In the core of the Sun, huge gravitational pressures allow this to happen at temperatures of around 10 million Celsius. At the much lower pressures that are possible on Earth, temperatures to produce fusion need to be much higher - above 100 million Celsius. No materials exist that can withstand direct contact with such heat. So, to achieve fusion in a lab, scientists have devised a solution in which a super-heated gas, or plasma, is held inside a doughnut-shaped magnetic field. The Joint European Torus (JET), sited at Culham in Oxfordshire, has been pioneering this fusion approach for nearly 40 years. And for the past 10 years, it has been configured to replicate the anticipated ITER set-up.

2-8-22 The promise and peril of the electric car revolution
We can do better than electrified sprawl, if we try. The electric vehicle revolution is nigh. As recently as 2017, electric cars comprised just 1.4 percent of global sales. By 2021, they made up 8.6 percent, roughly a sixfold increase in just four years, with that last figure coming in a year when auto manufacturing was hamstrung by the shortage of computer chips. Soon electric vehicles (EVs) will displace gas-powered ones, and that will be an improvement over the status quo — but only a modest one if American cities can't take advantage of the broader benefits of electrification. We can do better than e-sprawl, if we try. The reason EVs will win sooner or later is brute market dynamics. As anyone who's ever felt the instant jolt of torque from an electric drive train can attest, they are simply better than gas-powered cars in almost every way, and they'll only continue to improve. EVs are more powerful, cleaner, and much cheaper to maintain and drive. As uptake increases, so will the network of charging stations. And since the vast majority of car trips are quite short, and almost every house and business in the country is already wired for electric power, it will be relatively straightforward to keep most EVs charged up most of the time. Couple all that to ever-tightening emissions rules and regulations in Europe and China (where the communist government basically bullied Toyota into shifting towards electric cars), and it's simply a matter of time before the internal combustion engine is a quaint anachronism. In many ways, electric vehicles will be a vast improvement over our current fleet. Cars are one of the leading sources of air pollution and one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gases. Oil extraction is dangerous, dirty, and the central prop of some of the worst authoritarian regimes on the planet, like Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. And while the benefits of electrification are somewhat offset by the substantial fraction of power produced by carbon-emitting sources, as the grid is cleaned up over time, cars automatically will be too. EVs will also have the political benefit of getting rid of gas price anxiety. Rather than people being constantly hammered with the gyrating price of gasoline every time they go to the pump, they will pay a much more stable price for their home and car power at the same time. A big battery will prove useful to many as well, because it can double as an emergency generator. Buy a Ford F-150 Lightning, for instance, and you've got a battery bank big enough to power the average house for about three days. Combine that with rooftop solar and you could be virtually off the grid, depending on how much you need to drive. maintenance come at the cost of wiping out an entire economic ecosystem of parts manufacturers and repair shops. Making it much cheaper to drive may mean more miles driven and more congestion. Beyond those likely externalities, there are some straight-up downsides. The first is simple resource consumption. Cars are big and heavy, and hence require a lot of steel, aluminum, plastic, rubber, and so forth to produce a chassis and frame. Then you need big quantities of lithium, copper, and rare earth elements (often sourced from poor countries under brutal conditions, though apparently Idaho has a big deposit of cobalt) to produce the battery and requisite parts for an electric drive train. The current fashion among American automakers of producing cars that are continually bigger, heavier, and more powerful makes all this much worse. Most of the popular electric vehicles today are offensively overpowered. The F-150 Lightning, for instance, weighs about 8,500 pounds (depending on the spec) yet has a 0-60 time of just 4.4 seconds thanks to its 775 pound-feet of torque. The Mustang Mach-E GT has 480 horsepower and a 0-60 time of 3.5 seconds — about as good as a Lamborghini Gallardo from a few years back. Even the top-selling Tesla Model Y hits 60 in under 5 seconds with the cheapest trim and 3.3 seconds with the performance package.

2-8-22 No silver-bullet solutions for saving used planet
With much of the planet already "used-up", the world has hard choices to make over how to use land in the most sustainable and effective way. That's the take-home message from 50 leading experts on why land matters in tackling a host of existential challenges. Vast areas of land are being earmarked for grand plans to fight climate change and nature loss. Yet land is also needed for food production and alleviating poverty. The scientists say there simply isn't enough land on the planet to address all of these things at once. "We live on this used planet where all the land that's even considered unused or untouched is providing really important benefits to people," said Dr Ariane de Bremond of the University of Bern. "There isn't enough land to do everything simultaneously - we have to recognise that and find better ways - and that requires a lot of negotiation between different sectors of society and between nations." The paper, published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, sets out why land matters in a host of problems facing humanity and calls on decision makers and stakeholders to do more to address misconceptions over land use and sustainability. "There is very little land potentially available for expansion of agriculture, urbanisation, climate change mitigation, or biodiversity conservation land uses that is 'empty' or 'free' of trade-offs," they write. Three-quarters of the planet's land that is not covered by ice has already been turned over to farming, building cities and mining, with the little land that is left - often of prime importance to local people - earmarked for ambitious plans to absorb carbon emissions or create space for nature. Land is a limited resource and there are no silver bullets, no easy answers and lots of trade-offs, said Dr Casey Ryan of the University of Edinburgh. "If you look in the news you see half of Earth being set aside for nature as an ambition from the nature conservationists, you see zero deforestation coming out of the last Cop (Conference of the Parties), the trillion trees agenda - all of those very well-meaning, but ultimately flawed huge ideas are really not supported by the science that we have in this paper," he said.

2-7-22 Thin glaciers suggest Andes faces 'peak water' sooner than thought
People living in the Andes in South America will reach “peak water” – defined as a declining availability of water – much sooner than expected because the glaciers they rely on have been found to be much thinner than thought. The area’s glaciers have 27 per cent less ice than than previously estimated, according to a new global assessment of the thickness of the world’s glaciers. The work found stark regional differences in terms of fresh water supplies. The study, which excludes Antarctica and Greenland, found that glaciers in the Himalayas have 37 per cent more ice than thought. That is good news for the 250 million people in the region who face pressure on water supplies as glaciers disappear under climate change. “This new data set of the world’s glaciers has a huge impact on water resources,” says Romain Millan at Grenoble Alpes University, France, who led the analysis. “In some regions, it’s positive, because in the Himalayas it reduces the pressure on the fresh water, but in other regions like the Andes, it’s increasing the pressure on fresh water availability.” Millan and his colleagues arrived at their estimates by amassing 812,000 satellite photos of three glaciers, taken 400 days apart, to measure the velocity of the world’s rivers of ice. Previous studies estimating the ice thickness of glaciers have relied mostly on looking at the slope of the glaciers rather than the speed at which they move. The research found that if all the glaciers melted globally, it would raise sea levels by about 26 centimetres, a fifth less than previous estimates. However, several glaciologists not involved in the study, including Regine Hock at the University of Oslo in Norway, say the result comes largely from excluding a number of glaciers in Antarctica, rather than the satellite data revealing there is significantly less ice globally.

2-7-22 Climate change: Top companies exaggerating their progress - study
Many of the world's biggest companies are failing to meet their own targets on tackling climate change, according to a study of 25 corporations. They also routinely exaggerate or misreport their progress, the New Climate Institute report says. Google, Amazon, Ikea, Apple and Nestle are among those failing to change quickly enough, the study alleges. Corporations are under pressure to cut their environmental impact as more consumers want green products. Some of the companies told BBC News they disagreed with some of the methods used in the report and said they were committed to taking action to curb climate change. The firms analysed account for 5% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, the report says - which means although they have a huge carbon footprint, they have enormous potential to lead in the effort to limit climate change. "The rapid acceleration of corporate climate pledges, combined with the fragmentation of approaches, means that it is more difficult than ever to distinguish between real climate leadership and unsubstantiated," the study says. Study author Thomas Day told BBC News his team originally wanted to discover good practices in the corporate world, but they were "frankly surprised and disappointed at the overall integrity of the companies' claims". Amazon said in its statement: "We set these ambitious targets because we know that climate change is a serious problem, and action is needed now more than ever. As part of our goal to reach net-zero carbon by 2040, Amazon is on a path to powering our operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025." And Nestle commented: "We welcome scrutiny of our actions and commitments on climate change. However, the New Climate Institute's Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor (CCRM) report lacks understanding of our approach and contains significant inaccuracies." The Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor was conducted by non-profit organisations New Climate Institute and Carbon Market Watch.

2-6-22 Cyclone Batsirai: Madagascar battered by second storm in two weeks
Strong wind and rain have hit the east coast of Madagascar as Cyclone Batsirai made landfall - the second major storm in less that two weeks. Gusts hit speeds of 235km/h (146mph) and high waves battered coastal areas. Many people have been moved to shelters and local officials fear that landslides and flooding could leave tens of thousands more homeless. Storm Ana caused widespread destruction when it hit the Indian Ocean island nation last month, killing 55 people. Cyclone Batsirai made landfall near the south-eastern city of Mananjary, around 530 kilometres (310 miles) from the capital Antananarivo, at around 20:00 local time (17:00 GMT) on Saturday. Environment Minister Vahinala Raharinirina told the BBC that houses, hospitals and schools had been destroyed, and that 35,000 people had been forced from their homes, with the number expected to rise. She said that entire villages had been swept away by the storm. "The winds are terrible. I've never experienced this... The waves are very high," Mananjary resident Hanitra Raharisoa told Reuters news agency. Further up the coast, 200 people had crammed into one room in a concrete building in the town of Vatomandry, hoping the relatively sturdy structure would keep them safe. Clean water is scarce in the town after the utility company switched off supplies ahead of the storm, prompting fears of illness caused by dirty water. "The government must absolutely help us. We have not been given anything," community leader Thierry Louison Leaby told the AFP news agency. The heavy rainfall and high waves are raising the spectre of flash floods as the ground is already saturated.

2-6-22 The fast fashion graveyard in Chile's Atacama Desert
The second-hand clothing trade is a well-established business in Chile. Traders import unwanted garments – mainly from Europe and the US - to resell locally and to other Latin American nations. But more than half of the 60,000 tonnes of clothes imported each year ends up in illegal desert landfills, with dire consequences for the environment and the local community.

2-5-22 Mount Everest: Mountain's highest glacier melting rapidly, new study shows
Climate change is causing the highest glacier on Mount Everest to melt at a rapid pace, a new study has found. Researchers led by the University of Maine found that the South Col Glacier has lost more than 180ft (54m) of thickness in the last 25 years. The glacier, which sits around 7,906m (25,938 ft) above sea-level, is thinning 80 times faster than it first took the ice to form on the surface. The rate of decline has been blamed on warming temperatures and strong winds. Scientists leading the study found that since the 1990s, ice that took around 2,000 years to form has melted away. They also noted that the glacier's thick snowpack has been eroded, exposing the underlying black ice to the sun and accelerating the melting process. Dr Mariusz Potocki, one of the study's lead researchers, said that the findings suggested "that the South Col Glacier may be on the way out - it may already be a 'relic' from an older, colder, time". Another author of the report, Dr Tom Matthews, a climate scientist from Kings College London, observed to the BBC that there had been no single change in the region's climate to cause the surge in melting. "Instead, the steady uptick in temperatures eventually pushes the glacier across a threshold, and suddenly everything changes," he said. While glacier melt has been widely studied, the impact of climate change on glaciers at this height has not previously been studied. A team of 10 scientists visited the glacier, where they installed the world's two highest weather monitoring stations and extracted samples from a 10-meter-long (around 32 feet) ice core. Expedition leader Dr Paul Mayewski told the BBC that the study "adds a high elevation understanding that has not previously been available and that drives home the remarkable sensitivity Earth systems have to even relatively small change". Dr Mayewski also observed that the rapid melting could have a wide variety of "significant regional to global scale implications". Around one billion people depend on the Himalayan mountain range for drinking water, and if other glaciers in the region - and worldwide - follow Everest's example, their capacity to provide water for drinking and irrigation could fall significantly.

2-4-22 Satellite images show biggest methane leaks come from Russia and US
Images captured by satellite have been run through an algorithm to automatically detect the biggest plumes of methane streaming from oil and gas facilities worldwide. About a tenth of the global oil and gas industry’s methane emissions have been found to come from a group of “ultra-emitter” sites located mostly in Turkmenistan, Russia and the US. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that governments recently agreed to slash by 2030. While huge plumes of methane leaking from gas pipelines have been detected by satellites at individual sites, such as a gas well in Ohio and several pipelines in central Turkmenistan, little has been know about their extent globally. Now, images captured by an instrument aboard a satellite have been run through an algorithm to automatically detect the biggest plumes of methane streaming from oil and gas facilities worldwide. These ultra-emitters were spotted pumping out more than 25 tonnes of methane an hour. That’s “a heck of a lot”, says Steve Hamburg at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a US non-profit organisation. Collectively, these contribute about 8 million tonnes of methane a year, about a tenth of the oil and gas industry’s total annual emissions for 2019-20. Turkmenistan was the biggest ultra-emitter, releasing more than a million tonnes of methane between 2019 and 2020. Russia was second at just under a million tonnes, followed by the US, Iran, Algeria and Kazakhstan. The US count is probably low because it excluded a major oil and gas region, the Permian basin, due to monitoring difficulties. By contrast to these countries, other major oil producing countries, including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, had very few ultra-emitters. Drew Shindell at Duke University in North Carolina, part of the team behind the analysis, says the big differences between countries gives hope that bad practice – where gas is released to the atmosphere for pipe repairs rather than pumped to another section of pipe – can be improved. “It shows if we put some effort in, we can have hardly any leaks or intentional releases that are large enough to be seen from space,” he says.

2-4-22 Winter storm disrupts travel and causes power blackouts in Texas
A massive winter snow storm has hit the state of Texas, bringing with it heavy snow and ice. It's caused widespread travel chaos and left thousands without power. The state's governor, Greg Abbot, said the state is facing one of the most significant icing events in decades.

2-4-22 River pollution: Tackling England's "chemical cocktail" waterways
The Evenlode in Oxfordshire, UK, has been plagued by pollution, but farmers, the water industry and local volunteers are working together to clean it up. The Evenlode’s problems aren’t unique. England’s rivers are “a mess”, a report by MPs in the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) concluded last month, due to a lack of funding and monitoring and what was called “a ‘chemical cocktail’ of sewage, agricultural waste, and plastic”. But a special partnership between local people, the water industry, farmers and others means that the Evenlode could hold the answers to how the country can clean up its rivers.

2-3-22 Algal blooms in freshwater lakes are becoming more common worldwide
Lakes across the world have seen an increase in algal blooms that strangle freshwater ecosystems, according to an analysis of satellite images from 1982 to 2019. Blooms of algae that strangle freshwater ecosystems are occurring more often in lakes across most of the world, according to the first study to map their incidence globally. An algal bloom is the rapid build-up of algae in a body of water after excess nutrients, such as nitrogen or phosphorous, pollute the ecosystem – often as a result of fertiliser use on farms. The bloom can harm other organisms, including fish and insects, by blocking out light, depleting oxygen and in some cases producing toxins. Most algal blooms on freshwater lakes form a greenish blanket on the water’s surface. Lian Feng at Southern University of Science and Technology in China and his colleagues developed an algorithm that could identify green algal blooms by their colour in satellite images. The algorithm didn’t pick up some algal blooms that aren’t green, but these are rare. The team analysed 2.91 million images from NASA’s Landsat programme that were taken between 1982 and 2019. In total, they looked at 248,243 freshwater lakes, covering 57.1 per cent of global freshwater lake area. Lakes at high latitudes – which make up over 30 per cent of the global freshwater lake area – weren’t included due to difficulty in interpreting the data when they freeze over, says Feng. From the 1980s to the 2000s, algal blooms were detected around 3.6 per cent of the time, but this increased to 5.2 per cent during the 2010s. The only region that didn’t see this increase was Oceania. “The most significant increase we found was in Asia and South Africa,” says Feng. “This is because fertiliser use increased substantially [in those regions] in the past decade.” Global warming may be another factor, he says, as warmer climates can lead to more algal bloom outbreaks.

2-3-22 England’s gas boiler ban for new homes should begin next year, say MPs
A committee of MPs says the UK government should update plans to ban gas boilers from new homes, introducing the move next year rather than in 2025. A ban on gas boilers in new homes in England should be brought forward by two years to 2023, according to a report by a group of MPs who say the UK government must be clearer about how it plans to decarbonise heating in homes. The report by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee comes ahead of energy regulator Ofgem at 11am today announcing the new level of a price cap covering 22 million homes in Great Britain. Analysts expect the average home’s energy bill will jump 50 per cent to £1915 a year under the new cap from 1 April, driven primarily by surging gas costs and collapsed energy suppliers. The government is reportedly preparing to intervene with loans to energy suppliers to help them soften the immediate impact on consumers. The BEIS committee says the government’s strategy for getting off gas boilers for home heating, published last October, lacks detail on policies and fails to offer clarity on how the plans will be delivered. Heat pumps, heat networks and hydrogen boilers are seen as the three main alternatives to gas boilers, which heat 85 per cent of UK homes today. The government has set a target that all new heating systems installed in UK homes from 2035 should be low carbon. “The headline problem is that the government has announced a target, but they’ve not really announced how they’re going to deliver it,” says Darren Jones, chair of the BEIS committee. “The market is not yet mature enough – the innovation curve, the price point for consumers, the ability to install kit across the country – to deliver the target in the time frame. So that requires some form of state intervention.”

2-3-22 Many people still in the dark over gas boilers, say MPs
Many people in Britain remain unprepared for the revolution in home heating that the country faces in the next ten to 15 years, a report from MPs has said. MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee said the government's approach to decarbonising home heating lacked clear direction. Current policies are also not on the scale required, they said. However, the report rejected hydrogen as a solution for greener home heating. The committee's chairman, Darren Jones, said replacing gas boilers, the major source of pollution from homes, was "a huge task and we are not making near enough progress". The report urges the government to do more to explain to the public the changes they will be facing, including the potential costs and benefits. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said it would provide a detailed response to the committee's report in due course but said its Heat and Buildings Strategy, published last year, already provided "a clear and comprehensive plan for cutting emissions". "In total, we're investing £6.6bn this parliament to decarbonise our buildings, saving people money on their bills and slashing pollution in the process," a BEIS spokesperson said. Meeting climate targets would require a ban on the installation and use of any new gas boilers by the mid-2030s at the latest, the report said. The government should set a clear date in law, regulating the phase out of gas boilers it said. Current "signalling" from the government failed to give industry and consumers a clear date to work towards, it said. Mr Jones said the government should also replace the failed Green Homes Grant – the scheme providing financial support for people to insulate their homes. “Ministers can’t simply leave this to the market – the government should tackle the cost of heating our homes in the round and bring forward joined-up policies that address these issues together,” he said. The committee also urged ministers to support the training of engineers to install low carbon heating systems in every community.

2-3-22 Fix the Planet newsletter: Can tree diversity help the climate?
How we can harness the staggering diversity of trees to lock away more carbon. Hi, welcome back to Fix the Planet. A bit of joy this week, thanks to research showing there are far more tree species on Earth than we thought. The new estimate says there are more than 73,000 species globally, with about 9200 of those yet to be discovered by scientists. As co-author Peter Reich at the University of Minnesota told me, on the one hand, this is a simple “celebration of life”. On the other, we can’t save what we don’t know about, he says. But with tree planting and halting deforestation both seen as crucial tools for putting the brakes on global warming, this new finding means it’s also worth asking what greater tree diversity means for tackling climate change. Will preserving more species help us lock up more carbon? First, it’s worth remembering that if drawing down carbon is your primary concern, the main thing is having more trees and ensuring that they last. One high-profile analysis found there is space left on the planet to accommodate enough trees to lock up more than 200 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, or about five years of humanity’s emissions (it’s worth noting that this research received a lot of criticism). But greater diversity could be part of the answer too, by making forests better at using resources and more resilient to threats. Differences between tree species cause them to utilise available resources more effectively, says Martin Sullivan at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. Varied canopy structures mean some intercept light better, while differences in root architecture influence how they draw resources from the soil. “This would mean that more [groups of trees] grow faster, and thus take in carbon more rapidly, because they can access more resources,” says Sullivan. Experimental studies have shown this mechanism in grasslands, and it could plausibly occur in forests too, he adds. Another factor is that tree species differ in their ability to absorb and store carbon, so by chance alone, a more diverse forest is more likely to have species that are very good at drawing down and sequestering carbon.

2-2-22 Hong Kong’s car pollution sensors help it clean its air in world first
Carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide pollution have fallen sharply in Hong Kong since it introduced a world-first scheme to detect and repair vehicles with the highest emissions. Hong Kong has improved its air quality by using roadside sensors to detect vehicles with the dirtiest fumes and forcing owners to get them fixed. Vehicles that run on petrol and diesel emit harmful chemicals like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. New cars have technology for reducing these emissions, but they can become more polluting over time. Many older cars that are still on the roads are heavy emitters. To identify the worst-offending vehicles, Hong Kong installed sensors on highway ramps that use infrared and ultraviolet beams to detect carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbon levels in tailpipe exhausts of passing vehicles. Cameras capture the licence plates of the most polluting vehicles so their owners can be notified. Owners must repair their vehicles and pass an emissions test, paid for themselves, before their vehicles are allowed back on the road. Since the enforcement programme began in September 2014, more than 16,000 high-emissions vehicles have been detected and 96 per cent have been fixed and passed the compulsory emissions test, according to an analysis led by Yuhan Huang at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia. The scheme has rapidly improved air quality in Hong Kong. In 2015, independent monitoring found that average concentrations of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides at roadside locations had dropped by 26 and 27 per cent respectively compared to 2012 levels. Figures from a separate monitoring programme, the Hong Kong Air Pollutant Emission Inventory, also show that carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from road transport declined, by 50 and 34 per cent respectively, between 2012 and 2015.

2-2-22 Geology needs to reinvent itself as we fight against climate change
“We learn geology the morning after the earthquake,” the 19th-century essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote. The quote has a pithy resonance as we grapple with the fallout of our inaction on so many fronts, from pandemic prevention to climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss. Applied to geology itself, it is a case of “if only”. These days, hardly anyone learns the subject. In the UK, just over 1000 pupils a year gain an A level in geology, down from almost 4000 four decades ago. There are many reasons for that squeeze, not least the narrowing of the school curriculum to subjects deemed more “relevant”. That perhaps can be traced back to geology’s core image problem: it is seen as just a load of dusty old rocks. A glance at a computer or smartphone – their components cocktails of chemical elements, from silicon in the processor to lithium in the battery, derived from dusty old rocks – should be enough to convince that this is no sustainable objection. But it speaks to another part of geology’s modern image problem: its long history in service of the mining and fossil-fuel industries. Our rapacious consumption of Earth’s mineral resources, enabled by geologists’ nous, is why we are now debating the definition of a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. Geology is, and should be, about so much more. As Christopher Jackson points out, it is a window on past climate change and so the best tool we have for understanding our future. And its potential in creating a more sustainable world is huge, be it in learning more about soils to allow farmers to get the most out of their land, in tracing how contaminants affect the provision of safe water supplies or, of course, in helping us to predict and mitigate the effects of earthquakes and other natural disasters that disproportionately hit the world’s poorest.

2-2-22 Christopher Jackson interview: How geologists can fight climate change
Geologists have a reputation for facilitating the extraction of minerals and fossil fuels, says Christopher Jackson. Now we must use our expertise to find sources of renewable energy. FROM the breathtaking Atlas mountains in Morocco to the expansive deserts of the US, Christopher Jackson’s work has taken him to some incredible places. Incredible and sometimes risky, too: he has been held at gunpoint and put in prison in the line of duty. Why does he do it? Just for the sake of a few old rocks. Geologists might have a long list of adventure stories to recite and an enviable set of stamps in their passports, but Jackson says that in many people’s eyes, they don’t have a good reputation. After all, they often use their knowledge of Earth’s rocks and tectonic processes to identify rich mineral seams to dig up and fossil fuels to drill, all of which is a horror to the environment. Now, Jackson is seeking to flip the story. As chair in sustainable geoscience at the University of Manchester, UK, he says geologists must play a crucial part in fighting climate change. That means helping to create technologies that allow us to live more sustainably and spreading the word about our planet’s climate history. Earth’s rocks were formed at various points in the past, and their chemistry and structure reflect the conditions that prevailed at the time. This geological record can be read to reveal how our planet’s climate has warmed and cooled over the aeons – a story that can help us better understand climate change in our own time. Jackson spoke to New Scientist about his epic travels, how geology can help us live with less environmental impact and the difficult task of improving diversity in geosciences. Christopher Jackson: As a geologist, you go places that few others ever get to visit because you’re interested in rare, weird rocks and those tend to be in far-flung places. That’s always a tingle.

2-2-22 Climate fiction has come of age – and these fabulous books show why
As the climate crisis grows, "cli-fi" books are driving action by showing dark, all-too-possible futures, says climate researcher Bill McGuire. Here are some of his favourites. SCIENTIFIC papers, however well-written, rarely carry the emotional weight of a good story. Stories have been the prime means of imparting knowledge and warnings throughout human history. Even in today’s data-rich world, they hold a visceral clout that no amount of graphs, charts or figures can replace. As a volcanology and climate researcher, I have spent more than 30 years communicating the calamitous future that could lie in wait should we fail to take action on climate change. But it wasn’t until I published my first novel, Skyseed, in 2020 that I realised the power of storytelling to get across the urgency of the situation. This use of narrative as a means to galvanise action on climate change has become increasingly common, and the rapidly growing body of work on the subject is now recognised as its own literary genre. Climate fiction, or cli-fi (a term coined in 2007 by journalist and literary theorist Dan Bloom), has been around for a while. However, as global warming and extreme weather have become a part of everyday life, and the appetite for action has grown, cli-fi has truly come of age. From the genre’s relatively slow start in the mid 2000s, the shelves of bookshops are now beginning to sag under the weight of new speculative climate tales, aimed at both adult and young adult readers. As the genre gained ground, overenthusiastic fans and critics have reached back into literary deep time to corral any number of classics into the cli-fi fold. Notable examples include The Drought and The Drowned World by J. G. Ballard, and Jules Verne’s The Purchase of the North Pole, a cautionary tale published in 1889 on the perils of geoengineering. For me, though, this broadening of the genre is misguided. It dilutes a growing body of work that is, and should remain, very much of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

2-2-22 The past’s extreme ocean heat waves are now the new normal
More than half the global ocean experiences high temperatures that were rare a century ago. Yesterday’s scorching ocean extremes are today’s new normal. A new analysis of surface ocean temperatures over the past 150 years reveals that in 2019, 57 percent of the ocean’s surface experienced temperatures rarely seen a century ago, researchers report February 1 in PLOS Climate. To provide context for the frequency and duration of modern extreme heat events, marine ecologists Kisei Tanaka, now at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in Honolulu, and Kyle Van Houtan, now at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach, Fla., analyzed monthly sea-surface temperatures from 1870 through 2019, mapping where and when extreme heat events occurred decade to decade. Looking at monthly extremes rather than annual averages revealed new benchmarks in how the ocean is changing. More and more patches of water hit extreme temperatures over time, the team found. Then, in 2014, the entire ocean hit the “point of no return,” Van Houtan says. Beginning that year, at least half of the ocean’s surface waters saw temperatures hotter than the most extreme events from 1870 to 1919. Marine heat waves are defined as at least five days of unusually high temperatures for a patch of ocean. Heat waves wreak havoc on ocean ecosystems, leading to seabird starvation, coral bleaching, dying kelp forests, and migration of fish, whales and turtles in search of cooler waters (SN: 1/15/20; SN: 8/10/20). In May 2020, NOAA announced that it was updating its “climate normals” — what the agency uses to put daily weather events in historical context — from the average 1981–2010 values to the higher 1991–2020 averages (SN: 5/26/21). This study emphasizes that ocean heat extremes are also now the norm, Van Houtan says. “Much of the public discussion now on climate change is about future events, and whether or not they might happen,” he says. “Extreme heat became common in our ocean in 2014. It’s a documented historical fact, not a future possibility.”

2-2-22 UK's spring flowers are blooming a month early due to climate change
The shift to early flowering in the UK is greater for smaller plants than trees and shrubs, and is related to warming temperatures in winter and spring over the past 70 years. Seen any unseasonably early daffodils showing their faces yet? UK spring flowers are opening nearly a month earlier than they did before the mid-1980s, due to climate change. That is the conclusion of a study of nearly 420,000 observations of the first flowering date of 406 plants from a UK citizen science project called Nature’s Calendar. It has records dating back to 1753 from gardeners and naturalists, as well as bodies such as the UK’s Royal Meteorological Society. “It’s probably the longest [such] record in the world, certainly the largest,” says Ulf Büntgen at the University of Cambridge. He and his team found that plants were opening their flowers 26 days earlier on average in the years after 1986 than they did before. They picked that year as it was the midpoint in the data set – where they had about the same number of observations before and after – because there were many more recent records than earlier ones. The analysis included records of all plants, whatever time of year they flower, but most of them bloomed in spring. “It is likely that the influence of climate change will be greater for spring-flowering plants, where the usual onset of warmer temperatures that would trigger flowering starts earlier,” says a spokesperson for the UK’s Royal Horticultural Society. There was a bigger advance in the dates of the first blooms for smaller plants, with those less than 20 centimetres high flowering an average of 32 days earlier in the years after 1986 than they had historically. In any year, flower opening times were closely correlated with the average temperature of the months from January to April. “If it’s warmer, it’s an earlier onset. If it’s cooler, it’s a later one,” says Büntgen. The average maximum temperature across those four months rose by 1.1°C, comparing the period from 1950 to 1986 with the years after 1986. The shift could hurt insects, birds and other wildlife that have evolved to synchronise with the flowering of certain plants, says Büntgen. “One degree doesn’t sound like a lot. But this shows the response of an ecosystem; this translates into a month earlier flowering.”

2-2-22 Climate change: UK plants now flowering a month earlier
Climate change is causing UK plants to flower almost a month earlier on average, according to a study. Just as autumn leaf fall is being delayed by warmer weather, flowers are appearing earlier on trees and shrubs. But while some might welcome these untimely blooms, scientists are warning of the risks. They say if the trend continues, there are knock-on effects for birds, insects and whole ecosystems. Ecological mismatch may kick in, which would have a dramatic effect "on the functioning and productivity" of nature and farming, said lead researcher, Prof Ulf Buntgen of the University of Cambridge. "Our climate system is changing in a way that affects us and our environment," he told BBC News. Global warming is causing spring to arrive early and autumn to come late in many places, and not all plants and animals are adapting at the same rate. Scientists warn that if species get out of sync with each other, this could have disastrous consequences - a concept known as ecological mismatch. Pollen, nectar, seeds and fruits of plants are important food resources for insects, birds and other wildlife. And if flowers appear too early they can be hit by frost, damaging the harvest of fruit trees. The study looked at hundreds of thousands of observations of the first flowering dates of native trees, shrubs, herbs and climbers recorded in a citizen science database, known as Nature's Calendar, that goes back to the 18th Century. This encompassed the whole of the UK, from Shetland in the north, and Northern Ireland in the west to Suffolk in the east. The Cambridge researchers compared the first flowering dates of 406 plant species with climate records, finding that early flowering is strongly correlated with rising global temperatures. To balance the number of observations, they divided the full dataset into records until 1986, and from 1987 onwards, finding that the average first flowering date from 1987 to 2019 was almost a month earlier than the average first flowering date from 1753 to 1986. Herbs saw the largest shift, flowering 32 days earlier.

2-2-22 Climate change: EU moves to label nuclear and gas as sustainable despite internal row
Nuclear and natural gas energy plants could be counted as "green energy" under controversial EU plans just unveiled. The European Commission says it has decided that both types of energy can classify as "sustainable investment" if they meet certain targets. But the move has divided the EU, and been fiercely opposed by some members. Austria's chancellor responded to the news by saying "nuclear power is neither green nor sustainable". "I cannot understand the decision of the EU," Karl Nehammer said. He said he would back his environment minister, Leonore Gewessler, in pursuing legal action at the European Court of Justice if the plans go ahead. "This decision is wrong," Ms Gewessler said. "The EU Commission today agreed its greenwashing programme for nuclear energy and [the fossil fuel] natural gas." Luxembourg has also said it will join in legal action. The EU has set itself a goal of becoming climate neutral by 2050 and the Commission argues that to get there, a great deal of private investment is needed. Its proposals are meant to guide investors. Spain, too, has strongly objected to the idea which was debated for months before being formally proposed on Wednesday. But those objections are balanced by support from nuclear-using nations such as France. Nuclear energy involves fewer carbon emissions but has different safety concerns and requires disposal of dangerous waste. Classifying natural gas as "sustainable" also has supporters who argue that some countries which still rely on coal for energy - such as Poland - would benefit from incentives to move to a relatively cleaner supply. Germany, a powerful country in EU politics, relies heavily on gas in its own energy mix though its environment minister, Steffi Lemke, has criticised the plans. EU officials were keen to stress that the change was not a requirement for any state or company to invest in gas or nuclear.

2-2-22 How a Cotswolds river may show the way to clean up England's waterways
The Evenlode in Oxfordshire, UK, has been plagued by pollution, but farmers, the water industry and local volunteers are working together to clean it up. “It’s depressing. It’s something we should be able to put right,” says Mark Purvis, standing next to a brook feeding the Evenlode, a river in the Cotswolds area of southern England that has been plagued with water pollution in recent years. “We’ve seen declines in numbers of fish, insects and weed growth in the river. And terrible turbidity [cloudiness] in summer,” he says. The Evenlode’s problems aren’t unique. England’s rivers are “a mess”, a report by MPs in the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) concluded last month, due to a lack of funding and monitoring and what was called “a ‘chemical cocktail’ of sewage, agricultural waste, and plastic”. But a special partnership between local people, the water industry, farmers and others means that the Evenlode could hold the answers to how the country can clean up its rivers. The pressure for action is growing: on 23 January, around 500 people protested in Oxford against sewage discharges in nearby rivers, in the wake of concerning footage of effluent flowing from a sewage works in a catchment area adjacent to the Evenlode. Follow the brook upstream from where Purvis is standing and you get to the Milton-under-Wychwood sewage treatment works, one of 19 in the river’s catchment area that have sometimes struggled to keep up with a growing population. There were 96 occasions last year when untreated sewage spilled into the brook as the works ran out of holding capacity, for a total of 1406 hours. “It’s a very high spilling site,” says Andrew Scott at Thames Water as he overlooks a concrete storm tank at the works. The site is small, old and vulnerable not just to rainfall, but also to water “infiltrating” through the ground. Keeping up with new homes is an issue as well, says Purvis, who is a local resident. “The failure to keep the infrastructure up to to scratch as population has grown is unforgivable,” he says.

2-1-22 Safe havens for coral reefs will disappear with 2°C of global warming
Cooler regions of the sea that protect coral reefs will be virtually wiped out by the end of this century, even under optimistic climate change scenarios. Cooler regions of the sea provide safe havens for coral reefs by protecting them from warmer temperatures, but such sanctuaries will be lost if the global atmospheric temperature rises by 2°C before the end of this century. “We’ve known that climate change will be catastrophic for coral reefs for decades. Now, with better models and a finer resolution, our work shows that corals worldwide will be even more at risk from climate change than we thought,” says Adele Dixon at the University of Leeds in the UK. Rising sea temperatures can lead to coral bleaching, where corals expel the colourful algae (Symbiodinium) that normally live within their tissue and provide them with nutrients. This means bleached corals are more likely to die. Regions of cool water called thermal refugia result from local weather events and help to protect corals from bleaching and death. In coastal regions, surface waters can be pushed away from the shore by winds, which pulls deeper, cooler water upwards in a process called upwelling. This movement of cooler water means that upwelling can give reefs in shallow water temporary respite during hotter times of the year. Strong ocean currents, tides and tropical cyclones can also help to cool down reefs in between hotter periods. Using temperature measurements from Earth observation satellites, Dixon and her colleagues found that between 1986 and 2019, 84 per cent of shallow-water reefs benefited from thermal refugia. This means they had enough time between marine heatwaves to recover, says Dixon. The researchers used climate models to predict the fate of thermal refugia after 1.5°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, the goal set in the 2015 Paris Agreement. With a 1.5°C rise by the end of the century, they found that just 0.2 per cent of the world’s shallow-water coral reefs would benefit from thermal refugia.

2-1-22 Ecuador: Deadly landslide after heaviest rainfall in years
A huge landslide triggered by the heaviest rainfall in Ecuador for almost 20 years has killed at least 16 people in the capital, Quito, officials say. Mud and rocks were carried down the slopes of the Pichincha volcano which overlooks the city. A recreation ground was engulfed, as were eight houses, and cars were swept away. At least 46 people were injured. Weather experts said the amount of rain that hit the mountain was almost 40 times more than had been forecast. "I saw how the current took a man and a child. It was horrible," local resident Belén Bermeo told Ecuador's El Universo newspaper. Rescue crews are searching homes and streets covered by mud, as officials say 16 people are still missing. The emergency services published a dramatic video showing the devastation caused by the flooding. Several houses have been damaged in the neighbourhoods of La Gasca and La Comuna. "We saw this immense black river that was dragging along everything, we had to climb the walls to escape," resident Alba Cotacachi, who evacuated her two young daughters from their home, told Reuters news agency. Quito Mayor Santiago Guarderas said Monday's rainfall was "a record figure" not seen since 2003.


74 Global Warming News Articles
for February of 2022

Global Warming News Articles for January of 2022