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


6-24-19 Turning carbon dioxide into cash
Scientists from round the world are meeting in Germany to improve ways of making money from carbon dioxide. They want to transform some of the CO2 that’s overheating the planet into products to benefit humanity. They don’t claim the technology will solve climate change, but they say it will help. Carbon dioxide is already being used in novel ways to create fuels, polymers, fertilisers, proteins, foams and building blocks. Until recently, it was assumed that energy-intensive firms burning gas to fuel their processes would need eventually to capture the resulting carbon emissions and bury them underground. This option is inefficient and costly, so the prospect of utilising some of the CO2 as a valuable raw material is exciting for business. Katy Armstrong, manager of the Carbon Utilisation Centre at Sheffield University, put it this way: “We need products for the way we live - and everything we do has an impact. “We need to manufacture our products without increasing CO2 emissions, and if we can use waste CO2 to help make them, so much the better.” Many of the young carbon usage firms are actually carbon-negative: that means they take in more CO2 than they put out. We visited three pioneering businesses in the UK which are already making money out of CO2. Here are their recipes for success (or at least, the ones they will share with us). 1: CO2 to fertiliser: CCm Technologies, Swindon. 2: CO2 to beer bubbles: Strutt and Parker Farms, Suffolk. 3: CO2 to building blocks: Carbon 8 Aggregates, Leeds.

6-23-19 Climate protesters storm Garzweiler coalmine in Germany
Police in western Germany are removing climate change protesters from an open-cast coalmine after hundreds of them stormed the site. Activists broke through a police cordon on Saturday to get into the Garzweiler mine, in a campaign against fossil fuel use. Many protesters are resisting attempts by police to clear the huge site. Police have warned that the mine is not safe, and said some officers were hurt as they tried to hold back protesters. Germany has vowed to go carbon neutral by 2050 but activists say this is not soon enough. Recent surveys have shown that climate change tops a list of concerns in Germany, with the Green party polling alongside the governing Christian Democrats. Police used pepper spray to try to stop activists from reaching the site. Each side accused the other of using unnecessary force. Earlier, protesters temporarily blocked a railway line used to transport coal. Some of the activists were among between 20,000 and 40,000 protesters who joined a demonstration on Friday in the city of Aachen in support of the school strike movement launched by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.

6-23-19 Why a group of US state senators are being hunted by police
Eleven Republican senators from the state of Oregon are in hiding. They walked out of Salem's Capitol building on Thursday and state police have been given authorisation to track them down. This bizarre series of events has unfolded amid a deep rift between the state's rival parties. Oregon's Democrats, who have a clear Senate majority, want to pass landmark climate change legislation. Local Republicans have fled to stop that happening. This weekend, the state capitol had to shut down altogether amid apparent security threats from militia groups. Oregon Democrats are trying to become the second US state to pass an ambitious "cap and trade" climate plan. House Bill 2020 would set overall limits on state carbon emissions, with permits or allowances auctioned off to polluting industries. The plan aims to encourage businesses to switch to green technology, with the goal of slashing emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Under it, petrol and diesel prices are expected to go up. Republicans say these changes will disproportionally affect rural Oregonians, like farm workers and loggers. They argue the plan should be referred to a state-wide ballot so "every Oregonian has a voice". Democrats hold 18 of the 30 seats in the state senate, but 20 senators have to be present for a vote to take place. On Thursday, the 11 Republicans who currently hold seats failed to show up for floor proceedings after negotiations broke down, blocking the legislation's progress. Democratic Governor Kate Brown then authorised state police to try and locate them. "It is absolutely unacceptable that the Senate Republicans would turn their back on their constituents who they are honour-bound to represent here in this building," she said in a statement. "They need to return and do the jobs they were elected to do."

6-23-19 The women fighting for Lapland
As climate change affects the livelihoods of Finland's indigenous Sami people, a proposed new Arctic railway, forestry and mining could change Lapland forever. Climate change affects the Arctic more than any other part of the Earth, and it's been damaging reindeer-herding and fishing - the traditional livelihoods of the indigenous Sami people.

6-22-19 Swimming in plastics
Tiny particles of man-made polymers can now be found in oceans, fish — and our bodies. Sorry to be so personal, but you are probably pooping plastic.Human beings have covered the planet with plastics because these malleable, man-made polymers are so useful and versatile. Unfortunately, researchers are finding particles of discarded, degraded plastic everywhere from Antarctica to the North Pole, even in the ocean depths. (See Health & Science.) Nearly all forms of marine life carry microplastics in their bodies — and so do you and I. An Austrian study last year of people on four continents found microparticles of various plastics in the stools of every person tested. A federal study found the plastic known as BPA in the urine of 93 percent of people over the age of 6. It's been found in breast milk, too. A new Australian study has found people ingest an average of 2,000 microplastic particles a week through food, water, and air — roughly the same amount of plastic in a credit card. How does having plastic in our bodies affect human health? That research has just begun, but what we know is troubling. BPA, phthalates, and some other plastics are endocrine disruptors, affecting human hormones. Research has found links between these plastics and prostate and breast cancer. Exposure to high levels of phthalates has been associated with autism spectrum disorder, obesity, behavior problems, and thyroid dysfunction. Some microplastics can trigger an immune response that can cause inflammation. "The smallest particles are capable of entering the bloodstream, the lymphatic system, and may even reach the liver," said Philipp Schwabl, a researcher who did the poop study. It's extremely difficult to isolate the effect of plastics on the body, since we're all steeped in them, and it would be unethical to feed people extra plastic to see how it affects them. Meanwhile, global plastic production has reached 364 million tons a year, and is expected to triple by 2050. We are conducting a grand experiment, and the subjects are us.

6-21-19 Record melting of the Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheets
Unusually warm temperatures as much as 40 degrees above normal this spring have triggered record melting of the Arctic Ocean and Greenland ice sheets. “The melting is big and early,” said Jason Box, an ice climatologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.

6-21-19 A province under the sea
Canada’s smallest province is getting smaller by the day because of climate change, said Moira Welsh. Most of the country’s islands have a base of granite or another hard rock underneath the surface. But Prince Edward Island—which sits north of Nova Scotia and east of New Brunswick—is underpinned by sandstone and sand. Rising sea levels and increasingly powerful winds and storm surges are rapidly eroding that foundation. As ocean temperatures rise, storms become stronger, “creating powerful, surging waves that smash against the coast and rip it away.” Warmer weather also means that there’s much less of the ice that once protected the coastline during the winter, so the beaches are exposed to harsh winter winds. The losses are significant. In the town of Alberton, one stretch of waterfront lost an average of 7 feet of land a year between 2004 and 2011. The Cape Egmont Lighthouse, built in 1884, has already been relocated inland, and at least two other lighthouses are now threatened by the encroaching sea. Climate scientist Adam Fenech from the University of Prince Edward Island has shown residents a 3-D simulation of where the coastline is projected to be in 20 or 30 years. “I’ve seen men cry,” he said, when they realize their whole lives will “go underwater.”

6-21-19 The deep ocean is filled with microplastics
The increasing amount of plastic pollution in our oceans is well documented, but a new study suggests the problem may be far worse than previously thought. Using underwater robots off California’s Central Coast, researchers found that microplastics—tiny fragments of partially broken-down plastic bags, bottles, and other products—were pervasive not only on the water’s surface but also thousands of feet below it. In fact, there may be at least as much microplastic in the deep ocean as there is in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the infamous floating mass of plastic trash that covers an area twice the size of Texas. Sampling water at depths ranging from 16 to 3,280 feet, the researchers discovered microplastics at every level. To their surprise, they found that the highest concentrations were neither on the surface nor at the deepest point, but between 600 and 2,000 feet down. At those depths, plastic concentrations were four times what they were near the surface. The team also found plastic particles in red crabs—which are eaten by larger fish, such as tuna—tadpole-like larvaceans, and other deep-sea marine creatures. “We found microplastics everywhere we looked, in every sample and specimen,” lead author Anela Choy tells NationalGeographic.com. Choy says the findings need to be replicated in other parts of the ocean to see whether they hold up; the area they examined is actually considered relatively clean.

6-21-19 The chart that defines our warming world
Is this the simplest way to show what is meant by global warming? The chart below organises all the countries of the world by region, time and temperature. The trend is unmistakeable.

Temperature changes around the world (1901-2018)

Each line of coloured pixels is the temperature record of an individual nation within its region, stacked one atop the other. Blues are cooler years; the reds are warmer. The far left is 1900; the far right is the present day. The entire planet has got hotter, increasingly so in recent decades. This global "Climate Stripes" graphic is the work of Prof Ed Hawkins at Reading University who has sought clearer ways to communicate the issues around climate change - and to start conversations that might lead to solutions. He got the idea one January - the month the big meteorological agencies release their annual assessments of the state of the climate. Prof Hawkins experimented with different ways of rendering the agencies' global data and chanced upon the coloured stripes idea. When he tried out a banner on festival-goers at Hay, he knew he'd struck a chord. The Reading climate scientist now has a website, #ShowYourStripes, that allows anyone to download the stripes for their country and a few select cities (most stripes are built on global data collated by Berkeley Earth). People have been turning these patterns into wearable garments - ties, dresses, jumpers, and leggings. Someone in Minnesota in the US has even painted their Tesla electric car in the stripes. "What I've learnt from this is that you don't need the numbers to get the message across. The colours will do that," Prof Hawkins told BBC News. "It's all about finding different ways to communicate to people, to tap into different groups, because not everyone has got it. Maybe some of them switch off whenever science is mentioned. This is another way of getting through to them." For those with a scientific bent, the graphic at the top of this page will, though, highlight some interesting features that might otherwise be missed in a different rendering of global data. Notice how the regions do not warm in unison. They appear as discrete blocks, Europe being the most obvious stand-out example. That's understandable. Each continent is an individual actor in the climate, influencing - and being influenced by - the system as a whole.

6-21-19 Clean electricity overtaking fossil fuels in Britain
For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, Britain is obtaining more power from zero-carbon sources than fossil fuels. The milestone has been passed for the first five months of 2019. National Grid says clean energy has nudged ahead with 48% of generation, against 47% for coal and gas. The rest is biomass burning. The transformation reflects the precipitous decline of coal energy, and a boom from wind and solar. National Grid says that in the past decade, coal generation will have plunged from 30% to 3%. Meanwhile, wind power has shot up from 1% to 19%. Mini-milestones have been passed along the way. In May, for instance, Britain clocked up its first coal-free fortnight and generated record levels of solar power for two consecutive days. The shift is being driven by the need to cut emissions of the greenhouse gases that are over-heating the climate. The electricity sector was seen as the easiest place to start. John Pettigrew, CEO of National Grid, told BBC News: "Over the last 10 years there’s been real progress in de-carbonisation of the energy system – but 2019 is going to be a key milestone. "It's the first time since the Industrial Revolution that more electricity has been produced from zero and low-carbon sources rather than fossil fuels. It's tremendously exciting because it's such a tipping point." National Grid says it is confident to make predictions for Britain's whole year power generation based on figures so far and on historical patterns. In years to come, more energy storage will be needed as the share of wind and solar energy swells further. Mr Pettigrew told us some of the renewable energy generated when the wind is blowing or the Sun is shining will be stored in the batteries of people's electric cars for use later. The cars' charging systems will be reversed so their batteries can feed electricity back to the grid when demand peaks – like when people are cooking supper.

6-20-19 We’re living through a climate emergency. Time to start acting like it
It’s not enough to call climate change an emergency, says Adam Vaughan. We need to take emergency action as well. Climate emergencies are a bit like buses. You wait an age for one and then three come along at once. Parliaments in the UK and Ireland passed motions declaring a climate emergency in May. On Monday, Canada followed suit. It isn’t just parliaments sounding the alarm. “This is a climate emergency,” said UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa on Tuesday, using the phrase for the first time. Hours earlier, James Bevan of England’s Environment Agency warned of the consequences a climate emergency has for flooding, and Vince Cable, the leader of the UK’s Liberal Democrats, said plans to expand Heathrow Airport were wrong given the world’s climate emergency. They join a cast of high-profile public figures already on the bus, from UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to UN secretary general António Guterres. But how did the language of climate change campaigners jump to the lips of the establishment, and should we welcome its seemingly unstoppable adoption? Its origin story isn’t entirely clear, but the first media report using the phrase appears to date back to comments by Greenpeace in 2001. David Spratt of the Breakthrough think tank tells me his 2008 book, Climate Code Red, was key to popularising the phrase in Australia. Over the past year, however, the floodgates have opened. More than 600 local and national governments have declared climate emergencies since January 2018, and the volume of news stories using the phrase is 12 times greater. February’s expansion of school climate strikes led by Greta Thunberg and protests by Extinction Rebellion also played a role. The Guardian even recently changed its style guide, advising journalists to use the phrase instead of climate change.

6-20-19 Weather forecasts could soon pin extreme events on climate change
“Today, another spell of sunshine, thanks to that ongoing area of high pressure. And we can confirm that last week’s flooding was made six times more likely because of climate change.” Not your usual weather report – but this could be the reality for Europeans within two years. The climate arm of the European Union’s Earth observation programme, Copernicus, is looking for a company to start a trial service that could lead to weather agencies in 2021 being provided with “timely and reliable information” on extreme weather events and how they are related, or not, to human-made climate change. German and French weather agencies are also looking to develop their own services. While no single scorching heatwave or deluge can be said to be caused by global warming, the field of climate change attribution has matured rapidly in recent years. The approach involves comparing real weather observations with computer models of a world without warming caused by human activity, to express how much more likely an extreme weather event was made by global warming. The Seine-swelling Paris floods of 2016, for example, were found to have been made twice as likely due to climate change. Now attribution is preparing to step from the research community into the wider world. “It’s good this is now happening,” says the UK Met Office’s Peter Stott. “People of course ask the question with extreme weather events, of how they are linked to climate change.” Stott says extreme events bring home for us how vulnerable people are to the weather, pointing to the recent deadly heatwave in India. It is important to know if vulnerability is due to natural variability or linked to a warming world. “Is this just bad luck or is climate change adding to the risks? That’s where the attribution comes in,” he says.

6-20-19 UK climate emergency: What does it mean for how we live?
The Welsh and UK governments have declared a climate emergency but what could that mean in practical terms? Wales, like most industrialised economies, has been highly dependent on fossil fuels and reaching zero carbon emissions by 2050 will require radical change. There has been much focus on sustainable transport, but it will also affect what we buy, and how we work and live. Half of China's emissions are from factories making goods for customers in the West, according to the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT) in Machynlleth. "We don't want to import [things] from China, we want to make them in Wales," said Paul Allen, director of the Zero Carbon Britain research centre at CAT. "We can have things made to last so you can repair them, which is actually better for reducing emissions and better for customers." The environmental charity Wrap said 1.53 million tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment was generated in 2015 and will increase over the next five years. The pressure will be on all industries to look at where they source their components, how much transport is involved and whether they can adapt their products for the future. If we buy less stuff, and "reduce, reuse and recycle" it would inevitably affect businesses and jobs. They might need to be innovative and use new materials or perhaps change their own products. This would have a greater impact on Wales because manufacturing makes up a larger proportion of the economy than the UK overall. New companies are likely to emerge to deal with waste and produce goods for the growing renewables sector. Greenstream Flooring describes itself as a "zero waste" social enterprise in Porth in Rhondda Cynon Taff. It employs eight people by taking old office carpet tiles and "upcycling" them wherever possible. Anything that cannot be re-used is recycled for surfaces in equine competition arenas. Their main clients are other offices and housing associations.

6-20-19 Hydrogen trains: Are these the eco-friendly trains of the future?
Hydrogen-powered trains are said to be the greenest trains out there. “Mini power stations on wheels”, is how a University of Birmingham researcher describes them, as they give off zero emissions and their only by-product is water. Two hydrogen trains are already in service in Germany but that design is not compatible with the UK's rail network.

6-20-19 Chennai water: How India's sixth biggest city is coping with shortages
People fighting in queues for water, many unable to take showers, and hotels warning people about water usage. This is the situation in India's sixth largest city after its four reservoirs ran dry this week. And while there is a little water still available, it's not clear how long it will last. As a result, most of Chennai's more than four million-strong population is now relying solely on government tankers to provide their water. Others are paying large sums of money for private companies to supply water to their homes. Even then, it can take up to four days for the tanker to arrive. In some cases, people have attempted to draw water from wells - but the quality of the groundwater is poor. Water is scarce in most Indian cities at the best of times and residents don't expect their taps to run round the clock, so they store it. But this year the monsoon season has been delayed, adding to the city's water problems. Smaller restaurants have even been forced to close, while some people have been told to work from home in a bid to conserve water in their workplaces. The city's metro system has also stopped using air conditioning at its stations. Hotels have even started rationing water for their guests. P Chandrasekhar, a supervisor at Ananda, a small hotel in the city that is warning its guests to be mindful of every drop, said: "It's not just us, all the hotels run the risk of shutting down because there's hardly enough water." However on Thursday, there were reports of rain in the city. People took to social media to share their delight at seeing rain for the first time in about 190 days. Zoha, a radio presenter, told the BBC: "The city is facing a lot of weather problems right now. In the past 10 years, this is the longest that the city has gone without rainfall.

6-19-19 Cold War–era spy satellite images show Himalayan glaciers are melting fast
Declassified photos and NASA data provide a picture of accelerating ice loss. Declassified Cold War–era spy satellite film shows that the melting of hundreds of Himalayan glaciers has sped up in recent decades. An analysis of 650 of the largest glaciers in the mountain range revealed that the total ice mass in 2000 was 87 percent of the 1975 mass. By 2016, the total ice mass had shrunk to only 72 percent of the 1975 total. The data show that the glaciers are receding twice as fast now as they were at the end of the 20th century, report Joshua Maurer, a glaciologist at Columbia University, and colleagues June 19 in Science Advances. The primary cause for that acceleration, the researchers found, was warming: Temperatures in the region have increased by an average 1 degree Celsius from 2000 to 2016. Meltwater from Himalayan glaciers are a source of freshwater to hundreds of millions of people each year. However, recent studies examining changes in glacier mass from 2000 to 2016 have shown that this store of freshwater is shrinking, threatening future water security in the region (SN Online: 5/29/19). To project future glacier melt, scientists need to understand what has been driving the ice loss. In addition to warming, changes in precipitation and deposits of tiny pollutant particles called black carbon onto the surface of the ice have been implicated in speeding up melting. Such particles can darken the ice’s surface and reduce its albedo effect, or the reflection of incoming radiation from the sun back into space (SN Online: 5/19/14). As a result, the ice absorbs more heat and melts more quickly.

6-19-19 Spy satellites reveal extent of Himalayan glacier loss
Images from Cold War spy satellites have revealed the dramatic extent of ice loss in the Himalayan glaciers. Scientists compared photographs taken by a US reconnaissance programme with recent spacecraft observations and found that melting in the region has doubled over the last 40 years. The study shows that since 2000, glaciers heights have been shrinking by an average of 0.5m per year. The researchers say that climate change is the main cause. "From this study, we really see the clearest picture yet of how Himalayan glaciers have changed," Joshua Maurer, from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York, told BBC News. The research is published in the journal Science Advances. During the 1970s and 1980s, a US spy programme - codenamed Hexagon - launched 20 satellites into orbit to secretly photograph the Earth. The covert images were taken on rolls of film that were then dropped by the satellites into the atmosphere to be collected mid-air by passing military planes. The material was declassified in 2011, and has been digitised by the US Geological Survey for scientists to use. Among the spy photos are the Himalayas - an area for which historical data is scarce. By comparing these pictures with more recent satellite data from Nasa and the Japanese space agency (Jaxa), the researchers have been able to see how the region has changed. The Columbia University team looked at 650 glaciers in the Himalayas spanning 2,000km. The group found that between 1975 and 2000, an average of 4bn tonnes of ice was being lost each year. But between 2000 and 2016, the glaciers melted approximately twice as fast - losing about 8bn tonnes of ice each year on average. Mr Maurer said: "For a sense of scale, 8bn tonnes of ice is enough to fill 3.2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools per year." And the ice loss was not uniform, he added. "Glaciers lose most of their ice in the lower elevation portions of the glacier, and it's there where most of the thinning is concentrated. "Some of those zones have been thinning by as much as 5m per year."

6-20-19 Weather forecasts could soon pin extreme events on climate change
“Today, another spell of sunshine, thanks to that ongoing area of high pressure. And we can confirm that last week’s flooding was made six times more likely because of climate change.” Not your usual weather report – but this could be the reality for Europeans within two years. The climate arm of the European Union’s Earth observation programme, Copernicus, is looking for a company to start a trial service that could lead to weather agencies in 2021 being provided with “timely and reliable information” on extreme weather events and how they are related, or not, to human-made climate change. German and French weather agencies are also looking to develop their own services. While no single scorching heatwave or deluge can be said to be caused by global warming, the field of climate change attribution has matured rapidly in recent years. The approach involves comparing real weather observations with computer models of a world without warming caused by human activity, to express how much more likely an extreme weather event was made by global warming. The Seine-swelling Paris floods of 2016, for example, were found to have been made twice as likely due to climate change. Now attribution is preparing to step from the research community into the wider world. “It’s good this is now happening,” says the UK Met Office’s Peter Stott. “People of course ask the question with extreme weather events, of how they are linked to climate change.” Stott says extreme events bring home for us how vulnerable people are to the weather, pointing to the recent deadly heatwave in India. It is important to know if vulnerability is due to natural variability or linked to a warming world. “Is this just bad luck or is climate change adding to the risks? That’s where the attribution comes in,” he says.

6-19-19 How seafood shells could help solve the plastic waste problem
Chemists are finding better ways to extract biodegradable materials from crustaceans and insects. Lobster bisque and shrimp cocktail make for scrumptious meals, but at a price. The food industry generates 6 million to 8 million metric tons of crab, shrimp and lobster shell waste every year. Depending on the country, those claws and legs largely get dumped back into the ocean or into landfills. In many of those same landfills, plastic trash relentlessly accumulates. Humans have produced over 8 billion tons of plastic since mass production began in the 1950s. Only 10 percent of plastic packaging gets recycled successfully. Most of the rest sits in landfills for a very long time (a plastic bottle takes about 450 years to break down), or escapes into the environment, perhaps sickening seabirds that swallow tiny pieces or gathering in the Pacific Ocean’s floating garbage patch (SN Online: 3/22/18). Some scientists think it’s possible to tackle the two problems at once. Crustaceans’ hardy shells contain chitin, a material that, along with its derivative chitosan, offers many of plastic’s desirable properties and takes only weeks or months to biodegrade, rather than centuries. The challenge is getting enough pure chitin and chitosan from the shells to make bio-based “plastic” in cost-effective ways. “There’s no blueprint or operating manual for what we’re doing,” says John Keyes, CEO of Mari Signum, a start-up company based just outside of Richmond, Va., that is devising ways to make environmentally friendly chitin. But a flurry of advances in green chemistry is providing some guideposts.

6-19-19 Trump UN pick Kelly Craft breaks with White House on climate change
President Donald Trump's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations has broken with his viewpoint on climate change, saying it "poses real risks". Kelly Craft told lawmakers at her confirmation hearing she would "be an advocate for all countries to do their part in addressing climate change". In the past, she had claimed to believe "both sides" of the climate debate. Mr Trump has previously called climate change a "hoax" and questioned the scientific consensus on the matter. Earlier this month, Mr Trump said climate change "goes both ways" and blamed other nations for worsening air and water quality. In 2017, he pulled the US out of the landmark Paris climate agreement, saying the deal was disadvantageous to US workers. Mrs Craft who is currently serving as the ambassador to Canada, had offered a similar opinion in 2017, telling CBC she believed "there are scientists on both sides that are accurate". But she reversed that viewpoint on Wednesday, telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that "human behaviour has contributed to the changing climate". "Let there be no doubt: I take this matter seriously." She also acknowledged "that fossil fuels have played a part in climate change". However, Mrs Craft did support Mr Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris accord, saying the US did not have to "be part of an agreement to be leaders". She added that the US should not have to assume "an outsized burden on behalf of the rest of the world". Mr Trump's nominee has been under scrutiny over her ties to the coal industry as she is married to Joseph Craft III, the head of Alliance Resource Partners, one of the country's largest coal companies. After being grilled by Democrats on how she would handle fossil fuel discussions in the UN, Mrs Craft pledged to recuse herself from such talks if the ethics agreement called for it.

6-19-19 Religion must rise to the challenge of climate change too
No planet B | With biblical floods and famine on the cards, the fight against global warming needs faiths to get serious about green issues. IN 2011, when the Republican party took back the US House of Representatives from the Democrats, one of its first actions was to get rid of environmentally friendly crockery in the cafeterias there and bring back good ol’ plastic. The Republicans insisted that the eco cups and cutlery weren’t biodegradable and cost too much, but the subtext was clear: screw the environment, and all who sail in her. I retell this anecdote not to rake over old coals, but to suggest that you can tell a lot about an organisation’s environmental commitment by looking at its catering operation. Judging from the cutlery at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, the Vatican still has a long way to go. At first glance, the knives, forks and spoons look like metal. But they turn out to be metal-coated plastic. Non-recyclable, metal-coated plastic. One use, and they are off to landfill purgatory. I was there for a conference on non-religious belief (yes, at a university administered by the Vatican!), but unexpectedly ended up hearing a lot about the environment. It turns out that secularism, religion and environmentalism are entwined in ways that have scarcely been explored, yet will become more important as the environmental crisis gathers pace. Shortly before the minor political tremor over tableware in Congress, a real earthquake struck Christchurch in New Zealand. It caused widespread destruction and killed 185 people. There was an unexpected aftershock. New Zealand is one of the world’s least religious countries, but after the quake, attendance at religious services rose dramatically and stayed high for months. This is taken as good evidence of the “existential threat” hypothesis of belief, which holds that where life is more precarious, people increasingly turn to religion. (Webmaster's comment: And that does them absolutely no good whatsoever!)

6-19-19 Trans Mountain: Canada approves $5.5bn oil pipeline project
Canada has approved the Trans Mountain expansion project after a federal court sent it back for review last summer. The decision could pose a challenge for PM Justin Trudeau as he heads into an election season likely to be fought in part over climate issues. His federal Liberals took the rare step last year of buying the pipeline for C$4.5bn ($3.4bn; £2.6bn) to help ensure the project's survival. Environmentalists and some First Nations fiercely oppose Trans Mountain. Mr Trudeau on Tuesday announced the new approval and said that all revenues the federal government earns from the project will fund a "transition to a green economy". "It is in Canada's national interest to protect our environment and invest in tomorrow, while making sure people can feed their families today," he said. Reaction to the announcement was swift, with environmental campaigners vowing the project will not go ahead without a fight. Meanwhile, British Columbia First Nations who have fought the project said they were considering continued legal action, and the provincial premier, John Horgan, tweeted the project "poses a great risk to our coast, our environment and our economy". The C$7.4 bn pipeline expansion project has divided opponents, who are concerned about oil spills and climate change, and supporters, who see it as a boost for Canada's struggling energy sector - one that will help fuel the economy for years to come. Canada ranks as the world's fifth largest producer of oil and natural gas. The project twins the existing 1,150 km (715 mile) Trans Mountain pipeline and would triple its capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 per day. It would carry crude oil from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia (BC) and increase oil tanker traffic in the area from five to up to 34 tankers a month. Mr Trudeau says the pipeline expansion would ease Canada's reliance on the US market and help get a better price for its resource. Business groups, oil industry workers and the Alberta government all back the project. At least two indigenous groups are actively seeking an ownership stake in the project. The Liberal government bought the pipeline to help ensure the project's survival after energy infrastructure giant Kinder Morgan walked away over concerns about delays.

6-18-19 UK 'likely' to host critical climate conference next year
The UK looks set to be the host of a critical climate conference next year, after agreeing a partnership with its main rival Italy. It's regarded as the most important gathering on climate change since the Paris agreement was signed in 2015. Under the partnership deal, the UK will host the main event with a preliminary meeting held in Italy. While Turkey is still in the running, the UK is now seen as the clear favourite. A final decision is likely in the next few days as global climate negotiators meet in Bonn. Under UN rules, next year's Conference of the Parties, or COP26 as it's known, will be held in a European country. The UK has been lobbying hard to secure agreement from other states but has faced strong opposition from Italy. However, many European countries have been wary of supporting Italy, as the junior partner in their coalition government, the Lega Nord, has been strongly sceptical of climate science. There were also questions in some minds about Italy's capacity to host an event which will attract tens of thousands of negotiators, businesses, campaigners and journalists. Now the two nations have decided to row in together to support the UK as the host of the main meeting, with the Italians hosting preparatory events. "Today through great joint diplomacy we have agreed a bid for a UK COP26 Presidency in partnership with our friends in Italy," said Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. "Together, through our continued commitment to work across Europe and internationally, we will build a better world for our children." The decision now lies with one of the Western European and Others group, one of a number of regional groups within the UN system. They will now consider the bids of the UK and Turkey, and a decision is thought likely within a few days, as UN climate negotiators from all over the world are currently gathered in Bonn.

6-18-19 Atlantic Ocean 'running out of breath'
A huge international research programme has been launched to assess the health of the Atlantic Ocean. The iAtlantic project is the biggest ever mounted in the planet's second largest ocean. It involves more than 30 partners, funded by the EU, and is being co-ordinated by Edinburgh University. The scientists will use an array of hi-tech devices, including robot submarines, to scan the deep ocean from the Arctic to South America. They want to assess the effects of climate change on plants and animals. They will use genomics, physics, machine learning and other specialisms, and spend four years creating a digital map of the ocean's ecosystems. The results will help governments decide which developments of the Atlantic are sustainable and responsible. They will also highlight "refuges" where threatened species may have a chance to survive. The Atlantic is suffering from a three-pronged attack, according to iAtlantic programme co-ordinator, Prof Murray Roberts of Edinburgh University. By way of illustration, he opens a sample bucket and pulls out a deep-sea red crab about a foot across. He's a beauty. He's also quite dead, sampled in 2012 and submerged in preservative ever since. "It's just to give you an idea of how big and beautiful the life of the deep sea is out there," the professor says. From other buckets he pulls specimens of black coral and a deep sea skate's egg case, a large version of what we landlubbers sometimes refer to as a mermaid's purse. "What will happen to these animals in the future as the Atlantic changes?" Prof Roberts says. "As it gets warmer, as it gets more acidic and also - in some areas - as it runs out of breath. "Because the Atlantic, like many ocean basins in the world, is being deoxygenated - it's losing the oxygen that is vital to life." The cause is climate change, 90% of the world's global warming has been absorbed by the oceans.

6-18-19 MPs call for end to 'throwaway clothes' era
A report by MPs has urged the UK government to end the era of throwaway clothes and poor working conditions in the fashion supply chain. The MPs' proposals are designed to force the fashion industry to clean up its act. They made 18 recommendations covering environmental and labour practices and want the government to act. Not only is the fashion industry a source of emissions, but old clothes pile up in landfill. Fibres also flow into the sea when clothes are washed, polluting the marine environment. A government spokesperson said it was dealing with the impacts of fast fashion - and many measures were already in place. Among the proposals from the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) were: A 1p charge per garment on producers to fund better recycling of clothes; Ban on incinerating or landfilling unsold stock that can be reused or recycled instead; Mandatory environmental targets for fashion retailers with a turnover above £36 million; Tax changes to reward reuse, repair and recycling - to support responsible fashion companies. The EAC's chair, Labour MP Mary Creagh, said: "Fashion producers should be forced to clear up the mountains of waste they create. "The government is content to tolerate practices that trash the environment and exploit workers despite having just committed to net zero emission targets. "It is out of step with the public who are shocked by the fact that we are sending 300,000 tonnes (660 million pounds) of clothes a year to incineration or landfill."

6-17-19 EU leaders face pressure to deliver on climate change
A few years after saving the euro is it now time for the EU to save the planet? Tackling climate change is among the key challenges for EU leaders, meeting on Thursday to set the bloc's priorities for the next five years. A leaked draft of the EU's Strategic Agenda also speaks of the need to control migration to the EU and adapt industrial policy for the digital age. The green agenda has become mainstream, after months of student-led #fridaysforfuture protests and the #Extinction Rebellion civil disobedience campaign. By keeping global warming in the public eye the protests helped Green parties in last month's European elections. They won 74 seats in the European Parliament, compared with 52 before. Their surge, and the boost for liberal parties in the centre, will change the dynamic of EU politics. The cosy centre-left/centre-right majority is now gone. Eurosceptic and anti-EU nationalist parties also increased their numbers - which could act as a brake on EU ambitions, as they demand a repatriation of powers from Brussels. The greater fragmentation may make it harder to achieve consensus. Pro-EU politicians are cheered by the fact that voter turnout increased, after decades of decline, to about 51%. So, despite the nationalist rhetoric, they argue that on certain issues, such as climate change and migration, there is an appetite for "more Europe". But are the EU's plans for 2019-2024 ambitious enough on climate change? The draft agenda says "we urgently need to step up our action" on the "existential threat" of climate change. "The EU can and must lead the way," it says. It acknowledges that de-carbonising the economy and society requires profound lifestyle changes, to achieve "climate neutrality" - that is, a state where any CO2 emissions are balanced out by green measures, such as planting trees. (Webmaster's comment: Planting trees is good but it's never going to begin to compensate for the 37 billion tons of extra CO2 being dumped into the atmosphere by mankind!)

6-17-19 The musicians helping make climate change a cultural movement
Pop stars like Lil Dicky and Grimes are using their music and their huge followings to gain vital coverage of climate change. This rise in social media-driven activism shows that a tipping point has been reached in popular culture. It’s been 35 years since Band Aid, when a group of musicians recorded a charity single and performed a concert to raise money and awareness for anti-famine causes in Ethiopia. Since then, the charity song has been a staple of pop culture. Some of the world’s biggest-selling artists have recorded songs to raise money for global causes including AIDS research and disaster relief. In 2019 there’s arguably no bigger global issue than climate change, and there are signs that this is becoming the new cause for today’s pop stars and cultural icons. Prime-time TV shows like the BBC documentary Climate Change – The facts now compete for digital attention with celebrity-packed climate change songs like Earth by rapper Lil Dicky. Canadian singer Grimes is about to release an album themed on the Anthropocene that aims to “make climate change fun”. Google Trends data shows that more people are searching for “climate change” today than at any time since 2009, the year that the United Nations brought 110 world leaders together at an unprecedented Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. That so many people would be asking questions about climate change without the glow of a large political conference seems significant. This shift in public attention towards climate change has happened at the same time as global demonstrations and school strike protests led by the social media-savvy climate campaigner Greta Thunberg. Last month, Green political parties became a significant group in the European Parliament for the first time. Yet climate change wasn’t always a hot topic in wider culture. Few people will remember that the United Nations recruited Paul McCartney, Jon Bon Jovi and Sheryl Crow to record the international charity single Love Song to the Earth – featuring a rap by Sean Paul – in 2015, in the run-up to the agreement of the Paris climate deal. Four years later, a mere 500,000 people watched the music video on YouTube, compared with the 140 million who have watched Lil Dicky’s Earth in two months.

6-17-19 'Cryoegg' to explore under Greenland Ice Sheet
UK scientists head to Greenland this week to trial new sensors that can be placed under its 2km-thick ice sheet. The instruments are designed to give researchers unique information on the way glaciers slide towards the ocean. Dubbed "Cryoeggs", the devices will report back on the behaviour of the meltwaters that run beneath the ice. This water acts to lubricate the flow of glaciers, and in a warmer world could increase the volume of ice discharged to the ocean. This would push up global sea levels - potentially by as much as 7m, if all the ice on Greenland were to melt. Scientists want to understand how fast the process could unfold. "Our models have done a fantastic job so far in building a picture of what might happen, but they've essentially been working blind because we have so little data from the bed of the Greenland ice sheet," said Dr Liz Bagshaw from Cardiff University. "We have some measurements from cabled instruments and from the bottom of boreholes, but we don't have enough data to figure out what's going on across the whole of the ice sheet, to determine how much of that 7m might end up in the ocean," she told BBC News. The Cryoegg will record the conditions at the base of the ice sheet. Temperature is an obvious parameter. Pressure says something about the way water at the bed is organised, whether it's spread evenly under the ice or moving in discrete channels. The former would represent a high-pressure environment; the latter would be a low-pressure setting. Conductivity tells scientists about the length of time any water has been in residence. Meltwater that's been present a long time will have interacted with rock and sediments, and leeched ions, increasing its conductivity. Satellites show that Greenland's glaciers speed up in summer. Great pools of meltwater are seen to collect at the surface of the ice before draining to the bed through holes known as moulin. All this water "greases" the underside of the glaciers, speeding their passage downslope to the ocean. But the satellites see something else as well: in the warmest summers, this lubrication effect seems to wear off quite quickly. The assumption is that particularly large volumes of meltwater created early in a warm season will cut the most efficient streams and rivers at the ice bed.

6-17-19 Is a long-dormant Russian volcano waking up? It’s complicated
Scientists debate how to interpret quakes near Bolshaya Udina on the remote Kamchatka Peninsula. Seismic rumbles beneath a long-dormant volcano on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula could herald an imminent eruption, a team of scientists says. But other researchers say that the observed seismic activity could be related to already erupting volcanoes in the region. Fewer than 10,500 people live within 100 kilometers of the volcano, called Bolshaya Udina, making a catastrophic eruption that would affect large numbers of people extremely unlikely. When the volcano last erupted is unknown, but it hasn’t for at least 10,000 years, so many volcanologists consider it no longer active, or “extinct.” But Kamchatka is home to numerous active volcanoes, including nearby Bezymianny, which most recently erupted March 15. Scientists had detected an apparent increase in seismic activity in the vicinity of Bolshaya Udina beginning in late 2017. So researchers, led by geophysicist Ivan Koulakov of the A.A. Trofimuk Institute of Petroleum Geology and Geophysics in Novosibirsk, Russia, installed four temporary seismic stations near the volcano. From May 5 to July 13, 2018, the stations recorded a swarm of 559 earthquakes. Overall, from October 2017 through February 2019, researchers detected about 2,400 seismic events, the strongest of which was a magnitude 4.3 earthquake in February. Previous to that 16-month period, scientists detected only about 100 weak seismic events in the region from 1999 to 2017. Furthermore, by examining how some of the seismic waves decreased in velocity as they traveled through the subsurface, the team found evidence that there might be a pocket of fluid — perhaps magma — directly beneath Bolshaya Udina. The dramatic uptick in activity, along with the possible detection of magma, could mean that Bolshaya Udina is waking up, the team reports in the July 15 Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research.

6-16-19 Climate change: Can electric aeroplanes help save our planet?
One of the biggest contributors to climate change is transport and the greenhouse gases produced by vehicles. Electric cars and buses are becoming more common, but what about electric planes? After Prime Minister Theresa May recently announced plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions to almost zero by 2050, this could be one big way to help. Planes give off a range of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide, which contribute to climate change. There are different reasons they do this, but it's mainly through the carbon-rich 'fossil fuels' used to power their engines. Planes are pretty unique too, because they give off these gases directly into the higher levels of the atmosphere. According to the Civil Aviation Authority, research suggests that gases can have different effects when emitted at this altitude compared to at ground level. At the moment the UK's aviation industry makes up around seven per cent of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions. And it's thought it that by 2050 it could make up a quarter, as other industries find more environmentally friendly ways of working. The benefits are similar to having electric cars or buses. Having electric planes would mean that they're powered in a different way, so there's no need to use the fuels which currently produce a lot of greenhouse gases. This would help reduce the amount of carbon dioxide which is damaging for the planet. It's very unlikely that the next flight you go on will be battery powered, but experts think we won't have to wait too long. The UK Government suggests that by 2050 it's possible there'll be some form of "hybrid engine technology", combining electric and traditional fuels, which "will allow for cruising between destinations using electric power".

6-14-19 Pope warns oil bosses of climate threat
The Pope has told oil company bosses that climate change threatens the future of the "human family". The oil executives had been invited to the Vatican in Rome for an audience with the pontiff. Pope Francis said a radical energy transition is needed to save what he called "our common home". The head of BP agreed that the world must find urgent solutions to environmental problems - but said all must play a part. The Pope warned him and other bosses: "Civilisation requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilisation." The oil bosses were brought to the Vatican alongside fund managers who invest in their stocks. The companies represented were believed to include Eni, Exxon, Total, Repsol, BP, Sinopec, ConocoPhillips, Equinor, and Chevron. A small group of demonstrators gathered outside a Vatican gate. One held a sign reading "Dear Oil CEOs - Think of Your Children". The executives were given a dressing down by the former Irish premier Mary Robinson. She said: "We should all salute the courage the Holy Father has shown on climate change when too many secular leaders have spurned their responsibilities." Ms Robinson asked the oil bosses: "What could be more cynical than still seeking to exploit fossil fuel reserves when the scientific evidence is abundantly clear that we need to end all combustion of fossil fuels by 2050?" She said the energy transition would require a massive shift of capital to clean energy and warned: "If some industries fail to adjust to this new word, they will fail to exist." In a statement, BP said its CEO Bob Dudley was "honoured to participate at the Vatican". Mr Dudley said: "The world needs to take urgent action to get us on a more sustainable path and it is critical that everyone plays their part - companies and investors, governments and individuals. "Constructive dialogues such this meeting are essential in aligning key players on the steps needed to accelerate the energy transition while still enabling advances in human prosperity." Critics point out that BP and other oil firms are spending billions of pounds a year seeking new oil and gas even though scientists say firms have already found much more fossil fuel that can be burned whilst keeping a stable climate.

6-14-19 Many of the world’s rivers are flush with dangerous levels of antibiotics
Polluted waterways help fuel drug resistance in bacteria. In a massive survey of rivers across 72 countries, researchers found antibiotics at 66 percent of 711 sites sampled. Many of the most drug-polluted waterways were in Asia and Africa, where there hadn’t been much data until now. Environmental pollution from antibiotics is one driver of microbial drug resistance, which threatens public health. People should be as concerned about resistance evolving abroad as they are about resistance brewing in their own backyards, says William Gaze, a microbial ecologist at the University of Exeter Medical School in England who was not involved with the research. Even if wealthy countries curb antibiotic pollution, drug-resistant microbes can hitch a ride across the globe with traveling people, migrating birds or traded food and livestock, he says. “It’s a global problem, and we need global solutions.” About a third of the sites surveyed over the last year contained no detectable levels of antibiotics. But 66 percent, or 470 of the sites, tested positive for at least one of 14 types of antibiotics. And almost 16 percent, or 111 sites, contained concentrations considered unsafe, based on safety levels estimated by AMR Industry Alliance, a global biotech and pharmaceutical coalition. The alliance set its safety thresholds based on levels that wouldn’t kill algae in the environment or promote resistance by killing susceptible bacteria. “I don’t think I was expecting the degree of concentrations that we saw. That was quite eye-opening,” says environmental chemist Alistair Boxall of the University of York in England, who conducted the survey with University of York colleague John Wilkinson. The two presented their results on May 27 and May 28 in Helsinki at a meeting of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.

6-14-19 Flint water crisis: Prosecutors drop all criminal charges
Prosecutors have dropped all criminal charges against the eight remaining officials awaiting trial over the deadly contamination of water in the US city of Flint in 2014. They said a more thorough investigation was needed. Twelve people died after the Michigan city switched its water supply to the Flint River in order to save money. An outbreak of Legionnaires' disease followed, and residents were found to have drunk water poisoned with lead. Nearly 100,000 residents of Flint were left without safe tap water and at risk of lead poisoning. Seven officials had already taken plea bargains. The mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, welcomed the prosecutors' decision to drop all charges: "I was happy with the announcement that was made today because it let's us know they're taking us seriously. "They know justice has not happened for the residents of the city of Flint and that we deserve a full investigation." Prosecutors who assumed control of the investigation in January after a new attorney general was elected said "all available evidence was not pursued" by the previous team of prosecutors. Some residents were sceptical after Thursday's announcement. "We don't know if new charges will be filed," LeeAnne Walters, who is credited with exposing the lead contamination, told Associated Press. "It feels kind of degrading, like all that we went through doesn't matter. Our city was poisoned, my children have health issues and the people responsible just had all the charges dropped against them." The contamination was traced to the city switching its water supply away from Detroit's system, which draws from Lake Huron, and instead using water from the Flint river. Flint was in a financial state of emergency and the switch was meant to save the city millions of dollars. But the water from the river was more corrosive than Lake Huron's water, causing lead - a powerful neurotoxin - to leach from the pipes. The city has since switched back to using Detroit's water system.

6-14-19 UK could use hydrogen instead of natural gas – if it can make enough
There is no reason why the UK cannot safely switch from using natural gas to using hydrogen for heating, power and industry in order to meet climate change goals, engineers have said. But a report by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) also laid bare the huge, 10-fold increase in hydrogen production that would be needed to achieve that switch-over. Producing enough hydrogen for the UK’s heating needs alone would require 8 million tonnes of hydrogen a year, up from the annual 0.74 million tonnes made today, which is led by an Esso refinery near Southampton and is almost entirely used by industry. “We need to produce a lot more hydrogen,” says Jenifer Baxter of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Hydrogen can be made from water using renewable energy and an electrolyser. But the IET said that in reality making it at scale would require using a process known as steam reformation to turn methane into hydrogen, and capturing and storing the carbon at that point. The UK public is about to be exposed to hydrogen for heating and cooking. Within months, the gas supply for up to 100 properties on Keele University campus will be fed with 20 per cent hydrogen. Stuart Hawksworth of the UK’s Health and Safety Laboratory says this HyDeploy project is about understanding fire risk and hydrogen detection, as well as gaining more information about how to mix hydrogen with methane most efficiently. “It’s the beginning of a suite of projects that will become more ambitious with more hydrogen in the mix,” he says. As hydrogen is invisible and odourless, it will also need to be mixed with additional chemicals to give it a colour and smell, so any leaks can be spotted.

6-13-19 US looking to harness the ocean winds with British help
As many American states are making the push to use more renewable energy sources, engineers in one of the country's oldest states are looking "across the pond" for help from British scientists to harness the power of the wind. When Joseph Massi enrolled at Bristol Community College, an hour's drive south of Boston, Massachusetts, he chose to specialise in a brand new field of study - offshore wind power. "It's the new future. It's where everything is going to be, the growth potential, especially in Massachusetts," Mr Massi said. The Massachusetts legislature is considering bills that would commit the state to 100% renewable energy within 25 years. To achieve this, the state will need lots more solar panels and wind turbines, and people like Mr Massi to manage, build or operate offshore turbines. "Once it starts booming in the United States, that's going to be where you'll want to be," Mr Massi said. The federal government estimates that the coastal waters off of New Bedford, Massachusetts, are among the windiest in the nation. But here's some bad news. The US doesn't know much about building wind turbines, out in the ocean at least. And here's some good news. The Brits do, and they're offering their help. Offshore wind is booming in the United Kingdom - it's approaching 10% of the electricity supply there. In the US, offshore wind energy remains in its infancy - only one offshore wind farm is operational nationwide, off the coast of Rhode Island. But at least a dozen projects nationwide are in the planning stages. Harriet Cross, the British consul general to New England where these projects are under way, wants to share her country's expertise to help kick-start the movement in the US. Yes, that would mean making money for British companies who could sell technology and equipment in the US. But Ms Cross says there are also higher stakes at play. "There's the bigger picture: We want the world to be more green," Ms Cross said. "We genuinely believe that clean energy is the future. So, you find that the UK is really showing global leadership on things like the Paris climate change deal and that sort of thing."

6-13-19 Some Canadian lakes still store DDT in their mud
Five decades after DDT was last sprayed across Canadian forests, this harmful pesticide can still be found at the bottom of several lakes. Researchers analyzed sediment from five lakes in New Brunswick, Canada, where airplanes spewed DDT to combat spruce budworm outbreaks before the insecticide was phased out circa 1970. Millions of kilograms of DDT were sprayed across the province, making it one of the most heavily treated forest areas in North America. Today, elevated concentrations of DDT and its chemical by-products persist in lake sediments in this region, researchers report online June 12 in Environmental Science & Technology. “This is a cautionary tale,” says study coauthor Joshua Kurek, an environmental scientist at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. “When we ban a substance, we tend to forget about it.” But these results indicate that decades-old pesticide sprays may have left a lasting impression on hundreds to thousands of lakes in eastern North America. Kurek and colleagues measured concentrations of DDT, as well as its toxic breakdown products DDE and DDD, in lake sediments dating back several decades. Most modern sediments from all five lakes exceeded the safety thresholds for aquatic life for DDT, DDE and DDD set by the Canadian government: 4.7, 6.7 and 8.5 micrograms per kilogram, respectively. The only lake that contained safe DDT levels in modern sediments still contained DDE and DDD concentrations that were 3.7 and 1.5 times as high as safety thresholds. In all five lakes, on average, DDE levels in modern sediments were about 16 times as high as the safety threshold (SN Online: 10/5/10). Still, the levels aren’t considered dangerous to people.

6-12-19 Norway to sell off fossil fuel stocks worth more than $8 billion
Norwegian MPs have backed a decision to divest the country’s $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund from oil and gas exploration firms and invest more in renewable energy companies that aren’t listed on stock markets. The coalition government had already proposed both measures within the past year, but a parliamentary vote on Wednesday enforcing the policy changes will send an important signal to other countries and fossil fuel companies. “Today’s decision represents… a major step in our efforts to limit our nation’s climate risk and contribute to the urgent global shift from fossil fuels to renewables,” said Tore Storehaug of the Christian Democrats, part of the country’s ruling coalition, in a statement. The fund, known formally as the Government Pension Fund Global, will now gradually sell off an $8bn stake in 134 oil and gas firms. But the move will only affect those solely involved in fossil fuel exploration, such as UK-based Premier Oil, not companies such as Shell and BP which also have renewable energy business arms. Nor will the change affect the fund’s stake in Norway’s state oil and gas firm, Equinor, or the country’s ongoing plans to explore and pump more oil and gas in waters increasingly far north. Following the vote today, shares in coal companies worth around $5.8bn are also expected to be divested. The final major change is an expansion in the amount that can be invested in wind, solar and other green energy firms. A cap on how much the fund can invest in unlisted renewable energy firms – which account for the majority of the global renewables industry – is to be doubled to 120 billion Norwegian Kroner ($14bn). All three proposals were passed unanimously.

6-12-19 Climate change: UK government to commit to 2050 target
Greenhouse gas emissions in the UK will be cut to almost zero by 2050, under the terms of a new government plan to tackle climate change. Prime Minister Theresa May said reducing pollution would also benefit public health and cut NHS costs. Britain is the first major nation to propose this target - and it has been widely praised by green groups. But some say the phase-out is too late to protect the climate, and others fear that the task is impossible. The UK already has a 2050 target - to reduce emissions by 80%. That was agreed by MPs under the Climate Change Act in 2008, but will now be amended to the new, much tougher, goal. The actual terminology used by the government is "net zero" greenhouse gases by 2050. That means emissions from homes, transport, farming and industry will have to be avoided completely or - in the most difficult examples - offset by planting trees or sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere. The government's advisory Committee on Climate Change recommended the "net zero" target in May. Its report said if other countries followed the UK, there was a 50-50 chance of staying below the recommended 1.5C temperature rise by 2100. A 1.5C rise is considered the threshold for dangerous climate change. Laurence Tubiana, an architect of the crucial Paris climate agreement, told the BBC: "This is a historic commitment that will reverberate right around the world. "All eyes will now turn on the rest of the EU to match this pledge." Theresa May said the UK led the world to wealth through fossil fuels in the industrial revolution, so it was appropriate for Britain to lead in the opposite direction. "We have made huge progress in growing our economy and the jobs market while slashing emissions," she said. "Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children. We must lead the world to a cleaner, greener form of growth."

6-11-19 UK commits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050
The UK will commit to a legally-binding goal of slashing its greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by the middle of the century, under a law to be laid in parliament on Wednesday. The goal is the most ambitious on long-term climate change of any major economy. It will be seen as an attempt by outgoing prime minister Theresa May to build a legacy beyond Brexit. “Now is the time to go further and faster to safeguard the environment for our children,” said May in a statement. The net zero target marks a dramatic increase in ambition from the existing target of an 80 per cent cut. Net zero means some industries are expected to still be producing emissions in 2050, but these will be offset by other measures, such as tree planting. The decision to push ahead with the tougher goal comes despite complaints from parts of the UK government. The Treasury warned May last week that moving to net zero would cost in excess of £1 trillion – more than government advisers had said – and the implications of setting the target should be better understood before it was set in law. Downing Street made an apparent nod to concerns, promising a review within five years, to see if other countries are taking similar action and “industries do not face unfair competition”. Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, two of the frontrunners in the race for the Conservative party leadership and to be the next PM, have both publicly supported the more ambitious goal. May’s move to adopt net zero was welcomed by the government’s advisers, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), which called for the higher ambition last month, and follows months of protests by school pupils and campaigners calling for tougher action. The CBI business group said the legislation was: “the right response to the global climate crisis, and firms are ready to play their part in combating it.”

6-11-19 Why is so much of the US under water?
Five hundred acres of Blake Hurst's farm in Westboro, Missouri, are under water. "In the first round of flooding, we had over 150 acres under water," Mr Hurst recalls. "A lot of it had been planted, so those crops are lost." That was in March, when the Midwest's first bout of heavy rainstorms coupled with melting snow saw rivers inundate communities. "It's been one damn thing after another." Since then, America's heartland has had little reprieve from rain. May was the second-wettest month in recorded US history. In addition to rain, the thunderstorms brought a slew of tornados - over 500 in May alone, according to preliminary reports from the National Weather Service (NWS). And all the while, rivers and lakes continued to fill and crest, breaking years of records, pouring over levees and barriers, covering highways, bridges and towns. There have been over 35 flood-related deaths in the region so far, according to NWS. "The US is split in two for hundreds of miles," says Mr Hurst, who is the president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, describing the water's sprawl from north of Omaha, Nebraska, down past St Louis, Missouri. As of 10 June, around 200 river gauges along the Mississippi, Missouri and Arkansas rivers are still reporting flood levels, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "We've seen more flooding in the past decade than we've seen in the decades before. This has gone past that into something historic." Environmental scientist Prof Samuel Munoz of Northeastern University also says 2019 will make the history books. It's "unusual" for the Great Plains and Midwest, he notes, to see this number of repeated strong storms and severe weather in one spring. "Manmade climate change intensifies these natural variations, causing more rain to fall in what would already have been a wet year."

6-11-19 Crisp packets made of a new material could be much easier to recycle
When people took to posting their crisp packets back to Walkers’ crisps to protest that they weren’t easily recycled, the firm took notice and launched collection points for recycling. But the reality is the special scheme has addressed just a tiny fraction of the waste mountain – 3 million of the the 4 billion bags the company alone sells annually in the UK – and they are still not recycled by household recycling schemes. Researchers say they may have come up with a new, greener alternative. The metallised films used for today’s crisp packets, chocolate bars and much other food packaging are great for keeping the contents dry and cool, but hard to recycle as they are made from several layers of plastic and metal fused together. “The crisp packet is quite a hi-tech piece of polymer packaging,” says Dermot O’Hare of the University of Oxford. However, recycling it is difficult. While technically the metallised films can be recycled at an industrial level, says UK waste agency WRAP, is it not economically viable to do so widely yet. O’Hare and his team’s proposed alternative is a very thin layer, called a nanosheet, made from amino acids and water, applied to a film of plastic (polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, which most plastic water bottles are made of). The benign building blocks appear to make a material safe for use with food, says O’Hare: “In terms of the chemistry that was the breakthrough, making synthetic nanosheets using non-toxic materials.” But he says there will be a long regulatory process, and we should not expect to see the material in packaging for at least four years. Part of the challenge in designing the material was meeting industry demands for a good barrier for gases, to avoid contamination and keep the product fresh. To make the nanosheets, O’Hare’s team created a ‘torturous pathway’, a sort of maze at a nano level that makes it hard for oxygen and other gases to diffuse through.

6-11-19 What will replace coal in Appalachia?
Michael Bloomberg wants to deliver coal its death blow. Last week, the billionaire and former New York mayor announced a $500 million campaign to directly pressure state governments, local city councils and utility commissions to shutter America's remaining coal plants. Given the havoc coal wreaks, both on the climate, and on the local environments and lives of the Americans who dig it up, Bloomberg and many others understandably believe it's high time for coal to go.. But that also leaves a lingering question: For those very same communities whose livelihoods come from coal, what will replace it? The question is hardly new. It can also seem weird: In absolute numbers, coal jobs have steadily declined since the mid-1980s, done in by automation and cheaper alternatives as much as by regulation. Today, coal accounts for a paltry 53,000 American workers, which is meager even in "coal country" states — 4.2 percent of total employment in West Virginia, 0.6 percent in Kentucky, 0.3 percent in Virginia, and even less is Pennsylvania and Ohio, as of 2014. President Trump's assault on environmental regulations has, at best, momentarily stalled coal's decline. Coal's disproportionate role in our politics is certainly due in large part to lobbying, and to cultural romance and nostalgia. But there's a practical economic reality at work here as well: Coal is one of the few things the Appalachian region produced that can be sold in places besides Appalachia. This basic point is key, not just for figuring out what will replace coal in coal country, but what will revive the jobs and prospects of rural and small town America in general.

6-11-19 The solar-power charged electric cars making money
Electric cars are being used to help power a small Portuguese island in the Atlantic. Porto Santo Island has begun testing a scheme in which the batteries in electric vehicles are charged by solar power during the day but at night return spare energy to the grid to power people's homes. Some experts say this form of energy storage could become a global trend.

6-11-19 Plant extinction 'bad news for all species'
Almost 600 plant species have been lost from the wild in the last 250 years, according to a comprehensive study. The number is based on actual extinctions rather than estimates, and is twice that of all bird, mammal and amphibian extinctions combined. Scientists say plant extinction is occurring up to 500 times faster than what would be expected naturally. In May, a UN report estimated that one million animal and plant species were threatened with extinction. Researchers say their analysis of all documented plant extinctions in the world shows what lessons can be learned to stop future extinctions. Most people can name a mammal or bird that has become extinct in recent centuries, but few could name an extinct plant, said Dr Aelys Humphreys of Stockholm University. "This study is the first time we have an overview of what plants have already become extinct, where they have disappeared from and how quickly this is happening," she added. The lost plants include the Chile sandalwood, which was exploited for essential oils, the banded trinity plant, which spent much of its life underground, and the pink-flowered St Helena olive tree. The biggest losses are on islands and in the tropics, which are home to highly valued timber trees and tend to be particularly rich in plant diversity. Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and Stockholm University found that 571 plant species had disappeared in the last two and a half centuries, a number that is more than twice the number of birds, mammals and amphibians recorded as extinct (a combined total of 217 species). This data suggests plant extinction is happening as much as 500 times faster than what would be expected normally, if humans weren't around. The researchers believe even these numbers underestimate the true levels of ongoing plant extinction.

6-10-19 Aarey forest: The fight to save Mumbai's last 'green lung'
The Aarey forest, a verdant strip that lies at the heart of India's bustling Mumbai city, is often referred to as its last green lung. But now, locals say, it's under threat from encroachment. BBC Marathi's Janhavee Moole reports. As a child, Stalin Dayanand used to picnic in the Aarey forest. "It was the only place where you could go and play, climb trees or just sit and eat under the shade of a tree and be close to nature," says Stalin, who prefers to go by his first name. Now the 54-year-old is the director of an NGO that works to protect forests and wetlands. He is fighting for Aarey. On 6 June, the government cleared 40 hectares (99 acres) of the 1,300 hectare forest to build a zoo, complete with a night safari. Another slice of it is being claimed by Mumbai's new metro rail which is currently under construction. Thousands of trees will have to be felled to construct a new multi-level parking unit for the metro. Stalin has petitioned India's Supreme Court challenging the construction, but the case is still pending. Locals and environmental activists like him are up in arms because they fear the government will eventually clear the way for private builders to encroach on the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, which lies to the north of Aarey. Spread over 104 sq km (40 sq miles), this protected area makes Mumbai one of the rare cities to have a jungle within its boundaries. Their concern is partly fuelled by the fact that this is prime location in a city where land is scarce and real estate prices are among the most expensive in the world. But officials dismiss these fears as unfounded and point out that the construction for the metro only requires 30 hectares of the 1,300 hectares that make up the Aarey forest.

6-10-19 Canada to ban single-use plastics as early as 2021
Canada will ban "harmful" single-use plastics as early as 2021 in a bid to reduce ocean waste, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced. This initiative is modelled on similar legislation passed last year by the European Union and other nations. Canada will also establish "targets" for companies that manufacture or sell plastics to be responsible for their plastic waste. Currently less than 10% of plastic used in Canada gets recycled. Mr Trudeau called the issue of plastic pollution a "global challenge". In May, the United Nations said 180 countries reached a deal to reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the world's oceans, where it can harm fish, sea turtles, whales and other wildlife. The Canadian government has yet to decide which single-use plastic products will be included on the list but it could target plastic bags, straws, cutlery, plates and stir sticks. About 3m tonnes of plastic waste is thrown away each year in the country. "As parents we're at a point when we take our kids to the beach and we have to search out a patch of sand that isn't littered with straws, Styrofoam or bottles," Mr Trudeau said. "That's a problem, one that we have to do something about." In October 2018, the EU voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics across the union in a bid to stop pollution of the oceans. The EU hopes it will go into effect across the bloc by 2021. That included a ban on plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks and a reduction in single-use plastic for food and drink containers like plastic cups.

6-10-19 The U.S. is still using many pesticides that are banned in other countries
Most phased-out chemicals in the nation are discontinued by industry, not the EPA. Compared with other global agricultural powerhouses, the United States has lax restrictions on potentially harmful pesticides, a study suggests. An analysis of agricultural pesticide regulations reveals that the United States widely uses several chemicals that are banned or being phased out in the European Union, Brazil and China — three of the world’s other leading pesticide users. What’s more, most agricultural pesticides phased out in the United States are discontinued by the pesticide industry, rather than banned by the Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental health researcher Nathan Donley with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group in Portland, Ore., reports these findings online June 7 in Environmental Health. Donley reviewed the approval status of over 500 pesticides that have been used in the United States. Currently, 72, 17 and 11 pesticides approved in the United States are banned or being phased out in the EU, Brazil and China, respectively. These include chemicals that have been implicated in pesticide poisonings in the United States, like chloropicrin and paraquat (SN: 3/26/11, p. 26). Only two, three and two pesticides banned in the United States are approved in the EU, Brazil and China. Using the U.S. Geological Survey’s record of estimated annual pesticide use, Donley determined how much U.S. agriculture uses pesticides outlawed elsewhere. Of the 544 million kilograms of pesticides used in the country in 2016, 146 million, 12 million and 18 million kilograms comprised chemicals banned in the EU, Brazil and China. Since the EPA was formed in 1970, 134 pesticides have been discontinued in the United States. The EPA prohibited 37 of those, and only five in the last 18 years. Pesticide manufacturers voluntarily withdrew the other 97. In many cases, this is likely because the pesticides sold poorly, and it’s expensive to maintain EPA approval, Donley suggests. Several chemicals showed a steep decline in usage before cancellation.

6-10-19 Humans have driven nearly 600 plant species to extinction since 1750s
Humanity has caused an average of more than two plant species a year to be wiped off the Earth since the middle of the eighteenth century, according to the first comprehensive attempt to chart worldwide plant extinctions. The botany world’s best guess was that fewer than 150 species had gone extinct, but that was based on the Red List of Threatened Species, which is known to cover only a small proportion of all plants. The true number appears to be around four times higher, at 571 plant species being driven to extinction between 1753 and 2018. A Swedish and British team came to the figure after analysing a previously unpublished database kept by Kew Gardens. Species destroyed include the Chile sandalwood (Santalum fernandezianum) which was only found on one group of Pacific islands, and the St Helena olive tree (Nesiota elliptica), which only lived on the island it is named after. The rate of loss is happening as much as 500 times faster than the background rate of extinction for plants, the speed at which they have naturally been lost before humanity’s impact. But even the grim toll of 571 is likely to be lower than the reality, says Aelys Humphreys of Kew Gardens. “We are quite sure this is an underestimate.” That’s because some biodiverse parts of the world are poorly studied, and some plants have been reduced to such low numbers they are considered ‘functionally extinct’. The number of plant extinctions is much greater than the number of modern animal ones. That’s what researchers would expect, given there are more plant species – 300,000-plus – than animals. The geography of the extinctions in plants and animals is strikingly similar though. Island species are inherently vulnerable and have been particularly badly hit, as have species living in regions with a tropical or Mediterranean climate, as they simply have a rich variety of life. Hawaii has seen more losses than anywhere else in the world with 79 extinctions alone, but other hotspots include Brazil, Australia and Madagascar.

6-10-19 Carbon plays a starring role in the new book ‘Symphony in C’
A geophysicist looks at the science, history and culture of the versatile element. Carbon is by no means the most abundant element in the cosmos, but it is undoubtedly the most important to life as we know it. For every 1,000 hydrogen atoms in the universe, there are only five or so carbon atoms. But every cell in the human body — indeed, every living cell on Earth — relies on carbon as the chemical backbone of all organic molecules. In Symphony in C, geophysicist Robert Hazen provides a deep dive into the history, culture and science surrounding carbon. And that history is far longer than cosmologists once presumed. Although the vast majority of the universe’s carbon is forged inside stars, about a trillionth of today’s carbon was assembled from subatomic particles almost 13.8 billion years ago, just 15 to 20 minutes after the Big Bang. This means that a fraction of the carbon in your body is not “star stuff,” as astronomer Carl Sagan once exclaimed — it’s even older than the universe’s first stars. Carbon is not just important for living things. Its unusual chemistry gives it an unmatched ability to react with other atoms to form both small, simple molecules and large, complex ones, making it a building block for everything from polymers to pharmaceuticals and nanomaterials. As Hazen describes, carbon’s chemical diversity yields materials that include the darkest surfaces and the brightest pigments, as well as the slipperiest lubricants and stickiest glues. Like many musical symphonies, Hazen’s book is arranged in four parts, paralleling the Greeks’ basic elements of earth, air, fire and water. Individual tales in carbon’s story explore its presence in our planet’s minerals (SN: 10/15/16, p. 22), the role of carbon-bearing gases in keeping our early planet warm under a faint young sun (SN: 5/4/13, p. 30), carbon’s ubiquitous presence in fossil fuels that we burn and its role in the origin and evolution of life in Earth’s ancient oceans.

6-7-19 A Green wave washes over Europe
Call it “the Greta Thunberg effect,” said Pernilla Ericson. The teenage Swedish climate change activist has traveled all over Europe in the past year and inspired young students across the Continent to join her “Fridays for Future” protests. Now we’re seeing the political results. In the European Parliament elections, right-wing populist parties surged as expected. But the real story was the rise of the Green Party. In Germany, 33 percent of voters ages 18 to 29—and nearly 21 percent of all voters—cast ballots for the Greens. In France, the party grew to become the country’s third largest, with 13 percent, while in Ireland it took 15 percent. Here in Thunberg’s native Sweden, the Greens won only two of the country’s 21 seats in the European Parliament, but that’s because they had a lot of environmentalist competition. All the parties of the left and center “battled during the campaign to portray themselves as the country’s strongest green voice.” That’s a reflection of Thunberg’s influence. She didn’t endorse any party, but she did “push with enormous force to get the climate issue on the agenda.” And remember—the 16-year-old and the youngsters she leads can’t even vote yet. But they’ll be eligible in 2022, when Sweden holds its next parliamentary elections. Then all parties will have to reckon with her generation.

6-7-19 Deforestation increased
Deforestation increased 73 percent in the Brazilian Amazon between 2012 and 2018, reversing efforts to curb logging by ranchers and farmers. Almost 2 million acres were cleared last season, and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has vowed to clear more land in the Amazon, which serves as a major “sink” for carbon dioxide.

6-7-19 Freedom gas
The Department of Energy has started referring to U.S. natural gas as “freedom gas.” In a rebranding effort, department officials described a project to export liquefied natural gas as “critical to spreading freedom gas throughout the world, by giving America’s allies a diverse and affordable source of clean energy.” To drive home the point, an official described natural gas as “molecules of U.S. freedom.”

6-7-19 Mediterranean plastic pollution hotspots highlighted in report
Nine coastlines have been identified as the places in the Mediterranean most polluted with plastic, a report says. They include top tourist spots such as Barcelona, Marseilles, Tel-Aviv and the Venice coast near the Po river. The report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said all Mediterranean countries had underperformed in managing plastic contamination. It said 570,000 tonnes of plastic went into the sea each year - the equivalent of 33,800 plastic bottles every minute. The conservation group is calling on governments and the EU drastically to reduce plastic production and increase recycling. "Our plastic system is broken - all Mediterranean countries still fail to collect all their waste," said Giuseppe Di Carlo, director of WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative. "Plastic production is far too cheap while its waste management and pollution costs are largely discharged on societies and nature. All countries must overhaul their whole supply chain... This is the only way we can keep plastic out of the Mediterranean Sea." According to the WWF, the coastline of Cilicia in south-east Turkey has the highest plastic pollution in the Mediterranean with 31.3 kg of debris per kilometre. The report also highlighted Egypt as the biggest source of plastic waste in the Mediterranean, followed by Turkey. It said high levels of plastic consumption by residents and tourists coupled with poor waste collection systems, remained a problem in several countries. Italy is the largest consumer of bottled water in the world, the report said, with about 178 litres of water sold in plastic bottles per person, per year. In its recommendations, the report said all Mediterranean governments should set targets to reuse and recycle 100% of plastic items, thus creating zero waste. It also called for single-use plastic items to be phased out. The WWF says marine pollution costs tourism, fisheries and maritime sectors around €641m (£568m; $722m) each year. Unless action was taken plastic pollution in the region was expected to quadruple by 2050, it added.

6-7-19 50 years ago, scientists wanted to build solar panels on the moon
Excerpt from the June 14, 1969 issue of Science News. An almost unlimited supply of electricity could be generated on the moon’s surface by huge arrays of solar cells and beamed to Earth by laser. Sunlight falling on a crater … could produce from 10,000 to 100,000 megawatts of power. By comparison, a large hydroelectric dam on Earth produces about 100 megawatts. Solar cells would be more efficient on the moon than on Earth … because of the lack of dimming clouds. — Science News, June 14, 1969. There are no solar panels on the moon yet, but scientists are still looking at ways to harness the sun’s energy in space to use as electricity on Earth. A 2012 NASA report proposed a bell-shaped satellite of solar cells that could supply solar energy to Earth, costing roughly $20 billion to launch. China and Japan are further along. China plans to launch small solar power stations into the stratosphere by 2025; Japan has its sights set on a similar one-gigawatt solar plant, generating as much energy as a typical nuclear power plant on Earth, by the 2030s.

6-6-19 Creating an AI can be five times worse for the planet than a car
Training artificial intelligence is an energy intensive process. New estimates suggest that the carbon footprint of training a single AI is as much as 284 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent – five times the lifetime emissions of an average car. Emma Strubell at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the US and colleagues have assessed the energy consumption required to train four large neural networks, a type of AI used for processing language. Language-processing AIs underpin the algorithms that power Google Translate as well as OpenAI’s GPT-2 text generator, which can convincingly pen fake news articles when given a few lines of text. These AIs are trained via deep learning, which involves processing vasts amounts of data. “In order to learn something as complex as language, the models have to be large,” says Strubell. A common approach involves giving an AI billions of written articles so that it learns to understands the meaning of words and how sentences are constructed. To measure the environmental impact of this approach, the researchers trained four different AIs – Transformer, ELMo, BERT, and GPT-2 – for one day each, and sampled the energy consumption throughout. They calculated the total power required to train each AI by multiplying this figure by the total training time reported by each model’s original developers. A carbon footprint was then estimated based on the average carbon emissions used in power production in the US. A process called the neural architecture search (NAS) – which involves automating the design of a neural network through trial and error – was particularly energy intensive and time-consuming. Training Transformer without NAS takes 84 hours, but more than 270,000 hours with it, requiring 3000 times the amount of energy. Such training is split over dozens of chips and takes months to complete.

6-6-19 Plastic pollution found at every depth of the ocean by deep-sea survey
There could be more tiny particles of plastic drifting deep below the surface of the oceans than floating at the surface, according to a survey of the Pacific. The highest levels of plastic were found between 200 and 600 metres below the surface. There are tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic – much in the form of tiny pieces less than five millimetres across – floating in places like the Great Pacific Garbage patch, a region in the Pacific that accumulates waste due to the currents. But according to some estimates millions of tonnes get washed into the oceans every year. It’s been a mystery where all this “missing plastic” ends up. Now Anela Choy of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California and her colleagues have used remotely operated vehicles with specially designed equipment to measure how much microplastic there is at different depths around 25 kilometres offshore from Monterey Bay in California. The team found microplastics at every depth.There were around 2 particles per cubic metre near the surface, rising to around 12 particles per cubic metre at depths of around 300 metres and then declining to 2 particles per cubic metre a kilometre down. “This means the highest concentration levels we found were higher on average than at the surface of the Great Pacific Garbage,” says Choy. While this may seem surprising, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is not the solid mass of floating plastic debris the name implies. It is mostly invisible to the naked eye because the pieces are so small and there are so few of them on average. The common types of plastics found were polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyamide, and polycarbonate, which are used in consumer products such as bottles and disposable containers. The team also collected 24 pelagic red crabs – which are actually swimming lobsters – and 8 giant larvaceans – which are filter feeders. They found plastic particles in all of them.

6-6-19 Tiny plastic debris is accumulating far beneath the ocean surface
Floating trash patches scratch only the surface of the microplastic pollution problem. Vast swathes of litter floating on the ocean, like the great Pacific garbage patch, may just be the tip of the trash heap. Divers have reportedly spotted plastic bags and candy wrappers as deep as the Mariana Trench. Now, a survey of microplastics at various depths off the coast of California suggests that this debris is most common several hundred meters below the surface, scientists report online June 6 in Scientific Reports. Using remotely operated underwater vehicles, researchers sampled microplastics in Monterey Bay at depths from five to 1,000 meters. The team also measured pollutants in the guts of 24 pelagic red crabs and eight mucus filters from giant larvaceans — both of which eat organic particles about the same size as microplastics (SN Online: 8/16/17). The concentration of particles 1,000 meters deep was roughly the same as it was five meters deep, averaging about three particles per cubic meter. Plastic in water from 200 to 600 meters deep was more concentrated, with 10 to 15 particles per cubic meter. Chemical analyses of these particles revealed most to be plastics used in consumer products, such as disposable bottles, packaging and textiles. Plastics used to make fishing gear, the source of many larger hunks of ocean pollution, were far less common (SN Online: 1/4/19). Every giant larvacean mucus filter and pelagic red crab contained microplastics. These particle-feeding creatures may be spreading contaminants to other predatory animals, from tuna to turtles, says study coauthor Anela Choy, a biological oceanographer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

6-6-19 Is it true climate change will cause the end of civilisation by 2050?
Climate change could bring about the end of civilisation as we know it within three decades, an Australian think tank has warned. The report by Breakthrough, endorsed by a retired Australian admiral, says a war-time response is needed to avoid the doomsday scenario. “The report speaks, in our opinion, a harsh but necessary truth,” says co-author David Spratt. What does the report say we are in for? The authors sketch a scenario where by 2050 more than half of the world’s population faces 20 days a year of lethal heat, crop yields globally drop by a fifth, the Amazon ecosystem collapses, the Arctic is ice-free in summer, and sea levels have risen by 0.5 metres (they rose by 0.19 metres over the 20th century). In the worst case, “the scale of destruction is beyond our capacity to model, with a high likelihood of human civilisation coming to an end.” The report says more than a billion people could be displaced by climate change by 2050, is that true? The figure is a lot higher than most estimates. The World Bank says 140 million by 2050, for example. Breakthrough cites as evidence a 2018 report by a Swedish non-profit, which in turn sourced it from a 2010 report by a German non-profit. That said a billion people live in areas that could be inundated by sea level rises this century – quite different to saying there will be a billion climate migrants by 2050. Hasn’t the world committed to stop nightmare impacts by limiting temperature rises to 2°C? Yes, it did in the 2015 Paris climate accord, though the plans that countries have put forward for cutting emissions would still still see us hit around 3°C of warming. But Breakthrough says warming will be much higher because the number does not include long-term carbon cycle feedback loops (such as warmer soil releasing more carbon). The think tank explored these views more fully in a report last year.

6-6-19 Vital global climate monitoring scheme axed on remote UK island
The world’s ability to track rapidly growing levels of greenhouse gases has suffered a major blow with the axing of a vital climate monitoring scheme run from a UK-governed island. For 40 years US and UK teams have been monitoring concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane on Ascension Island, a volcanic rock in the middle of the Atlantic. The air sampling station is the only one in the Atlantic and one of just a handful in the tropics, providing crucial data about how oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide and the atmosphere’s response to our burning of fossil fuels. But the operation has been downsized and will soon end entirely, raising concerns in the scientific community over the hole left in their ability to track humanity’s impact on the climate. The UK’s Met Office, which runs the programme in partnership with US agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Royal Holloway, University of London, has halved the number of staff it sends to the island from four to two, as a result of damage to the island’s only runway limited most flights.That left the job of collecting air samples a voluntary one that relies on goodwill. New Scientist has learnt that in late April the Met Office took the decision that it could no longer assist NOAA by providing the samples. Ed Dlugokencky of NOAA says: “Ascension was NOAA’s only air sampling site providing background composition of air entering the South American continent. Without it, our ability to estimate natural greenhouse gas fluxes for the Amazon and other South American ecosystems will be diminished.” A key piece of equipment is also no longer working. A machine for measuring the composition of the air, which was installed in 2010 and billed as “vital” and “major UK contribution to global understanding of the greenhouse gases”, has not been calibrated for two years and is now offline.

6-6-19 Greta Thunberg: How one teenager became the voice of the planet
When adults wouldn't listen, Greta Thunberg started to strike. Now millions of school children around the world follow her. Thunberg's generation is our best chance of saving the world. When Greta Thunberg first downloaded Instagram in June 2018, the Swedish schoolgirl used the app to post pictures of herself posing with her rescue dog, Roxy. There was Roxy in the snow, Roxy at sunset, even Roxy at an open-air theatre. It was an ordinary 15-year-old girl’s Instagram in many ways, though there were hints – a photo of homegrown tomatoes, multiple shots of fields and lakes – that Thunberg was passionate about the natural world. Indeed, just a month before, she had won a climate change essay competition run by Swedish daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. “I want to feel safe,” she wrote. “How can I feel safe when I know we are in the greatest crisis in human history?” At the age of 12, Thunberg gave up meat and stopped taking flights, in order to lessen her impact on the climate. In her early teens she became depressed and spent time off school, partly because of her fears about global warming. Then, in the summer of 2018, she became distressed again when heatwaves and wildfires spread across Sweden. On August 20, 2018, Thunberg posted a picture of herself sitting outside Sweden’s parliament building, the Riksdag. “We children don’t usually do what you grown-ups tell us to do. We do as you do. And since you don’t give a shit about my future. I don’t give a shit either,” she captioned an image of herself in leopard print trousers and a blue hoodie, sat on the ground in Stockholm, a stray cigarette butt resting on the cobbles at her feet. Two-thirds of the frame was filled by a handmade cardboard sign reading, "Skolstrejk för klimatet”. Thunberg’s plan was to skip school until the Swedish general election on September 9, 2018, in protest against the government’s inaction on climate change. “I was going to sit there and gain media attention on the climate crisis so that people would start talking about it, but then afterwards I thought: why should I stop now?” she says. While Thunberg returned to school for four days of the week after the election, she continued to strike every Friday. And so, #FridaysForFuture was born. When Thunberg, disturbed after Sweden’s warmest summer, began striking, she initially asked her ­classmates to join her protest. Her immediate peers refused. However, like any self-respecting member of Generation Z, Thunberg cross-posted her original strike photo on both Instagram and Twitter.

6-5-19 Want to stop climate change? Jared Diamond says nations need therapy
In his new book Upheaval, polymath Jared Diamond says nations need a special kind of therapy to solve big problems like climate change, Brexit and nuclear proliferation. JARED DIAMOND is a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles. He started out working in electrophysiology and became a professor of physiology at UCLA medical school in 1968. After developing a second career in ornithology and ecology, he then moved on to environmental history in the 1980s. His bestselling books Guns, Germs, and Steel (for which he won the Pulitzer prize) and Collapse are works of comparative history, studying societies side by side “because there are things that you can learn and questions you pose from comparisons that you would never think of with single case studies”. His latest book is Upheaval: How nations cope with crisis and change.

  1. In Upheaval, you’ve taken ideas from the field of personal crisis therapy as a way to analyse national crises. Is this meant as a conversation starter? It’s more than that. I’ve lived in half a dozen countries over the last 60 years, and each one has either been coming out of or going into a crisis.
  2. Can you give us a flavour of these crisis-coping criteria? First, you have to acknowledge that you’re in a crisis or you get nowhere. Second, you can’t blame other people, you have to accept responsibility for yourself.
  3. How well do these predictors map over the experiences of individual nations? Not every one of the 12 predictors applied in every case – just as not all of them would apply to a person.
  4. And yet you say that 10 out of the 12 crisis-coping criteria don’t work well at a global level? That’s true. Quite a few of the predictors for national crises suggested by this work incline one towards pessimism about the world.
  5. You’ve been quoted as saying there is a 49 per cent chance of the world as we know it ending by 2050. Are we going to make it? If voters and governments make good choices, we will have a happy outcome. If they make bad choices, we will have an unhappy outcome.
  6. Where do leaders fit into your crisis model? That is a key question. The view used to be that history is the deeds of great men. Nowadays, most historians hold the view that leaders make a difference only under certain circumstances.
  7. So how do we deal with our very complex, non-linear world? There needs to be much more frank conversation. We need to try everything possible – in dealing with nuclear weapons, for instance – to encourage conversations, not just between leaders, but between all levels of government.
  8. But in the end, isn’t it like that bit in the film The Martian when the lead character says he has to science the shit out of a problem? In psychotherapy, there’s something called a resistance mechanism: something you invoke in order to avoid dealing with a problem.
  9. Even if humanity makes it, the world will still be harder to live in and we’re all going to need a scientific infrastructure. Compared to ten years ago, we’re already negotiating a trickier world.
  10. Do Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse and Upheaval form a trilogy? No, every one of my books has arisen from what I was interested in at that moment.

6-5-19 Hydrogen has a dirty secret – let's not think it's always a green fuel
FOR a fuel that supported humans on their way to the moon, hydrogen has singularly failed to get off the ground. The fuel cells that provided the juice for the Apollo lunar modules 50 years ago followed a principle of efficient electricity generation we have known for two centuries. You react hydrogen and oxygen, making electricity and just one, clean waste product: water. Useful stuff when you are in space. Useful stuff when you are on the ground, too. The world is lacking in transportable fuels that aren’t oil. Whether in fuel cells, directly in internal combustion engines, or in a host of other contexts as a substitute for fossil fuels, hydrogen promises a greener alternative. With zero emissions at the point of use, it is also a potential solution for the foul air of our cities. Interest is burgeoning. Climate laggard Australia is looking to burnish its green credentials by developing a national hydrogen strategy (see “Australia could start exporting sunshine in the form of hydrogen”). In the UK, the H21 North of England initiative, the “world’s largest clean energy project”, envisages converting the domestic gas supply of 3.7 million households to hydrogen, starting in 2028. One estimate is that hydrogen could meet 24 per cent of total energy demand across Europe by 2050. Caution is needed. Hydrogen is the most abundant molecule in the universe, but it isn’t present on Earth in its free form. We must first produce it. That can be done cleanly by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity from solar and wind power. But the cheaper and more prevalent method is to extract it from natural gas or coal, which emits carbon dioxide and locks us into further exploitation of fossil fuels. Projects touting hydrogen’s green credentials often rely on sequestering waste CO2 from its production, a technology as yet untested on the scale required.

6-5-19 Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C could prevent thousands of deaths in the U.S.
A study projecting heat-related mortality in 15 cities illustrates urban risk from warming. Having the world meet a more stringent goal to limit global warming may prevent thousands of heat-related deaths in 15 major U.S. cities, a study shows. The projections illustrate the high risk from climate change faced by urban populations. Under the Paris Agreement, participating countries have pledged to curb greenhouse gas emissions with the aim of limiting warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius over preindustrial times by 2100 (SN: 1/9/16, p. 6). Keeping warming to 2 degrees C could mean 75 to 1,980 fewer deaths in an especially warm year in these 15 cities, compared with a scenario in which the world warms by 3 degrees, researchers report online June 5 in Science Advances. Limiting warming to a more stringent 1.5 degrees, however, could spare 114 to 2,716 more U.S. city-dwellers from death in an especially warm year than the 3 degree scenario, the team reports. The study is the latest to suggest that, without additional efforts to help people adapt to hotter temperatures, “heat-related mortality is likely to increase in the coming decades,” says climatologist David Hondula of Arizona State University in Tempe, who was not involved in the research. The 2-degree goal doesn’t go far enough in many respects, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. Holding warming to 1.5 degrees would further reduce the risk of extreme heat waves, droughts, sea level rise and habitat loss for species (SN: 10/27/18, p. 7). Excessive heat can kill (SN: 4/4/18, p. 18), most directly via heat stroke. Heat is risky for everyone, but some groups are more vulnerable than others, especially older adults, outdoor laborers and people in low-income neighborhoods lacking air conditioning. In the new study, climate scientist Eunice Lo at the University of Bristol in England and colleagues explored how various possible warming scenarios might impact heat-related deaths.

6-5-19 Thirsty koalas need bowls of water to survive increasingly hot climate
Koalas may need bowls of water provided by humans to survive the increasingly harsh weather brought on by climate change. It has long been thought that koalas get all the hydration they need from the leaves they eat, but now researchers have found that they will use artificial water stations throughout the year and for longer periods in hot months. Their numbers are under threat from habitat destruction, disease and attacks from feral animals. But climate change also poses a problem, as the leaves from eucalyptus trees, which provide most of a koala’s diet, look set to become drier and less nutritious. Valentina Mella and colleagues at the University of Sydney wanted to see if they could help, so they placed automatically refiling bowls of water on the ground and in the forks of trees, connected up to tanks, and set up infrared and motion-sensing cameras nearby. To their surprise, they found that koalas drink from the bowls throughout the year, spending an average of 10 minutes there even in the cooler months. But koalas were twice as likely to visit and spent twice as long drinking during summer, when the temperature is often above 40°C and the environment is drier. While koalas are tree-dwelling, nocturnal animals, Mella and her colleagues found they were even coming to the ground stations during the day. It wasn’t only koalas who used these water bowls either. The team spotted sugar gliders, feathertail gliders, brushtail possums, echidnas, Eastern grey kangaroos, hares, feral cats and red foxes.

6-5-19 Soil eroded by glaciers may have kick-started plate tectonics
Scientists have long wondered how Earth’s global surface recycling system got its start. Vast amounts of sediment eroded from Earth’s continents were necessary to lubricate the wheel of plate tectonics, scientists propose. The idea offers a new angle on long-standing riddles about the origin and evolution of the planet’s global surface recycling system, one that is unique in the solar system. Earth’s interior holds a lot of heat, even 4.6 billion years after the planet’s formation. For the first 1 million to 1.5 million years of Earth’s history, the planet’s insides were still too hot for the lithosphere to cool and thicken (SN Online: 9/21/17). That’s one necessary ingredient for modern plate tectonics, the ongoing collisions and separations of large “plates” of lithosphere, the jigsaw puzzle pieces that make up the hard outer shell of the planet. Eventually the planet cooled enough for the crust to form. And then, around 3 billion years ago, Earth’s first continents arose. That ultimately added another key ingredient that allowed plate tectonics to get under way, geophysicist Stephan Sobolev and geologist Michael Brown argue in the June 6 Nature. Massive amounts of sediment scraped by glaciers off the continents were essential to kick off the lithospheric dance, the researchers say. That soft sediment was slowly deposited in deep ocean trenches, where it reduced the amount of friction between a sinking, or subducting, plate and the overlying plate, speeding up plate tectonics. Giant influxes of sediment to the oceans, related to worldwide glaciation events such as an event that lasted from about 750 million to 630 million years ago, could explain why plate tectonics has sometimes kicked into a higher gear, Sobolev and Brown say. And a dearth of such sediments in the rock record could also explain periods of sluggish tectonic movement, including the Boring Billion, a period of lithospheric — and evolutionary — stability between 1.8 billion and 800 million years ago.

6-5-19 Trump says 'climate change goes both ways' (Webmaster's comment: What the hell does that mean?)
President Donald Trump has said he believes climate change "goes both ways" following a 90-minute discussion with environmentalist Prince Charles. "I believe that there's a change in weather and I think it changes both ways," Mr Trump told Piers Morgan in an interview that aired on Wednesday. Mr Trump said he shared the prince's desire for a "good climate" but blamed other nations for increasing pollution. He has rolled back many US climate laws despite warnings from his own agencies. Mr Trump said his meeting with Prince Charles was meant to last only 15 minutes. "He did most of the talking, and he was really into climate change and I think that's great," Mr Trump said of Prince Charles on the ITV programme Good Morning Britain. "He wants to make sure future generations have climate that is good climate as opposed to a disaster and I agree." (Webmaster's comment: What a crock!) But Mr Trump once again placed the blame on other countries, namely China, India and Russia, for worsening air and water quality while claiming the US has one of "the cleanest climates there are". (Webmaster's comment: While he's removing the laws that made it that way!) "Don't forget, it used to be called global warming, that wasn't working, then it was called climate change, now its actually called extreme weather because with extreme weather you can't miss," the president said. Mr Trump pointed to past examples of weather disasters to refute the idea that "extreme weather" is becoming more common due to climate change. "I don't remember tornados in the United States to this extent but then when you look back 40 years ago we had the worst tornado binge we ever had. In the 1890s we had our worst hurricanes." The president said he was moved by Prince Charles' "passion for future generations" but stopped short of changing any of his views on climate science.

6-5-19 Australia could start exporting sunshine in the form of hydrogen
IT WAS billed as the climate change election, but the climate lost. Last month, Australians re-elected the Liberal-National coalition government, a shock win over the opposition Labor party. The government has been seen as slow to act on climate change, while Labor offered an ambitious carbon reduction policy. Yet economics may soon force the coalition to go green. Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of liquified natural gas (LNG) and the second biggest for coal, but a renewable energy revolution is coming. As Australia’s nearby trading partners, including China, South Korea and Japan, switch to clean energy sources, the country will be forced to adapt, or else find itself without buyers. To stay competitive, Australia is likely to start exporting its abundant sunshine, in the form of hydrogen. “I see it as inevitable that the world will go to a decarbonised energy supply,” says Alan Finkel, Australia’s chief scientist, who has been tasked with developing a national hydrogen strategy. Hydrogen is a storable and transportable fuel that can be produced cleanly by splitting water molecules with renewable energy. With ample space for solar and wind power, Australia is well-positioned to become a leading hydrogen exporter. The country is already a big energy producer. Fossil fuel exports contributed A$55 billion (US$33 billion) to Australia’s economy last financial year, about 14 per cent of total exports, and they are tipped to hit A$76 billion this year. Much of it goes to the neighbours. Japan buys 45 per cent of Australia’s LNG and 39 per cent of its coal. Since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, the country has depended on fossil fuel imports to meet 94 per cent of its energy needs. But under the Paris climate change agreement, Japan has committed to cut carbon emissions by 26 per cent in 2030 (from a 2013 baseline) and by 80 per cent in 2050. It doesn’t have the space or the sunshine to achieve these renewable energy needs. “To meet their climate goals, which are strongly held, they need to import a zero-emissions alternative,” says Finkel.

6-4-19 Climate change may mean heavy rain falls in the early morning
Thunderstorms are most common in the late afternoon, when plenty of heat has built up, but in years to come a different pattern might emerge. A simulation of future rainfall suggests that climate change could push the heaviest downpours into the night or even the early morning. As the climate heats up due to our greenhouse gas emissions, heavy rainfall events are becoming more severe. However, it is less clear exactly how and when this extra rain will fall, and thus how it will affect us. One overlooked issue is when the rain will fall during the day. “The scaling of extreme precipitation hasn’t, as far as we’re aware, been looked at across the diurnal cycle,” says Edmund Meredith of the Free University of Berlin in Germany. Meredith and his colleagues simulated the climate of Europe at a resolution of 12 kilometres, then focused in on a smaller region of western Europe at a resolution of 2.2 kilometres. This was detailed enough for them to see individual rainstorms, which has not been possible in climate models until recently. They did this for 1970-1999, and then for 2070-2099 assuming lots of greenhouse gases are emitted this century. In the historical period, the heaviest rainstorms happened in the late afternoon. This is because the sun’s heat warms the ground, heating the air above it and causing it to rise. This convection current carries lots of water vapour high into the air, where it cools and forms rain clouds. But in the future climate, compared to the historical period, the biggest increases in rainfall occurred in the morning. “In some regions, you might actually be more likely to get the extremes earlier in the day than is currently expected,” says Meredith. This was because the most powerful convection currents, which drive the rainstorms, occurred in the night or early morning.

6-4-19 Chemicals in biodegradable food containers can leach into compost
Long-lasting PFAS compounds could end up in plants that are later eaten by people. Composting biodegradable food containers cuts the amount of trash that gets sent to a landfill. But the practice may serve up some unintended consequences for human health. That’s because the items often contain perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, to help repel water and oil. These persistent chemicals can leach out of the packaging and end up in compost, researchers report May 29 in Environmental Science & Technology Letters. When that compost is used, PFAS could be taken up by plants and ultimately accumulate in the bodies of people, though the health effects are still unclear. The scientists measured perfluoroalkyl acids, or PFAAs, a subset of PFAS formed by microbial degradation, in compost from 10 commercial facilities. Seven of these facilities accepted compostable food containers, and three didn’t. With the food containers in the mix, the team measured PFAAs at concentrations from about 29 to 76 micrograms per kilogram of compost, while compost from facilities that didn’t accept the containers contained less than 8 micrograms PFAAs per kilogram of compost. “There was a huge difference in the PFAS levels between those two groups,” says Laurel Schaider, an environmental chemist and public health researcher at Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Mass., not involved in the study. People expect the things they compost to break down entirely and become a sustainable source of nutrients for plants, so it’s concerning that chemicals in compostable items can persist, she says.

6-4-19 How to make biodegradable 'plastic' from cactus juice
This Mexican researcher has discovered a way to turn cactus leaves into a material with similar properties to plastic. She says it's not toxic and is biodegradable.(Webmaster's comment: Guess we should have let her into the country! China, Mexico, Europe, Russia, practically every country in the world is beating us in Science!)

6-4-19 Will the UK use a legal loophole to hit government climate targets?
Rather than taking concrete action on climate change, the UK looks set to use creative accounting to meet its legal obligations to tackle global warming. The UK has a binding target of reducing emissions 80 per cent by 2050. To get there, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) sets rolling five-year carbon budgets. Between the second of those budgets – 2013-2017 – the UK overperformed and cut by more than needed. On Tuesday it emerged ministers have controversially agreed to count those historical savings against future targets, which the UK is set to miss. The move would be legal, as the Climate Change Act, which sets the binding target, permits the use of such ‘flexibilities’. But that does not make it a good idea. The step would be a “clear case of gaming the system”, says Sam Fankhauser of the London School of Economics. “Allowing more emissions in the future instead of making actual progress on cutting emissions is short-term thinking.” Previous governments thought it was a bad approach. Ed Davey, energy secretary between 2012 and 2015, said it was best to meet the 2050 goal through action, not “statistical loopholes.” Ministers can’t pretend they haven’t been warned of the dangers of cooking the books. In February the CCC wrote to climate minister Claire Perry, telling her its unequivocal advice for the government was not to carry forward the carbon surplus. There has been a lot of subsequent wrangling within the government, with progressive figures saying the advice should be accepted, government sources tell New Scientist. But chancellor Phillip Hammond and business secretary Greg Clark have won out, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday, and the UK will count the savings against future targets.

6-3-19 American farmers are reaping the climate denial whirlwind
It's commonly thought on the right (and sometimes on the left) that the United States will not be harmed too much by climate change. With our wealth, geography, and relative isolation from the rest of the world, we will be able to fence out climate refugees and continue to drive gas-guzzling SUVs until the end of time. This idea is sorely mistaken. It's true that America will not be as catastrophically harmed as Bangladesh, India, or the Maldives. But we are far from immune — just witness this season's epic flooding across the Midwest, which has drowned farmland throughout the region. American farmers are paying for a generation of U.S. dithering and denial about climate change. The last 365 days in the U.S. have been the wettest since modern records started being collected 124 years ago. A NASA analysis found that from "May 1, 2018, to April 30, 2019, the lower 48 states collectively averaged 36.20 inches (919.48 millimeters) of precipitation, a full 6.25 inches (158.75 mm) above the mean." This can be seen in satellite groundwater measurements from a few weeks ago. Note especially how wet the Midwest is. Constant storms have caused enormous flooding across the entire region, not to mention a record-breaking streak of tornadoes, and farmers are suffering as a result. As of May 26, "U.S. corn planting [was] just 58% complete, compared with 49% last week and the five-year average of 90%." The figures in Illinois and Indiana were just 35 percent and 22 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, "Soybean plantings in the 18 states that represent 95% of the 2018 soybean acreage are only 29% complete, vs. the five-year average of 66%." "I've never had a yield where I couldn't get my crop planted," Indiana farmer Kendall Culp told The Washington Post. "This is unprecedented, what we're facing." Even Culp's 80-year-old father had never seen it this bad.

6-3-19 PM to challenge Trump's approach on climate
Theresa May will raise the issue of climate change with Donald Trump during his upcoming visit to the UK, Downing Street has told BBC News. The confirmation coincides with UK climate researchers asking the prime minister to "robustly challenge" President Trump on the topic. In a letter to Mrs May, 250 academics say the president's "reckless approach is a threat to the whole world". In 2018, the president accused climate experts of having a "political agenda". A spokesperson for the UK government said: "The prime minister has raised climate change with the president before and will do so again during his visit. "Tackling climate change is a priority for the UK. We are driving forward international action through our work at the UN and with our Commonwealth partners, and we're proud to have offered to host COP26 (the UN climate summit in 2020). "As the prime minister has said previously, we were disappointed by the US decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement in 2017 and continue to hope they will return." The academics' letter was organised by Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics (LSE). He welcomed the news that the prime minister would talk to President Trump about climate. "The prime minister can robustly challenge President Trump about his inaction on climate change with the knowledge that she has the extremely strong support of all the experts who signed the letter," Mr Ward commented. "We all stand behind her on this issue. I hope she will raise the issue with him in public, as well as privately, so that Americans can see how much the president's climate change denial is damaging the international standing of the United States. "It would be a tremendous legacy for Theresa May if she can shift Mr Trump from his position of stubborn denial of the risks of climate change."

6-2-19 The Southern Ocean may be less of a carbon sink than we thought
The water surrounding Antarctica may be belching more CO2 than it takes in. The vast stretch of icy water that separates Antarctica from other continents is a dark mystery to most people. Polar explorer Ernest Shackleton, one of the few who have been to the Southern Ocean, regarded its storm-wracked seas with fear and awe. After ice floes trapped and crushed the three-masted Endurance in 1915, Shackleton made an epic rescue attempt, sailing 1,300 kilometers to bring help to his stranded crew. He crossed the Southern Ocean’s waters in a small open boat, threatened by what he called “uprearing masses of water, flung to and fro by Nature in the pride of her strength.” Yet this remote, tempestuous ocean also benefits humankind. Scientists estimate that each year, the Southern Ocean slurps up more than 40 percent of the carbon dioxide that people release by burning fossil fuels for electricity, heat and transportation. That makes the ocean a powerful support system for slowing the buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The more carbon this immense body of water takes up, the less accumulates in the atmosphere to warm the planet.But certain spots in the Southern Ocean may be working against the waters’ carbon storage role. Scientists have begun to make ambitious new measurements of how much CO2 it absorbs, using deep-diving floats that travel to far corners of the ocean. Last September, with the new data in hand, researchers reported that rather than sucking up CO2, parts of the ocean near Antarctica are actually burping the gas back into the atmosphere during the dark and cold of winter. That suggests the Southern Ocean is more of a fair-weather friend than scientists had hoped.


Donald Trump's Plan: Gut The EPA

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