2019 Science Headline News
7-3-19 Unprecedented Arctic megafires are releasing a huge amount of CO2
The Arctic is on fire. Dozens of wildfires of an unprecedented intensity have been burning across the Arctic circle for the past few weeks, releasing as much CO2 in just one month as Sweden’s total annual emissions. Fires in the region are not unknown but the scale of the blazes, predominantly in boreal peatlands across Siberia, is surprising. Satellite measurements show the amount of energy released by the fires in June is more than that released by all the previous nine years of the month combined. “It’s quite striking, it does really stand out,” says Mark Parrington at European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. The last time the region had such intense fires was 15 years ago. The driver for the fires appears to be the unusually high temperatures that affected many parts of the world in June, with the month marking the hottest June on record in Europe. The Arctic was also warmer than average. “It’s hotter and drier. If the temperature is high enough and there’s ignition, fuel burns,” says Parrington. The exact size of the area on fire is not entirely clear. But Thomas Smith of the London School of Economics says his analysis of satellite photos suggest some of the fires appear to be bigger than 100,000 hectares, which would classify them as megafires. There are signs they are still burning, though detection is currently hampered by cloud cover. “Some hotspots are apparent through gaps in clouds which suggest fires are continuing,” he says. The fires appear to be mostly on carbon-rich peatland. Parrington calculates the wildfires in June released around 50 megatonnes of CO2, on par with Sweden’s total emissions in 2017. That CO2 will bring about more warming, in a positive feedback loop. The blazes appear to also be accelerating climate change by depositing soot and ash on sea ice. Satellite photos in June show sea ice in the Laptev Sea and East Siberian Sea turning darker, which will exacerbate melting, in turn bringing about more warming because the sea is darker than ice and so absorbs more of the sun’s energy. Arctic sea ice extent loss “ramped up” in June and was the second lowest for the month on record, data released on Tuesday shows.
6-21-19 Record melting of the Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheets
Unusually warm temperatures as much as 40 degrees above normal this spring have triggered record melting of the Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheets. “The melting is big and early,” said Jason Box, an ice climatologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.
4-23-19 Greta Thunberg: Teen activist says UK is 'irresponsible' on climate
Teenage activist Greta Thunberg has described the UK's response to climate change as "beyond absurd". In a speech to MPs, the Swedish 16-year-old criticised the UK for supporting new exploitation of fossil fuels and exaggerating cuts to carbon emissions. She was invited to Westminster after inspiring the school climate strikes movement. Environment Secretary Michael Gove said "we have not done nearly enough". In her speech in Parliament on Tuesday, Miss Thunberg said the UK was supporting shale gas fracking, greater exploitation of North Sea oil and gas fields and expanding airports. "This ongoing irresponsible behaviour will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind," she said. She also described the UK's carbon emissions reduction as the result of "very creative" accounting. The country's reported 37% reduction in emissions since 1990 was only 10% when aviation, shipping, imports and exports were counted, she said. Miss Thunberg said her generation's future had been "stolen" so that "a small number of people could make unimaginable amounts of money". She told MPs: "You don't listen to the science because you are only interested in the answers that will allow you to carry on as if nothing has happened." Mr Gove said that although governments have not done enough to tackle climate change, "in the past few years it has become inescapable that we have to act". He said: "The time to act is now, the challenge could not be clearer - Greta, you have been heard." Earlier, an empty chair was left for Prime Minister Theresa May as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas met the environmental campaigner for a round-table discussion.
6-14-19 New York bans religious exemptions for vaccines amid measles outbreak
Lawmakers in New York have voted to eliminate religious exemptions for school vaccines for children, as the state grapples with a measles outbreak. The law passed on Thursday night, and led to chaotic scenes in the statehouse as anti-vaccination supporters clashed with lawmakers. Much of New York's outbreak has centred around orthodox Jewish communities. More than 1,000 Americans have been diagnosed with measles in 2019. Health officials say the disease is resurging. Last month, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that the US, which effectively eliminated measles in 2000, may lose its "measles elimination status" as infections climb to a 27-year high. The new law in New York, which was passed by the state's Democratic Senate and Assembly chambers, bans parents from claiming religious exemptions which used to allow their children to forgo vaccinations that are normally required for school. "I'm not aware of anything in the Torah, the Bible, the Koran or anything else that suggests you should not get vaccinated," said Bronx Democrat Jeffrey Dinowitz, who sponsored the bill. State Senator Brad Hoylman added: "We're putting science ahead of misinformation about vaccines and standing up for the rights of immuno-compromised children and adults, pregnant women and infants who can't be vaccinated through no fault of their own." Governor Andrew Cuomo, who signed the bill into law only hours after it was passed by lawmakers, said in a statement: "The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe." "While I understand and respect freedom of religion, our first job is to protect the public health and by signing this measure into law, we will help prevent further transmissions and stop this outbreak right in its tracks." (Webmaster's comment: We should lock up and quarantine all families with unvaccinated members. They are a danger to all the rest of us.)
4-24-19 U.S. measles cases hit a record high since the disease was eliminated in 2000
About 169 million kids worldwide didn’t get a measles shot in 2010–2017, easing disease spread. U.S. measles cases have soared to the highest number since the disease was declared eliminated in the country in 2000. The 2019 tally now stands at 695 cases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. That surpasses the previous high of 667 cases in 2014. “The high number of cases in 2019 is primarily the result of a few large outbreaks — one in Washington State and two large outbreaks in New York that started in late 2018,” according to a statement released by the CDC April 24. “The outbreaks in New York City and New York State are among the largest and longest lasting since measles elimination in 2000. The longer these outbreaks continue, the greater the chance measles will again get a sustained foothold in the United States.” Years of inadequate childhood measles vaccination coverage throughout the world have set the stage for the resurgence in the United States as well as in many other countries. An estimated 169 million children globally were not vaccinated against measles from 2010 to 2017 — or an average of 21.1 million per year, according to data released April 24 by UNICEF to kick off World Immunization Week. “It is unfortunate where we stand in 2019 on measles control, given the fact that we have such an effective, safe and, very importantly, inexpensive vaccine available,” says Robin Nandy, Chief of Immunization at UNICEF in New York City. Among high-income countries, the United States tops the list of those with the largest numbers of kids who have not received the measles vaccine. UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, reports more than 2.5 million U.S. children went unvaccinated against the virus from 2010 to 2017. France has the next highest number, with more than 600,000 during those years, followed by the United Kingdom’s 527,000. The high U.S. and European numbers are explained mostly by parental resistance to vaccines (SN Online: 11/30/18).
4-15-19 U.S. measles outbreaks show no signs of slowing down
International travel and hot spots where too few people are vaccinated is fueling the spread. The year has just started, but it’s already a bad one for measles. The viral disease has sickened at least 555 people in 20 states, according to numbers released April 15 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s more than the 372 cases reported for all of 2018 — and it’s only April. If the outbreak doesn’t get under control, this year could surpass the 2014 high of 667 cases since measles was eliminated from the United States in 2000 (SN Online: 11/30/18). Elimination means that the virus is no longer endemic, or constantly present, though it can still be brought in by overseas travelers. Internationally, outbreaks are ongoing in Ukraine, Israel, the Philippines and Brazil, among other countries. Imported disease is the just the spark. What’s fueling measles outbreaks in the United States are pockets of vulnerability in the country, especially within states that have made it easier for parents to skip vaccinating their children. As public health officials grapple with containing the disease, here’s the lowdown on this not-so-conquered virus. The first signs of an infection include a fever and cough, followed about four days later by a rash of flat, red spots. There’s no treatment for measles, other than managing symptoms with fever reducers, for example. Those who have been exposed to the virus but aren’t immunized can get vaccinated within 72 hours to protect against the illness. Measles can lead to severe medical complications — particularly for babies and young children — including pneumonia or a swelling of the brain that may result in deafness. A decade before the vaccine became available in the United States in 1963, measles sickened around 3 million to 4 million people and killed hundreds each year.
4-16-19 Measles has made a shocking return to the US. Can it be stopped?
Insight is your guide to the science and technology that is transforming our world, giving you everything you need to know about the issues that matter most. MEASLES is making a comeback in the US. Public health departments are starting to take serious measures to curb the disease, but in an age of misinformation, simply telling people to get vaccinated may not be enough. New York City is taking drastic action. On 9 April, mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency in the borough of Brooklyn, and mandated that anyone living in the four zip codes where a measles outbreak has raged since October must be vaccinated or face fines of up to $1000. The unprecedented move was a result of the staggering rise in the number of measles cases, which have mostly been confined to the Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg, the mayor said in a press conference. In 2017, there were two cases of measles in New York City. In the past six months, there have been 285. “That’s got our full attention,” said de Blasio, adding that the city will offer free vaccines for those without health insurance. These measures are required because the city is really fighting two epidemics. Measles is fast-spreading and can be deadly. So is the anti-vaccine movement, which has infected the US over the past 20 years, aided by social media platforms and organised misinformation campaigns. There have already been 465 cases of measles in the US this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If the disease continues to spread at that rate, there could be more than 1800 cases by the end of the year. (Webmaster's comment: The parents not vaccinating their children against measles are crimnals. They have deliberately endangered everyone including other children with DEATH! Their children should be quarantined and the parents should be imprisioned!)
4-12-19 Even remote mountain glaciers are contaminated with microplastics
Microplastics have been found in a mountain glacier for the first time, in the latest sign of how plastics are leaving no corner of the planet untouched. The tiny pieces, which measure less than 5 millimetres in length, have shown up in places as remote as Arctic ice before. But now Roberto Sergio Azzoni at the University of Milan and colleagues have found them on a terrestrial glacier. Around 75 particles of microplastic per kilogram of sediment were found on the Forni glacier in the Italian Alps. The team looked at 4 kilograms of sediment in total, which if this is representative, could mean there are 162 million plastic particles across the whole glacier. Ironically, the plastic seems to be getting to the ice via the hikers and mountaineers who are seeking out the natural beauty of the glacier. Most of the microplastics found were fibres rather than fragments. Of the total plastic found, 39 per cent was locally-deposited polyesters, another 39 per cent unknown. The rest was polyamide, polypropylene and polyethylene. The findings imply much of the plastic is coming from outdoorwear made from plastics. Some will also have been blown in by the wind from the nearest towns and cities. That posed a conundrum for the team, as they did not want to skew the results and contaminate the samples they took by wearing clothes made from plastic materials. The answer was wearing solely clothes made from cotton, coupled with wooden clogs. “That is not so comfortable,” says Sergio Azzoni. Glaciers are not as pristine as we think, says Etienne Bertheir, of the Laboratory of Geophysical Studies and Spatial Oceanography in Touloues. “Glaciers are in fact rather dirty. In the Mont Blanc area you find crashed planes, iced bodies [corpses].”
4-4-19 Scotland's HPV vaccine linked to 'near elimination' of cervical cancer
The routine vaccination of schoolgirls against the human papillomavirus (HPV) in Scotland has led to a dramatic reduction in cervical cancer in later life. Some forms of the sexually-transmitted HPV are linked to cervical cancer – one of the most common cancers in women aged under 35 in the UK. A decade ago, the UK government introduced a UK-wide immunisation programme for girls aged 12 and 13. Compared with unvaccinated women born in 1988, vaccinated women born in 1995 and 1996 showed reductions of up to 90 per cent in cases of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN), a pre-cancerous abnormal growth of cells and lesions on the cervix linked to invasive cervical cancer. Unvaccinated women also showed a reduction in disease. The researchers say this suggests routinely vaccinating girls aged 12 and 13 in Scotland has created substantial “herd protection”. The findings were made by Tim Palmer at the University of Edinburgh and his colleagues by analysing vaccination and screening records for 138,692 women born between 1988 and 1996, who had a screening test at age 20. The study’s co-author, Kevin Pollock at Glasgow Caledonian University, says the HPV vaccine has exceeded expectations. “[The vaccine] is associated with near elimination of both low and high-grade cervical disease in young Scottish women eight years after the vaccine programme started.” Cervical cancer cases in women in Scotland aged 20-24 have reduced by 69 per cent since 2012. Scotland’s public health minister Joe FitzPatrick says the programme will be enlarged. “We are, of course, building on this success and extending the HPV vaccine programme to boys later this year.”
3-28-19 Climate change is making the seas rise faster than ever, UN warns
Sea levels across the world are rising faster than ever, the United Nations has warned, meaning we urgently need to increase action on climate change. In a report released on Thursday, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a UN agency, painted a dire picture of all the key indicators of global warming. The last four years were the warmest on record, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are at record levels and rising, and a global average sea level rise of 3.7 millimetres in 2018 outstripped the average annual increase over the past three decades. The findings in the group’s annual State of the Climate report will bolster efforts by António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, to make governments commit to more ambitious carbon cuts at a landmark summit in September. “There is no longer any time for delay,” wrote Guterres in a foreword to the report. Last year was the fourth warmest on record, bringing the global temperature 1°C warmer on average than before the industrial revolution. That leaves little wiggle room for limiting rises to the 1.5°C goal that nearly 200 countries agreed to aim for under the Paris agreement. As the WMO report spells out, the average global temperature increase masks much bigger jumps in some regions last year. In the Arctic, the annual average temperature was 2°C higher and up to 3°C higher in some places. Some of the most abnormal conditions were seen in the summer heatwave in northern Europe, which wrought wildfires across 25,000 hectares in Sweden, as well as fires in the UK, Norway and Germany. France and Germany had their warmest year on record, while new temperature records were set in Japan. With most of the energy trapped by greenhouse gases being absorbed by the oceans, 2018 continued a long-term trend by breaking new records for ocean heat. Global glacier mass declined for the 31st year running. Arctic sea ice was well below average, a pattern that has continued into 2019 with the maximum sea ice extent in winter the seventh lowest on record.
3-26-19 Global carbon emissions from energy hit a record high in 2018
Global carbon emissions from energy climbed to a record high last year, as the world’s demand for energy grew at its fastest pace this decade. The International Energy Agency, the world’s energy watchdog, said that economic growth and the weather drove emissions up 1.7 per cent to a new high of 33 gigatonnes. The increase is equivalent to the emissions from all air travel doubling in a single year. These figures are the first official confirmation that emissions have risen for two years in a row. It now appears that the plateau of emissions between 2014 and 2016, which had raised hopes that action on climate change was altering the long-term upward trend, was a blip. “One could take a negative stance and say we’re doing everything wrong. I think it’s not as bad as the absolute number suggests. It could have been higher,” says Laura Cozzi, the IEA’s chief energy modeller. Switching from coal to gas power stations, which emit less carbon, played a role in dampening down emissions, while nuclear power also had a good year as new Chinese plants came online. And there was strong growth in renewable energy sources, which met 45 per cent of the growth in electricity generation in 2018. But the speed of change is not enough, she says. “We are putting the accent on the right policies but they are not going strongly enough,” says Cozzi. Overall, the world’s appetite for energy was up 2.3 per cent, the biggest increase this decade. While the use of all fuels grew, natural gas was the big winner, meeting 45 per cent of the growth in demand. Glen Peters at the Center for International Climate Research in Norway estimates that based on economic growth predictions, emissions will rise again in 2019 by around 1.5 per cent. “We now have 30 years of climate negotiations, 30 years of climate reports, the Paris Agreement is approaching 4 years old, and emissions keep growing. It is blatantly obvious that what countries are collectively doing is far from enough,” he says.
3-14-19 Greta Thunberg nominated for Nobel Peace Prize for climate activism
Greta Thunberg, the Swedish schoolgirl who has inspired an international movement to fight climate change, has been nominated as a candidate to receive this year's Nobel Peace Prize. She was nominated by three Norwegian MPs. If she were to win, she would be the youngest recipient since Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 when she received the prize. Ms Thunberg tweeted she was "honoured" to receive the nomination. "We have proposed Greta Thunberg because if we do nothing to halt climate change, it will be the cause of wars, conflict and refugees," Norwegian Socialist MP Freddy Andre Ovstegard told AFP news agency. "Greta Thunberg has launched a mass movement which I see as a major contribution to peace," he added. On Friday, thousands of schoolchildren are expected to strike again against climate change in more than 100 countries around the world. (Webmaster's comment: Except in the United States. They wouldn't dare!) The school strikes were inspired by the Fridays For The Future movement started by Ms Thunberg under the hashtag #FridaysForFuture. So far, there have been regular walkouts around the world, including in countries likes Germany, Belgium, the UK, France, Australia and Japan. But Friday's protest is billed as the biggest so far. The Swedish teenager - who on her Twitter page describes herself as "a 16-year-old climate activist with Asperger [syndrome]" - first staged a school strike for the climate in front of the Swedish parliament in August last year. Since then, she has been missing lessons most Fridays to stage her regular protests. She continued to gain international attention after speaking at the UN Climate Talks in Poland in December and at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January. "On climate change, we have to acknowledge that we have failed," she told global economic leaders in Davos.
3-15-19 Students join massive global strike against climate change
Students around the world are striking today in a major global day of action against climate change. The protests are expected to be the biggest international action yet, eclipsing the first large-scale student protest on 15 February. Young people have already taken to the streets in places including New Zealand, Australia, Japan, the Philippines, Nepal, India and European cities as part of an expected 2000 events in more than 120 countries. Students in the UK are calling for the government to act urgently on climate change by declaring a climate emergency and tacking active steps to tackle the problem. Their calls come in the wake of a UN report last year warning that unprecedented action will be required to limit global temperature rises to 1.5°C. Protestors began to gather in London’s Parliament Square this morning, including Greta Breveglieri, a political science student at the University of Milan, who travelled from Italy for the demonstration. “To put it bluntly, we’re here because our world is going to be destroyed. We have to change the pace of our culture, our society, our politics, our economics,” she said. In Berlin, 10,000 protesters, most of them young students, gathered in a central square waving signs with slogans such as “There is no planet B” and “Climate Protection Report Card: F”, before a march through the capital’s government quarter. More protests are being held throughout the day. (Webmaster's comment: Except in the United States. Here our students are taught to be obedient first, to think for themselves second!)
3-15-19 Global warming: Students' climate strike spreads worldwide
Thousands of school pupils worldwide have abandoned classrooms for a day of protest against climate change. India, South Korea, Australia and France are among the countries where teenagers are already on strike. The day of action is expected to embrace about 100 countries. They are inspired by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who protests weekly outside Sweden's parliament. Scientists say tougher measures are needed to cut global warming. The Paris climate agreement of 2017 committed nearly 200 countries to keeping global temperatures "well below" 2.0C (3.6F) above pre-industrial times and to striving for a maximum of 1.5C. The globally co-ordinated children's protests - promoted through posts on Twitter and other social media - have been going on for several months. On Thursday Greta Thunberg's campaigning earned her a Nobel Peace Prize nomination. In January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the 16-year-old told top executives and politicians that "on climate change, we have to acknowledge that we have failed". Ministers in some countries have voiced concern about children skipping classes. Australia's Education Minister Dan Tehan said "students leaving school during school hours to protest is not something that we should encourage". UK Education Secretary Damian Hinds echoed that concern, and the government said the disruption increased teachers' workloads and wasted lesson time. (Webmaster's comment: Except in the United States. Here our students are taught to be obedient first, to think for themselves second!)
3-14-19 Students worldwide are striking to demand action on climate change
More than 1,000 events are planned March 15 to protest government failure to cut emissions. For the past several months, growing numbers of students around the world have been cutting class — not to play but to protest. The topic driving them is the same: Earth’s changing climate, as evidenced by increasing wildfires and droughts, rising seas and more extreme weather. As the students see it, governments have not done enough to cut the emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, to limit global warming or to plan ways to adapt to the impacts of climate change. On March 15, this student-led protest will crescendo with a coordinated strike set to take place across the globe. More than 1,300 events are planned in 98 countries from Argentina to Vanuatu, according to a list kept by the group Fridays For Future. “These kids speak with a moral clarity and poignancy that none but the most jaded of ears can fail to hear,” says Michael Mann, a climate scientist at Penn State. He says he believes the school-strike movement “is part of why we will soon see a What motivates Milou Albrecht, 14, of Castlemaine, Australia, who is a coleader of strikes in her country, is worry about wildfires. When she was little, a fire quickly approached the bush country where she was playing at a friend’s house. Smoke filled the air, she recalls, and everyone had to evacuate. “You didn’t know what to take, so we didn’t take anything.” Milou remembers feeling terror while waiting in an underground bunker for the fire to pass. Spurred by the scare to find out more about bushfires, she learned that climate change is making such wildfires more frequent in Australia and elsewhere. (Webmaster's comment: No protests allowed in the United States. Our students have to be very obedient or they will be arrested!)
3-13-19 Greta Thunberg: Why I began the climate protests that are going global
THOUSANDS of children across the world will leave their schools for a strike over climate change this Friday. Organisers expect the protest to dwarf last month’s demonstrations. The roots of this phenomenon run back to Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old from Sweden. She has missed school to sit outside the Swedish parliament almost every Friday since last August, demanding politicians bring the country into line with the Paris climate agreement. Between Greta’s studies, she has berated delegates at last year’s UN climate talks, spent up to two days a week speaking to journalists and generated a viral social media wave under the #FridaysForFuture banner. Greta had no expectations that her protest would snowball. “The idea was to sit outside the Swedish parliament for three weeks. I think the timing and the concept must have been right,” she told New Scientist. Being the strikes’ de facto spokesperson isn’t something she particularly enjoys and she doesn’t care about fame, she says. “But I don’t mind it either as long as it is for a good cause.” After learning about climate change when she was 8, Greta later developed depression when she was 11, which she links partly to the issue. The success of the strikes is to some extent driven by climate science becoming more candid and increasingly dire, says Greta. “I think we have reached a tipping point where enough scientists are telling it like it is and not being so afraid of being alarmist.” But she is disappointed that a lot of the discussion resulting from the strikes isn’t about ramping up climate action, but about the children themselves. “They talk about our age, our looks and so on. The emissions are still rising and that is all that matters. Nothing has happened, that is crucial to remember.” More than 10,000 children went on strike across the UK in February, packing London’s Parliament Square and eliciting messages of support from ministers and members of parliament. Campaigners believe that more than 1000 towns and cities in nearly 100 countries will take part in a strike this Friday as the movement jumps from a largely European one to a global level.
3-12-19 Italy bans unvaccinated children from school
Italian children have been told not to turn up to school unless they can prove they have been properly vaccinated. The deadline follows months of national debate over compulsory vaccination. Parents risk being fined up to €500 (£425; $560) if they send their unvaccinated children to school. Children under six can be turned away. The new law came amid a surge in measles cases - but Italian officials say vaccination rates have improved since it was introduced. Under Italy's so-called Lorenzin law - named after the former health minister who introduced it - children must receive a range of mandatory immunisations before attending school. They include vaccinations for chickenpox, polio, measles, mumps, and rubella. Children up to the age of six years will be excluded from nursery and kindergarten without proof of vaccination under the new rules. Those aged between six and 16 cannot be banned from attending school, but their parents face fines if they do not complete the mandatory course of immunisations. The deadline for certification was due to be 10 March after a previous delay - but as it fell on a weekend, it was extended to Monday. "Now everyone has had time to catch up," Health Minister Giulia Grillo told La Repubblica newspaper. She had reportedly resisted political pressure from deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini to extend the deadline even further. Ms Grillo said the rules were now simple: "No vaccine, no school". (Webmaster's comment: We need the same rule in the United States. We need to keep the disease carriers out of our schools!)
3-6-19 MMR vaccine does not cause autism, study once again confirms
A STUDY of 650,000 children born in Denmark between 1999 and 2010 has confirmed yet again that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)vaccine doesn’t increase the risk of getting autism. Of the children, 6500 were diagnosed with autism. Those given the MMR vaccine were no more likely to be diagnosed with autism than children who didn’t have the vaccine. The study also didn’t find any link with other vaccinations, or with vaccines being given at a particular age (Annals of Internal Medicine, doi.org/c29w). The study adds to the already abundant evidence that vaccines are safe. Despite this evidence, groundless claims about vaccines continue to spread. Vaccination rates have fallen in many countries and there has been a resurgence in measles – one of the most contagious known viruses.
3-2-19 Climate change: Angela Merkel welcomes school strikes
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she supports school students' protests about climate change. It appears to contradict some education officials, who have criticised participants for skipping school and threatened them with exclusion. Mrs Merkel said students might be frustrated at the time taken to move away from coal-based energy but asked them to understand it was a challenge. Across the world, some students have been leaving school to demand action. On Friday thousands of high school students in the city of Hamburg marched against climate change, with Swedish activist Greta Thunberg - who started the series of school strikes - present. But the city's education official, Ties Rabe, wrote on Twitter: "No-one makes the world better by skipping school." Meanwhile the education minister in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia has told schools that students face disciplinary action up to and including expulsion if they do not comply with their legal duty to go to school. In a video released on her official website, Angela Merkel said protecting the climate was a "challenge that people can only tackle together" Asked about the Friday school strikes, which in Germany have been dubbed "Fridays for Future", Ms Merkel said the country's climate goals could only be reached with the support of wider society. "So I very much welcome that young people, school students, demonstrate and tell us to do something fast about climate change," she said. "I think it is a very good initiative," she added, without making reference to the fact that they were protesting during school hours. But, she said, in her role she had to let them know that there were many steps to take before the full switch-off of coal, planned for Germany by 2038. "From the students' point of view," Ms Merkel continued, "that may seem like a very long way away, but it will challenge us very much so I ask them to understand that too."
2-15-19 The children striking over climate change speak to New Scientist
Thousands of children across the UK have gone on strike from school today as part of global protests over climate change. The organisers, Youth Strike 4 Climate, say strikes are taking place in 60 towns and cities across the country, from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands, in the face of “an alarming lack of government leadership” on climate change. At the London arm of the protest in Parliament Square this morning, several thousand children and young adults vented their frustration about the lack of climate action and voiced their fears for the future. Raffi Gannon, 16, from Mill Hill School, said: “The politicians are not doing nearly enough, just token gestures. The ice caps are going to a huge disaster. It’s my future, I feel like I should be protesting for it.” Prime minister Theresa May has released a statement criticising the protests saying, “Disruption increases teachers’ workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers have carefully prepared for.” The prime minister might also have disagreed with one of the protest signs featuring a grotesque caricature of her face with the slogan, “Soon there won’t BE a field to run through” – a reference to her answer to an interview question during the 2017 general election. School leaders and UK Education Secretary Damian Hinds have also warned students they shouldn’t miss lessons to take part in the strikes. One child’s banner directly addressed this advice: “I’ll get back to class when you get your head out of your arse.” Other signs suggested that their peers and parents should, “Raise your voice, not the sea level.” Alice Stratt, 10, of St Mary’s Church of England school in Walthamstow, told us: “I’m here because global warming is ruining our planet and us kids aren’t going to have a very good future.”
2-1-19 Greenland’s fast-melting ice sheet
The big melt will raise global sea levels. Climate change is causing Greenland’s massive ice sheets to melt at an increasingly rapid pace, researchers have warned—which could result in sea levels rising far faster and higher than previously predicted. Using satellite data and instruments on the island, scientists determined that Greenland shed 400 billion tons of ice in 2012, nearly four times more than in 2003. The losses paused in 2013 and 2014—because of a natural cyclical weather phenomenon—but have since resumed. Much of the previous research on Greenland and climate change focused on the island’s southeast and northeast, where big chunks of glacial ice fall into the Atlantic. But the new study found that the largest source of continuous ice loss was in the island’s southwest, which has few glaciers. Instead, rising surface temperatures are causing the region’s inland ice sheets to melt, sending rivers of water streaming into the ocean. The Arctic is warming at twice the average rate of the rest of the planet, and most of Greenland sits above the Arctic Circle. “This is going to cause additional sea level rise,” lead author Michael Bevis, from Ohio State University, tells ScienceDaily.com. “We are watching the ice sheet hit a tipping point.” If all of Greenland’s vast ice sheet, which is nearly 2 miles thick in places, were to melt, global sea levels would rise by more than 20 feet, inundating coastal communities.
1-31-19 Belgium climate protests: Children skip school to demonstrate
For a fourth week, tens of thousands of children have skipped school in Belgium to join protests demanding tougher action against climate change. Ahead of the marches in Brussels, Liège and Leuven, dozens of children protested outside the home of Belgium's environment minister. New impetus came in an open letter from 3,450 Belgian scientists saying "the activists are absolutely right". Youth demonstrations have also taken place in Germany and Switzerland. More than 30,000 students and others turned out in three Belgian cities, slightly down on last week. The biggest number, according to police, was in the eastern city of Liège (Luik in Flemish) where 15,000 people marched to the city hall. Protesters clapped and chanted "to arms" and "everyone together", said local journalist Benjamin Hermann. Another 12,500 children turned out in Brussels and a further 3,500 in Leuven (Louvain in French). In Brussels primary and secondary schoolchildren were marching through the city centre from north to south, and they were joined by groups of grandparents. (Webmaster's comment: The young people have it right! American young people should join in.)
1-25-19 Children's climate rallies gain momentum in Europe
Thousands of schoolchildren in Europe are expected to skip classes and rally for action on climate change. Children plan to stage a sit-in outside city hall in Basel, Switzerland, and similar protests are planned in Berlin and other German cities. They are inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. She is in Davos, urging the World Economic Forum (WEF) to ensure a greener future. On Thursday, 35,000 teenagers marched in Brussels against global warming. Thousands of school pupils went on strike in Switzerland a week ago to demand climate action. In Brussels, home to the main EU institutions, students carried banners with slogans such as "Dinosaurs thought they had time too" and "Be part of the solution, not the pollution". German students are mobilising with the Twitter hashtag #FridaysForFuture. The young activists are urging world leaders and corporate bosses to stick to the ambitious goals agreed in Paris in 2015 to combat climate change. Since August, Greta Thunberg has been sitting outside the Swedish parliament every Friday to get her climate message across. She took a train all the way from Sweden to Davos, which took 32 hours, underlining the need to use cleaner forms of transport. Jets emit especially high quantities of CO2. She has drawn some criticism on social media: some accuse her of encouraging truancy, publicity-seeking and doing the work of environmental lobbyists. But one of her young German supporters, Jakob Blasel, said combating climate change was "for us more important than education". "After all, why should we study if we have no future?" he asked. In the Swiss ski resort Ms Thunberg told business leaders: "Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they've been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money… and I think many of you today belong to that group of people." Speaking later to the BBC she said: "My message was that most emissions are caused by a few people, the very rich people, who are here in Davos."
1-25-19 Carbon dioxide levels will soar past the 410 ppm milestone in 2019
We will pass yet another unwelcome milestone this year. The average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is likely to rise by 2.8 parts per million to 411 ppm in 2019 – passing 410 ppm just a few years after first passing the 400 ppm mark. That’s the forecast of Richard Betts of the Met Office Hadley Centre in the UK, who began making annual CO2 forecasts a few years ago to test our understanding of the factors involved. The Met Office began publicly releasing the forecasts last year. The rise in atmospheric CO2 is the main cause of global heating. Before the industrial age began the CO2 concentration was around 280 ppm, and had not risen much higher for hundreds of thousands of years. Now it is rising ever faster because human emissions of the gas continue to increase. The average annual increase has risen from less than 1 ppm a year in the 1950s, when measurements began, to well over 2 ppm today. While the long term trend is remorselessly clear, the annual rise varies greatly from year to year depending on how the weather affects the balance between plants taking up CO2 as they grow and releasing it as they decay or burn. During El Nino years, for instance, there can be extensive droughts and wildfires, leading to big jumps in CO2 levels. The biggest ever annual rise, of 3.4 ppm, occurred in 2016 during a strong El Nino. The forecast rise of 2.8 would also be one of the largest rises on record. CO2 concentrations at any one place also vary over the year, peaking at the end of the winter and falling as plants grow in summer. Betts’ forecast is for the monthly average at Mauna Loa in Hawaii to peak at 415 ppm in May and drop back to 408 ppm in September before rising even higher in 2020.
1-22-19 Satellites saw rapid Greenland ice loss
Greenland has gone through an "unprecedented" period of ice loss within the last two decades. The Grace satellites revealed a four-fold increase in mass being lost from Greenland's ice sheet from 2003-2013. The study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that ice loss subsequently stalled for 12-18 months. The research reveals how different areas of Greenland might contribute to sea-level rise in future. Scientists concerned about sea levels have long focused on Greenland's south-east and north-west regions, where glaciers continually force large chunks of ice into the Atlantic Ocean. But the largest sustained acceleration in ice loss from early 2003 to mid-2013 occurred in south-west Greenland, which is largely devoid of these large glaciers. "Whatever this was, it couldn't be explained by glaciers, because there aren't many there," said the study's lead author Michael Bevis, from The Ohio State University. "It had to be the surface mass - the ice was melting inland from the coastline." The ice melt accelerations in this region tracked a weather phenomenon known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). When in a particular ("negative") phase, the NAO enhances summertime warming and the solar radiation that reaches the Earth's surface, while reducing snowfall - especially in western Greenland. The researchers believe the melting in south-west Greenland is a combination of climate change and conditions brought on by the NAO. "These oscillations have been happening forever... so why only now are they causing this massive melt? It's because the atmosphere is, at its baseline, warmer. The transient warming driven by the North Atlantic Oscillation was riding on top of more sustained global warming," said Prof Bevis.
1-9-19 Report: US 2018 CO2 emissions saw biggest spike in years
A new report has found that US carbon dioxide emissions rose by 3.4% in 2018 after three years of decline. The spike is the largest in eight years, according to Rhodium Group, an independent economic research firm. The data shows the US is unlikely to meet its pledge to reduce emissions by 2025 under the Paris climate agreement. Under President Donald Trump, the US is set to leave the Paris accord in 2020 while his administration has ended many existing environmental protections. While the Rhodium report notes these figures - pulled from US Energy Information Administration data and other sources - are estimates, The Global Carbon Project, another research group, also reported a similar increase in US emissions for 2018. The US is the world's second largest emitter of greenhouse gases. And last year's spike comes despite a decline in coal-fired power plants; a record number were retired last year, according to the report. The researchers note that 2019 will probably not repeat such an increase, but the findings underscore the country's challenges in reducing greenhouse gas output. In the 2015 climate accord, then President Barack Obama committed to reducing US emissions to at least 26% under 2005 levels by 2025. Now, that means the US will need to drop "energy-related carbon missions by 2.6% on average over the next seven years" - and possibly even faster - to meet that goal. "That's more than twice the pace the US achieved between 2005 and 2017 and significantly faster than any seven-year average in US history," the report states. "It is certainly feasible, but will likely require a fairly significant change in policy in the very near future and/or extremely favourable market and technological conditions. "
11-22-18 Climate crisis as greenhouse gas levels reach record highs
Greenhouse gas levels have reached new record highs, prompting experts to warn that without rapid cuts climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts. Average concentrations of carbon dioxide hit new highs of 405.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2017, up from 403.3 ppm in 2016 and 400.1 ppm in 2015, levels not seen for millions of years. Levels of other key greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere also rose, says the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). There is no sign of a reversal in the trend in increasing greenhouse gas levels, which is driving climate change, sea level rises and more extreme weather and making oceans more acidic, the UN experts warned. In its annual bulletin on greenhouse gas levels, the WMO also warned of a resurgence in a potent greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting substance known as CFC-11, which has been linked to illegal refrigerator factories in China. “The science is clear. Without rapid cuts in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth,” said WMO secretary-general Petteri Taalas. “The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of carbon dioxide was 3-5 million years ago, when the temperature was 2-3°C warmer and sea level was 10-20 metres higher than now,” said Taalas. The new IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5°C shows that deep and rapid reductions of emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will be needed in all sectors of society and the economy,” said IPCC chairman Hoesung Lee.
2019 Science Headline News