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84 Global Warming News Articles
for February of 2019
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Climate Change Is Real. Donald Trump Thinks It's A Hoax.


2-28-19 Great Barrier Reef: One million tonnes of sludge to be dumped
Australia plans to dump one million tonnes of sludge in the Great Barrier Reef. Despite strict laws on dumping waste, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) gave the go-ahead. It says the works ensure boats and ships "can safely and reliably access ports and marinas". It comes one week after flood water from Queensland spread into the reef, which scientists say will "smother" the coral. The industrial residue is dredged from the bottom of the sea floor near Hay Point Port - one of the world's largest coal exports and a substantial economic source for the country. Larissa Waters, senator for Queensland and co-deputy leader of the Greens Party, called for the license to be revoked. "The last thing the reef needs is more sludge dumped on it, after being slammed by the floods recently," she told The Guardian. "One million tonnes of dumping dredged sludge into world heritage waters treats our reef like a rubbish tip." It's just "another nail in the coffin" for the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, which is already under stress due to climate change, according to Dr Simon Boxall from the National Oceanography Centre Southampton. "If they are dumping it over the coral reef itself, it will have quite a devastating effect. The sludge is basically blanketing over the coral. "The coral relies on the algae, that's what give them their colour and what helps them feed - without this partnership the coral will suffer dramatically." Dr Boxall says his worries about sludge-dumping are short-term - with the current Australian summer a time for "rapid algae growth".

2-28-19 Oceans that are warming due to climate change yield fewer fish
Some areas have seen up to a 35 percent decline in how many fish can be harvested sustainably. Finding the fish is going to get harder as climate change continues to heat up the world’s oceans. Increasing ocean temperatures over 80 years have reduced the sustainable catch of 124 fish and shellfish species — the amount that can be harvested without doing long-term damage to the populations — by a global average of 4.1 percent, a new study finds. Overfishing has exacerbated that decline, the researchers say. In some parts of the world, such as the heavily fished Sea of Japan, the decrease in sustainable catch is as high as 35 percent. The study, in the March 1 Science, examined changes from 1930 to 2010 in 235 fish and shellfish populations scattered across 38 ocean regions. On average, Earth’s surface ocean temperatures have increased by about half a degree Celsius in that time, although temperature changes vary from location to location. About 8 percent of the fish and shellfish populations studied saw losses as a result of the ocean warming, while about 4 percent of the populations increased in that time. That’s because certain species, such as black sea bass along the northeastern U.S. coast, have thrived in the warmer waters. But with continued warming those gains are likely to evaporate, as even those fish reach their heat threshold, says Christopher Free, a quantitative ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who led the work while he was at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. With some 3.2 billion people worldwide currently relying on seafood as a source of protein, the findings highlight the urgent need for fisheries to take into account how climate change is shifting populations in the sea.

2-28-19 UK's Halley Antarctic base in third winter shutdown
The British Antarctic Survey has closed its Halley base for another winter. Staff departed the station, leaving about 80% of the experiments they'd normally conduct through the polar night operating on automatic. The closure is the result of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the stability of ice near Halley that is likely soon to break off into the sea. BAS believes the base is far enough away to be unaffected, but it doesn't want people there just in case. Sending in planes to evacuate personnel in winter darkness and in bad weather is an unnecessary risk. This is the third winter on the trot now that Halley has been closed up. The base sits on the Brunt Ice Shelf - the floating protrusion of glaciers that are flowing off the Antarctic interior into the Weddell Sea. Periodically, this platform will calve icebergs and there is presently a large chasm opening up that will spawn a particularly big block - about the size of Greater London. But when precisely this will occur, no-one can say. "What really matters is what happens upstream of the chasm where Halley is situated," explained BAS science director Prof David Vaughan. "We have a network of about 15 GPS stations across the ice shelf surrounding Halley, and their data is essentially broadcast to us every day with one day's lag. And although, yes, down by the crack, there are changes - up by Halley, we've actually seen very little deformation of the ice," he told BBC News. There's been a permanent research station on the Brunt since the late 1950s. The buildings have gone through various upgrades with the most recent facility featuring legs and skis. These enable the whole segmented structure to be moved. In 2017, BAS tractors dragged the base 23km further from the water's edge, to put it in a more secure spot. It was a smart decision because without the relocation Halley would now be sitting on the wrong side of the chasm.

2-27-19 Why are there UK wildfires in February?
Scorched Earth images of Marsden Moor - close to Saddleworth - look horribly familiar. In June 2018, a fire on moorland in that area took hold and burned for weeks; the army was called in, carbon-storing peatland and entire ecosystems were incinerated. But that was during a memorably hot, dry summer. We are now witnessing the strange spectacle of large winter wildfires. Separate, smaller fires broke out on Tuesday, too - two in Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, the woodland made famous in AA Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories. And in Scotland, fire-fighters battled through the night to extinguish a large gorse fire on Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh. Woodland fires in the UK are unusual, but fires on moorland - even at this time of year - are actually fairly typical. "This is the 'muirburn' season," Dr Thomas Smith, an environmental geography researcher from the London School of Economics, explained. "That's when Natural England permit fires on moorlands, before a ban on burning around mid-April. Those burns are part of the management of moorland - particularly when it is used for grouse shooting. Grouse prefer a habitat where heather is not overgrown, and burning small areas removes older growth and allows plants to regenerate and new shoots to come through. Land managers and fire services often work closely together to ensure conditions are right for these controlled burns. "Looking at the satellite image for Tuesday (26 February), there were plenty of well managed fires burning across Northumberland and Highland moor sites," said Dr Smith. The scale of the West Yorkshire moorland fire, the cause of which is not yet known, has been driven in part by a favourite British talking point - the weather. Sunny, dry conditions created a tinderbox effect that we usually see in the spring. Prof David Demeritt from Kings College London explained: "It's unseasonable. "Landscape fires in Britain happen disproportionately in the Spring, because on the moors and in the forest, you have no leaf cover. "Sticks and leaf litter dry out. And because this has been a relatively dry winter, there's more of that fuel on the ground - everything has dried out early."

2-27-19 Firefighters tackle moorland blazes fuelled by UK's warm weather
Firefighters have been tackling a large moorland blaze in West Yorkshire, UK. An area of around 1.5 square kilometres was burning on Saddleworth Moor after the country saw its hottest winter day on record on Tuesday. The fire near Marsden could be seen for miles around as crews from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service battled to contain it through the night. Witnesses described the “terrible” scene of fire coming close to buildings high on the moorland. West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said the fire now looks to be out, but five fire engines and two specialist moorland firefighting units will remain on the moor to tackle any further hot spots. Incident Commander Laura Boocock told the BBC it was one of the biggest grass fires she has ever seen, but it was “nothing they can’t handle”. The fire on Saddleworth came after firefighters had to tackle a large gorse fire on Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. Around 800 square metres of gorse was ablaze on the Salisbury Crags, with the flames visible across the city. In Kew Gardens, London, the temperature on Tuesday reached 21.2°C, the highest temperature ever recorded in the UK in winter.

2-26-19 UK beats winter temperature record again
The UK has broken the record for its warmest winter day for the second consecutive day, with a temperature of 21.2°C in Kew Gardens, London. Monday was the first time temperatures of over 20C had been reported in winter, breaking a record that had stood since 1998. It means parts of Britain have been hotter than destinations such as Ibiza. Last February, temperatures in the UK plunged as low as -11.7C at South Farnborough, Hampshire. Temperatures broke the previous day's record of 20.6C in two other places, the Met Office said. Porthmadog in north-west Wales hit 20.8C while temperatures of 20.7C were reported in Teddington, south-west London. In Scotland, the temperature reached 18.3C on 21 February in Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, breaking a record of 17.9C which had stood for more than 120 years. In Northern Ireland, temperatures reached 15.6C in Castlederg, County Tyrone. The February record of 17.8C was recorded in 1998. Meanwhile, firefighters have warned the warm weather could lead to a greater risk of outdoor fires. The warning, from East Sussex Fire Service, came after two large fires broke out in Ashdown Forest - the East Sussex forest made famous by AA Milne's Winnie the Pooh novels. The BBC Weather Centre said it was likely to be one of the warmest Februaries since records began in 1878. Sunny, warm conditions are expected to last into Wednesday, when maximum temperatures at Kew Gardens and Porthmadog are forecast to be slightly cooler at 19C and 17C respectively. On Thursday, a high pressure system is expected to break down as wetter, windier weather moves in across Wales and into England. Dr Friedericke Otto, acting director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, said people were right to ask themselves whether the record temperatures were being driven by climate change. "I am very confident to say that there's an element of climate change in these warm temperatures," she said.

2-26-19 Earth could warm by 14°C as growing emissions destroy crucial clouds
If we keep burning fossil fuels with reckless abandon, we could trigger a cloud feedback effect that will add 8°C on top of all the warming up to that point. That means the world could warm by more than 14°C above the pre-industrial level. Needless to say, this would be cataclysmic. For instance, large parts of the tropics would become too hot for warm-blooded animals, including us, to survive. The good news is that if countries step up their efforts to cut emissions we should avoid finding out if this idea is correct. “I don’t think we will get anywhere close to it,” says Tapio Schneider at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, who led the research. Schneider’s team modelled stratocumulus clouds over subtropical oceans, which cover around 7 per cent of Earth’s surface and cool the planet by reflecting the sun’s heat back into space. They found there was a sudden transition when CO2 levels reached around 1200 parts per million (ppm) — the stratocumulus clouds broke up and disappeared. The reason why this finding applies only to subtropical stratocumulus is that these clouds are unusual. The cloud layer is maintained by the cloudtops cooling as they emit infrared radiation — and very high CO2 levels block this process. The loss of these bright white clouds would have a dramatic warming effect, adding 8°C to the global temperature, Schneider calculates. Since the world would warm around 6°C or more if CO2 levels passed 1200 ppm, this means the average global temperature could exceed 14°C or more. CO2 levels will pass 410 ppm this year, up from 280 ppm in preindustrial times. If we burned all available fossil fuels, atmospheric CO2 levels could rise as high as 4000 ppm. However, even in the standard worst case scenario used by climate scientists, which assumes nothing is done to curb emissions, CO2 levels would only pass 1200 ppm decades after 2100.

2-26-19 Why is the UK so hot and can we enjoy the winter sunshine guilt-free?
After several days of unseasonably warm weather, the UK record for the warmest winter day has been broken twice in two days. Up until now, UK temperatures have never passed 20°C during December to February. On 25 February, not just one but three places passed this level, with Trawsgoed in Wales reaching 20.6°C. On 26 February, Porthmadog in Wales hit 20.8°C.

  1. Why is it so warm in the UK at the moment? It’s a result of an unusual weather pattern amplified by global warming.
  2. What is global warming? Rising levels of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels are trapping more of the sun’s heat.
  3. How do we know global warming played a part? All weather now takes place on a warmer planet.
  4. Is anything else contributing to the heat? Some people have suggested that the unusually warm February is all down to the Foehn effect, a change in temperatures that results from the interaction between rising air and mountains.
  5. What about that really cold “polar vortex” in the US in January? This was due to very cold air from the Arctic spilling much further south than usual.
  6. Ok, so climate change is bad, but can’t I just enjoy a warm February? Humans might like the sunshine, but this abnormal winter weather could be disastrous for wildlife.

2-26-19 Millions of fish have been dying in Australia’s major rivers
Fish have been struggling to breathe and dying by the millions on the banks of Australia’s largest river system. Experts say that without serious change, it will continue to happen. Poor management, excess upstream irrigation and drought led to three mass deaths of endangered fish species during December and January in the Murray-Darling Basin. These deaths included Murray cod fish that were decades old, according to an investigation by the Australian Academy of Science that was published last week. Craig Moritz at the Australian National University in Canberra, who chaired the investigation, says the sight of millions of dead fish should be a wake-up call. He described the mass fish deaths as a mainland equivalent of the coral bleaching events that have been hitting the Great Barrier Reef. Much of Australia’s economy and food security depends on the Murray-Darling Basin, a complex river system with 2.6 million nearby residents, including more than 40 Aboriginal nations. The Australian Academy of Science investigation was initiated by the opposition Labor party. The government has also launched its own separate investigation, but the panels from both have agreed on the immediate cause of the fish deaths. Warm, still water created the perfect environment for blue-green algae to bloom. Algae are important for providing oxygen in the upper layers of water, but when they die, they fall to the bottom of the riverbed where microorganisms that deplete oxygen in the lower layers feed on them. A cold snap caused the oxygenated upper layer and the larger, unoxygenated, lower layer of water to mix. Fish that had been surviving in the shallow top layers quickly ran out of oxygen and suffocated. The government-commissioned interim report highlighted role of “exceptional climactic conditions” in exacerbating the situation.

2-26-19 Why cargo ships might (literally) sail the high seas again
There's something inherently romantic about the great ships of yore: Those massive sails piercing the sky above an endless horizon. These days, of course, we've given up the sails for the brute force of fossil fuel engines. The modern shipping industry has sacrificed elegance — not to mention the environment — for volume, speed, and efficiency. But those old sails may be coming back. There's an overarching organization — the International Windship Association — that's pushing wind propulsion for commercial shipping, and liaising between various governments and entrepreneurs and researchers. But then there are the specific projects, scattered about the globe, in both private business and academia. Take the Smart Green Shipping Alliance as an example. It's working on a combination of sailing technology and clean fuel to reduce cargo ships' CO2 emissions, hopefully to zero eventually. Diane Gilpin, who founded and heads up the initiative, explained to The Week that they're working on two goals. One is a cargo ship designed from the keel up for sailing, with an optimized hull and so on. The idea has been run through computer simulations and some testing of physical models, and they think as much as 50 percent of the propulsion could come from the sails. "If we do it from scratch we can get better performance results than if we have to retrofit an existing ship," Gilpin explained. But building new cargo ships, especially technologically-advanced sailing-optimized ones, is expensive. And like much of the global economy, the shipping industry is in an uncertain spot right now. Thus Gilpin and her colleagues are also looking into retrofitting existing cargo ships. "We want a plug-and-play type system," she said: Ships come into port, they offload their cargo, the sails are installed as new cargo is loaded in, and the ship heads off again. Quick and easy. The sails would be adjustable and retractable, so they can stay out of the way of the loading dock cranes, or when the ship goes under a bridge or maneuvers into port. The group has been refining the design, getting feedback from players in the industry, and then going back to the drawing board. They're on their third iteration and hope to begin a demonstration project with a fully retrofitted ship in 2021. They think their retrofitted sails could cut 20 percent of fuel consumption. The Wind Challenger Project, which was started by the University of Tokyo, in conjunction with private shipping companies in Japan, is aiming for much the same goal: A system of sails that can be attached to current cargo vessels, that are maneuverable and retractable, and could cut fuel use by 20 percent. In a further convergence, the sails the two projects are working on even look similar: large, rectangular, multi-sectioned affairs that soar vertically from the ship's deck. Kazuyuki Ouchi, a professor at the University who leads the effort, told The Week they too hope to test a full scale model as soon as 2021.

2-25-19 Don't panic about The Uninhabitable Earth, a new book predicting chaos
If you read a book painting the very worst-case scenarios about what global warming means for human life you could easily panic. Here’s why you shouldn’t. Imagine two groups of people setting off for a hike in the extreme heat of Death Valley. One group is well prepared with plenty of water, sunscreen, maps, fully-charged phones and so on; the other treats it like a stroll in the park. Which group is going to fare better? Humanity as a whole is about to be forced to go hiking in Death Valley. How we fare will depend not just on how hot it gets, but on how well we prepare – a point that is mostly missing from David Wallace-Wells’ book The Uninhabitable Earth: Life after warming. The book is a follow-up to a 2017 feature in New York Magazine about global warming that set out to alarm people by looking at the worst-case climate scenarios. It worked – the feature went viral. Unfortunately, it went viral in part because Wallace-Wells was cavalier with the facts. It was slated by many climate scientists, who pointed out that the picture is grim enough without exaggerating. The criticism led the magazine to publish an annotated, toned-down version. The new book, however, very much sticks with the aim of alarming people. And indeed there is much to be alarmed about, as regular readers of New Scientist will be only too aware. There is no doubt that in some ways climate change will be much worse than we thought just a decade or two ago – and the picture was bad enough to start with. There is also a case to be made that even the current scientific consensus likely underestimates some of the impacts. But the book does not make this case. Instead, Wallace-Wells’ strategy is to describe the most horrifying scenarios that have ever been considered – but he often has to add a sentence admitting they are unlikely.

2-23-19 Samir Flores Soberanes: Thousands march in Mexico City over activist's murder
Thousands of protesters have marched in Mexico City following the murder of an environmental activist. Samir Flores Soberanes, who was also a journalist, was shot twice in the head in his home in Amilcingo, south of Mexico City, on Wednesday. The protesters held signs saying "Samir didn't die, the government killed him"; "Samir lives"; and "Justice for Samir". As the march made its way through Mexico City, thousands gathered in Amilcingo to lay Flores to rest. The reasons for the killing are not yet clear but a prosecutor has indicated it was linked to organised crime. Flores was a longstanding opponent of the Proyecto Integral Morelos (PIM), a development project that includes two new thermoelectric plants and a 150km (93 mile) natural gas pipeline in the state. His death came just days before Saturday and Sunday's public referendum on the plants. The Peoples in Defense of Land and Water Front, of which Flores was a member, said he attended a public meeting about the project days before his death and challenged government representatives.Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador expressed regret about the killing but said the referendum would go ahead. "I'm very sorry about the murder," he said. "The consultation we have to continue because it is a process that was already agreed to." Activists fear that the pipeline will contaminate the local water supply, which would predominantly affect the indigenous communities in the area. Flores's family and friends were joined by many others in Amilcingo on Friday for a funeral procession through the streets. The procession paused at the offices of Amiltzinko Community Radio, where Flores worked as a producer. Environmental activists were killed in record numbers in 2017, the latest year for which there are figures. According to data gathered by Global Witness, 201 were murdered. Mexico saw the second highest number of murders after Brazil, with 15 killings, a more than fivefold rise over the previous year. (Webmaster's comment: Environmental activists are being killed by direction of corporation executives! Who else could possibly have a motive!)

2-22-19 Another sweltering year for Earth
Global temperatures in 2018 were the fourth-highest since records began in 1880, according to new analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That means that the five hottest years on record have been the past five, and that 18 of the 19 warmest years have occurred since 2001. The world’s average surface temperature in 2018 was nearly 1 degree Celsius—1.8 degrees Fahrenheit—above the late-19th-century average. Climate scientists believe that an increase of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels will have catastrophic and irreversible consequences for the world. “We’re no longer talking about a situation where global warming is something in the future,” NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt tells The New York Times. “It’s here. It’s now.” The sudden temperature spike correlates with increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels. That warming likely contributed to extreme weather events around the globe last year, from fierce heat waves in Australia to coastal flooding in the U.S. Scientists have also linked climate change to the growing ferocity of hurricanes, and to the polar vortex that recently brought freezing blasts of Arctic air to the Midwest and Northeast. As well as being the fourth-hottest year on record, 2018 was also the fourth most expensive for weather disasters in the U.S., with a total damage bill of $91 billion.

2-22-19 Great Barrier Reef: One million tonnes of sludge to be dumped
Australia plans to dump one million tonnes of sludge in the Great Barrier Reef. Despite strict laws on dumping waste, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) gave the go-ahead. A loophole was found - the laws don't apply to materials generated from port maintenance work. It comes one week after flood water from Queensland spread into the reef, which scientists say will "smother" the coral. The industrial residue is dredged from the bottom of the sea floor near Hay Point Port - one of the world's largest coal exports and a substantial economic source for the country. Larissa Waters, senator for Queensland and co-deputy leader of the Greens Party, called for the license to be revoked. "The last thing the reef needs is more sludge dumped on it, after being slammed by the floods recently," she told the Guardian. "One million tonnes of dumping dredged sludge into world heritage waters treats our reef like a rubbish tip." It's just "another nail in the coffin" for the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, which is already under stress due to climate change, according to Dr Simon Boxall from the National Oceanography Centre Southampton. "If they are dumping it over the coral reef itself, it will have quite a devastating effect. The sludge is basically blanketing over the coral. "The coral relies on the algae, that's what give them their colour and what helps them feed - without this partnership the coral will suffer dramatically." Dr Boxall says his worries about sludge-dumping are short-term - with the current Australian summer a time for "rapid algae growth". The North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation, which looks after Hay Point, said dumping the sludge will have a minor environmental impact. In a statement issued online, the corporation claimed its reports showed the risks to be "predominantly low with some temporary short-term impacts". Dr Boxall says the impact will be lessened if the sludge is taken far enough offshore, but that it will still contain high amounts of harmful materials such as trace metals. "If it's put into shallow water it will smother sea life," he says.

2-22-19 Look at these glaciers - photos or drawings?
Zaria Forman has been quite literally drawing attention to climate change through her art for more than a decade. She travels to remote places in the world with Nasa to collect photographs for her pastel work.

2-22-19 Toxic black snow
Coal dust from open pit mines has turned the snow in Siberia’s Kuzbass region black. The sludge has blanketed cars, courtyards, and children’s playgrounds. Residents say that the dust, which contains highly toxic elements, including arsenic and mercury, is in the air all the time—the snow just makes it visible. Life expectancy in the region, which is home to 2.6 million people, is three to four years lower than Russia’s average of 66 for men and 77 for women. Cancer, child cerebral palsy, and tuberculosis rates in Kuzbass are all above the national average. “The government bans smoking in public,” one resident fumed on social media, “but it lets us inhale coal dust and lets it reside in our lungs.”

2-22-19 Liberals who want a Green New Deal must include nuclear power
The congresswoman who sponsored the US Green New Deal suggested the plan won’t include any new money for nuclear power – that’s a mistake, says David Titley Since last November, proposals in the US for a Green New Deal (GND) have been causing much debate. The GND aims to address both climate change and economic inequality, but support for it is dividing along traditional partisan lines. It is championed by many Democratic 2020 presidential candidates vying for their progressive wing votes, and criticised by many Republicans. One of the contentious issues is the role in the GND of civilian nuclear power, or lack thereof. The issue is muddied by confusion between the information in the official resolution “Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal” and an accompanying fact sheet that was briefly published on the website of the resolution’s sponsor, the charismatic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. So first, the facts. The resolution language doesn’t contain the word “nuclear” anywhere in its text. It does state that, within 10 years, the US will be “meeting 100 per cent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources” – but some would argue that nuclear power meets those criteria. Ocasio-Cortez’s fact sheet, however, reportedly stated that the GND “will not include investing in new nuclear power plants”. Here are some more facts about today’s US energy system. According to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, in 2017, nuclear power provided 22 per cent of US electricity, and 58 per cent of the country’s “non-carbon based” electricity. Furthermore, nuclear power plants often operate at 90 per cent of their rated capacity. Wind and solar, by comparison, have capacity factors ranging from 20 to 30 per cent. And their intermittency depends on the vagaries of nature.

2-22-19 UN: Growing threat to food from decline in biodiversity
The plants, animals, and micro-organisms that are the bedrock of food production are in decline, according to a UN study. If these critical species are lost, the report says, it "places the future of our food system under severe threat". The study says that land-use changes, pollution, and climate change are all causing biodiversity loss. While species friendly policies are increasing, they are not growing quickly enough, the scientists add. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), who've put the report together using data gathered in 91 countries, say it is the first such study of its kind. What exactly is biodiversity for food and agriculture? This is essentially the diversity of plants, animals, and other organisms, both wild and domesticated, that provide us with food, fuel and fibre. And it includes those organisms that provide essential services, such as bees and other pollinators, and worms, mangroves, sea grasses and fungi which work to keep soils fertile and purify the air and water. The report, called the State of the World's Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, highlights two key messages. The first is that the world is relying on an ever smaller number of foodstuffs to feed a growing population that's expected to rise to around 10 billion people by 2050. Of the 6,000 plant species cultivated for food, just nine account for 66% of total crop production. The world's livestock production is based on around 40 species with only a handful providing the vast majority of meat, milk and eggs. The second key point is that many of these species that support food and agriculture are under threat or declining. Around a thousand wild food species, mainly plants, fish and mammals are decreasing in abundance. "Biodiversity is critical for safeguarding global food security, underpinning healthy and nutritious diets, improving rural livelihoods, and enhancing the resilience of people and communities," said FAO's Director-General José Graziano da Silva. "We need to use biodiversity in a sustainable way, so that we can better respond to rising climate change challenges and produce food in a way that doesn't harm our environment."

2-21-19 Ban gas boilers for new UK homes by 2025, says climate report
A report by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which advises the UK government, has said that UK homes are not fit for the future, with stalling efforts to cut greenhouse gases from housing putting properties at growing risk of overheating and flooding. The way new homes are built and existing properties are retrofitted with energy efficiency measures often falls short of stated design standards, inflicting costs on the future, the committee said. It called for support for measures in existing homes to install low-carbon heating such as heat pumps, loft and wall insulation and protection for properties at risk of flooding. The committee also said that from 2025 at the latest, no new homes should be connected to the gas grid, and instead heated using low-carbon energy. “There are almost 30 million homes in the UK, and the depressing fact is most of them are not in a condition to keep us comfortable and productive and well as the climate changes,” said Julia King of the CCC. “They are a huge part of the problem – energy use in our homes is around a fifth of greenhouse gases, and the biggest part of those emissions is from burning gas for heating and hot water.” “There is no way in which the UK can meet the legally binding climate change targets that Parliament has determined unless we take the measures outlined in this report,” said committee chair John Gummer. “The UK has reduced emissions faster than any other G7 nation, and moving to a greener, cleaner economy while continuing to grow the economy is at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy,” said a government spokesperson.

2-21-19 Climate change: Ban gas grid for new homes 'in six years'
New homes should be banned from connecting to the gas grid within six years to tackle climate change, UK government advisers say. They want new-build homes in the countryside to be warmed by heat pumps - and cooking done on induction hobs, rather than using gas boilers and hobs. In cities, new housing estates and flats should be kept warm by networks of hot water, says the report. The water could be heated by waste heat from industry. An alternative approach is to use heat pumps, which draw warmth from the sea or lakes; or burn gas from waste. The report, from the independent Committee on Climate Change, recommends these changes are made to new homes at first because it's much more economical that way. They say it costs £4,800 to install low-carbon heating in a new home, but £26,300 in an existing house. What's more, these systems will only work if homes are insulated to the highest standards so they need little heating. It's the committee's job to lay down a pathway for the UK to meet its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 (on 1990 levels). They are dismayed that emissions from housing suddenly increased last year, when they should be going down. The housing emissions mainly came from heating boilers - a little-discussed source of greenhouse gases. The committee says that to meet climate targets, all homes in future will have to virtually eliminate emissions. The government said it's committed to investing £6bn to improve the energy efficiency of lower income and vulnerable households in a decade. Some 14% of UK greenhouse gas emissions come from our homes, but little's being done to reduce them. The committee's spokesperson Prof Julia King told us: "This generation of home-owners is cheating its children by leaving homes which are completely inadequate for an age of climate change.

2-21-19 Squid teeth could help make bioplastics and self-repairing clothes
To seize prey, squid rely on a battery of tough, serrated suckers at the end of their tentacles known as squid ring teeth (SRT). Now, researchers are finding that a protein in SRTs can be turned into fibres and films for making tough, flexible, and biodegradable plastics. An average sized squid only contains around 100 milligrams of SRT protein, but Melik Demirel at Pennsylvania State University and his team have genetically engineered E. coli bacteria to grow it. Meaning that much more of the protein can be produced. Regular clothing fibres can be coated in SRT proteins to produce an extremely hard-wearing fabric, which can self-heal if damaged with a bit of heat and pressure. The usefulness of the proteins comes from their unusual molecular structure. The building blocks of the protein act on each other like oil and water, separating at the nanoscale. This produces tightly coiled helices, flat sheets and disordered tangles, shapes that in turn give rise the material’s properties at the macro scale.

2-21-19 Mexican environmental activist murdered in Morelos
An activist and radio producer has been shot dead in his home in Mexico. Samir Flores Soberanes from central Morelos state worked with a community radio station and campaigned for environmental and human rights. Investigators are considering potential links to criminal gangs, after a note was found next to his body But an environmental group he worked with believes the killing was linked to his opposition to a planned new gas pipeline in Morelos. Activist groups and the local authorities are now trying to figure out why Mr Flores was killed. Mr Flores was a longstanding opponent of the Proyecto Integral Morelos (PIM), a development project that includes two new thermoelectric plants and a 150km natural gas pipeline in the state. Activists fear that the pipeline will contaminate the local water supply, which would predominantly affect the indigenous communities who live in the area. The project is due to put to a referendum this weekend - and environmental and human rights groups in the state believe that Mr Flores' death is linked to this vote. A group that he campaigned with, The People's Front in Defence of the Land and Water for the states of Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala (FPDTA), released a statement calling his killing "a political crime" and linking it directly to his outspoken opposition to the project. They called for the referendum to be postponed - but Mexico's President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that while he condemned the killing, the vote would go ahead as planned.

2-20-19 18 up-and-running projects that could save us from climate change
Slashing greenhouse-gas emissions doesn’t have to be hard, and can even be an economic win – as these big low-carbon success stories from around the world show NOBODY said it would be easy – but maybe it isn’t as hard as we think. As the world grapples with how to limit global warming to 1.5°C, solutions are already in our hands. All around the planet, countries are deploying technologies that reduce carbon emissions in the big areas where radical change is needed: energy generation, transport, industry, buildings and land use. In 2015, 12 leading environmental institutions from around the world, led by Finland’s national innovation fund, SITRA, set out to assess their potential. “At the start of the project, we had a very simple question in mind,” says SITRA’s Outi Haanperä. “How far could we go just using and scaling up existing technologies?” Quite a way. The assessment identified 18 solutions that, rolled out as widely as possible, would cut global emissions by about 12 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide annually by 2030, or 25 per cent of projected emissions if countries stick to their commitments under the 2015 Paris climate change deal. “Yes, there’s still three-quarters we don’t have a solution for,” says SITRA’s Ernesto Hartikainen. “But this showcases a lot of solutions that are technologically and economically viable.” Implementing them would cost $94 billion a year, less than a fifth of what governments currently shell out in direct fossil-fuel subsidies. Add in the benefits to economic growth, sustainable development and poverty reduction, and many are an economic win, even before you consider the costs to health, wealth and the environment of doing nothing. So here they are, starting from the smallest in terms of potential emissions saved:

  • 18. Energy generation: Off-grid solar
  • 17. Transport: Better buses
  • 16. Buildings: Home Insulation
  • 15. Industry: Pimped-up electric motors
  • 14. Buildings: Green mortgages
  • 13. Energy generation: Rooftop water heaters. Solar water heaters in China are a climate winner
  • 12. Land use: Responsible farming
  • 11. Energy generation: Waste wood burning
  • 10. Land use: Reduce food waste. Reduced food waste in Denmark.
  • 9. Industry: Stop methane leaks
  • 8. Industry: More efficient gadgets
  • 7. Transport: Clean up cars
  • 6. Industry: Industrial efficiency
  • 5. Land use: Reforestation
  • 4. Buildings: No more stoves
  • 3. Energy generation: More wind turbines
  • 2. Land use: Reduce deforestation
  • 1. Energy generation: On-grid solar. Germany is leading the way in big solar power.

37.1 billion tonnes projected global carbon emissions in 2018.
12.1 billion tonnes annual global carbon saving in 2030 if all 18 solutions were rolled out.

2-20-19 Why the Green New Deal is more realistic than a carbon tax
A record number of American economists now support a carbon tax. There's a twist, though: They'd like the country to pass it instead of a Green New Deal. Unfortunately, that's bad politics and bad policy. This new carbon tax proposal comes with a pretty overwhelming pedigree: It's signed by 27 winners of the Nobel Prize in economics, four former chairs of the Federal Reserve, 15 former heads of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, and so on. It was organized by the Climate Leadership Council, which managed to round up over 3,300 signatures from professional and academic economists — hence the "record numbers" part. Now, I should say right off the bat that this carbon tax would actually pair well with leftist Democrats' Green New Deal, which would completely overhaul the U.S. economy to fight climate change. In many respects, this carbon tax plan is quite smart. It would place a price on every ton of carbon emissions that rises every year, slowly squeezing total emissions down. It would include a border adjustment, encouraging trading partners to adopt their own carbon tax and preventing U.S. companies from escaping the tax by just bringing in goods and inputs produced in other countries. Finally, the carbon tax would give all its revenue right back to U.S. families in the form of equal checks sent to every citizen. This is crucial. Hiking the price of fossil fuels will certainly discourage their use. But energy is also a much bigger — and relatively fixed — part of the budgets for lower-income households. By remitting the carbon tax’s revenue this way, you not only zero out the harm done to families' pocketbooks, you actually make them better off on net. Equally crucial to realize: No other use of the carbon tax's revenue achieves this. Now for the unfortunate part. That so many economists suddenly renewed their push for this idea at the exact same time enthusiasm for a Green New Deal was taking off on the Democrats' left flank might, on its own, merely be suspicious. But they also made the subtext text: They're trying to quarantine the leftists and prevent them from driving the agenda. "I think it is fair to say that America has two choices, one is the route of the Green New Deal, one is the route recommended by the entire economic establishment," Ted Halstead, the founder of the Climate Leadership Council, told the Financial Times. Janet Yellen, former Federal Reserve Chair under President Obama, added that this carbon tax plan "is much more efficient and less costly than [the Green New Deal]."

2-20-19 Apples or raspberries? The best climate-friendly foods
Food production is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming, according to a University of Oxford study. However, the researchers found that the environmental impact of different foods varies hugely. Many of us have cut down on using plastic bags and plastic straws, recycle where possible and have turned our heating down a degree or two. But have you considered how your weekly shop can change the world? For BBC Radio 5 Live's Cool Planet season, I wanted to find out how making small changes to our grocery choices can have a big impact on the planet, so I went shopping with Professor Mike Berners-Lee from Lancaster University who specialises in climate change and sustainable food systems. We don't eat meat in our house but I'm well aware that most people do. Think of the average weekday dinner - grilled chicken breasts, sausage and mash, spaghetti Bolognese. Professor Berners-Lee says: "I'm afraid to say that beef is the world's highest carbon meat of them all." He says chicken is better for the environment, but adds "it's still true to say that all meats are a less efficient way of doing agriculture than humans eating plant-based food." What about fish? Professor Berners-Lee suggests asking a fishmonger for a sustainable variety and limiting fish to one or two small portions a week. If you can't bear the thought of being vegetarian, don't worry - cutting down is a great start. Going meat-free just one day a week can have a huge impact - research published in 2018 showed that greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture would be reduced by more than a half if we all only ate one portion of red meat a week.

2-19-19 The return of the airship
Transportation is now the biggest single source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, having recently passed electricity generation. Worse, zero-carbon transportation technology is only in its early stages — especially for air travel and shipping, which accounts for large and growing share of emissions.. Steampunk fans and climate hawks alike want to know: what about airships? After investigating the subject for a time, I've come to a tentative conclusion that airships could indeed play an important role in a zero-carbon transportation infrastructure — but probably not in the form of romantic luxury travel. Big and weird cargo shipping might just be where the airship does best. Airships are, of course, aircraft which use a large envelope of lighter-than-air gas, typically hydrogen or helium, to provide most or all of their lift. There are three basic types: non-rigid (a blimp), or semi-rigid (with a partial supporting structure), or rigid (with a complete supporting structure). There is also the hybrid airship, which is slightly heavier than air and uses traditional wings or rotors to provide lift and control. Airships have several important advantages. First is that with the envelope (that is, the ballon-like structure where the gas goes) providing lift, there is no need to expend fuel to maintain flight. Second is low-speed maneuverability, meaning they don't require as much infrastructure as airplanes — no runway for instance, or only a short one in the case of hybrids. Third is high potential lifting power — the largest new designs could theoretically carry 500 tons or more, in the same league as the largest cargo planes. Fourth is very high cargo volume — a heavy lift airship would have to be very large, and so would be able to accommodate a correspondingly huge cargo bay. If you need something to just hover in one place for a long time for cheap, there is basically nothing better than an airship — and indeed, there is already a moderate-sized industry providing airships for surveillance, video, advertising, weather data collection, and so forth. However, airships have large downsides as well. The biggest one by far is drag — with an envelope many times larger than even the biggest planes, and drag increasing with the square of velocity, the amount of power required to move an airship will quickly eat into its efficiency advantage from floating — even at highway speeds (Germany's famous Graf Zeppelin had a top speed of 128 mph, but generally cruised at about 70 when it traversed the globe in the 1920s and '30s). Size itself is a problem as well. Airships need to be big to be useful, and wrangling lots of them in an airport or port will be tricky. As big, relatively fragile objects, they are also more vulnerable to weather than airplanes — though that should be less of an issue with modern weather prediction. The choice of gas is a particularly thorny question. As a technical matter helium is objectively superior, providing almost as much lift as hydrogen while being non-flammable. However, helium is much, much more expensive than hydrogen, and as a non-renewable resource arguably ought to be reserved for scientific research. (You need a lot of helium to fill up a big airship.)

2-19-19 Nazi sub is being destroyed by bacteria due to Deepwater Horizon spill
A HISTORIC second world war German submarine lying under more than a kilometre of water off the US coast is being destroyed, as a result of oil released from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. The U-boat was sunk by an anti-submarine explosive in 1942 after a fierce battle. Now, it is being eaten away because seabed bacteria have an unexpected food source: the giant oil plume that entered the Gulf of Mexico nearly a decade ago. Photos of wrecked Nazi sub U-166 taken before and after the Deepwater Horizon accident show that large holes have opened up in the hull and deck. “The metal loss has accelerated after the spill and that’s very unusual,” says Leila Hamdan at the University of Southern Mississippi. The corrosion of metal in the ocean usually peaks in the early years of submersion, then slows. But analysis of the underwater photos show five times more of U-166 crumbled away in the four years including and after the spill than during the six years before. The wreck was only discovered in 2001 during seabed surveys for oil firms including BP, which operated the Deepwater Horizon rig. Hamdan and her colleagues placed metal discs on the seabed near the Deepwater Horizon spill to investigate the fast corrosion. After 16 weeks, the discs were covered with a slimy film and they were heavily corroded. They lost three times as much metal as identical discs placed 80 kilometres away. Genetic analysis revealed many different types of bacteria present in the film, including some known to feed on carbon sources in crude oil. The team believes that these bacteria essentially consume the oil, and then their waste products corrode the metal.

2-19-19 UK is failing to meet almost all of its climate action targets
THE UK is failing to tackle climate change on almost all key measures of success, according to the Committee on Climate Change. This organisation advises the UK government on how to meet its legally binding target of cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. As schoolchildren took to the streets to protest the UK’s lack of climate action on 15 February, the committee set out a dire picture of the country’s climate policies in a letter to Claire Perry, UK minister for energy and clean growth. Although the UK did reduce its official emissions by 14 per cent more than the target for the period from 2013 to 2017, it can’t claim credit, says the letter. “The surplus is not due to policy but very largely due to accounting changes in the EU Emissions Trading System and the lasting effects of the recession.” The surplus should therefore not be subtracted from future targets, the committee says. The letter also warned that, during this time period, the UK has failed to meet 15 out of 18 key indicators for cutting emissions from buildings, transport, agriculture, land use and waste. For buildings, the country hasn’t met its targets for insulating lofts, cavity walls and solid walls, and for installing heat pumps. It did meet the very modest goal of getting 4 per cent of heat from “low carbon” sources, but only by relying heavily on bioenergy such as wood burning. This is not only highly polluting, some critics say it might actually increase carbon dioxide emissions rather than reduce them. “The letter paints a stark picture of the lack of progress that’s been made in energy efficiency and heat over the last eight years,” says heat policy expert Richard Lowes at the University of Exeter, UK. “I think it’s quite depressing.” The UK did manage to meet two targets for cutting emissions from waste. But it met none of its transport targets, with just 48,000 electric cars registered per year – 19 per cent of the 250,000 target. Biofuels accounted for 3 per cent of fuel by volume rather than the 8 per cent target. However, this may be a good thing, given that biofuels are being made out of vegetable oils such as palm oil. The UK also met none of its targets for reducing emissions from agriculture. And less than 7000 hectares per year were planted with trees, well under the target of 25,000. Lastly, emissions of fluorinated gases, which are highly potent greenhouse gases, rose instead of declining.

2-19-19 Tidal floods driven by climate change may hurt small businesses
Researchers looked to parking data to assess downtown Annapolis, Md., business losses. Sea level rise, driven by climate change, is causing increased flooding during high tides along much of the U.S. coastline. Though such floods are usually minor, a new study suggests that car traffic patterns could help reveal how floods harm an area’s business revenues. Tidal flooding events “are not one in a hundred years or one in a thousand years. They’re once a week,” says Miyuki Hino, an environmental social scientist at Stanford University. Though increasingly frequent, such floods often last only a few hours. That can make it hard to tally the economic losses they cause. Hino and her colleagues sought to quantify those impacts by looking at parking data in the historic downtown of Annapolis, Md., located on the Chesapeake Bay. The team first built a database of flood events using flood images posted to social media at the same times that tide gauge readings showed high water levels, in order to eliminate rain-caused flooding. Hino’s team estimates there were 44 tidal floods in 2017, classified as minor, modest or severe. The team then looked at parking transactions in a nearby lot for changes in parking revenues. Flood events coincided with drops in visitation ranging from 37 to 89 percent, depending on the severity of the flooding, the researchers found. That contributed to about 3,000 fewer visitors, or a 1.7 percent decrease, in 2017, according to the study published online February 15 in Science Advances.

2-19-19 Cultured lab meat may make climate change worse
Growing meat in the laboratory may do more damage to the climate in the long run than meat from cattle, say scientists. Researchers are looking for alternatives to traditional meat because farming animals is helping to drive up global temperatures. However, meat grown in the lab may make matters worse in some circumstances. Researchers say it depends on how the energy to make the lab meat is produced. There's increasing concern about the impact of meat consumption on the planet. Around a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions that are driving up temperatures are estimated to have come from agriculture. Beef production is considered the worst offender with cattle emitting methane and nitrous oxide from their manures, but also from their digestive processes. There are also additional gases from fertiliser application to land, from the conversion of land for pasture or feed production. Because of these impacts on the climate and because of a range of other concerns about issues such as welfare and sustainability, scientists have in recent years sought to develop meat that can be grown from animal cells in factories or laboratories. One perceived advantage would be much lower greenhouse gas emissions, especially methane. Back in 2013 a Dutch team of scientists produced what they claimed was the world's first burger grown in a lab. Since then, there's been a lot of hype and noise but some real progress as well. Essentially, the process involves collecting stem cells from animal tissue and then getting them to differentiate into fibres, these are then developed and grown into a sufficient mass of muscle tissue that can be harvested and sold as meat. Firms in California have taken some important steps. Last year, chicken nuggets, developed by a firm called Just, were tasted by my colleague James Cook. Tyson Foods, one of the biggest US meat processors, has also invested an undisclosed amount in Memphis Meats, another firm in this field that says it is "harvesting cells instead of animals". But despite the promises, no-one has yet mass-produced cultured meat for sale to the general public.

2-18-19 Thwaites Glacier's troubling predicament
If this glacier melts, it could take all of west Antarctica with it. Scientists this winter began a race against time to better understand a massive, unstable glacier that could change the world's coastlines within decades. An international group of researchers launched a five-year, roughly $50 million project to study Thwaites Glacier, a remote, and notoriously foul-weathered, glacier in the middle of West Antarctica. "It's about the size of the island of Great Britain," said Ted Scambos, a University of Colorado scientist and co-leader of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration. "That's a huge area. When you add something like a half a mile to a mile of ice over all of that … that's what we're going to pick up and put into the ocean." And because of the nature of the bedrock underneath it, if Thwaites starts to collapse, it could go fast, contributing roughly 2 feet of global sea level rise in as little as 50 years, Scambos said. "That's the problem. Having sea level rise is not nearly as big an issue as having it rise rapidly, faster than we're able to react or plan or build," Scambos said. "And so, that's why Thwaites becomes really important because it could be a real, turbo-charging effect for how fast sea level rises around the world." The ultimate goal of the Thwaites project, which Scambos has been championing for years, is to develop more accurate global sea level rise models so coastal residents and governments have enough time to plan for future changes. In cities like Miami, perhaps the American city most vulnerable to sea level rise, infrastructure decisions are made as early as 50 years out. "Ultimately, the challenge is to understand the melting of the Antarctic ice so that we can better predict sea level rise over the next few decades," said Karen Heywood, an oceanographer at the University of East Anglia involved with the research.

2-18-19 Everything you need to know about climate change in 90 seconds
5 Live is exploring everything about climate change as part of its Cool Planet season. You’ll have heard phrases like carbon footprint and carbon neutral but what do they mean?

2-18-19 Stores accused of 'watering down' bottle deposit scheme
Large retailers have been accused of trying to water down a proposed scheme to improve rates of bottle recycling. Environmentalists say large and small drinks containers alike should carry a catch-all deposit of more than 15p. But retailers say only small bottles should be considered because they cause most litter; larger bottles could be exempted because they are mostly recycled at home, they argue. (Webmaster's comment: They'd argue anything to give their executives more money!) Ministers are still considering which sizes to include in the plans. The UK proposal, part of the Resources and Waste Strategy, is likely to copy one of the schemes adopted in other countries. In Norway for instance, the shopper pays a deposit on every bottle - the equivalent of 10p to 25p depending on size. The consumer drinks the product, then posts the empty bottle into a machine which produces a coupon to return the deposit. This has led to recycling rates of 97% - whereas in the UK just over half of plastic bottles are recycled. Environmentalists are angry that the industry is still fighting plans to restrict deposits to small bottles. Samantha Harding from the group Campaign to Protect Rural England says the same firms currently attempting to obstruct a deposit scheme managed to kill a similar idea in 1981, when the industry promised to address recycling itself. “But look at the mess we’re in now,” she said. “Consumption has rocketed while recycling has flat-lined. "Our countryside, rivers and oceans are choked with plastic. "And many drinks containers are collected so inefficiently their poor quality means we struggle to recycle them within the UK, and the rest of the world no longer wants them.”

2-17-19 The sixth mass extinction
The populations of the world’s wild animals have fallen by more than 50 percent, and humanity is to blame. (Webmaster's comment: If it takes us 100-200 years to kill off 75% or more of all species THAT IS A MASS EXTINCTION. 100-200 years was only a blink of the eye in previous extinctions! Mass extinction events do not happen overnight. It might take 100's of years for the full effect of an asteroid strike or a massive volcanic eruption to play out. So will human devastation of most animal life.)

  1. What’s gone wrong? As the human population has swelled to 7.5 billion, our species’ massive footprint on planet Earth has had a devastating impact on mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and marine life. We’ve driven thousands of species to the edge of extinction through habitat loss, overhunting and overfishing, the introduction of invasive species into new ecosystems, toxic pollution, and climate change.
  2. How many species are already extinct? Scientists can only guess. Earth is home to between 9 million and as many as 1 trillion species—and only a fraction have been discovered. Vertebrate species have, however, been closely studied, and at least 338 have gone extinct, with the number rising to 617 when one includes those species “extinct in the wild” and “possibly extinct.”
  3. How many species are endangered? There are 26,500 species threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global network of some 16,000 scientists. That includes 40 percent of amphibian species, 33 percent of reef-building corals, 25 percent of mammals, and 14 percent of birds. There are now only 7,000 cheetahs left, and the number of African lions is down 43 percent since 1993.
  4. Is a mass extinction underway? Possibly. Many scientists now believe humans are living through a “mass extinction,” or an epoch during which at least 75 percent of all species vanish from the planet. The previous five mass extinctions occurred over the past 450 million years; the last one occurred about 66 million years ago, when the aftermath of a massive asteroid strike wiped out the dinosaurs.
  5. How fast is this happening? Extremely fast. Species extinction is an ordinary part of the natural processes of our planet; in fact, 99 percent of all species that ever lived on Earth are gone. It’s the pace of recent extinctions that is alarming. More than half of the vertebrate extinctions since 1500 have occurred since 1900.
  6. What are the consequences? Potentially enormous. The loss of species can have catastrophic effects on the food chain on which humanity depends. Ocean reefs, which sustain more than 25 percent of marine life, have declined by 50 percent already—and could be lost altogether by 2050. Insects pollinate crops humans eat.
  7. Can extinct species be resurrected? Using DNA technology, scientists are working on re-creating species that have disappeared. The technology, called “de-extinction,” is likely at least a decade off, although there are a few possible ways to go about it.

2-16-19 AAAS: Machine learning 'causing science crisis'
Machine-learning techniques used by thousands of scientists to analyse data are producing results that are misleading and often completely wrong. Dr Genevera Allen from Rice University in Houston said that the increased use of such systems was contributing to a “crisis in science”. She warned scientists that if they didn’t improve their techniques they would be wasting both time and money. Her research was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington. A growing amount of scientific research involves using machine learning software to analyse data that has already been collected. This happens across many subject areas ranging from biomedical research to astronomy. The data sets are very large and expensive. But, according to Dr Allen, the answers they come up with are likely to be inaccurate or wrong because the software is identifying patterns that exist only in that data set and not the real world. “Often these studies are not found out to be inaccurate until there's another real big dataset that someone applies these techniques to and says ‘oh my goodness, the results of these two studies don't overlap‘," she said. “There is general recognition of a reproducibility crisis in science right now. I would venture to argue that a huge part of that does come from the use of machine learning techniques in science.” The “reproducibility crisis” in science refers to the alarming number of research results that are not repeated when another group of scientists tries the same experiment. It means that the initial results were wrong. One analysis suggested that up to 85% of all biomedical research carried out in the world is wasted effort. It is a crisis that has been growing for two decades and has come about because experiments are not designed well enough to ensure that the scientists don’t fool themselves and see what they want to see in the results.

2-15-19 Climate strike: Why are students striking and will it have an impact?
Are the UK's school strikes for climate change the moment that British youth finally wakes up to the "climate emergency"? It may not represent a paradigm shift just yet, but the speed and scale of this young person's movement does make it feel more than a momentary splutter of impotent anger. Ever since the then 15-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg decided to stop going to school on Fridays last year and instead protest outside the Swedish parliament, there has been a rapid expansion in similar activities in many parts of the world, especially in Europe. Tens of thousands of schoolchildren in Belgium, Germany and other locations have cut classes and taken to the streets to call on governments to take urgent action on climate change. Now young people in the UK are due to join them, determined to affect change on the issue that they feel is most germane to their future - the impacts of rapidly rising temperatures on an ever more crowded planet. Greta's memorable phrase that we "cannot solve the crisis without treating it as a crisis", reflects the thinking of many, frustrated with the slow pace of progress. That sense of crisis has been affected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the impacts of global temperature reaching 1.5C, released last October. "We are doing this because we feel that climate action really needs to happen after the IPCC report," said Lottie, 17, who says she will join a school protest in London. Speaking to the BBC, she said: "We've been told we have to take serious action and have just 12 years to cut our carbon emissions in half. As the young people who are going to be most affected by the fact that no-one is taking any action on climate change - this is our entire future. "We can't vote yet and this is one of the most effective ways of making our voices heard." Last year also brought a wide range of impacts including heatwaves and forest fires that scientists say were made worse by climate change. All the while, the emissions that are driving up temperatures continue to go up, not down. In the face of this continuing catalogue, the actions taken by governments seem rather limited, much to the frustration of scientists and campaigners. Students contrast the slow pace of tackling climate change with the fact they have managed to get a movement going to organise a UK-wide strike in only four weeks.

2-15-19 The sixth mass extinction
The populations of the world’s wild animals have fallen by more than 50 percent, and humanity is to blame. (Webmaster's comment: If it takes us 100-200 years to kill off 75%-95% of all species THAT IS A MASS EXTINCTION. 100-200 years is only a blink of the eye in previous extinctions!)

  1. What’s gone wrong? As the human population has swelled to 7.5 billion, our species’ massive footprint on planet Earth has had a devastating impact on mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and marine life. We’ve driven thousands of species to the edge of extinction through habitat loss, overhunting and overfishing, the introduction of invasive species into new ecosystems, toxic pollution, and climate change.
  2. How many species are already extinct? Scientists can only guess. Earth is home to between 9 million and as many as 1 trillion species—and only a fraction have been discovered. Vertebrate species have, however, been closely studied, and at least 338 have gone extinct, with the number rising to 617 when one includes those species “extinct in the wild” and “possibly extinct.”
  3. How many species are endangered? There are 26,500 species threatened with extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a global network of some 16,000 scientists. That includes 40 percent of amphibian species, 33 percent of reef-building corals, 25 percent of mammals, and 14 percent of birds. There are now only 7,000 cheetahs left, and the number of African lions is down 43 percent since 1993.
  4. Is a mass extinction underway? Possibly. Many scientists now believe humans are living through a “mass extinction,” or an epoch during which at least 75 percent of all species vanish from the planet. The previous five mass extinctions occurred over the past 450 million years; the last one occurred about 66 million years ago, when the aftermath of a massive asteroid strike wiped out the dinosaurs.
  5. How fast is this happening? Extremely fast. Species extinction is an ordinary part of the natural processes of our planet; in fact, 99 percent of all species that ever lived on Earth are gone. It’s the pace of recent extinctions that is alarming. More than half of the vertebrate extinctions since 1500 have occurred since 1900.
  6. What are the consequences? Potentially enormous. The loss of species can have catastrophic effects on the food chain on which humanity depends. Ocean reefs, which sustain more than 25 percent of marine life, have declined by 50 percent already—and could be lost altogether by 2050. Insects pollinate crops humans eat.
  7. Can extinct species be resurrected? Using DNA technology, scientists are working on re-creating species that have disappeared. The technology, called “de-extinction,” is likely at least a decade off, although there are a few possible ways to go about it.

2-15-19 Mass Insect Die-Off
When it comes to conservation, looks are everything. Research shows that people give most generously to wildlife charities when presented with images of a select few endangered mammals. Furry, photogenic beasts such as polar bears, pandas, and tigers dominate the list of top earners. The preservation of those majestic animals is a worthy cause; nobody wants them to join the ever-growing list of wild species that humanity has driven to extinction. But it’s also true that we can survive in a world without polar bears and tigers, just as our own species has thrived in one without mammoths and dodos. What’s less clear is whether humanity can endure the disappearance of a less cute group of creatures: insects. A new study has found that insect biomass—the weight of all bugs on Earth combined—is dropping by a staggering 2.5 percent a year, largely because of pesticide use, habitat destruction, and climate change. In a few decades, nearly 50 percent of insect species worldwide could go extinct. Some might rejoice at this mass creepy-crawly die-off, which would mean fewer ants and flies invading their homes and spoiling picnics. But an insect apocalypse is nothing to cheer. The sheer abundance of bugs—there are at least 1.4 billion for each one of us—means they play a foundational role in the planet’s ecosystems. Some three-quarters of our food crops and 80 percent of wild flowering plants are pollinated by bees, wasps, beetles, butterflies, and other insects. Ants, flies, and beetles munch up dead animals and plant matter and channel nutrients back into the soil. Those bugs are in turn a major source of food for countless birds, reptiles, and fish species; without them, insect eaters simply starve to death. France, for example, has seen 50 and 80 percent drops in its nightingale and turtledove populations in recent years. We might not appreciate our six-legged friends now, but we’ll certainly miss them when they’re gone.

2-15-19 BP: Plastic ban 'could have unintended consequences'
There are many interesting news nuggets in BP's annual Energy Outlook that's just been published. The document says that even as renewable energy becomes the world's major power source by 2040, demand for oil will stay strong over the next two decades. But perhaps the most intriguing suggestion in the report is the idea that cutting back on plastic use could backfire and make matters worse. You might think, a little cynically perhaps, that this is the kind of thing you would expect BP to say. After all, as one of the world's biggest oil companies, it makes a lot of money from selling the main ingredient in plastic. But let's look at the thinking behind BP's argument. If the current global revulsion about the incessant use of plastic continues, BP speculates that there could be a worldwide ban on single-use plastics by 2040. These throwaway items, such as coffee stirrers, water bottles and bags, account for over a third of all plastic material produced in 2017. If the world shifts to use paper, glass and other materials, BP says this will limit demand for oil in the coming decades. But the document argues that swapping plastic for other materials will have a bigger cost in terms of energy and carbon emissions. "If you swap a plastic bottle for a glass bottle, that takes about 80% more energy. That will be more energy, more carbon emissions," said BP's chief economist Spencer Dale, speaking on the BBC. "That bottle is a lot heavier so it takes an awful lot more energy to transport it around," he added. "Yes, we should be concerned about plastics, but before we start whacking that mole, we should worry about where it pops up somewhere else." That all sounds like the law of unintended consequences in action. One of the best examples of this economic law has happened in the UK over the past 20 years with diesel cars. In the 1990s, diesels accounted for just 10% of the car fleet. By 2012, this had expanded to 50% as the government encouraged motorists to switch to the fuel to cut CO2 emissions. This succeeded in cutting carbon but at a huge price. Diesels produced 15% less CO2 than petrol cars but four times more nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and 22 times more particulates, leading to a rapid uptick in air pollution that the government is still trying to get to grips with.

2-15-19 Green New Deal: Deliberately unrealistic?
Progressives have finally unveiled their “Green New Deal” for fighting climate change, said David Roberts in Vox.com, and it’s “about as strong an opening bid as anyone could have asked for.” The plan, outlined in a nonbinding resolution introduced by Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, calls for the United States to become carbon neutral by 2030 through a massive national mobilization “on a scale not seen since World War II.” The plan calls for upgrading all existing U.S. buildings to make them more energy efficient, constructing a high-speed electric rail network they hope will replace carbon-spewing jet airplanes, and “dramatically expanding” clean energy sources like wind and solar. Millions of high-paying green jobs would be created in the process, easing the transition from a fossil fuel–based economy. Obviously, the resolution has no chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate, said Robinson Meyer in The Atlantic. But with four presidential hopefuls already coming out in favor of the plan, the Green New Deal is well on its way to becoming “as much a part of the mainstream Democratic agenda as health care.” Don’t take this proposal literally—but do take it seriously, said Eric Levitz in NYMag.com. While virtually every Democratic interest group considers climate change a problem, “relatively few see it as their top problem.” The Green New Deal was designed to make climate the top progressive priority. The final result will no doubt be far less grand after being filtered through congressional negotiations. But if your goal is to actually get something done on climate, the Green New Deal is “actually pragmatic.”

2-15-19 A cavity beneath the Antarctic
Scientists have discovered an enormous cavity beneath one of the Antarctic’s least stable glaciers, raising fears that the continent’s ice sheet will melt even faster than previously predicted. The chamber, in the Thwaites Glacier on the west coast of Antarctica, is nearly 1,000 feet high and covers an area two-thirds the size of Manhattan—large enough to have contained about 14 billion tons of ice. It was found by NASA scientists using satellite data and aircraft equipped with ice-penetrating radar, reports NBCNews.com. Roughly the size of Florida, the Thwaites Glacier already accounts for about 4 percent of global sea-level rise; if it collapses, it will raise sea levels worldwide by more than 2 feet, with catastrophic consequences for coastal communities and cities. The researchers say the cavity is the result of warm ocean water melting the ice shelf from underneath. “It’s a direct impact of climate change on the glacier,” says co-author Eric Rignot, from the University of California, Irvine. Meanwhile, a separate study has warned that at least a third of the glaciers in the Himalayas will melt by 2100—even if the most ambitious climate change targets are met.

2-15-19 Polar bears invade
More than 50 hungry polar bears have besieged an archipelago off Russia’s northeastern Arctic coast, trapping excited but frightened locals indoors. Alexander Minayev, administrator of the main town, Belushya Guba, said a state of emergency had been declared. “Parents are afraid to let the children go to school,” he said. It’s illegal to shoot the bears, because they are endangered, so authorities on Novaya Zemlya are considering relocating the garbage dump in which the bears have been rummaging for food. The animals have headed inland this year because the sea ice where they normally hunt seals has melted, likely due to climate change.

2-15-19 The children striking over climate change speak to New Scientist
Thousands of children across the UK have gone on strike from school today as part of global protests over climate change. The organisers, Youth Strike 4 Climate, say strikes are taking place in 60 towns and cities across the country, from Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands, in the face of “an alarming lack of government leadership” on climate change. At the London arm of the protest in Parliament Square this morning, several thousand children and young adults vented their frustration about the lack of climate action and voiced their fears for the future. Raffi Gannon, 16, from Mill Hill School, said: “The politicians are not doing nearly enough, just token gestures. The ice caps are going to a huge disaster. It’s my future, I feel like I should be protesting for it.” Prime minister Theresa May has released a statement criticising the protests saying, “Disruption increases teachers’ workloads and wastes lesson time that teachers have carefully prepared for.” The prime minister might also have disagreed with one of the protest signs featuring a grotesque caricature of her face with the slogan, “Soon there won’t BE a field to run through” – a reference to her answer to an interview question during the 2017 general election. School leaders and UK Education Secretary Damian Hinds have also warned students they shouldn’t miss lessons to take part in the strikes. One child’s banner directly addressed this advice: “I’ll get back to class when you get your head out of your arse.” Other signs suggested that their peers and parents should, “Raise your voice, not the sea level.” Alice Stratt, 10, of St Mary’s Church of England school in Walthamstow, told us: “I’m here because global warming is ruining our planet and us kids aren’t going to have a very good future.”

2-15-19 Climate strike: Why are students striking and will it have an impact?
Are the UK's school strikes for climate change the moment that British youth finally wakes up to the "climate emergency"? It may not represent a paradigm shift just yet, but the speed and scale of this young person's movement does make it feel more than a momentary splutter of impotent anger. Ever since the then 15-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg decided to stop going to school on Fridays last year and instead protest outside the Swedish parliament, there has been a rapid expansion in similar activities in many parts of the world, especially in Europe. Tens of thousands of schoolchildren in Belgium, Germany and other locations have cut classes and taken to the streets to call on governments to take urgent action on climate change. Now young people in the UK are due to join them, determined to affect change on the issue that they feel is most germane to their future - the impacts of rapidly rising temperatures on an ever more crowded planet. Greta's memorable phrase that we "cannot solve the crisis without treating it as a crisis", reflects the thinking of many, frustrated with the slow pace of progress. That sense of crisis has been affected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the impacts of global temperature reaching 1.5C, released last October. "We are doing this because we feel that climate action really needs to happen after the IPCC report," said Lottie, 17, who says she will join a school protest in London. Speaking to the BBC, she said: "We've been told we have to take serious action and have just 12 years to cut our carbon emissions in half. As the young people who are going to be most affected by the fact that no-one is taking any action on climate change - this is our entire future. "We can't vote yet and this is one of the most effective ways of making our voices heard." (Webmaster's comment: We need to start firing all the executives who take no action!)

2-15-19 What are the biggest threats to humanity?
Human extinction may be the stuff of nightmares but there are many ways in which it could happen. Popular culture tends to focus on only the most spectacular possibilities: think of the hurtling asteroid of the film Armageddon or the alien invasion of Independence Day. While a dramatic end to humanity is possible, focusing on such scenarios may mean ignoring the most serious threats we face in today's world. And it could be that we are able to do something about these. Volcanic threats: In 1815 an eruption of Mount Tambora, in Indonesia, killed more than 70,000 people, while hurling volcanic ash into the upper atmosphere. It reduced the amount of sunlight hitting the surface of the Earth, triggering what has become known as the "year without a summer". Lake Toba, at the other end of Sumatra, tells a still more sinister story. It was formed by a truly massive super-volcanic eruption 75,000 years ago, the impact of which was felt around the world. It has been suggested that the event led to dramatic population decline in early humans, although this has recently been questioned. But while the prospect of a super-volcanic eruption is terrifying, we should not worry too much. Super-volcanoes and other natural disasters, such as an asteroid striking Earth or a star exploding in our cosmic neighbourhood, are no more likely in 2019 than any other year. And that is not very likely. Growing threats: The same cannot be said for many global threats induced by people. For example, the World Health Organization and the World Economic Forum both listed climate change and its effects as one of their top risks for 2019. Recent UN talks heard climate change was already "a matter of life and death" for many regions. While many, including Sir David Attenborough, believe it could lead to the collapse of civilisations and the extinction of "much of the natural world". The threats are complex and diverse, from killer heatwaves and rising sea levels to widespread famines and migration on a truly immense scale.

2-15-19 China closes its Everest base camp to tourists
China has closed the base camp on its side of Mount Everest to visitors who don't have climbing permits. Authorities have resorted to the unusual move to deal with the mounting waste problem at the site. The ban means tourists can only go as far as a monastery slightly below the 5,200m (17,060ft) base camp level. More people visit the mountain from the southern side in Nepal, but over the past years numbers have been rising steadily on the Chinese side as well. The Chinese base camp, located in Tibet, is popular as it is accessible by car - whereas the Nepalese camp can only be reached by a hike of almost two weeks. The world's highest peak has been struggling with escalating levels of rubbish for years, as the number of visitors rises. The Chinese Mountaineering Association says 40,000 visited its base camp in 2015, the most recent year with figures. A record 45,000 visited Nepal's base camp in 2016-7 according to Nepal's Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation. Ordinary tourists will only be banned from areas above Rongbuk monastery, which is around 5,000m above sea level, according to China's state news agency Xinhua. Mountaineers who have a permit to climb the 8,848m peak will still be allowed to use the higher camp. In January, authorities announced that they would limit the number of climbing permits each year to 300. On Chinese social media, claims have spread in recent days that its base camp will be permanently closed to tourists - but Xinhua cited officials denying that. The official announcement about the closure was made in December, on the website of the Tibetan authorities. It stated that three clean-up operations last spring had collected eight tonnes of waste, including human faeces and mountaineering equipment climbers had left behind. This year's clean-up efforts will also try to remove the bodies of mountaineers who have died in the so-called death zone above 8,000m, where the air is too thin to sustain life for long. Due to the cold and high altitude, these bodies often remain on the mountain for years or even decades.

2-15-19 Muons reveal the whopping voltages inside a thunderstorm
Physicists used subatomic particles to probe the inner workings of a cloud. An invisible drizzle of subatomic particles has shown that thunderstorms may store up much higher electric voltages than we thought. Using muons, heavier relatives of electrons that constantly rain down on Earth’s surface, scientists probed the insides of a storm in southern India in December 2014. The cloud’s electric potential — the amount of work necessary to move an electron from one part of the cloud to another — reached 1.3 billion volts, the researchers report in a study accepted in Physical Review Letters. That’s 10 times the largest voltage previously found by using balloons to make similar measurements. High voltages within clouds spark lightning. But despite the fact that thunderstorms regularly rage over our heads, “we really don’t have a good handle on what’s going on inside them,” says physicist Joseph Dwyer of the University of New Hampshire in Durham who was not involved with the research. Balloons and aircraft can monitor only part of a cloud at a time, making it difficult to get an accurate measurement of the whole thing. But muons zip right through, from top to bottom. “Muons that penetrate the thunderclouds are a perfect probe for measuring the electric potential,” says physicist Sunil Gupta of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India. Gupta and colleagues studied the muons’ behavior with the GRAPES-3 experiment in Ooty, India, which observes around 2.5 million muons every minute. During thunderstorms, that rate drops, as muons, which are electrically charged, tend to be slowed by a thunderstorm’s electric fields. That means fewer particles carry enough energy to register in the scientists’ detectors.

2-14-19 Chernobyl: The end of a three-decade experiment
Since the explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986, an exclusion zone of more than 4,000 square kilometres has been abandoned. That could be about to change, as Victoria Gill discovered during a week-long trip to the zone. "This place is more than half of my life," says Gennady Laptev. The broad-shouldered Ukrainian scientist is smiling wistfully as we stand on the now dry ground of what was Chernobyl nuclear power plant's cooling pond. "I was only 25 when I started my work here as a liquidator. Now, I'm almost 60." There were thousands of liquidators - workers who came here as part of the mammoth, dangerous clean-up operation following the 1986 explosion. The worst nuclear accident in history. Gennady shows me a coffee table-sized platform, installed here to collect dust. This reservoir's bed dried out when the pumps taking water from the nearby river were finally switched off in 2014; 14 years after the remaining three reactors there were shut down. Analysing dust for radioactive contamination is just a small part of the decades-long study of this vast, abandoned area. The accident turned this landscape into a giant, contaminated laboratory, where hundreds of scientists have worked to find out how an environment recovers from nuclear catastrophe. The experiment that turned into a global catastrophe: On 26 April, 1986, at 1:23AM, engineers cut power to some systems at Chernobyl nuclear power plant's number 4 reactor. It was a critical point in a test to understand what would happen during a blackout. What engineers did not know was that the reactor was already unstable. The cut-off slowed turbines that drove cooling water to the reactor. As less water turned to more steam, the pressure inside built. By the time operators realised what was happening and tried to shut down the reactor, it was too late. A steam explosion blew the lid off the reactor, exposing the core to the atmosphere. Two people in the plant were killed and, as air fuelled a fire that burned for 10 days, a cloud of radioactive smoke and dust was carried on the wind around Europe.

2-14-19 Climate change could increase foodborne illness by energizing flies
Livelier flies could land on more food, leaving Campylobacter behind in their tiny footsteps. Warmer springs and summers could make house flies friskier, spreading diarrhea-causing bacteria to more places. As a result, foodborne Campylobacter infections could increase with climate change, proposes epidemiologist Melanie Cousins of the University of Waterloo in Canada. Cousins’ computer simulation, still a proof-of-concept version, focuses on how the warm weather surge in house flies and their activity affects the typical spring-summer rise in Campylobacter cases. Under a scenario of summers 2.5 degrees Celsius warmer on average than in 2003, the simulation predicts about 28 percent more Campylobacter cases in the Canadian province of Ontario by 2050, she and colleagues say February 13 in Royal Society Open Science. Campylobacter infections are most often caused by contaminated food, perhaps by a fly that’s strolled on other tainted food, an infected animal or feces. Most people recover from an infection within about 10 days. The bacteria are the most common cause of gastrointestinal illness in Canada, with Ontario averaging more than 3,000 cases a year. The United States has some 1.3 million infections a year. To set up a simplified simulation, Cousins used data from 2005 on reported Campylobacter infections in Ontario to estimate transmission rates and fly birth and death rates. She then plugged those rates into the simulation to predict subsequent years’ Campylobacter infections. Those results came close to the real data available through 2013, and allowed her to predict future infections under different warming scenarios. The simulation assumes flies become more active with climate change since, like other insects, they depend on ambient temperatures for heating and cooling. It also assumes bacterial increases with warming.

2-13-19 There is No Planet B review: How to save Earth by changing humans
Can Mike Berners-Lee's guide to changing how we think and live help us dump our dangerous habits and learn to use resources respectfully rather than rapaciously? WE don’t need telling that the world is in a horrible mess. What we need are solutions and, better still, pragmatic prescriptions based on sound psychology and effective economics, precepts that can ease society through the transitions we have no choice but to make. As a senior fellow of the Institute for Social Futures at Lancaster University, UK, Mike Berners-Lee is no stranger to the difficult questions of how we go about changing our lives to become more commensal and less parasitic as a species. But in his latest book, There Is No Planet B, he sets out to provide a set of lifestyle alternatives, both individually and societally: it is intended as a sort of Alexa to tell you how to live in a more planet-friendly fashion. The book spans the essentials of food, climate, energy and so on by responding to key questions. These range from “Given the global surplus, why are some people malnourished?” to “Should I go veggie or vegan?”, via “What are the fourteen things that every politician needs to know about climate change?”, and “Energy: What can I do?”. He works hard to avoid the simplistic. Take his “Should I fly?” answer. It covers everything from possible electric planes for short flights to using solar electricity to create aviation fuel from CO2 in the air for long flights. Or you could always treat flying as a “very special occasion extravagance”. The book is as jargon-free as possible to ensure maximum reach, while endnotes hold the details for the technically minded. Amazingly, it manages to make the complexities of planet-scale economic and environmental interconnectivity fun: a platter of potential doom, served with a smiley face and sparkler. And to underline the take-homes, every section has a summary to read before embarking on the rest.

2-13-19 No plugs needed: How wireless charging could set electric cars free
The rise of wireless charging for electric cars means you may never have to worry about plugging in again. ELECTRIC cars have several advantages over gas guzzlers, but having to plug them in every day isn’t one of them. The good news is that you may not need to – all electric cars could soon come with wireless chargers. “I won’t buy a car I have to plug in again,” says engineer Olaf Simon, who organised a trial of wireless charging in Berlin, Germany. “Wireless charging is so convenient.” In fact, this type of charging may offer more than just greater convenience, it could be the technology we need to transform the way we get around. With a wireless charger under every parking space, drivers would only need to worry about charging on long journeys. One day, even that problem may be gone: it could be possible for electric cars to charge wirelessly as they drive. Surprisingly, home wireless charging is nearly as fast and as energy efficient as plugging in. All the firms developing wireless charging for vehicles say that less than 10 per cent of the electricity is lost during transfer. Plug-in chargers lose around 5 per cent, so there is actually little difference. For charging during stopovers on long trips, drivers will want to use rapid chargers that supply more than 100 kilowatt-hours. It makes more sense to plug into these, says Graeme Davison, who led Qualcomm’s efforts to develop wireless charging for electric vehicles up to 2018. Wireless systems can supply this much electrical energy, but it makes the systems much more expensive. The basic principle behind wireless charging is simple. An alternating current is fed through a coil in a pad beneath the vehicle, generating a changing magnetic field. A second coil within the vehicle is designed to resonate with this field, inducing an alternating current that is converted into a direct current that charges the battery. The systems can also work in reverse, allowing electric vehicles to supply electricity back to the grid.

2-13-19 The truth about cheese: The terrible costs of our favourite food
It might be hard to swallow, but if you think cheese is better than meat for both animal welfare and the environment, you need to think again. I’m generally quite restrained at the table, but I can’t resist cheese. Hard, soft, runny, smoked, blue, British, continental, pasteurised, unpasteurised. If there is cheese on offer, I will keep on eating it until one of us is defeated. I eat it for breakfast and snack on it at night. Recently, my cheese habit has become even more central to my diet. Last year I quit meat, finally fed up by its environmental and animal welfare record. It wasn’t easy, but what was there to fill the void? Why, my old friend cheese! Halloumi, paneer and parmesan are now my beef, chicken and pork. I’m happy to live without meat. But lately I have been wrangling with my conscience again. Cheese is made from milk, and milk comes from cows. Cattle farming is appalling for the climate. Cows belch out vast amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that no known technology can stop from being vented into the atmosphere. Most dairy farming is a form of factory farming, with all the attendant animal rights issues. I haven’t kept a record, but I am sure my cheese consumption has gone up since I swore off meat. So have I just swapped one environmental and animal welfare sin for another – one that is possibly even worse? This is an uncomfortable question for many people. A number of my colleagues said, half-jokingly, “please don’t do that story”. They were saying they would rather not know. They were right.The cheese industry is a gigantic, and growing, success story. World production is at least 22 million tonnes a year, up from 15 million tonnes in 2000, and is projected to keep on expanding as people in traditionally cheeseless cultures in parts of Asia catch on. Even in countries where people do tend to eat cheese, consumption is on the up. In France, people surrendered themselves to 27 kilograms per person per year in 2015, a kilogram more than in 2012. The UK cheese market has grown 13 per cent over the same period, and 92 per cent of UK households buy cheese, according to industry body Dairy UK.

2-12-19 China and India help make planet leafier
China and India, two of the world's biggest polluters, are making it leafier - for now, a report says. The greening effect stems mainly from ambitious tree-planting in China and intensive farming in both countries. There are now more than 2 million sq miles of extra leaf area per year, compared with the early 2000s – a 5% increase. Extra foliage helps slows climate change, but researchers warn this will be offset by rising temperatures. Satellite data from the US space agency Nasa shows that over the last two decades there has been an increase in leaf area on plants and trees equivalent to the area covered by all the Amazon rainforests. The greening was first detected in the mid-1990s. Scientists first assumed plants were being fertilised by the extra CO2 in the atmosphere and boosted by a warmer, wetter climate. But they didn’t know whether changes in farming and forestry were contributing to the changes. Thanks to a Nasa instrument called Modis, which is orbiting the Earth on two satellites, they can now see that both are clearly playing a direct part, too. China’s contribution to the global greening trend comes in large part (42%) from programmes to conserve and expand forests. The policies were developed to reduce the effects of soil erosion, air pollution and climate change. Another 32% of the greening there – and 82% of the greening in India – comes from intensive cultivation of food crops thanks to fertilisers and irrigation. Production of grains, vegetables, fruits and other crops has increased by 35% to 40% since 2000, so both nations can feed their large populations. The future of the greening trend may change depending on numerous factors. For example, India may run short of groundwater irrigation. On the global picture, scientists recently warned that CO2 in the atmosphere could reach record levels this year as a result of heating in the tropical Pacific which is likely to reduce CO2 uptake in plants.

2-12-19 A new 2-D material uses light to quickly and safely purify water
In tests, it killed 99.9999 percent of the bacteria in contaminated water. Using light, a prototype “green” material can purify enough daily drinking water for four people in just one hour. In tests, it killed nearly 100 percent of bacteria in 10 liters of water, researchers report February 7 in Chem. This new material, a 2-D sheet of graphitic carbon nitride, is a photocatalyst: It releases electrons when illuminated to create destructive oxygen-based chemicals that destroy microbes. The design avoids pitfalls of other similar technology. Today’s most effective photocatalysts contain metals that can leach into water as toxic pollutants. Others are non-metallic, like the new 2-D sheets, but are less efficient because they hold onto electrons more tightly. Materials scientist Guoxiu Wang of the University of Technology Sydney and colleagues created ultrathin sheets of graphitic carbon nitride and added chemical groups like acids and ketones that lure electrons toward the sheets’ edges. There, the electrons jump onto oxygen atoms in water to form such microbe-dissolving oxygen chemicals as hydrogen peroxide. The design killed 99.9999 percent of bacteria, including E. coli, in a 50-milliliter water sample. That’s as efficient as the best metal-based catalyst. And it killed microbes more quickly than previous best metal-free photocatalysts, which take over an hour to achieve what the new design did in 30 minutes. The team then attached the nanosheets to the inside surface of plastic bags, purifying 10 liters of water in an hour.

2-12-19 Green New Deal : Can this plan pushed by some Democrats really work?
Despite being labelled as a "socialist manifesto", the Green New Deal (GND) on climate change and jobs has sparked a lively debate in US politics. So what's in the deal and what will be its likely impact? President Trump was quick to thrash the Democrats' new approach to tackling rising temperatures. Speaking in El Paso, he said the Green New Deal amounted to "taking away your car, taking away your plane flights". However in its current form, the GND is more a political statement than a set of proposals aimed at penalising US citizens. Introduced by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, the GND is a large scale re-imagining of how economies should work to deal with the root causes of climate change. It firmly and deliberately sets out to echo the past glories of FDR and the economic New Deal of the 1930s. Republican leader in the US Senate, Mitch McConnell, said on Tuesday he will bring it to the Senate floor for a vote, so Democrats will have to back it or distance themselves from it. In the document, the GND calls for a "new national, social, industrial, and economic mobilisation on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal." The plan is built around the recent warnings from scientists about the impacts on the planet of a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius this century, above pre-industrial levels. Climate change would cost the US around $500bn a year in lost economic output, and risk trillions of dollars damage to infrastructure. By 2050 wildfires will likely burn at least twice as much forest area in the western states than was typically burned in the years preceding 2019. But as well as outlining the damage that climate change might bring, the GND links these threats to ongoing issues such as clean water, healthy food, adequate healthcare and education that are "inaccessible to a significant proportion of the United States population."

2-12-19 Environment in multiple crises - report
Politicians and policymakers have failed to grasp the gravity of the environmental crisis facing the Earth, a report claims. The think-tank IPPR says human impacts have reached a critical stage and threaten to destabilise society and the global economy. Scientists warn of a potentially deadly combination of factors. These include climate change, mass loss of species, topsoil erosion, forest felling and acidifying oceans. The report from the centre-left Institute for Public Policy Research says these factors are "driving a complex, dynamic process of environmental destabilisation that has reached critical levels. "This destabilisation is occurring at speeds unprecedented in human history and, in some cases, over billions of years." The IPPR warns that the window of opportunity to avoid catastrophic outcomes is rapidly closing. The authors urge three shifts in political understanding: on the scale and pace of environmental breakdown; the implications for societies; and the subsequent need for transformative change. ?They say since 1950, the number of floods across the world has increased by 15 times, extreme temperature events by 20 times, and wildfires seven-fold. At least climate change features in policy discussions, they say – but other vitally important impacts barely figure. What issues are being under-played? 1. Topsoil is being lost 10 to 40 times faster than it is being replenished by natural processes, 2. Since the mid-20th Century, 30% of the world's arable land has become unproductive due to erosion, 3. 5% of the Earth's land areas could become degraded by 2050.

2-12-19 The case for green nationalism
How about building a big, beautiful sea wall — and making China pay for it?. he "Green New Deal" is already as divisive as its contents are sketchy. Is it a brilliant move by Democrats to move the Overton Window in a progressive direction by tying the crisis of global warming to the transformation of America into a social democracy? Or is it a political suicide vest that gives the Republicans a huge opening to run as the party that will save America from turning into Venezuela? The answer depends greatly on how popular you believe the other social democratic elements of the non-binding resolution are. The key political weakness of the cause of decarbonization has always been that it reeks of austerity: more expensive energy, more expensive flights, even less red meat. From that perspective, the GND makes an important stride by linking environmentalism to equality instead: universal health care, strong unions, more affordable housing. There's nothing in the GND about taxing carbon, no suggestion that we're going to use the market to make sure the pain of decarbonization is spread efficiently, which in practice would mean spreading it regressively. Instead, there's a lot of deficit-financed spending — and jobs — to build out a new energy and transportation infrastructure that sits naturally next to the other promises of the social democratic wish list. The risk of the strategy, obviously, is that America may not be ready to vote for full social democracy. Staking out a more aggressively left-wing position across the board could move the Overton Window — but it could also backfire if the opposition simply says "no." That's what happened to Republican attempts to privatize Social Security in the second Bush administration; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi simply refused to negotiate at all or propose any alternative solution to a problem she considered illusory. The privatization proposals collapsed from unpopularity, and the next Republican president won both the nomination and the presidency on a platform that included promises to protect broad-based entitlements.der approach: Incrementalism has won them no allies on the other side of the aisle. That has also been the Republican approach to the problem of climate change: deny there's any crisis at all and refuse to negotiate on that basis — and it's been a pretty effective strategy. In fact, that's one reason why progressives are advocating a much bolder approach: Incrementalism has won them no allies on the other side of the aisle. So suppose you think America isn't ready for full social democracy — or that the full progressive wish list would lead to stagnation and bankruptcy — but you aren't a climate denialist. On the contrary, you think the most alarming warnings of mainstream climate science are all-too plausible

2-12-19 Green New Deal proposal includes free higher education and fair pay
Enthusiasm for tackling climate change in the US is rising. An idea called the Green New Deal that aims to address both climate change and economic inequality has gained momentum in recent months and now two members of Congress have drafted a bill to try to gain widespread political support. The core idea is simple: cut US greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in the next 10 years, transitioning entirely to clean and renewable energy by 2030. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and senator Ed Markey, both Democrats, have added more ambitious goals to this in their draft proposals published on 7 February. These include overhauling transportation systems to increase the use of zero-emission public transport and high-speed trains, upgrading buildings and energy grids to lower emissions, and working with farmers to eliminate emissions from the agriculture sector. Parts of the proposal may be too progressive for some, such as guaranteeing every person in the US healthcare, housing, and fair pay, as well as access to free higher education. The proposal will probably be put to a vote in Congress. However, such legislation will be non-binding and will only indicate future priorities. Getting enough backing for it to pass may be a struggle. While there is growing support for a Green New Deal from Democrats, they only control the House of Representatives, meaning they will have to win over the Senate and the White House too.

2-12-19 Greenland may have another massive crater hiding under its ice
It’s near a giant depression found last year, but the two probably aren’t related. Greenland’s ice may be hiding more than one crater left by long-ago meteorite impacts. An analysis of satellite and airborne images of the topography beneath the ice sheet has revealed a large, craterlike structure buried beneath two kilometers of ice. It’s just 183 kilometers southeast of Hiawatha, another possible large impact crater described in November (SN: 12/8/18, p. 6). The newfound bowl-shaped object is about 36.5 kilometers across, slightly larger than the 31-kilometer-wide Hiawatha depression, researchers report online February 11 in Geophysical Research Letters. Like Hiawatha, the new feature consists of a ring-shaped rim surrounding a depression with a peak at its center — consistent with a crater carved out by the impact of a large meteorite, says coauthor Joseph MacGregor, a glaciologist with NASA’s Operation IceBridge. Unlike Hiawatha, there’s little chance of collecting geologic data from the new structure to confirm or deny an extraterrestrial origin: Instead of sitting at the edge of the ice sheet, the new depression is closer to the center of the ice. Without more direct geologic data, scientists can’t estimate its age or determine whether the two might be related to the same event. To assess how likely it is that two unrelated large impacts could have happened so close together on Earth’s surface, the team used a type of probability analysis previously used to assess the frequency of large impacts on Earth (SN Online: 1/17/19). The researchers determined that there could be a couple of large unrelated crater pairs on Earth separated by fewer than 183 kilometers.

2-11-19 A toxic crisis in America’s coal country
In the shadow of some of America's most controversial coal mines, where companies use huge amounts of explosives to blow the tops off mountains, isolated communities say their water has been poisoned. Now, they must decide if they will fight back against an industry they have relied upon for generations. Casey (not her real name) wears a one-dollar wedding ring now. She bought the blue plastic band after her original ring was ruined by the toxic water that has been pumping into her home for more than a decade. "I just needed something there," she says, as she holds the replacement ring up to the light. "I felt empty without it." She places her original wedding band, now discoloured and corroded, in her palm. Her skin, especially on her hands, has become coarse and sore. The taps in her house have been worn down, her washing machine frequently stops working, and her bathroom and kitchen have been stained a deep, bloody orange by the pollutants - iron, sulphur, even arsenic - that have seeped into her home's water supply. This is Appalachia - the heart of America's coal country. It is home to some of the poorest and most isolated communities in the US and the legacy of mining, be it the abandoned processing plants or the scarred landscape, can be seen dotted alongside its vast highways. Casey's home is a small, double-berth structure with a wooden porch in southern West Virginia, in a place with very patchy mobile phone reception. She pours a glass of water from her kitchen tap and lets it rest on a table. It has a strange smell and a sticky texture and within minutes begins to turn dark orange. A layer of black sediment soon sinks to the bottom of the glass. "This is what we have to live with," Casey says. "We don't bathe in the water and we don't cook with it. It stains our fingernails, our knuckles, and our clothes. It's really, really difficult living like this." Casey and her husband Jack (not his real name), have two young children and drive for more than an hour to stock up on bottled water to drink and cook with. So who do they hold responsible? "I've been here all my life, but when the surface [coal] mine came in that's when the water started changing," says Jack, who, despite being a miner himself, believes the industry is accountable for his family's water problems. (Webmaster's comment: To corporations only profits are important. Your life is irrelevant.)

2-11-19 America has a recycling problem. Here's how to solve it.
America's waste is piling up. Can the government fix our broken recycling system? Last year, America's recycling system broke down. Ostensibly, China did the breaking. For years, China was home base for most of the world's recycling, importing two-thirds of global plastic waste in 2016. Over the last 30 years, America and other countries have shipped more than 10 million metric tons of plastic to China. That came with plenty of social, economic, and environmental costs for China itself. So on the last day of 2017, the Chinese government issued new rules so restrictive that shipments of waste into China for recycling effectively came to a halt, meaning the U.S. had to deal with all its unwanted paper, plastic, and glass on its own. China's rules still stand, and America's recyclable waste is piling up in landfills. But even before China started refusing shipments, our recycling system failed to actually recycle more than a fraction of the waste that went into it. Simply put, America's recycling system isn't efficient enough to deal with the amount of stuff Americans consume. Can it be fixed? America's recycling system has been a rickety, jury-rigged contraption for a very long time. The infrastructure was awkwardly duct-taped onto a waste management model that was purely linear: take resources from the natural world, use them, then toss them and move on. As a result, there isn't really a good business model for recycling in America, which means few smart innovators have stepped in to make it better. The process can be complicated, and for many Americans, dealing with recycling is too much trouble to bother.

2-9-19 Russia islands emergency over polar bear 'invasion'
A remote Russian region has declared a state of emergency over the appearance of dozens of polar bears in its human settlements, local officials say. Authorities in the Novaya Zemlya islands, home to a few thousand people, said there were cases of bears attacking people and entering residential and public buildings. Polar bears are affected by climate change and are increasingly forced on to land to look for food. Russia classes them as endangered. Hunting the bears is banned, and the federal environment agency has refused to issue licences to shoot them. The bears had lost their fear of police patrols and signals used to warn them off, meaning that more drastic measures were needed, officials said. They say that if other means to scare off the bears fail a cull could be the only answer.

2-8-19 An Antarctic expedition will search for what lived under the Larsen C ice shelf
A year and a half after a giant iceberg calved, scientists aim to collect seafloor creatures. Maybe the fourth time’s the charm. On February 9, an international team of scientists is embarking on yet another mission to hunt for ocean life that may have once dwelled in the shadow of a giant iceberg (SN Online: 10/13/17). The scientists, led by researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, are headed to the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula, where a Delaware-sized iceberg broke off a year and a half ago. Three previous expeditions have set a course for the ice shelf since the big break in July 2017 (SN: 8/5/17, p. 6). To reach the site, ships must navigate through sea ice drifting in the Weddell Sea, which lies between the Antarctic Peninsula and the main continent. There’s a narrow time window when the sea ice is at its sparsest: just after the Southern Hemisphere’s midsummer, from February into March. But good timing isn’t a guarantee of success. Two previous missions, a British Antarctic Survey–led expedition in February 2018 and a Korea Polar Research Institute mission in March 2018, were stymied by thick sea ice blocking their way through the Weddell Sea (SN Online: 3/3/18). A third, led by scientists at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, England, reached the shelf in late January 2019, but strong winds and dangerous ice floes ultimately forced the team to move on to focus on its primary (and still ongoing) mission — to find polar explorer Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance, which sank in the Weddell Sea in 1915.

2-8-19 Former Koch official shapes EPA water policy
A former Koch Industries official is leading research at the Environmental Protection Agency that could have major financial implications for his ex-employer, Politico.com reported this week. After serving for eight years as Koch’s lead expert on water and chemical regulations, David Dunlap was hired by the EPA in October. He almost immediately began working on research that will shape how the government regulates a class of chemicals that’s contaminated drinking water across the country. Koch, which could face significant cleanup costs, says Dunlap’s portfolio at the company didn’t include the chemicals under review, known as PFAs. Koch subsidiary Georgia-Pacific already faces a lawsuit over PFAs linked to a Michigan paper mill. (Webmaster's comment: Putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop.)

2-8-19 Tasman Glacier: Huge ice chunks break off New Zealand glacier
Huge chunks of ice have broken off the Tasman Glacier, New Zealand's largest. They have filled up at least a quarter of the meltwater lake at the foot of the glacier in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, reports say. The lake started to form in the 1970s as the glacier rapidly retreated - a phenomenon thought to have been largely caused by global warming. One guide says the chunks resemble huge skyscrapers lying on their side in the water. "We've got skyscraper-size icebergs floating around on the lake," Glacier Kayaking owner Charlie Hobbs told Radio New Zealand. Another two local guides were alerted to the event early on Wednesday morning. The falling ice chunks led to some "chaos" on the water, Anthony Harris, a guide at Southern Alps Guiding, told the stuff New Zealand website. A tidal surge up to two metres (6.5ft) high damaged a lake jetty and lifted a boat trailer upside down onto another trailer, Mr Harris said. "All in all, this is the most significant event I've seen in the last five years on the Tasman." New Zealand glaciologist Heather Purdie says large calving events - when ice chunks break off from the edge of the glacier - happen about once every two years on the glacier, and is not necessarily the result of global warming. But the fact the glacier, located on New Zealand's South Island, has been retreating and becoming smaller over the last few years is attributable to warming, she told the staff website. The ice chunks breaking off are caused by glacial ice above the water melting, putting pressure on the ice underneath the water. "The water gets in underneath the ice and sort of jacks it up, and it snaps off. "Large calving events are less frequent, but the icebergs that come up are really big."

2-8-19 Climate change: UK carbon capture project begins
The giant Drax power station, near Selby in North Yorkshire, has become the first in Europe to capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from wood-burning. Drax burns seven million tonnes of wood chips each year to drive generators to make electricity. The firm has now begun a pilot project to capture one tonne a day of CO2 from its wood combustion. The technology effectively turns climate change into reverse on a tiny scale, but it’s controversial. When a forest grows, the trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to make their wood. If you burn that wood, the process doesn’t emit any extra CO2 into the atmosphere - because the trees removed it from the air in the first place. It’s called carbon neutral. If you go one step further by capturing the CO2 from wood burning, you’re actually reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere overall. In an ideal world you’d go one step further by creating useful products from the waste CO2. This technology is known as Bio Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). Many scientists believe it will be needed because they don't trust politicians to curb the CO2 emissions that are over-heating the planet. They say that unless carbon emissions start falling dramatically, we will overshoot the recommended safety limit of a 1.5C rise in global temperature.

2-7-19 Black Saturday: The bushfire disaster that shook Australia
Ten years ago, Australia experienced its worst-ever bushfire disaster when 173 people died across the state of Victoria. Immediately branded "one of the darkest days in Australia's peacetime history", Black Saturday has left a profound legacy. Sharon Verghis reports. "It was like the gates of hell. There is no other way to describe it." For Tony Thomas, 7 February 2009 began as another ordinary day. It had been a summer of record-breaking temperatures, prompting days of safety warnings. But Mr Thomas wasn't overly concerned; they had had scorching days like this before. In the lush, peaceful hills on the outskirts of tiny Marysville, about 90km (55 miles) north-east of Melbourne, he and wife Penni had carved out a fruitful life running a bed and breakfast on a 60-acre property. His in-laws had arrived for a birthday lunch. It was a pleasant gathering, despite the suffocating heat. But in the late afternoon, they spotted smoke in the west. Going for a closer look, they saw fire. "It came out of the forest behind us on the other side - at 100k [kilometres] it just roared towards us," Mr Thomas tells the BBC. At 18.45, the fire hit - "and pretty hard". Mr Thomas's family and the B&B guests ran for shelter in the house as he, his brother-in-law and an employee battled the fire. It was effectively three men with buckets and garden hoses against a roaring, wind-whipped blaze. At 21.30, another wind change swung the fire towards the hay shed: "That threw flaming hay bombs at us for the next hour or so, massive embers and hay landing on us." "When you've got 20 to 30 metre-trees burning and the flames are well above that, like a huge ball..." his voice trails off. "Why people say gates of hell is because everything turned from light to dark very quickly - the sun got blocked out by the smoke.

2-7-19 Climate change: 'Future proofing' forests to protect orangutans
A study has identified key tree species that are resilient to climate change and support critically endangered apes. Planting them could help future proof rainforests, which are a key habitat for orangutans, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature - IUCN. Researchers surveyed 250 plants in Indonesia's Kutai National Park. Over 1,000 orangutans are thought to inhabit the park, as well as other rare animals such as the Malayan sun bear. "Selecting which species to plant is a significant contribution to restoring the health of this ecosystem," said study co-author Douglas Sheil. "Of course, the reasons why forest cover was lost in the first place must also be addressed for reforestation efforts to succeed." Kutai National Park is located on the east coast of Borneo Island, in the East Kalimantan province of Indonesia. The forest faces threats from logging, fires and mining, and was once considered a conservation wasteland. Efforts are underway to try to restore the habitat, which is home to more than a thousand plants, 80 mammals and 300 birds, including what is thought to be the largest population of orangutans in the province. Anne Russon of York University, Ontario, said a drought in 2015 caused the deaths of many animals and trees. Wildlife numbers are recovering slowly, she said, and studies like this one stand to contribute to nature conservation "by offering constructive methods for buffering the effects of climate change". The study singled out two tree species for their resilience to fire, which are recommend for planting in buffer zones around fire prone areas: A native palm, the Bendang; The hardwood tree, the Ulin. Seven plants that are likely to be climate resilient emerged as key food sources for orangutans. They include: Dracontomelon dao, a tropical canopy tree; Kleinhovia hospita, an evergreen, tropical tree native to Indonesia, Malaysia and other parts of tropical Asia.

2-6-19 Coastal catastrophe looms larger as sea level forecasts creep upwards
Children born now could live to see the oceans rise well over a metre by 2100. Even conservative forecasts of sea level by 2100 are now rising above the metre mark for high emission scenarios. The last report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2013 concluded that sea level could rise between 0.3 and 1 metre by 2100 depending on how much carbon dioxide we emit. Now a study by Tamsin Edwards of King’s College London has added 0.2 metres to that. “Our likely range is about 20 centimetres higher,” says Edwards. Other studies have come to similar conclusions. In fact, the IPCC is set to up its projections: according to a leaked version of an upcoming IPCC report, sea level will rise by as much as 1.3 metres by 2100. In the US alone, a 0.9 metre rise in sea level rise would displace 4 million people. Global average sea level has already risen around 0.3 metres since 1880. There are three key questions about what happens next: How much higher will the sea rise for a given amount of warming? How fast will it rise? And will the loss of some ice sheets become unstoppable once set in motion, as several recent studies suggest? The only way to find out is by looking at the past and using computer models. But our knowledge of past sea level changes is poor, and computer models of ice sheets are relatively new and crude, so there are huge uncertainties. The 2013 IPCC estimate of up to 1 metre assumes hardly any contribution from Antarctica. However, as the report itself acknowledged, many researchers think the unstable West Antarctic sheet could start to lose a lot of ice long before 2100. In 2016, a team led by Rob DeConto of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst published a study suggesting that the Antarctic ice sheet alone could contribute more than a metre to sea level rise by 2100. This could lead to around 3 metres of sea level rise by 2100.

2-6-19 2018 was the fourth-hottest year on record, and it’s getting even hotter
As warmer temperatures mess with global rainfall patterns, the U.S. East saw record rains. Overall, 2018 was the fourth-warmest year on record, and climate change trends suggest that temperatures will only continue to climb, scientists said February 6 during a joint news conference by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA. The agencies’ data show that global atmospheric temperatures in 2018 were on average 0.79 degrees Celsius warmer than the average 20th century temperature of 13.9° C. That warming trend, which started around the mid-1970s, “very much resembles riding up an escalator over time,” said Deke Arndt, who heads NOAA’s global monitoring branch in Asheville, N.C. For much of the Southern Hemisphere, 2018 hit record average highs for the second year in a row. Some Northern Hemisphere regions also recorded their hottest average temperatures, including parts of Europe, the Middle East, New Zealand and the western Pacific. And in the Arctic, temperatures continued rising faster than the overall global temperature rise. Climate change is also leading to more erratic rainfall across much of the world. A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, which can both prolong droughts and lead eventually to bigger downpours once the water is released. “There’s obviously a connection there,” Arndt said. The United States experienced its wettest year since 1983, with record rains flooding nine eastern states, including Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland. Nationwide, average annual rainfall totaled 87.96 centimeters. That’s 11.9 centimeters above the 20th century average of about 76 centimeters.

2-6-19 Collapsing ice cliffs may not contribute to sea level rise
A new study questions a controversial hypothesis suggesting such rapid crumbling could occur. Sea level rise over the next century won’t get a feared boost from Antarctic ice cliffs crumbling into the ocean like dominoes, a new study suggests. The finding, published February 7 in Nature, is based on a new statistical analysis showing that such a rapid collapse of marine ice cliffs in Antarctica was extremely unlikely to have happened in the past, even during some of Earth’s warmest episodes over the last 3 million years. The study, by climate scientist Tamsin Edwards of King’s College London and colleagues, counters a controversial hypothesis that suggests that rising greenhouse gas emissions could destabilize those cliffs and help send sea levels surging by over 2.1 meters by 2100. That figure is nearly double some sea level rise projections for the end of the century. How quickly human-caused global warming is causing the great ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica to melt into the sea is one of the most urgent questions related to future sea level rise. Some scientists fear that melting could speed up dramatically sometime in the future, thanks to a possible feedback loop known as marine ice-cliff instability, or MICI. The hypothesis was described by geoscientist Robert DeConto of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and paleoclimatologist David Pollard of Penn State in a 2016 study in Nature. Using computer simulations of the mechanical and structural properties of ice, the researchers suggested that ice cliffs at the edges of glaciers that jut into the sea are a dramatically underestimated source of future sea level rise (SN: 4/30/16, p. 13).

2-6-19 Climate change: World heading for warmest decade, says Met Office
The world is in the middle of what is likely to be the warmest 10 years since records began in 1850, says the Met Office. It's forecasting that temperatures for each of the next five years are likely to be at or above 1C compared to pre-industrial levels. There's also a small chance that one of the next five years will see global temperatures temporarily go above 1.5C. That's seen as a critical threshold for climate change. If the data matches the forecast, then the decade from 2014-2023 will be the warmest in more than 150 years of record keeping. The Met Office says that 2015 was the first year in which the global annual average surface temperature reached 1C above the pre-industrial level, which is generally taken to mean the temperatures between 1850 and 1900. Each year since then, the global average has hovered close to or above the 1C mark. Now, the Met Office says that trend is likely to continue or increase over the next five years. "We've just made this year's forecasts and they go out to 2023 and what they suggest is rapid warming globally," Prof Adam Scaife, head of long term forecasting at the Met Office, told BBC News. "By looking at individual years in that forecast we can now see for the first time, there is a risk of a temporary, and I repeat temporary, exceedance of the all-important 1.5C threshold level set out in the Paris climate agreement." Last October, UN scientists published a special report on the long-term impacts of a temperature rise of 1.5C. They concluded that it would take a massive carbon cutting effort to keep the world from tipping over the limit by 2030. The Met Office analysis now says there's a 10% chance of this happening within the next five years. "It's the first time the forecasts have shown a significant risk of exceedance - it is only temporary. We are talking about individual years fluctuating above the 1.5 degree level," said Prof Scaife. "But the fact that that can happen now due to a combination of general warming and the fluctuations due to things like El Niño events in the next few years does mean we are getting close to that threshold." The Met Office says it has a 90% confidence limit in the forecasts for the years ahead. It says that from 2019 to 2023, we will see temperatures ranging from 1.03C to 1,57C above the 1850-1900 level, with enhanced warming over much of the globe, especially over areas like the Arctic. (Webmaster's comment: Which means of course it will be melting even faster than now!)

2-6-19 How Earth’s changing ecosystems may have driven human evolution
The most detailed ever look at Earth's prehistoric climate suggests many habitats changed in the past 800,000 years – and this may be why we evolved big brains. FOR the first time, we have had a detailed look at how our climate has changed throughout prehistory, thanks to a surprisingly detailed computer model. And it could shed light on how ecosystem changes shaped our evolution and intelligence. Thanks to ice cores and other natural records, we already knew that, for the past 2.5 million years, Earth has been in an ice age, with permanent ice at both poles. The extent of this ice has often waxed and waned during this time, and we are currently in a warmer, “interglacial” period. But this doesn’t explain why these climate changes happened or how they affected wildlife, says Mark Maslin of University College London, who wasn’t involved in the modelling work. “An ice core in Antarctica just tells you what’s happened in Antarctica,” he says. “Only by using computer models can you actually connect the dots.” Mario Krapp at the University of Cambridge, UK, and his colleagues have now done this, simulating global climate changes over the past 800,000 years. They did it by using models of the past 120,000 years to develop an algorithm, which they then used to reconstruct an outline of the past 800,000 years. This was fleshed out by simulating detailed “snapshots” at intervals throughout the 800,000 years. Running a detailed model for the whole period would have taken too much computer time. The model successfully reconstructed known changes in average global temperature, as well as the different patterns over sea and land. “They seem to be approximating what’s going on extremely well,” says Eleanor Scerri of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany.

2-6-19 Material made from citrus fruit peel could help clean up oil spills
Unwanted citrus fruit peel could be re-purposed into ultra-light sponges that can clean up oil spills, while also reducing food waste. Fengzhi Tan at Dalian Polytechnic University in China gathered the discarded peel of pomelos, a large citrus fruit similar to a grapefruit. They chipped off the yellow skin, leaving only the spongy pith, which they ground and dried into a powder. Then they added a liquid silicon-based compound and heated it to 80°C for 12 hours and then 60°C for 24 hours to turn it into an aerogel – a type of material so light and porous that it can float on air. These ultralight materials are also very strong, so they have been suggested as possible heat shield materials for spacecraft. Cellulose-based aerogels, like this new one, are known to be good for soaking up oil and have been made from cotton, corn stalks and leaves, and banana peels. In this pomelo-peel-based aerogel, the internal pores are 10 to 1000 nanometres wide, and they make up most of the material. This is on the larger end of the scale as far as pore size goes for aerogels. Scanning electron microscope images reveal that the porosity – or the fraction of empty space to actual material – is up to 98.6 percent. Thin filaments of fibre from the citrus peel crisscross to make the layers between the pores. The team tested whether the aerogel could remove kerosene from water. They found that water formed droplets on the surface of the material, while kerosene was quickly and completely absorbed. They also put dyed kerosene into a beaker of water and dipped the aerogel inside. After 1 minute, the kerosene was entirely soaked up.

2-5-19 Climate change: UK CO2 emissions fall again
The mass closure of coal-fired power stations has helped reduce UK greenhouse gases whilst global emissions (GHG) are rising. The finalised official statistics show Britain’s GHG in 2017 were 2.7%lower than in 2016 - and 42.1%lower than in 1990. Coal use for electricity fell 27% to a record low following the closure of two major plants. But critics point out that huge challenges remain to reduce emissions. These sources include transport, farming, homes and parts of industry. Overall, the UK has a target of cutting CO2 emissions 80% by 2050. Ministers are on track to meet their short-term goals, but the advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says they are still short of policies to achieve long-term targets. The CCC warns there’s also a big difference between the current UK target of 80% cuts and the increased ambition of virtually 100% cuts that ministers are likely to embrace. The CCC says the most difficult areas will be transport, agriculture and parts of industry. And critics say many recent policies are driving in the wrong direction. On the roads, for instance, the government says it wants people to cycle - but councils can’t afford to fill potholes. Meanwhile trunk roads are getting a £30bn upgrade. On aviation, planes are getting more efficient - but that’s being overtaken by the growth in the amount people fly – and the government is expanding capacity at airports. It’s a similar picture on trains. Humble local trains help reduce motoring– but commuter services are starved of cash whilst billions are poured into HS2. On energy generation, there’s dismay amongst environmentalists at the government’s decision to virtually ban all new onshore wind farms which supply the UK’s cheapest clean energy. Housing is another contentious area. When ministers cut grants home insulation numbers plunged by 90%.

2-5-19 Climate change is making it harder to grow fruit and vegetables
It’s often been suggested that global heating will boost crop yields in cooler countries. But fruit and vegetable growers in the UK are instead being hit hard by weather extremes — and things are only going to get worse, according to a report from the Climate Coalition, a pressure group that represents more than 130 organisations. “Farmers and growers are used to dealing with fluctuations in the weather but if we have two or three extreme years in a row it has the potential to put growers out of business,” says Lee Abbey of the National Farmers Union in the report. In theory higher CO2 levels and a longer growing season could boost plant growth. But instead more severe flooding, storms, heat and droughts have reduced yields in many years. More than half of all farms in the UK say they have been affected by extreme weather in the past decade. In 2018, for example, growers had to plant late because of a cold, wet spring, and the crops then suffered because of extreme heat. Yields of several vegetables including potatoes, carrots and onions fell by more than 20 per cent. And fries were 3 centimetres shorter than average because most potatoes were smaller than usual. Three quarters of land that is currently well suited to growing potatoes will no longer be suitable by the 2050s, says the report. And more than 70 per cent of fruit is grown in areas where farms are already suffering water shortages. Even the warmer winters are causing problems, by allowing more pests to survive. Warmer springs also make fruit trees flower earlier, increasing the risk of the blossom being damaged by late frosts. Apple growers lost a quarter of their fruit in 2017.

2-4-19 Climate change: Warming threatens Himalayan glaciers
Climate change poses a growing threat to the glaciers found in the Hindu Kush and Himalayan mountain ranges, according to a new report. The study found that if CO2 emissions are not cut rapidly, two thirds of these giant ice fields could disappear. Even if the world limits the temperature rise to 1.5C this century, at least one third of the ice would go. The glaciers are a critical water source for 250 million people living across eight different countries. The towering peaks of K2 and Mount Everest are part of the frozen Hindu Kush and Himalayan ranges that contain more ice that anywhere else on Earth, apart from the polar regions. But these ice fields could turn to bare rocks in less than a century because of rising temperatures, say scientists. Over the next few decades, the melting could accelerate thanks to warming and increased air pollution from a growing population. The air pollutants come from the Indo-Gangetic Plain, one of the world's most polluted regions. The dirty air makes the glacier situation worse by depositing black carbon and dust on the ice, hastening the thaw. If global temperatures rise by 2 degrees C, then half the glaciers would be gone by 2100. Even if the world takes dramatic action and limits warming to 1.5C by the end of the century, 36% of the glaciers will have disappeared. "This is the climate crisis you haven't heard of," said Philippus Wester of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), who led the report. "Impacts on people in the region, already one of the world's most fragile and hazard-prone mountain regions, will range from worsened air pollution to an increase in extreme weather events. But it's the projected reductions in pre-monsoon river flows and changes in the monsoon that will hit hardest, throwing urban water systems and food and energy production off kilter." The area in question covers some 3,500km across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan. The glaciers feed ten of the world's most important river systems, including the Ganges, Indus, Yellow, Mekong and Irrawaddy, and directly or indirectly supply billions of people with food, energy, clean air and incomes. The impacts that the scientists are worried about will hit not just those living in the mountains, but also the 1.65 billion people living in the river valleys below - all are vulnerable to flooding and the destruction of crops.

2-4-19 Larsen ice shelf: Mission to explore uncovered Antarctic ecosystem
Scientists leave this week to try to reach the part of Antarctica uncovered by the world's biggest iceberg, A-68. The 5,800 sq km frozen slab broke away from the continent in 2017, exposing ocean floor that had been covered for at least 120,000 years. A German-led expedition wants to see what's living in this opened ecosystem. The researchers will need luck on their side, however. The region they are targeting in the Weddell Sea is notorious for thick sea-ice. This could prevent their ship, RV Polarstern, from getting anywhere near their desired destination. But if the team succeeds, it could catalogue a bounty of novel specimens, says Dr Huw Griffiths from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). "We've been studying Antarctica for a long time now, but even in areas we think we know pretty well - about 10% of what I find at the bottom of the sea is new to science. So, I'm expecting that in an area that no-one's ever been to before - for that number to be much higher, and for there to be a wider variety of new species," he told BBC News. A-68 broke from the Larsen C Ice Shelf - an amalgam of glacier fronts that have flowed off the Antarctic Peninsula and lifted up to form a floating platform. Species that persist under such shelves must do so in the absence of light. Survival means eating other organisms or scavenging the detritus that happens to drift under the platform on currents. Polarstern's biologists are expecting to find new types of worms, sea stars, brittle stars, sea-pigs and other sea cucumbers - the sorts of animals that will sift seafloor muds for a meal. But crustaceans, such as isopods and amphipods, will no doubt have found their niche as well.

2-4-19 ‘The Human Element’ makes the impacts of climate change feel real
A photographer documents how global warming is already affecting people’s lives. Climate change, extreme weather events and debates over climate mitigation strategies dominated the news for much of the last year. Yet climate scientists continually wrestle with how best to talk about these issues: Should discussions of climate change appeal directly to people’s emotions, whether fear or anger or even hope? Or are data-driven discussions the way to go? There is no one answer, of course. But The Human Element, a documentary starring photographer James Balog, aims directly for the gut by putting a human face on the impacts. The movie, now streaming online, shows how human-caused climate change is intersecting with people’s lives. For instance, we see flooded homes in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma in 2017. Global warming probably increased Irma’s intense rainfall, researchers have found. We also see firefighters battling wildfires in the American West (the movie is almost entirely shot in the United States). “I felt a great sense of urgency to bear witness,” Balog says in the film. That collision of people and planet is something that Balog, also the subject of the 2012 documentary Chasing Ice, has been capturing in photographs for decades. In The Human Element, his work is framed through the four ancient elements: earth, air, fire and water. People, Balog suggests, are a fifth element — a force of nature, too. People are driving climate change, and their lives are being altered by it.

2-4-19 Climate change: Blue planet will get even bluer as Earth warms
Rising temperatures will change the colour of the world's oceans, making them more blue in the coming decades say scientists. They found that increased heat will change the mixture of phytoplankton or tiny marine organisms in the seas, which absorb and reflect light. Scientists say there will be less of them in the waters in the decades to come. This will drive a colour change in more than 50% of the world's seas by 2100. Phytoplankton play a hugely important role in the oceans. As well as turning sunlight into chemical energy, and consuming carbon dioxide, they are the bottom rung on the marine food chain. They also play an important role in how we see the oceans with our eyes. The more phytoplankton in the water, the less blue the seas will appear, and the more likely they will be to have a greenish colour. Previous research has shown that with warming, the oceans will see a reduction in phytoplankton in many places. This new study models the likely impact these changes will have on the colour of the ocean and the planet as the world warms up. "What we find is that the colour will change, probably not so much that you will see by eye, but certainly sensors will be able to pick up that there's a change," lead author Dr Stephanie Dutkiewicz from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, US, told BBC News. "And it will likely be one of the earliest warning signals that we have changed the ecology of the ocean." The researchers point out that the changes are an indirect impact of climate change, as warming is affecting the circulation of the seas, this is changing the amount of food available for phytoplankton.

2-1-19 Greenland’s fast-melting ice sheet
The big melt will raise global sea levels. Climate change is causing Greenland’s massive ice sheets to melt at an increasingly rapid pace, researchers have warned—which could result in sea levels rising far faster and higher than previously predicted. Using satellite data and instruments on the island, scientists determined that Greenland shed 400 billion tons of ice in 2012, nearly four times more than in 2003. The losses paused in 2013 and 2014—because of a natural cyclical weather phenomenon—but have since resumed. Much of the previous research on Greenland and climate change focused on the island’s southeast and northeast, where big chunks of glacial ice fall into the Atlantic. But the new study found that the largest source of continuous ice loss was in the island’s southwest, which has few glaciers. Instead, rising surface temperatures are causing the region’s inland ice sheets to melt, sending rivers of water streaming into the ocean. The Arctic is warming at twice the average rate of the rest of the planet, and most of Greenland sits above the Arctic Circle. “This is going to cause additional sea level rise,” lead author Michael Bevis, from Ohio State University, tells ScienceDaily.com. “We are watching the ice sheet hit a tipping point.” If all of Greenland’s vast ice sheet, which is nearly 2 miles thick in places, were to melt, global sea levels would rise by more than 20 feet, inundating coastal communities.

2-1-19 Agonizing heat
A record-breaking, weeks-long heat wave across Australia has killed wildlife and caused wildfires, dust storms, and power outages. Temperatures in the southern city of Adelaide rocketed to 116 degrees Fahrenheit, while the town of Port Augusta set a new record high of 121 degrees. The outback town of Noona—population 14—hit the highest minimum temperature recorded overnight in Australia: 97 degrees. Possums burned their feet on melting roads, while the native bats known as flying foxes dropped dead by the hundreds. Snake home invasions were up, too, as pythons seeking water found it in people’s toilets and showers. At least one woman, Helen Richards, was bitten on the bottom while using the toilet.

2-1-19 No more coal
Germany is planning to close all 84 of its coal-fired power plants—which provide some 40 percent of the country’s power—and replace them with renewable energy sources within 20 years. A commission made up of state and federal government leaders, industry representatives, environmentalists, and scientists developed the plan, which includes some $45 billion in compensation to the communities and businesses hardest hit by the phaseout. The government says it wants at least 65 percent of future energy needs to be met by solar, wind, and hydroelectric power; the rest will come from natural gas, much of it likely imported from Russia. Nuclear energy will not be in the mix: Germany decided to shutter its 19 nuclear plants by 2022 following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

2-1-19 Australia weather: January was hottest month on record
Australia recorded its hottest month ever in January, with average temperatures exceeding 30C (86F) for the first time. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the extreme heat was "unprecedented" during the country's summer period. At least five January days were among the 10 warmest on record, with daily national temperature highs of 40C. The heat has caused wildfire deaths, bushfires and a rise in hospital admissions. Several wildlife species have also suffered, with reports of mass deaths of wild horses, native bats and fish in drought-affected areas. The new record surpasses conditions recorded in 2013, previously considered the nation's worst heatwave. A large swathe of the state of New South Wales bore the brunt of the fortnight of extreme heat, with temperatures also soaring in parts of Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory. "We saw heatwave conditions affect large parts of the country through most of the month," climatologist Dr Andrew Watkins said. Records were broken for both duration and also individual daily extremes, he said. Rainfall was also below average for most areas. Australia has increasingly endured hotter summer temperatures. Last year Sydney experienced its hottest day since 1939, with a maximum temperature of 47.3C (117F). "The warming trend which has seen Australian temperatures increase by more than one degree in the last 100 years also contributed to the unusually warm conditions," Dr Watkins said.


Donald Trump's Plan: Gut The EPA

84 Global Warming News Articles
for February of 2019

Global Warming News Articles for January of 2019