76 Global Warming News Articles
for August of 2017
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8-31-17 Hurricane Harvey: US petrol prices rise as key pipeline shut
Hurricane Harvey: US petrol prices rise as key pipeline shut
US petrol prices have risen after a key network of pipelines was shut in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, sparking fears of a squeeze on fuel supplies to major US cities. The hurricane has already forced the closure of nearly a quarter of US oil refining capacity. Colonial Pipeline said it was closing its pipelines delivering diesel, petrol and aviation fuel along the East Coast. It later said the line east of Lake Charles, Louisiana, remained open. However, Colonial says "deliveries will be intermittent and dependent on terminal and refinery supply". It said it would be able to return to service from Houston on Sunday. European traders are scrambling to provide additional supplies.
8-31-17 Harvey is just the beginning. America must get ready.
Harvey is just the beginning. America must get ready.
opical storm Harvey has finally moved on from Texas. It dumped over 50 inches of rain in some areas of Houston, making it the worst rainfall event in U.S. history. Flooding damage will be in the tens of billions of dollars at the very least. Now the process of cleanup and rebuilding begins. But it also raises one important question: How can we prevent such disasters in the future? Unfortunately, there will be no completely avoiding some damage. But there are many steps we can take to increase American resilience, and more importantly, head off even worse disasters in the future. To start with, Harvey was almost certainly strengthened and intensified by climate change. Unusually warm waters both at the surface and deeper in the Gulf of Mexico allowed the storm to surge from a Category 1 to a Category 4 just off the Gulf Coast, something that is extraordinarily rare. Warming also seems to have disrupted normal wind patterns, which might be why Harvey stalled directly over Houston for days, then wandered back out to sea, only to make landfall again on Wednesday. That combination of laziness and strength is what allowed it to dump over four feet of rain. But we must remember that so far the world has only experienced about one degree Celsius of warming. Climate disasters after two degrees of warming will probably be more than twice as bad as they are now, because the relationship between temperature and atmospheric water vapor capacity is nonlinear (that is, one unit of temperature increase means greater than one unit of increase in maximum humidity). More water-saturated air means more powerful storms — and that's leaving aside slower-moving problems like sea level rise, glacial melt, disruptions to agriculture, chronic extreme heat, and so on. America must therefore undergo a crash decarbonization program as fast as possible, while rejoining the world diplomatic effort to coordinate emissions reductions. This wouldn't prevent future Harveys, but it would head off far, far worse future disasters.
8-31-17 Another major hurricane is already brewing in the Atlantic
Another major hurricane is already brewing in the Atlantic
As Texas continues to reel from the devastating effects of Tropical Storm Harvey, another hurricane is brewing over the eastern Atlantic. On Thursday, the National Weather Service upgraded storm Irma to a Category 2 hurricane, with winds anticipated to near 100 miles per hour. Irma could further intensify into a Category 3 hurricane by the end of the day, and it's expected to be a "an extremely dangerous hurricane for the next several days," an advisory statement warned. It's too soon to tell if Irma will affect the U.S., but officials are closely monitoring the strengthening storm. Right now, Irma, the fourth hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, is located about 1,845 miles east of the West Indies' Leeward Islands.
8-31-17 ‘Mother’ coral reefs are breathing life into their neighbours
‘Mother’ coral reefs are breathing life into their neighbours
Strong currents in the Red Sea are sweeping huge masses of larvae-rich sea water from one reef to the next. Meet the Gaias of the coral world. “Mother” reefs are spreading life to their neighbours via swift ocean currents. This activity was spotted from space, after Dionysios Raitsos at Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK and his colleagues studied satellite images of ocean currents in the Red Sea from 1992 to 2012. “We could see how currents were dragging huge water masses carrying fish eggs, larvae and coral larvae from one area to another,” says Raitsos. “We used satellite data to identify the most important ‘mother’ reefs, which we found were population donors.” Identifying and protecting mother reefs, both in the Red Sea and elsewhere, could be the most effective way to conserve more distant reefs that are “receivers” rather than propagators of marine life, he says. Some currents were so strong and fast that they could sweep larvae between the flanks of the Red Sea – an average distance of around 280 kilometres – in just two weeks. This allows life to spread, says Raitsos, because larvae and eggs can survive for that long.
8-30-17 Brazil rejects bid to drill for oil near unique Amazon reef
Brazil rejects bid to drill for oil near unique Amazon reef
Total has had its drilling licence turned down, with Brazil’s environment agency saying the French oil giant has failed to address the environmental risk of oil spills. Brazil has rejected an application from the French oil giant Total and its collaborator BP to drill for oil near a pristine deep-water coral reef 120 kilometres from the mouth of the Amazon river. Total had applied to drill for oil at sites in the Foz do Amazonas Basin, an oil-rich marine zone close to the huge reef. The company said that the reef wouldn’t be harmed as the proposed drilling sites were at least 30 kilometres away. But Brazil’s environment agency Ibama isn’t convinced. “Oil dispersion modelling, for example, leaves no doubt about the potential impacts on the coral reef and marine biodiversity more broadly,” the president of Ibama, Suely Araújo, said when announcing the agency’s verdict on 29 August. In a technical opinion, the agency cited unresolved issues. It refused to issue a licence until and unless the company could provide additional information through a revised application. That will be Total’s last chance to win a licence. “Total Brazil is evaluating the request for technical information received from Ibama,” a company spokesperson told New Scientist. “At this point, the environmental licensing process is still under way.” Ibama is also worried about political fallout from spills that contaminate neighbouring islands and countries. It highlights the need for international negotiations to manage potential risks to French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana and Venezuela, as well as Caribbean archipelagos.
8-30-17 Taking Earth’s pulse: How to predict eruptions from space
Taking Earth’s pulse: How to predict eruptions from space
Our planet’s inner stirrings manifest as moving bulges on the surface. Now an eye in the sky is watching them to help predict disasters and save lives. APART from the enormous tortoises and wealth of other wildlife, the Galapagos Islands are home to thousands of people. Some 200 live on Isabella Island, the archipelago’s largest landmass, which they share with Cerro Azul, an active volcano. So when scientists picked up signals suggesting the volcano was stirring, they were justifiably worried. The quiverings underneath the volcano were detected at the Geophysical Institute in Quito, Ecuador, in March. The scientists acted fast. First, to be on the safe side, they issued a warning to residents. Then they rang a team that they hoped could confirm if an eruption was imminent. While most geoscientists rely on ground-based measurements to help interpret the planet’s inner manoeuvres and rumblings, the crack squad on the end of the phone thinks it has a faster, better method. Earth’s hidden activities manifest themselves as subtle bulges and dips on its surface. So, find a way to follow such movements, and we would open a new window into the realm below. That could help us discover hidden fault lines, track the underground course of magma streams and learn how earthquakes change the delicate balance of Earth’s tectonic plates. More importantly, it could save lives. What happens in the bowels of the planet is a mystery, but we have a decent idea about the nature of the first few hundred kilometres beneath the surface. Tectonic plates, at most 250 kilometres thick, float on a layer of molten rock. Sometimes, those plates move suddenly against or away from each other, creating earthquakes. And at spots we call volcanoes, the liquid rock spills onto the surface.
8-29-17 Hurricane Harvey: The link to climate change
Hurricane Harvey: The link to climate change
When it comes to the causes of Hurricane Harvey, climate change is not a smoking gun. However, there are a few spent cartridge cases marked global warming in the immediate vicinity. Hurricanes are complex, naturally occurring beasts - extremely difficult to predict, with or without the backdrop of rising global temperatures. The scientific reality of attributing a role to climate change in worsening the impact of hurricanes is also hard to tease out simply because these are fairly rare events and there is not a huge amount of historical data. But there are some things that we can say with a good deal of certainty. There's a well-established physical law, the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, that says that a hotter atmosphere holds more moisture. For every extra degree Celsius in warming, the atmosphere can hold 7% more water. This tends to make rainfall events even more extreme when they occur. Another element that we can mention with some confidence is the temperature of the seas. "The waters of the Gulf of Mexico are about 1.5 degrees warmer above what they were from 1980-2010," Sir Brian Hoskins from the Grantham Institute for Climate Change told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "That is very significant because it means the potential for a stronger storm is there, and the contribution of global warming to the warmer waters in the Gulf, it's almost inevitable that there was a contribution to that." Researchers are also quite confident in linking the intensity of the rainfall that is still falling in the Houston area to climate change. "This is the type of event, in terms of the extreme rainfall, that we would expect to see more of in a warming climate," Dr Friederike Otto from the University of Oxford told BBC News.
8-29-17 Texas may be just as vulnerable when next big hurricane hits
Texas may be just as vulnerable when next big hurricane hits
Houston is battling unprecedented floods from Hurricane Harvey – and yet Texas’s plans to protect itself from floods remain stalled. Hurricane Harvey made landfall late on Friday night. It is one of the worst hurricanes to hit the southern US since Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005. At time of writing, Harvey is still hovering over Texas’s Gulf Coast. It has been downgraded to “tropical storm” status but is still battering Houston and surrounding areas with heavy rainfall. For towns ravaged by 210-kilometre-per-hour winds (130 mph) and, in some places, 2 metres of storm surge, the biggest danger is now catastrophic flooding. Nine people have been reported dead as local and federal emergency services struggle to evacuate thousands of residents fleeing the rising water. While Harvey wasn’t caused by climate change, warmer air and water temperatures contributed to up to 75 centimetres rainfall, and resulting flooding, in the area. And the rain isn’t expected to peter out for another couple of days. Some parts of Texas are expected to see almost 130 centimetres (51 inches) of rain by the time it’s all over. Temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are running a degree warmer than normal, after being 2 or 3°C above normal in spring, says Kristina Dahl, a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “A warming world has the potential not for more hurricanes, but rather more intense hurricanes,” she says. Warmer air can hold more water vapour that is eventually rained out, and warmer water holds more energy for a hurricane to draw its power from.
8-28-17 Hurricane Harvey is America's climate future
Hurricane Harvey is America's climate future.
Hurricane Harvey pummeled southern Texas all weekend, causing apocalyptic flooding. Worse, several more days of torrential rainfall are in the cards, as Harvey is predicted to slowly wander slightly back out to sea and then make landfall again in a day or two. Several deaths have already been confirmed, and forecasters estimate there will be up to 50 inches of rain in the worst-hit areas. This destruction is a window into the future of climate change. This is what happens when humanity fails to either meaningfully restrict greenhouse gas emissions or prepare for the damage that is certainly coming. Now, before the inevitable pedant brigade pounces in, that doesn't mean Harvey was definitely caused by climate change. Global temperatures have only markedly increased for a few decades, and extreme weather events are rare and random by definition. It will take many more years for enough data to be collected to be able to establish causality. But what we can say is that climate science predicts with high confidence that increased temperatures will increase the likelihood of extreme weather. It will make hurricanes that do form stronger. It may also increase the number of hurricanes, though that's harder to predict with certainty. It's also besides the point. A storm doesn't need to qualify as a hurricane to pose many of the same dangers. Simple big storms can still have high winds, tornadoes, and especially flooding, which is the major danger along the Gulf Coast. (Webmaster's comment: It's so simple. Adding more heat to the atmosphere, the oceans, and the land is increasing the energy in the environment. And with more energy the environment releases more as it tries to reach a new stable equilibrium. Good luck on that. More storms and worse storms are in our future for decades if not centuries to come.)
8-28-17 Why did we use leaded petrol for so long?
Why did we use leaded petrol for so long?
Leaded petrol was safe. Its inventor was sure of it. Facing sceptical reporters at a press conference in October 1924, Thomas Midgley dramatically produced a container of tetraethyl lead - the additive in question - and washed his hands in it. "I'm not taking any chance whatever," Midgley declared. "Nor would I... doing that every day." Midgley was - perhaps - being a little disingenuous. He had recently spent several months in Florida, recuperating from lead poisoning. Some of those who'd made Midgley's invention hadn't been so lucky, which is why reporters were interested. On the Thursday of the week before Midgley's press conference, at a Standard Oil plant in New Jersey, a worker named Ernest Oelgert started hallucinating. By Friday, he was running around the laboratory, screaming in terror. On Saturday, with Oelgert dangerously unhinged, his sister called the police. He was taken to hospital and forcibly restrained. By Sunday, he was dead. Within the week, so were four of his colleagues - and 35 more were in hospital. Only 49 people worked there. None of this surprised workers elsewhere in Standard Oil's facility. They knew there was a problem with tetraethyl lead. As Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner note in their book Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial Pollution, the lab where it was developed was known as "the loony gas building". Nor should it have shocked Standard Oil, General Motors or the DuPont Corporation, the three companies involved with adding tetraethyl lead to gasoline. (Webmaster's comment: It's always about making the corporate executives richer. It's never about the dead customers!)
8-25-17 VW engineer jailed for emissions scandal
VW engineer jailed for emissions scandal
A former Volkswagen engineer who helped develop a device that enabled cars to evade US pollution rules has been sentenced to more than three years in prison and ordered to pay $200,000. James Liang, 63, was the first person prosecuted in the emissions scandal. The US investigation has led to charges against seven others in the US and sparked probes in other countries. Volkswagen has admitted guilt, agreeing to spend as much as $25bn to address US claims. Liang co-operated with prosecutors, who argued that his help with the investigation warranted a reduction in the possible punishment to three years in prison and a $20,000 fine. But US District Court Judge Sean Cox opted for a harsher penalty of 40 months and a $200,000 penalty, saying he wanted to send a message to others in the car industry. "This is a very serious and troubling crime against our economic system," he said. Volkswagen has admitted that it used software installed in diesel vehicles to deceive environmental regulators in the US and Europe between 2006-15. The German company sold about 11 million such vehicles globally, including almost 600,000 in the US. The devices, which allowed vehicles to perform better in test conditions than they did on the road, came to light after a study of emissions by researchers at West Virginia University. (Webmaster's comment: Engineers do what they are told to do by the executives in a company. It's the executives that need to get severe fines and prison time!)
8-25-17 Hurricane Harvey: Texas braces for category two storm
Hurricane Harvey: Texas braces for category two storm
Texas is bracing itself for Hurricane Harvey, which may be the worst storm to hit the US mainland in 12 years. The category-two hurricane, currently in the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to make landfall along the state's central coast on Friday night local time. The National Hurricane Center said storm surges may bring life-threatening floods in and around Houston. The storm has the potential for up to 3ft of rain, 130mph (210km/h) winds and 12ft storm surges, say forecasters. Harvey - which has been gaining strength - will also strike at the heart of Texas's oil refining industry. Meteorologists are warning of extremely high volumes of rainfall as the storm "meanders" over the middle Texas coast. They say Harvey may remain in the area dumping rain until the middle of next week. Energy companies have been evacuating staff from offshore platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Texan oil refineries on land are also shutting down in preparation for the storm. As a result, US fuel prices have reached a three week-high. (Webmaster's comment: And many more and worse to come.)
8-25-17 Switzerland landslide: Are the Alps melting?
Switzerland landslide: Are the Alps melting?
A massive rockslide in Switzerland's Val Bondasca was not a complete surprise. Many parts of Switzerland, two thirds of which is mountainous, are at risk of avalanches and landslides. Communities in the Alps have been protecting themselves against such natural hazards for years. Before Wednesday's landslide, sensors on the Piz Cenaglo, high above the Bondasca valley, had already shown that the rock mass was moving. That warning triggered the automatic closure of some sections of road. The village of Bondo had a narrow escape. The four million cubic metres (141m cubic feet) of mud and rock which thundered down the mountain ended up just centimetres from people's homes. That wasn't just luck. Bondo has a concrete barrier to protect it from the full force of a landslide, and the river bed in the Bondasca Valley has been widened in the hope of channelling landslides away from populated areas. But the size of Wednesday's slide was a shock, and some scientists are now warning that the alpine regions can expect more events like this in the future.
8-25-17 Conservationist murdered
A leading wildlife conservationist who spearheaded campaigns against elephant poachers and ivory smugglers was shot and killed in Tanzania this week in what police believe may have been a targeted attack. Wayne Lotter, a 51-year-old South African, was in a taxi in Dar es Salaam when another car blocked his vehicle. Two men opened the door to his taxi and shot him twice. In 2009, Lotter co-founded the PAMS Foundation, a nonprofit that has trained thousands of game scouts across Tanzania and worked with the government to bust nearly 1,400 poachers and ivory traffickers. Tanzania’s director for criminal investigation, Robert Boaz, said he suspected that Lotter’s killers “may have been watching his movements.” Poaching caused Tanzania’s elephant population to drop from 109,000 in 2009 to 43,000 in 2014.
8-25-17 Unicorn of the sea: Narwhals' Arctic home is melting
Unicorn of the sea: Narwhals' Arctic home is melting
Narwhals are one of the most mysterious ocean species, but as their icy home melts, it's becoming easier to study them, but more deadly to the narwhals. So what have scientists found? Jane O'Brien reports.
8-25-17 Antarctica’s hidden volcanoes
Antarctica’s hidden volcanoes
Geologists have identified 91 previously undiscovered volcanoes beneath the Antarctic ice sheet—a massive range that has the potential to trigger a catastrophic rise in global sea levels. The discovery was made by researchers from the University of Edinburgh using ice-penetrating radar. The 91 peaks lie under more than a mile of ice, and along with 47 previously identified volcanoes make up the largest volcanic region in the world. If one or more of these volcanoes erupted, co-author Robert Bingham tells The Guardian (U.K.), it could have a catastrophic effect on climate change. “Anything that causes the melting of ice, which an eruption certainly would, is likely to speed up the flow of ice into the sea,” he says. “The big question is: How active are these volcanoes?” Global warming could cause a feedback loop: Melting ice relieves downward pressure on the volcanoes, which could then become more active. Bingham notes that the most active volcanic regions in the world—among them Iceland and Alaska—lost their glacial covering after the last ice age. “It is something we will have to watch closely,” Bingham says.
8-24-17 Twisted carbon nanotubes harness waste energy and put it to work
Twisted carbon nanotubes harness waste energy and put it to work
The “twistron harvester” generates power at the highest rates for energy harvesting yet, so may finally live up to the technique’s century-long promise. It sounds like a simple task: use ambient energy from your surroundings to do something handy, such as charge your iPod from the vibrations of your morning run. But few of the many energy-harvesting devices introduced over the past hundred years have lived up to the promise of the idea. They just don’t seem able to eke out enough power to do anything useful. That looks set to change. An energy-harvesting device that uses carbon nanotubes is already hitting power levels higher than any others have ever shown. The nanotubes are spun into a yarn around a twentieth of a millimetre thick, then twisted into coils thinner than the width of a human hair. These coils are then submerged in an electrolyte to complete the device, dubbed a twistron harvester. Using yarn less than the weight of a mosquito, the team was able to generate enough power to run an LED – just from the ambient activity of ocean waves and body movements. “We’re generating higher amounts of power than any other harvesters, some of which have been around for decades,” says Ray Baughman at the University of Texas at Dallas. Energy harvesters have modest goals: rather than powering homes, they aim to power remote devices for which changing a battery is a pain, says Yu Jia at the University of Chester, UK. For example, in 2015, Jia used a previous generation of energy harvesters to power sensors on the underside of the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland. “For maintenance and testing, it’s really helpful to have wireless sensors under the bridge,” he says. For similar reasons, the UK company Perpetuum attaches sensors to the bottom of trains.
8-24-17 First tanker crosses northern sea route without ice breaker
First tanker crosses northern sea route without ice breaker
A commercial LNG tanker has sailed across the colder, northern route from Europe to Asia without the protection of an ice-breaker for the first time. The specially-built ship completed the crossing in just six-and-a-half days setting a new record, according to the tanker's Russian owners. The 300-metre-long Sovcomflot ship, the Christophe de Margerie, was carrying gas from Norway to South Korea. Rising Arctic temperatures are boosting commercial shipping across this route. The Christophe de Margerie is the world's first and, at present, only ice-breaking LNG carrier. The ship, which features a lightweight steel reinforced hull, is the largest commercial ship to receive Arc7 certification, which means it is capable of travelling through ice up to 2.1m thick. On this trip it was able to keep up an average speed of 14 knots despite sailing through ice that was over one-metre-thick in places. It will be the first of a planned fleet of 15 that will transport gas from these ice bound fields all year round. (Webmaster's comment: Again America plays second fiddle.)
8-24-17 Brazil opens vast Amazon reserve to mining
Brazil opens vast Amazon reserve to mining
Brazil's government has abolished a vast national reserve in the Amazon to open up the area to mining. The area, covering 46,000 sq km (17,800 sq miles), straddles the northern states of Amapa and Para, and is thought to be rich in gold, and other minerals. The government said nine conservation and indigenous land areas within it would continue to be legally protected. But activists have voiced concern that these areas could be badly compromised. A decree from President Michel Temer abolished a protected area known as the National Reserve of Copper and Associates (Renca). Its size is larger than Denmark and about 30% of it will be open to mining. The mining and energy ministry says protected forest areas and indigenous reserves will not be affected. "The objective of the measure is to attract new investments, generating wealth for the country and employment and income for society, always based on the precepts of sustainability," the ministry said in a statement. But opposition Senator Randolfe Rodrigues denounced the move as "the biggest attack on the Amazon of the last 50 years", O Globo newspaper reported (in Portuguese). Maurício Voivodic, head of the conservation body WWF in Brazil, warned last month that mining in the area would lead to "demographic explosion, deforestation, the destruction of water resources, the loss of biodiversity and the creation of land conflict". (Webmaster's comment: Destroying ourselves one huge chunk of forest at a time.)
8-24-17 Will fairy tale Bialowieza forest survive Poland’s fight with the EU?
Will fairy tale Bialowieza forest survive Poland’s fight with the EU?
Primeval forest like Bialowieza used to cover the European plain 10,000 years ago, and the Polish government is fighting an EU order to stop logging it. (Webmaster's comment: Like I said destroying ourselves one huge chunk of forest at a time.)
8-23-17 We really can run the world on renewable energy – here’s how
We really can run the world on renewable energy – here’s how
People often ask me if I think there is any hope that the world can transition to clean, renewable energy fast enough to avoid the deadly and damaging impacts of a rapidly warming planet. I say yes. That’s despite the popular belief that we are doomed because many politicians, for a variety of reasons, don’t want to let go of fossil fuels. As such, they continue to support non-renewables and give only lip service to clean, renewable energy, preventing a rapid transition. There are also those who question the practicalities: for example, how to keep the supply grid stable with 100 per cent, as opposed to 80 per cent, clean, renewable energy. Despite the naysaying, I remain optimistic that a complete transition can happen globally for several reasons. First, knowledge is power. There are already at least 25 peer-reviewed papers showing different ways of achieving 100 per cent or near 100 per cent renewable electricity. Our team at Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley, has been developing 100 per cent clean, renewable energy roadmaps for states, countries and the world for about a decade. This week, a new 27-author study in the inaugural issue of the sustainable energy journal Joule sets out roadmaps for 139 countries, representing more than 99 per cent of all emissions. These roadmaps quantify the costs and benefits of transitioning all forms of energy for all purposes to electricity – supplied by 80 per cent wind, water and solar power (WWS) by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2050. We present one WWS roadmap, but many other combinations of WWS technologies will work as well. By all forms of energy, I mean electricity, transportation, heating, cooling, industry and more. The study found not only that this is possible in all 139 countries, but also that such roadmaps, if implemented, would bring major gains. These gains include preventing almost all of the 4 to 7 million deaths caused each year by air pollution as well as hundreds of millions of cases of ill-health, such as lung disease. Transitioning to 100 per cent renewables would also provide over 24 million more permanent, full-time jobs than are lost and stabilise energy prices while reducing energy costs. It would also reduce the risk of terrorism and catastrophe associated with large, centralised energy plants, improve access to power to billions of people in energy poverty, and reduce power demand by about 43 per cent – due primarily to the greater efficiency of electricity over combustion and the elimination of energy for the mining, transporting and refining of fossil fuels. (Webmaster's comment: Another must read!)
8-23-17 'Alarmingly high' levels of arsenic in Pakistan's ground water
'Alarmingly high' levels of arsenic in Pakistan's ground water
Up to 60 million people in Pakistan are at risk from the deadly chemical arsenic, according to a new analysis of water supplies. The study looked at data from nearly 1,200 groundwater quality samples from across the country. The resulting risk map shows concentrations well above World Health Organization (WHO) safety guidelines across the Indus plain. The research has been published in the journal, Science Advances. Arsenic is a semi-metallic element found all over the world in varying concentrations. Humans come into contact with it because it leaches into groundwater from rocks and sediments. The WHO says about 150 million people around the world rely on groundwater contaminated with arsenic. Long-term exposure can lead to a variety of chronic health conditions, including skin disorders, cancers of the lung and bladder as well as cardiovascular issues. The WHO has established a level of 10 micrograms per litre as the permissible concentration in drinking water. In Pakistan, the government says that 50 micrograms per litre is acceptable. This new study shows that 50-60 million people living in the Indus valley, which runs through much of eastern Pakistan, are drinking water which very likely exceeds their government's safe level.
8-23-17 Chile's Atacama desert: World's driest place in bloom after surprise rain
Chile's Atacama desert: World's driest place in bloom after surprise rain
After intense and unexpected rain fell in the north of Chile, parts of the usually arid Atacama desert have turned into a carpet of flowers. The "desierto florido" (flowering desert) phenomenon usually occurs every five to seven years when rains cause buried seeds to germinate and flower. But this bloom comes just two years after a a particularly colourful flowering in 2015. More than 200 species of plant have been found to grow in the area. The spectacle draws visitors and botanists from Chile and further afield. Tourism officials said they hoped more flowers would bloom in the coming weeks as different species germinate at different times.
8-23-17 Nickelodeon scraps plan for underwater Philippines resort
Nickelodeon scraps plan for underwater Philippines resort
US children's television network Nickelodeon is abandoning plans to build an underwater theme park on an island in the Philippines. Environmentalists said the planned resort on Palawan island would damage the area's world-famous marine ecosystem. The island is home to some of the most diverse coastlines in South East Asia. An online petition calling for the project to be scrapped attracted more than 260,000 signatures. Viacom International Media Networks, which owns Nickelodeon, said: "[Viacom] and Nickelodeon will no longer be involved with this proposed development". They added that the decision was "mutually agreed" with its Philippine partner, Coral World Park.
8-22-17 'Cyborg' bacteria deliver green fuel source from sunlight
'Cyborg' bacteria deliver green fuel source from sunlight
Scientists have created bacteria covered in tiny semiconductors that generate a potential fuel source from sunlight, carbon dioxide and water. The so-called "cyborg" bugs produce acetic acid, a chemical that can then be turned into fuel and plastic. In lab experiments, the bacteria proved much more efficient at harvesting sunlight than plants. The work was presented at the American Chemical Society meeting in Washington. Researchers have been attempting to artificially replicate photosynthesis for many years. In nature, the green pigment chlorophyll is key to this process, helping plants to convert carbon dioxide and water, using sunlight, into oxygen and glucose. But despite the fact that it works, scientists say the process is relatively inefficient. This has also been a big problem with most of the artificial systems developed to date. This new approach seeks to improve that efficiency by essentially aiming to equip bacteria with solar panels. After combing through old microbiology literature, researchers realised that some bugs have a natural defence to cadmium, mercury or lead that lets them turn the heavy metal into a sulphide which the bacteria express as a tiny, crystal semiconductor on their surfaces. "It's shamefully simple, we've harnessed a natural ability of these bacteria that had never been looked at through this lens," said Dr Kelsey Sakimoto from Harvard University in Massachusetts, US.
8-22-17 Chile rejects iron mine to protect penguins
Chile rejects iron mine to protect penguins
The Chilean government has rejected plans for a billion-dollar mining project because it would disrupt sea life, including endangered penguins. A Chilean company, Andes Iron, had wanted to extract millions of tonnes of iron in the northern Coquimbo region as well as building a new port. Ministers said the project did not provide sufficient environmental guarantees. Coquimbo is close to the islands which form Chile's Humboldt Penguin Reserve. The area is home to 80% of the world's Humboldt penguins as well as other endangered species, including blue whales, fin whales and sea otters. Environment Minister Marcelo Mena said: "I firmly believe in development, but it cannot be at the cost of our environmental heritage or cause risk to health, or to unique ecological areas in the world." (Webmaster's comment: At least some countries are taking a stand for people and against corporate greed!)
8-20-17 The winners and losers of Mexico's wind power boom
The winners and losers of Mexico's wind power boom
In La Ventosa - which means windy - residents are renting out their land for wind farms. The village 700km from Mexico City, is part of Mexico's clean energy drive. But not everyone is happy.
8-18-17 Can a crowdsourced mega-forest offset Trump’s climate chaos?
Can a crowdsourced mega-forest offset Trump’s climate chaos?
It's an appealing idea, a vast forest to soak up the extra carbon released due to Trump's policies, but it may not be so easy in reality, says Olive Heffernan. Since taking up residence in the White House in January, President Donald Trump has made good on his promise to put a wrecking ball through environmental protections. Notably, the billionaire businessman has signed an executive order to rescind the Clean Power Plan, a policy that would drastically cut emissions from US coal-burning power plants, and has pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement that aims to keep planetary warming below 2°C. The Trump administration has taken many other small steps – approving the Keystone XL pipeline and rolling back restrictions on vehicle exhaust emissions, for example – that together damage aspirations of the US entering a post-carbon era soon. Even without his interventions, we are on course for the world to be more than 3°C warmer by the end of this century. So it’s hard not to feel despondent at this systematic dismantling of environmental policy. But news this week suggests a more productive response. The BBC, and other outlets, report that a global tree-planting project – aimed at countering the president’s environmental impact – is now gaining momentum, with more than 250,000 trees already pledged. The brainchild of Dan Price, Jeff Willis, and Adrien Taylor – a scientist, a PhD candidate and a sustainable hat maker – “Trump Forest” aims to soak up the extra carbon emissions that would be released as a result of Trump axing the Clean Power Plan. That’s a tall order – fully implemented, the Clean Power Plan would stop 650 million tonnes of carbon dioxide being released over the next 8 years. In practice, the forest won’t be just in one place, but planted piecemeal in many regions, through the efforts of its supporters. (Webmaster's comment: It takes about 2 trees to produce enough oxygen for a person for a year. So I'm planting six for my apartment house. Enough for me and two others. It also takes about two trees to get rid the CO2 I breath out. So I am now "personally" carbon neutral. But my use of energy in America means I am responsible for about 20 tons of CO2 being added to the atmosphere which means I need to plant another 150 trees.)
8-17-17 Radioactive 'pooh sticks' trace carbon's ocean journey
Radioactive 'pooh sticks' trace carbon's ocean journey
Radioactive iodine from nuclear reprocessing plants in the UK and France has been detected deep in the waters near Bermuda. Scientists say the contaminants take a circuitous route travelling via the Arctic Ocean and down past Greenland. Researchers believe the radioactivity levels are extremely low and present no danger. However, scientists can use the iodine to accurately map the currents that transport greenhouse gases. One scientific consequence that arose from the testing of nuclear bombs in the atmosphere in the 1950s was that their radioactive fallout provided a powerful global tracer of water circulation and deep-ocean ventilation. Other sources of radioactive material for scientists to track water movements have been the nuclear reprocessing plants at Sellafield in the UK and at La Hague in France. Contaminants have been legally released from these sites for more than 50 years. One in particular, Iodine-129 (129I), has been very useful for scientists tracing the ocean currents that help pull down greenhouse gases into the waters. "What we have found is that by tracing radioactive iodine released into the seas off the UK and France, we have been able to confirm how the deep ocean currents flow in the North Atlantic," said lead researcher Dr John Smith from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, in Canada. "This is the first study to show precise and continuous tracking of Atlantic water flowing northward into the Arctic Ocean off Norway, circulating around the arctic basins and returning to the Nordic seas in what we call the 'Arctic loop', and then flowing southward down the continental slope of North America to Bermuda at depths below 3000 metres."
8-16-17 Fighting to breathe in the face of Canada’s wildfire emergency
Fighting to breathe in the face of Canada’s wildfire emergency
IT’S stiflingly hot and I’m trapped inside a dome of smoke. I know I’m in a river valley nestled within mountain ranges, but the visibility is cut so low that I can’t see any of the peaks that dominate landscapes across British Columbia. It’s the worst documented wildfire season since 1958. “We have a very significant fire season unfolding,” says Daniel Perrakis, a fire research scientist at the Canadian Forest Service. Over 591,000 hectares have burned so far. I’ve left my coastal home in Vancouver and travelled to Kamloops to support evacuation efforts. Shifting winds have helped funnel smoke into the city, filling the air with fine material that makes breathing difficult. My eyes sting when I walk outside. The story of how things got like this is a slow-speed disaster of climate change, a beetle invasion and the unintended consequences of well-meaning policy gone wrong. British Columbia is a mountainous province in western Canada. It is more than half covered in forest, with lodgepole pine dominating every ecosystem except the alpine tundra. Over the past century, the forest industry has transformed native woodland into denser, more homogenous stands of trees by suppressing fires and replanting the area with only the most economically valuable species for the timber industry. An unintended recent consequence has been a province-wide outbreak of the native bark beetle that has devastated the region’s forests, particularly between 2006 and 2008. The dense, homogenous stands of lodgepole pine allowed the beetles to spread quickly, while a changing climate reduced the severity and duration of winters that historically kept the beetle population in check.
8-16-17 Weird creatures are spreading polluting plastic through the sea
Weird creatures are spreading polluting plastic through the sea
Plastic particles sink to the seabed after being eaten and excreted by animals called larvaceans, which could be why we see less floating plastic than expected. Small filter-feeding animals in the world’s oceans take in bits of plastic and excrete them in pellets that sink to the ocean floor. The feeding behaviour of these creatures, known as larvaceans, may transport vast amounts of microplastics from the upper layers of the ocean down into the depths. And it could be why surveys are finding far less plastic floating in the oceans than expected. The removal of plastic from surface waters might sound like a good thing, but this isn’t necessarily the case. “It means plastic is a much bigger problem than just at the surface,” says Kakani Katija of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California. “It has the potential to affect the inhabitants at various depths throughout the ocean.” It could also affect us, says her colleague Anela Choy. We eat a lot of animals that live on the seafloor, such as crabs. While terms like the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” conjure up visions of floating islands of rubbish, most of the plastic in the oceans consists of tiny pieces invisible to the human eye. To find out what happens to the plastic, Katija and Choy studied larvaceans: filter-feeding animals that are distantly related to vertebrates. They focused on giant larvaceans (Bathochordaeus stygius). The bodies of these tadpole-like creatures are just a few centimetres long, but the mucus “houses” they secrete can be a metre across.
8-16-17 Giant larvaceans could be ferrying ocean plastic to the seafloor
Giant larvaceans could be ferrying ocean plastic to the seafloor
Giant larvaceans (Bathochordaeus stygius) appear to eat microplastics when exposed to them in underwater experiments. The sea creatures could play a role in how plastic pollution cycles through ocean ecosystems. Everybody poops, but the poop of bloblike filter feeders called giant larvaceans could be laced with microplastics. Every day, these gelatinous creatures (Bathochordaeus stygius) build giant disposable mucus mansions to round up zooplankton into their stomachs — sometimes sifting through around 80 liters of seawater per hour. Kakani Katija and her colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute now suggest that tiny plastic particles also make their way in — and out — of giant larvaceans’ guts. Microplastics pervade the ocean. Their combined mass could reach 250 million metric tons by 2025. Scientists don’t know a lot about where microplastics stick around in open water ecosystems. To see if plastics could end up on the larvacean menu, Katija and colleagues tried feeding the animals brightly colored microplastics. An underwater robot equipped with camera gear helped the researchers monitor plastic intake from above. Some animals did end up scarfing down the particles, and some of those particles ended up in the organism’s waste, which showers down on the seafloor, Katija and colleagues report August 16 in Science Advances.
8-16-17 Scotland's largest solar farm gets green light
Scotland's largest solar farm gets green light
The green light has been given for what will be Scotland's largest solar farm. Moray Council has granted Elgin Energy planning permission for a 20MW project near Urquhart, which could see about 80,000 solar panels installed. The farm will be constructed on the 47-hectare Speyslaw site - the equivalent of about 40 football pitches. The largest Scottish solar farm is currently a 13MW project at Errol Estate in Perthshire, which went live in May last year. Bristol-based Elgin Energy also developed that scheme, which includes 55,000 solar panels capable of generating power for more than 3,500 homes. A date for the start of the project has yet to be set. The project will include a substation, 20 inverter stations and a CCTV camera system. All cabling at the site - spread over three fields at the Innes Estate - will be underground, allowing sheep to graze around the panels. (Webmaster's comment: Putting the ignorant coal miners out of work one solar panel at a time! Maybe they could learn to dig ditches for Trump's infrastructure projects. Or better yet learn how to make wind turbines and solar panels.)
8-15-17 This year may be one of the worst ever for Atlantic hurricanes
This year may be one of the worst ever for Atlantic hurricanes
Between 14 and 19 storms are predicted to sweep across the Atlantic from June to November this year, threatening the US and other countries. Batten down the hatches. The US Atlantic coastline may be facing its worst hurricane season since 2010, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned last week. Forecasters at NOAA predict there will be between 14 and 19 named storms – those with sustained wind speeds of at least 63 kilometres per hour – between 1 June and 30 November, compared with an average of 12. Six named storms have already struck the region. Likewise, NOAA predicts that two to five major hurricanes – with sustained winds of at least 179 kilometres per hour – will brew this year, compared with an average of three. None have formed so far. “Our update to the initial outlook in May increases the likelihood of an above-normal season to 60 per cent from 45 per cent,” says Susan Buchanan, director of public affairs at NOAA’s National Weather Service. NOAA upgraded its alert because of changing weather conditions since May that make storms and hurricanes more likely. One factor is abnormally warm waters in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, which increase hurricane and cyclone intensity. There are also abnormally weak vertical shear winds; strong shear winds stop hurricanes forming.
8-15-17 There are almost 100 new volcanoes hiding under Antarctic ice
There are almost 100 new volcanoes hiding under Antarctic ice
The 91 newly found volcanoes lurk beneath the vulnerable West Antarctic ice sheet and could accelerate its demise. Almost 100 volcanoes have been newly identified beneath the ice covering West Antarctica. It’s not yet known whether they’re active, but if they are, it could spell added trouble for ice sheets already in retreat because of global warming. “If they erupted, they would create water beneath the ice,” says Robert Bingham at the University of Edinburgh, UK. “That would make the ice above flow faster, so it would have the potential to increase the losses of ice we’re already seeing.” Bingham and his colleagues identified the volcanoes by examining an existing data set called Bedmap2, a collection of ground-penetrating radar scans made from aeroplanes or vehicles above or on the surface. The scans show the profile of the rock some 4 kilometres beneath the ice, and the team identified all conical structures as possible volcanoes. “No one had interrogated the data before for shapes,” says Bingham. Next, the researchers checked to see whether the cones tallied with other data from satellite imagery, such as subtle deformations on the ice surface directly above possible volcanoes, and telltale variations in gravity and magnetic fields. “We found 180 cones, but discounted 50 because they weren’t matched with the other data,” says Bingham. They settled on a final tally of 138 beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet, which includes 47 volcanoes already known because their peaks protrude through the ice – leaving 91 newly discovered. The volcanoes range in height from 100 to 3850 metres, with 29 higher than 1 km.
8-15-17 'Donald Trump forest' climate change project gains momentum
'Donald Trump forest' climate change project gains momentum
A campaign to plant trees to compensate for the impact of President Trump's climate policies has 120,000 pledges. The project was started by campaigners upset at what they call the president's "ignorance" on climate science. Trump Forest allows people either to plant locally or pay for trees in a number of poorer countries. Mr Trump says staying in the climate pact will damage the US economy, cost jobs and give a competitive advantage to countries such as India and China. The organisers say they need to plant an area the size of Kentucky to offset the Trump effect. Based in New Zealand, the project began in March this year and so far has gained pledges from around 450 people based all around the world. In the first month, 15,000 trees were pledged - that's now gone past 120,000. Some people have paid for trees to be planted in forest restoration projects in Madagascar, Haiti, Ethiopia, and Nepal. Others have simply bought and planted a tree themselves and sent a copy of the receipt to the project. The organisers, who are long-term climate campaigners, say they have tapped into a global sense of frustration with the president's climate change policies. (Webmaster's comment: You can plant a young tree for about $100-$150. Older ones for $250-$300. I'll be planting 6 older ones for the apartment house I live in.)
8-11-17 The BBC should stop giving unwarranted airtime to Nigel Lawson
The BBC should stop giving unwarranted airtime to Nigel Lawson
The broadcaster had tough questions for Al Gore and then gave space to false claims of a prominent climate sceptic. This is a recipe for spreading misinformation. We were supposed to be past this, but apparently, we’re not. The BBC is still giving unwarranted airtime to people who deny the science of climate change. Its defence – that the misleading claims were rebutted the following day by a climate scientist – is hogwash. On Wednesday, the BBC’s flagship radio news programme Today ran a segment about the release of An Inconvenient Sequel: a new documentary on climate change fronted by former US vice-president Al Gore, a follow-up to his Oscar-winner An Inconvenient Truth. Gore was arguing that climate change is extremely dangerous, and that it would be in everyone’s best interests if we stopped it by drastically reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. As they should, the presenters asked Gore some tough questions. But later in the same programme, climate sceptic Nigel Lawson of the Global Warming Policy Foundation was invited on to the show. Lawson’s role was to provide “balance”: in other words, to argue that there is no need to take strong action to stop climate change. During the interview, Lawson was allowed to repeat a number of well-known falsehoods, without being challenged. For instance, global temperatures have continued rising over the last decade, according to the UK Met Office, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. The years 2010, 2014, 2015 and 2016 all set records for global average temperature. Yet Lawson falsely claimed that: “during this past 10 years, if anything, mean global temperature, average world temperature, has slightly declined”. (Webmaster's comment: See the truth at: Global Temperature History Charts) Yesterday morning, 11 August, the Today programme returned to the subject. This time they invited Peter Stott, a climatologist at the UK Met Office. Stott duly presented evidence that Lawson had got his facts wrong. In summary, the Today programme had an interviewee who pushed a series of falsehoods, and the presenters failed to challenge him. But the following day they had an expert on, who did challenge the falsehoods. (Webmaster's comment: Did Lawson present any evidence? Of course not! He's an absolute liar spreading his falsehoods for who knows what reason! He should be given a soapbox out in the street, not a forum on national TV. Ignorant and Stupid people will believe his bullshit!)
8-11-17 Slim hopes for Paris climate target
Slim hopes for Paris climate target
Earth will almost certainly warm by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels by the end of the century, the threshold set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. That’s the sobering conclusion of a new study by scientists at the University of Washington, who analyzed population trends, economic growth, and the amount of carbon dioxide emitted for each dollar of economic activity. The researchers estimate there is only a 5 percent chance temperatures won’t rise above 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, and just a 1 percent chance the world will stick to the Paris accord’s more aspirational target of 1.5 degrees. The most likely scenario based on current emission levels and targets, the team concludes, is that temperatures will increase between 2 and 4.9 degrees Celsius by 2100, with a median estimate of 3.2 degrees (5.8 degrees Fahrenheit). An increase that large would lead to a catastrophic rise in sea levels, severe heat waves, droughts, and other kinds of extreme weather, and millions being displaced. “The most optimistic projections are unlikely to happen,” lead author Adrian Raftery tells The Guardian (U.K.). “If we want to avoid [a rise of] 2 degrees, we have very little time left.” Raftery says the findings should serve as a call to action to global leaders, noting that a “breakthrough technology” or a rise in the use of renewable energy could dramatically alter the level of warming.
8-11-17 A future of cheap oil
A future of cheap oil
An ongoing price slump is rattling the industry and weakening petrostates. How will low prices change the world? Prices have hovered between $40 and $50 a barrel for the past year—far below the pre-collapse high of $147 a barrel in 2008. The U.S. shale revolution continues to cause a global glut in supplies of the liquid fossil fuel, depressing the price, and energy company Shell says it is bracing for a world where oil prices might stay “forever low.” Oil prices have historically been highly volatile, and demand for the commodity is higher than ever. But if the glut continues, it will pose an existential threat to the monarchy ruling Saudi Arabia, which relies on oil for as much as 70 percent of the kingdom’s income. Other petrostates, including Venezuela and Russia, are already in a state of economic crisis. Rabah Arezki, a commodities expert at the International Monetary Fund, says that the growing supply of natural gas, a potential electric car revolution, and the push to further develop clean energy to combat climate change all will combine to suppress demand for the foreseeable future. The world may be “at the onset of the biggest disruption in oil markets ever,” Arezki says.
- How cheap is oil?
- What is causing the glut?
- How did these countries respond?
- So what can petrostates do now?
- How are energy companies adapting?
- What could happen?
- Imagining a new Saudi Arabia
How does one of the world’s wealthiest petrostates break its addiction to oil? Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has some bold ideas, which he’s put together in the Saudi Vision 2030 project. As part of that plan, he is selling off a chunk of the state-owned oil company, Saudi Aramco, which is worth up to $2 trillion, and placing the proceeds in a sovereign-wealth fund that will invest in finance and infrastructure projects around the world. The Saudi government also plans to invest heavily in mining the country’s gold, phosphate, and uranium reserves, and is also betting big on tourism. Mohammed plans to build the kingdom’s own Las Vegas south of Riyadh, and the notoriously repressive kingdom will also build a new Red Sea beach resort with special laws allowing women to wear bikinis instead of covering up from head to toe. Many foreign critics say Mohammed’s goal of weaning Saudi Arabia off oil by 2030 is pure fantasy; others see it as a necessity if oil prices remain low. “Vision 2030 sounds like a positive project,” says Bassem Snaije, an expert in Middle Eastern economics. “I would call it Obligation 2030.”
8-11-17 Heat wave
Record heat is scorching much of Europe, wilting crops and causing wildfires. Temperatures in Romania hit nearly 108 degrees and at least two people there died from heat exhaustion; two teenage Romanian boys also drowned while cooling off in a river. In southern Italy, Spain, and France, temperatures topped 100 degrees and residents nicknamed the heat wave Lucifer. In Serbia, train services were delayed because some tracks buckled in the heat, and Serbs were advised to avoid alcohol and physical exertion. In some parts of the continent, the scorching heat was followed by violent summer storms, which killed at least four people in northern Italy—including a woman who was swept to her death by a mudslide and a man who was struck by lightning.
8-11-17 Climate change report
Climate change report
Government scientists said this week that they feared the Trump administration would attempt to alter or bury an alarming new federal report that claims U.S. temperatures have risen rapidly since 1980. “Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” reads a draft of the report, compiled by 13 federal agencies for the National Climate Assessment and obtained by The New York Times. The report concludes that Americans are already feeling the impact of climate change and that it is “extremely likely” that more than half of the global mean temperature increase since 1951 was caused by human influence—contradicting President Trump and members of his Cabinet, who have voiced doubts that human activity is the primary cause of rising temperatures. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft, but the authors are awaiting permission from the Trump administration to publish it.
8-11-17 Blistering summer
Temperatures soared past 100 degrees in parts of the Pacific Northwest last week, after a high-pressure system known as a heat dome produced a scorching heat wave across the region. In Portland, where the mercury hit 105 degrees—breaking a 65-year-old record—the excessive heat sparked service problems across the metro area’s public-transit system. In Seattle, where 70 percent of residents don’t have air-conditioning, temperatures reached 94 degrees—a daily record in a city that usually experiences highs in the mid-70s this time of year. The soaring temperatures put 15 million people under excessive-heat advisories, and animals were sent inside at zoos. “We are not used to the heat,” said one manager of an ice cream truck that had to shut down for worker safety. “We can handle rain, but we are not so great with this amount of sun.”
8-11-17 Only in America
Only in America
Staffers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been instructed by the Trump administration to avoid using “climate change” and “greenhouse gases” in their official correspondence. Instead, officials should refer to “weather extremes,” and advise farmers how to “increase nutrient-use efficiency.” A department official said that the policy “won’t change the modeling, just how we talk about it.” (Webmaster's comment: Newspeak right out of George Orwell's 1984. War is Peace!)
8-11-17 Anger over 'untrue' climate change claims
Anger over 'untrue' climate change claims
Scientists have responded furiously to claims about climate change made in a live BBC radio interview. Experts told BBC News that the assertions made by former Chancellor Nigel Lawson on Radio 4's Today programme were simply untrue. Lord Lawson had claimed that global temperatures had "slightly declined" over the past 10 years. However, scientists working in the field said the records showed the complete opposite to be the case. BC Radio 4's Today programme defended its decision to interview Lord Lawson on Thursday morning in a segment on climate change. The BBC argued that it had a duty to inform listeners about all sides of a debate. During the interview, Lord Lawson said that "official figures" showed that "during this past 10 years, if anything... average world temperature has slightly declined". But speaking in a follow-up discussion on Friday morning, Dr Peter Stott from the UK Met Office said the former Chancellor had got the facts wrong. "We know that 2016 was the warmest on record, over a degree warmer than late 19th Century levels, so this claim that we heard from Nigel Lawson that there's been cooling is simply not true," he told the BBC. His view was echoed by Prof Richard Betts from the University of Exeter. "The official figures do not show that the global mean temperature 'has slightly declined'. In fact, they show the opposite - global mean temperature has increased during the past 10 years," he said in a statement. "The last three years were warmer than the previous seven, and indeed were the warmest on record, and this year is also shaping up to be nearly as warm (probably not quite as warm as last year since the influence of the El Nino has passed, but still a very warm year)."
8-11-17 Fighting to breathe in the face of Canada’s wildfire emergency
Fighting to breathe in the face of Canada’s wildfire emergency
British Columbia is facing its worst documented wildfire season in almost 60 years – Mika McKinnon went to the city of Kamloops to find out why. It’s stiflingly hot and I’m trapped inside a dome of smoke. I know I’m in a river valley nestled within mountain ranges, but the visibility is cut so low that I can’t see any of the dramatic peaks that dominate landscapes across British Columbia. It’s the worst documented wildfire season since 1958, and smoke is an omnipresent and unwelcome companion. “We have a very significant fire season unfolding,” says Daniel Perrakis, a fire research scientist at the Canadian Forest Service. It’s the largest area burned since the advent of modern fire-suppression and fire-management techniques, he says. Over 591,000 hectares have burned so far. I’ve left my coastal home in Vancouver and travelled inland to support evacuations, joining the swarms of volunteers being deployed to help. Shifting winds and an atmospheric wall of high pressure have funnelled smoke into the city of Kamloops, filling the air with an unprecedented 684.5 micrograms of fine material per cubic metre. That’s nearly 70 times more than the World Health Organization’s guidelines for safe exposure limits. My eyes sting when I walk outside, and I feel the throb of a headache coming on if I dare walk as far as the street corner. Even indoors, the smell of smoke whispers through the ventilation systems until it clings to everything. I woke up to ash on my toothbrush, large black flakes against white bristles. The story of how things got like this is a slow-speed disaster of climate change, a beetle invasion, and the unintended consequences of well-meaning policy gone wrong.
8-11-17 Climate crusader Gore takes up arms again
Climate crusader Gore takes up arms again
Climate crusader Al Gore is coming to a screen near you. The former US vice president is in the UK to launch his latest eco-movie, An Inconvenient Sequel. It's passionate, dramatic and controversial. And he's hoping it will persuade you that the climate can be saved if we all try hard enough. The movie delivers a mix of extreme weather and stunningly alarming shots of the melting Arctic. These scenes are intercut with Gore’s presentations to volunteers willing to be climate ambassadors. They're spreading the message that the planet is warming and we need much more urgency in the task of reducing greenhouse gases. Since his influential first film, An Inconvenient Truth in 2006, two extraordinary things have happened. First, the cost of renewable energy has plummeted far faster than anyone expected, making the task of stabilising the climate more feasible than before. The second big change has been the surprise success of the Paris climate summit in 2015 that drew in almost all nations in the world to agree to try harder to cut their emissions. Gore himself played a crucial role as a go-between, using his VP tag to gain access to world leaders. This unexpected triumph in Paris is the high point of the new film. But then came President Trump, who is pulling the US out of the Paris agreement. To Gore's dismay, Trump is now trying to dismantle America's climate policy as fast as he can. But Gore says he's not unduly worried – the rest of the world has stood firm and sooner or later, he believes, the US will get back on course. He even suggested the US would meet its climate targets even without a national commitment. Some agree with this - others think it's wishful thinking. But if it is true, it does call into question whether America's targets were too low in the first place! Gore has his critics.
8-10-17 Al Gore on the Paris agreement, Trump and climate change
Al Gore on the Paris agreement, Trump and climate change
Former US Vice President Al Gore has said the US will meet the commitments set out by the Paris climate agreement. Speaking to the BBC, Mr Gore said "state governments, local governments and businesses are moving forward with reductions in spite of Donald Trump."
8-10-17 US report confirms 2016 as warmest year on record
US report confirms 2016 as warmest year on record
A report compiled by a US government agency has confirmed that 2016 was the warmest year on record and the third year in a row of record global warmth. The heat was the result of long-term global warming and a strong El Niño weather phenomenon, the report said. Global surface and sea temperatures, sea levels and greenhouse gases levels were all at record highs, it added. The report comes after President Donald Trump announced plans for the US to quit the 2015 Paris climate accord. Mr Trump has previously dismissed climate change as "a hoax". The international report, State of the Climate in 2016, was compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and is based on contributions from nearly 500 scientists from more than 60 countries. It says that 2016 surpassed 2015 as the warmest year in 137 years of recordkeeping. "Last year's record heat resulted from the combined influence of long-term global warming and a strong El Niño early in the year," the report said. "The major indicators of climate change continued to reflect trends consistent with a warming planet." During an El Niño, a band of unusually warm ocean water develops in parts of the Pacific. The phenomenon affects the climate globally, disrupting weather patterns. The report said that levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide - all the major greenhouse gases that drive global warming - had risen to new heights. Global annual average atmospheric CO2 concentration was 402.9 parts per million (ppm) which surpassed 400 ppm for the first time in the modern atmospheric measurement record and in ice core records dating back as far as 800,000 years, the NOAA said. "Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing humanity and life on Earth," it added.
8-10-17 Climate change is shifting when Europe’s rivers flood
Climate change is shifting when Europe’s rivers flood
Seasonal events such as snowmelt affect when, and if, waterways overflow their banks. In August 2005, severe floods hit alpine communities like a village in Tirol, Austria. Across Europe, rivers aren’t flooding when they used to. Long-term changes in temperature and precipitation are making some rivers flood days, weeks or even months earlier than they did 50 years ago, and pushing flooding in other areas much later, researchers report August 11 in Science. Those changes could impact people, wildlife and farms near rivers. Previous studies have shown that climate change is likely to increase the severity and frequency of coastal floods, but it can be tricky to concretely link river flooding to climate change, says Günter Blöschl, a hydrologist at the Vienna University of Technology who led the study. Coastal flooding is worsened largely by one overriding variable that can be tracked: sea level rise. But river flooding is affected by a complex set of factors, says Rob Moore, a policy analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council in Chicago who specializes in water issues. Both the timing and quantity of precipitation matter, as does the type of soil and whether it’s dry or already waterlogged when rain hits. What’s more, changes in land use around a river or engineering projects such as dams that change river flow can also affect flood risk — but aren’t necessarily related to the climate.
8-10-17 Climate change has shifted the timing of European floods
Climate change has shifted the timing of European floods
Climate change has had a significant impact on the timing of river floods across Europe over the past 50 years, according to a new study. In some regions, such as southern England, floods are now occurring 15 days earlier than they did half a century ago. But the changes aren't uniform, with rivers around the North Sea seeing floods delayed by around eight days. The study has been published in the journal Science. Floods caused by rivers impact more people than any other natural hazard, and the estimated global damages run to over a $100bn a year. Researchers have long predicted that a warming world would have direct impacts on these events but until now the evidence has been hard to establish. Floods are affected by many different factors in addition to rainfall, such as the amount of moisture already in the soil and other questions such as changes in land-use that can speed up water run-off from hillsides. This new study looks at this issue in some depth, by creating a Europe-wide database of observations from 4,262 hydrometric stations in 38 countries, dating back to 1960. The analysis finds a clear but complex impact of climate change on river flooding.
8-10-17 Sea snakes are turning black in response to industrial pollution
Sea snakes are turning black in response to industrial pollution
Indo-Pacific sea snakes living in polluted waters near industrial areas have darker bodies – perhaps because pollutants bind better to their dark skin pigment. Pollution from mining activities may be encouraging some sea snakes to evolve black skins – the first evidence of “industrial melanism” in a marine species. Previous studies have observed industrial melanism in invertebrate species, most famously the peppered moth. During England’s Industrial Revolution, the frequency of dark-coloured moths skyrocketed. Schoolchildren are often taught that such insects blended in well with the soot-covered bark of trees in industrial areas, so their odds of surviving and breeding suddenly rose – although this might be an oversimplification. Examples of industrial melanism in vertebrates are vanishingly rare, says Rick Shine at the University of Sydney – but the Indo-Pacific sea snakes he and his colleagues study may provide a good example. The turtle-headed sea snake (Emydocephalus annulatus) is largely found in certain tropical waters near Australia. Usually, the snakes look like black-and-white banded candy canes. But Shine and his colleagues found that individuals living near polluted areas on the French island territory of New Caledonia, north-east of Brisbane – and in a nearby barrier reef atoll used as a bombing range – were entirely black instead.
8-10-17 Exposure to oil sends birds off course
Exposure to oil sends birds off course
Even light exposure to oil from disasters like the Deep Water Horizon oil spill makes flying more difficult for birds, a study has revealed. US biologists used homing pigeons to test the potential impacts of oil spills on birds' flight. "Lightly oiled" pigeons, they found, veered off course and took longer to return and longer to recover than birds with no oil on their feathers. The results are published in the journal Environmental Pollution. It is the first time that the effects of low level exposure to crude oil on long-distance bird flight patterns have been tested and suggests that even small amounts of oil could have serious impacts on migrating birds that are caught up in a spill. The researchers were surprised by their findings, as lead author Dr Cristina Perez explained: "The general notion would be that these birds are 'fine', but in fact we found that even lightly oiled birds are not uninjured." Dr Perez continued: "We expected that the birds would have difficulties with flight and be slower in their arrival, but we did not expect such an obvious flight path difference." The study used crude oil collected from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill which was applied onto the wing and tail feathers of some of the homing pigeons with paintbrushes. This pattern of oiling reflected that seen in wild birds from the spill. The pigeons were trained to repeatedly undertake flights of 161km between release points and their home loft, all the while carrying GPS data loggers. After release, most of the oiled birds took different flight courses which were longer in duration and distance than those of un-oiled birds.
8-9-17 'Unusual' Greenland wildfires linked to peat
'Unusual' Greenland wildfires linked to peat
New images have been released of wildfires that continue to burn close to the Greenland ice sheet, on the country's west coast. Fires are rare on an island where 80% of the land is covered by ice up to 3km thick in places. However, satellites have observed smoke and flames north-east of a town called Sisimiut since 31 July. Experts believe at least two fires are burning in peat that may have dried out as temperatures have risen. Researchers say that across Greenland there is now less surface water than in the past, which could be making vegetation more susceptible to fire. The latest satellite images show a number of plumes. Police have warned hikers and tourists to stay away from the region because of the dangers posed by smoke. There are also concerns that the fire will damage grazing for reindeer. Scientists believe that instead of shrubs or mosses, the likely source is fire in the peaty soil, which can only burn when dry. "Usually when a wildfire is smouldering like that it's because there's a lot of ground-level fuel, carbon organic matter; that's why I assume that it's peat," wildfire expert Prof Jessica McCarty from Miami University, US, told BBC News. "The fire line is not moving, the fire is not progressing like we'd see in a forest fire, so that means it's burning whatever fuel is on the ground." Prof McCarthy believes that melting permafrost is likely to have contributed to this outbreak. She referred to studies carried out in the region that showed degraded permafrost around the town of Sisimiut.
8-9-17 Back to the wild: How nature is reclaiming farmland
Back to the wild: How nature is reclaiming farmland
Farmland is shrinking for the first time on record thanks in part to consumer choices. What does this mean for the environment and the future of food? IT’S AN odd juxtaposition that’s starting to pop up in far-flung places around the world. Across the hilly regions of China, the scars of agriculture are being covered by a messy mix of trees and shrubs. In parts of Iran, Australia and Kazakhstan, wild animals are reclaiming swathes of abandoned pasture. And in Portugal, Chile and Argentina, abandoned farms serve as lifelines that connect fragments of intact wilderness. The landscapes are different but all are evidence of a startling new trend. For the first time on record, the world’s farmland is shrinking. Every two years, an area roughly the size of the UK is abandoned. Has humanity’s insatiable land grab hit a turning point? And can we use this opportunity to build a world where farming has a smaller footprint, and nature gets a chance to rebound from the huge toll we have inflicted upon it? For most of the 20th century, agriculture constantly spread out. By the 1990s, farms occupied 38 per cent of the world’s land. The impact on ecosystems is well documented: 27 per cent of tropical forests and 45 per cent of temperate forests were cleared in the process.
8-9-17 Farmland is in retreat. We should make the most of that
Farmland is in retreat. We should make the most of that
Now that more land globally is being revegetated than cleared, we need to figure out how to use this force for ecological good. But it won't be an easy sell. THE last wolf in England was killed in 1290 by one Peter Corbet, exterminator to King Edward I. That made the country safe for sheep, giving it a commanding position in the lucrative wool trade – and setting it on its way to becoming a great trading nation. So claims The Last Wolf, a new book by Robert Winder, which argues that landscape is as central to national identity as beliefs or values. The story may be as much folklore as fact, but helps explain why proposals to reintroduce wolves or lynx to the UK meet with such stiff opposition. Similar arguments are flaring up across Europe, where big predators are making something of a comeback. Conservationists say rewilding restores ecological balance; but farmers contend that it puts livestock in jeopardy. Experience to date suggests they will not give up their role as stewards of the land readily – and many of the public may support them in that. All the more surprising, then, that more land globally has been revegetated than cleared in recent years. This is not unalloyed good news: the drivers of this trend, including urbanisation and intensive farming, raise their own questions (see “Back to the wild: How nature is reclaiming farmland“). And land clearance is still rife in some of Earth’s most vital places.
8-9-17 Smog is choking Mongolia's nomads
Smog is choking Mongolia's nomads
Climate change is driving herders into cities, where they're met with clouds of toxic air. A baby cries for attention while his mother makes tea and tends a stove inside her family's ger, or yurt. The air inside the heavy canvas walls is thick with the smells of smoke and cheese curd. Two older boys are playing outside. It's a scene that could be from any time in Mongolia going back hundreds of years, and just about anywhere in the country's vast open plains, where families of nomadic herders have followed their livestock for countless generations. But things are changing fast in Mongolia. And recently this nomadic family set down its portable home in a place they never expected to end up — a sprawling patchwork of dirt roads, makeshift fences and hundreds of yurts in the country's crowded capital city of Ulaanbaatar. A few years ago the family gave up on herding and moved to the city after losing most of its livestock in a harsh winter, known here as a "dzud." And they weren't alone. "So many nomadic families lost their herds" during that time, says Jargalsaikhan Erdene-Bayar, the father of the family. "So they started moving here. And it's still happening." Dzuds have always been part of life in Mongolia, but with climate change, they seem to be coming more often. And that's contributing to a cascade of problems — lost traditions, displacement, overcrowding. And smog. Look up on a winter day and you can see it.
8-9-17 Mazda hails more efficient petrol engine
Mazda hails more efficient petrol engine
Japanese carmaker Mazda has developed a more efficient petrol engine at a time when the industry steers toward electric vehicles. It said the compression ignition engine was up to 30% more fuel-efficient than its current engines. It plans to sell cars with the new engine from 2019. Last week, Mazda said it would work with Toyota to develop electric vehicle technology and build a $1.6bn plant in the US. Mazda research and development head Kiyoshi Fujiwara said it was imperative for the company to pursue the "ideal internal combustion engine". "Electrification is necessary but... the internal combustion engine should come first," he said. Mazda said the Skyactiv-X, as it is known, would be the world's first commercial petrol engine to use compression ignition. The technology breakthrough puts the firm ahead of rivals including Daimler and General Motors that have worked on compression ignition for decades. According to Mazda, the fuel-air mixture ignites spontaneously when compressed by the piston in the new engine. The carmaker said the Skyactiv-X combined the advantages of petrol and diesel engines to improve efficiency. It has no plans to supply the engine to other carmakers.
8-9-17 Could 'solar roads' help generate electricity?
Could 'solar roads' help generate electricity?
A stretch of road in France has been paved with solar PV (photovoltaic) panels as part of a government-backed initiative for renewable electricity generation. It is estimated that even busy roads can “see” the sky 70-90% of the time. The solar PV panels are coated in crushed glass and resin to make them more durable. But the cost of making the almost half a mile of “Wattway” was an estimated four to six times as much as covering the area with conventional solar panels. The company aims to significantly reduce the cost in the future.
8-8-17 Americans already feeling effects of climate change, says report
Americans already feeling effects of climate change, says report
A leaked report says evidence that humans are responsible for climate change is strong – but it remains to be seen how the Trump White House will react. Americans are already feeling the effects of climate change, according to a leaked US report. Since 1980, the average temperature in the US has risen significantly, with the past few decades the warmest for 1500 years. The report, written by scientists from 13 federal agencies, is still awaiting approval from the Trump administration before it can be officially published, but a draft copy was obtained by The New York Times. “Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans,” say the authors in the draft report, with thousands of studies contributing to an irrefutable body of evidence. “Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change,” they say. The report points out that the ability to attribute some extreme weather events to climate change is improving. It says there is relatively strong evidence that humans contributed to the European heatwave in 2003 and the record temperatures in Australia in 2013. Globally, it is extremely likely that humans are responsible for over half the mean temperature increase since 1951, the authors say. The leak comes as it was reported by The Guardian yesterday that senior officials at the US Department of Agriculture are now instructing staff to speak about “weather extremes” instead of climate change. “It is disturbing that scientists had to leak a draft of a new government report warning of dire climate change impacts because they fear the Trump administration will try to suppress it,” says Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Pennsylvania State University. “Orwell’s Ministry of Truth has arrived.” (Webmaster's comment: The fix is in!)
8-8-17 'Dodgy' greenhouse gas data threatens Paris accord
'Dodgy' greenhouse gas data threatens Paris accord
Potent, climate-warming gases are being emitted into the atmosphere but are not being recorded in official inventories, a BBC investigation has found. Air monitors in Switzerland have detected large quantities of one gas coming from a location in Italy. However, the Italian submission to the UN records just a tiny amount of the substance being emitted. Levels of some emissions from India and China are so uncertain that experts say their records are plus or minus 100%. These flaws posed a bigger threat to the Paris climate agreement than US President Donald Trump's intention to withdraw, researchers told BBC Radio 4's Counting Carbon programme. (Webmaster's comment: global Warming Deniers are going to have a field day! But the facts remain regardless of these individual country's measurement issues. CO2 in the atmosphere continues to increase ever faster, global temperatures continue to increase ever faster, and global sea ice continues to decrease ever faster. Global Warming is a clear and present danger to the world!)
8-8-17 Largest ever wildfire in Greenland seen burning from space
Largest ever wildfire in Greenland seen burning from space
The blaze is the biggest ever detected by satellites – and a recent increase in fires in the region could well be a result of the rapid warming in the Arctic. The largest wildfire ever detected by satellites in the mostly ice-covered country of Greenland continues to spread. Local authorities are said to be considering ways to halt the blaze, but it is not clear whether they have the necessary resources. “It certainly is the biggest one in the satellite record,” says remote-sensing scientist Stef Lhermitte of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. That record only goes back to 2000, but it could well turn out to be the biggest wildfire in Greenland’s history. The fire, first spotted by a pilot on 31 July, has taken researchers like Lhermitte by surprise. His initial analysis of satellite observations suggests there have been a few small wildfires in Greenland since 2000 but that over the past three years there has been a huge increase in the area burning. Most of Greenland is covered by ice up to 3 kilometres thick but there is some tundra around the coastline. The wildfire is burning on tundra in the west of Greenland, near the small town of Sisimiut. Based on the fact that the fire is spreading slowly and on the colour of the smoke, Jessica McCarty of Miami University thinks that what is burning is not just the sparse surface vegetation but the peat underneath.
8-5-17 Extreme weather 'could kill up to 152,000 a year' in Europe by 2100
Extreme weather 'could kill up to 152,000 a year' in Europe by 2100
Extreme weather could kill up to 152,000 people yearly in Europe by 2100 if nothing is done to curb the effects of climate change, scientists say. The number is 50 times more deaths than reported now, the study in The Lancet Planetary Health journal said. Heat waves would cause 99% of all weather-related deaths, it added, with southern Europe being worst affected. Experts said the findings were worrying but some warned the projections could be overestimated. If nothing is done to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to improve policies to reduce the impact against extreme weather events, the study by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre says:
- Deaths caused by extreme weather could rise from 3,000 a year between 1981 and 2010 to 152,000 between 2071 and 2100
- Two in three people in Europe will be affected by disasters by 2100, against a rate of one in 20 at the start of the century
- There will be a substantial rise in deaths from coastal flooding, from six victims a year at the start of the century to 233 a year by the end of it
The research analysed the effects of the seven most dangerous types of weather-related events - heat waves, cold snaps, wildfires, droughts, river and coastal floods and windstorms - in the 28 EU countries as well as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.
8-5-17 State Department officially begins U.S. exit from Paris climate deal
State Department officially begins U.S. exit from Paris climate deal
The State Department on Friday officially started the process of extracting the United States from the Paris Agreement. President Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the international emissions reduction deal in June, condemning the pact's "draconian financial and economic burdens," but no official notice was delivered to the United Nations until this week. "The United States supports a balanced approach to climate policy that lowers emissions while promoting economic growth and ensuring energy security," says the statement from State, which also indicates the U.S. will continue to participate in major climate negotiations "to protect U.S. interests and ensure all future policy options remain open to the administration." French President Emmanuel Macron attempted to persuade Trump to reconsider his stance on the Paris accord during Trump's visit to France last month, but his hopes were apparently unjustified.
8-4-17 Europe heatwave sparks health warnings as temperatures soar
Europe heatwave sparks health warnings as temperatures soar
Parts of Europe are experiencing their most extreme heat in more than a decade as temperatures hit 44C (111 F). Several countries have issued health warnings as this week's record-breaking weather conditions continue to affect swathes of the continent. Sweltering temperatures in Italy have sparked wildfires, and dozens of towns and cities are on the health ministry's maximum heat alert. The heatwave has left some regions facing the threat of severe drought. Health warnings are in place in the parts of Europe where temperatures have reached potentially dangerous levels. Italy is currently experiencing temperatures 10C higher than the average for this time of year. On Wednesday, the mercury rose to 44C in Sardinia. On Thursday, temperatures hit 43C near Rome while Sicily recorded 42C as a blanket of hot air from Africa swept through the Mediterranean. (Webmaster's comment: This same kind of weather will be happening in America too, OFTEN and SOON!)
8-4-17 Our plastic-clogged planet
Our plastic-clogged planet
The world is filling up with plastic. In the first comprehensive assessment of global plastic production, researchers have calculated that humans have created an astonishing 9 billion tons of the synthetic polymer since 1950—and 7 billion tons of it have been thrown away. Of the discarded plastic, just 9 percent has been recycled and 12 percent incinerated; the remaining 79 percent is either clogging up landfills, littering landscapes, or floating in the ocean. The problem is only getting worse: Half of all global plastic production has taken place in the past 13 years. The researchers estimate that by 2050, there will be more than 13 billion tons of discarded plastic worldwide. “The danger is permanent global contamination with plastics,” lead author Roland Geyer of the University of California, Santa Barbara, tells The Washington Post. “It’s just going to be everywhere: in the soil, in the ocean, in the sediment of the ocean floor.” Even the beaches of Hawaii now have plastic bits mixed in with the sand. A team of oceanographers recently discovered off the coast of Chile a plastic garbage patch bigger than the state of Texas, similar to the vortex of floating plastic debris in the North Pacific. Most plastic products, such as food packages, are designed to be used once and then discarded. Recycling rates remain low, especially in the U.S.: Europeans recycle 30 percent of their plastic and the Chinese 25 percent, versus just 9 percent here.
8-4-17 Fewer cars not cleaner ones key to tackling air quality
Fewer cars not cleaner ones key to tackling air quality
Plans to promote electric vehicles in the UK do not go far enough to tackle air pollution, according to a leading government adviser. Writing in the Guardian, Prof Frank Kelly said fewer cars, not just cleaner ones, were the key to cleaner air. Electric cars produce particulates from their tyres and brakes which are linked to serious health problems. Prof Kelly said that London should lead the way in promoting non-polluting transport policies. Just last week the government unveiled its strategy for tackling illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air. The key element was a promise to end the sale of all new diesel and petrol cars from 2040. The government said there would be significant investments in ultra-low emission vehicles, with some £600m going into the development and manufacture of such vehicles by 2020. But according to Frank Kelly, who is professor of environmental health at Kings College London, and chair of the government advisory committee on the medical effects of air pollutants, these steps would not go far enough. "Our cities need fewer cars, not just cleaner cars," Prof Kelly writes. "One issue is that electric vehicles will not sufficiently reduce particulate matter (PM), the other toxic pollutant emitted by road transport. "This is because PM components include not only engine emissions, but also a contribution from brake and tyre wear and road surface abrasion," he added.
8-3-17 Nano aluminium offers fuel cells on demand – just add water
Nano aluminium offers fuel cells on demand – just add water
The accidental discovery of a new aluminium alloy could lead to portable hydrogen and could kick-start the struggling hydrogen economy. The accidental discovery of a novel aluminium alloy that reacts with water in a highly unusual way may be the first step to reviving the struggling hydrogen economy. It could offer a convenient and portable source of hydrogen for fuel cells and other applications, potentially transforming the energy market and providing an alternative to batteries and liquid fuels. “The important aspect of the approach is that it lets you make very compact systems,” says Anthony Kucernak, who studies fuel cells at Imperial College London and wasn’t involved with the research. “That would be very useful for systems which need to be very light or operate for long periods on hydrogen, where the use of hydrogen stored in a cylinder is prohibitive.” The discovery came in January, when researchers at the US Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, were working on a new, high-strength alloy, says physicist Anit Giri. When they poured water on it during routine testing, it started bubbling as it gave off hydrogen. That doesn’t normally happen to aluminium. Usually, when exposed to water, it quickly oxidises, forming a protective barrier that puts a stop to any further reaction. But this alloy just kept reacting. The team had stumbled across the solution to a decades-old problem. Hydrogen has long been touted as a clean, green fuel, but it is difficult to store and move around because of its bulk. “The problem with hydrogen is always transportation and pressurisation,” says Giri.
8-3-17 Al Gore’s Inconvenient Sequel could just make climate rift worse
Al Gore’s Inconvenient Sequel could just make climate rift worse
Perhaps the veteran Democrat should have stayed in the wings for the follow-up to hit documentary An Inconvenient Truth, suggests Adam Corner. In probably the only Oscar-winning film to revolve around a slide show, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth set out the science of climate change in 2006, at a time when public interest in the subject was sparking. It made a big splash, yet coincided with a fiery and divisive fork in the road for US climate politics. It would be going too far to say that the association of the former Democratic presidential candidate with climate change caused the political polarisation around the issue. But he has certainly acted as a lightning rod for the bitter divide that has scarred the US public and political discourse on it ever since. Now he is back with the follow-up, An Inconvenient Sequel, at a very different moment in time. Although the partisan split on climate endures – exposed most recently in president Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the UN Paris accord – public attitudes to the political establishment have changed markedly, with a populist backlash far and wide. In this context, is a film fronted by a highly polarising political figure the right choice for a big-budget climate campaign in 2017? Unless Gore and the film’s producers envisage campaigners dragging their climate-sceptic uncles to the cinema with them, the documentary can only hope to further galvanise the already-concerned.
8-3-17 Warming to boost deadly humidity levels across South Asia
Warming to boost deadly humidity levels across South Asia
Millions of people living in South Asia face a deadly threat from heat and humidity driven by global warming according to a new study. Most of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will experience temperatures close to the limits of survivability by 2100, without emissions reductions. The research says the fraction of the population exposed to dangerous, humid heat waves may reach 30%. South Asia is home to one-fifth of the world's inhabitants. Most official weather stations around the world measure temperature with two thermometers. The first, or "dry bulb" instrument, records the temperature of the air. The other, or "wet bulb" thermometer, measures relative humidity in the air and the results are normally lower than just the pure air temperature. For humans, this wet bulb reading is critically important. While the normal temperature inside our bodies is 37C, our skin is usually at 35C. This temperature difference allows us to dissipate our own metabolic heat by sweating. However, if wet bulb temperatures in our environment are at 35C or greater, our ability to lose heat declines rapidly and even the fittest of people would die in around six hours.
8-2-17 South Asia could face deadly heat and humidity by the end of this century
South Asia could face deadly heat and humidity by the end of this century
Climate predictions show extreme future temperatures in India and Pakistan. People living in regions of India, including Rajasthan where this image was taken, will experience extreme and potentially deadly heat waves by the end of the century, a new study shows. India and Pakistan are no strangers to extreme temperatures. In 2015, two heat waves killed more than 3,500 people there. But by the end of the century, new climate simulations suggest, extreme heat and humidity could put hundreds of millions at risk of death. Published online August 2 in Science Advances, the simulations show fairly specifically where future heat waves will be most dangerous if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated: densely populated agricultural areas in South Asia, particularly in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. “The results of this study are of concern,” says climate scientist Christoph Schär of ETH Zurich. In the regions that will be affected, the majority of people don’t live in cities, but villages near coastal areas and low-lying river valleys where they cultivate crops and tend livestock. Many are poor with limited access to air conditioning and other infrastructure to combat the health risks of rising temperatures.
8-2-17 The renewables reality: clean energy hasn’t risen for 25 years
The renewables reality: clean energy hasn’t risen for 25 years
Big countries are already cutting back on support for solar and wind. They should be doing the opposite, or else the renewable revolution will falter. THIS year has seen renewable records smashed in the UK. On 21 April, the country went a whole day without using coal to generate electricity – the first such day for 135 years. Then on 7 June, particularly sunny and windy conditions meant that renewable sources supplied more than half the UK’s electricity. Achievements like these make it sound like the green revolution is well under way. Many think the growth of renewables is now unstoppable, and that clean energy will entirely replace fossil fuels in the not-too-distant future. They may need to think again. Spending on renewables in the UK is set to plummet 95 per cent over the next three years, according to a study by the London-based Green Alliance think tank, as the ending of subsidies strangles investment. Other big countries are also cutting back on subsidies, including Germany and Japan. Globally, renewables are still growing extremely fast, led by China, but some detect signs this is tailing off. “What you read in the media does not fit with the facts and figures,” says Jan Petter Hansen at the University of Bergen in Norway. His research suggests renewables could peak by 2030, before they supply even a tenth of the world’s energy. Let’s start with the current situation. Despite the headlines, wind, solar, geothermal and bioenergy supply just 8 per cent of the world’s electricity, according to BP. That’s not great, considering that converting electricity generation to clean energy is the easy part of cutting carbon emissions. “Just 14 per cent of our energy isn’t from fossil fuels, and this has barely changed in 25 years” Looking beyond electricity, renewables supply only 3 per cent of the world’s total energy use, which is dominated by industries like aviation and shipping. Even counting hydro and nuclear, just 14 per cent of our energy isn’t from fossil fuels – and this figure has barely changed over the past 25 years.
8-2-17 How to strip 99 per cent of harmful BPA from water in 30 minutes
How to strip 99 per cent of harmful BPA from water in 30 minutes
BPA has been linked to a range of health problems, but after decades of research, there’s now a cheap way to remove almost all of it from contaminated water. What’s in your water? If it’s pollutant BPA, there might soon be a quick fix for that. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is found in everything from DVDs to credit card receipts to dental fillings, and has been linked to a range of health problems in humans, including cardiovascular disease and liver enzyme abnormalities. A new technique claims to be able to remove 99 per cent of the BPA from water in just 30 minutes. BPA is a micropollutant, a type of everyday chemical that can affect people even in low doses. Most of our exposure comes from canned food and plastic food and drink containers. Studies have also shown that the chemical is found in soil, sediments, sewage sludge, air – and drinking water. Terrence Collins at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania and his colleagues set out to find a cheap way to remove BPA from water. After 15 years of work, the team came up with a solution: first, they add a group of catalysts called TAML activators to contaminated water, next they add hydrogen peroxide. The TAML activators work much like the enzymes in our bodies do, speeding up chemical reactions. In combination with the hydrogen peroxide, the TAML activators cause the BPA in pH-neutral water – the typical pH of wastewater – to assemble into larger clumps called oligomers within 30 minutes. These clumps aren’t harmful, and can be easily filtered out of the water. “We’ve solved a billion-dollar research problem,” says Collins. “This treatment can be done by anyone, anywhere, on any quantity of water.”
8-2-17 German carmakers reach emissions-cutting deal
German carmakers reach emissions-cutting deal
German carmakers have agreed with top politicians to cut harmful emissions by updating software in five million diesel vehicles. New engine management software will improve emission filtering systems and cut toxic nitrogen oxide levels by 25-30%, the industry association VDA said. The industry is under pressure since a diesel emissions scandal exposed cheating to manipulate test readings. Talks continued after the deal was announced, a source told Reuters. The deal was struck at a summit in Berlin. It was approved by Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen and Opel, VDA said in a statement (in German). Car firms are a crucial part of the German economy, providing more than 800,000 jobs. (Webmaster's comment: And they will probably refuse to let America sell their substandard polluting cars in Germany. All thanks to Trump removing pollution regulations so Corporation executives can make more money.)
8-2-17 What the Dutch can teach the warming world about preventing floods
What the Dutch can teach the warming world about preventing floods
Most of the Netherlands is below sea level. This means the Dutch are experts in water management. Much of the Netherlands is below sea level and major floods have occurred every generation or so for hundreds of years. In a warming world with increased rainfall and sea level rise, the threat from floods is increasing worldwide, and the Dutch are leading the way in water management engineering. Only 50 percent of the Netherlands is more than a few feet above sea level, so over the centuries the Dutch have become experts at water management. But even they were caught short by crippling floods in the 1990s and they quickly implemented vast flood prevention projects. As the country adapts to the reality of a warming planet, they are passing on their knowledge and expertise to other vulnerable nations. "At the moment, we are in a transition. We had a strong belief that we could predict and control nature, and we're moving now into a period where we acknowledge that we cannot control nature," says Chris Zevenbergen, a professor of flood resilience of urban systems at the IHE Delft Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands. "We have to deal with uncertainties in terms of climate change and socioeconomic development." Ten years ago, the Netherlands developed the concept of "room for the rivers," which Zevenbergen calls a "paradigm shift." "The room for the rivers concept is a turning point in our approach," he explains. "The old paradigm is confining rivers and building and strengthening the dikes along the rivers, but we decided to explore a new approach, in which we give more space to the water. We allow the river to expand when large volumes of water are entering our country. It's not fighting against water; it is living with water."
8-2-17 Deforestation may soar now Colombian civil war is over
Deforestation may soar now Colombian civil war is over
Now that the 52-year Colombian conflict that killed tens of thousands of people is over, the country's forests are once more under threat. The end of war doesn’t necessarily bring peace to the environment. An increase in illegal logging could be one of the unexpected consequences of peace in Colombia. In 2016, the Colombian government signed a peace agreement with the guerrilla group FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), ending the longest war in the Americas. During the 52-year-long conflict, as many as 220,000 people are reported to have died and millions were displaced. But the armed group may unexpectedly have helped protect the regions it occupied from deforestation. As the group disbands, conservationists fear the lush forests it occupied will be left vulnerable to illegal logging. “Now, that FARC is gone, there is nobody controlling the deforestation – because actually when they were here, they had some rules about it,” says Pablo Negret Torres at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, who has been studying the relationship between armed conflicts and conservation in Colombia. In areas under FARC control, the organisation often took on the role of a local government, even controlling ecological and cultural programmes.
8-1-17 Quantum gravity detector will use atom clouds to survey for oil
Quantum gravity detector will use atom clouds to survey for oil
A commercial device that uses quantum technology to detect subtle differences in gravity, should be able to detect coal, oil or pipes underground. A UK collaboration has built a quantum device dubbed a gravimeter that uses cold atoms to make ultra-precise measurements of the strength of gravity. It could be used to survey for oil or minerals, and it may be the start of a new commercial sector for quantum devices. The device is essentially a scaled-down version of the method used by the LIGO collaboration to detect gravitational waves made by colliding black holes. In this case, the gravimeter senses subtle changes in the strength of the gravitational fields generated by any object, using clouds of cold rubidium atoms as sensors. These clouds of atoms are held aloft in a basketball-sized vacuum chamber and cooled down to 80 microkelvin – barely above absolute zero. The atoms are put into a superposition, where they’re in two states at once – think Schroedinger’s cat, both alive and dead – until a measurement is made. Then the atom clouds are dropped, and while in freefall, zapped with three laser pulses. Those pulses serve as a kind of ruler made of light, measuring the position at those key points in time before the clouds come back together to make what’s called an interference pattern. That pattern is much like what you’d see if you dropped two stones in a pond and they created separate ripples that cross and interfere with other. Here, it encodes the position of the atom clouds and their paths. (Webmaster's comment: As now has become usual cutting-edge technology is being developed by other countries instead of the United States. And Trump wants to cut our national science budget?)
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