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65 Global Warming News Articles
for March of 2022
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3-31-22 The Amazon has descended into lawlessness in Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil
A corruption scandal is the latest fallout from the Brazilian president's efforts to stifle institutions meant to protect the rainforest, fuelling a sharp increase in deforestation. As a regional coordinator at Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (Funai), Jussielson Gonçalves Silva was tasked with protecting forests in the western state of Mato Grosso. Instead, he and two other Funai officials were leasing Indigenous reserves to cattle ranchers for kickbacks worth up to US$190,000 a month, according to Brazil’s federal police, who arrested the ex-navy officer on 17 March. Gonçalves Silva is one of the many military officials who have been appointed to key environmental agencies under President Jair Bolsonaro. The aim is to obstruct their work from the inside, says Suely Araújo at the Climate Observatory in São Paulo. “This case is symbolic of the growing illegality and impunity in the Amazon under Bolsonaro,” says Araújo. Deforestation has soared since Bolsonaro took office in 2019. Another 13,235 square kilometres of the Amazon rainforest were lost in 2020-21, up 22 per cent from the previous year and the highest amount since 2006. Even in January, when heavy rains usually protect the forest from fires, 430 square kilometres were cleared – five times the area lost that month the previous year. Conservationists largely blame the right-wing president, who has stripped back environmental protections, publicly endorsed development of the Amazon and criticised environmental institutions. “We are losing control,” says Araújo, a former president of Ibama, Brazil’s environment agency. Accelerating deforestation has had deadly consequences for both wildlife and Indigenous people, many of whom have been killed in violent clashes with loggers. Its demise is also accelerating global warming, say ecologists. They predict that it will eventually reach a tipping point where it shifts from a lush rainforest to a more open ecosystem resembling a savannah.

3-31-22 UK greenhouse gas emissions jumped by a record amount last year
After a sharp fall in 2020, the UK’s emissions of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming gases increased by 4.7 per cent in 2021, the biggest annual rise since records started in 1990. UK greenhouse gas emissions saw their biggest annual jump in modern records last year, as covid-19 restrictions were lifted and pollution from traffic soared. Emissions dropped dramatically in 2020, by 9.5 per cent to 405.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), as limits were imposed on movement and energy demand slumped. However, figures published today by the UK’s Office for National Statistics show emissions bounced back in 2021 by 4.7 per cent to 424.5 MtCO2e. That is slightly slower growth than the 5.5 per cent global increase in CO2 emissions, and the biggest annual rise in the UK since records started in 1990. The increase is a blip in the UK’s long-term trend, which has seen emissions almost halve since 1990. In recent years, emissions have only increased twice: in 2010 after the financial crash, and in 2012. The transport sector overtook energy as the UK’s biggest emitter in 2016, as the country’s coal power phase-out accelerated. Transport now accounts for about a quarter of UK emissions, with the vast majority coming from road vehicles. While the UK was in lockdown for several months during 2021, restrictions on travel weren't as stringent as during the first covid-19 lockdown in 2020. Transport emissions increased by 10 per cent last year. Separately today, a long-running government public attitudes tracker revealed that 80 per cent of people in the UK support onshore wind power, while only 4 per cent oppose it. The UK government has reportedly been discussing planning barriers to the technology in its delayed energy strategy, which is being prepared in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

3-30-22 Europe must tackle its energy crisis now or face a very painful winter
“THE time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” US president John F. Kennedy once said. It is an adage that Europe must now wrestle with. With spring blossoming even as war continues to darken the continent, it is hard to spend too much time thinking about next winter. Yet the geopolitical uncertainty created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine means volatile energy prices are guaranteed this year. UK energy bill projections for October have yo-yoed with oil and gas prices in recent weeks, from a high of £3000 a year on average to a still-very-high low of £2500. Governments must act now. The European Union already has – its recent energy strategy mandates that gas stores be replenished by winter and calls for a diversification of gas supplies. This bolsters existing plans for renewables, energy efficiency and hydrogen. By contrast, the UK’s long-trailed energy plan was delayed again this week, as winter draws ever closer. When new energy security strategies for Europe arrive, it is essential that they align with climate change goals. False solutions abound, such as kick-starting a UK fracking industry, even though that has already been tried without success. Thankfully, the answers are already clear. Wind and solar power should be turbocharged, and ideological barriers such as vetoes for onshore turbines in England must be lifted. More electricity links are required between countries, like the UK-Denmark one due to be finished next year. Energy efficiency needs serious government support, and electrification of cars and heating must be accelerated. And, yes, some mix of nuclear power, more energy storage or carbon-capture power stations will be required to support renewables when the sun isn’t shining. Individuals can’t solve the climate or energy crises on their own, but as we detail, there are things homeowners can do to help. People on lower incomes need support to cope with high energy prices. But for those able to pay, there has never been a better time to “repair” that roof, with proper insulation and solar panels. Winter is sooner than you think. Let’s seize the opportunity to make sure we weather it.

3-30-22 Health impacts of wood burning cost EU and UK €17 billion a year
Wood-based home appliances are responsible for 63 per cent of the health costs from air pollution related to heating and cooking in homes in the European Union and UK. Wood-burning appliances in people’s homes are a major source of damaging air pollution in the European Union and the UK, responsible for €17 billion a year in health-related costs, a study has found. Economist Marisa Korteland and her colleagues at the Netherlands-based consultancy firm CE Delft calculated how much air pollution is produced by heating and cooking in homes based on emissions data from Eurostat, the EU’s statistical office. They then estimated the health consequences based on a 2013 study by the World Health Organization. The health costs include both direct spending on healthcare and the social costs of higher illness rates and earlier deaths. “It’s really important to take the health impacts of air pollution into account,” says Korteland. Policy-makers don’t usually do this because no economic value is placed on it, she says. According to the study, air pollution from fossil fuels and wood burned in homes for heating or cooking results in €27 billion of health-related costs a year in the EU and UK. That is nearly as much as air pollution from residential transport, which causes €36 billion in health-related costs a year. Wood-based home appliances are responsible for 63 per cent of the €27 billion, because burning wood has high health costs relative to the energy it generates. In the UK, for instance, wood stoves provide just 11 per cent of the final energy used for heating and cooking, but cause 54 per cent of health-related costs, the study found. The average health costs from using a wood stove for a year are €750 per household, says Korteland, compared with €210 from driving a diesel car and €30 from a gas boiler.

3-30-22 Climate change: Wind and solar reach milestone as demand surges
Wind and solar generated 10% of global electricity for the first time in 2021, a new analysis shows. Fifty countries get more than a tenth of their power from wind and solar sources, according to research from Ember, a climate and energy think tank. As the world's economies rebounded from the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021, demand for energy soared. Demand for electricity grew at a record pace. This saw a surge in coal power, rising at the fastest rate since 1985. The research shows the growth in the need for electricity last year was the equivalent of adding a new India to the world's grid. Solar and wind and other clean sources generated 38% of the world's electricity in 2021. For the first time wind turbines and solar panels generated 10% of the total. The share coming from wind and sun has doubled since 2015, when the Paris climate agreement was signed. The fastest switching to wind and solar took place in the Netherlands, Australia, and Vietnam. All three have moved a tenth of their electricity demand from fossil fuels to green sources in the last two years. "The Netherlands is a great example of a more northern latitude country proving that it's not just where the Sun shines, it's also about having the right policy environment that makes the big difference in whether solar takes off," said Hannah Broadbent from Ember. Vietnam also saw spectacular growth, particularly in solar which rose by over 300% in just one year. "In the case of Vietnam, there was a massive step up in solar generation and it was driven by feed-in tariffs - money the government pays you for generating electricity - which made it very attractive for households and for utilities to be deploying large amounts of solar," said Dave Jones, Ember's global lead. "What we saw with that was a massive step up in solar generation last year, which didn't just meet increased electricity demand, but it also led to a fall in both coal and gas generation." Despite the growth and the fact that some countries like Denmark now get more than 50% of their electricity from wind and solar, coal power also saw a remarkable rise in 2021.

3-30-22 Fast fashion: European Union reveals fast fashion crackdown
Clothes, furniture and smartphones sold in Europe must be longer-lasting and easier to repair under new rules proposed by the European Union. The strategy, launched on Wednesday, targets products at every stage of use, including design, repair and recycling. The initiative aims to boost the market for sustainably made textiles. It also says it will crack down on companies misleading consumers with false environmental claims, or greenwashing. Manufacturers will have to ensure their clothes are eco-friendly and hard-wearing. And consumers will be given more information on how to reuse, repair and recycle their clothes. Iona Popescu of environmental NGO, the Environmental Coalition on Standards, said the rules were designed to bring in longer-lasting products that could be used multiple times rather than worn a few times then thrown away. "The Commission seeks to put a halt on fast fashion by introducing rules on textiles to be used in the European market," she said. It's estimated that less than 1% of all clothing worldwide is recycled. According to the European Environment Agency, clothes use in Europe has on average the fourth highest impact on the environment and climate, exceeded only by food, housing and transport. For every person in the EU, textile consumption requires nine cubic metres of water, 400 square metres of land, 391kg of raw materials, and causes a carbon footprint of about 270kg. In the UK, politicians have called on the government to change the law to require fashion retailers to comply with environmental standards. The government rejected most of the Environmental Audit Committee's recommendations in 2019, including making clothes producers pay for better clothing collection and recycling, but has made textile waste a priority. Tamara Cincik of the think tank for the fashion industry, Fashion Roundtable, said the textiles strategy could set the tone for future legislation outside of the EU.

3-29-22 Climate change: Heatwave temperature threshold raised in England by Met Office
Forecasters have raised the temperature at which a heatwave is declared in several areas of England. The Met Office defines a heatwave as when an area experiences daily maximum temperatures meeting or exceeding a certain level for three days in a row. Eight counties have had these limits raised by the forecaster by 1C. Announcing the change, experts said climate data showed "undeniable warming" in the UK accompanying increasing greenhouse gas emissions. What defines a heatwave is linked to historical climate data. The UK has been experiencing rising average temperatures in recent years as a result of global warming. Previous thresholds used data from 1981 to 2010, but the new limits are based on the period between 1991 and 2020, the Met Office said. The Met Office's heatwave thresholds vary in the UK between 25C to 28C, with London previously the only area to have a limit of 28C. Most counties in the south east of England have a threshold of 27C, while many central areas of England and south-east Wales have a threshold of 26C. The rest of England and Wales, all of Scotland and Northern Ireland still fall under a 25C threshold. Dr Mark McCarthy, head of the Met Office National Climate Information Centre - the body which manages the UK's climate records - said climate statistics over time have revealed an "undeniable warming trend for the UK". "Temperature rise has been greatest across parts of central and eastern England, where it has increased by more than 1.0C in some locations, while further north, areas of Scotland and Northern Ireland have seen temperatures rise by closer to 0.7C," he added. Dr McCarthy said while heatwaves are "extreme weather events", scientific research shows that "climate change is making these events more likely". The scientist explained a 2018 Met Office study showed that heatwaves are 30 times more likely to occur now than in 1750, because of higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which is a by-product from burning fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas and is a key driver of global warming. Left unchecked, humans and nature will experience catastrophic warming, with worsening droughts, greater sea level rise and mass extinction of species.

3-29-22 Wally Broecker divined how the climate could suddenly shift
The shutdown of an ocean conveyor belt could cause abrupt climate change. It was the mid-1980s, at a meeting in Switzerland, when Wally Broecker’s ears perked up. Scientist Hans Oeschger was describing an ice core drilled at a military radar station in southern Greenland. Layer by layer, the 2-kilometer-long core revealed what the climate there was like thousands of years ago. Climate shifts, inferred from the amounts of carbon dioxide and of a form of oxygen in the core, played out surprisingly quickly — within just a few decades. It seemed almost too fast to be true. Broecker returned home, to Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and began wondering what could cause such dramatic shifts. Some of Oeschger’s data turned out to be incorrect, but the seed they planted in Broecker’s mind flowered — and ultimately changed the way scientists think about past and future climate. A geochemist who studied the oceans, Broecker proposed that the shutdown of a major ocean circulation pattern, which he named the great ocean conveyor, could cause the North Atlantic climate to change abruptly. In the past, he argued, melting ice sheets released huge pulses of water into the North Atlantic, turning the water fresher and halting circulation patterns that rely on salty water. The result: a sudden atmospheric cooling that plunged the region, including Greenland, into a big chill. (In the 2004 movie The Day After Tomorrow, an overly dramatized oceanic shutdown coats the Statue of Liberty in ice.) It was a leap of insight unprecedented for the time, when most researchers had yet to accept that climate could shift abruptly, much less ponder what might cause such shifts. Broecker not only explained the changes seen in the Greenland ice core, he also went on to found a new field. He prodded, cajoled and brought together other scientists to study the entire climate system and how it could shift on a dime. “He was a really big thinker,” says Dorothy Peteet, a paleoclimatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City who worked with Broecker for decades. “It was just his genuine curiosity about how the world worked.”

3-29-22 UK energy crisis means greening your home will pay off much faster
The cost of heating UK homes using traditional technology is rising this week – making green options like solar panels and heat pumps a more affordable alternative. For the past few weeks, 22 million people across England, Scotland and Wales have had an unpleasant shock lurking in their inboxes and on their doormats, as their energy suppliers have laid out their future energy costs. For a home with typical energy consumption, annual bills will jump by 54 per cent to £1971 from 1 April under a regulated price cap. The unprecedented increase was triggered by an energy crisis that started well before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, although this has pushed prices even higher. When the price cap moves again in October, analysts expect annual bills will hit anywhere between £2500 and up to £3000. Emergency action will be needed to help the millions of people who are least able to pay. But for those with capital and cheap credit, a world with such high prices rewrites the financial calculations for the green home renovations that are considered essential for meeting the UK’s climate targets. Energy experts say the attractiveness of measures such as installing insulation, solar panels and heat pumps has fundamentally changed. “It has to massively change the calculus,” says Rob Gross, director of the UK Energy Research Centre. Solar panels are one technology back in the sun, after installation rates drastically slowed due to subsidy cuts six years ago. Solar power also got a boost in the spring statement on 23 March, which UK chancellor Rishi Sunak used to impose a 5-year-long cut in VAT on solar panels and energy efficiency products, from 5 per cent to 0 per cent. That should cut solar installation costs by £1000, said Sunak.

3-25-22 World would be 1°C warmer without cooling effect of tropical forests
Tropical forests prevent the climate warming by storing carbon in their trees and cooling air when water evaporates from their leaves. Tropical forests cool the planet by over 1°C – a finding that highlights the importance of protecting and reforesting equatorial regions. Forests can affect local and global climates in a variety of ways, notably by taking in carbon from the atmosphere and locking it in trees and soil. “But forests are not just carbon sponges,” says Deborah Lawrence at the University of Virginia. “Their biophysical structure interacts with the atmosphere and cools the surface of the Earth in other ways as well.” These mechanisms include reflecting some sunlight back into space and evapotranspiration – when moisture within the tree is released as water vapour through leaves. The latter involves taking in heat from the nearby environment, so it cools the air surrounding a forest. Irregularities in the surface formed by forest canopies also play a role. And finally, trees can produce chemicals known as biogenic volatile compounds, which also affect the climate. Lawrence and her colleagues decided to investigate the local and global-scale climate effects of forests taking into account all of the ways in which they contribute to cooling, including their importance for locking away carbon in biomass. To do this, the team collected and analysed published data on the biophysical and carbon dioxide-absorbing effects of forests around the world. They found that between 50 degrees north and south of the equator, forests have a global cooling effect of at least 1°C when both biophysical effects and carbon locking is considered. A third of this cooling can be attributed to biophysical mechanisms alone. Further north and south, however, the team found that significant deforestation would lead to net global cooling because the snow and ice that would be uncovered reflects more sunlight than forests. “[Though] we don’t really think we’d ever get such a large-scale deforestation occurring in the boreal,” says Lawrence. “Those forests are also important for many other reasons, including limiting extreme weather.”

3-25-22 Forests help reduce global warming in more ways than one
There’s more to the effect than the capture of carbon dioxide alone. When it comes to cooling the planet, forests have more than one trick up their trees. Tropical forests help cool the average global temperature by more than 1 degree Celsius, a new study finds. The effect stems largely from forests’ capacity to capture and store atmospheric carbon (SN: 11/18/21). But around one-third of that tropical cooling effect comes from several other processes, such as the release of water vapor and aerosols, researchers report March 24 in Frontiers in Forests and Global Change. “We tend to focus on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, but forests are not just carbon sponges,” says Deborah Lawrence, an environmental scientist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. “It’s time to think about what else forests are doing for us besides just absorbing carbon dioxide.” Researchers already knew that forests influence their local climates through various physical and chemical processes. Trees release water vapor through pores in their leaves — a process called evapotranspiration — and, like human sweating, this cools the trees and their surroundings. Also, uneven forest canopies can have a cooling effect, as they provide an undulating surface that can bump hot, overpassing fronts of air upward and away. What’s more, trees generate aerosols that can lower temperatures by reflecting sunlight and seeding clouds. But on a global scale, it wasn’t clear how these other cooling benefits compared with the cooling provided by forests’ capturing of carbon dioxide, Lawrence says. So she and her colleagues analyzed how the complete deforestation of different regions would impact global temperatures, using data gathered from other studies. For instance, the researchers used forest biomass data to determine how much the release of carbon stored by those forests would warm the global temperature. They then compared those results with other studies’ estimates of how much the loss of other aspects of forests — such as evapotranspiration, uneven canopies and aerosol production — affected regional and global temperatures.

3-25-22 Great Barrier Reef suffers first mass bleaching under cooling La Niña
Corals have turned white across all four of the reef’s main areas, despite the cooling influence of the La Niña climate phenomenon, in the natural wonder's sixth mass bleaching event of modern times. Unusually warm ocean temperatures have turned corals white on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in the first-ever mass bleaching under the cooling conditions created by the La Niña weather pattern. An official analysis of aerial surveys published today finds mass bleaching across all four of the reef’s management areas, with the north and central parts of the World Heritage Site worst hit. The impact has been less severe in the south of the reef. “What we’re seeing at the Great Barrier Reef is very worrying,” says Miriam Reverter at the University of Plymouth in the UK. Warmer oceans under climate change have led to an increase in mass bleaching events at the world’s largest reef: this is the sixth since modern records began in 1988, and the fourth in just seven years. Ocean temperatures at the reef during March have been between 0.5°C and 2°C above average in most places, and up to 4°C higher in some spots. Normally, the water would be expected to start getting cooler in March. The bleaching is particularly notable for happening when the region is in a cooling phase brought about by La Niña. The worst mass bleaching event happened in 2016, the planet’s hottest year on record, when an El Niño warming phase was in effect. Terry Hughes at James Cook University in Australia tweeted that the latest mass bleaching was “a grim milestone during what should have been a cooler (La Niña) summer”. Reverter says the milestone means there is increasingly little respite for coral. “Coral reef scientists were thinking there would be some years when coral reefs could recover,” she says. “We thought it [La Niña] could be a safe period. Turns out it’s not.”

3-24-22 Fix the Planet newsletter: Solving charging anxiety for electric cars
Hesitancy around electric cars has shifted from 'range anxiety' to 'charging anxiety', but alongside more charging points there also needs to be a shift in public perception. “Range anxiety” for electric cars is dead because their battery capacity has grown so much in the past decade, if you believe the UK motoring industry. The problem facing electric vehicles (EVs) today is “charging anxiety”, it says. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says access to publicly available chargers is going backwards in the UK, from one charger for every 16 plug-in cars 12 months ago to one charger for every 32 cars today. Mike Hawes, the trade body’s chief executive, said yesterday that the solution is for the UK government to set a mandate for charging infrastructure, akin to the mandate car makers will face from 2024 on what percentage of their car sales must be electric from 2024. “What we’d like to see is commensurate targets on the provision of infrastructure and that should be done on the basis of ratios because, as EV sales increase, the demand for chargers increases commensurately,” Hawes told journalists at a conference in London. “We need to make sure that the two are aligned and indeed, that the infrastructure is built ahead of demand.” So are car-to-charger ratios really the barrier to an even faster transition to electric cars? Tomorrow, the UK government is expected to publish its infrastructure strategy, which should include car chargers, so let’s take a look. It’s booming. In the UK, 10 years ago there were just six electric car models that accounted for about one in every 1700 new car sales. There are now 140 models, another 55 coming this year, and one in six new cars sold is electric, according to Hawes’ figure. For vans, it’s one in 28. South Korean car maker Kia has gone from electric models being 1 per cent of its total UK car sales in 2019 to 15 per cent last year and 20 per cent in 2022 so far.

3-25-22 UK chose to pay back £640,000 to fracking firms after shale gas ban
The UK government imposed a moratorium on shale gas extraction in November 2019, leaving fracking firms that had paid licence fees out of pocket, but the country's oil and gas regulator decided to refund them. The UK Treasury and the country’s oil and gas regulator chose to give fracking companies a refund of £640,000 after the government banned shale gas exploration in England, despite not being required to do so. Exploratory fracking had already ground to a halt ahead of a moratorium imposed in November 2019, as companies struggled to operate without triggering minor earthquakes that alarmed local residents and forced the firms to pause work. But prime minister Boris Johnson has recently asked ministers to look again at shale gas because of the energy price crisis, despite energy experts saying it would make no difference because production would take years to start and gas prices are set internationally. The UK government is expected to publish a new energy security strategy next week. When the ban came into force, companies that had already paid oil and gas licensing fees for fracking were out of pocket, but a freedom of information request has revealed that the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA), the UK’s oil and gas industry regulator, chose to approve applications for a waiver of the fees, with the blessing of the Treasury. The regulator wasn’t obliged to approve the applications and pay back the money. However, it may have feared a costly legal challenge: an unnamed fracking firm was reported last year to have threatened to sue the government over the ban. A spokesperson for the NSTA said: “Licensees can apply for a rental waiver to the NSTA. The NSTA considers these requests and not all waivers are granted. Any successful requests require HM Treasury confirmation.”

3-23-22 Russian tanks are devastating an idyllic Ukrainian wetland wilderness
The invasion of Ukraine is first and foremost a humanitarian catastrophe, but the environmental consequences of Putin's war will also be dire, writes Graham Lawton. A FEW long weeks ago, before Vlad the Invader added the threat of nuclear holocaust back onto the world’s roster of apocalyptic horsemen, I received a press release about an idyllic-sounding place called Polesia. It isn’t a country, but is big enough to be. This wetland wilderness covers around 180,000 square kilometres, roughly the size of Cambodia, and is of inestimable biodiversity value. Long under pressure from logging, drainage and infrastructure development, it has emerged as a rare conservation success story. On 1 February, the press release was telling of plans to apply for it to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Europe’s equivalent of the Serengeti. Today, Polesia is a war zone, pummelled and churned by Russian tanks. Most of the wetland straddles the Ukraine-Belarus border and the assault on Kyiv, launched from Belarus, ploughed straight through its eastern flank. So did the attack on the former Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the environs of which form a key part of the conservation zone on both sides of the border. Russian advances have also begun to edge towards strictly protected areas in central Polesia. The Russian invasion of Ukraine is, of course, first and foremost a humanitarian disaster. But if and when the dust (hopefully not radioactive) settles, it will also be recognised as an environmental one. Decades of hard-won conservation gains could be wiped out in a matter of weeks. And the environmental threats extend beyond Polesia. Ukraine also includes bits of two other internationally important conservation areas: the Danube delta and the Azov-Black Sea coastline. The former lies partly in Moldova, rumoured to be the next domino Vladimir Putin wants to topple, and the latter is already mired in the conflict zone north of Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. The link between conflict and environmental destruction pulls both ways. Putin’s invasion is essentially a throwback to last century’s wars of conquest and aggression, but future warfare is likely to be driven, at least in part, by climate change.

3-23-22 Climate change: Extreme weather warning systems for all 'in five years'
Early warning systems to protect the entire world from extreme weather and climate disasters should be rolled out within five years, according to the UN. Right now, around one-third of the global population has no cover while in Africa 60% of the population is unprotected. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) will put together a plan on how this can be achieved by November. Around $1.5bn will be needed to finance the development. But better warning systems have ensured that the number of people killed in these floods and storms has fallen significantly in the same period. However, the scale of improvement depends very much on where you live. Last year, when Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana, it was the fifth strongest such storm to hit the continental US. Thanks to effective forecasting and early warning, tens of thousands of people were mandated to evacuate and overall deaths were less than 100. Contrast that with Cyclone Idai which hit Southern Africa in 2019, leaving around a thousand people dead across Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe and millions more in need in humanitarian assistance. While warnings were issued, the dissemination of the information, particularly in rural areas was not effective. "This is unacceptable, particularly with climate impacts sure to get even worse," said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a video statement to launch the new plan. "Early warnings and action save lives. We must boost the power of prediction for everyone and build their capacity to act." The UN has now asked the WMO to develop a scheme so that early notifications of these type of extreme events can cover everyone on the planet within five years. The greatest need is in parts of Central and West Africa, in the Caribbean and in small island developing states in the Pacific. Crucially, the systems should also help inform governments, communities, and individuals on how to act to minimise damage.

3-22-22 How the war in Ukraine will change the way the world uses energyc
With Russian oil and gas politically toxic, Western nations are scrambling for replacement sources of energy. The immediate future will be difficult, but the crisis could accelerate the transition to clean energy. In just over a month, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has displaced millions of people and killed thousands on both sides. At the same time, the war has triggered historic shifts in the world of energy. Many countries have long depended on oil and gas from Russia, which is one of the world’s top exporters of fossil fuels. But with those exports now politically toxic, they are scrambling to find other ways to meet their energy needs. The European Union has committed to cutting imports of Russian gas by two-thirds by the end the year. Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the European Commission, has said it would be hard but possible. The world’s energy systems have been going through a slow transition to lower-carbon fuels for decades. But the war in Ukraine has changed everything and energy security is now the most pressing priority. A crucial question is how this will play out for the environment. Will it mean a renewed race towards renewables, or a rush to exploit domestic fossil fuels and new suppliers of oil and gas? Even before the war, the world had energy problems. Gas production outages and increased demand from the post-covid-19 economic bounceback saw oil and gas prices rising fast by last September. The shocks were felt around the world. In the UK, some petrol stations ran out of fuel in October and electricity prices quadrupled in 2021. The pandemic itself had also provided an opportunity for changes to our energy systems. As many cars remained parked and planes grounded in 2020, global carbon emissions fell steeply. There was plenty of talk about building on this with a “green recovery”, by injecting government funds into green technology and jobs. But this opportunity has been missed. Only 6 per cent of the $860 billion of global stimulus designed to kick-start economies was funnelled into emissions-cutting measures.

3-22-22 Arctic and Antarctic see extreme heat and historically low sea ice
Both poles are being warmed by unusually hot air currents, but scientists think the extreme temperatures in Antarctica are a result of natural variability not climate change. Abnormally hot air has hit both of the world’s poles at once, while the extent of Arctic sea ice appears to have been historically low this winter. Temperature records were broken in Antarctica as warm air swept unusually far into the heart of the continent. Concordia station, which is high above sea level and has an annual average temperature of -50°C, reached an all-time high of -12.2°C on 18 March, beating the -13.7°C record set in December 2016. Another research station, Vostok, also saw record high temperatures. “The Antarctic [heat] is really extreme. I haven’t seen anything like that. Colleagues haven’t seen anything this extreme,” says Walt Meier at the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. A band of westerly winds around Antarctica usually isolates the continent from other weather systems. But in the past week, an “atmospheric river” of hot air, originating in the mid-latitudes, travelled down from Tasmania and South Australia, breaching those winds to travel far across the ice, says John Turner at the British Antarctic Survey. Although such events aren’t unprecedented, the temperatures this time are very high. Turner says while it is undoubtedly an “extreme event”, he thinks the Antarctic heat looks like natural variability rather than climate change. Past research by Turner has found no discernible trend in extreme temperatures in Antarctica, where the hole in the ozone layer appears to have cancelled out the impact of global warming so far. The recent highs won’t have any consequences such as impacts on landing strips for scientists stationed on the continent either, says Ted Scambos at the University of Colorado, Boulder, because most have already departed ahead of the Antarctic winter and those remaining are hunkered down with supplies.

3-22-22 Texas is battling over 170 wildfires
Over the past week, wildfires have burned over 100,000 acres in the US state. Hundreds of structures, including homes and businesses, have been destroyed and hundreds of people have been forced to evacuate from their homes.

3-22-22 Goo made from okra can filter microplastics out of water
A plant-based extract could be a non-toxic and sustainable alternative to polyacrylamide for removing microplastic pollution from water. A goo made from kitchen ingredients like okra and fenugreek is as effective at removing microplastics from water as an industry standard. Microplastics are fragments of plastic smaller than 5 millimetres across that pollute water sources across the world. Their possible health effects are a cause of concern, although we still know little about their impact in the body. They can be removed from water supplies by using a fossil fuel-based gel, polyacrylamide, but this can be toxic to humans under certain conditions. Now, Rajani Srinivasan at the University of Texas and her colleagues have created sustainable, plant-based alternatives, which are as effective in laboratory studies and non-toxic to humans. Srinivasan and her colleagues crushed up plant-based ingredients commonly used as recipe thickeners, such as okra, fenugreek, prickly pear cactus, aloe vera and tamarind, and extracted long carbohydrates known as polysaccharides. They then dried the extracts to form a powder. When added to water, it acts as a flocculant, making the microplastics clump together in a goo that sinks to the bottom. Srinivasan and her team used various combinations of the extracts on seawater and freshwater samples and found that certain mixtures, such as okra and fenugreek, trapped as many microplastics as the polyacrylamide gel or more. “I wanted something that could be used around the world and that was easily available,” says Srinivasan. She and her team presented the research at the American Chemical Society Spring 2022 conference in San Diego, California on 22 March. One advantage of using the plant-based extracts is that they can be used in pre-existing microplastic filtering infrastructure. But further work will be needed to see how the production process might be scaled up, says Srinivasan.

3-21-22 Climate change: 'Madness' to turn to fossil fuels because of Ukraine war
The UN Secretary General says the rush to use fossil fuels because of the war in Ukraine is "madness" and threatens global climate targets. The invasion of Ukraine has seen rapid rises in the prices of coal, oil and gas as countries scramble to replace Russian sources. But Antonio Guterres warns that these short-term measures might "close the window" on the Paris climate goals. He also calls on countries, including China, to fully phase out coal by 2040. In his first major speech on climate and energy since COP26, Mr Guterres makes no bones about the fact that the limited progress achieved in Glasgow is insufficient to ward off dangerous climate change. Scientists believe that keeping the rise in global temperatures under 1.5C this century is crucial to limiting the scale of damage from global warming. To keep that threshold alive, carbon output needs to be cut in half by the end of this decade. Instead, as Mr Guterres points out, emissions are set to rise by 14%. "The problem was not solved in Glasgow," Mr Guterres says, in a speech delivered at the Economist Sustainability Summit. "In fact, the problem is getting worse." The war in Ukraine threatens to make that situation even more problematic, he says. Europe and the UK and other countries are looking to cut their reliance on Russian oil and gas this year. Many are turning to coal or imports of liquefied natural gas as alternative sources. But Mr Guterres warns this short-term approach heralds great danger for the climate. "Countries could become so consumed by the immediate fossil fuel supply gap that they neglect or knee-cap policies to cut fossil fuel use," Mr Guterres said. "This is madness. Addiction to fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction." Countries must "accelerate the phase out of coal and all fossil fuels," and implement a rapid and sustainable energy transition. It is "the only true pathway to energy security." Mr Guterres says the solutions to the climate crisis mostly lie in the hands of the G20 group of richest nations, which produce around 80% of global emissions.

3-21-22 Climate change: IPCC scientists to examine carbon removal in key report
UN scientists are likely to weigh up technology to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, as they gather to finalise a key report. This idea will be one of many solutions considered over the next two weeks by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Also in attendance will be government officials from all over the world, who will need to approve every line in the summary report. It is due to be published on 4 April. This new study will be the third of three important reports from the IPCC issued over the past eight months. The previous two have looked at the causes and impacts of climate change, but this one will focus on mitigation - or what we can do to stop it. This essentially means that researchers will look at how we can reduce the amount of warming gases that are emitted from human activities. However, the IPCC co-chair says this mitigation report will look more closely at ways of removing CO2 that's already in the atmosphere. "We have a lot more material, this time on carbon dioxide removal. That is, not putting carbon into the atmosphere, but getting it out again," said Prof Jim Skea, from Imperial College, London. "The report was scoped out to cover the full spectrum of carbon dioxide removal approaches, which vary absolutely hugely, and the carbon dioxide that is removed can end up in very different stores and in very different places. So it was within the scope of the report to cover the whole lot, basically." The kind of carbon removal approaches the report will consider will likely include tree planting and agriculture, as well as the more advanced technological approaches that use large machines to remove the carbon from the air. They will also look at combined approaches, where land is used to grow crops which can be burned for energy while the carbon is captured and buried. The use of these types of technology is controversial. Campaigners express doubts that they can be made to work economically and there are also concerns that technology could be seen as an excuse not to make the major changes in energy production that are needed.

3-19-22 UK's safe level for tap water too high - scientists
Scientists are concerned that the allowable levels of toxic PFAS - known as "forever chemicals" - in UK drinking water are too high. A BBC study found PFAS levels exceeded European safety levels in almost half of the samples taken. However, none exceeded the current UK safety level. The chemicals are in many products such as non-stick pans, food packaging, carpets, furniture, firefighting foam. They have been linked to a range of diseases, including cancer. Guidelines from the UK Drinking Water Inspectorate state drinking water must contain PFAS chemicals at no more than 100 nanograms per litre (ng/l). Above that, action must be taken to reduce levels. Working with Greenwich University, the BBC took 45 tap water samples. Laboratory analysis found that none exceeded the 100ng/l level. But 25 samples did contain PFASs, and four had levels that exceeded 10ng/l, which, under the current guidelines, means local local healthcare professionals must be consulted, and levels monitored. And almost half of the samples exceeded the European Food Standards Agency tolerable limit of 2.2ng/l. Professor Roger Klein, a chemist and PFAS expert, said: "The significance of your results, even though they're small, is that it underlines that this stuff is everywhere and that it's in drinking water. "It's ridiculous that the UK Drinking Water Inspectorate has a level of 100ng/l before action is taken." Rita Lock-Caruso, Professor of toxicology at the University of Michigan, also said the results raised a potential health concern: "We're finding health effects at lower and lower concentrations - in the single digits." Research has found the most common PFAS chemicals, PFOA and PFOS, have probable links to high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer, and pregnancy-induced hypertension.

3-18-22 Smoke from Australia’s intense fires in 2019 and 2020 damaged the ozone layer
Increasingly large blazes threaten to undo decades of work to help Earth’s protective layer. Towers of smoke that rose high into the stratosphere during Australia’s “black summer” fires in 2019 and 2020 destroyed some of Earth’s protective ozone layer, researchers report in the March 18 Science. Chemist Peter Bernath of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., and his colleagues analyzed data collected in the lower stratosphere during 2020 by a satellite instrument called the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment. It measures how different particles in the atmosphere absorb light at different wavelengths. Such absorption patterns are like fingerprints, identifying what molecules are present in the particles. The team’s analyses revealed that the particles of smoke, shot into the stratosphere by fire-fueled thunderstorms called pyrocumulonimbus clouds, contained a variety of mischief-making organic molecules (SN: 12/15/20). The molecules, the team reports, kicked off a series of chemical reactions that altered the balances of gases in Earth’s stratosphere to a degree never before observed in 15 years of satellite measurements. That shuffle included boosting levels of chlorine-containing molecules that ultimately ate away at the ozone.Ozone concentrations in the stratosphere initially increased from January to March 2020, due to similar chemical reactions — sometimes with the contribution of wildfire smoke — that produce ozone pollution at ground level (SN: 12/8/21). But from April to December 2020, the ozone levels not only fell, but sank below the average ozone concentration from 2005 to 2019. Earth’s ozone layer shields the planet from much of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Once depleted by human emissions of chlorofluorocarbons and other ozone-damaging substances, the layer has been showing signs of recovery thanks to the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to reduce the atmospheric concentrations of those substances (SN: 2/10/21). But the increasing frequency of large wildfires due to climate change — and their ozone-destroying potential — could become a setback for that rare climate success story, the researchers say (SN: 3/4/20).

3-18-22 Climate change: Wildfire smoke linked to Arctic melting
The dense plumes of wildfire smoke seen in recent years are contributing to the warming of the Arctic, say scientists. Their study says that particles of "brown carbon" in the smoke are drifting north and attracting heat to the polar region. The authors believe the growing number of wildfires helps explain why the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the planet. They're concerned that this effect will likely increase. Over the past decade, smoke from raging wildfires in Australia, Portugal, Siberia and the US have changed the colour of the skies. The smoke has impacted human health, and the amount of carbon released by the burning has helped push emissions to record levels. But now scientists say that all this burning has contributed to another serious issue - the loss of sea ice in the Arctic. esearchers have long been familiar with "black carbon", the sooty particles that are emitted from diesel engines, coal burning, cooking stoves and other sources. These aerosols, which absorb sunlight and turn it into heat, are known to be the second largest contributor to global warming. The impact of these particles on the Arctic and on clouds has been well documented. However, the same can't be said for brown carbon - which principally comes from the burning of trees and vegetation but is also created, to a lesser degree, from fossil fuels. The warming effect of this less dense substance has been either ignored or estimated with huge uncertainty in climate models. To develop a better understanding of the impacts, researchers travelled around the Arctic ocean on the Chinese icebreaker, Xue Long, in 2017. While some previous estimates had shown brown carbon was responsible for just 3% of the warming effect compared to black carbon, the scientists found that it is doing far more damage in the region. "To our surprise, observational analyses and numerical simulations show that the warming effect of brown carbon aerosols over the Arctic is up to about 30% of that of black carbon," says senior author Pingqing Fu, an atmospheric chemist at Tianjin University in China.

3-18-22 Could super-sized heat pumps make gas boilers extinct?
The war in Ukraine has forced a rethink of where we get our energy from as Europe tries to wean itself off Russian gas. But could super-sized heat pumps help to heat thousands of homes and businesses? Two huge schemes are about to be switched on in Gateshead and London - and the hope is they could provide a greener and cheaper source of warmth. "Coal mining was massive in the North East," says Jim Gillon, walking across a building site in Gateshead. "And where we're standing there are six different mine workings beneath our feet." Jim is the Energy Services Manager for Gateshead Council - and he's giving this former fossil fuel site a green makeover for an ambitious new heating scheme. He points to a borehole that descends 150m beneath the muddy earth. Like many old coal mines, it's now flooded with water. But the water is naturally warm at 15C - and this heat is key. Just a few metres away, a giant heat pump has been installed. It's a clever bit of engineering. In the same way that warmth can pass from one person to another when they shake hands, the warmth from the mine water is transferred into another liquid that circulates in the heat pump system. Under pressure the liquid turns to gas, then compressors squish and squeeze it, which boosts the temperature to 80C. This heat is sent out through pipes to be used by buildings in the local area. The mine water is sent back underground so the process can begin again. The small, individual heat pumps that people install in their homes work using the same principle. They take some warmth - whether it's from the air or the ground - and then increase the temperature, providing heat for that one household. But the heat pump in Gateshead is so large that at full capacity it can provide heat for the equivalent of 5,000 homes."We're really pleased that we've taken the legacy of the coal mining and we're turning that negative asset into a positive future source of energy," says Jim.

3-17-22 The ozone layer was damaged by Australia’s Black Summer megafires
Ozone levels above the mid-southern hemisphere dropped 13 per cent after Australia’s worst fires on record due to chemical reactions triggered by the smoke. Australia’s record-breaking wildfires of 2019 and 2020 blasted smoke so high that even the ozone layer in the stratosphere was damaged, a new analysis shows. The Black Summer bushfires, which raged along Australia’s east coast from November 2019 to January 2020, caused unprecedented destruction. The fires burned more than 70,000 square kilometres of bushland, destroyed more than 3000 homes, and killed more than 30 people and billions of animals. Smoke billowed all the way to South America and triggered distant ocean algal blooms. Now, Peter Bernath at Old Dominion University in Virginia and his colleagues have shown that the smoke also pushed its way up into the stratosphere and triggered chemical reactions that destroyed ozone. They analysed data from the Atmospheric Chemistry Experiment satellite, which monitors levels of 44 different molecules in the atmosphere. This revealed that stratospheric ozone declined by 13 per cent in the middle latitude area of the southern hemisphere – which includes Australia – in the aftermath of the Black Summer fires. This appeared to be because the smoke broke into the stratosphere and interacted with chlorine-containing chemicals left over from our past widespread use of chlorofluorocarbons. The smoke converted these chemicals into forms that are highly destructive towards ozone, for example, chlorine monoxide and hypochlorous acid. Wildfire smoke doesn’t normally make it into the stratosphere, but the Black Summer fires were so ferocious that they generated their own storm clouds – called pyrocumulonimbus clouds – that “punched the smoke into the stratosphere”, says Bernath.

3-17-22 Even the sea has light pollution. These new maps show its extent
Lights from coastal and offshore development may impact marine organisms far below the surface. The first global atlas of ocean light pollution shows that large swaths of the sea are squinting in the glare of humans’ artificial lights at night. From urbanized coastlines along the Persian Gulf to offshore oil complexes in the North Sea, humans’ afterglow is powerful enough to penetrate deep into many coastal waters, potentially changing the behaviors of creatures that live there, researchers report December 13 in Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. Regional and seasonal differences — such as phytoplankton blooms or sediment from rivers — also affect the depth to which light penetrates. Artificial lights are known to affect land dwellers, such as by swelling or shrinking certain insect populations, or by making it harder for sparrows to fight off West Nile virus (SN: 3/30/21; SN: 8/31/21; SN: 1/19/18). But the bright lights of coastal cities, oil rigs and other offshore structures can also create a powerful glow in the sky over the sea. To assess where this glow is strongest, marine biogeochemist Tim Smyth of Plymouth Marine Laboratory in England and colleagues combined a world atlas of artificial night sky brightness created in 2016 with ocean and atmosphere data (SN: 6/10/16). Those data include shipboard measurements of artificial light, satellite data collected monthly from 1998 to 2017 to estimate the prevalence of light-scattering phytoplankton and sediment, and computer simulations of how different wavelengths of light move through the water. Not all species are equally sensitive to light, so to assess impact, the team focused on copepods, ubiquitous shrimplike creatures that are a key part of many ocean food webs. Like other tiny zooplankton, copepods use the sun or the winter moon as a cue to plunge en masse to the dark deep, seeking safety from surface predators (SN: 1/11/16; SN: 4/18/18).

3-17-22 Clean air: Campaigners criticise pace of new particles targets
The pace of UK government plans to set new targets for cleaner air has been criticised by campaigners. Ministers have decided that tough standards for harmful PM2.5 particles will not come into force until 2040. Health campaigners say 2040 is too late, but ministers say it is the earliest realistic date given the number of sources of the pollution. The World Health Organisation says tougher standards are vital immediately. It says particulates can trigger heart attacks and strokes, increase the risk of asthma attacks, cause lung cancer, and stunt the lung-growth of children. PM2.5 particles are generated by road transport, as well as manufacturing, construction and the use of solvents. Katie Nield, from the environmental law charity ClientEarth, called on ministers to "seriously reconsider" their plans. She added: “Another generation of children will be exposed to toxic pollution far above what the world’s top scientists think is acceptable." The government said: “The targets to cut PM2.5 will reduce exposure to the most harmful air quality across the country and in locations where levels are highest, with a 50% cut in acceptable levels. “That goes well above and beyond previous EU targets while remaining achievable”. Meanwhile, a similar criticism has been levelled at the target for nature recovery, which forms part of a consultation on details in the government’s Environment Act. The government's consultation promises a 10% increase in species diversity over 2030 levels by 2042. Richard Benwell of Wildlife Link said: “We have seen a 150-year decline, so it’s great that the government wants to arrest that. But under today’s plan we could end up no better off than we are today.” He also complained about the absence of targets to ensure the quality of legally protected areas, and of a long-term target for the condition of rivers and streams, although there are now targets for pollution from farmers and water companies.

3-17-22 UK government backs plan to harvest solar power from space
Science minister George Freeman says he will not write a cheque for pioneering plans to beam energy down from a solar array in orbit but the UK government will offer its support. The UK government has thrown its backing behind an ambitious plan to harvest energy beamed from solar panels in space. Science minister George Freeman said he will support an initiative that hopes to construct a solar power array in orbit that could transmit low carbon energy to the UK and other countries around the clock. That does not mean the government will “write a cheque” for the scheme but it is “up for supporting” the project, he told an audience at the UK parliament on 10 March. The prospect of using robots to assemble a 2 gigawatt solar power station in space, sending the energy to Earth as high-frequency radio waves which could be converted back to electricity using a kilometres-wide, net-like antenna faces a host of challenges. Yet a report on the economic and technological feasibility of the idea, commissioned by the UK Space Agency, found the idea was realistic. Space-based energy could be operating by 2039, it said. Freeman did not explicitly spell out how the government will aid the Space Energy Initiative, but New Scientist understands it is likely to include help with potential regulatory hurdles, such as accessing the radio frequencies needed to send the energy back to Earth. Speaking at the same event, a senior UK government adviser said achieving net zero emissions was one of society’s biggest challenges and space-based solar power could be a “key element” in reaching that goal. “We know the costs are significant, but we recognise that also the benefits are there,” said Paul Monks, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Pursuing the technology would boost the UK’s space sector too, he added.

3-16-22 Sensors inspired by dandelion seeds can record signs of climate change
Tiny sensors that can drift in the breeze like dandelion seeds can help record environmental signals across a wide area. Tiny sensors with a design inspired by dandelion seeds could be scattered to the winds to help track key indicators of climate change and global warming. As the climate crisis continues to intensify, tracking changes in temperature, humidity and other environmental signals across a wide area is useful. But doing so effectively requires dispersing sensors throughout the environment, which can be time-consuming. “Rather than having a person go out and individually place sensors, which can be dangerous in hard-to-reach places where we’d like to do these measurements, we wondered whether it’s possible to build a system that can disperse sensors in the wind,” says Vikram Iyer at the University of Washington in Seattle. Iyer and his colleagues used a laser-powered tool to manufacture devices from polyimide films. Each one weighs 30 milligrams with a diameter of 28 millimetres, and carries an array of small holes through which air can pass to allow it to float in the air like a dandelion seed. The devices carry tiny sensors – essentially a microcomputer powered by minute solar panels – that can send back signals to the researchers, who developed different types that measure temperature, humidity, pressure and light. A small on-board capacitor can store energy overnight or in cloudy conditions. In all, the team tested 75 different designs before finding the optimal mix of variables. The final design can move through the air at 0.87 metres per second, travelling up to 100 metres in a moderate breeze when released from a drone. Real-world tests showed that the sensors can transmit data up to 60 metres. “The fabrication of the ‘seeds’ is especially interesting, as is the design of the electronics,” says Jonathan Aitken at the University of Sheffield, UK. “Both seem to be very robust to the natural environment.”

3-16-22 Another Evergreen shipping vessel runs aground
One year after the Ever Given container ship ran aground in the Suez Canal, her sister vessel is repeating the feat - in the US state of Maryland. Local officials say the Ever Forward left a Baltimore port on Sunday night en route to Norfolk, Virginia, but was grounded in the Chesapeake Bay. Both Ever Forward and Ever Given are owned by the same Taiwanese company. Ever Given was wedged in the Suez Canal for six days causing worldwide shipping industry upheaval. The ironically-named Ever Forward is not currently affecting transit through the US port, according to the Maryland Port Administration (MPA). The 1,096-foot ship was travelling through what is known as the Craighill Channel, which is about 50 feet (15m) deep. However, a US Coast Guard spokesman said the ship travelled outside the channel into water that was only about 25 feet (7.5m) deep. The Coast Guard is now investigating how it came to go aground and will work with a salvage team to tow the vessel to a safe location. There have been no injuries, spills or damage caused to the Ever Forward. Nearby ships have been asked to slow down and travel in one-way traffic as they pass by the stationary vessel.

3-16-22 Australia’s Japanese encephalitis outbreak blamed on climate change
Australia's record-breaking rainfall and flooding has provided an ideal breeding ground for Culex mosquitoes, which transmit the Japanese encephalitis virus. Australia is grappling with its first major outbreak of Japanese encephalitis, a viral disease that has already killed two people. The mosquito-transmitted infection is typically found in rural regions of Asia, but climate change is thought to have driven it further south – and other diseases could follow suit. Nineteen people have tested positive for the infection across four Australian states: Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland. A man in his 60s from Victoria and another man in his 70s from New South Wales have died from the virus. The migration of Japanese encephalitis-carrying mosquitoes from Asia to Australia has taken many experts by surprise. “Japanese encephalitis virus was completely off the radar for us,” says Roy Hall at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. The virus is transmitted via Culex mosquitoes that have previously bitten an infected animal, such as pigs or waterbirds. Experts believe the infection may have entered Australia after recent floods along the east coast created additional wetlands. These may have attracted migratory waterbirds from Asia, carrying the virus over. “We know these birds often follow flooded water courses,” says Hall. Local mosquitoes may have bitten these birds as they travelled along the waterways. Australia’s mosquito population is higher than normal due to its recent warm, wet weather assisting the insects’ breeding. Once mosquitoes are infected, they can pass the virus to dense populations of pigs in commercial farms, causing an “amplifying effect”, says Hall. Mosquitoes that bite infected pigs can spread the virus to people who work with or live near the animals. Japanese encephalitis cannot spread from person to person.

3-15-22 Pollen season in the US may start 40 days earlier by end of century
Climate change may see pollen season in the US begin earlier and end later by the end of the century – and those with hay fever may experience worse symptoms as pollen emissions could rise by as much as 250 per cent. Pollen season may start up to 40 days earlier by the end of the century in the US if temperatures continue to rise as predicted. It could also last longer and be more intense. Allergies induced by pollen such as hay fever affect up to 30 per cent of the world’s population. “We have already seen a change in the pollen count in the last few decades,” says Yingxiao Zhang at the University of Michigan. “The increase in pollen in the atmosphere starts earlier now and the main driver of that is temperature change.” Zhang and her colleagues wanted to find out what pollen season may look like at the end of the century. The team combined climate models with data taken between 1995 and 2014 from sites across the US for levels of 13 of the most common types of pollen in order to predict levels between 1981 and 2100. The researchers found that plants would start releasing pollen up to 40 days earlier if temperatures in the US rose between 4 and 6°C. For example, pollen released by alder trees (Alnus) may peak in February rather than March. They also found that plants that pollinate later in the year such as grasses may do so up to 19 days later – lengthening pollen season and increasing annual pollen emissions across the US by between 16 and 40 per cent. Factors other than temperature would have an effect too: increasing carbon dioxide levels could have the biggest impact on pollen emissions. Based on findings from previous lab studies, the researchers found that the predicted atmospheric CO2 rise this century may increase pollen emissions across the US by up to 250 per cent.

3-15-22 UK gets first new-style pylons in a century
The first 36 of a new T-shaped design of electricity pylon have been wired up, National Grid has announced. The plan is to roll out the pylons, the first new design in the UK since 1927, across England and Wales over years. Instead of an Eiffel-Tower-style lattice A-frame with a series of arms holding the electricity cables, they are strung below a cross-arm atop a single pole. The aim is to reduce the visual impact on the environment. The new design, submitted by Danish company Bystrup, was selected from more than 250 entries in a 2011 competition run by the Royal Institute of British Architects and the government. At 35m (115ft), they are about a third shorter than traditional high-voltage pylons, with a smaller ground footprint. The first ones form part of a 57km (35-mile) route that will carry low-carbon electricity between Bridgewater and Portbury, in Somerset. They will connect the Hinkley Point C Nuclear power station to six million homes and businesses, National Grid says. Hinkley nuclear power station on track for 2026 opening. Hinkley pylon scheme in Somerset given the green light. The electricity supply will be turned on in October. As part of the project, 249 old-style pylons will be removed. Their design, submitted by US engineering company Miliken Brothers, was chosen leading British architect Sir Reginald Blomfield, the designer of London's Lambeth Bridge, in a 1927 competition. Formally known as "transmission towers", they became known as "pylons" from the Greek word "pyle" meaning "gateway". Egyptology was all the rage after the 1922 discovery of boy king Tutankhamun's tomb and mummy. And the public thought the new steel towers resembled the impressive obelisks on either side of the doors of ancient Egyptian temples. There are about 22,000 pylons in England and Wales, covering more than 4,300 miles. They need to be high to straddle obstacles such as roads, rivers and railway lines and ensure nothing comes too close to them. The electricity cables on pylons are uninsulated, so there is a very high risk of electric shocks. But birds are not electrocuted, because they are not touching the ground, so the electricity stays in the power line.

3-14-22 Frozen peatlands could pass climate tipping points sooner than thought
We had calculated that frozen peatlands would remain stable until the 2070s, but a new analysis suggests they may begin thawing as early as the 2040s Vast expanses of peatland in frozen soil across northern Europe are expected to pass a climatic tipping point far sooner than previously thought, threatening to release billions of tonnes of carbon that would accelerate climate change. Global warming has already caused Arctic permafrost to start releasing more carbon than it absorbs. But Richard Fewster at the University of Leeds, UK, and his colleagues have pinpointed in new detail when and where local climates will become unsuitable for peatland locked away in permafrost. Finland, Norway, Sweden and a small part of north-west Russia will become too warm for permafrost peatland by the 2040s in all possible future carbon emissions scenarios considered by the team, compared with 2070 as thought previously. In the three higher-emission scenarios, most of Western Siberia will pass the same threshold in the 2090s. This would leave 39.5 billion tonnes of carbon, twice the amount contained in Europe’s forests, at risk of being released into the atmosphere and turbocharging climate change. The vast majority of that carbon is locked up in western Siberia, which has much older and larger peatlands than the other areas included in the study. “We’re looking at a huge carbon store that’s undergoing rapid changes. A huge amount of this carbon could be released into the atmosphere,” says Fewster. However, he cautions against fatalism and says a key message is the importance of the choices countries make today to tackle climate change. Under the lowest-emission scenario, about 14 billion tonnes of carbon could still survive in the far north of Western Siberia. In the higher-emission scenarios, this will eventually be released.

3-14-22 Cutting biofuels can help avoid global food shock from Ukraine war
The US and Europe can compensate for the loss of Ukraine’s grain exports by scrapping biofuel mandates, helping to avoid a food price shock. The war in Ukraine has already caused food prices to shoot up as global markets anticipate a loss of wheat and maize exports from one of the world’s largest producers of these crops. But Europe and the US could more than compensate for the loss of Ukraine’s exports by diverting crops destined to be made into biofuels into food production instead. This would bring food prices down and help prevent a major global food shock. On 9 March, Ukraine banned most food exports to try to ensure that its people don’t go hungry as Russian forces invade. Food prices were already at the highest levels for 40 years, says Matin Qaim at the University of Bonn in Germany. This is for many reasons, including poor harvests because of extreme weather driven by global warming. Quickly increasing the supply of food crops is difficult. But a large proportion of food crops aren’t eaten but converted to biofuels. Globally, 10 per cent of all grain is turned into biofuel, says Qaim. In the US, a third of the maize grown is converted into ethanol and blended into petrol. Around 90 million tonnes is used for ethanol, nearly double the 50 million tonnes exported by Ukraine and Russia, says Qaim. In the European Union, 12 million tonnes of grain, including wheat and maize, is turned into ethanol, Qaim says, around 7 per cent of the bloc’s production. The EU also produces large quantities of biodiesel. It turns 3.5 million tonnes of palm oil alone into biodiesel, says Qaim. “That’s almost the amount of sunflower oil coming out of Ukraine and Russia.” Governments have the power to change this, says Ariel Brunner at Birdlife International. “Because the biofuel market is entirely driven by subsidies, you can unplug it literally with the stroke of a pen,” he says. If the US and Europe were to decrease their use of ethanol made from grain by 50 per cent, they would effectively replace all of Ukraine’s exports of grain, Tim Searchinger at Princeton University has calculated in response to a question from New Scientist.

3-11-22 Static electricity can keep desert solar panels free of dust
Dust drastically lowers the output of solar panels, but applying an electric field to the panels can make dust particles repel each other and disperse. Static electricity could remove dust from desert solar panels, saving around 10 billion gallons of water every year. Some of the largest solar farms in the world are in deserts, such as Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in the United Arab Emirates and Desert Sunlight Solar Farm in California. These environments tend to be very dusty, with particles quickly accumulating on solar panels. One month’s dust build-up can cut a solar panel’s output by around 40 per cent. One of the most common ways of removing this dust is to spray large amounts of distilled water onto the solar panels. With an estimated 10 billion gallons of water being used every year just to clean solar panels, the process is costly and unsustainable, says Kripa Varanasi at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “That amount could provide water for over a million people [every year],” he says. To help solve this issue, Varanasi and his colleagues created a water-free way of cleaning solar panels via static electricity in the laboratory. Dust doesn’t ordinarily conduct electricity. This changes, however, when moisture in the air attaches onto the surface of a dust particle – a process known as adsorption. The thin glass sheets that cover solar panels also aren’t conductors. To change this, Varanasi’s team added a 5-nanometre layer of transparent zinc oxide and aluminium to a solar panel’s surface. A metallic plate was then hovered above the dust-covered panel, and an electric field of around 12 kilovolts was applied between the plate and the panel. This caused both layers to become electrodes, conductors that make contact with a non-metallic part of a circuit.

3-11-22 Trees that grow close together are better at withstanding storms
As storms become stronger, it might be possible to keep more trees standing if they are planted closer together. Trees that grow close together can survive powerful storms and prevent wind damage by supporting each other. Our knowledge of how wind damages trees has been limited by a lack of real-world experiments using the wind speeds seen in destructive cyclones. Kana Kamimura at Shinshu University in Japan and her colleagues were monitoring two different plots of Japanese cedar trees, one of which had been thinned to assess whether giving individual trees more room to grow made them more vulnerable to wind damage, when typhoon Trami unexpectedly hit in early September 2018. “I set the plot in 2017 and the typhoon came in 2018, and half of my plot was destroyed,” says Kamimura. “So the [study] is kind of lucky, but also kind of unlucky.” Kamimura and her team measured the stress forces experienced by the trees before, during and after the typhoon, and surveyed the resulting damage. The plot that hadn’t been thinned kept all of its trees, while the sparser plot lost many. The researchers think that the tight spacing helped protect the trees in the plot that wasn’t thinned by dissipating the force from the wind through collisions between branches of neighbouring trees. This stopped the force travelling into the sensitive stem and roots below, where it might help uproot trees. They also found that the trees that did fall in the thinned plot didn’t fail instantly but over time, like a piece of metal that’s repeatedly been bent back and forth before finally breaking. Understanding how far apart to space trees in plantations could be important for the timber industry, and for efforts to plant forests for carbon offsetting. “If you’re in an area which has a high risk of wind damage, you really want to manage your forest in a different way,” says Barry Gardiner at the European Institute of Planted Forest in France, who was one of the study’s authors.

3-11-22 How did we get here? The roots and impacts of the climate crisis
People’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels and the cutting down of carbon-storing forests have transformed global climate. Even in a world increasingly battered by weather extremes, the summer 2021 heat wave in the Pacific Northwest stood out. For several days in late June, cities such as Vancouver, Portland and Seattle baked in record temperatures that killed hundreds of people. On June 29, Lytton, a village in British Columbia, set an all-time heat record for Canada, at 121° Fahrenheit (49.6° Celsius); the next day, the village was incinerated by a wildfire. Within a week, an international group of scientists had analyzed this extreme heat and concluded it would have been virtually impossible without climate change caused by humans. The planet’s average surface temperature has risen by at least 1.1 degrees Celsius since preindustrial levels of 1850–1900. The reason: People are loading the atmosphere with heat-trapping gases produced during the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and gas, and from cutting down forests. A little over 1 degree of warming may not sound like a lot. But it has already been enough to fundamentally transform how energy flows around the planet. The pace of change is accelerating, and the consequences are everywhere. Ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are melting, raising sea levels and flooding low-lying island nations and coastal cities. Drought is parching farmlands and the rivers that feed them. Wildfires are raging. Rains are becoming more intense, and weather patterns are shifting. The roots of understanding this climate emergency trace back more than a century and a half. But it wasn’t until the 1950s that scientists began the detailed measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide that would prove how much carbon is pouring from human activities. Beginning in the 1960s, researchers started developing comprehensive computer models that now illuminate the severity of the changes ahead.

3-11-22 Fix the Planet newsletter: Carbon capture power stations are back
Will gas power stations equipped with carbon capture and storage be the future of power plants in the UK? What does the power station of the future look like to you? Fleets of wind turbines and rows of solar panels might spring to mind. In the UK, it’s increasingly clear that offshore wind farms are going to be the backbone of the country’s energy system because of economics, emissions and the ecosystem of companies supplying them here. Alongside those, we’re going to need a lot more energy storage, more power links to other countries and more energy efficiency. But it’s also a realistic possibility that we’re going to need other power stations that can be fired up at will for when we have mini wind droughts or spikes in demand. I took the train up to Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire last week to meet Alistair Phillips-Davies, the chief executive of energy giant SSE, and hear about his plans to build the world’s first hydrogen power station and another potential first, a gas power plant equipped with carbon capture and storage (CCS). So, what would these power stations look like? I travelled to the incredibly flat landscape that is home to Keadby 2, an 893-megawatt gas power station in east England that SSE has virtually finished. It will almost certainly be the UK’s last gas power station without CCS. Looking out from the roof of its cooling towers, however, you can see two fields that SSE hopes to turn into Keadby 3. If it gets built and comes online towards the end of this decade, it would be the world’s first gas power station with CCS (it faces competition for the title from another project, at Peterhead in Scotland). In theory, it should capture about 95 per cent of the plant’s carbon dioxide, says Phillips-Davies. Exhaust gases from the plant will be run through a liquid, sucking up the CO2, before it’s compressed and transported through a pipeline that doesn’t exist yet. That will whisk the carbon dioxide away for storage in an old oil and gas reservoir under the seabed. Again, such a facility needs to be built.

3-11-22 Climate change: Can the Russian energy crisis help to curb global heating?
Can the government wean Britain off Russian gas while also keeping energy affordable and hitting its climate change targets? Boris Johnson has pledged to produce an energy strategy shortly that does all three things. Can he pull it off and what are the political hurdles he faces? Some journalists have been briefed that the PM may encourage further research into fracking - where rocks are cracked underground to release gas. But otherwise the launch will offer no radically new policy - rather, an acceleration of existing plans. One thing is clear - there will be no new coal-fired power stations. But Mr Johnson is being tugged in two directions as he deliberates. The business department (BEIS), and most experts, tell him existing plans to cut fossil fuels to protect the climate will help shield the UK from rocketing global prices for oil and gas. They want government support for home insulation to reduce demand for gas heating. They say alternatives, such as electric heat pumps, should be rapidly deployed. And they want much faster deployment of renewables and nuclear. Conservative commentators share the desire for new nuclear, but insist that the UK should also resume fracking to shield the UK from fuel price rises. The PM is looking to announce plans from the short term to the long term. Instant cheap - or even free - results, for instance, can be gained by cutting our use of gas and oil. The International Energy Agency urges everyone to turn down the thermostat by a degree - that could save up to 10% of heating energy (and costs), it says. Insulation is another no-brainer quick hit - and it makes your home more comfortable. Even a draught excluder "sausage" for a door makes a small difference, as does basic draught-proofing. Heating only the rooms you're using is an easy hit. A speed limit of 55mph - the most efficient running speed for many cars - could be set during the energy crisis to cut carbon emissions. That might be resisted by a libertarian PM and in any case the RAC Foundation said it would be more effective to make fewer trips, and to brake and accelerate more smoothly.

3-8-22 EU lays out plan to cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds in 2022
The EU launched a new energy strategy to reduce the use of Russian gas imports just as the UK announced it would phase out such imports, and the US imposed a ban as well. The European Union has unveiled a plan to cut out two-thirds of its Russian gas imports by the end of the year, in a major pivot to alternative gas sources and renewable energy following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “It’s abundantly clear we are too dependent on Russia for our energy needs,” said Frans Timmermans of the European Commission in a press briefing on 8 March. “The answer to this concern for our [energy] security lies in renewable energy and diversification of supply.” The new EU energy strategy was launched just over an hour before the UK announced it would phase out Russian oil and gas imports by the end of 2022, and the US imposed a ban on imports of Russian oil, gas and coal. “[Vladimir] Putin has spurred in less than two weeks a historical U-turn in European foreign and energy policy axioms,” says Simone Tagliapietra at Bruegel, a Brussels-based think tank. Despite the EU’s call for more liquid natural gas imports and gas interconnections, in the longer term Europe is likely to emerge from this crisis much greener than before, he says: “2022 might also be remembered in history books as the watershed moment in which Europe truly accelerated its green transformation.” The EU currently gets around 45 per cent of its gas imports from Russia. Timmermans said that curbing Russian gas imports by the end of the year, which will require the EU to source about 100 billion cubic metres of gas from elsewhere, will be “bloody hard, but possible”. To replace the Russian gas, farmers will be encouraged to produce more biomethane, while the production of hydrogen from renewable energy will be ramped up. However, the biggest replacement sources will be liquefied natural gas and pipeline imports from other countries, amounting to about 60 billion cubic metres.

3-8-22 Climate change: EU unveils plan to end reliance on Russian gas
The European Commission has outlined a new energy roadmap designed to cut reliance on Russian gas by two thirds in just a year. The plan envisages ending reliance on all Russian fossil fuels "well before" 2030. In the short term, gas should be sourced from the US and Africa while some countries may need to use more coal in the months ahead. The EU also proposes a massive ramping up of renewables, biogas and hydrogen. While carbon emissions may rise in the short term, the longer-term aim is a speedier transition to sustainable sources. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has brought a new focus on Europe's reliance on the country for oil and gas. The EU gets roughly 40% of its gas from Russia: According to figures from research group Transport & Environment, this dependence amounts to around $118m a day. But moving with a speed few thought possible, the EU has now laid out a strategy that could cut reliance on this fuel source by two thirds within a year. The REPowerEU plan aims to make Europe independent of Russian fossil fuels by 2030, but the initial efforts focus solely on gas. The roadmap essentially proposes finding alternative supplies of gas in the next few months and boosting energy efficiency while doubling down on greener sources of power in the medium to longer term. "It's hard, bloody hard," said EU Commission vice president Frans Timmermans. "But it's possible if we're willing to go further and faster than we've done before." The Commission's new proposals will make it a legal requirement for EU countries to ensure they have a minimum level of gas storage. The aim is to have gas stocks at 90% of capacity by the Autumn, up from around 30% now. Discussions are ongoing with existing gas suppliers including Norway, Algeria and Azerbaijan to boost flows. Another key focus in the coming months will be increased imports of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from suppliers including the US, Qatar and Australia. But with Germany announcing plans for two new LNG terminals to increase supplies, some experts are worried that this could increase longer term dependency on fossil fuels.

3-8-22 Amazon rainforest reaching tipping point, researchers say
The Amazon rainforest is moving towards a "tipping point" where trees may die off en masse, say researchers. A study suggests the world's largest rainforest is losing its ability to bounce back from damage caused by droughts, fires and deforestation. Large swathes could become sparsely forested savannah, which is much less efficient than tropical forest at sucking carbon dioxide from the air. The giant forest traps carbon that would otherwise add to global warming. But previous studies have shown that parts of the Amazon are now emitting more carbon dioxide than can be absorbed. "The trees are losing health and could be approaching a tipping point - basically, a mass loss of trees," said Dr Chris Boulton of the University of Exeter. The findings, based on three decades of satellite data, show alarming trends in the "health" of the Amazon rainforest. There are signs of a loss of resilience in more than 75% of the forest, with trees taking longer to recover from the effects of droughts largely driven by climate change as well as human impacts such as deforestation and fires. A vicious cycle of damage could trigger "dieback", the scientists said. And while it's not clear when that critical point might be reached, the implications for climate change, biodiversity and the local community would be "devastating". Once the process begins they predict it could be a matter of decades before a "significant chunk" of the Amazon is transformed into savannah - a vastly different ecosystem made up of a mixture of grassland and trees. "The Amazon stores lots of carbon and all of that would be released into the atmosphere, which would then further contribute to increasing temperatures and have future effects on global mean temperatures," Dr Boulton said, adding that stopping deforestation would go some way to addressing the problem. Around a fifth of the rainforest has already been lost, compared to pre-industrial levels, they said.

3-7-22 Amazon rainforest nears tipping point that may see it become savannah
More than three-quarters of the world's largest rainforest has become less resilient to drought since the early 2000s, with areas near humans and with lower rainfall being the worst hit. The Amazon rainforest is nearing a tipping point that will see it transform into savannah, according to researchers who have found that the biodiversity hotspot has lost resilience in the past two decades. Previous studies have warned that the world’s largest rainforest, which acts as a vital brake on climate change, is approaching a critical threshold. But most past research has relied on projections using models, not real world observations. Now, Tim Lenton at the University of Exeter, UK, and his colleagues have used two sets of satellite data covering between 1996 and 2016 to measure the greenness of the Amazon over time, watching for how it recovered after impacts such as drought and fires. They found that since the early 2000s, 76 per cent of the region had become less resilient, or less able to restore itself to a stable state after being affected by events. Importantly, says Lenton, the signal of this growing instability was picked up without immediately obvious changes such as huge drops in the forest’s biomass or tree cover. “Why do we care about it? It’s worth reminding ourselves that if it gets to that tipping point and we commit to losing the Amazon rainforest then we get a significant feedback to global climate change,” says Lenton. He says a shift to savannah, a grassy ecosystem with much less biomass, would unlock about 90 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide stored in the trees and soil. Humanity emits about 40 billion a year. The team looked at vegetation cover using one satellite data set that measures the optical depth of vegetation using microwaves, and a second one that used infrared instead.

3-7-22 Net zero: The UK is building its last big gas power plant
Climb the stairs to the roof of the cooling tower at Keadby 2, a new gas power plant in the east of England, and you are rewarded with a story of the UK’s energy past, present and possible future. Straight ahead is a mound built from the ash of a coal plant that closed in 1984, a fuel the UK has now almost entirely ditched. Behind stands an array of 34 fast-spinning turbines, England’s biggest onshore wind farm. Off the coast are some of the UK’s biggest offshore wind farms. And the site could soon be home to a pair of pioneering low-carbon power stations, if energy firm SSE gets its wish. However, perhaps the most extraordinary thing on this flat stretch of land in Lincolnshire, which was reclaimed from the sea, is the power station infrastructure beneath your feet. Keadby 2 will almost certainly be the UK’s last large traditional gas power plant. Construction began in 2018 and has been a “hard slog”, says one SSE staffer, not least because of the pandemic, with a covid-19 outbreak on-site early last year briefly paused work. But the 840-megawatt plant is now in testing mode and due to start commercial operations in October, producing enough electricity for 840,000 homes. Alistair Phillips-Davies, SSE’s chief executive, is keen to point out that the company is also investing in renewables. “[But] if the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining, you still need some flexibility there,” he says. “That’s the reason we built this.” Yet some question the project’s wisdom after months of record gas prices and with high gas prices now projected to last for years. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has compounded those price shocks and also triggered a wider rethink about reliance on gas. “As SSE, you would look and think, ‘Is this going to be a stranded asset, with everything going on.’ Gas prices are very volatile,” says Jess Ralston at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, a UK-based think tank.

3-3-22 Unite against climate change - Ukraine scientist
A leading Ukrainian scientist says war is "closing the window of opportunity" for the world to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Dr Svitlana Krakovska, who is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), spoke to me on Zoom from her apartment in Kyiv. "It's amazing how the people of Ukraine united against one enemy," she said. "If we all unite against climate change, we can survive as a civilisation." Dr Krakovska was taking part in the final stages of approving the IPPC's latest major assessment on the impacts of climate change when the invasion made it impossible for her to continue her work. "Everything stopped," she said. "I can't think about climate change, because I can't think about anything other than to try to survive." But, describing herself as part of the country's "sofa army" she said she was doing what she could from her home, where she and her family are sheltering, to speak out about the situation in Ukraine. She stressed that fossil fuels, and Europe's reliance on exported oil and gas from Russia, were "funding the war". "The money that's invested in fossil fuels, they're using against us," she said. "Against freedom. Against humanity." Europe's reliance on Russia for energy was cited by President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen in a speech on Tuesday, in which she urged a faster transition to renewable energy, saying: "We simply cannot rely so much on a supplier that explicitly threatens us." Dr Krakovska pointed out that scientists had been laying out the evidence for a need to make that transition for decades. "To me it's obvious," she said. "If we want to survive, we have to do this." But she pointed out that the window of opportunity to slash emissions - by, in part, switching to those low carbon and renewable energy sources - is closing very rapidly. "This war," she added, "it makes this window of opportunity even more narrow, because now we have to solve this problem first."

3-3-22 Climate change may mean Atlantic has fewer but more intense hurricanesM
Global warming might increase the number of tropical cyclones in other parts of the world but reduce them in the Atlantic due to weakening circulation. In parts of the world, tropical cyclones could become both more intense and more frequent as the planet heats up. But in the Atlantic, there might be fewer hurricanes than there are now because of a weakening of a key ocean current. “You could argue that this is some good news, but the negative effects of climate change are devastating,” says René van Westen at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. At present, warm water from the tropical Atlantic flows north towards Greenland and northern Europe, where it cools, sinks and flows along the ocean floor back to the southern hemisphere. This current, called the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC), transports vast amounts of heat, shaping climates around the Atlantic. Global warming is expected to slow down this circulation, leading to a wide range of effects from faster sea level rise on North Atlantic coastlines to more droughts in Africa. Standard climate models do not have a high enough resolution to simulate tropical cyclones, so van Westen and his colleagues used a high-resolution model. They modelled a scenario in which emissions keep rising and the global temperature rises more than 3°C by around 2100. According to the model, this will result in the AMOC weakening by around 25 per cent by the end of the century. Compared with the period 2003 to 2007, this is predicted to lead to a 45 per cent fall in the number of tropical cyclones between 2093 and 2097, although those that form will be intense. By contrast, the model predicts that the western Pacific will see a 15 per cent increase in the number of tropical cyclones as well as an increase in intensity. The team did not look in detail at other parts of the world.

3-2-22 We need to count every tree on the planet - here’s why
Planting trillions of trees won’t replace the 10 million hectares of forest ecosystems lost each year, but documenting them could prevent further losses. SINCE the 13th century, forests have been managed as sources of trees that can be processed into timber. More recently, with mounting concerns over climate change, they are often studied as potential carbon sinks because trees are capable of sequestering greenhouse gas emissions. But what remains largely unknown is the true relationship between a forest and the trees that make it up. While there is an international commitment to protecting biodiversity, a lack of knowledge about forests poses a huge obstacle to making effective conservation decisions. With global attention drawn to increasing the number of trees as a means of climate change mitigation, highly publicised strategies such as the Million Tree Initiative, the Plant a Billion Trees scheme and the Trillion Tree Campaign have emerged. Overshadowed by these commendable feats is the degradation and deforestation of 10 million hectares of forests worldwide each year. Many of the trees we are losing are in primary forests – a type of pristine ecosystem that offers irreplaceable ecological and socio-economic benefits, such as harbouring threatened flora and fauna, as well as underpinning the unique cultures and customs of Indigenous communities. Some have survived earthquakes, hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters over thousands of years, but have been wiped off the face of the Earth in a short space of time due to adverse human impacts. Perhaps we can plant millions, billions or even trillions of trees, but those we are putting in the ground today can hardly make up for the forests we are losing, and very few of these trees will ever grow into a primary forest.

3-3-22 Fix the Planet newsletter: 5 takeaways from the IPCC climate report
What we can do to adapt to the impacts of a rapidly warming world. It may have been overshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but this week’s big climate report still manages to shock. The impacts of a rapidly warming world are being felt “all around the world”, it said. And they are more widespread, earlier and have deeper consequences than anticipated, according to the latest instalment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I’ve covered the impacts in our news story, so today’s Fix the Planet instead unpacks the report’s five key takeaways on how we should try to adapt. In some senses, this should be the sunny side of the report. But I should warn you: it’s important, but doesn’t make for cheery reading! In the eight years since the last version of this IPCC report, there have been more adaptation efforts by countries. Most of that has been attempts to combat droughts and flooding, such as building coastal defences. And much of it only occurs in the aftermath of extreme weather events, when they’ve already wrought economic and human costs. But the main problem is that humanity’s adaptation efforts to date are incremental and small scale, warns the IPCC. Efforts are simply “too weak”, according to Inger Andersen at the UN Environment Programme. Most climate change adaptation programmes got under way in the past 15 years, with much of the analysis on their success or failure only trickling in since 2014. “We know a lot more, in particular about the limits to adaptation,” says Lisa Schipper at the University of Oxford. “There are limits to how much we and other species can adapt,” said Hoesung Lee, the IPCC’s chair, at a press conference on Monday. The IPCC divides these limits into soft ones – where there might be ways to circumvent them, such as more money or new technologies – and hard ones, which can’t be overcome. Humanity hasn’t yet come up against hard limits. But ecosystems, such as tropical coral reefs in some areas, have already reached them, finds the report. Animals and plants are expected to have a tougher time as temperatures rise: at 1.6°C of warming, more than a tenth of all species are projected to become endangered. Still, people are already experiencing soft limits at today’s 1.1°C of climate change, particularly people in coastal cities and small-scale farmers, says the IPCC. Another key message is that more warming will see us hit soft and hard limits sooner. The world is currently on track for at least 2.4°C of climate change if governments deliver on their carbon-cutting commitments. Even at 1.5°C, the level where countries have pledged to hold the line, nature faces more hard limits “driving high risks of biodiversity decline, mortality, species extinction”, says the IPCC. “The adaptation options become more and more limited as the warming level increases,” says Peter Alexander at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

3-2-22 We need to count every tree on the planet - here’s why
Planting trillions of trees won’t replace the 10 million hectares of forest ecosystems lost each year, but documenting them could prevent further losses. SINCE the 13th century, forests have been managed as sources of trees that can be processed into timber. More recently, with mounting concerns over climate change, they are often studied as potential carbon sinks because trees are capable of sequestering greenhouse gas emissions. But what remains largely unknown is the true relationship between a forest and the trees that make it up. While there is an international commitment to protecting biodiversity, a lack of knowledge about forests poses a huge obstacle to making effective conservation decisions. With global attention drawn to increasing the number of trees as a means of climate change mitigation, highly publicised strategies such as the Million Tree Initiative, the Plant a Billion Trees scheme and the Trillion Tree Campaign have emerged. Overshadowed by these commendable feats is the degradation and deforestation of 10 million hectares of forests worldwide each year. Many of the trees we are losing are in primary forests – a type of pristine ecosystem that offers irreplaceable ecological and socio-economic benefits, such as harbouring threatened flora and fauna, as well as underpinning the unique cultures and customs of Indigenous communities. Some have survived earthquakes, hurricanes, fires and other natural disasters over thousands of years, but have been wiped off the face of the Earth in a short space of time due to adverse human impacts. Perhaps we can plant millions, billions or even trillions of trees, but those we are putting in the ground today can hardly make up for the forests we are losing, and very few of these trees will ever grow into a primary forest.

3-2-22 New ways to suck up methane can buy us vital time in the climate fight
Remove a billion tonnes of methane from the air and we could cool Earth by 0.2°C, extending the window of opportunity to remove carbon dioxide before it is too late. The warming of our planet is usually blamed on carbon dioxide, but there is another major greenhouse gas contributing to the havoc in our skies too: methane. There is far less methane being emitted into the atmosphere than CO2, but during its first 20 years there, methane’s warming effect is more than 80 times greater. As it is emitted from livestock and leaky pipes, methane also reacts with nitrous oxides to make the gas ozone close to Earth’s surface. Here, ozone causes people breathing problems and is linked to a million premature deaths globally each year. If we could scrub the air of methane, it would help stop temperatures rising, buying us some time to reduce our other carbon emissions. For every billion tonnes of methane removed from the atmosphere, Earth’s surface temperature would be reduced by a roughly 0.2°C, according to recent estimates from Rob Jackson at Stanford University in California and his colleagues. “It’s not easy, but if we can work out the chemistry, I think it’s a fantastic opportunity,” says Jackson. Technologies for capturing CO2 have been around for years. The gas given off in power station flues can be trapped by binding it to solvents in a reversible chemical reaction, and that CO2 can then be imprisoned deep underground. But those same solvents can’t absorb methane as easily. One reason for this is that methane molecules are a different shape, meaning those solvent molecules don’t pack around them so easily. One solution is to forget about capturing methane and instead chemically convert it to CO2. Releasing extra CO2 into the air might sound foolish, but given how bad methane is, it may be a positive move. “Every molecule of methane released into the air eventually ends up as carbon dioxide anyway,” says Jackson. “All we’re trying to do is speed up the transition.” Most US states are already using this idea to tackle methane leaking from landfill sites, using a cover impregnated with microbes that convert methane to CO2.

3-2-22 Endlessly recyclable plastics could fix our waste crisis
Untold amounts of plastic waste is polluting our land and seas. Now, we're using chemical tricks to design infinitely and easily recyclable materials. One thing chemists do superbly is make bonds between atoms. We are now wading through the consequences of that success: plastic waste that ends up burned, landfilled or floating in the oceans. Plastics are polymers, long chains of molecules linked by strong chemical bonds. This is why they can be hard to degrade or recycle. Snipping apart those chemical bonds, to return to the small molecular building blocks, is often a tricky chemical problem. There has been varying success in dealing with the main plastics we use. The low-hanging fruit is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used to make plastic bottles. It can simply be shredded and remoulded into fresh bottles. No chemists need apply. It is a different story with most other important plastics. Take polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is ubiquitous in double-glazed windows and plenty besides. “PVC’s an absolute nightmare,” says chemist Anthony Ryan at the University of Sheffield, UK. There is no known way to recycle it, and even if you did, you would end up with vinyl chloride, a toxic compound that can increase the risk of cancer. One job for chemists, then, is to devise new reactions that can break plastics into molecules that can be reused. Susannah Scott at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has recently had success doing this with polyolefins, a class of plastic that includes polyethylene. She developed a technique that uses a catalyst to break down these plastics into smaller molecules without having to use bucketloads of heat. These smaller molecules could be used in detergents, paints or pharmaceuticals. We also need to design new plastics and plan from the start what will happen to them after they come to the end of their life. Chemists are starting to invent plastics that can be recycled infinitely or that break down into materials that nourish the soil.

3-2-22 Chemistry has led to environmental woes, but it can tackle them too
PERFLUOROOCTANESULFONIC ACID might not roll off your tongue, but you almost undoubtedly have some of it inside you. Once widely used as a water-repellent coating for clothing and fabrics, “PFOS” is now notorious as a non-biodegrading “forever chemical” that builds up in the environment, our water supply and eventually us. The world is finally coming to terms with the legacy of our indiscriminate development and use of chemicals over the past half-century and more. Last year, the UN declared chemical pollution a third great planetary crisis, alongside climate change and biodiversity loss. These are welcome developments, as are earlier steps, such as the agreement in 2001 of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and subsequent actions to expand its scope, under which many of the most harmful environmental chemicals, among them PFOS, are now targeted for elimination. For many, “chemistry” and “chemicals” have themselves become dirty words. According to Google’s Ngram Viewer, which tracks words in published materials, use of “chemophobia” was falling sharply until 2011, but has since been creeping upwards again. Yet chemistry has been good to us, paving the way for everything from life-saving drugs to invaluable technologies such as touchscreens. Today, it is also helping to clean up the environment, for example by developing liquid solvents to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a crucial part of our quest to hit net-zero emissions. As our report on seven particularly future-facing chemical innovations makes plain, chemistry has plenty more green potential, too, for instance through creating less environmentally damaging batteries and harnessing the power of photosynthesis to boost the clean-energy transition, or righting the wrong of persistent plastic pollution by developing infinitely recyclable polymers.

3-2-22 How to make sustainable batteries that won't wreck the planet
The batteries we need to power the transition to 100-per-cent renewable electricity require rare metals, and that means destructive mining – but researchers are working on alternatives. If we are going to stop burning fossil fuels, it is critical that we have access to electricity from renewable sources like wind turbines and solar panels. But we can’t rely on the wind blowing or the sun shining exactly when we need power. We need a way to store electricity – and in many cases that is going to mean batteries. Yet batteries themselves aren’t without their environmental problems. The rechargeable lithium-ion batteries in electric cars rely on lithium, among many other metals. Sizeable lithium reserves are found in only a few places: the element has to either be extracted from huge salt flats in the Atacama desert in South America, which involves using up vast amounts of water, or be obtained by environmentally destructive conventional mining of the mineral spodumene in China and Australia. This is one major reason why chemists want to design a more sustainable battery. Lithium’s job inside a battery is to carry charge from one side to another. It does this so well because its ions are so small. Their +1 electric charge is crammed into a small space, meaning lithium batteries fit lots of power into a small, light package. But there are other contenders for this charge-carrying role. One is sodium, which has the same +1 charge as lithium and is only a little larger. It is also extremely easy to source, given that it is part of the salt in seawater. Sodium-ion batteries have to be larger to pack as much punch as their lithium cousins, but for some non-portable applications, like storing solar-generated electricity, that is fine. UK-based firm Faradion has supplied sodium-based batteries for heavy goods vehicles in India. There are many more options for battery chemistry out there, however, including using other ions, such as magnesium. The trouble is, changing the charge carrier often means redesigning other parts of the battery too, so that everything works in synchrony.

3-2-22 Plastic pollution: Green light for 'historic' treaty
The world is set to get a global treaty to tackle plastic pollution. Nearly 200 countries have agreed to start negotiations on an international agreement to take action on the "plastic crisis". UN members are tasked with developing an over-arching framework for reducing plastic waste across the world. There is growing concern that discarded plastic is destroying habitats, harming wildlife and contaminating the food chain. Supporters describe the move as one of the world's most ambitious environmental actions since the 1989 Montreal Protocol, which phased out ozone-depleting substances. They say just as climate change has the Paris Agreement, plastic should have its own binding treaty, which sets the world on course for reducing plastic waste. Prof Steve Fletcher of the University of Portsmouth advises the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on plastics issues. He said the plastics problem spans international borders and boundaries. "One country can't deal with plastic pollution alone, no matter how good its policies are," he said. "We need a global agreement to enable us to deal with the widespread challenges that plastic gives us as a society." UN member states have agreed to start international negotiations on drawing up a global plastics treaty that could set rules for production, use and disposal of plastics. The decision was made at a meeting of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi. Dr Jeanne d'Arc Mujawamariya, environment minister for Rwanda, which has been at the forefront of the proposals, said they were optimistic the negotiations would put in place a framework "to end plastic pollution". Conservation charity WWF described the decision as one of the world's most ambitious environmental actions since the 1989 Montreal Protocol, which phased out ozone-depleting substances. Addressing the full lifecycle of plastic products - production and use, as well as disposal - is key to turning off "the plastic tap", said senior policy advisor, Paula Chin. "The next step is to make sure all signatories are ready to deliver on the promise of this ground-breaking agreement," she added.

3-2-22 New ways to suck up methane can buy us vital time in the climate fight
Remove a billion tonnes of methane from the air and we could cool Earth by 0.2°C, extending the window of opportunity to remove carbon dioxide before it is too late. The warming of our planet is usually blamed on carbon dioxide, but there is another major greenhouse gas contributing to the havoc in our skies too: methane. There is far less methane being emitted into the atmosphere than CO2, but during its first 20 years there, methane’s warming effect is more than 80 times greater. As it is emitted from livestock and leaky pipes, methane also reacts with nitrous oxides to make the gas ozone close to Earth’s surface. Here, ozone causes people breathing problems and is linked to a million premature deaths globally each year. If we could scrub the air of methane, it would help stop temperatures rising, buying us some time to reduce our other carbon emissions. For every billion tonnes of methane removed from the atmosphere, Earth’s surface temperature would be reduced by a roughly 0.2°C, according to recent estimates from Rob Jackson at Stanford University in California and his colleagues. “It’s not easy, but if we can work out the chemistry, I think it’s a fantastic opportunity,” says Jackson. Technologies for capturing CO2 have been around for years. The gas given off in power station flues can be trapped by binding it to solvents in a reversible chemical reaction, and that CO2 can then be imprisoned deep underground. But those same solvents can’t absorb methane as easily. One reason for this is that methane molecules are a different shape, meaning those solvent molecules don’t pack around them so easily. One solution is to forget about capturing methane and instead chemically convert it to CO2. Releasing extra CO2 into the air might sound foolish, but given how bad methane is, it may be a positive move. “Every molecule of methane released into the air eventually ends up as carbon dioxide anyway,” says Jackson. “All we’re trying to do is speed up the transition.” Most US states are already using this idea to tackle methane leaking from landfill sites, using a cover impregnated with microbes that convert methane to CO2.

3-1-22 Countries agree to end plastic pollution in ambitious global treaty
A legally binding agreement between 175 countries encompasses all stages of plastic’s life cycle, from production to consumption and disposal. One hundred and seventy-five countries have agreed to a legally binding global treaty to end the plastic pollution crisis by tackling the material’s entire supply chain. Inger Anderson, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, says it is the “biggest multilateral environmental deal” since the 2015 Paris climate agreement. At a meeting of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, Kenya, countries today passed a resolution on the first treaty to directly tackle the 9 billion tonnes of plastic produced since the plastic age ramped up in the 1950s. Work now begins on how to implement the treaty by 2024. Advocates of a more ambitious treaty have won out, judging from the deal that was approved in Nairobi by UNEA president Espen Barth Eide using a gavel made from recycled plastic. Two competing ideas had been put forward. One, led by Peru and Rwanda, encompassed all stages of plastic’s life cycle, from production to consumption and disposal. The second was a far more limited deal focused on plastics in the oceans, spearheaded by Japan. The deal that has emerged supports the first approach. Crucially, elements of the treaty are legally binding. It also acknowledges that lower-income countries will find it harder to grapple with plastic and pollution than high-income ones and so there is a need for some sort of financing model to help curb plastic use and waste. “We now have one text. It speaks to full life cycle; it speaks to legally binding; it speaks to a financing mechanism; it speaks to understanding some countries can do it more easily than others,” says Anderson. “It has been a long, hard road, but I’m very happy.”

3-1-22 Nanorobots clean up contaminated water by grabbing hold of pollutants
Nanorobots propelled by magnets can be used repeatedly without fuel, offering a sustainable and cost-effective way to clean up industrial wastewater. Chemists have created nanorobots propelled by magnets that remove pollutants from water. The invention could be scaled up to provide a sustainable and affordable way of cleaning up contaminated water in treatment plants. Martin Pumera at the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague, in the Czech Republic and his colleagues developed the nanorobots by using a temperature-sensitive polymer material and iron oxide. The polymer acts like tiny hands that can pick up and dispose of pollutants in the water, while the iron oxide makes the nanorobots magnetic. The researchers also added oxygen and hydrogen atoms to the iron oxide that can attach onto target pollutants. The robots are about 200 nanometres wide and are powered by magnetic fields, which allow the team to control their movements. At low temperatures of around 5°C, the nanorobots are dispersed in water. When the temperature is raised to roughly 25°C, the nanorobots clump together, trapping any pollutants between them. They can then be removed from the water using a magnet and cooled down to dispose of the pollutants. When tested on water containing 5 milligrams of arsenic per litre, the nanorobots were able to eliminate up to 65.2 per cent of the arsenic in 100 minutes. Unlike other nanorobots that have been developed, these don’t need any fuel to operate and can be used repeatedly, making them sustainable and cost-effective. “You can change the design or develop [the nanorobots] to target particular chemical particles,” says Pumera, who hopes this technology can be used to treat water on a larger scale. “This is an exciting work in which the capabilities of stimuli-responsive materials are integrated to create micro-robotic devices for the pickup and disposal of different types of pollutants,” says Salvador Pané i Vidal at ETH Zürich in Switzerland. “One of the challenges ahead is to create magnetic navigation systems that could translate this technology to industrial wastewater cleaning applications.”

3-1-22 Solar panel add-on pulls water from air without consuming electricity
The system uses day-night temperature differences to extract water from the air while slightly increasing electricity generation by cooling solar panels. A three-month trial in Saudi Arabia has shown that a solar panel add-on system can harvest water without using any electricity by exploiting the day-night warming and cooling of solar panels. In fact, the system slightly increases the electricity-generating efficiency of the panels by keeping them cooler. “I am confident that the system can be manufactured economically,” says Peng Wang at the country’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. “We are looking forward to working with potential industrial partners to speed up this process.” The new approach uses a layer of hydrogel placed under each photovoltaic panel and encased in a metal box. During the night, the box is open to allow the desert air to flow through it where the hydrogel absorbs water vapour. During the day, the box is closed. The sun warms the solar panel, and thus also the hydrogel underneath it, making the water evaporate from the gel. The humidity in the closed box gets so high that the water condenses on the metal and can be drained from the box. During the trial, from May to June 2021, a small prototype system produced 0.6 litres of water per square metre of solar panel per day. The basic idea isn’t new. Several other teams have developed water harvesters that also exploit day-night temperature changes. But Wang says his team is the first to create an integrated system that extracts water while also generating electricity. One advantage of using the add-on is that no extra land is required. Another is that electricity generation increased slightly – by nearly 2 per cent – because the transfer of heat to the hydrogel and water-harvesting box cools the solar panels. High temperatures reduce the efficiency of solar panels. The cooling effect can be increased by leaving the condensation box open during the day. Although this stops water extraction, in the trial it boosted electricity generation by up to 10 per cent. Wang envisages creating flexible systems that could switch between water extraction and higher solar panel electricity generation as needed.

3-1-22 A UN report shows climate change’s escalating toll on people and nature
The window to reduce emissions and avoid most disastrous consequences is closing fast, experts say. Neither adaptation by humankind nor mitigation alone is enough to reduce the risk from climate impacts, hundreds of the world’s scientists say. Nothing less than a concerted, global effort to both drastically curb carbon emissions and proactively adapt to climate change can stave off the most disastrous consequences, according to the latest report from the United Nations’ International Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. That dire warning comes as the effects of climate change on people and nature are playing out across the globe in a more widespread and severe manner than previously anticipated. And the most vulnerable communities — often low-income or Indigenous — are being hit the hardest, the report says. “It’s the strongest rebuttal that we’ve seen yet of this idea that we can just adapt our way out of climate change and we don’t have to mitigate emissions,” says Anne Christianson, the director of international climate policy at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the report. A consortium of 270 scientists from 67 countries synthesized the report after reviewing over 34,000 studies. Released February 28 as part of the IPCC’s sixth assessment of climate science, the report details how the impacts of climate change are playing out today in different regions, and assessed the capacities of communities and regions to adapt. Many countries understand the need for climate adaptation. And modern solutions, such as the building of urban gardens or adoption of agroforestry, where implemented, appear to show promise. But, the report finds, efforts to adapt are, by and large, reactionary, small and drastically underfunded. As a result, about 3.3 billion to 3.6 billion people remain highly vulnerable to climate risks such as extreme weather events, sea level rise and food and water shortages. The need for adaptation is greatest — and growing larger — in low-income regions, most notably in parts of Africa, South Asia, small island states and Central and South America.

3-1-22 Climate change: Five things we've learned from the IPCC report
A new report released this week by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) looks at the causes, impacts and solutions to climate change. The report gives the clearest indication to date of how a warmer world is affecting all living things on Earth. Here are five things we learnt from it. From the melting of the Greenland ice sheet to the destruction of coral reefs, climate related impacts are hitting the world at the high end of what modellers once expected. And much more quickly than previously assessed by the IPCC. Right now, as the new report makes clear, around 40% of the world's population is "highly vulnerable" to the impacts of climate change. But the burden is falling mainly on those who did the least to cause the problem. "For Africa around 30% of all the maize growing areas will go out of production, for beans it's around 50% on the current emissions trajectory," said Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation, which assists governments and the private sector in pushing for large scale adaptation solutions. "So there are certain parts of the world, particularly in Africa, which will become uninhabitable." "And time is running out, as the IPCC report clearly says, to stop the forces driving this new climate apartheid," he told BBC News. For several years, developing countries have been trying to get richer nations to take the idea of loss and damage seriously. It's defined as those impacts of climate change that can't be adapted to, or slow onset events like sea level rise. It has been very controversial because it is bound up with the long-term historical responsibility for carbon emissions - and richer nations fear being dragged through the courts and forced to pay indefinitely for current and future losses and damages that they have contributed to. At COP26 in Glasgow, political progress on the issue stalled when the US and EU blocked a dedicated funding facility for loss and damage.

3-1-22 Wildfires may slow recovery of ozone layer - study
Increasing wildfires in a warming world may slow the recovery of the ozone layer, according to new research. Smoke from Australian wildfires two years ago had an impact on the layer that shields the Earth from harmful UV rays, satellite observations suggest. The study found bushfires were so intense that smoke rose into the atmosphere, causing a set of chemical reactions leading to the loss of ozone. The scientists calculated a total ozone loss of 1% within March 2020 alone. They said this could set back progress made in recent decades to ban chemicals that deplete the ozone layer. At mid latitudes the ozone layer is recovering at a rate of about 1% a decade. Damage from wildfires will slow this considerably, said Prof Susan Solomon, of the US Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led the research. "All the hard work that the world went to to reduce chlorofluorocarbons (ozone-depleting chemicals once used in aerosol sprays) is not paying off as well in the areas that experience extreme wildfires," she told BBC News. "The best hope would be that we reduce global warming gases also and stop increasing the wildfires, but that's obviously more difficult." Commenting on the research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Prof Clare Murphy (Paton-Walsh) of the University of Wollongong, said ozone loss was likely to be repeated during intense fire episodes and these are predicted to increase with climate change in the coming decades. "Any slowdown in the recovery of ozone in the mid-latitudes will increase the overall exposure to UV-radiation for Australians and hence may impact the occurrence of skin cancers in future," she said. An influential panel of scientists warned in a landmark report on Monday that climate change is leading to more frequent weather extremes, including wildfires, flooding and storms.

3-1-22 Supreme Court hears case that may derail Biden's climate plan
The Supreme Court has heard arguments in the most significant environmental case in a decade, which could undermine President Joe Biden's climate plan. At issue is the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to limit emissions from power plants under the landmark Clean Air Act. The 6-3 conservative majority court on Monday sounded sceptical of the EPA's authority to issue broad regulations. But it is so far unclear how the justices will rule in this case. The justices took up an appeal from 19 mostly Republican-led states, led by coal producer West Virginia and joined by some of the nation's largest coal companies, which challenges the EPA's power. A ruling that limits the EPA's authority may undercut the Biden administration's plans to cut the country's greenhouse emissions in half by 2030. It could also have broad consequences for regulatory efforts far beyond the environment - including consumer protections, workplace safety and public health. The case has a curious twist - the court took on the appeal even though the federal regulation at the centre never actually took effect. There is no EPA plan currently in place to address carbon emissions from power plants. Representing the EPA before the court on Monday, US Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued the case should be thrown out for this very reason: because there is no regulation in effect and therefore no "harm" to the plaintiffs. But the Supreme Court justices did not appear compelled by this argument. "Just because there's no regulation, that doesn't mean there's no harm," Chief Justice John Roberts said in response. Ms Prelogar said the administration was working on a new regulation, which the courts could later examine. While much of the discussion on Monday was highly technical, some of the questions revealed justices' doubt that the EPA had the authority to set national policy. Questions from conservative Justice Justice Samuel Alito in particular suggested that any broad assertion of power by the EPA would constitute a "major question", which court precedent requires Congress to have expressly authorised.


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