57 Global Warming News Articles
for October of 2016
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
10-31-16 Wetland archaeological sites at risk
Wetland archaeological sites at risk
Archaeological remains at wetland sites across the world could be at risk of being degraded and lost to environmental change, say scientists. University of York researchers carried out experiments demonstrating how changing conditions in wetlands were destroying ancient organic material. Their work focused on the Mesolithic site of Star Carr in North Yorkshire. Concern about Star Carr was raised after excavations in 2006 to 2007 showed that materials had broken down.
10-31-16 Extreme weather is behind record lows in butterfly populations
Extreme weather is behind record lows in butterfly populations
Heat waves, cold snaps, and heavy rain may be behind a collapse in many butterfly populations in the UK. British butterflies could be under threat from increasingly frequent episodes of extreme weather. In fact, heat waves, cold snaps, and heavy rain may have already contributed to reported butterfly population crashes. Researchers analysed data from the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS), which contains information on butterfly populations collected from more than 1,800 sites across the UK over 37 years. The team found that rainfall level during the cocoon life stage of butterflies adversely affected more than a quarter of butterfly species in the UK. But the greatest harm was caused by extreme heat during the “over-wintering” life stage, which had an impact on more than half the species. This may be due to increased incidences of disease. Or it could be that extreme hot temperatures act as a cue for butterflies or their larvae to come out from over-wintering too early and subsequently be killed off by temperatures returning to colder conditions, said study co-author Aldina Franco, from the University of East Anglia.
10-31-16 Growth of city trees can cut air pollution, says report
Growth of city trees can cut air pollution, says report
Planting trees is a cost-effective way to tackle urban air pollution, which is a growing problem for many cities. A study by US-based The Nature Conservancy (TNC) reported than the average reduction of particulate matter near a tree was between 7% and 24%. Particulate matter (PM) is microscopic particles that become trapped in the lungs of people breathing polluted air. PM pollution could claim an estimated 6.2 million lives each year by 2050, the study suggests. Lead author Rob McDonald said that city trees were already providing a lot of benefits to people living in urban areas. "The average reduction of particulate matter near a tree is between 7-24%, while the cooling effect is up to 2C (3.6F). There are already tens of millions of people getting those kinds of benefits," he said.
10-29-16 Tesla shows off solar roof tiles
Tesla shows off solar roof tiles
Roof tiles with built-in solar panels have been unveiled by Tesla chief executive Elon Musk. The tiles, made from glass, are intended to be a more attractive way to add solar panels to homes, compared with currently-used solar technology. The launch took place in Universal Studios, Los Angeles, on what used to be the set for the television show Desperate Housewives. It comes with Tesla due to take over struggling energy firm Solar City.
10-28-16 Climate campaigners should have the right to sue governments
Climate campaigners should have the right to sue governments
The Australian government wants to stop environmental groups using the courts to halt carbon-belching projects, but we all deserve to be heard, says Alice Klein. Once, they chained themselves to trees. Now, environmental groups are increasingly taking their battles to the courtroom in a bid to take down mining and fracking projects. This is creating a headache for governments and the fossil fuel industry. For example, in 2014 legal action taken by WildEarth Guardians, Earthjustice and the Sierra Club blocked the expansion of a coal mine in Colorado, and Arch Coal, the company behind it, later filed for bankruptcy. In the Netherlands, the Urgenda Foundation forced the government to commit to a 25 per cent reduction in emissions in a landmark court case won in June last year. And in Australia, the approval of a coal mega-mine in Queensland has faced ongoing hold-ups since 2010, because of legal challenges mounted by the Mackay Conservation Group and the Australian Conservation Foundation.
10-28-16 Protection agreed for vast Antarctic sea
Protection agreed for vast Antarctic sea
Delegates from 24 countries and the European Union have agreed that the Ross Sea in Antarctica will become the world's largest marine protected area (MPA). Some 1.57m sq km (600,000 sq miles) of the Southern Ocean will gain protection from commercial fishing for 35 years. Environmentalists have welcomed the move to protect what's said to be the Earth's most pristine marine ecosystem. They hope it will be the first of many such zones in international waters.
10-27-16 Nations push to protect Antarctica's 'last ocean'
Nations push to protect Antarctica's 'last ocean'
Campaigners believe a proposal to establish a vast marine reserve in the seas around Antarctica will finally be accepted this week. An international commission is looking to safeguard a massive section of the Ross Sea, home to penguins, petrels and killer whales. The proposed marine protected area (MPA) would ban fishing and drilling in a region dubbed "the last ocean". Experts say it could set a precedent for other areas of the high seas. Consisting of 24 countries plus the European Union, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was established in 1980 with a mission to protect the common resources of the Southern Ocean. While Antarctica itself is protected by the Madrid Protocol which declares the region a "natural reserve, devoted to peace and science", the surrounding waters have increasingly become the focus for commercial fishing fleets, attracted by vast quantities of krill and toothfish.
10-26-16 Iceland drills hottest hole to tap into energy of molten magma
Iceland drills hottest hole to tap into energy of molten magma
DRILLING into hot rocks to tap geothermal energy is one thing. Drilling deep enough to tap the blazing heat from magma oozing into volcanoes is quite another, offering a huge increase in the potential to exploit Earth’s energy. That is the task of a rig now drilling 5 kilometres into the rugged landscape of old lava flows in Reykjanes, at the south-west corner of Iceland. Drilling began on 12 August. By the end of the year, the Iceland Deep Drilling Project hopes to have created the hottest hole in the world, hitting temperatures anywhere between 400 and 1000°C. The drilling will penetrate a landward extension of the Mid-Atlantic ridge – a major boundary between Earth’s tectonic plates – says Albert Albertsson of HS Orka, an Icelandic geothermal-energy company involved in the project. At that depth, magma rising because of volcanic activity meets and heats seawater that has infiltrated the rock. “People have drilled into hard rock at this depth, but never before into a fluid system like this,” says Albertsson. At that depth, pressures are more than 200 times atmospheric levels. The consortium of energy companies and researchers behind the project expects the water to be in the form of “supercritical steam”, which is neither liquid nor gas and holds much more heat than either.
10-26-16 Climate change shifts how long ants hang on to coveted real estate
Climate change shifts how long ants hang on to coveted real estate
Forest test reveals climate warming effect on ant Game of Thrones. Camponotus ants were among the winners in a simulated climate warming experiment that revealed how shifting temperatures subtly destabilize the power politics in environmentally important ant communities. Heating small patches of forest shows how climate warming might change the winner-loser dynamics as species struggle for control of prize territories. And such shifts in control could have wide-ranging effects on ecosystems. The species are cavity-nesting ants in eastern North America. Normally, communities of these ant species go through frequent turnovers in control of nest sites. But as researchers heated enclosures to mimic increasingly severe climate warming, the control started shifting toward a few persistent winners. Several heat-loving species tended to stay in nests unusually long, instead of being replaced in faster ant upheavals, says Sarah Diamond of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. That’s worrisome not only for the new perpetual losers among ants but for the ecosystem as a whole, she and her colleagues argue October 26 in Science Advances. Ants have an outsized effect on ecosystems. They churn up soil, shape the flow of nutrients and disperse seeds to new homes. Ant species that can’t compete in a warmer climate may blink out of the community array, with consequences for other species they affect.
10-26-16 US election 2016: America's Great Game as energy superpower
US election 2016: America's Great Game as energy superpower
Presidential candidates pitch US energy policy as a way to improve job prospects for Americans, but the US also has potential to exercise real power farther afield. What's lost in the coverage of the overnight internet sensation Ken Bone is the question he asked. He surged to social media stardom as the unassuming guy with a bright red sweater during a corrosive second presidential debate.But the topic he raised - energy policy - will have lasting significance for the next president and the country. That's partly because of American jobs lost and won in the energy industry, which is often the focus during election season.
10-26-16 How to save ourselves from the invisible gas choking us to death
How to save ourselves from the invisible gas choking us to death
Cities are battling to meet legal standards for air pollution, but even that isn't enough to make air safe, says Michael Le Page. WHEN you hear “air pollution”, you probably think of the brown pall of soot that hangs over so many Asian cities. But if you travel on, work or live near a busy road in Europe, you’re also breathing in a hidden killer, even when the sky is a brilliant blue. We now know that the invisible gas nitrogen dioxide can seriously damage our health – and cities in Europe and the US have some of the world’s highest NO2 levels. The good news is that these levels are declining. The bad news is that in many cities they are not declining fast enough to meet legal standards any time soon. Worse still, even if air does meet those legal limits, it still won’t be safe to breathe. Nearly half a million people in Europe die from air pollution every year – and most of those deaths are being caused by breathing air that is supposedly “safe”. It kills more people than obesity or alcohol – only smoking is more dangerous.
10-26-16 Super-cold winters in the UK and US are due to Arctic warming
Super-cold winters in the UK and US are due to Arctic warming
The warming of the Arctic is affecting the jet stream winds, bringing more cold snaps that persist for longer to the UK and US. An indirect effect of climate change may be causing intensely cold winters in the UK and US, a study suggests. Warming in the Arctic is thought to be influencing the jet stream, a high-altitude corridor of fast-moving air, leading to severe cold snaps. It may have been responsible for record snowfall in New York during the winter of 2014/15, and unusually cold winters in the UK in 2009/10 and 2010/11. Previous studies have shown that when the jet stream follows a “wavy” irregular path there are more cold weather fronts plunging south from the Arctic into mid-latitudes, bringing freezing conditions that persist for weeks at a time. When the jet stream flows strongly and steadily from west to east, winter weather in the UK and other countries in the temperate belt between the tropics and the Arctic is milder.
10-26-16 US election 2016: America's Great Game as energy superpower
US election 2016: America's Great Game as energy superpower
Presidential candidates pitch US energy policy as a way to improve job prospects for Americans, but the US also has potential to exercise real power farther afield. What's lost in the coverage of the overnight internet sensation Ken Bone is the question he asked. He surged to social media stardom as the unassuming guy with a bright red sweater during a corrosive second presidential debate. But the topic he raised - energy policy - will have lasting significance for the next president and the country. That's partly because of American jobs lost and won in the energy industry, which is often the focus during election season.
10-26-16 This hacked Clinton campaign email shows why 'serious' people just don't get climate change
This hacked Clinton campaign email shows why 'serious' people just don't get climate change
Centrists instinctively balk at the radicalism necessary to fight climate change. One of the biggest problems with climate change is the sheer scale of the changes necessary to tackle it. A climate policy that is equal to the challenge — that is, one which would ratchet down greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to prevent catastrophic warming — requires spectacular overhauls to practically every sector of society, done as fast as possible. While America and the world have been making strides to deal with climate change, so far the efforts are halting and pitifully inadequate. Most people instinctively resist conclusions like this. It sounds extreme, which is generally an indicator of wrongness. But sometimes extreme problems require extreme solutions. A failure to appreciate the radical implications of climate change is a political error of the first order. Unfortunately, it's an error that is far from unusual — particularly among serious politics people. In the WikiLeaks email hacks, one anodyne but telling conversation happened between Clinton campaign chair John Sullivan. Back in June of 2015, Schwerin was considering angles of attack against Martin O'Malley (recall that the great Sanders insurgency had not yet gained much steam at that point). O'Malley had just published an article calling for 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Schwerin wrote that "zeroing out fossil fuels within 35 years seems unrealistic," and that he was considering trying to get something published on how "this may be well-intentioned but it's not a serious proposal."
10-25-16 Renewable energy capacity overtakes coal
Renewable energy capacity overtakes coal
The International Energy Agency says that the world's capacity to generate electricity from renewable sources has now overtaken coal. The IEA says in a new report that last year, renewables accounted for more than half of the The report says half a million solar panels were installed every day last year around the world. In China, it says, there were two wind turbines set up every hour. Renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and hydro are seen as a key element in international efforts to combat climate change. (Webmaster's comment: But in the United States the Republicans only support coal and oil. It makes their rich executive supporters even richer.)
10-25-16 With climate change, grizzly bears may hibernate less
With climate change, grizzly bears may hibernate less
A complex mix of factors sends grizzly bears into hibernation. A new study finds that the availability of food is a big one. Rocky Mountain hikers might need to start packing more bear spray: Climate change may reduce the time that grizzly bears spend in hibernation — leaving them more time to scare the crap out of any humans wandering in their territory. Scientists aren’t really concerned about bear hibernation because of unwary hikers, of course. It’s because hibernation is an important time of year for a grizzly bear. By going into hibernation and suppressing their metabolisms, the bears can reduce the amount of energy they expend by some 85 percent and more easily get through months when food supplies are short and weather is bleak. Plus, this is when pregnant females give birth and start raising their young. Disrupt hibernation time and a bear is set for a bad — and potentially deadly — year.
10-25-16 Wanted: New ways to chill air conditioners, fridges
Wanted: New ways to chill air conditioners, fridges
Rwanda climate deal has scientists seeking coolants that don’t accidentally warm planet. A newly penned international agreement will phase out the potent greenhouse gases currently used in many refrigerators and air conditioners, prompting scientists and chemical companies to look for eco-friendly alternatives. A new agreement will soon begin phasing out the powerful greenhouse gases currently used in air conditioners, refrigerators and insulating foams. These gases, called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, can cause hundreds of times more global warming per molecule than carbon dioxide. The phaseout, announced by world leaders on October 15 in Kigali, Rwanda, has scientists and chemical companies investigating new molecules to chill things with less harm to the planet. Some of these molecules are already in use, while others require more tinkering.
10-24-16 CO2 levels mark 'new era' in the world's changing climate
CO2 levels mark 'new era' in the world's changing climate
Levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have surged past an important threshold and may not dip below it for "many generations". The 400 parts per million benchmark was broken globally for the first time in recorded history in 2015. But according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), 2016 will likely be the first full year to exceed the mark. The high levels can be partly attributed to a strong El Niño event.
10-23-16 Mexico has a phosphate problem
Mexico has a phosphate problem
The view from the sleepy town of San Juanico, Mexico, is about what you'd see from any village along the Pacific coast of Baja California — craggy coves, turquoise waves, a couple of surfers and fishing boats. But 25 miles offshore, there's something different. The sediment at the bottom of the sea out there is rich in phosphate, a mineral form of phosphorus that's vital to the rest of the world. You can't grow food without phosphorus, which is why this stretch of sea floor has drawn the attention of a group of Mexican and foreign companies. They want to dredge up the phosphate off of San Juanico and use it to make chemical fertilizer. Most of the phosphorus used for fertilizer currently comes from phosphate rock on land, but those supplies are dwindling, and most of what's left can be found in just two countries, Morocco and China. That's got a lot of people worried about a supply crunch and a cascading impact on global food supplies and prices. "If phosphorus were to become more scarce," says Dana Cordell of the Global Phosphorus Research Initiative in Australia, "it's likely that food prices could rise, and there would be more hungry [people]."
10-21-16 Meet the Star Wars fanatic fighting to save Brazil from environmental destruction
Meet the Star Wars fanatic fighting to save Brazil from environmental destruction
It is eight in the morning on the second-to-last day of August. Brazil is mired in an impeachment crisis that has roiled the country for nine months. In 29 hours, an unpopular president will be forced out, and the streets will erupt into protest over her replacement. It is one of the most intense days in the recent history of Brazilian politics, but eight candidates for mayor and vice-mayor of Rio de Janeiro have all taken the morning off from the campaign trail to accompany a biologist and Star Wars fanatic on a trip down a lagoon that smells of rotting eggs and sh-t. Mario Moscatelli's battered aluminum boat floats atop a viscous, olive-green soup. Bubbles rise to the surface and make a lugubrious noise when they pop. The candidates, their campaign staffers, and a smattering of reporters watch the environmentalist from a larger, more stable barge. But the smell hits everyone at once. "Methane and hydrogen sulphide," Moscatelli will soon explain, a byproduct of decomposing sewage. "Our city has the word 'river' in its name," he says. (Rio de Janeiro, translated literally, means River of January.) "And all of our rivers are dead."
10-21-16 Hundreds of deep-sea vents found spewing methane off US coast
Hundreds of deep-sea vents found spewing methane off US coast
Recent surveys off the US coast have discovered vents spewing a potent greenhouse gas and curiously purple creatures deep below the sea’s surface. Methane is gushing forth from hundreds of newly-discovered deep-sea vents all along the US’s western seaboard. “It appears that the entire coast off Washington, Oregon and California is a giant methane seep,” says Robert Ballard, founder and director of the Ocean Exploration Trust in Connecticut. In all, 500 new seeps were discovered by submersibles operated from the trust’s ship, Nautilus. The discovery will be presented this week in New York at the National Ocean Exploration Forum. However, there’s still work to be done to pin down the exact composition of the bubbles coming from the seeps. “Members of our group are analysing the samples taken in June for a wide range of gases,” says Robert Embley, chief scientist on the Nautilus.
10-21-16 Iceland drills hottest hole to tap into energy of molten magma
Iceland drills hottest hole to tap into energy of molten magma
A new well tested in Iceland could boost geothermal energy production tenfold by exploiting 1000 °C magma steam deep below Earth’s surface. Drilling into hot rocks to tap geothermal energy is one thing. Drilling deep enough to tap the energy from magma oozing into volcanoes is quite another, offering a massive increase in the potential to exploit Earth’s inner heat. That is the task of a rig now drilling 5 kilometres into the rugged landscape of old lava flows in Reykjanes, at the south-west corner of Iceland. Drilling began on 12 August. By the end of the year, the Iceland Deep Drilling Project (IDDP) hopes to have created the hottest hole in the world, hitting temperatures anywhere between 400 and 1000 °C.
10-21-16 Final US presidential clash fails on climate change once more
Final US presidential clash fails on climate change once more
In the last debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, a journalist again failed to push them on the world's most-pressing problem, says Matthew Nisbet. This is getting repetitive. The third and final US presidential debate ended without moderator Chris Wallace asking a single question about climate change, and only a fleeting reference to the issue by one of the candidates. Just like the first and second debates. This time, while discussing the economy, Hillary Clinton called for “new jobs in clean energy. Not only to fight climate change, which is a serious problem, but to create new opportunities and new businesses.” That was it. A handful of seconds devoted to the biggest challenge facing the planet and the US’s most far-reaching national security threat. In all, across 360 minutes of presidential and vice-presidential debate, cli
10-20-16 Warmer waters bring earlier plankton blooms
Warmer waters bring earlier plankton blooms
Long-term study reveals predation dynamics, raises questions about carbon fates. Data collected by the FlowCytobot, an instrument that can identify and count cells (shown being secured underwater by a researcher), reveal that a kind of phytoplankton grows faster in warmer water, regardless of nutrients or other factors. Spring brings blooms, and not just on land. Warmer waters spur growth of a tiny ocean-dwelling bacteria. More than 10 years of data collected at an unusually high-tech ocean observatory reveal that the speedy growth of the phytoplankton Synechococcus is driven by an uptick in temperature. As spring’s warmth comes earlier, so does the phytoplankton’s annual growth spurt, resulting in a shift in timing of its “blooms,” the new study shows.
10-19-16 Hundreds of deep-sea vents found spewing methane off US coast
Hundreds of deep-sea vents found spewing methane off US coast
Recent surveys off the US coast have discovered vents spewing a potent greenhouse gas and curiously purple creatures deep below the sea’s surface. Methane is gushing forth from hundreds of newly-discovered deep-sea vents all along the US’s western seaboard. “It appears that the entire coast off Washington, Oregon and California is a giant methane seep,” says Robert Ballard, founder and director of the Ocean Exploration Trust in Connecticut. In all, 500 new seeps were discovered by submersibles operated from the trust’s ship, Nautilus (see video below). The discovery will be presented this week in New York at the National Ocean Exploration Forum. However, there’s still work to be done to pin down the exact composition of the bubbles coming from the seeps. “Members of our group are analysing the samples taken in June for a wide range of gases,” says Robert Embley, chief scientist on the Nautilus.
10-19-16 California is covering mountains with sensors to fight drought
California is covering mountains with sensors to fight drought
A project is kicking off in the Sierra Nevada mountains to monitor moisture levels to help control the state’s water supplies and hydro power. CALIFORNIA’S Sierra Nevada mountains used to be reliable natural water towers. Winter storms would coat them with a thick blanket of snow, which would melt as temperatures rose through spring and summer. Gravity carried meltwater down to cities for free. But climate change means water managers can no longer rely on the melt flow. Drought is the new normal, and snow falls less often and tends to come in bursts. In an attempt to take control of the state’s water cycle, a project called SierraNet is covering California’s mountains with networks of sensors. It will report snow and water conditions in unprecedented resolution, and allow monitoring of the unpredictable watersheds. The data will help California to manage its water and the hydroelectric dams that depend on it.
10-19-16 How beavers could help save the western US from a dry future
How beavers could help save the western US from a dry future
Beavers aren't just cute and damn clever. Innovative projects are trying to create human-rodent collaborations to stave off drought. GOLD wasn’t what drew the first European settlers out West. The California gold rush was preceded by the California fur rush: having exhausted what nature could supply in Europe and in the eastern American colonies, trappers set out in search of new riches. The thick, lush coat of the North American beaver was particularly prized. It was traded for every commodity under the sun, shipped around the world and used to make clothes and hats. How fortunes change. The fur rush drove the North American beaver, Castor canadensis, to near-extinction. Then, after a remarkable comeback last century, the once-prized rodent became a pest. Now, some say it could be on the cusp of a fresh rebranding: not as a prize or a pest, but as a prodigy. Known as nature’s engineers, beavers seem to magic water out of nowhere. Crucially, their dams also help to store that water. At a time when California faces endless water shortages and long-standing drought, could beavers be part of a more natural solution?
10-18-16 UN: Farming needs to harvest chance to cut emissions
UN: Farming needs to harvest chance to cut emissions
The global farming sector has a big role to play in the effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to future climate change, the UN says. A report by the Food and Agriculture Organization said agriculture accounted for about a fifth of emissions, which it said needed to be reduced. The State of Food & Agriculture 2016 report said "business as usual" would leave millions at risk from hunger. Last year, nations adopted a UN goal of ending hunger by 2030. "The climate is changing, so agriculture must change too," explained Rob Voss, director of FAO's Agricultural Development Economics division.
10-18-16 Reef rehab could help threatened corals make a comeback
Reef rehab could help threatened corals make a comeback
Solutions for threatened reefs vary by location and damage done. A coral fluoresces purple, perhaps as a sunscreen defense for colorless polyps at a bleached reef near Okinawa, Japan. Coral reefs are bustling cities beneath tropical, sunlit waves. Thousands of colorful creatures click, dash and dart, as loud and fast-paced as citizens of any metropolis. Built up in tissue-thin layers over millennia, corals are the high-rise apartments of underwater Gotham. Calcium carbonate skeletons represent generations of tiny invertebrate animals, covered in a living layer of colorful coral polyps. Their structures offer shelter, and for about 114 species of fish and 51 species of invertebrates, those coral skyscrapers are lunch.
10-18-16 Peru investigates death of 10,000 Titicaca water frogs
Peru investigates death of 10,000 Titicaca water frogs
Peru's environmental agency is investigating the deaths of some 10,000 frogs whose bodies have been found in a river in the south of the country. A campaign group says pollution in the River Coata is to blame for the deaths. It says the government has ignored pleas for the construction of a sewage treatment plant in the area. The Titicaca water frog is an endangered species that is found only in the huge freshwater lake shared by Peru and Bolivia and its tributaries.
10-17-16 Islands to lose fresh water as rising seas sink them from within
Islands to lose fresh water as rising seas sink them from within
As sea levels rise, islands can lose ground not only on their coasts, but also inland as lakes spring up – and cause drinking water to evaporate. Small island nations are among the countries most at risk from climate change, as rising sea levels threaten to swamp them and make their fresh water salty. But they face another danger – the rising seas will cause them to lose their fresh water by pushing it above ground, where it gets evaporated. As seas rise, they not only lap higher up the beach; they also raise the level of the groundwater – sometimes above low points on the surface. This can cause existing lakes to expand and new ones to form, which speeds up evaporation. Jason Gulley at the University of South Florida in Tampa wanted to know whether the presence of lakes on such islands would affect the amount of water lost – both for existing lakes that might grow and newly forming ones. “Lots of work so far has focused on coastal inundation,” he says. “But there has been less focus on interior indentations that flood as sea-level rise pushes the water table higher.” Gulley’s team used computer simulations of islands similar to those in the southern reaches of the Bahamian archipelago to show that such lake formation reduces groundwater resources more than twice as much as coastal inundation for a given amount of sea-level rise.
10-17-16 Ban for gases that saved the ozone layer but now warm the planet
Ban for gases that saved the ozone layer but now warm the planet
Nations have agreed to limit the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), chemicals that helped protect the ozone layer but are potent greenhouses gases. Kudos for doing the job, but now, for all our sakes, please depart. That’s the message the world has given to hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the chemicals that saved the ozone layer but turned out to be an escalating threat to the climate. HFCs became widely used in air conditioning and refrigeration after 1987, when the Montreal protocol banned chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These refrigerants were eating up the ozone layer in the stratosphere, and were also the prime culprits in creating the ozone hole over Antarctica. Chemicals firms such as ICI and DuPont rapidly made HFCs the main substitute. But last Friday, a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, of 170 nations that signed the Montreal protocol agreed to largely phase out HFCs by mid-century – because they are virulent greenhouse gases. They escape into the atmosphere during use and when equipment is discarded. Molecule for molecule, HFCs are 4000 times more potent than carbon dioxide. They were, according to UN estimates, on course to add 0.5 °C to global warming by 2100, and their manufacture had been rising by 7 per cent a year, faster than any other greenhouse gas. Nonetheless, they have their fans. “We should give a vote of thanks to the HFCs,” says Keith Shine of the University of Reading, UK. “It’s good that they are being phased out. But they helped us out of a jam.” Besides saving the ozone layer, they were less potent greenhouse gases than the CFCs they replaced, so “actually helped reduce global warming”, Shine says.
10-17-16 North Dakota pipeline: US journalist Amy Goodman faces riot charge
North Dakota pipeline: US journalist Amy Goodman faces riot charge
US journalist Amy Goodman is facing charges of participating in a "riot" after filming Native American-led protests over an oil pipeline in North Dakota. The Democracy Now! reporter said she would surrender to authorities on Monday in response to the charge. District Judge John Grinsteiner will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to support the riot charge. Ms Goodman filmed the crackdown on protesters by authorities last month. "I wasn't trespassing, I wasn't engaging in a riot, I was doing my job as a journalist by covering a violent attack on Native American protesters," Ms Goodman said. (Webmaster's comment: Ridiculous!)
10-15-16 Climate change: 'Monumental' deal to cut HFCs, fastest growing greenhouse gases
Climate change: 'Monumental' deal to cut HFCs, fastest growing greenhouse gases
More than 150 countries have reached a deal described as "monumental" to phase out gases that are making global warming worse. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are widely used in fridges, air conditioning and aerosol sprays. Delegates meeting in Rwanda accepted a complex amendment to the Montreal Protocol that will see richer countries cut back their HFC use from 2019. But some critics say the compromise may have less impact than expected. (Webmaster's comment: Don't worry the Republicans will block any attempt to deal with global warming. Their rich executive supporters will never allow it.)
10-15-16 Energy subsidies should focus on storage and cutting demand, MPs say
Energy subsidies should focus on storage and cutting demand, MPs say
Subsidies to reduce the risk of blackouts must focus on energy storage schemes and cutting demand instead of "dirty diesel", MPs have urged. Currently, power providers are paid to ensure electricity is available to the grid to meet future demand. The Energy and Climate Change Committee said current policy favoured diesel over technology that reduces demand. But a government spokesman said demand reduction technology couldn't yet be trusted to deliver back-up capacity.
10-14-16 Pray for the Gas and Oil Industry
ray for the Gas and Oil Industry
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin declared Oct. 13 “Oilfield Prayer Day,” calling on Christians to “thank God for the blessings created by the oil and gas industry,” which is suffering due to falling prices. After complaints that she’d excluded non-Christians, Fallin asked all faiths to ask God to protect the industry. “I think prayer is always a good thing for anyone,” she said.
10-13-16 How gene editing is changing what a lab animal looks like
How gene editing is changing what a lab animal looks like
CRISPR and other techniques could expand research beyond familiar model organisms. With the advent of new gene editing techniques, some less common animal models such as octopuses may find their way into scientists’ toolkits. Anyone who reads news about science (at Science News or otherwise) will recognize that, like the X-Men or any other superhero franchise, there’s a recurring cast of experimental characters. Instead of Magneto, Professor X, Mystique and the Phoenix, scientists have mice, fruit flies, zebrafish and monkeys. Different types of studies use different stand-ins: Flies for genetics; zebrafish for early development; rats and mice and monkeys for cancer, neuroscience and more. Many of these species have been carefully bred so they are genetically identical, giving scientists maximum control as they study changes in genetics or environment. These animal models have added huge volumes to our understanding of human and animal biology, and will continue to add to our knowledge for many years to come. Now, new techniques such as gene editing mean that scientists can probe and alter the genes of any animal. The methods open the door for new organisms — such as squid and octopuses — to join scientists’ basic toolkits. With these new arrivals come new questions. What is needed for a good animal model, and how are gene-snipping tools changing the game?
10-13-16 Cheese-making led to gene-swapping orgy of bacterial bestiality
Cheese-making led to gene-swapping orgy of bacterial bestiality
The bacteria that create our cheeses are exchanging genes like mad as they compete to survive in this new environment. That cheese you’re so fond of is a hotbed of bacterial bestiality. The diverse microbes that cheese-makers use are swapping genes like crazy as they evolve to thrive in the new environments we have created for them. A study of 165 of the diverse bacterial species present in cheeses has found that 130 of them – 80 per cent – have shared genes with other species. Altogether nearly 5000 genes have been swapped. The study does not reveal when this happened, but the process probably began when people started making cheeses, and continues to this day. And if anything, this is probably an underestimate, Kevin Bonham of the University of California, San Diego, and his colleagues think. Cheese not only contains many other species of bacteria, but also many fungi. There could be gene-swapping going on between fungi and bacteria, and between fungi. It has become clear that gene-swapping is much more common than we thought, especially among bacteria. “So if you think about it, it’s not that surprising,” says cheese microbiologist Tom Beresford of the Teagasc Food Research Centre in Fermoy, Ireland. “But I had never thought about whether it occurs in the cheese environment.” The finding is based on genome comparisons. The team sequenced 30 bacteria they found in the rinds of traditionally aged cheeses from the US, Spain, Italy and France, although they would not say which exactly which cheeses they sampled. They also used sequences published by another team of another 135 species of bacteria found in French cheeses.
10-13-16 Frogfish turns itself white to blend in with bleached coral
Frogfish turns itself white to blend in with bleached coral
The warty frogfish slowly changes colour to match its surroundings – now one has been found that has fully adapted to recent bleaching in the Maldives. It’s important to fit in. That seems to be the approach taken by this frogfish, which has turned white to match the bleached coral on which it is living. Warty frogfish (Antennarius maculatus) are sedentary seafloor dwellers that can change colour over just a few weeks to seamlessly blend in with their surroundings. Their disguise renders them invisible to unsuspecting prey that they snatch for dinner. Since the warm waters off the Maldives abound in vibrant-coloured corals, the frogfish living there typically match these orange or pinkish hues, says Gabriel Grimsditch of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Maldives in Malé. But rising ocean temperatures have led to the widespread bleaching of these once-colourful corals. When Grimsditch and his team were scuba diving in North Ari Atoll in May they photographed an unusual, white frogfish resting among the bleached corals. Its dark, protruding warts mimicked bits of brownish algae growing on dead parts of the coral skeletons. “We were very excited to see this,” says Grimsditch. Frogfish rarely change location, so this spooky-looking individual had probably been in that same spot for a while, the team speculated. It is likely to have turned white as the corals were bleached in late April or early May, when ocean temperatures were unusually high.
10-13-16 Fossil sheds light on evolution of birdsong
Fossil sheds light on evolution of birdsong
Scientists have reconstructed the "voicebox" of an extinct bird that lived at the time of the dinosaurs. The bird may have honked, quacked or whistled, like a duck or goose. Investigation of the oldest-known fossil of a bird's vocal organ - the syrinx - gives clues to how birdsong evolved. The bird, Vegavis iaai, lived in what is now Antarctica about 66-68 million years ago. It belongs to the group that includes ducks, geese and swans. Julia Clarke of the University of Texas at Austin said there had been virtually no work on the origin or early evolution of the unique way in which birds produce sound. "While we've looked a lot at the evolution of the wing in birds," she said, "we have done very little with looking at the origin of what is perhaps one of the most striking characteristics of living birds - their songs."
10-12-16 First birds made honking sounds more than 66 million years ago
First birds made honking sounds more than 66 million years ago
A new fossil discovery has shown that birds developed the unique vocal organ that enables them to sing more than 66 million years ago when dinosaurs were around. Birds developed the unique vocal organ that enables them to sing more than 66 million years ago when dinosaurs walked the Earth, a new fossil discovery has shown. But the earliest syrinx, an arrangement of vibrating cartilage rings at the base of the windpipe, was still a long way from producing the lilting notes of a song thrush or blackbird. Scientists believe the extinct duck and goose relative that possessed the organ was only capable of making honking noises. The bird, Vegavis iaai, lived during the Cretaceous era. Although its fossil bones were unearthed from Vega Island in Antarctica in 1992, it was not until three years ago that experts spotted the syrinx. All birds living today are descended from a particular family of dinosaurs that developed feathers and the ability to fly.
10-12-16 Birds’ honks filled Late Cretaceous air
Birds’ honks filled Late Cretaceous air
Sounds inferred from oldest preserved avian voice box. A ducklike bird that lived some 68 million to 66 million years ago left behind fossilized remains of a voice box, or syrinx, on an island off the coast of Antarctica. Some ancient birds may have sounded like honking ducks. For the first time, scientists have discovered the fossilized remains of a voice box from the age of the dinosaurs. The sound-making structure, called a syrinx, belonged to Vegavis iaai, a bird that lived 68 million to 66 million years ago, researchers report October 12 in Nature. “It may be a once-in-a-lifetime discovery,” says evolutionary biologist Patrick O’Connor of Ohio University in Athens, who wrote a commentary in Nature about the fossil. Now, he says, the hunt will be on to find voice boxes in other fossils.
10-12-16 How brain cells move through newborn babies’ brains
How brain cells move through newborn babies’ brains
For months after birth, new neurons make their way through a baby's brain. Now researchers have had the best look yet at this process in action. THIS is how minds are made. For months after birth, armies of neurons migrate through the brain, and now researchers have had the best look at this process yet. Eric Huang at the University of California, San Francisco, and his team worked with donated brain tissue from infants who had died of causes unrelated to their brains. They kept thin slices of brain alive in a dish for up to two days and, using a microscope, were able to see cells continuing to migrate. MRI scans showed large numbers of neurons moving into the frontal lobes, which are responsible for higher thought processes (Science, doi.org/brjz). “They form this very beautiful arc,” says Huang. The brains of recently born babies had the most moving neurons, with numbers largely tailing off by about 5 months of age.
10-12-16 Tired all the time? Why fatigue isn’t just about sleep
Tired all the time? Why fatigue isn’t just about sleep
Some of us feel constantly drained without knowing why. Some answers are emerging at last, and it’s not down to lack of sleep. YOU’RE in bed by 11, having had a busy, productive day. After a full night’s sleep you wake up naturally and feel… exhausted. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey of over 20,000 people by researchers at Radboud University in the Netherlands, about 30 per cent of visits to doctors involve complaints about being tired all the time. Some 20 per cent of people in the US report having experienced fatigue intense enough to interfere with living a normal life. This hits us in our pockets, too: workers who are unproductive because of fatigue cost US employers more than $100 billion a year. It’s perhaps surprising, then, that we are only now beginning to work out what fatigue actually is. Until recently, daytime tiredness was presumed to be nothing more mysterious than simple physical exhaustion or feeling the need to sleep – the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 35 per cent of people are short on sleep. Combine that with the fact that tiredness is subjective and therefore difficult to measure, plus the subject falls somewhere between studies of the body and mind, and it’s small wonder fatigue has largely escaped scientific scrutiny. Since tiredness accompanies so many common diseases, not to mention ordinary ageing, a better understanding of its causes could improve quality of life for pretty much everybody. A handful of researchers are now trying to figure out the causes, and possible fixes. Although it’s early days, a few clues are emerging.
10-12-16 Young ovaries rejuvenate older mice and extend their lifespan
Young ovaries rejuvenate older mice and extend their lifespan
COULD this be the next extreme anti-ageing fad? Swapping an older mouse’s ovaries for young ones seems to reverse the effects of ageing on the immune system and metabolism of female mice, making them live longer. As we age, our metabolism slows and our /immune system runs out of steam. Older people are more likely than the young to have severe cold and flu symptoms, probably because they have fewer fresh immune cells left. And a slower metabolism means that glucose stays in the bloodstream for longer after you eat. Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage organs. But experiments in mice suggest that transplanting organs from a younger individual could reverse these changes. Jeffrey Mason at Utah State University in Logan removed the ovaries of 10 12-month-old mice that had gone through oestropause, a transition similar to the human menopause. He replaced these with ovaries taken from 60-day-old mice – roughly equivalent to people in their early 20s in terms of ageing. In the immune system, the number of naive T-cells that respond to new infections tends to decline with age, and had already fallen in the older mice before surgery. But, overall, between the ages of 6 and 16 months, the number of naive cells in these mice rose by 67 per cent. Cell counts fell by 80 per cent in untreated mice over the same period.
10-12-16 Hot and spicy pain signals get blocked in naked mole-rats
Hot and spicy pain signals get blocked in naked mole-rats
Naked mole-rats have a version of a pain-sensing protein that doesn’t respond to hot stimuli, such as the capsaicin molecule found in spicy peppers. Like Marvel’s surly superhero Luke Cage, naked mole-rats are seemingly indestructible, hairless creatures that are impervious to certain kinds of pain. This last power has puzzled researchers, because like other mammals, mole-rats have functional versions of a protein called TRPV1, which responds to painfully hot stimuli. It turns out that a different protein, TrkA, is the key to the missing pain signals, Gary Lewin of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin and colleagues report in the Oct. 11 Cell Reports. Usually, TrkA detects inflammation and kicks off a molecular reaction that produces pain sensation by activating TRPV1. But naked mole-rats produce a version of TrkA that doesn’t trigger this pain cascade.
10-12-16 Ocean archaea more vulnerable to deep-sea viruses than bacteria
Ocean archaea more vulnerable to deep-sea viruses than bacteria
Deadly attacks boost microbes’ role in carbon, nutrient cycles. Deep-sea archaea, found in seafloor sediment, are more vulnerable to virus attacks than their bacteria neighbors, new research suggests. Those killing sprees release a substantial amount of carbon and other nutrients into local marine environments. Deep-sea viruses aren’t just dealers of disease; they’re crucial players in Earth’s nutrient cycles. In marine sediments, virus assassinations of single-celled life-forms called archaea play a much larger role in carbon and other chemical cycles than previously thought, new research suggests. For instance, those microbial murders release as much as 500 million metric tons of carbon annually worldwide, researchers report online October 12 in Science Advances. Viruses are a major killer of bacteria and archaea in the deep sea, busting open infected cells like water balloons and spewing the cells’ innards. To find the relative number of massacred microbes, marine ecologist Roberto Danovaro of Polytechnic University of Marche in Ancona, Italy, and colleagues studied the spilled guts of the viruses’ victims.
10-11-16 US presidential candidates being let off hook on climate change
US presidential candidates being let off hook on climate change
The world's most pressing problem is being all but ignored by moderators in the TV debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, says Matthew Nisbet. In a nation mired in the insults flying about from the contest to become the next US president, the world’s biggest long-term issue, climate change, is getting buried. On Sunday night, at the second debate between the candidates – in which questions from voters were put to them – the journalists moderating the event once again failed to directly ask Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton how they will combat it. To open proceedings, CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz asked Trump to account for a taped conversation from 2005 in which he outrageously bragged about sexual advances on women. The choice was obvious and justifiable, given the firestorm over the comments and the nature of his behaviour. But for the rest of the 90 minutes, the two journalists had ample opportunity to ask about climate change as they selected questions from those submitted by voters online or attending the debate. One they ignored was the fourth-ranked question submitted online. Receiving close to 50,000 votes, it was direct: “What are the steps you will take to address climate change?”
10-11-16 Fracking may have spawned a new bacteria
Fracking may have spawned a new bacteria
Fracking is a politically fraught subject. But for researchers intent on studying odd ecosystems, nothing could be better than the briny, pressurized deep of a fracking well. Now, efforts to catalogue these odd ecosystems have finally paid off, with the recent discovery of a new genus of bacteria endemic to shale oil and gas wells. In a study published in Nature Microbiology, the authors humorously dub their discovery "Frackibacter" — and note that the genus appears to be a unique product of fracking. Indeed, the study describes identical strains of Frackibacter thriving in two separate fracking wells that were hundreds of miles apart, drilled into two different kinds of shale formations. "We think that the microbes in each well may form a self-sustaining ecosystem where they provide their own food sources," said coauthor Kelly Wrighton of Ohio State University, in a statement. "Drilling the well and pumping in fracturing fluid creates the ecosystem, but the microbes adapt to their new environment in a way to sustain the system over long periods."
10-10-16 Ancient Andes glaciers have lost half their ice in just 40 years
Ancient Andes glaciers have lost half their ice in just 40 years
Rapid melting of ice in Peru’s mountains, where as much as 80 per cent has vanished from below 5000 metres, points to the extinction of tropical glaciers. The snowcapped skyline of the Andes is beating a hasty retreat. Since the mid-1970s, the area covered by glaciers in Peru’s Cordillera de Vilcanota range has nearly halved, with most losses occurring below 5000 metres. Using Landsat images taken every decade, glaciologists at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil measured the snowline of the southern Peruvian range and found the ice caps that feed the glaciers shrinking. Overall, they found that 48 per cent of ice had disappeared since 1975, with 81 per cent vanishing in areas below 5000 metres. As global warming continues, such tropical glaciers are likely to disappear. The Andes host more than 95 per cent of the world’s tropical glaciers, a rich source of water for drinking, hydroelectric power and farming.
10-10-16 Call for action to protect 'the lungs of the sea'
Call for action to protect 'the lungs of the sea'
More than 100 scientists from 28 countries have called for global action to protect seagrass meadows. Seagrasses are flowering plants that form dense underwater beds in shallow water. Distinct from seaweed, the plants provide shelter and food for a large range of animals, including fish, marine mammals and birds. Many seagrass meadows have been lost because of human activities, say researchers. In a statement, the scientists said: "Seagrass meadows are important fish nurseries and key fishing grounds around the world. "The loss of seagrass puts the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people at risk and exposes many people to increasing levels of poverty. "Seagrass loss also places the viability of our remaining populations of green turtle, dugong and species of seahorse at risk. "Seagrass loss should not be an option."
10-7-16 Aviation industry agrees deal to cut CO2 emissions
Aviation industry agrees deal to cut CO2 emissions
Air travel accounts for as much CO2 emission as the nation of Germany - and it's growing. The first deal limiting greenhouse gases from international aviation has been sealed after years of wrangling. From 2020, any increase in airline CO2 emissions will be offset by activities like tree planting, which soak up CO2. The deal comes in a momentous week for climate policy when the Paris agreement to stabilise climate change passed a key threshold for becoming law. Scientists applauded both commitments, but warned that plans to cut emissions are far too weak. The aviation deal was agreed in Montreal by national representatives at the International Civil Aviation Organisation, ICAO.
10-7-16 Bad air is killing millions
Bad air is killing millions
More than nine out of 10 people on Earth —a staggering 6.76 billion people—are breathing polluted air, increasing their risk for heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and other chronic health issues, according to a sobering new report from the World Health Organization (WHO). The comprehensive analysis found that 92 percent of the world’s population lives in areas where air quality falls below clean-air standards, with high concentrations of fine particulate matter emitted primarily by vehicles, power plants, and industrial facilities. These tiny particles are inhaled into the lungs, but they also enter the bloodstream, creating inflammation throughout the body and increasing the risk for heart disease and stroke. Air pollution claims roughly 6.5 million lives each year, the report says. Most of these deaths occur in China, India, and other developing countries, but about 15 percent of cities in the relatively affluent Americas, including Los Angeles and New York City, also fail to meet air quality standards. “Globally, air pollution presents a major risk to public health,” study leader Gavin Shaddick tells The Guardian (U.K.). “A substantial number of lives could be saved if levels of air pollution were reduced.”
10-6-16 First farm to grow veg in a desert using only sun and seawater
First farm to grow veg in a desert using only sun and seawater
World's first commercial seawater greenhouse was launched in Australia today, using solar power and desalinated seawater to grow tomatoes in a desert. That’s all a new, futuristic-looking greenhouse needs to produce 17,000 tonnes of tomatoes per year in the South Australian desert. It’s the first agricultural system of its kind in the world and uses no soil, pesticides, fossil fuels or groundwater. As the demand for fresh water and energy continues to rise, this might be the face of farming in the future. An international team of scientists have spent the last six years fine-tuning the design – first with a pilot greenhouse built in 2010; then with a commercial-scale facility that began construction in 2014 and was officially launched today.
10-5-16 The reaction that would give us clean fossil fuels forever
The reaction that would give us clean fossil fuels forever
Crack natural gas into its constituent atoms and you can burn it without producing CO2 – giving us green energy without all the pain of renewables. SCARRED landscapes, billowing smoke, seabirds writhing in liquorice gloop: there’s no denying fossil fuels have an image problem. That’s before we even start to factor in the grave risk continuing to burn them poses to Earth’s climate. But what’s the alternative? Nuclear is expensive, renewables are unreliable, and we are a long way from making batteries that could power our fuel-hungry lifestyles. Realistically, we are going to be reliant on fossil fuels for a while yet. What we need is a way to exploit them without emitting any planet-warming carbon dioxide. Alberto Abánades thinks he has the answer. He isn’t a PR man for the fossil fuel industry, and nor does he have anything to do with various schemes to capture and bury carbon emissions after the event. He and his research team think they have cracked the problem using chemistry alone. By simply changing the way we liberate the energy trapped inside natural gas molecules, we can have all the benefits of fossil fuels – and none of the guilt. Too good to be true?
10-5-16 Fossil fuel methane emissions are twice what is being reported
Fossil fuel methane emissions are twice what is being reported
The fossil-fuel industry has been massively underestimating its methane emissions, but they’re not behind a recent global spike in these emissions. Fossil fuel emissions of a dangerous greenhouse gas, methane, are double what we thought. But despite this, activities in the fossil fuel industry such as fracking are not behind the sharp rise in atmospheric methane over the past decade. Instead, the real culprits behind the spike – previously blamed on fracking of natural gas in the US and elsewhere – are wetlands and rice paddies in the tropics. Methane is the second-most important greenhouse gas responsible for global warming, after carbon dioxide. Emissions have been surging since 2007, causing a spike in atmospheric concentrations. Finding out where that methane comes from is tricky. Potential sources include microbes in natural wetlands, rice paddies, landfill sites and the stomachs of ruminants such as cows, emissions from coal mines, and leaks from gas wells and pipelines – with natural gas largely composed of methane. Now, Stefan Schwietzke at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado, believes he and his team have cracked the problem by analysing the isotopic make-up of methane in thousands of air samples from around the globe. Microbial emissions are rich in the isotope carbon-12, whereas fossil-fuel sources are rich in carbon-13. The researchers found that methane emissions from fossil fuels are at almost twice the level previously estimated – at some 200 million tons per year – but have not been rising over time.
10-5-16 'Significant opportunities' for low-carbon cities
'Significant opportunities' for low-carbon cities
Switching to a low-carbon economy offers cities "significant economic opportunities", an assessment says. Low-carbon markets was worth US $33bn (£26bn) to London's economy, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) said in its latest report. However, collaboration between public and private sectors was an essential ingredient needed to deliver economic growth and carbon cuts, it observed. The findings examined the commitments made by 533 cities around the world. The report, It Takes a City: The Case for Collaborative Climate Action, added that the cities spread over 89 nations had identified more than 1,000 economic opportunities linked to climate change. Almost 300 cities featured in the report were also developing new business industries, such as clean technology.