2019 Science Headline News
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