46 Global Warming News Articles
for October of 2017
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10-19-17 A brief history of the Earth's CO2
A brief history of the Earth's CO2
Climate change has been described as one of the biggest problems faced by humankind. Carbon dioxide is is the primary driver of global warming. Prof Joanna Haigh from Imperial College London explains why this gas has played a crucial role in shaping the Earth's climate. Carbon dioxide (CO2) has been present in the atmosphere since the Earth condensed from a ball of hot gases following its formation from the explosion of a huge star about five billion years ago. At that time the atmosphere was mainly composed of nitrogen, CO2 and water vapour, which seeped through cracks in the solid surface. A very similar composition emerges from volcanic eruptions today. As the planet cooled further some of the water vapour condensed out to form oceans and they dissolved a portion of the CO2 but it was still present in the atmosphere in large amounts. The first life forms to evolve on Earth were microbes which could survive in this primordial atmosphere but about 2.5 billion years ago, plants developed the ability to photosynthesise, creating glucose and oxygen from CO2 and water in the presence of light from the Sun. This had a transformative impact on the atmosphere: as life developed, CO2 was consumed so that by around 20 million years ago its concentration was down to below 300 molecules in every one million molecules of air (or 300 parts per million - ppm). Life on Earth has evolved under these conditions - note that humans did not appear until about 200,000 years ago - and atmospheric CO2 has not exceed that concentration until the industrial revolution brought with it massive emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels: coal and oil.
10-18-17 America the polluted
America the polluted
In the 1970s, the newly formed EPA ambitiously documented the contaminated state of the environment. Before the Environmental Protection Agency was created in 1970, environmental disasters were the norm. Rivers regularly caught on fire, major cities were blanketed in a choking smog, and oil clogged the nation's waterways. While the regularity of such catastrophes numbed many Americans into acceptance, several significant events in the 1960s began to shake the public out of its stupor. In 1962 marine biologist and author Rachel Carson published her quietly shocking book Silent Spring, a compendium of her six-year analysis of the myriad ways man was indiscriminately poisoning the air, water, and soil. It became an instant bestseller. On Jan. 28, 1969, an oil rig off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, exploded, sending three million gallons of crude oil into the ocean. Newspaper photos and televised reports of blackened beaches, oil-stained water, and thousands of tar-covered birds, fish, and marine mammals haunted the public. Just six months later, three Americans landed on the moon, offering the Earth-bound their first glimpse at the delicate blue marble they called home. By the end of the decade, the drumbeat of environmental activism was deafening. Grassroots environmental groups, with the help of Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-Wis.), organized the first Earth Day — a national, and now global, demonstration in support of environmental reform. The presence of 20 million people marching for the Earth's protection helped spur the government to action. On Dec. 2, 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency was established under President Richard Nixon. "Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party and beyond factions," the Republican said in his 1970 State of the Union address. "It has become a common cause of all the people of this country."
10-17-17 America's climate idiocy
America's climate idiocy
It's been another month of climate disasters. Puerto Rico remains in ruins, three weeks after being hit by the worst hurricane since 1928. Forty people and counting have died in the most deadly series of wildfires in California history — which is especially unusual for the northern part of the state. And on Monday, Ireland, of all places, was thrashed by a severe tropical storm. Against that backdrop, the American government isn't just failing to address the most immediate problems arising from its domestic disasters, it's actually taking steps to make things worse. And it's not just Trump. A huge bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives (including every single Democrat) voted for a $36.5 billion disaster relief package containing $16 billion in debt cancellation for the broken national flood insurance program — but $5 billion in loans for Puerto Rico, thus adding to the island's already preposterously unpayable $74 billion debt load. Now, that's not all that is in the disaster relief bill. There is also $13.6 billion in disaster relief to be shared between Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico, plus a $1.3 billion food stamp grant for the island. That's certainly better than nothing. But at a conservative estimate, that disaster relief total will not be remotely sufficient for either Texas or Puerto Rico, the two places hit worst out of the three. It's also maybe only a tenth (or less) of what is needed for a structural overhaul of Puerto Rico, both to rebuild it and to put it on sound economic footing. As for the flood insurance program, it's not a bad idea in itself. It's reasonable for government to help homeowners hit by unusual floods. However, the administration and payout structure of the program is nuts and has been for decades. It uses badly outdated flood maps and funds rebuilding far more than relocation. As a result, it has paid for many homes to be rebuilt again and again and again. This small minority of total membership accounts for a large portion of the overall payouts. Indeed, it's not really a home insurance program, as revealed by the $16 billion debt cancellation. What it amounts to, in many cases, is a subsidy for people to build homes in flood-prone areas.
10-17-17 Ophelia shows many hurricanes could reach Europe in the future
Ophelia shows many hurricanes could reach Europe in the future
Tropical cyclones often get to Europe but normally they have weakened by the time they get there. Not any more, thanks to climate change. The remnants of Hurricane Ophelia have struck the British Isles, causing widespread disruption and damage on Ireland. The cyclone, now downgraded to an extratropical storm, has reportedly led to three deaths. It is unusual for a hurricane to reach western Europe while still at or near hurricane strength. The last comparable event was Hurricane Gordon in 2006, which had also weakened to a storm before it struck. “The historical record only shows one hurricane reaching Ireland whilst still at hurricane strength: Debbie in 1961,” says Julian Heming of the UK Met Office. But in that case the data are sparse. “It is possible that, like Ophelia, Debbie transformed into an ‘extratropical cyclone’ some hours before it struck Ireland.” However, hurricanes could be a big part of Britain and Europe’s future. “There is evidence that hurricane-force storms hitting the UK, like Ophelia, will be enhanced in the future due to human-induced climate change,” says Dann Mitchell at the University of Bristol, UK.
10-16-17 The indiscriminate fury of California's wildfires
The indiscriminate fury of California's wildfires
After more than a week of blazing fires, much of Northern California lies in smoldering ruins. The California wildfires have raged for more than a week, killing 40 people, destroying thousands of structures, and reducing hundreds of thousands of acres to smoldering rubble. Encouraged by gusty winds, more than 20 separate blazes have wiped businesses, homes, wineries, and entire neighborhoods out of existence. While the worst damage has come in the wine country north of the San Francisco Bay Area, the devastation is hardly limited to this area. The Canyon 2 Fire in Anaheim — marked by an ominous glow around Disneyland — burned at least a dozen structures in Orange County and forced thousands from their homes. As officials comb the blackened ruins of the hardest-hit areas of Northern California, they face a new grim reality: "We may never get truly confirmative identification on ashes," Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said during a press conference. "When you're cremated, you can't get an ID." Officials warn that recovery will be extensive and costly. And while the region's wine business could take years to recuperate, the personal toll is what's truly immeasurable. "We're going to be a long time recovering from this incident," Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey said. "[We've] suffered a serious blow."
10-15-17 California wildfires: Death toll rises as blazes continue
California wildfires: Death toll rises as blazes continue
Forty people have died and hundreds are still missing in California after six days of wildfires that have devastated swathes of countryside and destroyed thousands of homes. California's governor said it was "one of the greatest tragedies" the state had ever faced. More than 10,000 firefighters are battling 16 remaining blazes. Winds of up to 70 km/h (45mph) brought them to new towns, forcing many more people to evacuate. One of the worst-affected areas is the city of Santa Rosa, in the Sonoma wine region, where 3,000 people were evacuated on Saturday. "The devastation is just unbelievable," Governor Jerry Brown said on a visit to the city. "It is a horror that no one could have imagined." It is the most lethal outbreak of wildfires in the state's history. More than 100,000 people have been displaced, and whole neighbourhoods have been reduced to ash. Firefighters had made some headway on Friday, clearing dry vegetation and other combustible fuel around populated areas on the fires' southern flank. But the return of strong winds combined with high temperatures and dry air spread the fires further.
10-14-17 California wildfires: High winds threaten to revive deadly blazes
California wildfires: High winds threaten to revive deadly blazes
California's fire protection chief has warned that devastating wildfires could worsen again over the weekend due to dry air and strengthening winds. Ken Pimlott said several thousand extra firefighters deployed on Friday were fighting 17 separate blazes. Northern California is suffering the most lethal outbreak of wildfires in the state's history, with 35 people dead and more than 90,000 evacuated. The blazes have raged since Sunday, destroying an estimated 5,700 homes. Firefighters had made some headway on Friday, clearing dry vegetation and other combustible fuels around populated areas on the fires' southern flank. But high temperatures and strong winds were forecast to return on Saturday, with gusts of up to 55 mph (90 kph) and 10% humidity. "If new fires start they could spread extremely rapidly," warned Brooke Bingaman, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sacramento, California. "Those fuels are super dry right now. This also could cause problems for the current wildfires and the firefighters who are trying to suppress them."
10-13-17 When the Larsen C ice shelf broke, it exposed a hidden world
When the Larsen C ice shelf broke, it exposed a hidden world
Science teams are racing to Antarctica to assess ice, seafloor ecosystems. In February, an expedition led by the British Antarctic Survey will journey to Antarctica on the RRS James Clark Ross to study a mysterious ecosystem exposed in July by the calving of the Larsen C iceberg.Teams of scientists are gearing up to race to the Antarctic Peninsula to find out what happens in the immediate aftermath of a massive ice calving event. In July, a Delaware-sized iceberg broke off from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf (SN: 8/5/17, p. 6). Now, several research groups aim to assess the stability of the remaining ice shelf, map the region’s seafloor and study a newly exposed ecosystem that’s been hidden from the sun for up to 120,000 years. First on the scene in November will be a team of scientists led by geophysicist Adam Booth of the University of Leeds in England and the U.K.-based Project MIDAS, which tracked the progress of the rifting from 2014 until the final break (SN: 7/25/15, p. 8). The researchers will conduct ground-penetrating radar and passive seismic surveys of the still-intact ice shelf, looking for shifts in the subsurface ice. They will also use GPS to monitor movements of the ice shelf. The goal is to track the dynamic response of the ice to the calving event, both short-term and long-term. Computer simulations suggest that the central part of the shelf will speed up, now that a piece of its buttress has been removed, says glaciologist Adrian Luckman of Swansea University in Wales, who will analyze satellite data as part of the effort. “What we need to keep tabs on now is whether the speedup will in any way destabilize what’s left. It might take many months to play out.”
10-13-17 Seven darkly funny cartoons about the EPA's war on the planet
Seven darkly funny cartoons about the EPA's war on the planet
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10-13-17 California wildfires: Death toll climbs to 31
California wildfires: Death toll climbs to 31
The number of people confirmed dead in wildfires sweeping northern California has climbed to 31, as officials warned that conditions would worsen. Hundreds of people remain missing as at least 22 fires rampaged across the state's famous wine country. More than 8,000 firefighters are now battling the flames. The wildfires have destroyed more than 3,500 buildings and homes, scorching over 170,000 acres (68,800 hectares) and displacing about 25,000 people. Seventeen people are now confirmed killed in Sonoma County, with another eight in Mendocino County, four in Yuba County and two in Napa County, officials said. The updated casualty figures mean the wildfires are the deadliest in California since 1933, when 29 people died in fires at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Strong winds that have fanned the flames eased in recent days, but forecasters warned they were set to pick up again on Friday night. "We are not even close to being out of this emergency," Mark Ghilarducci, state director of emergency services, told reporters. State fire chief Ken Pimlott warned of "erratic, shifting winds all weekend". Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said recovery teams with cadaver dogs were searching the smouldering ruins of homes.
10-13-17 Hurricane season is the most active
Hurricane season is the most active
This year’s Atlantic hurricane season is the most active since 2005, the year of Katrina. The 2005 season blew away records with 28 named storms, of which 15 were hurricanes. So far, 2017 has spawned 15 named storms, nine of which were hurricanes, including the latest, Hurricane Nate. The hurricane season extends to November 30.
10-13-17 Clean Power Plan scrapped
Clean Power Plan scrapped
The Environmental Protection Agency moved this week to repeal former President Obama’s flagship environmental policy, designed to fight climate change by curbing emissions from power plants. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt issued a formal notice that the agency will repeal the Clean Power Plan, which sought to reduce U.S. power plant emissions to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The plan, which was finalized in 2015 but has never gone into effect because of legal challenges, would have required states to meet emissions targets at individual plants and add cleaner energy sources to their power grids. But the Trump administration contended the rule unfairly punished coal and other fossil-fuel producers. The past administration tried “to pick winners and losers in how we generate electricity,” said Pruitt this week, announcing the repeal to a group of coal miners in eastern Kentucky. “And that’s wrong.”
10-13-17 UK-Dutch-built Sentinel launches to track air quality
UK-Dutch-built Sentinel launches to track air quality
A UK-assembled satellite has launched from Russia on a mission to monitor air quality around the globe. Its Dutch-designed instrument will make 20 million observations daily, building maps of polluting gases and particles known to be harmful to health. Called Sentinel-5P, the spacecraft is a contribution to the EU's Copernicus Earth-monitoring programme. S5P rode to orbit on a converted Russian intercontinental ballistic missile called a Rockot. The vehicle left the Plesetsk Cosmodrome at 12:27 local time (10:27 BST; 09:27 GMT). Controllers knew they had a functioning satellite in position above the planet when they received the first radio communication from S5P. This was picked up up 93 min after the Rockot as the satellite passed over the Kiruna station in Sweden. The EU, with the help of the European Space Agency (Esa), is developing a constellation of satellites as part of its Copernicus programme. Five of the platforms are already up; many more will follow in the next few years. All called Sentinels, they are tasked with taking the pulse of the planet and gathering data that can inform the policies of member states - everything from fisheries management to urban planning.
10-13-17 Nasa carbon space observatory 'watches Earth breathe'
Nasa carbon space observatory 'watches Earth breathe'
A Nasa satellite has provided remarkable new insights on how CO2 is moved through the Earth's atmosphere. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) tracked the behaviour of the gas in 2015/2016 - a period when the planet experienced a major El Niño event. This climate phenomenon boosts the amount of CO2 in the air. The US space agency's OCO satellite was able to show how that increase was controlled by the response of tropical forests to heat and drought. The forests' ability to draw down carbon dioxide, some of it produced by human activity, was severely curtailed. The science has significant implications because the kind of conditions associated with El Niños are expected to become much more common under global warming. "If future climate is more like this recent El Niño, the trouble is the Earth may actually lose some of the carbon removal services we get from these tropical forests, and then CO2 will increase even faster in the atmosphere," explained Scott Denning, an OCO science team member from Colorado State University in Fort Collins. That would amplify warming, he told reporters. Technical papers describing OCO's work have just been published in Science Magazine.
10-13-17 Penguins die in 'catastrophic' Antarctic breeding season
Penguins die in 'catastrophic' Antarctic breeding season
All but two Adelie penguin chicks have starved to death in their east Antarctic colony, in a breeding season described as "catastrophic" by experts. It was caused by unusually high amounts of ice late in the season, meaning adults had to travel further for food. It is the second bad season in five years after no chicks survived in 2015. Conservation groups are calling for urgent action on a new marine protection area in the east Antarctic to protect the colony of about 36,000. WWF says a ban on krill fishing in the area would eliminate their competition and help to secure the survival of Antarctic species, including the Adelie penguins. WWF have been supporting research with French scientists in the region monitoring penguin numbers since 2010. The protection proposal will be discussed at a meeting on Monday of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). The Commission is made up of the 25 members and the European Union. "This devastating event contrasts with the image that many people might have of penguins," Rod Downie, Head of Polar Programmes at WWF, said. "The risk of opening up this area to exploratory krill fisheries, which would compete with the Adelie penguins for food as they recover from two catastrophic breeding failures in four years, is unthinkable. "So CCAMLR needs to act now by adopting a new Marine Protected Area for the waters off east Antarctica, to protect the home of the penguins." (Webmaster's comment: "The Great Die Off" caused by global warming is now truly underway!)
10-12-17 During El Niño, the tropics emit more carbon dioxide
During El Niño, the tropics emit more carbon dioxide
The phenomenon creates warmer, drier conditions in some tropical regions that mimic future climate change. NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 launched in 2014 and is giving scientists an unprecedented peek into how carbon moves between land, atmosphere, and oceans on Earth. The tropics of Asia, Africa and South America all puffed out more carbon dioxide during the strong 2015–2016 El Niño than during the 2011 La Niña, new satellite data show. Because El Niño’s warmer, drier conditions in tropical regions mimic the effects of climate change expected by the end of the century, those observations may be a sobering harbinger of the tropics’ diminishing role as a buffer for fossil fuel emissions (SN Online: 9/28/17). The new findings come from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2, or OCO-2, which launched in 2014. Five papers in the Oct. 13 Science describe some of the first data collected by the satellite, which is giving scientists an unprecedented peek into how carbon moves between land, atmosphere and oceans. Atmospheric scientist Junjie Liu of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and her colleagues report that the tropics of Asia, Africa and South America together released about 2.5 gigatons more carbon into the atmosphere in 2015 than they did in 2011, a cooler and wetter La Niña year. For comparison, the United States released 6.59 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere in 2015.
10-12-17 California wildfires: Calistoga evacuated amid blazes
California wildfires: Calistoga evacuated amid blazes
California officials have ordered an entire city to evacuate as "conditions have worsened" in the wildfires that have killed 23 people. All residents of Calistoga were directed to leave the area on Wednesday evening, Napa County officials said. About 60 prison inmates have joined hard-pressed firefighters in battling the fast-moving blazes, the state fire chief says. Among the areas scorched by the 22 blazes are marijuana farms. In Wednesday evening's evacuation of Calistoga, in Napa County, all 5,000 residents were told to leave and police blocked traffic from approaching the area. And traffic quickly clogged the exits from Boyes Hot Springs in Sonoma County as that community was also told to evacuate the advancing wall of flame. "It's going to continue to get worse before it gets better," state fire Chief Ken Pimlott said. He warned that the death toll could rise further. "We are still impacted by five years of drought. These fires were driven by the critically dry fuel bed. We are literally looking at explosive vegetation," he added. The devastating wildfires, which brought wind gusts of up to 45mph (72km/h), have destroyed at least 3,500 buildings and homes.
10-12-17 Air pollution blamed for 500,000 early deaths in Europe in 2014
Air pollution blamed for 500,000 early deaths in Europe in 2014
The biggest source of harm was particulate matter from domestic stoves, but nitrogen dioxide from cars is also linked to many premature deaths. Filthy air killed half a million people in Europe prematurely in 2014. So says a report on air quality from the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen, Denmark. “Air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk in Europe,” says the EEA. By far the biggest killer was PM2.5, the soup of tiny particles measuring 2.5 micrometres across or less. These claimed an estimated 428,000 premature deaths across the 41 European countries tracked in 2014. The main source, contributing 57 per cent of PM2.5 emissions in 2015, was domestic wood burning, especially in eastern Europe. Nitrogen dioxide, mostly from vehicle exhausts, cut short an estimated 78,000 lives across the same 41 countries. Ground-level ozone was the other major killer, claiming an estimated 14,400 lives prematurely. “Heart disease and stroke are the most common reasons for premature death attributable to air pollution, and are responsible for 80 per cent of cases,” the report says. Air pollution also contributes to other respiratory diseases and cancer, and has non-lethal impacts on diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, pregnancy and brain development in children. The two worst hotspots for PM2.5 pollution were Poland and northern Italy, where dozens of cities exceeded the EU’s annual mean limit of 25 micrograms of particles per cubic metre of air. “Poland and the Po valley have very bad pollution,” says Alberto González Ortiz, the report’s lead author.
10-12-17 Ozone layer recovery could be delayed by 30 years
Ozone layer recovery could be delayed by 30 years
Rising global emissions of some chlorine-containing chemicals could slow the progress made in healing the ozone layer. A study found the substances, widely used for paint stripping and in the manufacture of PVC, are increasing much faster than previously thought. Mainly produced in China, these compounds are not currently regulated. Experts say their continued use could set back the closing of the ozone hole by up to 30 years. Scientists reported last year that they had detected the first clear evidence that the thinning of the protective ozone layer was diminishing. The Montreal Protocol, which was signed 30 years ago, was the key to this progress. It has progressively helped governments phase out the chlorofluorocarbons and the hydrochlorofluorocarbons that were causing the problem. However, concern has been growing over the past few years about a number of chemicals, dubbed "very short-lived substances". Dichloromethane is one of these chemicals, and is used as an industrial solvent and a paint remover. Levels in the atmosphere have increased by 60% over the past decade. Another compound highlighted in this new report is dichloroethane. It's used in the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride or PVC, a light plastic widely used in construction, agriculture and elsewhere. For a long time, scientists believed that both these compounds would decay before getting up as far as the ozone layer. However, air samples analysed in this new study suggest this view may be mistaken and these destructive elements are getting there quicker and doing more damage than thought. (Webmaster's comment: It took worldwide GOVERNMENT ACTION to even begin to fix this problem. All the "positive thinking" in the world would have made no difference. The manufacturers would just have kept making and using hydrochlorofluorocarbons in their products!)
10-11-17 Is positive thinking the way to save the planet?
Is positive thinking the way to save the planet?
Move over doom and gloom, there is a new environmental movement in town. Earth optimists say focusing on small successes is the way forward. “MARTIN LUTHER KING did not say, ‘I have a problem’,” says Andrew Balmford. The conservation biologist is part of a new environmental movement, and if you’re exhausted by the perennial doom and gloom, Earth Optimism might be just the ticket. Its mantras? Forests are growing back, renewable energy is beating coal, the ozone layer is recovering and although the fate of polar bears is still iffy, at least the giant panda is no longer on the brink of extinction. Sure, there’s plenty to be concerned about, but for the first time in a long time, say the optimists, there are reasons to be hopeful about the fate of the planet. The question is whether they have just forgotten to take off their rose-tinted spectacles. And even if they are right and the tide is turning, are positive messages really the best way to galvanise further action? The Earth Optimism movement began 10 years ago as a series of lectures by Nancy Knowlton, a coral biologist now at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC. At the time, Knowlton was running a master’s programme in oceanography at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. She soon came to the conclusion that the course was, as she puts it, “training our students to write ever more refined obituaries for the planet”. This didn’t feel like the most inspiring way to create future conservationists, so she launched Beyond the Obituaries, a symposium that focused on success stories in conservation. Its popularity led to a Twitter campaign called #OceanOptimism, which in the past few years has expanded into Earth Optimism. (Webmaster's comment: I'm sorry but you're not going to save a planet from the results of 200 years of massive abuses with little personal actions. To much damage has already been done and continues to be done!)
10-11-17 Early farmers may have polluted the sea 4000 years ago
Early farmers may have polluted the sea 4000 years ago
HUMANS have been polluting the environment for at least 4000 years. So says a team that has analysed sediment from the South China Sea – but not everyone is convinced. Several civilisations hit a crisis point 4000 years ago. The global climate cooled, and this has been linked to the collapse of the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia and the end of the Indus valley civilisation of South Asia. Cooling was also felt on Hainan island off China’s south coast, say Fangjian Xu at the China University of Petroleum, Qingdao, and his team. There was also a rise in heavy metal pollution in the South China Sea. The group looked at two sediment cores from south-east of Hainan, and calculated “enrichment factors” for several metals. A value of 1 or below is no enrichment, while values between 1 and 3 suggest “minor enrichment”. The enrichment factors of cadmium and lead hovered around 1 before 4000 years ago, then rose to about 1.5 (The Holocene, doi.org/cdxm). The group suggests the change was linked to the global cooling at the time, when Hainan would have cooled and dried. Lower monsoon activity would have triggered a drop in coastal upwelling, cutting marine productivity and encouraging Hainan’s inhabitants to focus on farming instead of fishing. Run-off from farms would have included heavy metals, which built up in soil because of metal tool use. Samuel Toucanne at the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea in Plouzané was involved in a 2015 analysis of South China Sea sediment from further west. There, evidence of pollution from lead and arsenic began only 1800 years ago.
10-11-17 The next supercontinent: Four ways Earth could reshape itself
The next supercontinent: Four ways Earth could reshape itself
Plate tectonics is a slow-grind drama with some dramatic plot twists – these scenarios show how Earth might look in 250 million AD. ASIA is torn in two. The Atlantic and Pacific oceans are swallowed. Where once there were beaches, great mountain ranges judder into the skies, fusing together a scatter of separate land masses into one mighty new supercontinent. Call it… Aurica. That’s what João Duarte calls it, anyway. A geoscientist at the University of Lisbon, Portugal, he has his own distinct vision of how Earth may look 250 million years from now. He joins a band of fortune tellers gazing into the distant future, all with different ideas about how and where the next supercontinent will form, and what cataclysms might strike along the way. The answer will determine Earth’s future climate and prospects for sustaining life. But getting it right requires grappling with a machine whose workings we still understand only imperfectly: that of plate tectonics. Earth’s surface is clad in rigid rock plates – together called the lithosphere – formed of surface crustal rock laminated on to hard cold mantle rocks. Given their rigidity, it is surprising that these plates don’t simply lock together, unmoving. And indeed, until about 50 years ago geologists thought that Earth’s land masses were fixed, despite German geophysicist Alfred Wegener having proposed the idea of continental drift in 1915. The creation and destruction of ocean basins makes plate motion possible. Plates move apart at mid-ocean ridges, where molten rock rises and cools to form hard, dense basalt. They move together at subduction zones, where old ocean lithosphere plunges under a neighbouring plate. As it penetrates the warmer, softer mantle beneath, it causes earthquakes and feeds volcanoes. Magnetic signals recorded in sea-floor rocks, and chemical traces from the roots of ancient mountain ranges, tell us how continental drift has changed the face of Earth. They point clearly to a time 180 million years ago when all today’s continents were stuck together in one vast land mass centred roughly where present-day Africa is: the supercontinent Pangaea, from the Ancient Greek for “all of Earth”.
10-11-17 California’s wildfires powered by perfect storm of fire hazards
California’s wildfires powered by perfect storm of fire hazards
Low humidity, parched vegetation and warm winds have led to fires that have killed at least 17, left over 150 people missing and destroyed over 2000 homes. Fire has devastated large areas of northern California, killing at least 17, with 155 people missing, and destroying at least 2000 homes. Wildfires have torched almost 30,000 hectares, mostly in the wine-growing regions of Napa and Sonoma counties, including the area around Santa Rosa. The US National Weather Service (NWS) issued a red-flag warning on Tuesday, blaming near-perfect fire conditions. Warm offshore winds gusting at up to 50 kilometres per hour served as bellows, spreading fire in conditions of low humidity and parched vegetation. “Any fires that develop will likely spread rapidly,” warned the NWS. “Shifting winds may push ongoing fires in new directions.” The Californian fires are the latest in a year that has seen abnormally high wildfire activity in the US. On 1 October, the US National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho predicted that northern California was at especially grave risk. “Weather patterns along the West Coast allowed fuels to dry and become receptive to fire,” it warned. The NWS said conditions could ease in northern California by midweek, but the south would still be at risk. “Winds and the fire weather threat will decrease Tuesday in the north, but a threat will remain in southern California,” it said. There is evidence that the warm winds fanning wildfires in northern parts of the state are being exacerbated by rising temperatures triggered by climate change.
10-11-17 California fires: Scores missing as death toll rises to 17
California fires: Scores missing as death toll rises to 17
More than 150 people are missing in wildfires that have ravaged northern California's wine region, police say. At least 17 people are now confirmed dead and more than 2,000 buildings have been destroyed by the fires which broke out on Sunday. Eleven of the deaths have been in Sonoma County. One of the worst affected towns there is Santa Rosa, north of San Francisco, where entire districts have been destroyed. The Sonoma County sheriff's office said 155 people were still unaccounted for, although that could be due to the chaotic pace of the evacuations. In neighbouring Napa County, victims included 100-year-old Charles Rippey and his 98-year-old wife, Sarah, police said. The fires are among the deadliest in California's history and have sent smoke as far south as San Francisco, about 60 miles (100km) away. California fire chief Ken Pimlott told the BBC on Tuesday that more than 17 fires had burned about 115,000 acres (26,000ha) in the past 24 hours. He said his officers were trying to track down those unaccounted for but he feared the death toll could rise. "We're very hopeful that they're just staying with family or friends or left town to get away and we just haven't been able to make that contact," he said. "But these fires move so quickly - there are just hundreds and thousands of acres out there that we haven't had a chance to pour through and adjudicate."
10-11-17 Satellites spy Antarctic 'upside-down ice canyon'
Satellites spy Antarctic 'upside-down ice canyon'
An Antarctic ice shelf is shown to have a deep gorge cut in its underside by warm ocean water. Scientists have identified a way in which the effects of Antarctic melting can be enhanced. Their new satellite observations of the Dotson Ice Shelf show its losses, far from being even, are actually focused on a long, narrow sector. In places, this has cut an inverted canyon through more than half the thickness of the shelf structure. If the melting continued unabated, it would break Dotson in 40-50 years, not the 200 years currently projected. "That is unlikely to happen because the ice will respond in some way to the imbalance," said Noel Gourmelen, from the University of Edinburgh, UK. "It's possible the area of thinning could widen or the flow of ice could change. Both would affect the rate at which the channel forms. "But the important point here is that Dotson is not a flat slab and it can be much thinner in places than we think it is and much closer to a stage where it might experience major change." Dr Gourmelen's new study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, uses the European Space Agency's Cryosat and Sentinel-1 spacecraft to make a detailed examination of the thickness and movement of Dotson. The 70km by 40km ice shelf is the floating projection of two glaciers, Kohler and Smith. As they stream off the west of Antarctica, their fronts lift up and join together, pushing out over the Amundsen Sea. The shelf acts as a buttress to the ice behind. If Dotson were not present, Kohler and Smith would flow much faster, dumping more of their mass in the ocean, contributing to sea-level rise. (Webmaster's comment: The bottom line is that the Antarctic, and Greenland, glaciers are going to collapse much faster than predicted. And oceans will rise much faster than predicted. Move inland now before the price goes up!)
10-11-17 Obama's Clean Power Plan is dead. Time to get serious on climate change.
Obama's Clean Power Plan is dead. Time to get serious on climate change.
In 10,000 years, if there are still human beings around, it's pretty likely that most things about President Trump will have been long forgotten. The fading, gold-plated letters will all have fallen from Trump's Manhattan skyscrapers. His gaudy, bankrupt hotels will have crumbled to dust. With any luck, even the history books will barely mention his name. But there is one big exception: Even 10,000 years from now, Trump's effects on the climate of our planet will still be felt. This week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt carried out one of the most consequential actions of any administration in history, when he obeyed Trump's order to cancel former President Obama's Clean Power Plan, which set national limits on carbon pollution from power plants. This is crazy. We are living through an absolutely critical moment for climate policy. In a sane world, rich countries would be ratcheting down emissions at something like 10 percent per year. Four years of an unhinged climate denier in the White House could not have come at a worse time. Humans will feel the effects of this for millennia to come. However, we must also acknowledge that the Clean Power Plan, while positive, was not itself remotely sufficient to get emissions down fast enough to save humanity. When Trump is out of office, the most aggressive possible climate policy must become an urgent national priority. It's unclear exactly what will happen with the Clean Power Plan. Certainly, there will be a firestorm of litigation. It's just hard to tell where it will end up. The EPA is required to regulate carbon dioxide somehow, according to a 2007 Supreme Court case, but Pruitt — a stooge for the oil, gas, and coal industries if there ever was one — has considerable bureaucratic tools at his disposal to delay things. If I had to guess, I would say the Clean Power Plan will be halted but not completely killed off, and the EPA will be tied up in litigation for the remainder of Trump's presidency.
10-10-17 Trump team kicks the Clean Power Plan into the long grass
Trump team kicks the Clean Power Plan into the long grass
In California and the western US, wildfires made more likely by climate change, continue to rage in the vineyards and forests. In President Trump's Washington, a bonfire of climate regulations is also burning brightly. "The war on coal is over," EPA administrator Scott Pruitt told an audience in Kentucky yesterday, as he announced his intention to sign a rule rolling back the Clean Power Plan (CPP). So is this just another angry white man, lashing out at the "global climate conspiracy", determined to turn the clock back to the golden age of anthracite? Mr Pruitt would robustly deny it. Along with many other republican attorneys general, and several industry bodies, he sees the CPP as a significant over-reach by the Federal government. Rather than just requiring coal fired power plants to improve the efficiency of their operations, critics say it put the onus on them to go further and invest in renewables such as wind and solar power. "The past administration was using every bit of power and authority to use the EPA to pick winners and losers in how we generate electricity in this country," Mr Pruitt said. "That's wrong." "The core of the Trump support truly doubts the need to act on climate change, and really sees it as an attempted government over reach," said Tim Profeta. "The reason President Trump is our president is because of the real cry of pain from the mid-west and our manufacturing belt that feels left behind both economically and culturally." (Webmaster's comment: So let's ignore all the evidence and create more global warming. Does that make sense? Or should we retrain the coal workers to build green energy plants. Now that makes sense!)
10-10-17 California fires: Deadly wildfires sweep through wine country
California fires: Deadly wildfires sweep through wine country
Fifteen fires were burning across eight Californian counties. Parts of California's wine region are being ravaged by fast-spreading fires that have killed at least 11 people. A state of emergency was declared in northern areas after mass evacuations, with 1,500 properties destroyed. About 20,000 people fled from Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties in response to some the state's worst-ever wildfires. Such fires are more common in southern California but a combination of dry weather and strong winds has fuelled the destruction in the north. "These fires have destroyed structures and continue to threaten thousands of homes, necessitating the evacuation of thousands of residents," Governor Jerry Brown said, declaring the emergency. There is little sign the weather in the coming days will bring relief to firefighters, BBC Weather says. More tinder dry conditions are forecast, with no rain expected. Meanwhile, in southern California, a separate wildfire burnt 24 homes or other buildings in the wealthy Anaheim Hills area of Orange County, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate.
10-10-17 'Sooty birds' reveal hidden US air pollution
'Sooty birds' reveal hidden US air pollution
Soot trapped in the feathers of songbirds over the past 100 years is causing scientists to revise their records of air pollution. US researchers measured the black carbon found on 1,300 larks, woodpeckers and sparrows over the past century. They've produced the most complete picture to date of historic air quality over industrial parts of the US. The study also boosts our understanding of historic climate change. Black carbon, a major component of soot, is created through the incomplete burning of fossil fuels such as coal. The dirty air generated as a result became a major problem as industrialisation expanded across Europe and the US at the end of the 19th century. Cities were soon coated in sooty air thanks to the unregulated burning of coal in homes and factories. While the huge impact of black carbon on the health of people living in urban centres has been recognised for decades, it is only in recent years that scientists have understood the role it plays climate change. When it is suspended in the air, the substance absorbs sunlight and increases warming in the atmosphere. When it hits the ground it increases melting of snow and ice, and has been linked to the loss of ice in the Arctic region. (Webmaster's comment: And Trump's elimination of pollution rules will bring the soot back. Anything for a rich man's buck!)
10-9-17 Trump administration to roll back Obama clean power rule
Trump administration to roll back Obama clean power rule
The Trump administration has confirmed plans to repeal an Obama administration rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has voiced doubt of climate change, called the Clean Power Plan an overreach. President Donald Trump ordered the EPA to rewrite the rule in March. The Clean Power Plan requires states to meet carbon emission reduction targets based on their energy consumption. Mr Pruitt said he would sign the proposed rule to begin withdrawing from the plan on Tuesday. "The war on coal is over," he told a crowd in Hazard, Kentucky, on Monday. He continued: "That rule really was about picking winners and losers. "Regulatory power should not be used by any regulatory body to pick winners and losers." Mr Pruitt has previously argued that the Clean Power Plan would force states to favour renewable energy in the electricity-generation market. As Oklahoma's attorney general, he took part in a lawsuit by 27 US states against the rule. A Supreme Court ruling in February 2016 left the regulation in limbo. The EPA under President Barack Obama said the Clean Power Plan could prevent up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children and 6,600 premature deaths. But according to US media, a leaked draft of the repeal proposal disputes the health benefits touted by the previous administration. The draft also reportedly argues the country would save $33bn (£25bn) by dropping the regulation. The Clean Power Plan required states to devise a way to cut planet-warming emissions by 32% below 2005 levels by 2030.
10-9-17 Light-filtering paint cools your home when exposed to hot sun
Light-filtering paint cools your home when exposed to hot sun
Laser cooling has been applied to paint, which could mitigate urban heat islands and solve the problem of how to cool objects in space. The sun itself could soon become a low-cost air conditioner. A high-tech paint that actually cools when exposed to sunlight can provide a better way to chill buildings – and perhaps even solve the long-standing problem of cooling things in space. In hot weather, electricity consumption soars as people turn on the air conditioning, pushing the grid to its limits and raising energy bills. Now Yaron Shenhav and his colleagues from SolCold, a firm based in Herzliya, Israel, have come up with an alternative that doesn’t require electricity. “It’s like putting a layer of ice on your rooftop which is thicker when there is more sun,” he says. The technology is based on the counterintuitive principle of laser cooling, in which hitting specially designed materials with a laser can cool them by up to 150°C. It works because molecules in these materials absorb photons whose light is of one frequency while spontaneously re-emitting higher-frequency photons, which also carry more energy. Since energy is lost, the temperature of the material is reduced in the process. Mounting lasers on your roof wouldn’t be very practical, though, so Shenhav wanted to see if he could tweak the technique to make it work with sunlight instead. “Heat from a building could be absorbed and re-emitted as light,” he says. “As long as the sun is shining on it, it would be continuously cooled.”
10-9-17 British mission to giant A-68 berg approved
British mission to giant A-68 berg approved
UK scientists will lead an international expedition to the huge new iceberg that recently calved in the Antarctic. A-68, which covers an area of almost 6,000 sq km, broke away in August. Researchers are keen to investigate the seafloor uncovered by the trillion-tonne block of ice. Previous such ventures have discovered new species. The British Antarctic Survey has won funding to visit the berg and its calving zone in February next year. It will use the Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross. BAS cautions, however, that the final green-light will depend on the berg's position at the time and the state of sea-ice in the area. A-68 will need to be well clear of the Larsen Ice Shelf from which it calved, and any marine floes on top of the water will have to be sufficiently thin to allow the JCR access. (Webmaster's comment: 6,000 sq km is 2,300 sq miles.)
10-8-17 Is evaporating water the future of renewable energy?
Is evaporating water the future of renewable energy?
Forget the sun and wind — evaporating water could be the next big source of renewable energy, said James Temple at Technology Review?. So-called evaporation-driven engines "generate power from the motion of bacterial spores that expand and contract as they absorb and release air moisture." Evaporation continues 24/7, so the engines, which sit on the water's surface, could provide power nonstop — unlike solar panels. The technology is still in a prototype phase, but a new study in the journal Nature Communications notes that the power available from natural evaporation in lakes and reservoirs in the continental U.S. could meet 70 percent of the nation's needs. If even a small amount of that energy were tapped, says study co-author Ozgur Sahin of Columbia University, evaporation-driven engines "could make a significant contribution to clean-energy and climate goals." (Webmaster's comment: Unfortunately water vapor is a green house gas. Increasing the amount in the atmosphere only further warms the planet. Bad Idea!)
10-8-17 In pictures: Solar challenge race begins in Australia
In pictures: Solar challenge race begins in Australia
Teams from around the world are competing on solar cars in an epic transcontinental race. Solar-powered cars from more than 30 countries around the world have begun a biannual 3,000km (1,865-mile) race from Darwin to Adelaide, north to south across the centre of Australia. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the competition. Teams in the World Solar Challenge are made up of students who have built their vehicles with their own hands.
10-7-17 Storm Nate: Hurricane heads to New Orleans
Storm Nate: Hurricane heads to New Orleans
US states in the Gulf of Mexico are again on a state of alert as Hurricane Nate heads towards them. Parts of the city of New Orleans, devastated by Hurricane Katrina 12 years ago, are being evacuated. Nate killed at least 23 people as it passed through Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Honduras as a tropical storm. It has since strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane which, though not as strong as last month's Maria and Irma, will still bring strong winds and surges. A hurricane warning has been issued for parts of the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Alabama, amid warnings of life-threatening storm surge flooding. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has declared a state of emergency ahead of the hurricane, which is due to make landfall on Saturday night local time. He said more than 1,000 National Guard troops had been mobilised with a number sent to New Orleans to monitor the drainage pumps there. "Anyone in low-lying areas... we are urging them to prepare now," he said. A mandatory curfew from 18:00 (23:00 GMT) is in place in New Orleans. "Our greatest threat... is not necessarily rain, but strong winds and storm surge," the city's Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. (Webmaster's comment: Are all these hurricanes normal for one year?)
10-6-17 Another iceberg breakaway
Another iceberg breakaway
An iceberg four times the size of Manhattan broke away from a glacier in Western Antarctica last month, permanently altering the continent’s coastline and increasing concerns about rising sea levels. The 100-square-mile chunk of ice calved from the Pine Island Glacier, which accounts for about 45 billion tons of ice flow into the ocean each year. Scientists monitoring the glacier via satellite say the newly formed iceberg is unstable and has already broken apart into smaller pieces as it drifts out to sea. Though massive, the berg is dwarfed by the Delaware-sized block of ice that split from the Larsen C ice shelf in Antarctica earlier this year, reports CBSNews.com. The new breakaway won’t directly affect global sea levels, because that portion of Pine Island is already floating, but it may diminish the glacier’s function as a plug that holds back ice streams from the West Antarctic ice shelf. Scientists are also concerned that these calving events are becoming more frequent—and that they’re forming in the center of the glacier, as warmer ocean water weakens it from below. “If new rifts continue to form progressively inland,” says Ian Howat, a glaciologist at Ohio State University, “the significance to ice shelf retreat would be high.”
10-6-17 Autos: GM and Ford shift to an electric future
Autos: GM and Ford shift to an electric future
General Motors “outlined a fundamental shift in its vision” for the future of the auto industry this week, announcing a plan to vastly increase its fleet of all-electric vehicles, said Bill Vlasic in The New York Times. America’s largest automaker said it plans to build 20 new all-electric models by 2023, including two in the next 18 months. Although electric vehicles are currently just 1 percent of the U.S. car market, China and several European countries have announced that they will eventually ban gasoline-powered cars, which has “set off a scramble by the world’s car companies to embrace electric vehicles.” GM’s rival Ford also announced plans this week to develop electric vehicles—13 new models over the next several years, said Phil LeBeau in CNBC.com. Alongside that push, Ford will shift its focus away from passenger cars and sedans to its more profitable and popular SUVs and pickup trucks, which this year composed 76 percent of Ford’s sales in the U.S. Balancing that dual focus—electric cars of the future and the big vehicles of today—could prove challenging. “The decision to change is not easy,” said new CEO Jim Hackett. But past approaches “are really no guarantee of future success” as the car industry transforms.
10-6-17 Elon Musk says he can rebuild Puerto Rico's power grid with solar
Elon Musk says he can rebuild Puerto Rico's power grid with solar
Renewable energy entrepreneur Elon Musk says he could rebuild Puerto Rico's shattered electrical infrastructure with his solar energy technology. The vast majority of the island territory remains without power, weeks after it was hit by Hurricane Maria. On Twitter, Mr Musk said his technology, which powers several smaller islands, could be scaled up to work for Puerto Rico. The island's governor responded to Mr Musk with the message: "Let's talk". "Do you want to show the world the power and scalability of your Tesla technologies? Puerto Rico could be that flagship project," the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, said. Mr Musk's Tesla company is best known for its electric cars, but it also incorporates SolarCity - a solar panel firm which specialises in efficiently storing large amounts of electricity in power banks. The company says it has powered small islands, such as Ta'u in American Samoa. There, it installed a solar grid which can power the entire island and store enough electricity for three days without any sun. "The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico, too," Mr Musk tweeted.
10-5-17 The perilous future of Earth's parasites
The perilous future of Earth's parasites
atever little attention the mass extinction crisis gets tends to focus on the large and charismatic species that are on the verge of disappearing from Earth forever. Smaller creatures — microbes, mollusks, and other invertebrates — hardly register at all on the human agenda. Their existential plight is pretty much ignored by politicians, press, and the American public alike. Recently, however, a team of scientists managed to shove this neglected topic into the spotlight when they released a paper on parasite extinction that ricocheted around the internet and racked up quite a bit of coverage in the mainstream media. Published in Science Advances and written by a University of California–Berkeley graduate student and fellow researchers, the study offers a disturbing look at the enormous and unintended consequences of human activity on the planet's ecosystems. It finds that climate change threatens to decimate parasite species across the planet, with dangerous implications for wildlife survival and human health. After analyzing data on more than 457 parasite species, the authors report that "conservative model projections suggest that 5 to 10 percent of these species are committed to extinction by 2070 from climate-driven habitat loss alone." This mass die-off could be exacerbated, moreover, if the host species that parasites rely on to survive also go extinct in the face of climate change and other anthropogenic disturbances. Indeed, under worst-case scenarios, as many as one in three parasite species could be wiped out.
10-5-17 Food and farming policies 'need total rethink'
Food and farming policies 'need total rethink'
Can farming and food production be made less damaging to the planet? A big meeting in London will look at how reforms could help halt species extinction, meet climate goals, limit the spread of antibiotic resistance and improve animal welfare. The organisers of the Extinction and Livestock Conference say diverse interests will be represented. They include multinational food corporations, native breed farmers, neurologists and naturalists. McDonalds, Tesco and Compass will be rubbing shoulders with those from the Sustainable Food Trust, Quorn and WWF. The 500 delegates come from more than 30 countries. Their wide interests illustrate the complex and difficult issues arising from global livestock production.
10-4-17 I want to show the courts who’s to blame for climate change
I want to show the courts who’s to blame for climate change
Climate modelling allows us to link extreme weather, climate change and emissions so we can use the law to hit big oil where it hurts, says Myles Allen. MYLES ALLEN takes no prisoners. Few lay into the sluggishness of politicians or the self-serving pronouncements of big-oil CEOs with more vigour than the chief climate modeller at the University of Oxford. That’s just as well, since he is fighting science’s corner in two vital areas: the scientific attribution of extreme weather to climate change, and the attribution of climate change to corporate emissions. He wants to join the dots and show the world – and particularly the courts – where the culpability lies for global warming. I catch Allen in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The evidence is clear, he says, that “climate change increases the risk of such intense, short-duration rainfall events”. As a result, he wants the contribution of climate change to be pointed out in every weather report. “It’s time meteorologists put our estimates of the impact of climate change into their weather forecasts.” Allen is frustrated by the scientific and political caution that prevents this happening. Climate scientists should be more direct, he says – asking and answering the questions that get to the heart of the issue. “I spent the first 15 years of my career as a climate modeller pointing out how complicated things were, and then the next 10 years atoning for that [by stressing how] it’s really very simple.” Yes, the uncertainties in climate science should be acknowledged, he says, but amid the caution, “people miss the fact that our best estimate of the human contribution to global warming is actually: all of it”.
10-4-17 Sydney and Melbourne could face 50C days 'within decades'
Sydney and Melbourne could face 50C days 'within decades'
Australia's two biggest cities could swelter through 50C (122F) days within a few decades, a study has found. Sydney and Melbourne are likely to endure such summers even if global warming is contained to the Paris accord limit of a 2C rise above pre-industrial levels, scientists said. Limiting warming to below that would make 50C days less likely, they said. Sydney reached a record 45.8C in 2013 while Melbourne hit 46.4C in 2009, the nation's Bureau of Meteorology said. The study examined only forecasts for Victoria and New South Wales, but researchers said the rest of Australia could also expect rises. "One of the hottest years on record globally - in 2015 - could be an average year by 2025," said lead researcher Dr Sophie Lewis from the Australian National University. The research, also involving the University of Melbourne and published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, drew on observational data and climate modelling to predict future temperatures. Dr Lewis said the cities could experience 50C days between 2040 and 2050, a forecast based on global temperatures being at 2C above pre-industrial times. Australia's most recent summer broke 205 weather records while its winter was the warmest on record, according to the nation's independent Climate Council. Last month, Australians were warned to prepare for a dangerous bushfire season in 2017-18.
10-4-17 Why some want the giant trash pile in the Pacific to get country status
Why some want the giant trash pile in the Pacific to get country status
You can already apply for citizenship. A blob of floating trash in the north Pacific Ocean has grown to rival the size of a not-so-small country. Now some activists are making the case the heap should be recognized as one. Plastic Oceans Foundation, an environmental charity, and LADbible, a news and entertainment group, have teamed up to petition the United Nations to recognize the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a.k.a. Trash Isles — as an official nation, Quartz reported. Al Gore was designated the first official citizen of Trash Isles, and more than 110,000 people have signed a petition to sign up for citizenship (and put pressure on the U.N. to take the trash heap more seriously), and designer Mario Kerkstra created a passport, flag, stamps, and currency for Trash Isles. The organizers are hoping that, should their campaign succeed, other member nations of the U.N. would be inspired to help clean up the mess. As a recognized country, Trash Isles would be protected under the U.N.'s Environmental Charter, the activists say, which states: "All members shall co-operate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of the earth's ecosystem." The campaign is also meant to raise awareness on an individual level about the growing problem of plastics in our oceans, and to encourage Trash Isles citizens to cut down on their own plastic use. The Trash Isles campaign is the latest in a long list of creative ideas meant to get people to care about their footprint on Earth. In the September/October 2015 issue of Pacific Standard, Brooke Jarvis documented the efforts of the photographer Chris Jordan, who "spent years trying to visually represent the baffling scale on which we produce and scrap the materials of consumer society." Jordan began with photographs of man-made junk at ports or scrap yards, according to Jarvis, "and later began creating digital composites to illustrate statistics too vast for the human brain to compute: a forest made from the cigarette butts thrown out every 15 seconds in the United States; a swirl of hundreds of thousands of cell phones, the discards of a single American day."
10-3-17 Grass-fed beef is bad for the planet and causes climate change
Grass-fed beef is bad for the planet and causes climate change
Supporters like Prince Charles say raising cattle on pastures can be good for the environment, but the sums have been done and their claims don’t add up. Prince Charles is wrong to support grass-fed beef. The idea that beef from cows raised on bucolic pastures is good for the environment, and that we can therefore eat as much meat as we want, doesn’t add up. New calculations suggest cattle pastures contribute to climate change. “Sadly, though it would be nice if the pro-grazers were right, they aren’t,” says lead author Tara Garnett of the University of Oxford’s Food Climate Research Network. “The truth is, we cannot eat as much meat as we like and save the planet.” Many meat eaters have long felt guilty that the beef steaks they love are bringing environmental disaster. A key problem is that microorganisms in the guts of cattle emit millions of tonnes of methane every year. A typical cow releases 100 kilograms of methane a year and the world has about a billion of them. Since methane is a greenhouse gas, this exacerbates global warming. Meanwhile, feeding the beasts destroys forests by taking land for pasture or to grow feed – and this deforestation also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. But a counter-view has gained currency. First popularised by Zimbabwean ecologist and livestock farmer Allan Savory, and supported by organic farmers like Prince Charles, it argues that grazing cattle on pastures is actually good for the climate. The idea is that plants on pastures capture carbon from the air, especially when fertilised by manure. Pastures should also reduce our need for food crops grown on land that releases carbon when ploughed.
10-2-17 Kids suing nations over climate change wildfire links are right
Kids suing nations over climate change wildfire links are right
A group of children is aiming to take 47 nations to court over links between climate change and forest fires. Science is on their side, says Richard Schiffman. Can countries that foul our atmosphere with gases that warm the world be held legally accountable for the consequences? Yes, say six schoolchildren from Leiria in Portugal. They are planning to take dozens of European nations to court to answer for forest fires that hit their region in June, one of which resulted in 64 deaths. The youngsters – aged 5 to 14 – say lack of action on global warming makes these disasters more likely. They are poised to launch a crowdfunded legal suit in the European Court of Human Rights, a body whose rulings are binding on 47 countries including the UK. The children want those nations to cut emissions of greenhouse gases and commit to keeping most of their existing fossil fuel reserves in the ground. “It’s not just David versus Goliath,” reads their appeal for funds. “It’s David versus many Goliaths,” since the plaintiffs will have to confront the arguments of multiple nations. Other climate suits are being brought on behalf of young people in the US, India, France, Ukraine, Belgium and other countries. More broadly, litigation by citizens and environmental groups is booming worldwide. The lion’s share is in the US, where more than 600 climate-related cases have been filed in recent decades. But such claims pose unique legal – as well as scientific – challenges. For example, how exactly do you prove in a court of law that climate change is culpable for events such as the Portuguese wildfires?
10-2-17 Plate tectonics: When we discovered how the Earth really works
Plate tectonics: When we discovered how the Earth really works
What would you put on your list of the great scientific breakthroughs of the 20th Century? General relativity? Quantum mechanics? Something to do with genetics, perhaps? One discovery that ought to be on everyone's rundown is plate tectonics - the description of how the rigid outer shell of our planet (its lithosphere) moves and is recycled. The theory celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and some of the key players who put the framework together are currently in London to mark the occasion with a special conference at The Geological Society. The truly great ideas in science not only seem brilliantly simple and intuitive when they come into focus, they also then have this extraordinary power to answer so many other questions in Nature. Plate tectonics is a perfect example of this. It tells us why the Himalayas are so tall; why Mexico experiences damaging earthquakes; why the monkeys in South America look different from the ones in Africa; and why Antarctica went into a deep freeze. But when you're on the inside of the bubble, trying to make all the pieces of evidence fit into a coherent narrative - the solution seems very far from obvious. "We had no idea what were the cause of earthquakes and volcanoes and things like that," recalls Dan McKenzie. "It's extraordinarily difficult now to put yourself back into the state of mind that we had when I was an undergraduate. And of course, the ideas I came up with are now taught in primary school." In 1967, he published a paper in the journal Nature called "The North Pacific: An Example of Tectonics on a Sphere" with Robert Parker, another Cambridge University graduate. (Webmaster's comment: Plate Tectonics is not a theory, it is a FACT!)
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46 Global Warming News Articles
for October of 2017
Global Warming News Articles for September of 2017