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Hand Evolution by Megan Godtland

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Microwave Earth by Megan Godtland

2019 Science Stats

59 Global Warming News Articles
for April of 2022
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source


4-30-22 Kansas tornado inflicts heavy damage and leaves thousands without power
A tornado has been filmed tearing through part of the US state of Kansas, with pictures showing cars crumpled into buildings and homes without roofs. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued severe thunderstorm warnings for Midwest states including Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska. In the city of Wichita, the mayor said 50 to 100 structures had been damaged, especially in the suburb of Andover. However there are so far no reports of serious injuries. The Andover City Police Department says roads are blocked due to downed power lines and large debris. Wichita Mayor Dr Brandon Whipple urged people not to travel. "I'm hearing roads in Andover are closed to traffic. Please stay put if you can. Lots of large hail throughout our area. Bad visibility as well for those driving," he posted on Twitter. Extraordinary videos and photos posted online show the tornado tearing through Andover, destroying buildings, with debris flying in the air. Videos posted to social media show the extent of the damage at the YMCA, with cars slammed against walls and the ceiling peeled back. The Greater Wichita YMCA posted on Facebook: "The Andover YMCA branch suffered significant damage as a result of the storm that hit the Andover area this evening. "We are thankful that all of the staff and members that took shelter at the branch at the time of the storm, were not injured." According to the Energy outage map, more than 22,000 customers are without power. Kansas is in the heart of so-called "tornado alley" and is one of the most active regions in the world tornado-wise, according to the NWS, Mid-to-late April through to mid-June historically has the highest tornado frequency, NSW records show. Andover has just commemorated the 31st anniversary of a series of deadly twisters that killed 17 people and injured 225 in 1991. The EF5 tornado - the most intense rating - hit the ground for 69 miles (111km), and was one of 55 tornadoes that formed from Texas to Minnesota.

4-30-22 Methane emissions from cows spotted from space for the first time
A satellite has been used to identify a California farm as the source of methane plumes, marking a new level of precision for independent monitoring of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. Cows’ contribution to climate change through belching and flatulence is about to face a whole new level of scrutiny. Scientists have previously monitored the methane emissions of cattle from the ground and planes and now they have seen cow-related methane plumes from space for the first time. Canadian aerospace firm GHGSat used one of its three satellites to pinpoint the source of five methane plumes as a single cattle farm in the San Joaquin Valley nearly 10 kilometres south-east of Bakersfield in California. The exercise marks a new level of precision for independent monitoring of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. First detected on 2 February, the methane was traced back to the probable source using modelling based on wind data. “We’re very confident it’s the cattle,” says Brody Wight at GHGSat. The plumes spotted were modest, and would total around 5000 tonnes of methane if emissions were consistent over a year. Identifying such a small amount is made possible by the higher resolution of recent satellites, says Wight. “It’s the classic story of, once you’re able to measure it, then you’re able to assess it and hopefully make improvements,” he says. The approach could be useful in verifying emissions for farmers trialling ways to lower cattle emissions, for example. Ideas include additives in the animals’ diet to lower their emissions, and using cows bred to be more climate friendly.Using satellites to monitor methane would enable independent spot checks, says Wight. Monitoring from space could also be used to verify if countries with livestock-intensive industries, such as New Zealand, are delivering on methane cuts promised under the Paris Agreement.

4-29-22 Heat wave in India leaves millions struggling to cope
India's weather department has issued a severe heatwave warning as temperatures soar, throwing millions of lives and livelihoods out of gear. "Temperatures are rising rapidly in the country, and rising much earlier than usual," Prime Minister Narendra Modi told state chief ministers on Wednesday. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast a gradual rise in maximum temperatures by 2-4C over most parts of north-western and central India this week, with "no large change thereafter". While heatwaves are common in India, especially in May and June, summer began early this year with high temperatures from March itself - average maximum temperatures in the month were the highest in 122 years. Heatwaves also began setting in during the month. The Centre for Science and Environment, a think-tank, says that early heatwaves this year have affected around 15 states, including the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, known for its pleasant temperatures. This week, the mercury in the capital, Delhi, is expected to cross 44C. (111F.) Naresh Kumar, a senior scientist at IMD, attributes the current heatwave to local atmospheric factors. The major one was weak western disturbances - storms originating in the Mediterranean region - which meant little pre-monsoon rainfall in north-western and central India. Anticyclones - an area of high atmospheric pressure where the air sinks - also led to hot, dry weather over parts of western India in March. The effects are visible. Farmers say the unexpected temperature spikes have affected their wheat harvest, a development that could potentially have global consequences given supply disruptions due to the Ukraine war. The heat has also triggered an increase in power demand, leading to outages in many states and fears of a coal shortage. Mr Modi also flagged the increased risk of fires due to rising temperatures.

4-29-22 The moon has a small but noticeable effect on climate change
An 18.6-year lunar cycle is believed to change how the tides affect the mixing of water in the oceans, and could mean we breach 1.5°C of global warming sooner. The moon appears to be having a small effect on Earth’s changing climate that could hasten the point at which the world’s 1.5°C climate target is breached. The angle of the moon’s orbital plane relative to the equator changes in a predictable 18.6-year cycle, but it wasn’t known what impact this has on Earth’s surface temperatures. In a modelling study, Ed Hawkins at the University of Reading, UK and his colleagues found that the cycle will have a modest cooling effect on global average surface temperatures this decade, followed by a slight warming one in the 2030s. The pattern could also partly explain a purported global warming slowdown in the 2000s. The researchers believe this cycle changes how the tides affect the mixing between warmer waters at the ocean’s surface and deeper, cooler waters, altering the rate at which the oceans can absorb heat. “It’s a pretty small effect,” says Ed Hawkins at the University of Reading, UK, part of the team behind the study. The estimated size of both the cooling and warming effect is about 0.04°C. This is much smaller than the shift from the cooling La Niña weather pattern the world is currently experiencing to the warming El Niño one, Hawkins notes. “[But it shows] that we do study the whole climate system, from the sun to the moon to the Earth. And we try and represent all of the factors we can think about, and how they might affect the climate,” he says. While the moon’s impact may be small, Hawkins says it warrants inclusion in models used to project future climate scenarios if further research confirms the findings, which aren’t yet published in a peer-reviewed journal. Without accounting for the moon’s influence, climate models predict that the world will exceed 1.5°C of warming – a threshold nearly 200 countries aimed to avoid in the Paris Agreement – between 2028 and 2033. Factoring in the lunar cycle narrows the predicted range to 2029 to 2032. The timing of the current cycle also means that in low emissions scenarios, the 1.5°C threshold is likely to be met around a year earlier than previously thought.

4-29-22 Spiderwebs catch microplastic particles floating in city air
Tiny plastic particles from clothing and car tyres stick to spiders’ webs in cities, which could prove useful to researchers monitoring this form of pollution. Tiny microplastic particles floating through city air stick to spiderwebs, giving researchers a natural way to capture and monitor this form of pollution. Microplastics, which come from sources like polyester clothing, are being found widely in our food, soil and oceans. But researchers haven’t extensively looked into how many airborne microplastic particles might be present in urban areas. It is a potential concern as these microplastics could be getting into our lungs and may have adverse effects on our health. Barbara Scholz-Böttcher at the University of Oldenburg, Germany, and her colleagues wanted to see whether they could trace the prevalence of these minute chemicals using spiderwebs. They reasoned that microplastics would be likely to stick to the webs like flies do. “It’s an easily available tracer,” says Scholz-Böttcher. Her colleague Rebecca Süssmuth, also at the University of Oldenburg, collected spiderwebs around semi-covered bus stops throughout Oldenburg – luckily, she wasn’t afraid of spiders, says Scholz-Böttcher. The most common materials the researchers found were polyester, probably from clothing, and tyre fibres that probably originate from vehicles braking in traffic, she says. It is hard to compare the amounts of microplastics found in spiderwebs with the amounts that humans might be breathing in because so many factors and variables are at play. But Scholz-Böttcher says that this study could be used as a baseline to track the extent of trace particles in the air over time, or to compare the level of microplastics and tyre wear between different locations. Researchers could also store spiderwebs collected over time to develop long-term records on the amount of these particles in the air.

4-28-22 Extreme global warming could see major ocean life extinction
A computer model based on past mass extinctions predicts the percentages of marine organisms that may be lost in best and worst-case scenarios. How badly will ocean animals be hit as Earth warms? A computer model based on the oxygen requirements of marine organisms may provide an answer. Our oceans already contain about 2 per cent less oxygen than 50 years ago, because the gas is less soluble in warmer water. Many organisms are therefore moving polewards to cooler regions. As the oceans continue to warm, some will be left with nowhere to go, with polar species being hit hardest. To better understand the scale of the risk, Curtis Deutsch at Princeton University and Justin Penn at the University of Washington in Seattle have developed a model that predicts when animal species may go extinct. This is based on projections of when the amount of suitable habitat available to marine species will fall below a critical level, due to oxygen declines. They calibrated their model using data from past mass extinctions. The model doesn’t take into account other pressures on marine life, such as overfishing, pollution and the loss of coral reefs from bleaching. Nevertheless, the model suggests marine extinctions will rise gradually alongside ocean warming, passing 10 per cent once around 6°C of warming on average across the seas is reached. After 8°C, the percentage will increase more rapidly, passing 40 per cent at around 14°C of warming. One key uncertainty is how quickly marine organisms will colonise new habitats. If they move more quickly than in the median scenario, the proportion of species going extinct would remain well below 5 per cent until around 8°C of warming. The paper cites the 2021 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to show temperature increases of this magnitude are possible. “Under the high-emissions scenario, surface air warming could reach… 10° to 18°C over the next three centuries,” the paper states. However, this high-emissions scenario isn’t considered likely and the world is thought to be heading for around 3°C by 2100.

4-28-22 Climate change: Record tree losses in 2021 in northern regions
Tree cover losses in northern regions of the world were the highest on record in 2021, according to new analysis from Global Forest Watch. Figures for these boreal forests were up 30% on 2020, with wildfires causing massive losses in Russia. Elsewhere, around ten football pitches per minute of tropical primary forest were lost across the year. Brazil, once again, led the way with a significant uptick in tree loss associated with agricultural expansion. This new data records the losses of tree cover in 2021, and is not the overall net picture when new plantings are taken into account. Much of the focus for researchers is on the world's tropical regions because this is where more than 96% of deforestation takes place. When it comes to tropical primary forests, Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo top the table as they have for many years now. But one of the big concerns in the new figures is the loss of boreal forests which are found in northern parts of Russia, Canada and Alaska. While the cutting or burning of trees in these regions rarely results in permanent deforestation, the number of trees destroyed in 2021 was up 30% on 2020, to the highest level yet recorded, Climate change is seen as a key driver of tree loss in these areas, with hotter drier conditions leading to more wildfires and greater damage from insects. Russia saw its worst fire season since records began in 2001, losing more than 6.5 million hectares. "It's hugely worrying," said Rod Taylor from the World Resources Institute, part of the team behind the new analysis. "Global warming is generally happening faster as you get closer to the poles, so it's like having a changing climate and an ecosystem that's not coping, so we're seeing fires that burn more frequently more intensively and more broadly than they ever would under normal conditions."

4-28-22 Global forest destruction continues despite COP26 deforestation pledge
Satellite data shows 3.75 million hectares of tree cover, or 10 football pitches a minute, disappeared across primary tropical forests in 2021. Destruction of the world’s remaining intact forests continued in 2021 at a rate barely changed in recent years, despite more than 100 countries at the COP26 climate summit pledging to end deforestation this decade. Around 3.75 million hectares of tree cover disappeared across intact or “primary” humid tropical forests in 2021, new satellite data from Global Forest Watch shows. This equates to the area of 10 football pitches a minute. Global Forest Watch, an initiative of the World Resources Institute (WRI) with partners including the University of Maryland, estimates that this tropical forest loss released 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon emissions – on a par with India’s annual emissions. Much of last year’s logging and burning in these forests happened ahead of the promise at the summit in the UK last November to halt deforestation by 2030, so the new figures could act as a baseline. But Mikaela Weisse at the WRI says tropical forest loss has been consistently high in recent years, suggesting the new target will be challenging: “2030 is going to come really fast. We will need to see very dramatic declines across the board if we want to get to zero by then,” she says. Brazil, where exploitation of the Amazon rainforest is expected to be a big issue in the country’s general election this October, accounted for two-fifths of the planet’s vanishing tropical primary forest last year. An area of 1.5 million hectares was lost in Brazil, down slightly on the figure for 2020. However, losses unrelated to fires were up, which is usually a sign of agricultural expansion. Scientists recently warned the Amazon is nearing a tipping point that could see it transform into savannah.

4-28-22 Heatwave in India leaves millions struggling to cope
Millions of Indians are experiencing a brutal heatwave that is throwing lives and livelihoods out of gear - and there is no relief in sight. "Temperatures are rising rapidly in the country, and rising much earlier than usual," Prime Minister Narendra Modi told state chief ministers on Wednesday. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has forecast a gradual rise in maximum temperatures by 2-4C over most parts of north-western and central India this week, with "no large change thereafter". While heatwaves are common in India, especially in May and June, summer began early this year with high temperatures from March itself - average maximum temperatures in the month were the highest in 122 years. Heatwaves also began setting in during the month. The Centre for Science and Environment, a think-tank, says that early heatwaves this year have affected around 15 states, including the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, known for its pleasant temperatures. This week, the mercury in the capital, Delhi, is expected to cross 44C. Naresh Kumar, a senior scientist at IMD, attributes the current heatwave to local atmospheric factors. The major one was weak western disturbances - storms originating in the Mediterranean region - which meant little pre-monsoon rainfall in north-western and central India. Anticyclones - an area of high atmospheric pressure where the air sinks - also led to hot, dry weather over parts of western India in March. The effects are visible. Farmers say the unexpected temperature spikes have affected their wheat harvest, a development that could potentially have global consequences given supply disruptions due to the Ukraine war. The heat has also triggered an increase in power demand, leading to outages in many states and fears of a coal shortage. Mr Modi also flagged the increased risk of fires due to rising temperatures.

4-28-22 Climate change may increase the spread of viruses between land mammals
Models of mammal migration in response to 2°C of global warming show that there could be more than 4500 new types of viral transmission between species by the end of the century. The migration of land mammals in response to 2°C of global warming may give rise to thousands of new viral transmissions between mammal species by the end of the century, increasing the risk of novel viruses jumping from animals to infect humans. “The coming decades will not only be hotter but sicker,” said Gregory Albery at Georgetown University in Washington DC, at a press briefing on 27 April. Albery and his colleagues used information about animal habitats and behaviour to build a model of how 3139 mammal species would migrate under a 2°C increase in global temperature. By comparing how closely species were related – and therefore how likely they were to pass viruses to each other – the team predict that around 120,000 encounters between mammals that hadn’t previously met could lead to 4584 cases of novel viral infections of species. “Climate change is shaking our ecosystems to their core… moving mammals will meet each other for the first time and form new communities, [which will form a] new mechanism for disease emergence that will threaten the health of animals in the future, with ramifications for our health too,” said Albery. The team forecast that bats will be responsible for the majority of new transmissions, which will primarily occur in elevated tropical regions across Africa and South-East Asia. The findings highlight the need to more closely track the spread of viruses among wild mammals so we can control future outbreaks of disease in people. “Climate change is going to be the biggest driver of disease emergence, and health systems need to be ready for that,” said Colin Carlson, also at Georgetown University, at the briefing.

4-28-22 Climate change: Don't let doom win, project tells worriers
A new project has been launched to address rising climate anxiety in students at the University of East Anglia. At the opening in Norwich, students told BBC News they felt hopelessness, anger and despair about climate change. They worry how they will live in a world with an unpredictable climate and the destruction of nature. On Thursday a new survey found that 45% of UK students worry about climate change once a week or more. Literature student Meg Watts, 22, said that she had experienced depression after being overwhelmed by the scale of problems facing the planet. And she sought therapy after developing disordered eating when trying to cut out food packaged with plastic. The new programme was developed with mental health charity Norfolk and Waveney Mind, who realised young people were coming for counselling about their fears about climate change. Common worries were about food security and whether or not to have children, explained Ruth Taylor from Mind. "Young people are trying to get ready for what is coming," she suggests. The project aims to address taboos around climate anxiety and give students the skills to manage their feelings. The organisers say it's one of the first university projects in the UK to address the issue. It includes a series of so-called climate cafes - an informal group session where people discuss their feelings - and an eight-week course that teaches students how to turn feelings of despair and anger into "hopeful action". Student volunteers are being trained to lead discussion groups that they plan to extend to older generations in Norfolk. Azza Dirar, 30, said she has felt deeply depressed and despairing after witnessing environmental destruction in her home country Ethiopia. She encourages students to "tell the truth about their feelings and appreciate the beauty of life still here". Sitting on chairs in circles, groups of students at the launch on Tuesday described their feelings about climate change.

4-27-22 Efficient battery could charge electric cars 60 per cent in 6 minutes
Changing how battery particles are ordered speeds up charging times without affecting energy storage. A lithium-ion battery that uses copper and copper nanowires to create more internal structure can charge to 60 per cent in 6 minutes, without affecting its energy storage. This more efficient battery could one day power electric cars, potentially allowing drivers to travel further without waiting as long for the vehicle to charge. Batteries, which are largely lithium-ion, use binding agents to create a solid anode that tends to have a random distribution of particles, which leads to slower charging times. To overcome these issues, Yao Hongbin at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei and his colleagues have designed a lithium-ion battery with a structured anode, the positive end of a battery. Lithium battery anodes are typically made of graphite particles through which charge flows, with these particles generally arranged in a fairly random order. Hongbin and his team organised the particles in order of particle size and tweaked an electrode property known as porosity. “In our design, we control the whole density in the electrode,” says Yao. “We use a higher porosity in the top [of the anode] but lower porosity in the bottom, so that the average porosity has a normal value.” Their battery charged from zero to 60 per cent and 80 per cent in 5.6 and 11.4 minutes, respectively, while maintaining a high energy storage. The researchers didn’t record the time to get to a 100 per cent charge. Electric car manufacturers often recommend vehicles be charged to up to 80 per cent to maintain battery longevity. A Tesla typically takes 40 minutes to an hour to get from 40 per cent to 80 per cent charge. To organise the particles by both size and porosity, Yao and his team coated the graphite anode particles with copper and mixed in copper nanowires. The particles were then heated, cooled and compressed, setting the ordered structure.

4-27-22 Southern California officials declare emergency drought regulations
Southern California officials announced they will be implementing an emergency water shortage regulation that will affect 6 million people in the counties of Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino, the Los Angeles Times reports. The unprecedented Tuesday decision came after California recorded its "most severe drought in its 126-year record" last summer, intensified by climate change, reports CNN. To combat the water shortage, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California board voted on a plan to conserve water and strictly limit "non-essential water use." The restriction is expected to take effect June 1, and will limit outdoor watering to only one day per week for businesses and residents. Any water suppliers unwilling to comply and exceed their monthly water limits could be fined. "We're working together to solve what is a really, really tough and, quite frankly, unprecedented issue. None of us like what we're doing. But we're in a position where we've got to do it," MWD board member Steve Blois told the Times. "The issue is, how are we going to get through this current drought without running out of water to serve the health and safety needs of our population? That has to be our No. 1 priority." More restrictions may be introduced if the water supply continues to decrease.

4-26-22 Severe Indian heatwave will bake a billion people and damage crops
An unusual heatwave forecast across much of India will see temperatures in the mid-to-high 40s°C. More than a billion people are facing a severe heatwave across India this week, which will have wide-ranging consequences for the health of the most vulnerable and will damage wheat harvests. Temperatures in the mid-to-high 40s°C are forecast for much of the country in the coming days, with the India Meteorological Department (IMD) issuing heatwave warnings for several states. The UK Met Office says that temperatures are currently above average in India and that this will probably continue into the coming week. India is entering a season ahead of the monsoon’s arrival when heatwaves are common, the Met Office says, but this year it follows a period of unusually early sweltering conditions in India. March was record-breakingly hot, with a national average maximum temperature of 33.10°C, beating the 33.09°C set in March 2010. R K Jenamani, head of the national weather forecasting centre at the IMD, says that the recent heatwaves have been notable because they occurred during a La Niña weather pattern – which usually has a cooling effect globally – while the 2010 records took place during an El Niño, which has a warming effect. “It’s really bad,” says Arpita Mondal at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai, where she says high humidity means that temperatures around 32°C feel more like 38°C. “It’s very tiring and stressful,” she adds. What is notable is how early the heatwaves have come, she says. They are also unusually widespread, baking almost the entire country rather than just India’s two usual heat hotspots, the central north-western region, including Rajasthan, and the south-east, including Andhra Pradesh. The recent heat is likely to have been exacerbated by climate change, says Mondal, though it is too early for any specific research attributing the event to global warming. She points out that last year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report found heatwaves across land globally had become more intense and frequent with high confidence that human activity is to blame.

4-26-22 China is building more than half of the world's new coal power plants
Some 176 gigawatts of coal capacity was under construction in 2021, and more than half of that was being built in China. China was responsible for more than half of the new coal power station capacity being built around the world last year, showing how much the country is propping up one of the worst drivers of climate change. Nearly 200 countries pledged a “phasing down” of coal at the COP26 climate summit last year. But figures from a report by the non-profit Global Energy Monitor show that is nowhere near being realised yet. Globally, the number of coal power stations is actually growing as new constructions more than offset the closure of old plants. Construction of new coal-fired stations is occurring overwhelmingly in Asia, with China accounting for 52 per cent of the 176 gigawatts of coal capacity under construction in 20 countries last year. The global figure is barely changed from the 181 GW that was under construction in 2020, despite authoritative analyses showing that no more new coal projects can be built if climate goals are to be met. “It’s a mixed story. Everywhere outside of China, plans for new coal-fired power plants have been scaled back dramatically,” says one of the report’s authors, Lauri Myllyvirta at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. “However, Chinese firms have continued to announce new coal-fired power stations and there is very clear government backing for that. That’s a worrying sign.” There is no expectation that China will change course on coal this year, says Myllyvirta, though he says its promise last year to stop financing coal projects overseas has already seen 13 GW of plants cancelled. He expects a further 37 GW to be cancelled this year because of the move.

4-26-22 Microplastics may be dragging faecal parasites from land into the seas
Three parasites that are sometimes found in cat and human faeces can live on the surface of microplastic particles, and may be transported into the sea. Three disease-causing parasites found in cat and human faeces may be able to hitch-hike on microplastics to reach the sea, where they could potentially cause illness in marine life. We already know that colonies of water-loving bacteria, viruses and parasites can attach to microplastics – which are plastic particles less than 5 millimetres in diameter – but this is the first time land parasites have been shown to hitch-hike on the fragments in seawater. “What we’ve shown for the first time is that parasites that come from animal poop or human poop on land – which are known to infect humans and animals – can actually stick to these plastics, and the concentration of parasites on the surfaces of the plastic is really quite substantial,” says Karen Shapiro at the University of California, Davis. To investigate, Shapiro and her colleagues first placed microplastics, including both spherical microbeads and long microfibres, in seawater for 14 days to enable a sticky layer of bacteria to grow on their surfaces, forming a community known as a “plastisphere”. “The plastisphere forms a blanket of gooey, sticky material where things can physically get trapped, like how fly traps work,” says Shapiro. They then placed the microplastics into beakers containing either seawater alone, or seawater contaminated with one of three land parasites – Toxoplasma gondii, Cryptosporidium parvum or Giardia enterica. In people, T. gondii can cause flu-like symptoms such as fatigue and muscle aches. The parasite has also been linked to the death of marine mammals such as sea otters, dolphins and seals. Meanwhile, C. parvum and G. enterica are known to cause gut problems that can be deadly in young children and those with a suppressed immune system.

4-26-22 Severe Indian heatwave will bake a billion people and damage crops
An unusual heatwave forecast across much of India will see temperatures in the mid-to-high 40s°C. More than a billion people are facing a severe heatwave across India this week, which will have wide-ranging consequences for the health of the most vulnerable and will damage wheat harvests. Temperatures in the mid-to-high 40s°C are forecast for much of the country in the coming days, with the India Meteorological Department (IMD) issuing heatwave warnings for several states. The UK Met Office says that temperatures are currently above average in India and that this will probably continue into the coming week. India is entering a season ahead of the monsoon’s arrival when heatwaves are common, the Met Office says, but this year it follows a period of unusually early sweltering conditions in India. March was record-breakingly hot, with a national average maximum temperature of 33.10°C, beating the 33.09°C set in March 2010. R K Jenamani, head of the national weather forecasting centre at the IMD, says that the recent heatwaves have been notable because they occurred during a La Niña weather pattern – which usually has a cooling effect globally – while the 2010 records took place during an El Niño, which has a warming effect. “It’s really bad,” says Arpita Mondal at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai, where she says high humidity means that temperatures around 32°C feel more like 38°C. “It’s very tiring and stressful,” she adds. What is notable is how early the heatwaves have come, she says. They are also unusually widespread, baking almost the entire country rather than just India’s two usual heat hotspots, the central north-western region, including Rajasthan, and the south-east, including Andhra Pradesh. The recent heat is likely to have been exacerbated by climate change, says Mondal, though it is too early for any specific research attributing the event to global warming. She points out that last year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report found heatwaves across land globally had become more intense and frequent with high confidence that human activity is to blame.

4-26-22 China is building more than half of the world's new coal power plants
Some 176 gigawatts of coal capacity was under construction in 2021, and more than half of that was being built in China. China was responsible for more than half of the new coal power station capacity being built around the world last year, showing how much the country is propping up one of the worst drivers of climate change. Nearly 200 countries pledged a “phasing down” of coal at the COP26 climate summit last year. But figures from a report by the non-profit Global Energy Monitor show that is nowhere near being realised yet. Globally, the number of coal power stations is actually growing as new constructions more than offset the closure of old plants. Construction of new coal-fired stations is occurring overwhelmingly in Asia, with China accounting for 52 per cent of the 176 gigawatts of coal capacity under construction in 20 countries last year. The global figure is barely changed from the 181 GW that was under construction in 2020, despite authoritative analyses showing that no more new coal projects can be built if climate goals are to be met. “It’s a mixed story. Everywhere outside of China, plans for new coal-fired power plants have been scaled back dramatically,” says one of the report’s authors, Lauri Myllyvirta at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. “However, Chinese firms have continued to announce new coal-fired power stations and there is very clear government backing for that. That’s a worrying sign.” There is no expectation that China will change course on coal this year, says Myllyvirta, though he says its promise last year to stop financing coal projects overseas has already seen 13 GW of plants cancelled. He expects a further 37 GW to be cancelled this year because of the move.

4-26-22 Microplastics may be dragging faecal parasites from land into the seas
Three parasites that are sometimes found in cat and human faeces can live on the surface of microplastic particles, and may be transported into the sea. Three disease-causing parasites found in cat and human faeces may be able to hitch-hike on microplastics to reach the sea, where they could potentially cause illness in marine life. We already know that colonies of water-loving bacteria, viruses and parasites can attach to microplastics – which are plastic particles less than 5 millimetres in diameter – but this is the first time land parasites have been shown to hitch-hike on the fragments in seawater. “What we’ve shown for the first time is that parasites that come from animal poop or human poop on land – which are known to infect humans and animals – can actually stick to these plastics, and the concentration of parasites on the surfaces of the plastic is really quite substantial,” says Karen Shapiro at the University of California, Davis. To investigate, Shapiro and her colleagues first placed microplastics, including both spherical microbeads and long microfibres, in seawater for 14 days to enable a sticky layer of bacteria to grow on their surfaces, forming a community known as a “plastisphere”. “The plastisphere forms a blanket of gooey, sticky material where things can physically get trapped, like how fly traps work,” says Shapiro. They then placed the microplastics into beakers containing either seawater alone, or seawater contaminated with one of three land parasites – Toxoplasma gondii, Cryptosporidium parvum or Giardia enterica. In people, T. gondii can cause flu-like symptoms such as fatigue and muscle aches. The parasite has also been linked to the death of marine mammals such as sea otters, dolphins and seals. Meanwhile, C. parvum and G. enterica are known to cause gut problems that can be deadly in young children and those with a suppressed immune system.

3 4-24-22 Protests over water firms dumping sewage in rivers
Thousands of people have taken to rivers and waterways to protest against water companies dumping sewage in them. The day of action, organised by the charity Surfers Against Sewage, involves 12 protests across the UK. In Manningtree, Essex, wild swimmers marched and dressed up in mermaid and giant poo costumes by the River Stour. Anglian Water, which admitted it dumped sewage in the river 389 times last year, said it was investing millions of pounds to rectify the "historic issue". Catherine Arnold, a nutritional therapist who helped organised the Manningtree protest, said: "We are so lucky to live in an area of outstanding natural beauty and we need to protect it. We don't release sewage into our gardens, why would we release it into our rivers?" Water companies discharged raw sewage into British rivers 372,533 times last year, for a total of more than 2.6m hours, according to data from the Environment Agency. Untreated sewage is only meant to be discharged into rivers in exceptional circumstances, for example, during heavy rainfall. Nic Bury, professor of environmental toxicology at the University of Suffolk, is running a project looking at E. coli counts in rivers. A sample he took in Manningtree showed an E. coli count of 1000cfu/100ml. The threshold for good bathing water is less than 500cfu/100ml. He said: "The situation is quite bad. Every time I sample in the river I'm shocked about the lack of biodiversity so I'm very concerned about it." Campaigner Anna Helm Baxter, who organised the Manningtree protest, said the situation was "completely unacceptable". "It's essential to keep up the pressure on the water companies and the government, who need to not only create stronger policies, and shorter timelines, but also make sure that they enforce their own rules," she added.

4-22-22 We can now tell how much CO2 in the air is due to fossil fuel burning
A way of distinguishing between natural carbon dioxide emissions and those from burning fossil fuels could help cities and countries monitor their progress in cutting emissions. A way of directly measuring the carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels could help cities and countries monitor their efforts to reduce emissions in near real time. “We are in a shrinking window of time to do this, so I think we really need to know what the situation is as quickly and as accurately as possible,” says Penelope Pickers at the University of East Anglia, UK. At present, governments and research organisations estimate countries’ overall emissions based on data such as how much oil or gas has been sold. While initial estimates are often made fairly quickly, it can take years to fully compile this information and estimates can vary substantially. Measuring fossil fuel emissions directly would help confirm the accuracy of these inventory-based estimates and reveal more quickly if emission-reduction policies are working or not. It could also enable us to track how much specific regions or cities are emitting. But such measurements are extremely difficult, because plants take up or release varying amounts of CO2 as the seasons shift and weather changes. It is like standing on a beach and immediately trying to tell whether the tide is going in or out, as waves are constantly coming and going. So, while the long-term global rise in atmospheric CO2 due to human activity – from around 280 parts per million before the industrial revolution to nearly 420 ppm today – is crystal clear, the short-term, regional picture is much less so. Researchers have tried various ways of directly measuring fossil fuel emissions. One is to determine what proportion of CO2 is in the form of the radioactive isotope carbon-14, which isn’t found in fossil fuels because it decays over time, and oil and gas supplies are millions of years old. But this requires the collection of samples in flasks, so continuous measurement isn’t possible. What’s more, some types of nuclear reactors emit carbon-14, obscuring the picture.

4-20-22 This year, we need to start taking our impact on the oceans seriously
The problems of the oceans are often overlooked in favour of those on land, but a slew of meetings this year could put us on a path to the sustainable development of the seas. “HOW inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean”. That quote, usually attributed to Arthur C. Clarke, pops up regularly at ocean science conferences, but is no less true for being a cliché. The ocean covers 71 per cent of the planet’s surface and makes up 95 per cent of the area that is habitable by life. Increasingly, it is being exploited by us. As our special report on what has been termed the “blue acceleration” details, over the past 20 years, the ocean economy – fish, ships, hydrocarbons, wind energy, cables, tourism and more – has grown explosively. This trend is forecast to continue and the ocean is already feeling the strain. We are at risk of repeating the mistakes of our unsustainable exploitation of the land. It isn’t too late to drop anchor. Most of today’s ocean economy is the definition of unsustainable, yet there are pathways to genuinely green growth driven by renewable energy, sustainable aquaculture and fisheries, and “blue carbon” – the capture of carbon dioxide by kelp, mangroves and plankton. But we must first stop degrading the ocean. That sounds like a whale of a task, and decisions this year will be crucial. At the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, in February, Peter Thomson, the UN secretary-general’s special envoy for the ocean, laid out six key waypoints, starting with that summit and ending with the COP27 climate conference in November. In between were final discussions over a new treaty for the high seas, negotiations to end harmful fishing subsidies, the agreement of new biodiversity targets and the UN Ocean Conference starting in June in Lisbon, Portugal.

4-20-22 How four big industries are driving the exploitation of our oceans
rom deep-sea mines to aquaculture, bioprospecting and energy generation, humanity’s accelerating expansion into the high seas has potentially huge consequences for its health. The world’s first offshore wind farm opened off the coast of Lolland, Denmark, in 1991. Since then, the global installed capacity has grown to nearly 35 gigawatts – enough to power the entire UK – almost all of it in European (25 GW) and Chinese (9 GW) waters. Other sources of ocean renewable energy are also being eyed up, including waves, tides, currents, salinity gradients, thermal gradients and marine biomass. The EU has a target of installing 1 GW of these alternative sources by 2030, says Benjamin Lehner at the Dutch Marine Energy Centre in The Hague. All these figures are a drop in the ocean compared with the world’s 1840 GW of gas-fired power capacity. Yet with wind power generation getting cheaper all the time – costs declined 70 per cent between 2012 and 2021 – rapid growth looks like a foregone conclusion. The trade association Wind Europe estimates that, by 2050, Europe will have 450 GW of offshore wind. That brings its own challenges. It will require about 45,000 square kilometres of ocean, most of it between 11 and 22 kilometres from shore, the goldilocks zone for offshore wind. Europe has 550,000 square kilometres of this real estate in total, but more than 60 per cent is earmarked for marine protected areas, says António Sarmento at consultancy firm WavEC Offshore Renewables in Lisbon, Portugal. Building, operating and maintaining offshore wind farms can damage the seabed, while the power cables that carry electricity to shore emit electromagnetic fields to which some species are sensitive. A possible answer, says Sarmento, is the “multi-use of maritime space” – combining wind farms with marine protected areas and adding in seaweed and shellfish farming. “We can create economic value, we can create local jobs and we can do something in benefit of the environment,” he says.

4-20-22 Rich countries must pay for the environmental damage they have wreaked
There is a historical obligation for higher-income countries to transfer some of their vast and ill-gotten wealth to lower-income ones to compensate them for the damage they have done to the environment, writes Graham Lawton. THE country I live in is one of the richest on the planet, but also one of the poorest. By GDP, the UK is a superpower with the fifth largest economy in the world. But in terms of intact biodiversity, it is in the bottom 10 per cent globally and the worst in the G7. These two facts aren’t unrelated. The UK got rich – and has stayed rich – in no small part by overexploiting its natural resources. The agricultural and industrial revolutions turned great swathes of what was once green and pleasant into a polluted and overgrazed wasteland. Even today, more than two-thirds of the UK’s land area is farmed and 8 per cent is built on, leaving little room for wildlife. The nation’s Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII) – a measure of how much wild nature remains – is 53 per cent. The global average is 75 per cent. The ideal is 90 per cent plus. That pathway to riches is one that many less-wealthy countries aspire to. But it is also a pathway to mutually assured destruction. A global BII comparable with the UK’s would be catastrophic. Preventing nature-rich countries from trashing their biodiversity is, of course, one of the goals of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), over which the latest round of negotiations took place in Geneva last month. Such talks naturally feature conservation targets, habitat restoration and so on. But they actually revolve around something else: money. Before the meeting began, I spoke to conservation biologists about what to look out for. One of them, Stephen Woodley at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, told me bluntly: “It’s all about the money.”

4-20-22 Arizona wildfires prompt evacuation order for around 2,000 people
Wildfires raging near Flagstaff, Arizona, led to the creation of an evacuation area comprising some 2,068 people, CNN reported Wednesday. About 766 and around 1,000 animals have reportedly been evacuated. "I cried driving away, because you just don't know. You don't know if you're going to come home to anything," evacuated resident Cindy Wilson told a local CNN affiliate. Several Arizona Twitter users posted videos that showed smoke filling the sky. The New York Times reports that, by Wednesday, the fire covered nearly 26 square miles and was being spread by wind gusts of up to 30 miles per hour. "I cannot stress enough how rapidly this fire is moving," fire management officer True Brown told CNN.

4-20-22 The Zomato and Swiggy riders risking their lives to deliver food in 10 minutes
Every day, thousands of men ride at breakneck speed on India's roads to deliver food to homes and offices within minutes. They battle a ticking clock, traffic and demanding customers - along with worries about how they will make ends meet. Many of them opted for the gig economy out of desperation after losing their jobs during the Covid pandemic. Underpaid and overworked, they say rising fuel costs are now cutting into their limited income. Their situation has been complicated by rising competition between India’s start-ups to deliver food and groceries within 10 minutes. “While using software [to run food apps], they have begun to treat us as software too,” one driver says.

4-20-22 US spring snowstorm leaves 300,000 in the dark
A spring storm has caused power outages across states in the north-eastern US, with over a foot of snow falling in some places. Some 300,000 customers lost electricity, 200,000 of them in New York state. As far south as Virginia, residents who have been looking forward to spring instead were greeted by wintry blasts. Several other north-eastern states had winter storm warnings in place from the National Weather Service (NWS). It was feared that heavy, wet snow could bring down tree limbs, with the NWS warning of wind gusts up to 40mph (64km/h). W York officials said people should try to stay off the roads if they can. The New York state town of Binghamton set a two-day record for the month of April with 14.5in (36.8cm) of snow as of Tuesday morning. The town of Virgil, New York, reported 18in of snow, reaching the highest level of predicted snow fall. Albany, New York, the state capital, experienced a phenomenon called thundersnow. The snowfall caused multiple vehicle accidents in Pennsylvania, where up to 8in fell in some places. Parts of West Virginia and Maryland saw about 6in of snow, causing heavy traffic on highways in the region. Coastal cities like Boston and New York City were spared, but experienced heavy rain, flooding and strong wind gusts.

4-19-22 Rescuers search through rubble as death toll from South Africa flooding nears 450
The death toll from flooding in South Africa that began last week has reached 443 with around four dozen people still missing, The New York Times reported Tuesday. Heavy rains in the country's KwaZulu-Natal province on Sunday after heavy rains caused floods and mudslides that devastated slums made up of cobbled-together "informal dwellings." Thousands of people have been left homeless after the flooding destroyed buildings and disrupted power and water services. One provincial government official said the heavy rains that caused the flooding represented "one of the worst weather storms in the history of our country." By Tuesday, the Times reported, "hundreds of aid workers and volunteers" were on the scene, searching through thigh-high water in wet suits and life vests for the those still unaccounted for — or for their bodies. "It's a good moment because at least one family is going to get their family member back. It's at least going to give them closure," said Albert Powrie, a medical officer from the Cape Town Fire Department, after examining the recently-discovered corpse of a young girl.

4-19-22 Biden to again require agencies to consider projects' climate impacts, reversing Trump
The Biden administration will announce Tuesday that it is reinstating key pieces of a "landmark" environmental law requiring federal agencies to consider climate implications and speak with local communities before breaking ground on highways, pipelines, and other such projects, The New York Times and The Washington Post report. In 2020, former President Donald Trump rolled back parts of 1970's National Environmental Policy Act's implementation to cut down on what he called "mountains and mountains of bureaucratic red tape." Under his changes, many projects were exempted from review and agencies skipped over considering so-called "indirect" climate impacts, the Post notes. Per President Biden's changes, regulators must now consider how government actions contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, as well as how they burden communities — particularly poor and minority ones "that have already faced disproportionate amounts of pollution," the Post writes. "Patching these holes in the environmental review process will help projects get built faster, be more resilient, and provide greater benefits to people who live nearby," Brenda Mallory, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said in a statement, per the Times. Critics of the law, however, are likely to argue it will conversely slow production and raise costs. The decision arrives ahead of Earth Day on Friday, and as Biden's climate agenda continues its congressional struggle. High gas prices and the resulting push to boost oil production have also thrown a wrench in the president's environmental plans. Officials have flagged that the updated rule will not have a large immediate impact considering the administration has already been considering the climate implications of its proposed projects. But it will "force future administrations to abide by the process or undertake a lengthy regulatory process and possibly legal challenges to again undo it," the Times writes.

4-16-22 Biden administration ends moratorium on drilling leases on federal land
The Biden administration announced Friday it would resume selling leases for oil and gas drilling on federal land, albeit at a higher cost to energy companies and with less available land, The Wall Street Journal reported. Per the Journal, royalties will increase from 12.5 percent to 18.75 percent of the value of any oil or gas extracted, while the acreage available for drilling leases has been reduced by around 80 percent from the amount previously under evaluation. President Biden announced a moratorium on new drilling leases on federal land the day he took office, but a federal judge in Louisiana blocked the moratorium in June after 13 Republican attorneys general sued. The Department of the Interior allowed lease sales to resume after Judge Terry Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana ruled that the plaintiff states had "a reliance interest in the proceeds derived from offshore and on land oil and gas lease sales," NBC News reported at the time of the ruling. It is unclear if the plaintiffs will continue with the ongoing lawsuit after the Biden administration's announcement on Friday, the Journal reported.

4-16-22 Climate change: Key UN finding widely misinterpreted
A key finding in the latest IPCC climate report has been widely misinterpreted, according to scientists involved in the study. In the document, researchers wrote that greenhouse gases are projected to peak "at the latest before 2025". This implies that carbon could increase for another three years and the world could still avoid dangerous warming. But scientists say that's incorrect and that emissions need to fall immediately. The IPCC's most recent report focused on how to limit or curtail emissions of the gases that are the root cause of warming. In their summary for policymakers, the scientists said it was still possible to avoid the most dangerous levels of warming by keeping the rise in global temperatures under 1.5C this century. This will take a herculean effort, with carbon emissions needing to shrink by 43% by the end of this decade to stay under this threshold of danger. But before they fall, emissions need to reach a peak - and it's in the text explaining this idea that the report becomes confusing. "Global greenhouse gases are projected to peak between 2020 and at the latest by 2025, in global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5C," the summary states. Most media outlets including the BBC concluded that meant emissions could rise until 2025 and the world could still stay under 1.5C. "When you read the text as it's laid out, it does give the impression that you've got to 2025 which I think is a very unfortunate outcome," said Glen Peters, from the Centre for International Climate Research in Oslo, and an IPCC lead author. "It's an unfortunate choice of wording. That is, unfortunately, going to potentially have some rather negative consequences." So what went wrong? It's partly because the climate models that scientists use to project temperatures work in five-year blocs, so 2025 follows 2020 for example, without reference to the years in between.

4-16-22 Tropical Storm Megi: Landslides and floods kill 167 in Philippines
At least 167 people died in landslides and floods after Tropical Storm Megi devastated the Philippines last Sunday. A further 110 people are missing and 1.9 million have been adversely affected, the national disaster agency says. Villages around Baybay city in the central Leyte province were badly hit, with hillside avalanches and overflowing rivers. In one village, Pilar, about 80% of the houses were washed out to sea. The agency also reported deaths in the southern Davao region, Mindanao and in the central Negros Orientals province. Many people fled their homes to shelters or higher ground when the storm, known locally as Agaton, hit the archipelago with winds of up to 65km/h (40mph). Pictures posted by the Philippines Coast Guard show rescuers carrying the injured on stretchers through chest-high water and ferrying survivors on rafts down flooded streets. The rescue effort was hampered by rain although conditions eased on Tuesday. It was the first such storm of the year - the Philippines typically sees an average of 20 each year. It comes about four months after Super Typhoon Rai devastated many of the nation's south-east islands in December - killing at least 375 people and affecting about 500,000 people. It was the worst storm to hit the Philippines that year and experts said it had grown stronger far quicker than anticipated. Marissa Miguel Cano, a public information officer in Baybay, told AFP news agency: "It's supposed to be the dry season but maybe climate change has upended that." Scientists say human-caused climate change has led to a greater intensity and power in tropical storms. The Philippines has experienced some of its most deadly storms since 2006. It's been ranked as one of the nations most vulnerable to climate disasters due to its geography.

4-14-22 Coastal cities around the globe are sinking
The subsidence renders coastlines even more vulnerable to rising seas. Coastal cities around the globe are sinking by up to several centimeters per year, on average, satellite observations reveal. The one-two punch of subsiding land and rising seas means that these coastal regions are at greater risk for flooding than previously thought, researchers report in the April 16 Geophysical Research Letters. Matt Wei, an earth scientist at the University of Rhode Island in Narragansett, and colleagues studied 99 coastal cities on six continents. “We tried to balance population and geographic location,” he says. While subsidence has been measured in cities previously, earlier research has tended to focus on just one city or region. This investigation is different, Wei says. “It’s one of the first to really use data with global coverage.” Wei and his team relied on observations made from 2015 to 2020 by a pair of European satellites. Instruments onboard beam microwave signals toward Earth and then record the waves that bounce back. By measuring the timing and intensity of those reflected waves, the team determined the height of the ground with millimeter accuracy. And because each satellite flies over the same part of the planet every 12 days, the researchers were able to trace how the ground deformed over time. The largest subsidence rates — up to five centimeters per year —are mostly in Asian cities like Tianjin, China; Karachi, Pakistan; and Manila, Philippines, the team found. What’s more, one-third, or 33, of the analyzed cities are sinking in some places by more than a centimeter per year. That’s a worrying trend, says Darío Solano-Rojas, an earth scientist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Mexico City who was not involved in the research. These cities are being hit with a double whammy: At the same time that sea levels are rising due to climate change, the land is sinking (SN: 8/15/18). “Understanding that part of the problem is a big deal,” Solano-Rojas says.

4-14-22 Scientists map Caribbean coral reefs to tackle climate change
Scientists have mapped coral reefs in the Caribbean to identify those most likely to survive climate change. Corals with the highest potential to escape destruction from marine heat waves are predominantly located along the northern shoreline of Cuba. And other promising sites are clustered around the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, eastern Jamaica, and the US state of Florida. Coral reefs are wonders of the ocean. Made up of hundreds of thousands of tiny creatures, they are one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. According to a recent IPCC report (top-level UN reports written by scientists), at up to 1.5C of warming, only 10 to 30% of coral reefs are expected to survive. If warming is above that, survival prospects plummet drastically. The research team compared different climate models and examined factors such as hurricane damage and heat stress. They used this to define a list of coral that are priorities for protection due to their better resilience to climate change. Locating and managing the places that hold "greatest promise to sustain key species will be critical for helping these precious habitats persist as the planet continues to warm," said lead researcher, Iliana Chollett. The insights are already shaping reef conservation efforts "to deliver durable, climate-smart protection for those ecosystems most likely to survive this century," added Ximena Escovar-Fadul, of global environmental non-profit, The Nature Conservancy. But the scientists say their research - in line with other studies - shows coral reefs will not survive 2C of warming, meaning urgent greenhouse gas emission reductions are needed to save them for future generations. The research is published in the journal, Global Change Biology.

4-14-22 How ancient, recurring climate changes may have shaped human evolution
Shifting habitats implicate a disputed ancestor in the rise of Homo sapiens and Neandertals. Recurring climate changes may have orchestrated where Homo species lived over the last 2 million years and how humankind evolved. Ups and downs in temperature, rainfall and plant growth promoted ancient hominid migrations within and out of Africa that fostered an ability to survive in unfamiliar environments, say climate physicist and oceanographer Axel Timmermann and colleagues. Based on how the timing of ancient climate variations matched up with the comings and goings of different fossil Homo species, the researchers generated a novel — and controversial — outline of human evolution. Timmermann, of Pusan National University in Busan, South Korea, and his team present that scenario April 13 in Nature. Here’s how these scientists tell the story of humankind, starting roughly 2 million years ago. By that time, Homo erectus had already begun to roam outside Africa, while an East African species called H. ergaster stuck close to its home region. H. ergaster probably evolved into a disputed East African species called H. heidelbergensis, which split into southern and northern branches between 850,000 and 600,000 years ago. These migrations coincided with warmer, survival-enhancing climate shifts that occur every 20,000 to 100,000 years due to variations in Earth’s orbit and tilt that modify how much sunlight reaches the planet. Then, after traveling north to Eurasia, H. heidelbergensis possibly gave rise to Denisovans around 430,000 years ago, the researchers say. And in central Europe, harsh habitats created by recurring ice ages spurred the evolution of H. heidelbergensis into Neandertals between 400,000 and 300,000 years ago. Finally, in southern Africa between 310,000 and 200,000 years ago, increasingly harsh environmental conditions accompanied a transition from H. heidelbergensis to H. sapiens, who later moved out of Africa.

4-13-22 30 by 30: The conservation breakthrough we need to save biodiversity
Negotiators are hammering out a bold plan to set aside 30 per cent of global land and sea area for nature by the end of the decade. But can they succeed – and will it work? IT IS perhaps inevitably being trailed as a last chance to avert disaster. But when the world gathers in Kunming, China, later this year to finalise a much-delayed global deal on biodiversity, the fate of the universe’s only known biosphere will lie in the negotiators’ hands. “We’re in crisis mode,” says Eric Dinerstein, former chief scientist at conservation group WWF. “We have 10 years before we surpass critical tipping points that would lead to irreversible biodiversity loss.” At the centre of the deal under negotiation is a new, ambitious target that goes far beyond previous, failed commitments to protect biodiversity. Catchily titled “30 by 30”, it would commit nations to setting aside 30 per cent of Earth’s land and seas for nature by 2030. For many conservation biologists, it is a breakthrough even to see it on the table. But nerves are also jangling. Will 30 by 30 make it through – and if it does, will the world act, and will it be enough? Biodiversity is important. Even if we cannot bring ourselves to preserve it for its own sake, we should at least do so for selfish reasons. Intact nature provides a range of “ecosystem services”, from life support, such as clean air and water, fertile soils and pollination, to psychological benefits and protection from climate change, extreme weather and natural disasters – not to mention a reduced risk of “spillover” diseases like covid-19. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services lists 18 separate benefits of biodiversity. Yet we have hardly taken heed. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was set up following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to coordinate efforts to conserve biodiversity, and it has since been signed by every UN member state bar the US. But we have consistently missed the goals it has set. That applies to all 20 of the last lot, agreed for the decade from 2010. Called the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, they covered everything from removing subsidies from activities harmful to biodiversity to halving habitat loss and adopting sustainable farming practices.

4-13-22 More than 57 billion tons of soil have eroded in the U.S. Midwest
The level of erosion, possibly underestimated by the USDA, may have become unsustainable. With soils rich for cultivation, most land in the Midwestern United States has been converted from tallgrass prairie to agricultural fields. Less than 0.1 percent of the original prairie remains. This shift over the last 160 years has resulted in staggering — and unsustainable — soil erosion rates for the region, researchers report in the March Earth’s Future. The erosion is estimated to be double the rate that the U.S. Department of Agriculture says is sustainable. If it continues unabated, it could significantly limit future crop production, the scientists say. In the new study, the team focused on erosional escarpments — tiny cliffs formed through erosion — lying at boundaries between prairie and agricultural fields (SN: 1/20/96). “These rare prairie remnants that are scattered across the Midwest are sort of a preservation of the pre-European-American settlement land surface,” says Isaac Larsen, a geologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. At 20 sites in nine Midwestern states, with most sites located in Iowa, Larsen and colleagues used a specialized GPS system to survey the altitude of the prairie and farm fields. That GPS system “tells you where you are within about a centimeter on Earth’s surface,” Larsen says. This enables the researchers to detect even small differences between the height of the prairie and the farmland. At each site, the researchers took these measurements at 10 or more spots. The team then measured erosion by comparing the elevation differences of the farmed and prairie land. The researchers found that the agricultural fields were 0.37 meters below the prairie areas, on average. This corresponds to the loss of roughly 1.9 millimeters of soil per year from agricultural fields since the estimated start of traditional farming at these sites more than a century and a half ago, the researchers calculate. That rate is nearly double the maximum of one millimeter per year that the USDA considers sustainable for these locations.

4-12-22 Flooding, mudslides caused by tropical storm Megi kill dozens in the Philippines
At least 25 people were killed in the Philippines after tropical storm Megi triggered severe flooding and landslides, authorities said Monday. Megi hit the eastern and southern coasts, making landfall on Sunday with sustained winds of up to 40 mph and gusts of up to 49 mph, Reuters reports. It was the first storm to lash the Philippines this year; on average, the country sees about 20 such storms annually. In the eastern province of Leyte, police reported that they recovered the bodies of 22 people who had been buried under a landslide. Three additional deaths were recorded in the Davao region. Joeman Collado, a police chief in Leyte, told Reuters that search and rescue operations are ongoing, with many rescuers having to maneuver rafts through flooded streets to try to get to homes partially submerged underwater. Forecasters said Megi is expected to weaken on Tuesday before moving back out to sea.

4-12-22 Carbon removal project in Iceland suffers setback due to harsh winter
Climeworks is aiming to remove 4000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air per year with its Orca plant, but Arctic conditions have put the project behind schedule. The world’s biggest facility for removing carbon dioxide directly from the air is running behind schedule in Iceland, after punishing Arctic conditions froze machinery and forced the Swiss company behind it to make modifications. Launched in September 2021, the Climeworks “Orca” plant to the east of Reykjavik was hailed by Iceland’s prime minister Katrin Jakobsdottir as a “milestone in the fight against climate change”. The pioneering direct air capture (DAC) facility works by using geothermal energy to power fans that funnel air into collector units. Inside, a filter material absorbs CO2 before it is heated, piped and stored in basalt rock as calcium carbonate, permanently locking away the carbon. Operations have been ramping up towards the plant’s capacity of removing 4000 tonnes of CO2 a year. But Christoph Beuttler at Climeworks tells New Scientist that this is taking longer than planned. While the team knew Icelandic weather could be extreme, he says the winter just gone was especially harsh, with low temperatures stressing mechanical elements of the machines, including belt drives. “It’s not high-tech stuff. We had to redesign parts of, not the core technology, but the technology around it, to adapt to the weather,” says Beuttler. The system is now working as expected, he adds. “It’s a very good example of how important is to deploy now and to get the experience.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on 4 April highlighted DAC as a key tool for meeting the world’s target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, in tandem with rapid and deep emissions cuts. It also showed the technology will need scaling up from the four-digit figure the Climeworks plant is aiming to capture each year to billions of tonnes if humanity isn’t to overshoot its temperature goal.

4-12-22 Early warning system for Amazon forest losses seen in climate models
As plants in the Amazon rainforest die off, huge amounts of carbon are released – a key signal that these losses may happen is temperature swings between seasons. An early warning signal for the loss of plants in the Amazon rainforest can be seen in the temperature difference between seasons, according to the latest climate models. The sixth generation of climate models, which were used to inform the 2021 climate reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, incorporate a wide range of data and environmental mechanisms. They are the first to include dynamic vegetation, which looks at how plant populations change and interact over time. Predicting forest dieback, where rainforest turns to savannah, is important because it could indicate when large volumes of carbon dioxide will be released into the atmosphere. Isobel Parry at the University of Exeter, UK, and her colleagues used six of these models to predict how the Amazon will change in response to rising carbon dioxide levels and a warming climate. As well as finding evidence of forest dieback events in north-western Brazil, southern Colombia and northern Peru, Parry and her team noticed that a strong indicator of dieback events was when the gap between the highest and lowest annual temperatures in a certain region grew larger. “The difference between those two [temperatures] is increasing before an abrupt shift [in vegetation],” says Parry. “This is significantly different from the sort of changes that you see at points that don’t experience an abrupt shift, so it’s a promising early warning signal.” “If you’re starting to see the difference between the seasonal temperature difference between seasons, you may be at the edge of the cliff of an abrupt shift,” says Carlos Nobre at the University of São Paulo, Brazil.

4-12-22 Climate change intensified deadly storms in Africa in early 2022
Heavy rains led to hundreds of deaths and widespread damage. Climate change amped up the rains that pounded southeastern Africa and killed hundreds of people during two powerful storms in early 2022. But a dearth of regional data made it difficult to pinpoint just how large of a role climate change played, scientists said April 11 at a news conference. The findings were described in a study, published online April 11, by a consortium of climate scientists and disaster experts called the World Weather Attribution network. A series of tropical storms and heavy rain events battered southeast Africa in quick succession from January through March. For this study, the researchers focused on two events: Tropical Storm Ana, which led to flooding in northern Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique in January and killed at least 70 people; and Cyclone Batsirai, which inundated southern Madagascar in February and caused hundreds more deaths. To search for the fingerprints of climate change, the team first selected a three-day period of heavy rain for each storm. Then the researchers tried to amass observational data from the region to reconstruct historical daily rainfall records from 1981 to 2022. Only four weather stations, all in Mozambique, had consistent, high-quality data spanning those decades. But, using the data on hand, the team was able to construct simulations for the region that represented climate with and without human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. The aggregate of those simulations revealed that climate change did play a role in intensifying the rains, Izidine Pinto, a climatologist at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, said at the news event. But with insufficient historical rainfall data, the team “could not quantify the precise contribution” of climate change, Pinto said.

4-12-22 ‘Paradise Falls’ thrusts readers into the Love Canal disaster
‘Paradise Falls’ thrusts readers into the Love Canal disasterThe book centers on the women who fought for their community. In December 1987, my family moved from sweltering Florida to a snow-crusted island in the Niagara River just north of Buffalo, N.Y. There on Grand Island, I heard for the first time about a place called Love Canal. Right across the river, not a mile away, lay an entire neighborhood that had been emptied out less than a decade before by one of the worst environmental disasters in American history. In the 1940s and ’50s, Hooker Chemical dumped about 20,000 tons of toxic waste into the canal, eventually covering it with soil and selling the land to the city of Niagara Falls for a dollar. The city built a school on it, and houses sprang up around it. For years, residents would smell strange odors in their homes, and kids would see chemicals bubbling up on the playground, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that local officials began to take notice. Eventually, testing revealed dangerous levels of toxic chemicals along with increased rates of certain cancers in adults, as well as seizures, learning disabilities and kidney problems in children. To me as a kid, the area surrounding Love Canal was an eerie abandoned neighborhood where teenagers would drive around at night to get creeped out. The place is truly haunting. The stories I heard of toxic chemicals gurgling up in people’s backyards stayed with me, and in 2008, I returned as an environmental reporter to write about Love Canal’s legacy. Only then did I understand the magnitude of the crisis. And only now, with the publication of Paradise Falls, do I fully comprehend the human tragedy of Love Canal and the neighborhood called LaSalle that straddled it. Journalist Keith O’Brien chronicles events primarily through the lens of the people who lived there. He focuses on the period from Christmas 1976 to May 1980, when President Jimmy Carter signed a federal emergency order that evacuated more than 700 families.

4-8-22 Tropical city air pollution led to 470,000 premature deaths in 2018
Cities in the tropics are experiencing a growing air pollution problem, which is estimated to have led to a 62 per cent rise in premature deaths since 2005 Some 470,000 people in cities near the equator died prematurely in 2018 because of air pollution, an analysis suggests. As the cities are expected to grow rapidly this century, the problem could become worse without new measures to reduce the pollution. Karn Vohra at University College London and his colleagues analysed the rise in fine particulate pollution in 46 tropical cities, including Mumbai, Dhaka and Lagos, each of which is expected to have more than 10 million inhabitants by 2100. The researchers looked at satellite data collected between 2005 and 2018 by NASA and the European Space Agency. They were able to decipher the long-term trends in fine particulate pollution in the air above each city by looking at how sunlight was scattered by the particles. From this, they found there was a 1.5-to-fourfold increase in this pollution for 33 of the cities during the study period. Vohra says this rise is probably caused by increases in road traffic, refuse burning and the household use of charcoal. The team then put the data into a health risk model that links a rise in exposure to fine particulate pollution to premature mortality. The results suggested that more than 30 per cent of known premature deaths in Asia are partly caused by this pollution, according to Vohra. “These [particles] penetrate deep into our lungs and have been shown to impact just about every organ in our body,” he says. The research indicates that Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, had the largest increase in premature deaths from air pollution during the study period. Between 2005 and 2018, about 24,000 more people in the city may have died prematurely because of air pollution. The problem is worsening, both because more pollution is being generated and because the cities are growing. The research suggests that, across the tropics, there has been a 62 per cent increase in the number of premature deaths due to air pollution exposure between 2005 and 2018.

4-8-22 The Helsinki neighbourhood leading the way to zero-carbon cities.
Kalasatama, a former cargo port in Finland’s capital, is acting as a test bed for new ideas that could help the city reach a goal of zero carbon emissions by 2040. A neighbourhood in the shadow of a coal power station on the outskirts of Helsinki, Finland, might seem an unlikely place to envangelise about its environmental credentials. But here in the former cargo port of Kalasatama, a 31-year mega project is under way to build a model green urban district that should eventually be home to 30,000 people. About 9000 have already moved in. “It’s getting better and better by the day,” says Hetta Huittinen-Naskali, who has lived in Kalasatama for four years. “What I like is that there are always people moving around.” For her, that means walking, the city’s popular bike-hire scheme, the metro and, in her husband’s case, a car too. The neighbourhood is billed by city authorities as a test bed for new ideas that might be rolled out to the rest of the capital: last year saw a driverless bus pilot project and robots delivering food to older residents. Perhaps most importantly, the area is grappling with ways to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels to meet Helsinki’s goal of absolutely zero carbon emissions by 2040. The Hanasaari coal plant overlooking the school attended by Huittinen-Naskali’s daughter is due to close in a year’s time, a step towards that target. Another coal plant elsewhere in the city will shut a year later. High gas prices and the invasion of Ukraine by Finland’s neighbour, Russia, haven’t changed the phase-out plans, says Anni Sinnemäki, Helsinki’s deputy mayor. “What it has meant to us is to accelerate the climate work, to accelerate those measures which diminish our dependency on Russian energy.”

4-8-22 50 years ago, the future of solar energy looked bright
Excerpt from the April 8, 1972 issue of Science News. More and more scientists and engineers are beginning to believe that solar conversion will account for a significant portion of the world’s future power needs.… What has changed the atmosphere lately is … the possibility of putting together large-scale units, solar-energy “farms” that would compete with power stations in the megawatt range and higher. Solar energy production in the United States ramped up as solar panels became cheaper to manufacture and more efficient at generating electricity (SN: 3/1/08, p. 133). Since the first U.S. solar power plant opened in 1982, thousands more have been built, bringing the country’s solar capacity today to more than 100 gigawatts. In 2021, solar energy made up nearly 3 percent of the electricity produced in the United States. And the future is looking bright: Solar energy and storage is projected to account for more than 60 percent of the U.S. power grid’s new generating capacity from 2022 through 2023, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

4-7-22 Researchers predict an above-average 2022 Atlantic hurricane season
Get your sandbags and emergency kits ready. Scientists at Colorado State University issued a prediction on Thursday that the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season — running from June 1 to Nov. 30 — will have above-average activity, with at least 19 named storms and nine hurricanes. They expect that four of those hurricanes will be Category 3 or higher. An average season usually sees 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes, NPR reports. Because climate change causes sea surface temperatures to rise, hurricanes are becoming larger and more powerful. In 2021, Colorado State University scientists predicted 17 named storms and four major hurricanes; it turned out to be the third most active Atlantic hurricane season on record, with 21 named storms and seven hurricanes, four of which were major. Emergency manager Chauncia Willis told NPR people can prepare by having an evacuation plan; packing kits with everything from cash to important documents to a two-week supply of medicine; and registering with their local government if they think they might need help getting out of their home in an emergency.

4-7-22 UK energy security strategy won't provide enough energy or security
The UK government has released a plan to end the country's reliance on gas, but the decisions to ignore quick wins like insulation and favour expensive nuclear power over renewables have been widely questioned. The UK today unveiled its energy security strategy, claiming it will “boost long-term energy independence, security and prosperity” – but does the plan hold up to scrutiny? Like many countries in Europe, the UK relies heavily on natural gas for heating homes and generating electricity, so it has been hard hit by the soaring price of gas, which was high even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The recent increase of a government-set price cap on energy has left some people unable to afford to heat their homes. “We need to protect ourselves from price spikes in the future by accelerating our move towards cleaner, cheaper, home-grown energy,” business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said in a press release. Yet the strategy overlooks the cheapest and quickest ways of reducing energy costs in favour of more expensive options that take longer. The best way to reduce energy bills in both the short and long term is to use less of it, starting with insulating buildings better. Many of the UK’s homes are poorly insulated, and for years, energy experts including the Climate Change Committee, the UK’s official advisory body on meeting climate targets, have been calling for more to be done. Despite this, the strategy includes no major new energy efficiency measures and instead summarises policies previously announced. It claims that “by 2025, around 700,000 homes will be upgraded”, but it is far from clear how this will happen. Last month, the Climate Change Committee warned that the government’s current plans for insulating homes wouldn’t deliver on its targets. The strategy also favours expensive nuclear power over onshore wind and solar power, the cheapest forms of energy in the UK. It sets a target of 25 per cent of the UK’s electricity – around 24 gigawatts – coming from nuclear by 2050, with up to eight new reactors instead of the one currently planned.

4-7-22 Anchovies stirring up the sea may be influencing ocean mixing
It isn't clear how marine life contributes to the roil of the ocean, but researchers working off the coast of Spain have found turbulent mixing that can only be explained by anchovies gathering to breed. Shoals of breeding anchovies may be stirring the ocean off the coast of Spain. The finding suggests that fish could play a bigger role in vertical ocean mixing than previously believed. Bieito Fernández Castro at the University of Southampton in the UK and his colleagues ocean turbulence off the Galician coast, in north-west Spain, for two weeks in July 2018. The researchers initially planned to study the effects of vertical ocean mixing on marine life in various parts of the ocean, but quickly changed tack when they saw a major unexplained rise in ocean turbulence in their first few nights at the same spot. “We were very surprised,” says Fernández Castro. Ocean mixing is largely thought to be controlled by wind and tidal energy, but neither factor could explain this sudden night-time rise, he says. Ocean mixing is important because they allow nutrients from the depths to mix with water closer to the surface, providing marine life with sustenance. The researchers moored their vessel at the same spot for two weeks and monitored turbulence 24 hours a day. The team did this by using an instrument that measures the velocity and temperature of the ocean more than 1000 times every second. The team found that ocean turbulence increased every night by a factor of between 10 and 100. Using an echo sounder, which can identify schools of fish by transmitting and recording the responses to sound pulses emitted in the water, the researchers discovered that anchovies were gathering near the boat every night. Investigating further and finding anchovy eggs led the team to conclude that the fish were gathering there to reproduce.

4-6-22 Fabric conditioners reduce the release of microfibres in tumble dryers
Tumble-drying clothes produces microfibre pollution, but this is almost halved by using a tumble dryer sheet and an anti-wrinkle fabric conditioner. Tumble-drying clothes releases as many microfibres into the air as washing them does, but switching up your fabric conditioner and using a dryer sheet could drastically cut this. Microfibres are tiny strand-like particles that detach from our clothes, particularly during washing and drying. They can end up in the air, soil and water and they are potentially harmful to humans and wildlife. Neil Lant at consumer goods company Procter & Gamble and his colleagues tested the different factors that may affect microfibre release as a result of tumble-drying. They washed loads of laundry containing 10 cotton and 10 polyester T-shirts using various brands of detergents, fabric conditioners and dryer sheets that are popular in Europe and North America. Then they dried these clothes in vented tumble dryers, which expel moist warm air to the outside air through a pipe, and measured the amount of microfibres that were released. They found that using ordinary fabric conditioners reduced microfibre emissions by a maximum of 22 per cent, depending on the product and dosage, but anti-wrinkle fabric conditioners cut them by up to 36 per cent. Fabric conditioners help the fibres stick together, making them more likely to be caught in the dryer’s lint filter, says Lant. Anti-wrinkle conditioners smooth out creases in the clothes, which reduces friction between them, leading to less microfibre release. Using tumble dryer sheets, which collect fibres, cut microfibre release by up to 35 per cent. Using an anti-wrinkle fabric conditioner and a tumble dryer sheet together reduced microfibre emissions by 45 per cent. Reducing the size of the pores on the lint filter also helped to cut the emission of fibres.

4-5-22 Solar panels that work at night produce enough power to charge a phone
Solar panels are cooler than the night air, creating a temperature difference that can be exploited to produce electricity Modified solar panels that work at night generate enough power to charge a phone or run an LED light, bypassing the need to store energy in batteries in off-grid locations. In simple terms, solar electricity is generated when the sun radiates energy towards a relatively cool solar panel. The panel consists of so-called solar cells, made from layers of a semi-conducting material, usually silicon. When light shines on this material, it generates a flow of electricity. At night, however, solar panels radiate heat to outer space, which has a temperature of around 3 kelvin (-270.15°C), because heat travels in the direction of lower temperatures. This makes the solar panel cooler than the night air, a temperature difference that can be exploited to produce electricity. To do this, Shanhui Fan at Stanford University in California and his colleagues modified an off-the-shelf solar cell by adding a thermoelectric generator, a device that produces currents from temperature differences. “The solar panel turned out to be a very efficient thermal radiator,” says Fan. “So, at night, the solar panel can actually reach a temperature that’s below the ambient air temperature, and that’s a rather unusual opportunity for power harvesting.” When pointed at a clear night sky, the modified solar cell generated a power output of 50 milliwatts per square metre. This is just 0.04 per cent of the power output of a regular solar cell during the daytime. But 50 milliwatts per square metre would enable low-power devices, such as a phone charger or a low-wattage LED light, to function. “The nice aspect about this approach is that you essentially have a direct power source at night that does not require any battery storage,” says Fan. Batteries can be expensive and temperamental. They also require a lot of energy to manufacture, and can contribute to water and air pollution if improperly disposed of.

4-5-22 We can still avert climate catastrophe – but there is barely time
The IPCC’s latest report shows we have the tools to make fast cuts in emissions – all that’s missing is the political will. The message is very clear. In three instalments, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has told us that humans are “unequivocally” to blame for rising temperatures, we are outstripping our ability to adapt and, on 4 April, that we can fix this crisis. The fix requires us to ensure that global greenhouse gas emissions peak in three years and are cut by 43 per cent by 2030. Achieve that, and we have a 50 per cent chance of staying under 1.5°C of global warming, the threshold for when climate impacts become far more damaging. Yet, as the IPCC itself points out, without stronger policies from governments, global emissions are projected to keep rising beyond 2025. The current trajectory is for a planet that has warmed by a hellish 3.2°C. So what reasons are there to think the world can land at 1.5°C instead? There is no good historical precedent for such rapid and deep emissions reductions. Global emissions were just under 60 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2019, after factoring in everything from fossil fuel burning to land use changes such as forests cleared for farms. Emissions have grown despite years of UN climate talks and swift deployment of renewable energy projects. The rate has slowed, though: average annual growth was 1.3 per cent between 2010 and 2019; it was 2.1 per cent in the decade before. Yet reaching a plateau remains elusive. Covid-19 restrictions delivered a record fall in fossil fuel emissions in 2020, but a coal-fuelled rebound in 2021 wiped out those savings. Emissions are expected to rise this year too. The world missed a chance to restructure its energy and transport systems with pandemic stimulus packages. The current energy crisis, exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, presents another possible inflection point.

4-5-22 Climate change: IPCC scientists say it's 'now or never' to limit warming
UN scientists have unveiled a plan that they believe can limit the root causes of dangerous climate change. A key UN body says in a report that there must be "rapid, deep and immediate" cuts in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Global emissions of CO2 would need to peak within three years to stave off the worst impacts. Even then, the world would also need technology to suck CO2 from the skies by mid-century. After a contentious approval session where scientists and government officials went through the report line by line, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has now published its guidance on what the world can do to avoid an extremely dangerous future. First, the bad news - even if all the policies to cut carbon that governments had put in place by the end of 2020 were fully implemented, the world will still warm by 3.2C this century. This finding has drawn the ire of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. "Some government and business leaders are saying one thing - but doing another. Simply put, they are lying. And the results will be catastrophic." That sort of temperature rise would see our planet hit by "unprecedented heatwaves, terrifying storms, and widespread water shortages". To avoid that fate, the world must keep the rise in temperatures at or under 1.5C this century, say researchers. The good news is that this latest IPCC summary shows that it can be done, in what Mr Guterres calls a "viable and financially sound manner". But keeping temperatures down will require massive changes to energy production, industry, transport, our consumption patterns and the way we treat nature. To stay under 1.5C, according to the IPCC, means that carbon emissions from everything that we do, buy, use or eat must peak by 2025, and tumble rapidly after that, reaching net-zero by the middle of this century.

4-5-22 A UN report says stopping climate change is possible but action is needed now
The world already has the tools to cut global greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. It doesn’t have to be this way. The world already has the know-how and tools to dramatically reduce emissions from fossil fuels — but we need to use those tools immediately if we hope to forestall the worst impacts of climate change. That’s the message of the third and final installment of the massive sixth assessment of climate science by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was released April 4. “We know what to do, we know how to do it, and now it’s up to us to take action,” said sustainable energy researcher Jim Skea of Imperial College London, who cochaired the report, at a news event announcing its release. Earth is on track to warm by an average of about 3.2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by the end of the century (SN: 11/26/19). Altering that course and limiting warming to 1.5 degrees or even 2 degrees means that global fossil fuel emissions will need to peak no later than the year 2025, the new report states. Right now, meeting that goal looks extremely unlikely. National pledges to reduce fossil fuel emissions to date amount to “a litany of broken climate promises,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres at the event. The previous two installments of the IPCC’s sixth assessment described how climate change is already fueling extreme weather events around the globe — and noted that adaptation alone will not be enough to shield people from those hazards (SN: 8/9/21; SN: 2/28/22). The looming climate crisis “is horrifying, and I don’t want to sugarcoat that,” says Bronson Griscom, a forest ecologist and the director of Natural Climate Solutions at the environmental organization Conservation International, based in Arlington, Va.

4-4-22 Global emissions must peak in just three years to stay below 1.5°C
A major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the window for avoiding more than 1.5°C of global warming has almost closed, with immediate and drastic cuts the only way to stay below the target. Rapid, deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions can still keep the world’s target of holding global warming to 1.5°C within reach, but humanity’s emissions must peak within just three years to avoid breaching the important limit, according to the latest research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In a flagship report on how countries can tackle the climate crisis, the IPCC laid bare that the window for staving off dangerous warming has shrunk drastically due to our past failures to act. It found that the world can afford to emit just 500 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from 2020 onwards for a 50 per cent chance of holding temperature rises to 1.5°C, a level on a par with the last decade of global emissions. Scenarios modelling how societies can meet that tight “carbon budget” require emissions to peak by 2025, before falling 43 per cent by 2030 on 2019 levels. That would require a gargantuan political effort, given global emissions rose by a record 5.5 per cent in 2021, at a time when many governments are preoccupied with the war in Ukraine and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, while some are mulling extra oil and gas production. Coal use must drop 95 per cent by 2050 on 2019 levels, oil by 60 per cent and gas 45 per cent to meet the 1.5°C goal, figures that Jan Christoph Minx, one of the authors of the report, says are “very striking”. Even meeting the Paris Agreement’s weaker target of 2°C would leave “a substantial amount of fossil fuels unburned” and render up to $4 trillion of fossil fuel infrastructure “stranded”. “We need to end the age of fossil fuels,” said Minx, speaking at a press briefing.

4-4-22 Native American tribes and industry groups reach hydroelectric compromise, sending deal to Congress
Native American tribes and industry groups reach hydroelectric compromise, sending deal to Congress At long last, Native American tribes, environmental activists, and the hydroelectric power industry have reached a deal on a legislative package that could "increase hydroelectric power production, conservation, and energy storage," The Wall Street Journal reports. The proposed agreement arrives after four years of discussions between the various groups, who have often disagreed on issues involving "vanishing fish populations and changes to river ecosystems," the Journal writes. The growing threat of climate change, however, has brought the opponents together, helping them "find common ground to potentially expand hydroelectric power." The deal will still require congressional approval, a potentially difficult task. Groups backing the measure include the National Hydropower Association, American Rivers, the Skokomish Tribe, Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. In addition to other provisions, one key component of the package shifts authority from the Department of the Interior to tribes as to the conditions "put on permits for things like the protection of tribal cultural resources or fish passage," the Journal writes. The groups involved in the deal plan to send it to Congress and the White House on Monday. "Tribes need to be fully at the table as critical governmental agencies whose lands and resources are impacted by these projects," Mary Pavel, member of the Skokomish Tribe of Washington and law partner at firm Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry LLP, told the Journal. "This package allows this to happen in very significant and historic ways." Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

4-4-22 Harmful air pollution now affects 99 per cent of everyone on Earth
New guidelines from the World Health Organization mean that almost everyone on the planet is now affected by harmful air pollution. Almost everyone on Earth lives in areas with harmful levels of air pollution that breach new guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO). The official figure is that 99 per cent of the world’s population is affected, up from 90 per cent four years ago under less stringent standards. India has nine of the world’s 10 cities with the worst air pollution caused by a tiny pollutant known as PM2.5. Ahmedabad tops the list, with Delhi in third, a new database published today by the WHO shows. For a larger but still harmful pollutant, PM10, the top 10 list of the dirtiest places is more diverse, including settlements in Bahrain, India, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. Both pollutants are caused by a mix of fossil fuel burning in cars and power plants, but also by farming and natural sources such as desert sand. Chinese cities, which previously dominated lists of the world’s most polluted urban areas, have cleaned up their air considerably. Beijing, famous for its “airpocalypse” smog events in the past, still has high annual levels of PM2.5, but is now only the 76th most polluted city globally. In a statement, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “High fossil fuel prices, energy security, and the urgency of addressing the twin health challenges of air pollution and climate change, underscore the pressing need to move faster towards a world that is much less dependent on fossil fuels.” Low and middle-income countries are worst affected by harmful levels of particulate matter (PM) compared with the global average. For a third pollutant – nitrogen dioxide – the economic split is less clear and affluent countries are affected too.

4-4-22 We can do better than what was ‘normal’ before the pandemic
Improving indoor air quality is one way we can reinforce the public in public health. It’s a weird time in the pandemic. COVID-19 cases are once again climbing in some parts of the United States, but still falling from the January surge in other places. The omicron subvariant BA.2 is now dominant in the country, accounting for more than 50 percent of new cases in the week ending March 26, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BA.2 has already taken parts of the world by storm, spurring large outbreaks in Europe and Asia. With the rising spread of the subvariant in the United States, signs are pointing to another COVID-19 wave here, although it’s unclear how big it could be. There is a good amount of immunity from vaccination and infections from other omicron siblings to help flatten the next peak. But the highly transmissible subvariant is advancing at a time when many have tossed masks aside. I can’t help but feel that we’re sitting ducks. There’s no movement yet to reinstate protective measures to prepare for the coming wave. Instead, there are loud calls to “return to normal.” But even though it’s been two years, this pandemic isn’t over, no matter how much we wish it were. And when people talk about “normal,” I am struck by what can’t be “normal” again. For millions and millions of people who have lost children, partners, parents and friends, life won’t be the same. One study reported that the “mortality shock” of COVID-19 has left nine people bereaved for every one U.S. death. So for the more than 975,000 who have died of COVID-19 in the United States, there are close to 9 million who are grieving. Although the study didn’t calculate the ratio globally, more than 6 million have died worldwide, undoubtedly leaving tens of millions bereaved. At the global scale, researchers estimate that through October 2021, more than 5 million children have lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19, putting these children’s health, development and future education at risk (SN: 2/24/22).

4-1-22 Climate change may mean more extreme rain after wildfire in western US
Under severe warming scenarios, the risk is growing that areas of the western US will experience extreme rainfall within a year or so of being hit by a wildfire. The risk of extreme rainfall in areas that have recently experienced wildfires may increase significantly by the end of the century in the western United States, if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise unabated. “In many places in the western US, we experience a lot of natural disasters,” says Samantha Stevenson at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Some of the most important ones are wildfires, many of which have burned through California and other western states recently. We also have rainstorms that can lead to devastating floods. Climate change has been known to amplify both these things.” Following wildfires, there is a higher risk of landslides and flash floods for several years in the burned area because it takes time for the ground cover and vegetation that was once there to regrow. Heavy rainfall can trigger these events. Stevenson and her colleagues decided to study how often these extreme rainfall events will occur following a wildfire over the coming decades. The team ran simulations of the climate in the western US, under the most extreme warming scenario – in which greenhouse gases continue to be emitted uncapped. In an extreme warming scenario, the team found that by the end of this century, extreme rainfall events in California will be twice as likely to occur in the year following a wildfire than they were in the late 20th century. Such events will be eight times more likely to occur in the Pacific Northwest. For over 90 per cent of extreme wildfire events that will happen in this century in Colorado, California and the Pacific Northwest, the team’s model predicts that extreme rainfall events will occur at least three times within five years of the fire.

4-1-22 A global warming pause that didn’t happen hampered climate science
The supposed blip in warming fueled climate skeptics and distracted researchers. It was one of the biggest climate change questions of the early 2000s: Had the planet’s rising fever stalled, even as humans pumped more heat-trapping gases into Earth’s atmosphere? By the turn of the century, the scientific understanding of climate change was on firm footing. Decades of research showed that carbon dioxide was accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere, thanks to human activities like burning fossil fuels and cutting down carbon-storing forests, and that global temperatures were rising as a result. Yet weather records seemed to show that global warming slowed between around 1998 and 2012. How could that be? After careful study, scientists found the apparent pause to be a hiccup in the data. Earth had, in fact, continued to warm. This hiccup, though, prompted an outsize response from climate skeptics and scientists. It serves as a case study for how public perception shapes what science gets done, for better or worse. The mystery of what came to be called the “global warming hiatus” arose as scientists built up, year after year, data on the planet’s average surface temperature. Several organizations maintain their own temperature datasets; each relies on observations gathered at weather stations and from ships and buoys around the globe. The actual amount of warming varies from year to year, but overall the trend is going up, and record-hot years are becoming more common. The 1995 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, for instance, noted that recent years had been among the warmest recorded since 1860. And then came the powerful El Niño of 1997–1998, a weather pattern that transferred large amounts of heat from the ocean into the atmosphere. The planet’s temperature soared as a result — but then, according to the weather records, it appeared to slacken dramatically. Between 1998 and 2012, the global average surface temperature rose at less than half the rate it did between 1951 and 2012. That didn’t make sense. Global warming should be accelerating over time as people ramp up the rate at which they add heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere.

4-1-22 There's a huge flaw in the EU's draft net-zero carbon emissions plan
The European Union’s plan to achieve climate neutrality could lead to more deforestation because it ignores what happens when more land is used to produce bioenergy. If land is used to grow plants for bioenergy, it can’t be used to grow food or carbon-storing forests, nor can it provide a habitat for wildlife. The European Union’s proposed plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions fails to take account of this, meaning it could have unintended and undesirable consequences, such as increasing global deforestation and reducing biodiversity, according to a new analysis. “The plans assume that converting land to energy use has no cost, which is pretty amazing given the context we are in, where we are massively clearing more land to produce more food and where climate strategies require that we reforest land,” says Tim Searchinger at Princeton University. The EU has committed itself to achieving “climate neutrality” by 2050. As an intermediate step, it is aiming to reduce emissions by 55 per cent by 2030. Last year, the European Commission unveiled a package of proposed laws, called “Fit for 55”, to achieve this. The stated aims of Fit for 55 include storing more carbon in forests and restoring biodiversity. However, the proposed measures would increase bioenergy use in the EU – whose main source of “renewable” energy is already bioenergy. Modelling by the European Commission has estimated that the plans would require 22 million hectares of land to be devoted to energy crops, equivalent to a fifth of the EU’s cropland today, says Searchinger. It also estimates that at least 10 million hectares of semi-natural grasslands will have to be converted to growing energy crops or to highly managed forests. What’s more, Searchinger thinks this modelling underestimates the amount of land required.


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