79 Global Warming News Articles
for March of 2017
Click on the links below to get the full story from its source
3-31-17 Warming drives Alaskan glacier to its lowest point in 900 years
Warming drives Alaskan glacier to its lowest point in 900 years
The Columbia glacier was tipped into rapid retreat by human-caused climate warming of less than 2°C, so many more glaciers might be doomed. A major glacier in Alaska has retreated to its lowest point in 900 years as a consequence of global warming. Glaciers around the world are in retreat. But the Columbia glacier is one of the most dramatic and well-documented cases, as well as the largest contributor to sea level rise out of the 50 or so glaciers that descend to the sea in Alaska. Anders Carlson at Oregon State University and his colleagues have put the current ebb in the historical context of the past millennium, during which human contributions to climate change weren’t always so high. In 2004, the team bored down into the mud at the bottom of Prince William Sound, the bay on the southern coast of Alaska that the glacier flows into, and examined the layers of sediment deposited over a period of about 1600 years. The glacier recently receded past a geological fault line, either side of which are rocks of differing magnetic and chemical compositions. So Carlson and his colleagues looked for a corresponding shift in the sediment to find the last time the glacier crossed this fault.
3-31-17 How to snatch carbon emissions victory from US climate U-turn
How to snatch carbon emissions victory from US climate U-turn
Donald Trump's rollback on climate gives the rest of the world a second chance to do the unthinkable: put a price on carbon. Will we seize the opportunity? This week, US president Donald Trump signed an executive order that aims to reverse the climate regulations introduced by the Obama administration. It could effectively cancel plans to restrict carbon dioxide emissions, such as those from coal-fired power plants. Years of legal battles lie ahead, but the message could not be clearer: the US is turning its back on efforts to curtail global warming. The nightmare scenario that Trump’s inauguration posed for the nearly 200 countries signed up to the Paris climate agreement has now become reality. The world’s second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases has given up on even trying to meet its target under the agreement. Now what matters is how the world responds. If other countries stand by and let the US brazenly flout its commitments, the entire agreement could slowly unravel as its credibility evaporates. But what can the other nations do when the agreement includes no enforcement measures? There is an alternative approach, and many think it could lead to faster emissions cuts. It is introducing a global price on carbon, and slapping carbon tariffs on goods from any country that refuses to join in. Such a global carbon price has historically been dismissed as politically infeasible. But that was before Trump’s flagrant climate rollback. Suddenly, an intriguing possibility has arisen: could the outrageous behaviour of the US unite nations to take action on climate that will be effective?
3-31-17 Trump revokes climate rules
Trump revokes climate rules
Flanked by coal miners at the Environmental Protection Agency, President Trump this week signed a sweeping executive order that dismantles former President Barack Obama’s climate change legacy and “starts a new era of production and job creation,” said Trump. The order rescinds several Obama-era executive orders aimed at curbing carbon emissions, including a moratorium on coal mining on U.S. federal lands. It rewrites limits on methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, and directs the EPA to review and rewrite the Clean Power Plan. The order doesn’t address the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord, but makes it almost impossible for the U.S. to meet its emissions pledges under the agreement. Trump said his order would end “the theft of prosperity.” Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) called Trump’s actions “a declaration of war on American leadership on climate change and our clean energy future.”
3-31-17 Concerned believers in global warming
Concerned believers in global warming
50% of Americans now see themselves as “concerned believers” in global warming—a major increase from 2015, when just 27% were believers. 31% are now in the “mixed middle” group, who believe climate change is real but think the threat is exaggerated. 19% classify as “cool skeptics,” who doubt the findings.
3-31-17 Swallowed by the sea
Swallowed by the sea
To stay or to go. It’s a wrenching question low-lying coastal communities around the world are beginning to reckon with as climate change starts to push up global sea levels. But it’s not just happening in far-away places like Bangladesh or the Maldives. It’s happening right here in the U.S. On Tangier Island, Va., in the southern Chesapeake Bay, residents are facing the inundation of a place some local families have called home since the 1600s. They are determined to stay. On Isle de Jean Charles on the Louisiana Gulf Coast, a disappearing Native American community has made the opposite decision. They are the first community to receive federal money to relocate because of climate change. It’s a tale of two towns, confronting a decision no community would ever want to make, but that more and more will have to.
3-31-17 In US, Water Pollution Worries Highest Since 2001
In US, Water Pollution Worries Highest Since 2001
Americans are more concerned about water pollution than they have been since 2001. The latest percentages of Americans who are worried "a great deal" about the pollution of drinking water (63%) and of rivers, lakes and reservoirs (57%) have inched past the elevated levels of concern seen since 2014. The continued elevated levels of concern about both types of water pollution come as President Donald Trump signed an executive order to roll back environmental regulations put in place by his predecessor to protect American waterways from pollution. Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency under Trump has committed $100 million in federal funding to address the ongoing drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The discovery of elevated lead levels in Flint's public drinking water in 2015, and subsequent news about a range of other contaminants in the Flint water system, has put a national spotlight on the issue of water pollution.
- 63% worry a great deal about pollution of drinking water
- 57% worry a great deal about pollution of rivers, lakes and reservoirs
- Low-income and nonwhite Americans more concerned about water pollution
3-30-17 Major American companies say thanks but no thanks to Trump's environmental regulation rollbacks
Major American companies say thanks but no thanks to Trump's environmental regulation rollbacks
President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday aimed at unraveling former President Barack Obama's climate change policies: "My action today is the latest in steps to grow American jobs," Trump said. But some of America's biggest companies are saying thanks but no thanks — and vowing to stick to environmental pledges made to Obama, Bloomberg Politics reports. "Most big companies in the U.S. recognize that climate change is real," Columbia Business School professor Geoffrey M. Heal explained to Bloomberg Politics. "They need to move ahead on the climate change front no matter what Trump's government does."
3-30-17 It just got harder to deny climate change drives extreme weather
It just got harder to deny climate change drives extreme weather
The link between human activity and unusual jet stream patterns associated with extreme weather events is getting stronger, says Olive Heffernan. In convincing the public of the dangers of climate change, nothing would be more powerful than being able to link extreme weather events with our unbridled love for fossil fuels. But that’s hard, even though we know that the likelihood of dangerous cold snaps, floods and droughts increases the more greenhouse gases we emit. The best evidence for this includes sophisticated climate models used to analyse the odds of such events with and without human-induced climate change. They show that warming increased the likelihood of a heatwave of the sort that hit Europe in 2003 – claiming an estimated 35,000 lives – by 40 per cent. Likewise, it makes droughts like that in California in recent years twice as likely. However, saying human activity is implicated in any one event is notoriously difficult, in part because the Earth’s climate varies naturally, a fact long seized upon by climate sceptics. Perhaps they won’t be able to get away with that much longer. Another strand of evidence bolsters the scientific case, and it comes from our improving grasp of the complex ways in which rising levels of greenhouse gases tinker with large-scale systems that drive weather. As it turns out, emissions don’t just alter Earth’s average temperature or the amount of water vapour the atmosphere can hold; they can fundamentally rearrange systems that determine how and where heat and moisture are distributed on our fragile planet.
3-30-17 Make America great again by finally making it green
Make America great again by finally making it green
How Democrats can create millions of jobs, achieve energy independence, and literally save the world. Tuesday, President Trump issued a sweeping executive order to roll back Obama-era regulations to combat climate change. Now, actually undoing Obama's rules may prove a lot harder than Trump realizes. But like the GOP's recent effort to nuke ObamaCare, it's an unpleasant reminder of how precarious Obama's gradualist achievements are. In fact, thanks to ObamaCare's brush with death, some Democrats are eager to stop fiddling around with minor improvements and just go all-in on single-payer the next time they're in power. Democrats should take the same moonshot attitude to climate change, too. Specifically, a 100-percent green energy economy should become the new demand of the Democratic Party. Democrats should insist on a massive government industrial policy and a full-blown World War II-style economic mobilization to get us there.
There are three core reasons for this.
- Democrats should tee off Trump's own stated goals: We need the jobs.
- This is the only way to truly achieve energy independence.
- Time is of the essence if we want to save the world.
3-30-17 Food trade drains global water sources at 'alarming' rates
Food trade drains global water sources at 'alarming' rates
The global market for foodstuffs is depleting water sources in many parts of the world quicker than they can naturally be refilled. The complex trade is increasing pressure on non-renewable groundwater, mainly used for irrigating crops such as rice, wheat and cotton. Pakistan, the US and India are the countries exporting the most food grown with unsustainable water. Researchers say that without action, food supplies will be threatened. Around 43% of the water used to irrigate crops around the world comes from underground aquifers, as opposed to rivers and lakes. Many of these sources are being used up quicker than they can be refilled from rainfall. Back in 2000, experts believed that non-renewable resources sustained 20% of global irrigation. In the 10 years to 2010, this increased by more than a fifth. While scientists have long known about the depletion of groundwater, this new study sets out to understand how supplies are impacted by the booming international trade in food and crops. The vast majority of the world's populations live in countries that source nearly all their staple crop imports from nations who deplete significant amounts of groundwater to irrigate these foodstuffs. The researchers found that some 11% of the non-renewable groundwater used for irrigation is embedded in the the global food trade. Two-thirds of this are accounted for by Pakistan, the US and India.
3-30-17 The deadly consequences of Volkswagen's emissions cheating scandal
The deadly consequences of Volkswagen's emissions cheating scandal
It may have caused hundreds to die prematurely. In 2015, word got out that millions of Volkswagen vehicles had been equipped with software to cheat on emissions tests. The news provided researchers and policymakers with at least a partial explanation for why pollution levels across Europe didn't drop as much as expected after emissions regulations were put in place in the 1990s. Now, researchers from the United States and Belgium are looking into the public-health effects of the excess emissions from the 11 million cars with the devious devices sold around the world, and suggest that approximately 500 people died early between 2008 and 2015 due to the extra air pollution. In a recent study published in Environmental Research Letters, a research team looked at just the 2.6 million affected cars that were sold in Germany. Typically, nitrogen oxides expelled from car engines interact with other compounds or pollutants in the air to form fine particulate matter, which, when inhaled by humans, can cause cardiopulmonary and respiratory illnesses. Pollution recognizes no borders, and the health effects of the extra emissions rippled across Europe, perhaps leading to another 700 early deaths in other countries, shaving an average of 10 years off each life. The team came to those estimates by combining data on Germans' driving habits, on-road emissions, and atmospheric conditions, which can influence both the severity and geographic range of pollution. Indeed, the excess emissions had more potent public-health effects in Europe than in the U.S.
3-29-17 Thinning ice creates undersea Arctic greenhouses
Thinning ice creates undersea Arctic greenhouses
Light shining through could increasingly let phytoplankton bloom in polar region. The thinning and melting of Arctic sea ice allows more light to reach the waters below, which may spawn more and more phytoplankton blooms. Typically the thick, opaque ice prevents the blooms, which can consist of diatoms. Sea ice skylights formed by warming Arctic temperatures increasingly allow enough sunlight into the waters below to spur phytoplankton blooms, new research suggests. Such conditions, probably a rarity more than two decades ago, now extend to roughly 30 percent of the ice-covered Arctic Ocean during July, researchers report March 29 in Science Advances. The microscopic critters need plenty of sunlight to thrive, so scientists were stunned by the discovery of a sprawling bloom below the normally sun-blocking Arctic ice in July 2011 (SN: 7/28/12, p. 17). Satellites can’t peek below the ice, though, so scientists at the time didn’t know whether the bloom was an oddity or representative of a shift in the Arctic environment.
3-29-17 Western demand for goods from China is killing 100,000 a year
Western demand for goods from China is killing 100,000 a year
Nearly a quarter of premature deaths from air pollution worldwide happen in countries that manufacture goods for export. Chinese-made goods bought in western Europe and the US have, in effect, killed over 100,000 people in China in one year alone – as a result of the air pollution associated with their manufacture. Microscopic pollutant particles in the air cause millions of deaths worldwide each year. People in countries like China and India, where much of the world’s goods are manufactured and services are outsourced to, are shouldering the biggest burden. “When we see pictures of terrible smog in Beijing, we have a tendency to point fingers and say they should clean up their stuff,” says Steven Davis, an earth systems scientist at the University of California, Irvine. “But that’s a little unfair because when you and I go to Walmart and buy a lawn chair, it’s a few cents cheaper, and as a result people are dying in China.”
3-29-17 Trump climate: Challenges loom after Obama policies scrapped
Trump climate: Challenges loom after Obama policies scrapped
Opponents of President Donald Trump's decision to scrap his predecessor's climate change policies say they will organise a public campaign and pursue legal avenues to challenge it. California and New York issued a joint statement saying they would continue the fight against climate change. Environmental groups have hired a host of lawyers to challenge Mr Trump's move that boosts fossil fuel production. Mr Trump said he wanted to end "job-killing regulations". His supporters believe that ending the climate change rules brought in by Barack Obama will create thousands of jobs in the gas, coal and oil industries. The governors of New York and California summed up opponents' views by saying Mr Trump's stance was "profoundly misguided and shockingly ignores basic science".
3-28-17 Trump signs executive order to reverse Obama’s climate policies
Trump signs executive order to reverse Obama’s climate policies
The order targets the 2015 Clean Power Plan, which was meant to limit emissions from coal-fired power plants, and aims to relax fracking regulations. In a brazen challenge to international efforts to limit global warming, Donald Trump has signed an executive order that aims to reverse many of the climate policies introduced by President Obama. “This is an all-out assault on the protections we need to avert climate catastrophe,” Rhea Suh of US environmental group the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. Years of legal battles lie ahead, but the US was set to miss its target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris climate agreement even if all of Obama’s climate policies were implemented. Now – barring an economic disaster such as a trade war with China that would dent emissions – the US is likely miss its target by a much bigger margin. Under the Paris agreement, countries committed not just to meet their own, voluntary targets for reducing emissions but also to make these targets more ambitious over time. If the US flagrantly violates the spirit and letter of the agreement, other countries are less likely to try to meet their commitments. The agreement does not include any means of enforcement.
3-28-17 Trump to sweep away Obama climate change policies
Trump to sweep away Obama climate change policies
US President Donald Trump is due to sign an executive order to overturn key parts of the Obama administration's plan to tackle global warming. The move will undo the Clean Power Plan which required states to slash carbon emissions. The executive order also cuts the Environmental Protection Agency's budget. Regulations on oil, gas and coal production are to be reviewed. Mr Trump has promised to remove green rules which he says hurt the economy. During the campaign, he vowed to pull the US out of the Paris climate deal agreed in December 2015. The White House said the new measures would "help keep energy and electricity affordable, reliable and clean in order to boost economic growth and job creation". But environmental groups warn that they will have serious consequences at home and abroad.
3-28-17 Trump to make major change to US climate change narrative
Trump to make major change to US climate change narrative
"This is, I think, one of the most historic attacks on climate and environmental action that the US has ever seen," said Liz Perera from the Sierra Club. Her words are certain to cheer Trump supporters everywhere. Green "job-killing" regulations limiting energy production have long been a red rag for Donald Trump, as candidate and President. His expected new energy independence executive order seeks to radically change the US narrative on climate change, its causes and its importance. The best way of fighting global warming according to the new outline is to create prosperity. Environmental regulation should be about air and water. CO2, in this light, is your friend. Supporters believe that cutting back Obama climate regulations will create thousands of jobs in the newly liberated oil and gas industries. His opponents agree the new order will be a job creator - but they'll be jobs for lawyers, not in the coal fields.(Webmaster's comment: And who's going to buy the coal? Electrical power coal plants all over the world are shutting down.)
3-28-17 Geoengineering the sky is scary but we need to test it now
Geoengineering the sky is scary but we need to test it now
The world's biggest trial of cooling the planet by altering the atmosphere is being launched. It is crucial that it goes ahead, says Jamais Cascio. Few scientists working on ways to geoengineer the atmosphere to cool Earth think it’s anything but a scary idea. Unfortunately, it’s a scary idea that we may soon need to embrace. Solar radiation management (SRM) attempts to slow the more disastrous aspects of rising global temperatures by adding particles to the upper atmosphere to reflect a small percentage of incoming sunlight, potentially slowing, halting or even reversing warming. Researchers at Harvard University are about to launch a project to field test the idea and see if it could work for real. It will be on a far smaller scale than necessary to alter planetary temperatures, but it still amounts to the world’s biggest trial of the technique. The plan is to spray chemicals such as calcium carbonate into the stratosphere from a balloon above Arizona. Those who study geoengineering take great pains to emphasise that this method, potentially quick to deploy and relatively cheap, would not be a permanent fix for global warming. It would be, in effect, a climate tourniquet to temporarily stem the upward march of temperatures and the dangers that flow from that.
3-27-17 Half in US Are Now Concerned Global Warming Believers
Half in US Are Now Concerned Global Warming Believers
With a record number of Americans sounding the alarm on global warming, the share of the U.S. population that Gallup categorizes as "Concerned Believers" on climate change has consequently reached a new high of 50%. This is up slightly from 47% in 2016 but is well above the 37% recorded only two years ago. While the half of Americans classified as Concerned Believers take global warming very seriously, the other half are split between what Gallup calls "Cool Skeptics" and the "Mixed Middle." The percentages of Americans falling into these last two groups have declined in recent years as the ranks of Concerned Believers have swelled. Once the largest category of Americans on global warming, the Mixed Middle has ratcheted down from a recent high of 45% in 2012 and now ranks second, at 31%. Cool Skeptics have always been the smallest global warming segment, but at 19%, their numbers are diminished from 26% in 2015 and the high point of 28% in 2010.
- "Concerned Believers" at 50%, up from 37% in 2015
- "Mixed Middle" falls to 31%, well below recent high of 45%
- "Cool Skeptics" remains smallest group at 19%, down from 26% in 2015
3-26-17 Will Trump put the brakes on fuel standards?
Will Trump put the brakes on fuel standards?
President Trump pledged to review the strict fuel efficiency standards set by the Obama administration. President Trump is granting automakers "their top wish," said Bill Vlasic at The New York Times. While visiting Detroit last week, Trump pledged to reopen a government review of the strict fuel efficiency standards set by the Obama administration in 2012. The rules, "a pillar of President Obama's climate change legacy," require automakers to almost double the average fuel economy for new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The Environmental Protection Agency affirmed those standards in January, wrapping up a midterm review of the agreement in the final days of Obama's presidency. But automakers complain that the review didn't give them enough time to contest the government's fuel targets, which they say are too ambitious. Now they'll get a chance to argue their case before an administration that's vowed "to remove the shackles of regulation" from industry. Automakers say they want fuel standards "that recognize today's market realities," said Brent Snavely at the Detroit Free Press. The Obama administration initially estimated the new standards would save drivers $1.7 trillion in fuel costs over the life of the vehicles, while costing the auto industry roughly $200 billion over 13 years — costs that car makers say would be passed on to consumers. The new rules were supposed to encourage automakers to build more electric and hybrid vehicles. But since then, gas prices have plummeted and consumers have once again started "craving fuel-thirsty SUVs." The U.S. auto industry might regret getting what it wants, said Joann Muller at Forbes. Right now, other countries are imposing tough emissions regulations, making them unlikely to buy gas-guzzling American autos. "If the U.S. relaxes the standards, automakers could quickly get lapped by more innovative global players."
3-25-17 Will geoengineering save the world — or destroy it?
Will geoengineering save the world — or destroy it?
Earlier this month, Jordan, the second most water-poor country in the world, ordered more rainfall through cloud-seeding to help alleviate water shortages. Jordan's cloud-seeding experiment followed after Russia, which last year ordered the rain to fall earlier in order to guarantee a dry day for parades and celebrations. Around the same time as Russia was manipulating its weather, California's Tahoe Basin, desperate for extra snow for the coming ski season, ordered, well, more snow. Cloud-seeding geoengineering, in use for more than 75 years to produce rain and snow, is a technological approach to manipulate the weather and climate. In the process of cloud-seeding or weather modification, silver iodide, potassium iodide, or solid carbon dioxide is shot into clouds by rockets, sprayed into clouds by drones or aircraft, or burned in generators atop mountains. Once inside the cloud, the chemicals freeze to create ice crystals, which turn to rain or snow that falls to the ground. In the United States, cloud-seeding has been used for drought relief, snowfall, and rainfall across the western portion of the country. In 2015, cloud-seeding reportedly produced a 34 percent increase in the length of rainfall in Texas. These artificial rain storms allegedly covered 42 percent more land area, and the rain output was 137 percent more and produced 120,885 acre-feet of rain at a cost of less than $11 per acre-foot. While cloud-seeding geoengineering of local weather is common, developments in the technology have extended the possibility for geoengineering use on a larger scale for climate geoengineering, or global climate control.
3-24-17 Groundhog day for a keystone cop-out?
Groundhog day for a keystone cop-out?
According to Donald Trump, the Keystone XL will be an "incredible pipeline", but could it be that the official signing of the permit in the Oval Office will be the high point for this long-winded process? Let's look at some of the issues that might see TransCanada, the company behind the project, eventually walk away. First, making oil from the bitumen-rich Canadian tar sands is a messy and expensive business. Separating the liquid from the sand requires huge amounts of water and heat, and environmentalists say the process causes about 17% more greenhouse gas emissions than standard oil extraction. There are many other complications, most of them centred around the state of Nebraska. TransCanada has not had a route through the state approved, and that application process will take at least 8-12 months. Many landowners are reluctant to sell to the company and there are ongoing worries about polluting water sources. "We're living in what feels to be the worst version of Groundhog Day imaginable, as every morning we're waking up to yet another decision made by Trump that would be disastrous for our climate, our communities, and our health," said Michael Brune, from the Sierra Club. "But Trump will not succeed. The pipeline will pollute our air and water, destroy farmers' and ranchers' property, and enrich the foreign oil barons and corporate polluters that have been stocking Trump's cabinet and pulling his strings from the get-go." "TransCanada also has to find enough tar sands companies to back the pipeline, to make it economically feasible and in the current market it is hard to see which companies will be willing to commit to that kind of new production for 20-30 years."
3-24-17 Oceans warming faster
Oceans warming faster
Scientists have developed more accurate ways to measure changes in Earth’s ocean temperatures—and they believe the seas are storing 13 percent more heat than previously thought. Since 2000, about 3,800 free-drifting “Argo” floats have been deployed throughout the world’s oceans, reports The Washington Post. These high-tech devices, which profile conditions at depths of up to about 6,500 feet, have enabled researchers to improve assessments of ocean warming over the past 55 years. (Measurements were previously based solely on temperature readings recorded along major shipping routes.) In a new study that used data from the Argo system, government teams from the U.S. and China found that the seas are storing much more energy, in the form of heat—and that most of this change has occurred since 1980. Warming oceans affect weather patterns, triggering more powerful storms and flooding, and can lead to ocean acidification and “dead spots” inhospitable for marine life. Because the seas absorb more than 90 percent of the heat trapped in Earth’s atmosphere by greenhouse gases, says study co-author Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, water temperatures are important barometers of global warming. “The ocean is the memory of all of the past climate change,” he said.
3-24-17 'Devastating' coral loss in South China Sea - scientists
'Devastating' coral loss in South China Sea - scientists
Scientists are warning of another "devastating" loss of coral due to a spike in sea temperatures. They say 40% of coral has died at the Dongsha Atoll in the South China Sea. Nothing as severe has happened on Dongsha for at least 40 years, according to experts. Anne Cohen of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, US, said the high water temperatures of 2015/16 were devastating for reef systems globally, including Dongsha. Coral bleaching - where corals turn white and may die - was the worst on record for Australia's iconic Great Barrier Reef in 2016. The barrier reef has absorbed a lot of the attention, but other reefs around the world were also severely affected, said Dr Cohen. "The 2015/2016 El Nino was devastating for reef systems in other parts of the world as well, including Dongsha Atoll and reefs in the central Pacific, where some of the most pristine coral reefs are located and of course, the US Pacific Remote Marine National Monument," she said. "We observed devastating bleaching in that area as well." Only last week, scientists published observations of three major die-offs of coral at the Great Barrier Reef in 2016, 2002 and 1998. They concluded that the only way to preserve the world's coral reefs is to take drastic action to reduce global warming.
3-24-17 Putting the brakes on fuel standards
Putting the brakes on fuel standards
President Trump is granting automakers “their top wish,” said Bill Vlasic in The New York Times. While visiting Detroit last week, Trump pledged to reopen a government review of the strict fuel efficiency standards set by the Obama administration in 2012. The rules, “a pillar of President Obama’s climate change legacy,” require automakers to almost double the average fuel economy for new cars and trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The Environmental Protection Agency affirmed those standards in January, wrapping up a midterm review of the agreement in the final days of Obama’s presidency. But automakers complain that the review didn’t give them enough time to contest the government’s fuel targets, which they say are too ambitious. Now they’ll get a chance to argue their case before an administration that’s vowed “to remove the shackles of regulation” from industry.
3-24-17 Trump administration approves Keystone XL pipeline
Trump administration approves Keystone XL pipeline
The Trump administration has issued a permit to energy company TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline. The State Department said it had found the project, which was blocked by former US President Barack Obama, to be in the US national interest. The 1,180 mile (1,900km) pipeline will carry tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Texas coast. While announcing the approval President Trump called it a "great day for American jobs". "TransCanada will finally be allowed to complete this long overdue project with efficiency and speed," Mr Trump said in the White House Oval office, joined by TransCanada officials and contractors. (Webmaster's comment: Start counting the days until a major oil spill on Indian land.)
3-24-17 Fish that keep salmon clean and healthy are being wiped out
Fish that keep salmon clean and healthy are being wiped out
Wrasse help remove lice from salmon, enabling farmers to use fewer pesticides. But escalating demand for these fish could be disrupting important wild ecosystems. What’s good for farmed salmon may not be for natural ecosystems. Small fish called wrasse painlessly peck sea lice from the skin of farmed salmon, enabling salmon farmers rely less on powerful pesticides that can harm other marine life. But there’s a catch: the wrasse are fished from the wild, and researchers have now found evidence that the practice may be depleting natural populations, with unforeseeable effects on marine ecosystems. A team from Norway discovered a decline in wild wrasse populations after comparing catch rates at four marine protected areas – where fishing is banned – and at four regions where fishing is allowed. The sampling sites were all along the Skagerrak coast of southern Norway, a region where wrasse have been caught and shipped to salmon farmers for decades. They found that the goldsinny wrasse was up to 65 per cent more abundant in samples from the non-fishing zones. The corkwing wrasse was 92 per cent more abundant in some samples from the non-fishing zones. “It’s telling us that fishing may be reducing the natural populations,” says Kim Halvorsen of the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research in Storebø, Norway, who led the team. “It’s never been shown before, but these numbers could indicate that fishing has had an impact.”
3-23-17 Arctic sea ice hits record wintertime low
Arctic sea ice hits record wintertime low
This year's maximum extent of Arctic sea ice, reached March 7, is the smallest peak extent ever seen. Arctic sea ice has hit a record low for the third year in a row. It’s the paltriest maximum extent seen since recordkeeping began in 1979, scientists at NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced March 22. Total sea ice cover on the Arctic Ocean peaked on March 7, satellite observations show, reaching a total area of 14.42 million square kilometers. That’s around 100,000 square kilometers smaller than the previous record, a statistical tie between 2015 and 2016, and 1.22 million square kilometers smaller than the 1981 to 2010 average. Unusually warm autumn and winter temperatures, including a series of extreme winter heat waves, are largely responsible for capping the Arctic sea ice extent this year, the scientists propose. Satellite observations also showed that this winter’s ice cover is slightly thinner than in recent years. Together, the meager maximum extent and thin ice could spell trouble for this year’s minimum sea ice extent, expected during September.
3-23-17 Shock mass coral die-off in Asia sounds alarm for world’s reefs
Shock mass coral die-off in Asia sounds alarm for world’s reefs
An unexpected coral bleaching event in the South China Sea shows that reefs can heat up substantially more than the surrounding ocean. It’s even worse than we thought. An unexpected coral bleaching event in the South China Sea shows that reefs can heat up substantially more than the surrounding ocean, making them more vulnerable to climate change. The finding suggests that efforts to limit global warming to 2 °C under the Paris Agreement may not be sufficient to save the world’s tropical reefs. In June 2015, the South China Sea warmed by 2 °C in response to a normal El Niño weather pattern. The moderate temperature rise was not expected to cause significant coral damage. However, at Dongsha Atoll in the northern part of the sea, the sea surface temperature soared to 6 °C above average, killing 40 per cent of the coral. This temperature blow-out occurred because the atoll’s shallow water was able to heat up more than the surrounding ocean, research led by Thomas DeCarlo at the University of Western Australia shows. This amplified the El Niño effect. In addition, unusually weak winds during the same period slowed the spread of heat into the surrounding ocean, so that it became trapped within the atoll.
3-22-17 On front line of climate change as Maldives fights rising seas
On front line of climate change as Maldives fights rising seas
WHITE sand circles picked out by the sun in sparkling blue seas are the first signs my plane has arrived at the Maldives, a tropical paradise spread over almost 1200 islands. The nation is facing a rise in sea levels – a peril that made it a poster child for the consequences of climate change. Former President Mohamed Nasheed even had plans to purchase land elsewhere so the population could relocate should sea level rise make their home uninhabitable. But the mood has changed here. The new government, under President Abdulla Yameen, no longer seeks land to buy, but is instead determined to resist the rising seas with engineering. The key to the new strategy is renting out islands and using the money to build new ones, through the process of land reclamation. People living on smaller, lower-lying islands could then be relocated to more flood-resistant ones when needed.
3-22-17 Quarter of California’s snowpack loss is from human-made warming
Quarter of California’s snowpack loss is from human-made warming
California’s reservoirs depend on the gradual melting of winter snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains, but the snowpack is dwindling and may not return. In 2015, after four years of drought, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California hit a record low. Global warming is to blame for a quarter of that loss, a study based on climate models suggests. As the planet continues to warm, more than half the Sierra snowpack is likely to vanish over the next century. “We found pretty grim results,” says Neil Berg of research institution the Rand Corporation. Simply having higher temperatures is devastating for the build-up of wintertime snowpack in the Sierras, he says. This is bad news for California as the snowpack provides a third of its water. The state’s water infrastructure relies on snow building up in the mountains in winter and then gradually melting throughout the summer. In the future, overall precipitation levels in the mountains will stay the same, the study suggests. But without ways to store the extra water flowing down from the mountains during the warmer winters – and with higher losses from evaporation in summer too – the state’s problem with water shortages could get much worse. Berg and his team compared the period of extreme drought between 2011 and 2015 with a simulated situation where there was no warming due to human emissions of greenhouse gases. The results suggest that climate change exacerbated snowpack loss in the Sierra Nevadas.
3-22-17 Plans for coal-fired power plants drop by almost half in 2016
Plans for coal-fired power plants drop by almost half in 2016
Twenty-sixteen saw a "dramatic" decline in the number of coal-fired power stations in pre-construction globally. The authors of a new study say there was a 48% fall in planned coal units, with a 62% drop in construction starts. The report, from several green campaign groups, claims changing policies and economic conditions in China and India were behind the decline. However, the coal industry argues the fuel will remain essential to economic growth in Asia for decades to come. Between 2006 and 2016, India and China together accounted for 85% of the coal plants built around the world. But according to the Boom and Bust 2017 report, put together by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and CoalSwarm, there has been a huge swing away from coal in these two countries in just 12 months. The main causes of the decline are the imposition of restrictive measures by China's central government - with the equivalent of 600 coal-fired units being put on hold until at least 2020. The Indian go-slow was prompted, according to the authors, by the reluctance of banks to provide funds. Work at 13 locations is currently not going ahead. However, there have also been significant retirements of coal plants in Europe and the US over the past two years, with roughly 120 large units being taken out of commission.
3-21-17 Trump’s tragic budget kills vital science to boost defence
Trump’s tragic budget kills vital science to boost defence
The US president's spending plan ramps up defence at huge cost to climate and energy research. The contradictions are beyond belief, says physicist Raymond Pierrehumbert. US president Donald Trump’s proposed budget is billed as an “America First” programme, but the only Americans who get to go to the head of the queue are defence contractors. The whole thing is driven by a 10 per cent increase in what is already the world’s most extravagant military spend. This is offset by savaging the government funding of a vast array of programmes that actually improve the lives of ordinary people and assure a more secure and prosperous future. This budget is an American tragedy on many levels, not least the damage to science. On that front, there is one crumb of good news – “good” measured against the very low expectations many scientists have of Trump’s presidency. The Earth Science branch of NASA’s budget hasn’t been savaged to the extent that might have been expected based on campaign rhetoric. Four Earth observation missions do get the axe: PACE (which would make observations relating to ocean ecosystems and marine clouds), OCO-3 (an International Space Station instrument to improve understanding of the global carbon dioxide budget) and CLARREO-Pathfinder (another space station instrument, testing techniques for improved measurement of climate forcing and feedback factors in the atmosphere). There is also the petty termination of DSCOVR (which would include observations related to climate, aerosols and ozone). This saves only a pittance because DSCOVR involves a satellite already bought, launched, paid for and returning data. All in all, $102 million is cut out of the original $1.9 billion Earth Science budget. (Webmaster's comment: Killing all proof and knowledge about global warming!)
3-21-17 Weather and climate extremes continue to set new records
Weather and climate extremes continue to set new records
Last year was bad, but 2017 is shaping to follow suit as carbon levels, temperatures and sea levels continue to rise, says the World Meteorological Organisation. Weather and climate extremes have continued into 2017 after last year saw record-breaking temperatures, says the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO). Global average temperatures were 1.1 °C above pre-industrial levels in 2016, slightly above the previous record set in 2015, WMO’s annual statement on the state of the global climate says. Oceans were unusually warm, global sea levels rose sharply, Arctic sea ice was well below average for most of the year and severe droughts hit southern and eastern Africa and Central America. Extreme conditions have continued into 2017, with the Arctic experiencing the “polar equivalent of a heatwave” at least three times this winter, while Antarctic sea ice has been at a record low, the WMO says. Changes in the Arctic have influenced weather in other parts of the world, with balmy weather in Canada and the US and unusually cold conditions in parts of the Arabian peninsula and North Africa.
3-21-17 'Extreme and unusual' climate trends continue after record 2016
'Extreme and unusual' climate trends continue after record 2016
In the atmosphere, the seas and around the poles, climate change is reaching disturbing new levels across the Earth. That's according to a detailed global analysis from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). It says that 2016 was not only the warmest year on record, but it saw atmospheric CO2 rise to a new high, while Arctic sea ice recorded a new winter low. The "extreme and unusual" conditions have continued in 2017, it says. Reports earlier this year from major scientific bodies - including the UK's Met Office, Nasa and NOAA - indicated that 2016 was the warmest year on record. The WMO's State of the Global Climate 2016 report builds on this research with information from 80 national weather services to provide a deeper and more complete picture of the year's climate data. Compared with the 1961-1990 reference period, 2016 was 0.83 degrees C warmer than the average. It was around 1.1C above the pre-industrial period, and at 0.06C just a fraction warmer than the previous warmest year record in 2015. "This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system," said WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas. "Globally averaged sea-surface temperatures were also the warmest on record, global sea-levels continued to rise, and Arctic sea-ice extent was well below average for most of the year," he said.
3-20-17 On front line of climate change as Maldives fights rising seas
On front line of climate change as Maldives fights rising seas
The Maldives government has decided not to abandon the sinking country and instead vowed to build new islands to keep the country – and economy – afloat. White sand circles picked out by the sun in sparkling blue seas are the first signs that my plane has arrived at the Maldives, a tropical paradise spread over almost 1200 islands. Unfortunately, the nation is facing a rise in sea levels and the bleaching of its coral reefs – perils that made it a poster child for the consequences of climate change. It gained publicity for the plan announced by former president Mohamed Nasheed in 2008 to purchase land elsewhere so the population could relocate should sea level rise make the islands uninhabitable. But the mood has changed here recently. The new government, under president Abdulla Yameen, no longer seeks land to buy, but is instead determined for the nation to stay put and resist the rising seas with geoengineering projects. The key to the new strategy is renting out islands and using the money to reclaim, fortify and even build new islands. People living on smaller lower-lying islands could then be relocated to more flood-resistant islands when needed.
3-19-17 Scientists trace South Georgia's giant ice history
Scientists trace South Georgia's giant ice history
South Georgia is an island of astonishing beauty - of imposing landscapes, and bewildering numbers of penguins, seals and seabirds. It also has some impressive ice fields, although none it seems quite like those of the past. Some 20,000 years ago the island's glaciers pushed out 50km and more from their current positions, reaching to the edge of the continental shelf. The British Overseas Territory was in effect covered by a giant ice cap. This realisation is reported in the current edition of the journal Nature Communications.
3-19-17 India's climate question mark
India's climate question mark
With the United States potentially backing off its climate commitments, some observers are worried India will follow suit. Following Donald Trump's election to the White House, world leaders rushed to rally around the Paris climate change agreement, indicating they would stick to their pledges to cut carbon even if the U.S. withdrew from the international framework. China quickly began to position itself as the new world leader in global climate policy. "Proactively taking action against climate change will improve China's international image and allow it to occupy the moral high ground," Zou Ji, deputy director of the National Center for Climate Change Strategy and a senior Chinese negotiator, told Reuters during the United Nations climate summit in Marrakesh last fall. The European Union also voiced its commitment to the hard-fought agreement. Absent from the public chorus of support was India, a silence that worried experts. "India came to the Paris process later, their commitment seems to be weaker ... so I wouldn't be at all surprised if India, looking at the United States, itself also backed off," says David Victor, a professor at the University of California, San Diego, who has been watching international climate negotiations for decades.
3-19-17 Ivanka Trump, climate MacGuffin
Ivanka Trump, climate MacGuffin
e great director Alfred Hitchcock often spoke of the "MacGuffin," a plot device that appears to move the story forward but merely leads to a dead end. (Some enjoy eating them as red herrings.) Ivanka Trump is our most dangerous MacGuffin in the climate arena — the MacGuffin dressed in pearls. Media reports have Ivanka Trump trying to convince her father to remain within the Paris climate accord. The minute you start thinking that Ivanka is having a moderating influence on her father, or that any of this is serious, stop. This is green-washing of the highest order, and Ivanka's so-called efforts to convince her father not to throw the historic accord out the window are unconvincing given the harsh reality: The Paris agreement does not require the United States to do anything. During the negotiations, it became clear that any treaty making binding demands of the U.S. would never pass the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate. Indeed, it was a Chinese negotiator, Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin, who informed the crowd of diplomats and journalists at a Paris press briefing, one day before the accord was signed in late 2015, that it was "domestic difficulties" in the U.S. that prevented a more muscular agreement. By "difficulties," all in attendance knew, he meant the Republican-controlled Congress. And that was before Donald Trump became president.
3-19-17 To understand rivers, let physics be your guide
To understand rivers, let physics be your guide
New book explores science of waterways. Aerial views of watersheds can take on fractal-like appearances, with large rivers branching into ever-smaller streams. Spend an hour wandering along a river and you may wonder why the water rushing by chose this particular path over any other. While many nature writers might offer philosophical musings on the subject, Where the River Flows author Sean Fleming has physics on his side. Physics isn’t the lens through which most people think about rivers. Fleming, a hydrologist, aims to change that. Only about 0.006 percent of the world’s freshwater is in a river at any given moment. But these hydrological highways transport a massive amount of water across the planet. Physics can explain where that water moves and help predict the ecological impact of its travels. The physical force that water exerts on its surroundings (whether it carves a canyon, for instance) is just the beginning. Equations that quantify the rate at which particles disperse through water can help scientists predict whether a farm dumping manure into a river will make a swimming hole downstream unsafe. And hunting for patterns in streamflow measurements over time can be something like using a prism to spread white light into a rainbow. Both are a type of spectral analysis, in which a complex system is separated into its individual components.
3-18-17 Trump's 'drain the swamp' budget to hit swamp dwellers
Trump's 'drain the swamp' budget to hit swamp dwellers
"We're not spending money on climate change any more," said Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director. "We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that." That stern statement outlining President Trump's budget plans to cut spending on global warming in the US and around the world will disappoint the 6,000 people who live in the swampy Indonesian village of Cendi Manik. They may not have heard much about the detail of the president's new financial priorities but they do know that US money has made a massive difference to their lives and livelihoods. Climate change is driving up sea levels around this coastal habitation on the island of Lombok - but with funding from the US government through USAID, the World Neighbors NGO has helped residents of the village to plant 11,000 mangroves that have limited the worst impacts of tidal flooding. The new trees not only help control the waters but they have also boosted supplies of shellfish and crabs, which are important sources of income when floods hit other crops. Tourism is also beginning to develop in the area. The mangrove operation caught the attention of Indonesia's Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries. So impressed were they that they've allocated funding to procure and plant another 120,000 tree seedlings to cover almost 10 hectares of threatened coastline. US funding for Cendi Manik amounts to only a few thousand dollars and while it has been extended for another year, with USAID facing cuts of around one third of its budget, the future is highly uncertain.
3-17-17 CO2 emissions from energy remain flat for third year running
CO2 emissions from energy remain flat for third year running
Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector have not increased for three years in a row even as the global economy grew. Carbon dioxide emissions from energy have not increased for three years in a row even as the global economy grew, says the International Energy Agency (IEA). Global emissions from the energy sector were 32.1 billion tonnes in 2016, the same as the previous two years, while the economy grew 3.1 per cent, the agency says. The IEA put the halt in growth down to growing renewable power generation, switches from coal to natural gas and improvements in energy efficiency. The biggest drop was seen in the US, where carbon dioxide emissions fell 3 per cent, while the economy grew 1.6 per cent, following a surge in shale gas supplies and more renewable power that displaced coal. US emissions are at their lowest level since 1992, while the economy has grown 80 per cent since that time. Carbon dioxide output also declined in China, by 1 per cent, and were stable in Europe, offsetting increases in most of the rest of the world, the IEA says. (Webmaster's comment: But nothing changes the fact that CO2 continues to grow in our atmosphere at an ever increasing rate.)
3-17-17 Democrats Drive Rise in Concern About Global Warming
Democrats Drive Rise in Concern About Global Warming
A landmark year in 2016 for global warming politics has further deepened the already formidable divide between Republicans and Democrats on the issue. Two-thirds (66%) of Democrats say they worry about global warming a great deal, compared with 18% of Republicans. The 66% of Democrats worrying a great deal about the issue is the highest percentage in Gallup's annual polling on the question since at least 2000 and is nine percentage points above last year's previous high of 57%. Forty-five percent of independents now say they worry a great deal, a jump of 11 points from 2016. The rise in concern among both Democrats and independents has pushed the overall percentage of Americans saying they worry about global warming to 45% -- the highest level in nearly three decades of Gallup polling. Republicans' 18% who say they worry a great deal is the same as last year's percentage and 11 points below the party's high of 29% in 2000.
- 66% of Democrats now worry a great deal, up nine points from 2016
- Independents are also more worried (45%); Republicans are not (18%)
- Gap between parties significantly wider than on other issues
3-17-17 Pruitt: The EPA chief who’s a climate-change skeptic
Pruitt: The EPA chief who’s a climate-change skeptic
In his confirmation hearings, Scott Pruitt was careful to walk “a fine line between accepting and denying climate science,” said Emily Atkin in NewRepublic.com. Now that he’s settled in as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, however, Oklahoma’s former attorney general has come out of the closet as a full-blown climate change denier. In a TV interview last week, Pruitt expressly denied that human-produced carbon dioxide is changing the climate. “No, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt said. He obviously does not understand science or reason, said Ryan Cooper in TheWeek?.com. Experiments show that carbon dioxide absorbs infrared heat and keeps it from radiating out into space; a greenhouse with a lot of carbon dioxide gets hotter than one with low levels. Carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere have soared as civilization burns fossil fuels, and the world is undeniably heating up. Nearly all climate scientists agree the resulting droughts and heat waves, rising sea levels, and other changes pose a grave danger to humanity. Yet the man President Trump tapped to run “the agency charged with defending this nation against its most serious threat” doesn’t even believe the threat is real. That makes Pruitt “a clear and present danger to American national security, and to humanity.” (Webmaster's comment: Skeptic is too kind a word for a man who is as anti-science as this one is!)
3-16-17 Germany to push for carbon price at G20
Germany to push for carbon price at G20
Germany will use its G20 Presidency to nudge world leaders towards a global price on carbon, according to its director general of energy policy. Thorsten Herdan told BBC News that the world can’t stabilise CO2 emissions without making polluters pay. Mr Herdan, of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, said if renewables got cheaper still, the market would respond by dropping the coal price more. Some of President Trump’s advisers have argued that any carbon price should be fixed at zero to reflect the benefits of fossil fuels. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to try to persuade President Trump that the world is moving towards clean energy. Mr Herdan said that the German government was preparing research that would reveal that business is showing huge support for a transition towards a low carbon economy. It will be presented at the G20 in Hamburg in July, when climate change and sustainable development will be among a handful of major themes.
3-16-17 Low carbon drive 'cuts household bills'
Low carbon drive 'cuts household bills'
Britain's low carbon energy revolution is actually saving money for households, a report says. Households make a net saving of £11 a month, according to analysis from the Committee on Climate Change. It calculates that subsidies to wind and solar are adding £9 a month to the average bill, but that rules promoting energy efficiency save £20 a month. The finding will be challenged by groups which say the UK spends too much on renewable energy. But the committee, which advises the government, stands by its analysis, and forecasts a continuing trend of downward prices thanks to low carbon policy. The trend is being driven by government and EU standards for gas boilers and household appliances like fridges and light bulbs. These bring down carbon emissions and bills at the same time. It means households don't need to try specially hard to reduce energy usage - it just happens when they replace their old freezer.
3-16-17 Climate change: Biofuels 'could limit jet contrails'
Climate change: Biofuels 'could limit jet contrails'
Some close-quarter flying has provided new insights into aircraft pollution. US space agency-led scientists flew small, instrumented, chase planes directly in the exhaust plume of a big jet to measure the sorts of gases and particles being thrown out. The data suggests aircraft burning a mix of aviation kerosene and biofuel could reduce their climate impact. This would come from a substantial reduction in the production of the sooty particles that make contrails. "Those soot particles serve as nuclei for water vapour in the very cold atmosphere to condense on and for the artificial-looking linear contrails that we see when we look out the window," explained Richard Moore from Nasa's Langley Research Center. "You’ll then see those lines spread and form cirrus clouds that weren't there before the plane flew through the airspace. "We know these contrails and cirrus clouds have a warming effect on the Earth's climate, and it's currently thought the warming effect associated with those clouds is more significant than all of the carbon dioxide emitted by aviation since the first powered flights began," he told the Science In Action programme on the BBC World Service.
3-15-17 Burning wood for energy ignites fierce academic row
Burning wood for energy ignites fierce academic row
Scientists on both sides of the Atlantic have become embroiled in a war of words over energy from trees. A recent Chatham House report claimed that burning wood for electricity is worse for the climate than using coal. It sparked a backlash from a group of 125 academics in the field who said the research was deeply flawed. Now supporters of the original study have hit back, saying that to avoid dangerous warming the world needs to plant more trees, not burn them. Producing electricity from burning biomass such as trees has boomed in recent years, with the amount of energy generated doubling between 2005 and 2015. Many energy firms have seen it as a more reliable green power source than wind or solar. The EU is the world's biggest consumer of biomass, with some imported as wood pellets from southern US states. Bio-energy is expected to contribute more than half of the EU's renewable energy by 2020. It's a big money spinner, with subsidies worth £800m paid by the UK government for biomass electricity in 2015. But the Chatham House study said that the financial support for this type of power generation was based on some flawed assumptions.
3-15-17 China's 'airpocalypse' linked to Arctic sea ice loss
China's 'airpocalypse' linked to Arctic sea ice loss
The air pollution that lingered over eastern China for nearly a month in 2013 has been linked to the loss of Arctic sea ice the previous autumn. A study says the haze lasted much longer because the melting ice and increased snowfall altered wind circulation patterns. If Arctic ice continues to shrink due to climate change, the scientists say similar events will likely recur. They argue that this could threaten the Beijing Winter Olympics set for 2022. Air quality issues have plagued China in recent years but the pollution experienced in January 2013 was significant because it lasted so long. The large-scale haze stayed in place for almost a month and around 70% of China's 74 major cities exceeded the daily air quality standard for very fine particulate matter, which poses serious risks to health. Scientists were puzzled by the event as the Chinese government had taken steps to curb emissions from coal fired power plants, one of the most significant contributors to air pollution. Now researchers say that record Arctic sea ice decline in late 2012, plus extensive snowfall over Siberia disturbed wind patterns and produced stagnant air conditions over the east China plain.
3-15-17 Indian Ocean version of El Niño behind drought in East Africa
Indian Ocean version of El Niño behind drought in East Africa
Like El Niño, the Indian Ocean dipole involves cyclical temperature changes in the ocean, and now millions face crop failures and famine partly as a result. AN INDIAN Ocean phenomenon is partly to blame for the severe drought in East Africa, affecting maize and sorghum harvests and sending food prices soaring. A famine has been declared in South Sudan, while Kenya and Somalia have announced national emergencies. According to the UN Environment Programme, 17 million people in the region now face hunger. “We are currently facing potentially the worst humanitarian disaster the world has known since 1945,” says Mike Noyes at the charity ActionAid. Long-term weather forecasts suggest it won’t rain for several months. The drought is partly caused by the Indian Ocean dipole, which is similar to El Niño in the Pacific: sea surface temperatures in the east of the ocean cycle between cold and warm relative to the western ocean. The dipole was particularly strong in 2016, with warm temperatures in the east creating more moisture in the atmosphere. This cools the air in the east, leading to winds blowing eastward from Africa across the ocean. They push away the moist air that normally brings rain to East Africa from October to December. The famine is the third to hit the region in 25 years. The last, in 2011, resulted in 260,000 deaths. The dipole has been getting more pronounced in recent years, and extreme climate events such as drought are projected to become more common as the world warms.
3-15-17 Huge plastic waste footprint revealed
Huge plastic waste footprint revealed
Soft drinks makers admit more needs to be done to stop people discarding single-use plastic bottles. Their UK trade body says it will work with government to reduce the number of bottles ending in the sea. It follows research from Greenpeace suggesting the top six global firms sell plastic bottles weighing more than two million tonnes a year. The biggest brand Coca-Cola is under fire for refusing to disclose how much plastic it produces. A study estimated that more than five trillion plastic pieces weighing more than 250,000 tonnes were afloat at sea, and a recent paper showed that even marine organisms 10km deep had ingested plastic fragments.
3-14-17 Global Warming Concern at Three-Decade High in US
Global Warming Concern at Three-Decade High in US
Record percentages of Americans are concerned about global warming, believe it is occurring, consider it a serious threat and say it is caused by human activity. All of these perceptions are up significantly from 2015. Forty-five percent of Americans now say they worry "a great deal" about global warming, up from 37% a year ago and well above the recent low point of 25% in 2011. The previous high was 41%, recorded in 2007. Another 21% currently say they worry "a fair amount" about global warming, while 18% worry "only a little" and 16% worry "not at all."
- Americans worrying a great deal up eight percentage points to 45%
- New high of 62% says effects of global warming are happening now
- Belief that global warming poses a serious threat stretches to 42%
3-14-17 Scott Pruitt’s climate denial may be Putin’s real prize
Scott Pruitt’s climate denial may be Putin’s real prize
Did Russia back the rise of Donald Trump to see climate sceptics in power in the hope of saving its economic skin. Scott Pruitt, US Environmental Protection Agency chief, made headlines last week for his reply when asked whether carbon dioxide is the primary control knob for climate. His answer was slippery. “Measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do,” he said. True. So is measuring a gravitational wave, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Pruitt went on: “There’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact [of anthropogenic carbon dioxide]…” Well, no. The rate of change of Earth’s atmosphere, oceans and biosphere is accelerating and unequivocal. The uncontrolled experiment is already catastrophic for some low-lying nations such as Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean. He continued: “…so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” This last part is a non sequitur and besides, growth in carbon dioxide emissions is the prime contributor, followed by methane, soot and nitrous oxide: all human influences. Natural forcings are nowhere close. The truth is that without emissions abatement it seems inevitable that pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere will be catastrophic for most, if not all, nations. The question is when this catastrophe will hit. The biggest uncertainty is whether or not politicians reshape the economic playing field to tackle climate change.
3-14-17 B vitamins may have 'protective effect' against air pollution
B vitamins may have 'protective effect' against air pollution
B vitamins may offer some protection against the impacts of air pollution, a small scale human trial suggests. Researchers in the US found that high doses of these supplements may "completely offset" the damage caused by very fine particulate matter. The scientists involved say the effect is real but stress the limitations of their work. Follow up studies are urgently needed, they say, in heavily polluted cities like Beijing or Mexico. While the impacts of air pollution on health have become a cause of growing concern to people all around the world, the actual mechanics of exactly how dirty air makes people sick are not clearly understood. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 90% of the world's population live in areas where air pollution exceeds safety guidelines. One of the pollutants that is considered the most dangerous is very fine particulate matter, referred to as PM2.5, where particles have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres. These complex particulates come from diesel cars, wood burning stoves and as a by-product of chemical reactions between other polluting gases. At around 1/30 the width of a human hair, PM2.5 fragments can lodge deep in the human lung and contribute to lung and heart health issues in the young and old.
3-13-17 Forget snow, rain will become main precipitation in the Arctic
Forget snow, rain will become main precipitation in the Arctic
By the end of the century, the Arctic will get far more rain. The vicious cycle of warming and precipitation could have serious consequences for wildlife. The Arctic is set to get drenched in the next century. Globally, precipitation is projected to increase by 2 per cent for every degree the planet warms, but in the Arctic that figure is double. By 2091, the Arctic will see a dramatic increase in overall precipitation and most of it won’t come in the form of snow – instead it will be rain. “It’s quite a bit, a 50 to 60 per cent increase Arctic-wide. We found that most of this increase is due to the retreat of sea ice because of the Arctic warming,” says Richard Bintanja, a climate researcher at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute who combined data from 37 climate models to predict precipitation in the Arctic between 2091 and 2100. All the models agree that warming is an important factor, says Qinghua Ding, a climate researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who wasn’t involved in the study. “No matter where you are in the world, a temperature increase means the air can hold more moisture.” Sea ice coverage in the Arctic has been plummeting for decades, and the region has repeatedly set record lows in recent years. When sea ice retreats, it uncovers vast open waters. This massively increases evaporation, leading to more clouds and more precipitation. But instead of snow, the Arctic will receive downpours of rain. The cycle feeds itself – warming temperatures lead to more rain and more melting ice, which leads to more open water and even more rain.”
3-13-17 Changing climate could worsen foods’ nutrition
Changing climate could worsen foods’ nutrition
Evidence builds for lessening of certain micronutrients, protein in plants. Experiments using circles of white pipes blowing extra carbon dioxide over crops suggest that certain nutrients may dwindle in crops grown in a carbon-enhanced future atmosphere. Here, researchers in Arizona measure the growth of wheat. A dinner plate piled high with food from plants might not deliver the same nutrition toward the end of this century as it does today. Climate change could shrink the mineral and protein content of wheat, rice and other staple crops, mounting evidence suggests. Selenium, a trace element essential for human health, already falls short in diets of one in seven people worldwide. Studies link low selenium with such troubles as weak immune systems and cognitive decline. And in severely selenium-starved spots in China, children’s bones don’t grow to normal size or shape. This vital element could become sparser in soils of major agricultural regions as the climate changes, an international research group announced online February 21 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Likewise, zinc and iron deficiencies could grow as micronutrients dwindle in major crops worldwide, Harvard University colleagues Samuel Myers and Peter Huybers and collaborators warned in a paper published online January 6 in the Annual Review of Public Health. Futuristic field experiments on wheat and other major crops predict that more people will slip into nutritional deficits late in this century because of dips in protein content, Myers reported February 16 at the Climate and Health Meeting held in Atlanta.
3-13-17 The ocean is swallowing these two American towns
The ocean is swallowing these two American towns
How they're responding is a matter of faith, belief, and money. To stay or to go. It's a wrenching question low-lying coastal communities around the world are beginning to reckon with as climate change starts to push up global sea levels. But it's not just happening in far-away places like Bangladesh or the Maldives. It's happening right here in the U.S. On Tangier Island, Virginia, in the southern Chesapeake Bay, residents are facing the inundation of a place some local families have called home since the 1600s. They are determined to stay. On Isle de Jean Charles on the Louisiana Gulf coast, a disappearing Native American community has made the opposite decision. They are the first community to receive federal money to relocate due to climate change. It's a tale of two towns, confronting a decision no community would ever want to make, but that more and more will have to. (Webmaster's comment: And all your praying to God, Jesus and Donald Trump isn't going to make any difference!)
3-11-17 Video captures moment plastic enters food chain
Video captures moment plastic enters food chain
A scientist has filmed the moment plastic microfibre is ingested by plankton, illustrating how the material is affecting life beneath the waves. The footage shows one way that waste plastic could be entering the marine and global food chain. An estimated 150 million tonnes of plastic "disappears" from the world's waste stream each year. Waste plastic in the world's seas has been recognised by the United Nations as a major environmental problem. "When I saw it, I thought that here was something, visually, to convey to the public the problem of plastic in the sea," said Richard Kirby, who recorded the footage. "What intrigues me is that because the fibre has made a loop inside the animal's gut, you can actually see the consequences of something as small as the arrow worm consuming microplastic. Dr Kirby, a self-styled Plankton Pundit, said that people were familiar with the idea of large marine animals - such as whales, seals and birds - swallowing plastic bags. "But here we have something where we actually see that at a tiny fibre has caused a blockage in something as small as a member of the plankton, stopping food progressing down. "An arrow worm's gut extends for the whole length of its body, so this has stopped anything moving down the gut from about just below its head."
3-10-17 Global warming
Global warming, after new data showed that last month was the second-warmest February on record for most of the U.S., with temperatures 7.3 degrees above average.
3-10-17 Babies in prams are exposed to high levels of air pollution
Babies in prams are exposed to high levels of air pollution
Air pollution has been linked to asthma and pneumonia in children. Now a study has found prams are exposed to high pollution near junctions and bus stops. Babies in prams are exposed to high levels of air pollution at hotspots next to busy roads, according to a study that measured particles on a typical daily route. Prashant Kumar and colleagues at the University of Surrey recorded pollution levels along a 2.7 kilometre walk between the university and a primary school in Guildford, UK. They collected measurements twice a day, in the morning and afternoon, on 32 days, measuring pollution levels both inside a pram and at adult head height to examine differences in exposure for babies and parents. Pollution levels varied greatly along the route, with hotspots found at traffic intersections and a bus station. Small particles showed higher concentrations in the morning, reflecting heavier traffic, while coarse particles were heavier in the afternoon. The study found little difference between the pollution levels experienced by babies in prams and adults, in contrast to some earlier research.
3-9-17 EPA boss says carbon dioxide not primary cause of climate change
EPA boss says carbon dioxide not primary cause of climate change
The statement from Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, contradicts all the scientific evidence. The new chief of the US Environmental Protection Agency has said he does not believe that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt said measuring the effect of human activity on the climate is “very challenging” and that “there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact” of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. “So, no, I would not agree that (carbon dioxide) is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see,” Pruitt told CNBC’s Squawk Box. Pruitt’s view is at odds with mainstream climate science, including NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The two agencies reported in January that Earth’s 2016 temperatures were the warmest ever. The planet’s average surface temperature has risen by about 2 degrees F since the late 19th century, “a change driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere”, the agencies said in a joint statement. Environmental groups seized on Pruitt’s comments as evidence he is unfit for the office he holds. “The arsonist is now in charge of the fire department, and he seems happy to let the climate crisis burn out of control,” said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.
3-9-17 EPA chief doubts carbon dioxide's role in global warming
EPA chief doubts carbon dioxide's role in global warming
US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt has said he "would not agree" carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming. He told CNBC that measuring human impact on the climate was "very challenging" and there was "tremendous disagreement" about the issue. Mr Pruitt instead insisted that officials needed "to continue the debate" on the issue. His remarks contradict his own agency's findings on greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA's website notes that carbon dioxide is the "primary greenhouse gas that is contributing to recent climate change". Data released in January by NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the planet's rising temperature has been "driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions in the atmosphere". The two US agencies added that the earth's 2016 temperatures were the warmest ever.
3-9-17 Warming soils may belch much more carbon
Warming soils may belch much more carbon
Scientists boost estimates based on measurements from greater depths. Carbon emissions from soils could increase more than previously thought as temperatures go up, a new experiment suggests. Caitlin Hicks Pries and colleagues monitored emissions from a forest plot in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. As the planet warms, carbon stashed in Earth’s soils could escape into the atmosphere far faster than previously thought. In the worst-case scenario for climate change, carbon dioxide emissions from soil-dwelling microbes could increase by 34 to 37 percent by 2100, researchers report online March 9 in Science. Previous studies predicted a more modest 9 to 12 percent rise if no efforts are taken to curb climate change. Those extra emissions could further intensify global warming. Much of that extra CO2 will originate from soils at depths overlooked by previous measurements, says study coauthor Margaret Torn, a biogeochemist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. “We ignore the deep at our peril,” she says. Soils cover about two-thirds of Earth’s ice-free land area and store nearly 3 trillion metric tons of organic carbon — more than three times the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Dead organisms such as plants contribute to this carbon stockpile, and carbon-munching microbes belch some of that carbon into the atmosphere as CO2. Rising temperatures will spur the microbes to speed up their plant consumption, scientists warn, releasing more CO2 into the air. And the data back up that fear.
3-8-17 Warmer weather could bring fresh Zika misery
Warmer weather could bring fresh Zika misery
Zika may have gone quiet during the winter, but as mosquito season approaches it looks like it could spread further and have longer term health effects than we thought. ZIKA virus is set to return to the fore once the mosquito season starts again in the coming months, and it looks like it could spread further and do more damage than we thought. Cases of Zika virus – and the neurological disorders it causes in babies – have been declining across the Americas in recent months, in part because of a drop in mosquito numbers during winter. There is also evidence that people in affected countries are developing immunity to the virus – although this may be short-lived if the virus evolves, or as newly vulnerable people are born or move to affected areas. Yet while Zika may have gone quiet, research into the virus has continued in earnest. It was assumed that only a few species of mosquito could spread Zika, including Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, found in tropical regions across the globe. But now it seems many more species could carry the virus, including 26 not previously considered a threat (eLife, doi.org/b2ps). Some are found in more northerly reaches of the US, to which Zika hasn’t yet spread. The onset of warmer weather in the US could bring many more cases, as mosquitoes begin to breed and feed on blood. (Webmaster's comment: Global warmning is coming at us from every which angle.)
3-8-17 Plankton can save the ocean. But who will save the plankton?
Plankton can save the ocean. But who will save the plankton?
It's not just warming oceans we need to worry about. Crucial plankton have been discovered behaving strangely, but they may point the way to better geoengineering. YOU needed a microscope to see it, but there it was. After an absence of 800,000 years, Neodenticula seminae, a native of the Pacific Ocean, had showed up unexpectedly in the North Atlantic. Marine biologists speculated that this tiny species of plankton had drifted through the Northwest Passage, which until recent summers had been blocked by a permanent wall of ice. Melting ice is far from the only way climate change is altering the oceans. A study published last month found that dissolved oxygen levels in the water are falling. Another suggests that the plankton crucial to maintaining the balance of gases in Earth’s atmosphere are in trouble. There is good news hiding in the bad. Some researchers think this new information points to geoengineering approaches that could solve the problem of climate-changed oceans. But we can’t be sure they would work; can we risk mucking around with the world’s largest ecosystem? Then again, aren’t we already? It is well known that a warmer, more acidic ocean is linked to coral and shellfish die-offs as well as the mass migration of fish. But for many years, scientists were divided on the question of how the changing climate would affect phytoplankton.
3-8-17 Most people don't know climate change is entirely human-made
Most people don't know climate change is entirely human-made
Even in eco-friendly Norway, only a minority of people realise that global warming is entirely due to our actions, survey of four European countries reveals. How much of the warming over the past century do you think is caused by human actions, as opposed to natural processes? If you think natural processes have played a big part, you are far from alone. Less than half of people in the UK (43 per cent), Germany (49 per cent) and Norway (just 34 per cent) think climate change is mainly or entirely due to human activities, according to a public opinion survey. In France, a slim majority (55 per cent) holds this view. The correct answer, by the way, is that more than 100 per cent of the warming over the past century is due to human actions. How can it be more than 100 per cent? Because without us the planet would likely have cooled very slightly thanks to natural factors such as volcanic emissions and orbital changes. Even fewer people understand that the overwhelmingly majority of scientists agree climate change is happening and is largely due to people. Only around a third of people in all four countries thought more than 80 per cent of scientists agree with this. In fact, more than 90 per cent of scientists do. Among those actively studying the climate, the consensus is 97 per cent.
3-8-17 Watch the Iditarod while you still can
Watch the Iditarod while you still can
You can interpret the Iditarod's motto, "the last great race on Earth," two ways. The first goes hand-in-hand with Alaska's boast of being the Final Frontier, the last piece of untouched, unsullied wilderness in the conquerable world. In those six words, the Iditarod puts to shame lesser races like the Tour de France, the Boston Marathon, the Indianapolis 500, and turns its nose (and muzzle) up at the various ways they have sold out, modernized, and become un-great. The Iditarod, on the other hand, is just a musher, a handful of dogs, and whatever Alaska decides to throw at them, be it moose, whiteout, or thin ice. The Iditarod is proud to be "tough," the motto says, the way the word was meant to be used. Increasingly, though, "the last great race" might take on a hint of irony. Is this the last one? Could it be? For the third year in the Iditarod's history, the traditional starting line was moved from Willow, Alaska, to Fairbanks — 365 miles north — due to a lack of snow for the mushers' sleds. "Alaska is heating up at twice the rate of the rest of the country — a canary in our climate coal mine," writes Eric Holthaus for Slate. "A new report shows that warming in Alaska, along with the rest of the Arctic, is accelerating as the loss of snow and ice cover begins to set off a feedback loop of further warming."
3-8-17 Tomorrow's cities: Stockholm turns green
Tomorrow's cities: Stockholm turns green
Smart is a word that has long prefaced a whole range of technology, from watches to fridges to homes. It might sound cool to marketers, but consumers are increasingly questioning just how clever these devices really are. Now, cities are jumping on the bandwagon and giving themselves the same title whenever they implement technology solutions. For some, that involves flashy and expensive command-and-control centres from which they view traffic flow and data collected from sensors around the city. Sweden's capital, Stockholm, has taken a different, quieter approach, but, along the way, has garnered over seven million euros (£5.9m) of EU money and become a leading example of how to do "smart". It has been designated as an EU "lighthouse" city - alongside Barcelona and Cologne - meaning the projects it implements, if successful, can then be copied in other European towns. Stockholm's interpretation of smart is about becoming greener - it hopes to be fossil-fuel free by 2040 and sees eco-policies as the smartest thing not only for the city but for the planet. Stockholm is already pretty eco-friendly. Bio-fuel, generated from sewage, is available at petrol stations around the city, and regularly used by taxis and cars. And now, the city wants to extend its use to larger vans and lorries, which are particularly polluting, and explore ways to make the fuel more efficient. "One hundred people going to the toilet powers one car, but if we add organic household waste, that goes down to 60 people," said Gustaf Landahl, who heads up the Grow Smarter project.
3-7-17 Invasive species, climate change threaten Great Lakes
Invasive species, climate change threaten Great Lakes
New book presents long list of dangers but also offers hope. Zebra mussels and other invasive species are just one of many threats to the Great Lakes’ ecosystems, as detailed in a new book. Every summer, people flock to the Great Lakes to swim and fish in the seemingly infinite waters and hike along the idyllic shores. But an ominous undercurrent flows just out of sight. Below the water’s surface rages an environmental catastrophe 200 years in the making. In The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, journalist Dan Egan describes how the lakes’ natural history gave way to an unnatural one. From the effects of global trade and urbanization to climate change, the book offers an exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) account of the abuses the lakes have endured. Scars left by retreating glaciers and a failed continental rift, lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior are more like inland seas, holding about 20 percent of Earth’s surface freshwater. The lakes were mostly isolated from international waters until a series of canals and seaways let in freighters from around the world. “These ships are like syringes,” as one biologist put it, injecting into the lakes living pollution. Nearly 200 nonnative species now call the lakes home. The worst offenders—alewives, sea lampreys and zebra and quagga mussels—have ruined food webs. Egan dedicates a third of the book to these invaders and biologists’ best, and sometimes misguided, efforts to contain them. But the lakes also face lesser-known problems. Egan deftly explains the science of these complex issues, including runoff-induced toxic algal blooms and extreme fluctuations in the lakes’ water levels attributed to climate change.
3-6-17 Deep cuts to environmental research in Trump’s budget proposal
Deep cuts to environmental research in Trump’s budget proposal
US agencies doing climate research see concerning budget proposal that would eliminate funding for government science on air, energy and water within EPA, and slash satellite and coastal research at NOAA. The first draft of President Trump’s proposed budget is out and it’s heavy on cuts to government science. This is the first step in a long budgeting process so these numbers aren’t final, but they are a clear indication of the value the Trump Administration places on science-based policy. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is facing reductions to its research arm totaling $126 million, or 26 per cent of its current budget, according to reports by the Washington Post. NOAA’s SeaGrant program, which funds coastal research in 33 states and supplied the Gulf Coast states with science-based guidance during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, is up for elimination entirely. “The proposed draconian cuts to NOAA’s budget would be devastating to the economy, jobs, and to the safety and livelihoods of Americans in every state,” says Jane Lubchenco, former NOAA Administrator under President Obama. A 5 per cent reduction in budget is proposed for the National Marine Fisheries Service, as well as the National Weather Service. While that may seem relatively low, NOAA’s satellite division is facing a proposed $513 million drop, or a 22 per cent budget cut. Those satellites produce 90 per cent of the data that inform weather service forecasts. Satellite data from NOAA is also used to monitor drought, help rescue lost planes or ships and track climate change.
3-6-17 Global greening may soak up less carbon dioxide than projected
Global greening may soak up less carbon dioxide than projected
Earth could warm slightly faster than we thought because a lack of phosphorus will prevent many plants exploiting all the extra CO2. Our planet is getting greener thanks in part to the growth-boosting effects of extra carbon dioxide in the air. But this greening won’t soak up quite as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as climate scientists have been projecting. That’s the conclusion of the first experiment to test the effect of raised CO2 levels on trees growing in soil low in phosphorus, which is common in the tropics and subtropics. The finding suggests forests will store around a tenth less carbon than expected, meaning CO2 levels will rise even faster than computer models are projecting. “It can make a huge difference in the projections,” says David Ellsworth of Western Sydney University in Australia, whose team carried out the experiment. Satellite studies show that while plant growth has declined in some regions, overall the planet is getting greener as it warms. Higher temperatures are usually the main factor in colder regions, while in warmer regions rising CO2 levels can be the main factor boosting growth. Higher CO2 levels can boost the growth of some plants providing they have enough of all the other nutrients they require. Projections of future CO2 factor in this fertilising effect. However, they may be overestimating it because they don’t take into account the fact that many soils in tropical and subtropical regions are low in phosphorus – an essential nutrient.
3-6-17 Brighter sky helped boost US crop yields – but it may not last
Brighter sky helped boost US crop yields – but it may not last
Some 27 per cent of the rise in maize yields over the last 30 years may be down to clearer skies and more sunshine hitting the fields, not better technology. The US corn belt is having its moment in the sun. Corn yields have been steadily rising since the first hybrid plants were introduced in the mid-1930s, but it turns out that better agricultural technologies like fertilisers, pesticides and equipment aren’t the only reason, as had long been thought. Instead, 27 per cent of the increase is due to a phenomenon called solar brightening over the northern states that make up the corn belt. This happens when the air is clear and more light can reach the ground. Places like China and India have seen solar dimming over the past few decades, but since the mid-1980s, the US corn belt has brightened significantly. The exact causes of brightening aren’t yet certain. “There’s a question to what extent it’s pollution driven or to what extent it’s natural variation in cloudiness and cloud properties, which can be related to air pollution but don’t necessarily have to be,” says Martin Wild, a climate scientist at ETH Zurich in Switzerland who wasn’t involved in the study. Crop physiologists Saratha Kumudini and Matthijs Tollenaar created a computer model looking at corn yields over a 30-year period between 1984 and 2013. They included inputs such as fertiliser use and how much solar radiation reached the ground during the 60 days following plant pollination.
3-6-17 Coal collapse drives down UK carbon emissions
Coal collapse drives down UK carbon emissions
A collapse in the use of coal has driven UK carbon emissions down to levels barely seen since the Victorian era, new figures show. Coal use fell by a record 52% in 2016 on the previous year in the face of cheap gas, higher domestic carbon prices, renewables and other factors. The drop was partially offset by increased emissions from oil and gas. The results are based on analysis of government figures by the website Carbon Brief. The Department of Energy, Business and Industrial Strategy (Beis) is due to publish its own estimates on 30 March. One of the main reasons for the drop in coal use is the carbon price floor. This carbon tax doubled in 2015 to £18 per tonne of CO2. In his budget on Wednesday, the Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to set out the future path for the tax. This could have wide-ranging implications for the planned phase out of coal and the cost of low-carbon power subsidies. Coal use has fallen by 74% since 2006 and is now 12 times below the peak of 221 millions of tonnes (Mt) burnt in 1956. While CO2 from coal fell drastically, carbon emissions from gas increased by 12.5% in 2016 as utilities switched from burning coal. CO2 from oil also went up, by 1.6%.
3-6-17 Sponge can soak up and release spilled oil hundreds of times
Sponge can soak up and release spilled oil hundreds of times
A new foam material could be the first good reusable method to recover spilled oil, and would be much better for the environment. A new material can absorb up to 90 times its own weight in spilled oil and then be squeezed out like a sponge and reused, raising hopes for easier clean-up of oil spill sites. This contrasts with most commercial products for soaking up oil, called “sorbents”. These are generally only good for a single use, acting like a paper towel used to mop up a kitchen mess and then tossed away. The discarded sorbents and oil are then normally incinerated. But what if the oil could be recovered and the sorbent reused? The new material, created by Seth Darling and his colleagues at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, seems to allow for both of these processes, cutting waste. The oil sponge consists of a simple foam made of polyurethane or polyimide plastics and coated with “oil-loving” silane molecules with a sweet spot for capturing oil. Too little chemical attraction would render the sponge useless as an absorber, whereas too much would mean the oil could not be released. In laboratory tests, the researchers found that when engineered with just the right amount of silane, their foam could repeatedly soak up and release oil with no significant changes in capacity. But to determine whether this material could help sort out a big spill in marine waters, they needed to perform a special large-scale test.
3-6-17 Is there a way to tackle air pollution?
Is there a way to tackle air pollution?
The search for solutions to the threat of polluted air is generating ideas that range from the modest to the radical to the bizarre. A London primary school may issue face-masks to its pupils. The council in Cornwall may take the extreme step of moving people out of houses beside the busiest roads. Four major cities - Paris, Athens, Mexico City and Madrid - plan to ban all diesels by 2025. Stuttgart, in Germany, has already decided to block all but the most modern diesels on polluted days. In India's capital, Delhi, often choked with dangerous air, a jet engine may be deployed in an experimental and desperate attempt to create an updraft to disperse dirty air. The World Health Organization calculates that as many as 92% of the world's population are exposed to dirty air - but that disguises the fact that many different forms of pollution are involved. For the rural poor, it is fumes from cooking on wood or dung indoors. For shanty-dwellers in booming mega-cities, it is a combination of traffic exhaust, soot and construction dust. In developed countries, it can be a mix of exhaust gas from vehicles and ammonia carried on the wind from the spraying of industrial-scale farms. In European cities, where people have been encouraged to buy fuel-efficient diesels to help reduce carbon emissions, the hazard is from the harmful gas nitrogen dioxide and tiny specks of pollution known as particulates. The first step is to understand exactly where the air is polluted and precisely how individuals are affected - and the results can be extremely revealing.
3-4-17 This is the biggest problem with the world's food systems
This is the biggest problem with the world's food systems
In recent decades, the international community has made impressive strides against hunger and undernourishment, as amply evidenced by the data from the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Between 1990 and 2014, for example, the proportion of undernourished people in the world dropped from over 23 percent to under 13 percent, remarkable progress indeed. Still, that leaves almost 800 million undernourished people in the world, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, and in other areas too. Ensuring that fewer and fewer people worldwide are undernourished is clearly a development priority — "Zero Hunger" is priority number two in the U.N. Development Program's 17 "Sustainable Development Goals" (succeeded the MDGs in 2015) — but meeting or even approaching this goal will not be easy. As I write this in early 2017, the world's population is about 7.5 billion. Current estimates suggest that by 2050 it will be around 9.7 billion, with population growing most rapidly in the areas that are now the least food-secure. This population projection is very troubling to scholars and practitioners interested in questions relating to food security. Simply put, how on Earth will we find a way to feed all these people — and, in so doing, end hunger — when it is almost certain that we'll be using an increasingly debased operating platform (less agricultural water, much of it of lower quality, more degraded lands, much-diminished natural fisheries), and will need to use fewer pesticides and less fertilizer, all in the context of climate change?
3-3-17 First yearly CO2 forecast predicts one of biggest rises ever
First yearly CO2 forecast predicts one of biggest rises ever
The forecast suggests levels of the greenhouse gas could briefly pass 410 parts per million in May, just four years after first passing 400 ppm. Now for the carbon dioxide forecast: levels of this gas in the atmosphere will rise by 2.5 parts per million to average 408 ppm in 2017. And the monthly average could exceed 410 ppm for the first time during this year’s peak in May (CO2 levels rise and fall each year with seasonal changes in plant growth). The precise forecast is 409.86 plus or minus 0.61 ppm. It is just four years since the peak level of CO2 first exceeded the troubling milestone of 400 ppm. If its concentration keeps rising at this rate, it will double compared with pre-industrial times well before the end of the century. A doubling of CO2 will warm the planet by about 3°C in the following decades, and by up to 6°C over the next few centuries. The prediction of a 2.5 ppm rise this year is the first ever official CO2 forecast by the UK’s Met Office. It was actually made last November, but the weather organisation has only just made it public. “We were able to successfully forecast the record CO2 rise that we saw last year,” says Richard Betts, who leads research into climate impacts at the Met Office Hadley Centre. “Now we’re getting happier with the method, we are going to start to do it as a routine forecast every year.” The forecast is specifically for Mauna Loa in Hawaii, where CO2 levels have been monitored since the 1950s, providing plenty of fodder for forecasters. Levels at other sites can differ slightly. CO2 is the main greenhouse gas responsible for warming the planet. Prior to the industrial age, levels in the atmosphere were around 280 ppm – and had remained below 300 ppm for at least 800,000 years. Now they have shot up to more than 400 ppm. (Webmaster's comment: And the world is trying to do something about, but not Donald Trump's America!)
3-3-17 US drinking water at risk from Trump’s cuts to pollution rules
US drinking water at risk from Trump’s cuts to pollution rules
By dismantling guidelines designed to protect US waterways from pollution, Trump is shifting the problem downstream – and leaving the taxpayer to pay for it. It’s difficult to square the rhetoric with the action. On 28 February, Trump signed an executive order restricting which bodies of water are subject to pollution regulations. Just hours later, he told Congress his administration aims to “promote clean air and clean water”. For more than a third of Americans, drinking water comes from streams or rivers, which don’t stop at state boundaries. Removing the power of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to enforce clean water laws will just push those responsibilities onto individual states. The Waters of the United States rule was added to the Clean Water Act of 1972 under the Obama Administration in 2015. It expands the EPA’s purview from “navigable” waters to any continuous flow of water. If the rule is dismantled, Trump’s speech was just politics and not policy. Leaving pollution standards up to individual states could mean that pollution from one state’s lax laws could disproportionately affect neighbouring states that share waterways. “How land is managed in one state will affect what happens downstream,” says Durelle Scott at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. “When we think about water management, we have to think about the entire watershed.” (Webmaster's comment: Clean drinking water will soon be a thing of the past thanks to Donald Trump! Your children's lives are at serious risk!)
3-1-17 We have a methane problem
We have a methane problem
With Congress set to roll back federal rules limiting methane emissions from oil and gas drilling on public and tribal lands, an independent study shows that those emissions have been far higher in recent years than previous estimates. Between 1980 to 2012, global methane emissions from oil and gas production were 73 percent higher than estimated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and by EDGAR (the European Commission's emission inventory), according to the study, published recently in Environmental Research Letters. "It is particularly the emissions from oil production that are higher. For more recent years, my estimates show that methane from global oil production are about the double compared with the estimates by EDGAR and USEPA," says Lena Höglund-Isaksson, a researcher at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, Austria. The study is the first to account for different production management systems and geological conditions around the world. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, trapping heat 72 times more efficiently than CO2 over a 20-year span. Even though it only persists in the atmosphere for about a decade, scientists rank methane as the second-most important contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide. Significant amounts of methane also come from agriculture, landfills, and melting permafrost. Cutting methane emissions in the short term would help buy some time in the global race to cap warming to less than two degrees Celsius, as targeted by the Paris climate agreement.