9-30-19 Sticky fluid can be sprayed on grassy verges to prevent wildfires
A weather-resistant fluid containing fire retardants can be sprayed onto vegetation to stop wildfires from igniting. Fire retardants are often used to protect buildings from an approaching fire, but these formulations aren’t effective once the water in them evaporates. Eric Appel at Stanford University in California and his colleagues have developed a gel-like fluid that sticks to vegetation and withstands weathering, potentially keeping the fire retardant in place for months. The idea is to spray it on vegetation in high-risk areas at the start of the fire season to prevent blazes from starting. “Most people think fires happen willy-nilly anywhere in the forest. It turns out that’s not really true,” he says. His team worked with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) to analyse data from 305,000 fires in California in the past 10 years. It turned out that 84 per cent of fires had started at locations deemed high risk, such as roadsides or around utilities infrastructure. “What that analysis allowed us to see was, if you had the tools available, you could pretreat a small amount of land and prevent an enormous proportion of fires from occurring,” says Appel. “The issue is lack of available technology.” The new formulation was tested on plots of grass and chamise, a Californian shrub, which are types of vegetation where wildfires commonly ignite in the region. The tests showed that applying about 1 litre of fluid per square metre of land is enough to completely prevent ignitions.The fluid is made from non-toxic chemicals commonly used in food products, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. At the end of the fire season, heavy rain should wash away the fluid and it should then biodegrade in the soil. Tests showed that it was benign to bacteria and would degrade anaerobically, so it won’t deplete oxygen in the soil.
9-30-19 Desert birds are struggling to get enough water to stay cool
Bird numbers are plummeting in the Mojave desert in the US as it gets hotter and drier due to global warming. They can no longer get enough water to stay cool. “The climate change that has already happened is too intense for many species,” says Eric Riddell at the University of California, Berkeley. “And it’s not nearly as extreme as what we expect in the future.” The Mojave, which mainly spans parts of California and Nevada, is already the hottest and driest desert in North America. To investigate whether climate change is to blame for dramatic declines in bird numbers there, Riddell and his colleagues created computer simulations of about 50 local species. They used these to predict how much more moisture birds lose as it gets hotter, which dictates how much water they need to survive. While birds don’t sweat, when they get too hot they open their beaks and flutter their throat muscles to evaporate water to avoid overheating, similar to panting in dogs. The team checked the accuracy of their computer simulations by exposing some captive live birds to the kind of temperatures seen in the desert. The models suggest the water needs of birds rises exponentially as temperatures rise. Mojave birds now require 10 to 30 per cent more water each than they did a century ago. The species with the greatest increase in water requirements according to the model were those that had declined the most, says Riddell. Predatory birds including prairie falcons, American kestrels and turkey vultures are among those worst hit. Over the next century, these birds could need 50 to 80 per cent more water. However, rainfall is expected to continue declining in the Mojave.
9-30-19 The Displaced: Climate change in Vietnam 'destroying family life'
Vietnam is one of the world's most vulnerable countries to climate change. It's already having a huge impact on the lives of those in the Mekong Delta, the agricultural heartland of the country and home to 20% of the country's population. Ashley John-Baptiste went to meet the families living on the front lines of climate change. In 2018 - more than 35,000 people were forced to flee their homes every day - that's one every two seconds. This story is part of a BBC News series, called "The Displaced" - a selection of stories exploring the human impact of this movement, and how it is changing our world.
9-30-19 In pictures: Indigenous Bolivians demand action over fires
About 200 Bolivians, most of them members of an indigenous group from the Chiquitanía region, are taking part in a protest march to demand more action be taken to stop fires that have ravaged their area. They are urging President Evo Morales to declare a national emergency, after blazes destroyed large areas of forest as well as ranch land and farms, leaving many people destitute. President Evo Morales has welcomed international aid but has stopped short of declaring a national emergency. Earlier this month, a Russian military plane capable of dropping large amounts of water on the fires, arrived in Bolivia and firefighters from Argentina have also been helping with the firefighting efforts. The worst-affected area is Chiquitanía, where the NGO Friends of Nature Foundation (FAN) estimates that 2.9 million hectares have been burned. Most of those taking part in the protest march are Chiquitanos indigenous group. They set off from San Ignacio de Velasco, a ranching hub, earlier this month and have been sleeping in makeshift camps along the way. The protesters say that if a national emergency was declared more aid would reach their areas. "For us, the Chiquitanos, it's painful because we are not going to have anything left," protester Tomás Candia told Reuters news agency. "That is why we are calling on the world (for help), for the government to declare a national disaster, to call for help for indigenous peoples, for territories and for protected areas," he said. President Morales has come under criticism for passing a decree in July allowing farmers to carry out "controlled burning" to clear land for planting in the affected areas. The president, who is running for a fourth consecutive term in elections next month, has historically enjoyed the support of large parts of Bolivia's indigenous population but the recent fires have undermined some of that support.
9-30-19 Amazon fires: The volunteer firefighters battling to save Brazil’s rainforest
Thousands of fires are ravaging the Amazon rainforest in Brazil - the most intense blazes for almost a decade. One group of nature lovers has taken matters into its own hands. When the volunteer firefighters of Alter do Chão learn of a fire in their area, they head there armed with rudimentary equipment. Often they are the first to arrive on the scene which can buy vital time until the professionals arrive, and also provide them with invaluable information.
9-30-19 David Attenborough: Save Sussex's magical kelp forests
Sir David Attenborough is supporting a campaign to help save an important marine habitat. Kelp forests of the West Sussex coast are one of the most biodiverse environments on the planet, but they have been damaged by changing fishing habits and sediment being dumped on the seafloor. The kelp is also important in reducing the impact of climate change as it can absorb about 600 million tonnes of carbon, twice as much as UK emits each year. Sir David has backed an initiative by the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority to introduce an inshore trawler exclusion zone to help the kelp regenerate.
9-29-19 The potential psychological benefits of going green
According to The New Republic magazine in June this year: "You will have to make sacrifices to save the planet," while the U.S. newspaper Metro asks: "What would you give up to end climate change?" These headlines, read from my desk in London where I carry out research in environmental psychology, present us with stark choices: between self and society, wellbeing and morality. It worries me to see pro-environmental action being equated with personal sacrifice in this way. It also makes me wonder whether we could change the content of a third recent headline, this time from Sky News — "Majority of Brits unwilling to cut back to fight climate change" — by reframing how we talk about pro-environmental behavior. A growing body of research suggests that, rather than posing a threat to individual wellbeing, adopting a more sustainable lifestyle represents a pathway to a more satisfied life. Numerous studies have found that people who purchase green products, who recycle, or who volunteer for green causes claim to be more satisfied with their lives than their less environmentally friendly counterparts. In the most systematic exploration of this relationship to date, the social psychologist Michael Schmitt at Simon Fraser University in Canada and colleagues found that, of the 39 pro-environmental behaviors examined, 37 were positively linked to life satisfaction (the exceptions being the use of public transport or carpooling, and running the washer/dryer only when full). Digging deeper, the authors of this 2018 paper found that the strongest positive relationships were between life satisfaction and those behaviors involving a cost in money, time, or effort. So, participating in local pro-environmental activities is far more predictive of life satisfaction than, say, turning off the tap while brushing your teeth (despite it being a more effortful undertaking). In complementary vein, when the psychologist Stacey Ann Rich at La Trobe University in Melbourne and colleagues looked at people on the far end of the sustainable lifestyle scale, they found that "voluntary simplifiers" — or people who freely choose to live frugally — report higher life satisfaction than non-simplifiers across several different studies. Far from suggesting that people lose out when they put significant effort into living a sustainable life, it seems that the more you put in the more you stand to gain.
9-28-19 Are businesses getting serious about climate change?
Last week, Google challenged other businesses to get serious about climate change by making the "biggest corporate purchase of renewable energy in history," said Tim Bradshaw at the Financial Times. The search giant struck 18 deals with wind and solar energy companies across the U.S., Europe, and Latin America to move to totally carbon-free operations. Google says that its carbon-free energy portfolio "will produce more electricity than places like Washington, D.C., or entire countries like Lithuania or Uruguay use each year." The pledge follows a commitment by Facebook to power its operations with renewables by 2020, and one from Amazon to be carbon-free by 2030 and reach 'net-zero' carbon emissions throughout its supply chain by 2040. That last part, said James Peltz at the Los Angeles Times, comes thanks to a growing contingent of Amazon workers "calling for the company to embrace the mantle of higher corporate responsibility and help combat the perils of climate change." The net-zero date comes 10 years ahead of the timeline envisioned in the Paris Agreement. But this commitment — and Amazon's plan to order 100,000 electric-power delivery trucks — may still not be sufficient to satisfy the workers who've led increasing scrutiny of Amazon's environmental footprint. Unfortunately, the announcements by a few of the world's biggest companies "won't change the underlying trend of global carbon emissions," said Ben Geman at Axios. A report from the NewClimate Institute analyzed thousands of these corporate climate pledges and found that if carried out by 2030, "subnational" climate plans from cities and corporations could cut greenhouse gas emissions by up 2 gigatons per year. "That's roughly equivalent to Canada and Japan's combined emissions in 2016." But that's only a small fraction of the savings needed to mitigate climate change. It's also proving hard to take companies at their word on the environment, said Brian Merchant at Gizmodo. In 2014, Amazon announced plans to "power all of its operations with clean energy," and did make some strides bankrolling solar plants and wind farms. Five years later, "Amazon is running at only 40 percent renewable energy." It's encouraging that Bezos is responding to employee activism, but "the fact that Amazon produced nothing resembling a detailed road map to its 100 percent clean energy goal" is a red flag.
9-28-19 Greta Thunberg's prosperous future
The activist is going to live on a prosperous, high-energy planet. And it's going to be fantastic. Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist from Sweden, is right to be passionate about climate change, maybe even petrified. Right-wing populists mock her angry tears, but she's a lot closer to the truth than those who dismiss climate change as a hoax cooked up by big-government loving progressives or the Chinese Communist Party — or maybe both. Humanity is doing something new to the atmosphere, and the results could be pretty bad. Trying to quantify just how bad was the life's work of Harvard University economist Marvin Weitzman, who died last month. Climate change, Weitzman wrote in a 2009 paper, is characterized by "deep structural uncertainty in the science" and thus the "probability of a disastrous collapse of planetary welfare from too much CO2" is both ''non-negligible" and ''not objectively knowable." But there's no problem that probably can't be made worse through a wrong-headed response. And Thunberg unfortunately reflects the views of some more seasoned environmental activists when she rages at "fairy tales of eternal economic growth." They see technological progress and the supposedly insatiable capitalist need for evermore consumption as the true villains in this dystopian drama. To de-carbonize, we must de-consumerize, de-computerize, and embrace the spirit of Luddism. And the de-growth crowd does have a point. Modern civilization was built by capitalism, which burned plenty of fossil fuel in the process. The tempting conclusion is that more economic growth must mean more carbon, more warming, and a worsening existential crisis for humanity. Except it also matters that capitalism brought much of humanity out of deep poverty and continues to do so today, especially in Asia. And more needs to be done to raise global living standards. We need more growth, which will require energy. And that means we also need more innovative capitalism, not less. We need dynamic economies that produce ambitious entrepreneurs — aided by far more government-funded basic research — to help generate next-generation solar and nuclear as well technologies that suck carbon from the atmosphere. Eternal economic growth is the enabler of dreams, not their destroyer.
9-28-19 Climate change: Greta Thunberg calls out the 'haters'
Greta Thunberg is angry, and not just about climate change. "The haters are as active as ever", the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist posted on social media on Thursday, "going after me, my looks, my clothes, my behaviour and my differences". Anything, she says, rather than talk about the climate crisis. It hasn't stopped her from campaigning. On Friday, she led another of her climate strikes, heading up a huge demonstration in Montreal, demanding international aviation does more to cut its carbon footprint. But she is clearly very annoyed, accusing critics of "crossing every line to avert the focus" with, what she calls, lies and conspiracy theories. Of course, the attention isn't surprising. Over the past year, Greta Thunberg has arguably done more to galvanise global action on climate than any other single individual. And there is no question the unnerving power of her rhetoric comes in part from the fact that she is so young. A key reason her "How dare you!" message hit home so hard in the UN this week was because she seemed so jarringly out of place in the air-conditioned formality of the UN's New York HQ. It is unusual for young people to hold the adult world to account so forcefully and so publicly and some people clearly don't like it. Others have been more offensive, claiming she's being manipulated by sinister forces. The UK newspaper The Sun has suggested these include "energy giants and pushy celebrity parents - including a fame-hungry mum who once appeared on Eurovision". Or how about this: Thunberg is "the deeply disturbed messiah of the global warming movement", according to one Australian newspaper. "I have never seen a girl so young and with so many mental disorders treated by so many adults as a guru," wrote the columnist Andrew Bolt in the Herald Sun. So, is Greta Thunberg the dour, vulnerable child with mental health issues that her critics present her as? And, having met her, the idea that she was somehow persuaded by someone to take up the climate issue is fanciful. Those close to her confirm that she writes all her speeches. She told me she planned to use the two-week trip across the Atlantic to figure out what she was going to say at the UN Climate Summit. "I will try and communicate the urgency and say that they are the ones in charge now. Show leadership!" she said. She certainly did that on Monday when she accused world leaders of "stealing my dreams and my childhood", and warned them that "the eyes of all future generations are upon you. And, if you choose to fail us, I say: 'We will never forgive you'". Understandably, Thunberg particularly resents her mental capacity being called into question. "Being different is not an illness and the current, best available science is not opinions - it's facts", she said this week.
9-28-19 Hundreds of thousands join Canada climate strikes
Hundreds of thousands of people have joined climate strike marches across Canada, with almost 100 events planned in cities and towns. Protesters are taking part in the global climate strike movement, which has seen people around the world take to the streets. The movement wants world leaders to adopt ambitious climate change policy. Initial school strikes were inspired by Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg's "Fridays for Future" movement. The 16-year-old - who on Monday chastised world leaders at the United Nations over their failure to do more - spoke in the eastern city of Montreal at the start of strikes in the city on Friday. "It is very moving to see everyone, everyone who is so passionate to march and strike," she told reporters. "It is a very good day, I would say." Organisers say half a million people gathered in Montreal alone. Officials told local media the number was closer to 315,000. These figures place the Montreal event among some of the most attended environmental marches in history. The September 2014 People's Climate March in New York attracted at least 310,000. During her visit, Ms Thunberg will receive the key to the city from Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante. Schools, colleges and universities suspended all or some classes for the day, and the city government and some businesses have encouraged staff to take the day off. City public transit is also free for the event. The march was mostly peaceful, though a man was tackled by police and arrested after approaching Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Léa Ilardo, 21, a university student helping to organise the march, told the BBC she hopes it serves as a demonstration of how important it is to take climate action. "Why should we study or work when the survival of humanity and the planet is called into question?" she said. Friday's march attracted demonstrators of all ages. Ron and Sue Alward, both in their 70s, activists for decades, said popular interest in environmental issues "waxes and wanes depending on some unsuspected event, like say, Greta [Thunberg]". But Mrs Alward said that the real problem remains: "How do we get the politicians on board? The whole system needs to change".
9-28-19 Is Trudeau doing enough on climate change?
For the first time in more than a decade, climate change is at the forefront of a federal election campaign in Canada. Can Justin Trudeau again win the heart of environmentally minded voters? Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg had words for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau: - the Canadian Prime Minister is "obviously not doing enough" on climate change. The 16-year-old schoolgirl has earned a reputation for speaking truth to power - but Mr Trudeau nonetheless chose to meet her on Friday before she led the climate strike march in Montreal. "I agree with her entirely," said Mr Trudeau later. " We need to do more." The Liberal leader has been laying out increasingly ambitious climate policies this week on the federal campaign trail - though they lacked key details on how they would be achieved - from a commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 to a vow to plant two billion trees over the next decade. It's not the first time Ms Thunberg expressed frustration at Canada's climate policies. In June, parliamentarians passed a motion put forward by the Liberal environment minister declaring a national climate emergency. The next day, the Liberal government approved the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. On Twitter, Ms Thunberg called it "shameful". On the campaign trail, his political opponents also weighed in on Mr Trudeau's environmental record. "Justin Trudeau is protesting his own government's record of failure," retorted Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, referring to the Liberal leader's participation in the Montreal climate march. The Green Party dismissed the new Liberal goals as "greenwashing". Mr Trudeau says if re-elected on 21 October, his government "will not only meet our 2030 targets, but exceed them". This federal election is the first in over a decade in Canada where climate has been at the forefront - and it's taking place amid renewed international pressure on world leaders to act.
9-27-19 Greta Thunberg: Prophet or puppet?
Less than a year ago, said David Wallace-Wells in NYMag.com, Greta Thunberg was “an unknown, awkward, nearly friendless 15-year-old” who spent her Fridays alone on the steps of the Swedish parliament, protesting her government’s lack of action on climate change. Today she commands a “global army of teenage activists numbered in the millions,” and with her searing address to the United Nations this week, the attention of the world. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth,” an irate Thunberg told delegates. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you, and if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.” Thunberg’s message is hardly a new one, said Barbie Nadeau in TheDailyBeast.com; she’s simply relaying the scientific consensus that only drastic cuts in global carbon emissions can stave off climate disaster. But something about her is resonating: Millions of young people turned out in more than 150 countries for last week’s Thunberg-inspired climate strikes. Whether it’s her youth, her uncompromising rhetoric, or her personal integrity (she sailed to New York in a zero-carbon yacht), Greta Thunberg may be just “the climate heroine we need” to make us finally take action. Thunberg’s nobody’s puppet, said Rebecca Onion in Slate.com. She’s a self-radicalized climate activist who devours every word of U.N. climate reports and shamed her own parents into giving up air travel and meat. As for her Asperger’s, she calls it “my superpower,” the source of her incredible focus. Thunberg’s neurology means that she doesn’t have the “soothing periods of denial” most of us retreat into, and she’s responded to her anxiety in a healthy way—with astonishingly focused and effective activism. It’s one thing for an environmentalist to warn about the world we’ve leaving for our children, said Jen Psaki in CNN.com. Thunberg is one of those children, giving “a face and a voice to the generation who will suffer.”
9-27-19 U.S. teenagers
Asked how they feel about climate change, 57% of U.S. teenagers say they feel afraid, 52% feel angry, and 54% feel motivated to fight it. Just 29% feel optimistic.
9-27-19 Three Mile Island: Are nuclear plants necessary?
When the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant closed last week, it marked the end of an era, said Ledyard King in USA Today. On March 28, 1979, two pumps and a valve in Unit 2 of the Pennsylvania plant malfunctioned, causing a partial meltdown of the core that led 140,000 nearby residents to flee. Only a small amount of radioactivity was released into the atmosphere, and nobody died or was hurt. But the accident occurred almost simultaneously with the release of the film The China Syndrome, which depicts a major nuclear plant disaster, and the panic caused by Three Mile Island put the industry into a long decline. Plans for 39 U.S. plants were scrapped. With carbon-free energy in desperate demand, however, some climate change experts are now arguing that nuclear power might deserve a second chance. If climate change truly is an “existential threat,” said David Roberts in Vox.com, then any alternative to fossil fuels should be on the table. The 59 nuclear plants now operating in 30 states “provide about 20 percent of U.S. electricity.” When plants are shut down, either here or abroad, they’re usually replaced by plants using natural gas or coal, so at the very minimum, existing nukes should remain open “as long as possible.” Since Three Mile Island, there hasn’t been a major accident at a U.S. nuclear plant, said Eric Levitz in NYMag.com. New technology that makes nuclear plants far safer is “too promising to ignore.” There may be risks involved, but the climate crisis calls for a “Hail Mary.”
9-27-19 Air pollution and unborn children
For the first time, scientists have found evidence that soot-like particles breathed in by a pregnant woman can penetrate the placenta and potentially reach a fetus in the womb. Exposure to black carbon, which is emitted from vehicle exhausts and factory smokestacks, has long been associated with increased premature births, miscarriages, and low birth weights. Scientists were unsure exactly why, and some speculated that particles lodged in a mother’s lung might trigger an inflammatory response. But the new study suggests a more direct link. Belgian researchers collected the placentas of 25 nonsmoking women after they had given birth. In all cases, they found black carbon particles on the fetal side of the placenta, which funnels oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s blood supply to the fetus and filters out damaging substances. Particle levels were twice as high in the placentas of mothers who lived near busy roads than in those who did not. The study didn’t examine whether black carbon entered the fetuses, or the negative health effects those particles might cause—something researchers are now looking at. Still, study leader Tim Nawrot, from Hasselt University, tells TheGuardian.com that pregnant women should “avoid busy roads as much as possible.”
9-27-19 Exclusive: Mining of world's largest untapped coal reserves ramps up
The world’s last great untapped coal deposit is about to go up in smoke. Botswana is sitting on vast amounts of coal and is ramping up efforts to mine and export it. But climate scientists warn that to meet the world’s climate goals most of it has to say in the ground. Botswana’s coal was discovered in the 1960s but has remained virtually untouched, largely due to the country’s small population and lack of infrastructure for exports. But several companies are now developing the coalfields and the country’s first commercial consignment will be exported to South Africa this month. Estimating coal deposits is fraught with difficulty, but Botswana’s are large. “Everyone agrees that it has the biggest coal reserves in Africa, though the extent and quality are far from understood,” says Nicola Wagner, at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. One analysis by African Energy in 2012 settled on 28.5 billion tonnes, which would put Botswana in the global top five, and the number one undeveloped resource. “That sounds about right,” says Wagner. Until this year Botswana only had one coal mine, a state-owned enterprise which produces less than a million tonnes a year to generate electricity. But in recent years interest in Botswana’s coal has ramped up as the government seeks to become energy independent and diversify the economy away from diamonds, says Mmilili Mapolelo of the Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation. This month the country’s first privately-run coal mine, the open-cast Masama project near the capital city Gaborone, produced its first saleable coal. Owner Minergy Coal says the mine is producing 70 to 80,000 tonnes of coal a month and will increase to 100,000 tonnes early next year. Other companies are developing mines and the state-owned mine is also planning to quadruple production, says Mapolelo.
9-27-19 World’s largest untapped coal reserve about to go up in smoke
The world’s last great untapped coal deposit is about to go up in smoke. Botswana is sitting on vast amounts of coal and is ramping up efforts to mine and export it. But climate scientists warn that to meet the world’s climate goals most of it has to stay in the ground. Botswana’s coal was discovered in the 1960s but has remained virtually untouched, largely due to the country’s small population and lack of infrastructure for exports. But several companies are now developing the coalfields and the country’s first commercial consignment will be exported to South Africa this month. Estimating coal deposits is fraught with difficulty, but Botswana’s are large. “Everyone agrees that it has the biggest coal reserves in Africa, though the extent and quality are far from understood,” says Nicola Wagner at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. One analysis in 2012 settled on 28.5 billion tonnes, which would put Botswana in the global top five, and the number one undeveloped resource. “That sounds about right,” says Wagner. Until this year Botswana only had one coal mine, a state-owned enterprise which produces less than a million tonnes a year to generate electricity. But in recent years, interest in Botswana’s coal has ramped up as the government seeks to become energy independent and diversify the economy away from diamonds, says Mmilili Mapolelo at the Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation. This month, the country’s first privately run coal mine, the opencast Masama project near the capital city Gaborone, produced its first saleable coal. Owner Minergy Coal says the mine is producing 70,000 to 80,000 tonnes of coal a month and will increase to 100,000 tonnes early next year. Other companies are developing mines and the state-owned mine is also planning to quadruple production, says Mapolelo.
9-27-19 Brazil environment: Vast oil spill hits dozens of beaches
Brazilian officials are investigating the source of a vast oil spill that has hit dozens of beaches along the country's north-eastern coast. Analysis showed the oil found was of a type not produced in Brazil, the environmental agency Ibama said. There is no evidence that fish and shellfish have been contaminated but at least six sea turtles and a seabird have been found dead. A clean-up operation is under way in the areas affected. The spill, first detected on 2 September, spans over 1,500km (932 miles) and has been detected in 105 locations in eight states, affecting wildlife and popular beaches including Praia do Futuro in Ceará, and Maragogi, in Alagoas. Molecular analysis of the oil by Brazil's state-run company Petrobras showed the crude oil spilled did not originate in the country, Ibama said in a statement (in Portuguese). The test also determined the oil came from a single source which has not yet been identified. Crude oil is tested before being exported to make sure it follows the standards of the refinery it is being sent to, and can be identified by its chemical elements, Reuters news agency reports. Authorities believe the spill could have been caused by a tanker transporting oil far from the coast. Two oil barrels have been found on two beaches off Sergipe state, local authorities said. Beachgoers and fishermen have been urged to avoid the material. Two sea turtles rescued alive were returned to the sea by beachgoers while another was sent to a rehabilitation centre. The situation was said to be stable in the most-affected state, Rio Grande do Norte, while efforts were now being focused on Maranhão - part of the Amazon rainforest region - where new spills were being reported. "We've never had an accident like this in Brazil... It's the first time we're seeing an accident with an undetermined source affecting so many states," Ibama co-ordinator Fernanda Pirillo was quoted by Agência Brasil news agency as saying. Petrobras said it would deploy some 100 employees in the clean-up effort despite not being involved in the spill.
9-27-19 Hating Greta
July was the hottest month ever recorded. This summer, the sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic retreated to record lows, and Greenland's massive ice sheet lost billions of tons of ice — even in the center, far from the coasts. "The cold, boring interior of Greenland is waking up," said scientist Mike MacFerrin. Seas are rapidly rising. In America's Southwest, a 19-year-long drought is draining the Colorado River and its reservoirs, endangering water supplies to seven states. Climate activist Greta Thunberg's warnings that our planet is careening toward catastrophe may be overly apocalyptic, and her condemnation of adults — "How dare you!" — adolescent in its righteousness. The world, fortunately, will not end in 10 years, or 20. But Thunberg's fear that her generation will inherit a profoundly damaged planet is not a child's bad dream. So why, then, do some people find the 16-year-old Thunberg's missionary zeal so unnerving, and react to her impertinence with such rage and contempt? On Fox News, a pundit this week described Thunberg — who has Asperger's — as "a mentally ill Swedish child." Fox host Laura Ingraham called her U.N. address "chilling" and likened her to Children of the Corn, a movie in which demonic kids kill off the grown-ups. In the National Review, Rich Lowry dismissed Thunberg as a "pawn" who merely parrots what adults have told her. "Kids have nothing interesting to say to us," Lowry said. Nothing? Thunberg doesn't pretend to know what adults should do in response to climate change, but she wants to shame us into doing something. "Listen to the scientists," not me, she says. The scientists say that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current level, our children and grandchildren will suffer unprecedented droughts, floods, wildfires, superstorms, and famines. But human beings are selfish and shortsighted, and the world's discharge of greenhouse gases is actually growing, not declining. That, and not Greta, is what's crazy.
9-27-19 The fight against climate change needs better weapons
Innovation, not an energy diet, is the key to stopping global warming. Every global climate summit to date has featured lots of tough talk but little action. The United Nations confab in New York that is wrapping up is no different. Nor will anything change in the future unless climate change warriors stop insisting that the world go on an energy diet — and start offering cheaper and cleaner energy options that don't require a lifestyle where transcontinental travel means a boat like the one that the 16-year-old Greta Thunberg took from Sweden to deliver her rebuke to world's leaders. Human-caused global warming is real, but activists have to get real. They think that they can spur action by simply exaggerating the urgency of climate change. Thunberg insisted that if drastic action to cut emissions isn't taken now, basically the planet as we know it will cease to exist. Likewise, Green New Dealers like Rep. Alexander Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) have been saying that the planet has an "expiration date." But anyone who has watched Game of Thrones knows that dialing up apocalypse talk alone can't overcome the collective action problem preventing action on climate change. In that drama, Queen Cersei, chooses to free ride rather than join other kingdoms in fighting the forces of Armageddon. Climate change activists are confronting the same problem — and the more they exaggerate the sacrifices required, the more they'll exacerbate it. The 6th Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that preserving the planet as we know it will require keeping the global mean surface temperature at no more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade above the average temperature in the 19th Century before the industrial revolution. This is a more stringent target than that set during the 2015 Paris accords whose goal was to hold the temperature increase to 2 degrees Centigrade. Allowing them to rise more than that would mean planetary change, but not necessarily planetary catastrophe, a distinction that climate warriors refuse to make. Allowing them to rise more than that would mean planetary change and disruptions, to be sure. For example, coral reefs would be damaged, storms may be worse, and Arctic ice may melt in summers — but not necessarily planetary catastrophe with fiercer cyclones and droughts causing mass death, a distinction that climate warriors refuse to make. In order to hold temperature to the 1.5 degrees threshold, the IPCC calculated that the world would have to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 40 to 50 percent by 2030 and completely by 2050. This will mean a total transition from fossil fuels to renewables like wind and solar by 2050, a goal that AOC has whole-heartedly embraced for the United States.
9-27-19 'Alarming' extinction threat to Europe's trees
The conker tree has been put on the official extinction list. Ravaged by moths and disease, the horse chestnut is now classified as vulnerable to extinction. The tree is among more than 400 native European tree species assessed for their risk of extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). About half face disappearing from the natural landscape. Craig Hilton-Taylor, head of the IUCN Red List unit, described the findings as "alarming". "Trees are essential for life on Earth, and European trees in all their diversity are a source of food and shelter for countless animal species such as birds and squirrels, and play a key economic role," he said. The conservation status of most animals in Europe has already been assessed for the inventory of endangered species known as the Red List. Experts are now turning their attention to plants, with an assessment of all 454 tree species native to the continent. The report found: 1. 42% are threatened with extinction (assessed as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered), 2. Among endemic trees - those that don't exist anywhere else on Earth - 58% are threatened. Species highlighted include the horse chestnut, which is declining across Europe, and most of almost 200 trees in the family that includes the rowan and mountain ash. The report identified a wide range of threats, including pests and diseases, competition from invasive plants, deforestation, unsustainable logging, changes in land use and forest fires. Dr Steven Bachman, conservation scientist at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, who was not part of the report, said trees played a critical role in sustaining and enhancing our lives. "This report fills an important knowledge gap on the threat status of European trees, but the results reveal a disturbingly high level of extinction risk that requires urgent and effective conservation action at all levels." A second report found almost half of all Europe's shrub species are threatened with extinction, due to the loss and destruction of Europe's wild areas, as well as agriculture, invasive species and climate change. Luc Bas, director of IUCN's European regional office, said human activities were causing tree population declines across Europe. "This report has shown how dire the situation is for many overlooked, undervalued species that form the backbone of Europe's ecosystems and contribute to a healthy planet."
9-26-19 Our diets must change to halt nature loss, says UN biodiversity chief
Next year is a crunch moment for efforts to stem humanity’s destruction of nature. So far, efforts are failing miserably, with a landmark UN report in May finding that our activities have put a million species at risk of extinction. Fauna and flora are both under threat because governments have failed to deliver on 20 biodiversity targets they agreed nine years ago in Japan, including designating 17 per cent of land as protected areas by 2020, up from less than 10 per cent then. The report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) found more than four-fifths of those targets will be missed. Some countries haven’t even drawn up plans to meet them. It is against this tough backdrop that UN biodiversity chief Cristiana Pa?ca Palmer has to forge a new post-2020 deal at a key summit next February in China, in order to stop the loss of life. The executive secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and former Romanian minister told New Scientist about her hopes and what needs to be done. How important is next year for addressing the biodiversity crisis? It’s a critical year for the planet, not just biodiversity. We are facing, in many respects, a planetary emergency. When we speak about biodiversity, we speak about the infrastructure that supports life here: the fabric, the tissue that is the foundation for our economy, for our livelihood, for our well-being and for our society. Most governments are making limited or no progress towards the 2020 targets. They aren’t doing enough, are they? Well, you’re right. This is one of the lessons learned of this last 10 years. We are making progress in the target of protected areas, that’s target 11. But there are other targets that are a bit more difficult and many of them are addressing the root causes of biodiversity loss, and those are in the economic models. How do we fix that? You know governments alone are not going to be able to solve this problem. There is the private sector, who need the market signals to change direction. And consumers who, through our own consumption choices, can create a demand for products that do not have such a bad impact on nature.
9-26-19 Connecting our dwindling natural habitats could help preserve plant diversity
During a huge, 18-year experiment, linked areas had greater biodiversity than isolated patches An ecological experiment so big it can be seen from space suggests that connecting isolated habitats with natural corridors can help preserve plant diversity. The 18-year-long project revealed that linking fragments of restored longleaf pine savanna by a natural passageway boosted the number of plant species by 14 percent in those patches by the end of the experiment. This increase stems from higher plant colonization rates and lower extinction rates in connected versus unconnected fragments, researchers report in the Sept. 27 Science. “This study shows that corridors can, in principle, have lasting, positive effects on shrinking ecosystems,” says Jens Åström, an ecologist at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research in Trondheim who wasn’t involved in the study. “It’s rare to have ecological experiments viewable from Google Earth,” he says. Across the world, large, intact ecosystems on land are dwindling. If you parachuted into any random stretch of forest, approximately 70 percent of the time you’d land within one kilometer of a forest edge, not far from the modern world. That fragmentation is bad for biodiversity, says Ellen Damschen, an ecologist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “We’ve known for a very long time that habitat loss and fragmentation are the primary drivers of extinction,” she says. What is less clear is how best to preserve what’s left. “Preserving large areas of habitat is hugely important,” Damschen says. “But it’s also really difficult.” If you can’t have one huge forest, perhaps the next best thing is to connect fragments with natural corridors. Such connections could provide conduits for species to colonize a new area and buffer against biodiversity loss by expanding the possible range of species. Plants once isolated to a small patch of forest could, over time, move along a corridor to more fertile ground.
9-25-19 How climate change is already altering oceans and ice, and what’s to come
Seas will continue to rise and glaciers melt even if nations curb greenhouse gas emission. Polar caps quickly losing ice. Chalky coral reefs. Stronger storms that devastate islands and cities, claiming lives and destroying homes. Those aren’t speculations about what our world faces in a warmer future. Those are climate change impacts happening now — and set to worsen, according to a new report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report, a summary of which was released on September 25, is the panel’s first comprehensive update on how human-driven climate change is upsetting Earth’s oceans and frozen regions, or cryosphere. Just how severe things get will depend on whether countries rein in climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions, or continue pumping them into the atmosphere. The report focuses on forecasts for two potential scenarios: One involves curbing carbon emissions to limit global warming to around 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. (The world is already more than halfway there, having warmed by 1.1 degrees C since 1900, according to a report by the World Meteorological Organization published September 22.) In another, high-emissions scenario, pollution continues apace, potentially warming the world by about 4 degrees C. Science News took a look at the report’s predictions for how changes to Earth’s oceans and ice will impact societies and our natural world, along with the latest science on where things stand today. Already, glaciers and ice sheets are shrinking, and some are shrinking fast. The Greenland ice sheet lost an average 278 billion tons of ice per year from 2006 to 2015. That amount of water alone is enough to cause average global sea levels to rise about 0.77 millimeters per year. And on July 31, a record-breaking 57 percent of the sheet showed signs of melting (SN: 8/2/19). Meanwhile, the Antarctic ice sheet lost an average 155 billion tons per year, or roughly enough to raise seas by an average 0.43 millimeters per year (SN: 6/13/18).
9-25-19 IPCC report: Sea levels could be a metre higher by 2100
Extreme sea level events that used to happen once a century will occur every year in many parts of the world by the middle of the century because of global warming, the UN climate science panel has warned. In a wide-ranging report on how oceans, glaciers and ice sheets will react to a warming world, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change hiked upwards its future projections for how much the seas could rise. Ko Barrett of US government agency NOAA says: “Sea level rise and associated impacts threatens the lives and livelihoods of large segments of our population.” The IPCC report, by more than 100 scientists from over 80 countries, examines the state of climate change science on the oceans that cover 71 per cent of the Earth and the 10 per cent of the planet’s land covered by glaciers and ice sheets. “From the tops of high mountains into the depths of the oceans and the polar regions, these parts of our planet are already changing,” says Nerilie Abram of the Australian National University. Arriving just days after the UN climate summit in New York and huge global climate protests, the launch of the report in Monaco should add pressure on world leaders to take stronger action on emissions.Abram says: “We see two very different futures ahead of us. If we are able to take action to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions we can limit how much these parts of the climate system will change in the future, and the impacts on people and ecosystems.” But failure to cut emissions will make it “very difficult” for humans and other species to adapt, she says. In a worst case emissions scenario, a sea level rise of between 61cm and 1.1m is now likely by 2100 – 10 centimetres higher than the IPCC’s last big assessment just six years ago – due to a better understanding of how the Antarctic ice sheet is melting. The rise could be “substantially higher” if Antarctic ice disappears faster, the report says, echoing recent research suggesting a rise of as much as 2m.
9-25-19 IPCC report warns of a bleak future for oceans and frozen regions under climate change
The ocean, while suffering from climate change, may also offer solutions to it. Earth’s oceans and frozen regions are changing alarmingly quickly, scientists warn in the first comprehensive look at how greenhouse gas emissions are altering the planet’s seas and cryosphere. Since 1993, the rate of warming in the oceans has more than doubled, scientists report in a new study by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. Melting of the two great ice sheets blanketing Greenland and West Antarctica is speeding up as well, accelerating sea level rise. And West Antarctica’s glaciers may already be so unstable that they are past the point of no return. “The consequences for nature and humanity are sweeping and severe,” Ko Barrett, IPCC vice-chair and head of research at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said at a news conference September 24. Rising seas are already threatening low-lying coastal areas that today are home to 680 million people, about 10 percent of the world’s population. The Sept. 25 release of a summary of the report coincided with the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City. And it came amidst a surge of global protests, climate strikes and calls for nations around the world to dramatically curb greenhouse gas emissions in hopes of limiting future warming. Such action can’t come too soon, scientists say. Already, warming ocean waters are yielding fewer fish (SN: 2/28/19), and are fueling more intense, rainier tropical storms (SN: 9/28/18). Ocean heat waves are increasing, threatening corals and other sea life (SN: 4/10/18). Greenland (SN: 9/18/19) and the West Antarctic ice sheet (SN: 8/5/19) are rapidly shedding ice, accelerating sea level rise to a rate of 3.5 millimeters per year. And Arctic sea ice continues to dwindle (SN: 3/14/19); minimum sea-ice extent in 2019 tied with 2007 and 2016, according to data released by the National Snow and Ice Data Center on September 23. That’s the second-lowest extent on satellite record, after 2012.
9-25-19 Climate change: UN panel signals red alert on 'Blue Planet'
Climate change is devastating our seas and frozen regions as never before, a major new United Nations report warns. According to a UN panel of scientists, waters are rising, the ice is melting, and species are moving habitat due to human activities. And the loss of permanently frozen lands threatens to unleash even more carbon, hastening the decline. There is some guarded hope that the worst impacts can be avoided, with deep and immediate cuts to carbon emissions. This is the third in a series of special reports that have been produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over the past 12 months. The scientists previously looked at how the world would cope if temperatures rose by 1.5C by the end of this century. They also reported on how the lands of the Earth would be affected by climate change. However, this new study, looking at the impact of rising temperatures on our oceans and frozen regions, is perhaps the most worrying and depressing of the three. In a nutshell, the waters are getting warmer, the world's ice is melting rapidly, and these have implications for almost every living thing on the planet. "The blue planet is in serious danger right now, suffering many insults from many different directions and it's our fault," said Dr Jean-Pierre Gattuso, a co-ordinating lead author of the report. The scientists are "virtually certain" that the global ocean has now warmed without pause since 1970. The waters have soaked up more than 90% of the extra heat generated by humans over the past decades, and the rate at which it has taken up this heat has doubled since 1993. The seas were once rising mainly due to thermal expansion - which refers to the way the volume of water expands when it is heated. The extra energy makes the water molecules move around more, causing them to take up more space. But the IPCC says rising water levels are now being driven principally by the melting of Greenland and Antarctica.
9-25-19 Mont Blanc: Glacier in danger of collapse, experts warn
Italian authorities have closed roads and evacuated mountain huts after experts warned that part of a glacier on Mont Blanc could collapse. About 250,000 cubic metres of ice are in danger of breaking away from the Planpincieux glacier on the Grandes Jorasses peak, officials said. The mayor of the nearby town of Courmayeur said global warming was changing the mountain. The Mont Blanc massif is Western Europe's highest mountain range. It has 11 peaks above 4,000m in France and Italy and attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. On Tuesday, Courmayeur Mayor Stefano Miserocchi signed an order closing roads in the Val Ferret on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, after experts warned that a section of the glacier was sliding at speeds of 50-60cm (16-23in) per day. He said there was no threat to residential areas or tourist facilities but mountain huts in the Rochefort area were being evacuated as a precaution. "These phenomena once again show how the mountain is going through a period of major change due to climate factors and, therefore, it is particularly vulnerable," Mr Miserocchi told Italian media. Experts from the Valle d'Aosta regional government and the Fondazione Montagna Sicura (Safe Mountain Foundation) say it is impossible to predict exactly when the mass of ice might collapse. The Planpincieux glacier has been closely monitored since 2013 in an attempt to establish the frequency with which ice is melting. But authorities warn that there is no "alert system" in place. In one weather-related incident in August 2018, an elderly couple were killed near Planpincieux in Courmayeur when their car was swept from a road and into a valley during a landslide. Hundreds of people were evacuated, some of them by helicopter. Rising global temperatures are causing the melting of mountain glaciers and the retreat of polar ice sheets.
9-25-19 Plastic tea bags shed billions of microplastic particles into the cup
Tea drinkers have been urged to avoid plastic tea bags after tests found that a single bag sheds billions of particles of microplastic into each cup. A Canadian team found that steeping a plastic tea bag at a brewing temperature of 95°C releases around 11.6 billion microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic between 100 nanometres and 5 millimetres in size – into a single cup. That is several orders of magnitude higher than other foods and drinks. “We think that it is a lot when compared to other foods that contain microplastics,” says Nathalie Tufenkji at McGill University. “Table salt, which has a relatively high microplastic content, has been reported to contain approximately 0.005 micrograms plastic per gram salt. A cup of tea contains thousands of times greater mass of plastic, at 16 micrograms per cup.” Tufenkji’s team bought four different tea bags from shops and cafés in Montreal, cut them open and washed them, steeped them in 95°C water and analysed the water with electron microscopes and spectroscopy. A control of uncut tea bags was used to check it wasn’t the cutting that was causing the leaching of microplastics. While microplastics are increasingly found in drinking water, the World Health Organization says there is no evidence of a health risk for humans. To test the potential toxicity of the particles released by plastic tea bags, Tufenkji and her colleagues exposed water fleas to the contaminated water. “The particles did not kill the water fleas, but did cause significant behavioural effects and developmental malformations,” she says. However, she says that more research is needed to understand possible health impacts in humans. In the meantime, Tufenkji suggests New Scientist readers avoid plastic tea bags. “Tea can be purchased in paper tea bags or as loose-leaf tea, which eliminates the need for this single-use plastic packaging.”
9-25-19 Giving nature human rights could be the best way to protect the planet
Rivers, lakes and forests around the world are being recognised as if they were legal persons. It sounds strange, but could it effectively protect the planet? COURTS in Ohio are wrestling with an unusu For several years, Lake Erie has been hit by an annual bloom of toxic algae caused by run-off from surrounding farmland. In some years, the contamination is so bad local people are warned against drinking water from their taps. Existing environmental protections clearly weren’t working. So residents of Toledo, a city at the western end of the lake, took drastic action earlier this year and voted to protect Lake Erie as if it were a person. The legislation gives the lake the right to “exist, flourish and naturally evolve”. But farmers were quick to challenge the law. Giving nature rights is a strategy for protecting the environment that is building steam. Rivers in nations including India and New Zealand now have such rights. In July, Bangladesh became the first country to grant all its rivers – some 700 in total – legal personhood. It may sound like a strange tactic, but could it also be an effective one? The principle of human rights emerged during the 18th century, the idea being that certain fundamental things are allowed of people or owed to them. The 1776 American Declaration of Independence, for example, established a person’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The case for extending legal rights to the environment was first made by University of Southern California law professor Christopher Stone in 1972. But other ways of protecting the environment became more mainstream. Many nations have laws that make it illegal to dump pollution. There are also many areas, such as national parks, where human activities that could damage the environment are tightly regulated.
9-24-19 Thunberg: 'If you choose to fail us we will never forgive you'
Greta Thunberg told world leaders that her generation would never forgive them if they failed to combat climate change. Some 60 world leaders were taking part in the one-day meeting organised by the United Nations. But the famous teenage climate activist admonished those assembled for their lack of action.""These numbers are too uncomfortable, and you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is," she said. (Webmaster's comment: She just rails at those in power. She is beautitful to watch and hear!)
9-24-19 Greta Thunberg: What climate summit achieved after outburst
The UN’s climate summit has closed amidst cautious praise for its achievements, and bitter condemnation for its failures. On the plus side, more than 60 nations announced they were working on or exploring plans to reduce greenhouse gas to virtually zero. And a similar number said they would definitely boost their climate change ambitions by next year. On the minus side, the campaigner Greta Thunberg blasted leaders for what she called inadequate ambition that risked the future of the young. Germany’s pledge, for instance, was described by critics as totally unfit to meet carbon-cutting targets it’s already promised. And scientists will warn on Tuesday of alarming changes in the natural world, including melting ice and sea level rise beyond previous projections. So it’s possible to describe the UN summit as a cup half full, or a cup three-quarters empty. That said, there were very clear signs that around the world people are waking up to the threat of an over-heating climate. India, China and the EU say they will deliver tougher carbon-curbing plans in 2020. Major ports, banks and shipping lines are committing to "a moon shot" of net zero carbon shipping by 2030. Finland aims to become the first industrialised nation to absorb more carbon than it emits. Pakistan, which has planted a billion trees in the last five years, pledged to add 10 billion in the next five. And Greece said it would ban single-use plastics by 2021 and phase out its use of the dirtiest coal by 2028. Critics applauded the efforts but said commitments from major nations were nowhere near what was needed to stabilise the climate. The USA, for instance, was represented by Donald Trump. He wandered in mid-session, briefly took a seat in the audience, checked his watch and sauntered out to attend a rival meeting on religious freedom nearby – all under the furious gaze of Ms Thunberg. She and her colleagues announced they would take law suits against five nations on the grounds that, by jeopardising the climate, they were breaching the rights of children.
9-24-19 Greta Thunberg: You have stolen my childhood with your empty words
The Swedish student Greta Thunberg has accused world leaders of failing her generation by not reining in carbon emissions, and stealing her childhood by uttering “empty words” on climate change. In a passionate and often angry address to the UN climate action summit in New York, the 16-year old said: “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you. You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.” The summit has been called by UN secretary general António Guterres to kickstart plans from countries to rein in their carbon emissions and meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement. Around 60 heads of state are attending the event, which comes after the world’s biggest climate change protest took place across the world last Friday. Thunberg berated them: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is the money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you. For more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away.” The climate campaigner cited work by the UN climate science panel which suggests the world’s remaining ‘carbon budget’ – what can be emitted before Earth is committed to more than 1.5°C of warming – would be blown in eight and a half years.“There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today because these numbers are too uncomfortable. You are still not mature enough to tell it like it is. You are failing us.” She continued: “But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you.” Thunberg’s speech came after a strong attack on the fossil fuel industry by Guterres.
9-24-19 The long-overdue rise of climate radicalism
Finally people are injecting some energy into climate politics with mass civil disobedience Last Friday, people on every continent on Earth participated in one of the biggest coordinated protest marches in history — some 4 million people marched from Berlin to New York to even Antarctica. On Monday the disruptions continued, with multiple people arrested in Washington D.C. for blocking traffic as part of a climate protest. And next month, Extinction Rebellion, the U.K.-based group which was responsible for major demonstrations in London earlier this year, is planning another huge protest. It's an extremely heartening demonstration of the rise of a new generation of climate radicals — young people all over the planet, like Sweden's Greta Thunberg, who are attempting to force political systems around the world to stop dithering and tackle the biggest problem facing human society. An important background to these protests is the fact that even at this late date, the worst of climate change could still be avoided. The technical obstacles are real but surmountable — indeed, the pace of technological advancement (and associated price decreases) for renewable technologies of all kinds have consistently outpaced expert predictions. It would take a gigantic effort to avert catastrophe, but it could be done. No, the major obstacle to climate action is a threefold political problem: first, the massively profitable vested interests in carbon fuels and all the associated downstream users of that energy; second, the worldwide climate denial movement (heavily funded in turn by Big Carbon); and third, the lack of willpower from political moderates. One peculiar aspect of this new climate radicalism compared to previous radical movements is that, on its face at least, it does not demand for a wholesale restructuring of society. Thunberg and company do not demand new constitutional structures, or collective ownership of the means of production, or anything similar — but only that existing major parties live up to their expressed commitment to head off climate change. (The U.S. Republican Party is the only major party in any big country that denies the science outright.)
9-24-19 Climate change: Scientists to report on ocean 'emergency' caused by warming
It will be the clearest declaration yet on how an overheating world is hammering our oceans and frozen regions. Scientists have been meeting in Monaco to finalise a report on the seas and the cryosphere. Released on Wednesday, it will show how the oceans have been a friend, helping us cope with rising temperatures. But it will warn that warming is turning the seas into a huge potential threat to humanity. Researchers from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were encouraged by Prince Albert II and the Monaco government in 2015 to produce a special report on the oceans and cryosphere - the Earth's surface where water is frozen solid. For the past three years, the scientists have been reviewing hundreds of published papers on how climate change affects the seas, the poles and glaciers. Their report will track the flow of water from the frozen tops of mountains to the bottom of the seas, and how this is changing in a warmer world. Over the past few days, they have been trying to agree a short summary of their findings with government representatives that will be published on Wednesday. It will likely detail the growing threat from rising sea levels that could imperil hundreds of millions of people before the end of this century. It will also warn of the threat posed by the growing acidification of the seas, the threats to coral and fisheries and the possibility that warming might melt permafrost, releasing huge amounts of the CO2 gas that's the key to rising temperatures. "At current emissions rates, we are effectively dumping one million tonnes of CO2 into the oceans every hour," said Melissa Wang, a scientist with Greenpeace. "Unless we accelerate efforts to curb carbon emissions and take greater steps to protect our oceans, there will be devastating human, environmental and economic consequences." The oceans are like the big sister that constantly has to bail out her careless younger sibling. Every year, the ocean waters soak up about a quarter of the carbon dioxide emissions that arise from human activities.
9-24-19 Greenbrier Valley floods: Confronting climate change in Trump's coal country
It was the day the UK voted to leave the European Union but nobody cared about that in White Sulphur Springs. On 23 June 2016 the residents of this small West Virginia town were fighting to survive. They had been engulfed by a flash flood after torrential rain described by the US National Weather Service as a "one-in-a-thousand-year" storm. Water, mud and debris coursed down from the steep, thickly-forested slopes of the Appalachian mountains into Greenbrier Valley where the town sits. It smashed into homes and businesses, rupturing gas lines and setting properties ablaze. One video posted on a local news website showed a burning house, ripped from its foundations, floating through the town. By the time it was all over, 23 people across West Virginia were dead, most of them in Greenbrier County. Ronnie Scott's wife, Belinda, was one of them. The 54-year-old was preparing pork chops for dinner when the floodwater hit. Amid the confusion she ended up trapped in the attic while her husband, unaware of her plight, helped to rescue other people. When she told him by telephone that she was trapped, Mr Scott tried to get back to help her. In the chaos, it proved impossible. "It causes nightmares," he tells the BBC, "when you hear people screaming 'please help me.'" As he tried in vain to battle through the mud, "I heard 'kaboom,'" says Mr Scott. The house had exploded. Badly burned, Belinda ended up trapped above the water in a tree which her husband had planted years before. More than three years later Mr Scott breaks down as he describes the moment he saw his wife in the specialist burns unit of a local hospital. "It was really nasty. I ended up on the floor crying," he says. "The 2016 flood in the Greenbrier Valley was absolutely catastrophic," says Professor Nicolas Zegre, director of the Mountain Hydrology Laboratory at West Virginia University (WVU). "Twenty three people killed. Millions of dollars worth of damage. Total disruption of the social system as well as economic system within that area. And incidentally we've had very large storms and floods almost every year since 2016 as well."
9-24-19 Amazon rainforest belongs to Brazil, says Jair Bolsonaro
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has insisted that the Amazon rainforest is his country's sovereign territory. His policies of opening up the area to development have been criticised amid the wildfires raging there. But in an address at the United Nations in New York, he struck a defiant note. "It is a fallacy to say that the Amazon is the heritage of humankind, and a misconception confirmed by scientists to say that our Amazon forests are the lungs of the world," he said. More than 80,000 fires have broken out in the Amazon rainforest so far this year. Experts believe the majority of the fires across Brazil this year were caused by human activity such as farmers and loggers clearing land for crops or grazing. Environmentalists say Mr Bolsonaro's policies have led to an increase in fires this year and that he has encouraged cattle farmers to clear large areas of the rainforest since his election last October.
9-24-19 Climate Change: What is being done around the world to plant trees?
Planting forests bigger than the size of Hong Kong can help tackle climate change. That's according to the United Nations, which has announced plans to plant forests in Asian and African cities to help make them become greener. They say people moving to urban areas contributes to climate change - and will increase in the next 30 years. This move could counter these effects by improving air quality. Trees absorb carbon dioxide which means they can help to stop rising temperatures around the world - and also keep soil moist and reduce the risk of flooding. A recent study suggested that planting trees is "the best climate change solution available today", although not everyone agrees with that specific claim. So, what are countries around the world doing to plant trees? The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) director-general, Qu Dongyu, says the initial plan is to increase the amount of green space in 90 cities in 30 African and Asian countries - a total of up to 500,000 hectares of new urban forests. The FAO says that by 2050, the proportion of people living in cities could increase by almost 70% - mainly in Africa and Asia. This could cause damaging environmental impacts if there is no proper planning. It claims the benefits of its plan could include a reduction in air temperature of up to eight degrees Celsius, and an improvement in air quality by filtering out dust and pollutants. There is an 8,000 km wall of trees being built in Africa - making it the largest living structure on the planet once it's finished. The wall aims to spread across the width of Africa and through more than 20 countries including Senegal, Nigeria and Ethiopia. A decade on from its launch, the wall is currently 15% complete, with 11.4 million trees planted in Senegal alone. In Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, more than 2 million seeds have been planted from over 50 different species of trees.
9-24-19 Beef eating consumers are helping drive Amazon deforestation
BRAZIL’s president Jair Bolsonaro has been called “Captain Chainsaw” for his rhetoric about the need to exploit resources in the Amazon. Many see this as the impetus for the rocketing deforestation and ensuing fires in the rainforest this year. But there is another side to the story. The forest is often burned to make way for cattle ranches, and much of the meat they produce is sold in other countries – Brazil is the world’s biggest exporter of beef. That begs the question: are beef-eaters in countries like the UK and US partly to blame for the rainforest going up in smoke? It turns out the answer could be yes. An investigation of Brazilian beef supply chains by Trase, a partnership of non-governmental organisations, has found that cattle ranching led to the loss of, on average, 5800 square kilometres of forest each year between 2015 and 2017. This estimate was arrived at by cross referencing beef trade information with high-resolution satellite data showing deforestation. A single exporting company, JBS, was linked to more than a third of all the deforestation over the period. It has made a commitment to allow zero deforestation in the Amazon. “The problem is the commitment is only partially implemented and limited in scope,” says Erasmus zu Ermgassen at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, who worked on the Trase analysis. He says that companies tend to check only that their direct suppliers aren’t engaging in deforestation. However, this leaves a blind spot further down the supply chain; those direct suppliers may have got their cattle from other suppliers that use ranches in areas that have been deforested. JBS’s zero deforestation commitment also applies only to the Amazon. That leaves aside the Cerrado, a huge and highly biologically diverse savannah area in Brazil, where JBS also operates. The Trase analysis found a lot of deforestation linked to cattle ranches in this area.
9-24-19 European satellite will reveal Earth's atmosphere in unrivalled detail
The European Space Agency is planning to launch a satellite that will give an unprecedented picture of the atmosphere, and deliver better weather forecasts and climate change projections. Humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions have led to a drop in longwave radiation heading out of the Earth’s atmosphere, trapping energy and warming the planet by more than 1°C since the industrial revolution. Today’s satellites can measure the mid-infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum – where electromagnetic waves have a wavelength of 4-15 microns – but the new satellite’s spectrometer instruments will extend that into the far-infrared, with wavelengths of up to 100 microns, giving the full picture. Hilke Oetjen of ESA says that more than half of outgoing radiation is in the far-infrared, which has barely been observed from space before. Some very limited measurements were performed from satellites until the 1970s but only briefly and in much less detail than the new project.The new Far-infrared Outgoing Radiation Understanding and Monitoring (FORUM) mission should give a much more accurate picture of greenhouse gasses and water vapour in the atmosphere, in turn providing data for better projections of how the world will warm in future. “It will help with improving climate models and will also deliver improved climate monitoring and hence will reduce uncertainty in climate predictions,” says Oetjen. The satellite’s sensors will also help researchers research thin and wispy cirrus clouds, which are poorly understood but that can have a strong warming effect. That information has the potential to help with weather forecasts, Oetjen adds. The mission, which will cost hundreds of millions of Euros, should head into orbit in 2025 or 2026. FORUM is now waiting on approval from ESA directors, who are due to decide on funding in November.
9-24-19 Satellite will gain hi-res view of greenhouse effect
Europe will launch a satellite to obtain a high-resolution view of Earth's greenhouse effect. The Forum mission will carry a spectrometer to sense the far-infrared radiation coming up off the Earth. It's in this long wavelength portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that water vapour and carbon dioxide absorb energy very efficiently, warming the planet in the process. Remarkably, it's not a region that has been mapped extensively before. This means scientists are missing a number of key features in their climate models, including the detailed workings of some of the feedbacks in the planet's atmosphere that amplify or mitigate warming. These omissions would include the behaviour of certain types of cloud. "Satellite missions up until now have mostly measured wavelengths in the mid-infrared - that's shorter than 15 microns," explained Dr Helen Brindley from Imperial College London and the UK National Centre for Earth Observation. "We're now looking to measure longer than 15 microns which has never been done before from space, with very high accuracy and with what we call very high spectral resolution which means we can really see the fingerprints of different gases in the atmosphere, particularly water vapour, and really get an idea of how the energy is changing with time," she told BBC News. Forum is an acronym that stands for Far-infrared Outgoing Radiation Understanding and Monitoring. The satellite concept was selected for development on Tuesday by delegates to the European Space Agency's (Esa) Earth observation programme board at a meeting in Frascati, Italy. It falls in the organisation's Earth Explorer class. These are experimental missions that do novel science in areas of pressing environmental interest. Forum would be the ninth in the series. It is expected to go into orbit on a Vega rocket around 2025 or 2026. The budget is targeted not to exceed €260m (£230m). The project has strong UK scientific support, led from Imperial, but also considerable industrial engagement.
9-24-19 Nasa's IceSat space laser tracks water depths from orbit
Scientists say one of the US space agency's (Nasa) new Earth observers is going to have a transformative impact in an unexpected area. The IceSat-2 laser mission was launched a year ago to measure the shape of Antarctica and Greenland, and to track the thickness of Arctic sea-ice. But early results show a remarkable capability also to sense water depths. IceSat's laser light penetrates up to 40m in the clearest conditions, opening up a raft of new applications. "As much as people think all areas on Earth have been reasonably well mapped, it's really not true when you start looking at shallow water areas," said Dr Christopher Parrish from Oregon State University. "We've got huge data voids from the shoreline out to about 5m water depth. "This hinders our ability to study things like inundation, the effects of major storms, and the changes to coral reef habitat." A project has already started to map the seafloor around low-lying Pacific islands and atolls, which will assist tsunami preparedness for example. The capability should also enable scientists to work out the volumes of inland water bodies to help quantify Earth's global freshwater reserves. IceSat-2 was launched in September 2018 with just the single instrument - a half-tonne green laser called Atlas that fires about 10,000 pulses of light every second. Each of those shots goes down to the Earth and bounces back up on a timescale of just a few milliseconds. The exact time equates to the height of the reflecting surface. Scientists knew they could use this optical "tape measure" to look for elevation changes in Antarctica and Greenland that might indicate melting. Assessing forests was also part of the mission objectives because the laser will reflect off canopies to reveal tree heights. But quite so prominent a role for bathymetry (the mapping of underwater topography) was not expected.
9-23-19 Climate change: UN summit opens without key leaders
Several key world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, are not taking part in a special UN "climate action" summit that has opened in New York. UN Secretary General António Guterres said countries could only speak at the summit if they came with action plans to reduce carbon emissions. Brazil and Saudi Arabia are also among the countries staying away. The summit comes days after several million people took part in a global climate strike led by youth activists. Some of those campaigners, including Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, will address delegates. Ahead of the one-day summit, scientists warned that the signs and impacts of global warming were speeding up. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere between 2015 and 2019 had grown by 20% compared with the previous five years. "We should listen to the loud cry coming from the schoolchildren," said Professor Brian Hoskins, chair of the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, and professor of meteorology at the University of Reading. "There is an emergency - one for action in both rapidly reducing our greenhouse gas emissions towards zero and adapting to the inevitable changes in climate," he said. Opening the summit on Monday, Mr Guterres - who organised the meeting - said the world was "in a deep climate hole" and that urgent action was needed. "Time is running out, but it's not too late," he said. Mr Guterres earlier said he expected "a number of meaningful plans on dramatically reducing emissions during the next decade, and on reaching carbon neutrality by 2050" would be unveiled at the summit. Mr Guterres said he wanted the world to move away from fossil fuels and to stop building new coal-fired power stations after 2020. The special meeting comes ahead of the next international climate negotiations next year. (Webmaster's comment: The UN climate conference is being boycotted by the up and coming autocratic dictatorships in the United States and Brazil.)
9-22-19 Climate change: Impacts 'accelerating' as leaders gather for UN talks
The signs and impacts of global heating are speeding up, the latest science on climate change, published ahead of key UN talks in New York, says. The data, compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), says the five-year period from 2014 to 2019 is the warmest on record. Sea-level rise has accelerated significantly over the same period, as CO2 emissions have hit new highs. The WMO says carbon-cutting efforts have to be intensified immediately. The climate statement is a pull-together of the latest science on the causes and growing impacts of unprecedented levels of warming seen in recent years. Recognising that global temperatures have risen by 1.1 degrees C since 1850, the paper notes they have gone up by 0.2C between 2011 and 2015. This is as a result of burgeoning emissions of carbon, with the amount of the gas going into the atmosphere between 2015 and 2019 growing by 20% compared with the previous five years. Perhaps most worrying of all is the data on sea-level rise. The average rate of rise since 1993 until now is 3.2mm per year. However, from May 2014 to 2019 the rise has increased to 5mm per year. The 10-year period from 2007-2016 saw an average of about 4mm per year. "Sea-level rise has accelerated and we are concerned that an abrupt decline in the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, which will exacerbate future rise," said WMO secretary general Petteri Taalas. "As we have seen this year with tragic effect in the Bahamas and Mozambique, sea-level rise and intense tropical storms led to humanitarian and economic catastrophes." The report also highlights the threats to the oceans, with more than 90% of the excess heat caused by climate change ending up in the waters. The WMO analysis says 2018 had the highest ocean heat content values on record.
9-22-19 Pizol glacier: Swiss hold funeral for ice lost to global warming
A Swiss glacier lost to global warming has been commemorated at a memorial service in the Alps. Dozens of people took part in Sunday's "funeral march" to mark the disappearance of the Pizol glacier. The glacier, in the Glarus Alps of northeastern Switzerland, has shrunk to a tiny fraction of its original size. Scientists say the glacier has lost at least 80% of its volume just since 2006, a trend accelerated by rising global temperatures. As mourners gathered in the Swiss Alps, youth activists and world leaders are in New York to discuss climate change action at the UN. Saturday's UN youth summit came a day after millions of people around the world held a global climate strike, inspired by 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg. Yet despite what action humans take now, a study by Swiss researchers suggests that, by 2050, at least half of Switzerland's glaciers could vanish. The Pizol has diminished to such an extent, "from a scientific perspective it is no longer a glacier", Alessandra Degiacomi, a Swiss climate campaigner, told AFP news agency. Now reduced to just a few frozen lumps, the glacier was to be declared dead at the ceremony, the BBC's Geneva correspondent, Imogen Foulkes, said. Locals, hikers and environmental campaigners, some dressed in black clothes, trekked up the mountain to pay their respects to the glacier's remnants, situated at an altitude of around 2,700m (8,850ft), near the Liechtenstein and Austrian borders. At the ceremony, sombre speeches were to be delivered by a chaplain and scientists and a wreath was to be laid in remembrance of the glacier. The event was organised by the Swiss Association for Climate Protection (SACP), an initiative calling for carbon dioxide emissions in Switzerland to be reduced to zero by 2050. A similar ceremony was held in Iceland last month to commemorate Okjokull, a 700-year-old glacier declared dead in 2014. (Webmaster's comment: Kissing our world goodbye.)
9-21-19 Climate strike: What US children are sacrificing for the cause
Young people poured on to the streets of cities across the world on Friday, to try to force political leaders to act over climate change. But they aren't just leaving it to the politicians - in New York City, activists explained what they were doing in their own lives to help. For more facts on what you can do to help decarbonise the energy system and meet our climate goals, download your your BBC Briefing on energy.
9-21-19 Climate strike: Protests in cities across the world
Millions of people have been protesting across the world, calling for action to tackle climate change. The rallies for "climate strike" day have been led by schoolchildren and was sparked by teenage campaigner Greta Thunberg.
9-21-19 Climate strike: What US children are sacrificing for the cause
Young people poured on to the streets of cities across the world on Friday, to try to force political leaders to act over climate change. But they aren't just leaving it to the politicians - in New York City, activists explained what they were doing in their own lives to help.
9-21-19 Rugby World Cup: Extreme weather warning issued as typhoon approaches Japan
Rugby World Cup organisers have issued an extreme weather warning and closed two fanzones on Saturday as a large and powerful typhoon approaches Japan. The storm is set to hit the island of Hokkaido, but should arrive too late to affect the two matches being played there this weekend - including England v Tonga on Sunday. "The typhoon could bring high winds and heavy rain," World Rugby said. "No match disruption is anticipated at this stage," the statement added. "But we have advised teams of potential disruption to training and team movements as a precautionary measure." England v Tonga will be played indoors at the Sapporo Dome. Fanzones in Kumamoto and Fukuoka have also been temporarily closed as a precaution, organisers said, stressing that typhoons "are a normal occurrence in Japan and the vast majority have a minimal impact on daily life". If a match has to be abandoned during the group stages for whatever reason, it will be awarded as a 0-0 draw.
9-20-19 The day millions marched
That wraps up our coverage of the wave of climate protests that began in Australia this morning before spreading across nearly every corner of the globe to the US West Coast. Millions of young people marched on Friday, from handfuls of demonstrators on Pacific islands to mass rallies in cities like Melbourne, Mumbai, Berlin and New York. The Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, who inspired the protests, called it the biggest climate strike in history. Here's Greta Thunberg speaking to the BBC earlier today about how flabbergasted she was by the scale of the protests. Greta Thunberg continued her speech by talking about the UN climate action summit, which takes place in New York next week. Leaders from around the world will be attending the event. "The eyes of the world will be on them," she said. "We will make them hear us." "We are doing this to wake the leaders up. We are doing this to get them to act. We deserve a safe future and we demand a safe future. Is that really too much to ask? "Right now we are the ones who are making a difference. If no one else will take action then we will. "It should not be that way. We should not be the ones who are fighting for the future. And yet, here we are." She finished her speech on a powerful and optimistic note. "Together and united we are unstoppable. "This is what people power looks like. We will rise to the challenge. We will hold those most responsible for this crisis accountable and we will make the world leaders act. "We can and we will. "And if you belong to that small group of people who feel threatened by us then we have some very bad news for you. "Because this is only the beginning. Change is coming, whether they like it or not." (Webmaster's comment: Notice that it's women leading the way!)
9-20-19 The climate strike kids, in their own words
On Friday, some 100,000 students and adult allies took to the streets of Manhattan to protest the warming planet as part of the global climate strike headed by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg. Clustered beneath banners with witty phrases like "you'll die from old age, we'll die from climate change," "the only trees we should be cutting down are Minecraft trees," and "Smash Mouth warned us," students chanted, sang, and TikTok'ed their way through the revolution. Indeed, for many of the young protesters, the day was more than just a free excused absence from school. When I stopped to ask the students rallying in Foley Square what they wished they could say to their parents, and their parents' generation, about their participation in Friday's strike, the answers ranged from the grimly funny to the profound. "Our great-great-great grandchildren, or something like that, might not be a thing because of global warming and fossil fuels." — Duilin, 11. "Yesterday I was talking with my mom, and my mom said we're the 'saviors,' I guess, I don't know how to phrase that in a way that doesn't sound weird. But that our generation ... will be the generation to hopefully right all the wrongs that were committed in the past. I kind of joked with my mom that that's a lot of pressure to put on us, to be honest. But if they think that way, then I honestly just want them to be supportive ... We are literally the future, and if we don't solve this climate problem then not only my life but all of our lives are actually affected." — Viola, 16. "I think that people don't realize how serious climate change really is and they think of it as a joke. And some people come out here just to hang out. And that helps, but they're not spreading a message. We're just two people, but all these people came out here today to spread just one tiny message, and I still can't believe people don't realize that [climate change] is a real thing." — Xiao, 12. (Webmaster's comment: And many more!)
9-20-19 Climate change: Abandon all hope?
Let’s stop pretending we can stop the “climate apocalypse,” said the novelist Jonathan Franzen in The New Yorker. There is virtually no hope of keeping the global average temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels—the target scientists say we must meet to avoid catastrophic climate change. To achieve that goal, the people of every country on Earth would have to institute “draconian” energy-conservation measures, embrace higher taxes and energy costs, and accept “severe curtailment of their familiar lifestyles.” People don’t like sacrifices, especially for some future common good, and “I don’t see human nature fundamentally changing anytime soon.” It would be more realistic to spend our resources preparing for the disasters of fire, flooding, and famine to come. We must “rethink what it means to have hope.” No matter what Franzen says, “we are not doomed,” said climate scientist Kate Marvel in ScientificAmerican.com. Yes, it’s very likely we’ll shoot past the 2-degree limit, but it’s wrong to suggest that there is some kind of climate threshold after which all hope is lost. “Degrees are a human construct,” and like the proverbial frog, we won’t know exactly when Earth passes the 2-degree mark. We do know, however, “the risk of something terrible increases with the concentration of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.” The fight to reduce emissions could mean the difference between a planet that is uncomfortably warmer and one that is unimaginably, catastrophically different. That’s why Franzen’s climate defeatism is even “more dangerous than denial,” said Bina Venkataraman in The Washington Post. “It will always be worth trying to do more to cut carbon emissions.” Franzen “isn’t quite right” about giving up hope, said Kevin Drum in MotherJones.com, but “he does have a point” about human nature. The best way to fight climate change will be to invest in energy technology to make it cheap, plentiful, and green “instead of fruitlessly pleading with people to use less of it.” Certainly the challenges we face are vast, said Jeet Heer in TheNation?.com. But it’s wrong to assume that society can’t make large-scale changes. “Before the rise of abolitionism in the 18th century, there were many who would argue that slavery was an essential part of human nature” and our economy, and so it “could never be eradicated.” A novelist should have a bigger imagination for what’s possible.
9-20-19 Climate-change deniers
America, home to the highest proportion of climate-change deniers—15 percent—of any developed nation, according to a new YouGov survey. In the runner-up spot is oil-rich Saudi Arabia.
9-20-19 Emissions battle
The Trump administration announced this week that it was revoking California’s right to set auto emissions standards stricter than federal rules. The state’s authority dates to the 1970 Clean Air Act, and 13 states—about one-third of the U.S. auto market—follow California’s tighter rules. The White House has argued that this effectively lets California determine national environmental policy. “Federalism does not mean that one state can dictate standards for the nation,” Environmental Protection Agency head Andrew Wheeler said. The administration has been embroiled in a battle with California over the White House’s efforts to roll back pollution and greenhouse gas rules. Four automakers—Ford, Honda, Volkswagen, and BMW—that agreed to California’s tighter fuel economy standard now face an antitrust inquiry, from the Department of Justice, that Democrats have condemned as politically motivated.
9-20-19 Pollution: Rolling back clean-water rules
The Trump administration has “revealed its grand plan for turbocharging economic growth,” said Catherine Rampell in The Washington Post. “Make drinking water dirty again.” Motivated by the mistaken belief that pro-environment policies must be bad for business, it has scrapped an Obama administration rule that prohibited the dumping of toxic chemicals, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers into the smaller lakes, streams, and wetlands not specifically protected by the 1972 Clean Water Act. Former EPA officials say the repeal will mostly benefit oil and mining companies and developers, who can now fill in wetlands or pollute without a federal permit. The rule change also reverts America “to water-pollution standards from 1986—a year from Trump’s favorite decade,” although “not exactly a high-water mark, so to speak, for environmental protections. The 2015 rule was an indispensable safeguard for the 1 in 3 Americans who rely on streams and surface water for their drinking water, said Ula Chrobak in PopularScience.com. And it’s not as if polluting smaller streams and wetlands won’t harm the larger waterways as well. In 2015, the EPA cited 1,200-plus studies to conclude that the health of smaller streams and wetlands is vital to large, downstream rivers too. “In the Mississippi basin, for example, the pollutants from numerous farms that trickle into small streams and wetlands eventually flow into the river and then into the Gulf of Mexico.” But this is a point that has eluded President Trump, said George Ochenski in Missoulian.com. All he knows is that when he turns on the faucets in Trump Tower, the water flows up 58 floors to his gilded penthouse. But for the rest of us, “water does run downhill—and all of us live downstream” from something.
9-20-19 Stop giving away Florida’s spring water
Nestlé is set to renew its permit to bottle freshwater from one of Florida’s bountiful springs, said Michael Sainato and Chelsea Skojec. This permit “allows Nestlé to take 1 million gallons per day at no cost, with just a one-time $115 application fee.” The arrangement to take millions of gallons from Ginnie Springs is one of many deals that Nestlé has to “take water directly from the source” in Florida. As a result, the largest concentration of freshwater springs in the world is being devastated. Some springs have already dried up, while “others have shown signs of saltwater intrusion and harmful algae blooms.” Florida is not the only state where Nestlé’s favorable bottling arrangements have rankled communities. The company pays Michigan just a $200 annual “administrative fee” to extract millions of gallons of that state’s water too. Meanwhile, residents of Flint “are faced with high bills for poisoned water and have to rely on purchased bottled water.” In California, groups are “battling Nestlé’s water-bottling operation in the San Bernardino National Forest, an area suffering from drought.” At the very least, companies like Nestlé should pay a meaningful tax that reflects the value they’re getting. Or even better, and simpler: Stop issuing extraction permits that let big companies siphon off water from our streams.
9-20-19 Choking on smoke
The smoke from hundreds of wildfires burning across Indonesian Borneo and Sumatra has sickened tens of thousands of people across the region and forced the closure of schools and cancellation of flights. Indonesian farmers set these illegal fires every dry season to burn away peatlands and rain forests to make space for palm oil plantations. But a lack of rainfall earlier this year has allowed the blazes to rage out of control, and the fires are now consuming forests where endangered orangutans live. Some 200 people have been arrested on suspicion of starting fires. President Joko Widodo said the government would seed clouds to induce rainfall but added that “the most important measure is prevention before fires occur.”
9-20-19 Global climate strikes: Here's what's happening on the ground
Hundreds of thousands of adults and children from Sydney to London have taken to the streets today as part of a global strike against governments’ inaction on climate change. Organisers said around 400,000 people had joined protests across Australia, and protests have taken place at over 200 locations in the UK, with tens of thousands marching in London. Although these numbers have not been independently verified. Alarms were set off at 1pm across the UK to mark a “climate alarm”, while Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was inspired by the strikers and told crowds in the UK capital: “I know we can tackle the climate emergency.” A large turn-out is expected later in New York, where Swedish student Greta Thunberg, who kickstarted the school strike movement a year ago, is due to speak to protestors. Around 5000 events are expected globally. In Sydney, students, parents, grandparents, babies in prams and workers poured into the city centre’s The Domain, where there was little room to move in the 80,000-person capacity venue. They expressed anger at the Australian government’s inaction, with many placards criticising ministers’ recent approval of the Adani coal mine and weak carbon emission targets. Yesterday, Australian government member of parliament Craig Kelly told students planning to strike: “Everything you are told is a lie”. He told parliament: “Today’s generation is safer from extreme weather than at any time in human history.” Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also criticised previous school climate strikes, saying children should focus more on learning and less on activism. But the at the protests in Sydney, Ames, aged 9, says: “The adults voted for a prime minister who won’t help the environment and I think the kids didn’t agree with that.” Harry, 10, says: “We don’t have the right to vote, so protesting is our way of voting and saying what we think is right.”
9-20-19 Climate change action: We can't all be Greta, but your choices have a ripple effect
Is individual action pointless in the face of climate change? Let's not beat around the bush: the simple answer has to be "yes". Think about it: what difference does one person forgoing a lamb chop for a lentil bake, deciding to catch the bus rather than take their car, or deciding not to jet off for that autumn getaway in the Balearics make if the other 7,699,999,999 of us humans here on Earth don't do anything? It is a dispiriting conclusion and begs an obvious question, and one that I am sure has already occurred to you: why bother? That's exactly what I asked the 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg when I met her last month. Rather than fly to her climate change meetings in New York, Greta had opted to be whisked across the Atlantic on a racing yacht. You remember the boat, the one with the bright blue plastic poo bucket? "The point", she told me as we bobbed in Plymouth Sound, "is to create an opinion. By stopping flying, you don't only reduce your own carbon footprint but also that sends a signal to other people around you that the climate crisis is a real thing and that helps push a political movement." It's a good answer, and, helps explain why this Swedish teenager with pigtails has captured the world's attention. My riposte was maybe a little rude: "So you're trying to make the rest of us feel guilty?" "No", she replied calmly, and explained she doesn't think it is her job to tell other people how to live their lives. Rather, her convictions must guide her own behaviour. "I don't fly because of the enormous climate impact of aviation per person." She acknowledges that she is a special case. "Many people listen to what I have to say and I appear a lot in media so therefore I influence a lot of people and therefore I have a bigger responsibility because I have a bigger platform." Previously, she's tried attending conferences by video link but it just doesn't make as much of an impression. "I think it will have a bigger impact if I and many other young people are actually there". And judging by the publicity she's getting, she is right.
9-20-19 Climate protest student: 'I'm here to step up and say no more'
Teenager Gina Hale is among the thousands of protesters taking part in a day of climate action. The student, 16, from Brisbane said she felt compelled to protest after learning about the effects of climate change in school. Protests demanding firm political action on climate change have started and are spreading across the world. School students in Asia, the Pacific and Africa have already been taking to the streets, inspired by the young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.
9-20-19 Award for man who stopped a mega-dam and saved Borneo's rainforest
A man who led a successful campaign to stop a mega-dam being built in Borneo's rainforest has been awarded a top environmental prize. Peter Kallang spent years raising awareness of the plans among indigenous communities in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, and the wider world. After a five year campaign the government eventually cancelled the project. Peter has now been honoured with the 2019 Seacology Prize which is awarded to people for protecting island environments.
9-20-19 The cost of subsidising UK wind farms has dropped to an all-time low
The cost of subsidising offshore windfarms has dropped to a record low in the UK. Results of a government auction on Friday show windfarms will be built in 2025 for as little as £39.65 per megawatt hour, a drop of almost a third since the last offshore wind auction in 2017 and two thirds since one held in 2015. The rapid fall led wind power trade body RenewableUK to claim offshore wind is now the cheapest form of energy in the UK. The cost is less than half the controversial amount promised to EDF Energy to deliver Hinkley Point C, a nuclear power station in Somerset that is also due online in 2025. In the auction, companies try to outbid each other to build windfarms. The price starts high, but reduces as each company says they can fulfil the contract for cheaper. The UK government doesn’t actually directly pay for the building or running of the windfarms, but instead guarantees a minimum price households and businesses will pay for the energy generated over a 15 year period. Winning projects include Equinor and SSE’s Dogger Bank extension off the Yorkshire coast, SSE’s Seagreen off the coast of Dundee and Innogy’s Sofia project, also in the Dogger Bank area. Onshore windfarms on the Isle of Lewis and Orkey won contracts too, after ministers partially repealed a ban on onshore wind subsidies. Jonathan Marshall of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit and Gareth Miller of Cornwall Insight both say the new low price is “way below” the £45 to £50 that had been expected by analysts. Windfarms totalling six gigawatts of capacity will be built, enough to power more than seven million homes. However, experts pointed out the figure could have been even higher if the government had not capped the amount of capacity it was willing to back. In a statement, prime minister Boris Johnson said: “It’s great news that millions more homes will be powered by clean energy at record low prices.”
9-20-19 Cut air pollution to fight climate change - UN
Getting countries to cut down greenhouse gases that cause global warming is proving an uphill task. But convincing them to clean their air for public health has been easier - and that could help fight climate change as well, UN officials have told the BBC. They say an international effort to cut down air pollution is showing some promise with regards to warming gases. The global effort to tackle emissions will be debated on Monday at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition was formed by six countries. The United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) hosts the secretariat of the coalition, which was formed in 2012 and today counts more than 100 governments as members. "We have seen that countries are forthcoming to join this initiative as it is about immediate public health," says Jian Liu, Unep's chief scientist. "And it has co-benefits: air quality and the climate." So, can we really tackle both problems with a single effort? While some of the gases tick both boxes, others are air pollutants without a warming effect, and vice versa. When scientists talk about cutting down greenhouse gases that are blamed for warming the planet, they are mainly targeting carbon dioxide (CO2). That is because it amounts to nearly two-thirds of emissions and can stay in the atmosphere for thousands of years. Last year, it reached 411 parts per million (ppm) at Hawaii's Mauna Loa Atmospheric Baseline Observatory, the highest monthly average ever recorded. Some experts say 350ppm is the safe limit while others argue 400ppm should be the reasonable target. Burning of fossil fuels, wood and solid waste leads to CO2 emissions. Some industrial processes and land-use changes, including deforestation, also lead to emission of this major greenhouse gas. But because the world's economy still largely runs on fossil fuels, energy politics has severely hindered progress in CO2 emissions reduction to fight climate change. But scientists say there are other gases that pollute the air and also warm the planet.
9-20-19 Can unions save the environment?
Increasingly, Americans are scared of climate change. Most of us now acknowledge that it's happening, and almost 40 percent call it a "crisis," compared with less than 25 percent of us five years ago. But it's hard to look the issue in the face. Start picturing Miami and Bangladesh underwater, mass extinctions, refugees fleeing the rising tides and encroaching deserts, and you'll probably want to close this tab and find something more pleasant to read.. One reason this stuff is hard to think about is that we just don't know what we, as individuals, can do about the terrifying reality. Eating less meat and turning down the thermostat seem like pathetically inadequate measures — because they are. Our personal actions pale before the enormous carbon footprint of systems outside our control: the coal-burning power plants, forest-destroying industrial agriculture, and smoke-spewing trucks, in the U.S. and around the world. What can any of us do about any of that? For one answer, look to Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, a group of more than 1,000 rallying Amazon employees joining the youth-led Global Climate Strike Friday. The worker-activists — who have a unique point of leverage because they're the key to making Amazon go — have written a short list of demands based on their knowledge of the business. They're calling for it to move to the use of electric vehicles, starting in communities most hurt by pollution, and transition to zero emissions by 2030. They're demanding that Amazon Web Service, the company's huge cloud computing arm, stop enabling faster oil and gas extraction through custom contracts with fossil fuel companies. And they're calling for the company to pull all campaign funds from climate-denying lobbyists and politicians. The idea of workers supporting an environmental goal might come as a shock because, for decades, we've seen "jobs" pitted against "the environment" in political debates. But that narrative — auto worker, coal miner, or pipeline construction worker vs. the tree-hugging liberal — only took hold in the 1980s and '90s, largely due to a successful industry effort to make enemies of these groups. In reality, as labor historian Erick Loomis recently explained at The Washington Post, earlier in the 20th century, timber unions and environmentalists had often been allies. Starting in 1938, the International Woodworkers of America pushed for sustainable forestry practices, arguing that this would allow logging work to continue far into the future. The union's work helped to produce the Wilderness Act of 1964, a key piece of wilderness preservation legislation. And it wasn't just timber workers who tied the needs of workers to the environment. The United Auto Workers was one of the key players opposing water and air pollution in the 1950s and '60s. In 1967, Olga M. Madar, the UAW's vice president, testified before a congressional subcommittee in favor of tighter controls on vehicle air pollution, arguing that auto workers were "first and foremost American citizens and consumers" who had "to breathe the same air and drink and bathe in the same water" as anyone else.
9-20-19 Climate change: Arctic expedition to drift in sea-ice for a year
It's being described as the biggest Arctic science expedition of all time. The German Research Vessel Polarstern is about to head for the far north where it intends to drift in the sea-ice for an entire year. Hundreds of scientists will visit the ship in that time to use it as a base from which to study the climate. The MOSAiC (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate) project is expected to cost about €130m (£120m/$150m). Its scale means it must be an international effort. RV Polarstern will be supported by icebreakers from Russia, Sweden and China. In deep winter, when these vessels can't pierce the floes to reach the German ship, aeroplanes and long-range helicopters will deliver the supplies and relief teams. MOSAiC's objective is to study all aspects of the climate system in the Arctic. Instrument stations will be set up on the ice around the Polarstern, some of them up to 50km away. The ice, the ocean, the atmosphere, even the wildlife - all will be sampled. The year-long investigations are designed to give more certainty to the projections of future change. Prof Markus Rex from Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute in Potsdam is the expedition leader. He said the Arctic was currently warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet but that the climate models were highly uncertain as to how the temperature trends would develop in the coming decades. "We don't have any robust climate predictions for the Arctic and the reason is we don't understand the processes there very well," he explained. "That's because we were never able to observe them year round and certainly not in winter when the ice is at its thickest and we can't break it with our research vessels," he told BBC News. The RV Polarstern is picking up its first tranche of scientists in Tromsø. From the Norwegian port, it will cruise to the Russian side of the Arctic.
9-20-19 We’ve lost 3 billion birds since 1970 in North America
Scientists found profound losses among both rare and common birds. Nearly 3 billion fewer birds exist in North America today than in 1970. While scientists have known for decades that certain kinds of birds have struggled as humans (and bird-gobbling cats) encroach on their habitats, a new comprehensive tally shows the staggering extent of the loss. Nearly 1 in 3 birds — or 29 percent — has vanished in the last half century, researchers report September 19 in Science. “Three billion is a punch in the gut,” says Peter Marra, a conservation biologist at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The loss is widespread, he says, affecting rare and common birds alike. “Our study is a wake-up call. We’re experiencing an ecological crisis.” Looking at the loss of individual birds sets this study apart, says Hillary Young, an ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara who was not involved in the study. “So much of the focus in conservation is on the loss of species,” but individual birds play an important role in ecosystems, pollinating plants, dispersing seeds and controlling pests. “Often it’s the common, abundant birds that keep these ecosystems ticking,” Young says. Some biologists argue that, as rarer birds disappear, more common ones will swoop in and fill their niches. These common birds might be more adaptable, and able to persist as habitat shrinks, keeping the overall numbers of birds stable and basic ecosystem services intact. But without a broad beakcount over many decades, “we just didn’t know for sure,” says Kenneth Rosenberg, an ornithologist at Cornell University. The numbers paint a grim picture: Most habitats and species have experienced tremendous losses, especially migratory birds. Grassland species fared the worst. Some 700 million individual birds across 31 species, including meadowlarks, have vanished since 1970, a 53 percent drop.
9-19-19 The US and Canada have lost three billion birds since 1970
The US and Canada have lost almost 3 billion birds since 1970 due to human activities, in a dramatic decline researchers are calling an “overlooked biodiversity crisis”. This is the first time researchers have attempted to estimate the actual population changes in breeding birds there, and suggests that North America has seen more than a quarter of its birds disappear in recent decades. Kenneth Rosenberg of Cornell University in New York says: “It is our first look at the magnitude of the loss. The only thing we have to compare it with is the estimate of 2 to 3 billion passenger pigeons in North America, which went to zero in less than 100 years.” Rosenberg and colleagues looked at 529 species between 1970 and 2017. They used data from US government bird surveys and citizen science surveys, cross-referenced with records of the biomass of migrating birds from 148 radar stations, to build a model of population estimates. The most common species, such as starlings, have been hit the hardest. More than 90 per cent of the net loss of 2.9 billion birds occurred across just 12 families, including sparrows, warblers and blackbirds. “The big surprise is that the loss was pervasive across common species,” says Rosenberg. Because they are more abundant, common birds are crucial for processes necessary for the normal functioning of ecosystems, such as pollination. Habitat loss and degradation are the biggest drivers of population declines, particularly for grassland birds. The attitude of the US government towards bird protections today is “the worst we’ve seen in a very long time”, says Rosenberg. A key battleground is the interpretation of the US-Canada migratory bird treaty. Author and birder Jonathan Franzen says the paper is alarming but unsurprising. He told New Scientist: “We need to pay a lot more attention to immediate, present-day threats to the natural world – all the more so because, unlike climate change, these threats can be meaningfully addressed at the local and regional level, through achievable conservation actions.”
9-19-19 Bird populations in US and Canada down 3bn in 50 years
Bird populations in Asia and the US are "in crisis", according to two major studies. The first concludes there are three billion fewer birds in the US and Canada today compared to 1970 - a loss of 29% of North America's birds. The second outlines a tipping point in "the Asian songbird crisis": on the island of Java, Indonesia, more birds may now live in cages than in the wild. Scientists hope the findings will serve as a wake-up call. The two studies are published in the journals Science and Biological Conservation. The North America study revealed how many birds were being lost across every type of habitat - from grasslands to coasts to deserts. While it did not directly assess what was driving this, the scientists concluded that, among multiple causes, the major factor was habitat loss driven by human activity. This study, explained lead researcher Dr Ken Rosenberg from the Cornell lab of Ornithology and the American Bird Conservancy, was the first to "run the numbers" on bird populations. "We knew some species were declining," he told BBC News, "but we thought that, while rare birds were disappearing, the more generalist birds - and those better adapted to human landscapes - would be filling in the gaps." The team's calculations were based on bringing together all the bird monitoring in North America for the past 50 years - every major survey carried out across the continent since 1970. "What we saw was this pervasive net loss," Dr Rosenberg said. "And we were pretty startled to see that the more common birds, the everyday backyard birds and generalist species, are suffering some of the biggest losses." That same pattern, he added, is likely to be mirrored in other parts of the world. And the situation in Asia, as the other study has shown, is a particularly striking case of a human-driven extinction crisis.
9-19-19 UN climate summit: Scientists’ messages to world leaders
Next week, around 60 heads of state are expected at a major UN summit designed to spark greater ambition on climate change. As it stands, the emissions-curbing plans of governments will see the world warm by far more than the 1.5°C agreed in Paris in 2015, so the stakes are high. Swedish campaigner Greta Thunberg urged the US Congress this week to “listen to the scientists”. Here’s what 11 of the world’s top climate scientists have to say ahead of the summit. Hannah Cloke, University of Reading, UK: As a scientist, I look at the facts. I examine the evidence. Political leaders have a more difficult job because they often have to make choices that affect many people, without knowing what will happen. This is not one of those occasions. This generation of leaders is the first and only in human history to know the impact we are having on our natural world, while also having a chance to take a different path. Our current direction leads to disaster. History will judge whether our generation took the better option. Peter Stott, Met Office, UK: World leaders should be shocked by the scientific findings I have helped produce over 20 years of research. The climate projections if greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked are terrifying to contemplate. Already, humanity’s emissions are intensifying storms, super-charging heatwaves and destabilising the polar ice sheets. I want world leaders to make me feel optimistic that sustainable development on our planet is possible. But to do so, they are going to have to drive down emissions fast. Time is almost out.Naomi Oreskes, Harvard University: My message to world leaders is that you are not representing your people. In the United States, more than three-quarters of Americans believe that climate change is a major problem or crisis and a majority want strong action. Elsewhere in the world, the desire for action is generally even stronger. Despite all the criticism of scientists – that they don’t communicate clearly and so on – the scientific message has got through. But scientists are not in charge. Governments and business leaders are. The time to act is now. History will judge you harshly if you don’t.
9-19-19 Expanding ice slabs are increasing Greenland’s contribution to sea level rise
Hard layers of frozen meltwater force new melting water directly into the sea. Hidden slabs of frozen meltwater have grown rapidly beneath Greenland’s snowy surface since 2001, scientists say. And these ice slabs are amping up the ice sheet’s contribution to rising seas. By forcing more meltwater to run along the surface and pour directly into the sea, the impermeable slabs could increase Greenland’s contribution to global sea level rise from seven to 74 millimeters by 2100, depending on future greenhouse gas emissions, simulations suggest. So far, additional meltwater runoff due to the slabs has contributed about one millimeter to global sea levels, researchers report in the Sept. 19 Nature. Greenland’s melting, set off by global warming due to higher levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, has increased dramatically in the last few decades. Since 1972, the island has contributed about 14 millimeters to sea level rise, but much of that melting occurred after the turn of the century. Record-breaking summertime melting occurred in 2002, 2007, 2012 and most recently, 2019, says Michael MacFerrin, a glaciologist at the University of Colorado Boulder (SN: 8/2/19). Some of that meltwater refreezes in the wintertime, forming thick, impermeable layers of ice around Greenland’s perimeter that can stretch for tens of kilometers, MacFerrin and colleagues say. The team dubbed the layers “ice slabs” in their new study. Typically, summer meltwater can seep back into the ice sheet, trickling down into porous, partially compacted layers of granular snow called firn. Sometimes, pockets of meltwater within the firn refreeze into small, scattered bodies of hard ice, called ice lenses.
9-19-19 Amazon's Jeff Bezos promises climate-change action
Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos has pledged to make the company carbon neutral and meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement by 2040. More than 15,000 Amazon employees have pledged to stage a "walkout" protest against the company's environmental record, on Friday. It will be the first walkout by staff at Amazon's Seattle headquarters. Organisers have welcomed Mr Bezos's promise but say it does not go far enough. Mr Bezos said he hoped to make the company carbon neutral 10 years earlier than expected. At a press conference in Washington DC, he announced the launch of a climate pledge any company can sign up to. Its aim is to meet the targets set out in the Paris agreement by 2040, 10 years earlier than specified. To meet its pledge, Amazon said it had ordered 100,000 electric delivery vehicles to reduce its fuel consumption. The first will enter service in 2021. As well as its online shopping and delivery operations, Amazon operates vast data centres and cloud computing services. According to the International Energy Agency, data centres were responsible for about 1% of the world's energy use in 2018. And demand for cloud computing is expected to increase. Mr Bezos said 40% of the energy Amazon used was currently from renewable sources but this would rise to 100% by 2030. Amazon will also invest $100m (£80m) to restore forests and wetlands. The company will also measure and report greenhouse gas emissions regularly. "We want to use our scope and our scale to lead the way," said Mr Bezos in a press statement. In June 2017, the Trump administration said the US would withdraw from the Paris climate accord. But Amazon said it would meet the targets set out in the agreement 10 years "ahead of schedule".
9-19-19 Climate change: Rugby World Cup highlights injustice
Ahead of the Rugby World Cup in Japan, a report from Christian Aid highlights what they term the "climate injustice" endured by Pacific island participants. Fiji, Samoa and Tonga face an uncertain future in a warmer world, with rising seas and increased storms. But rich rugby nations like Japan and Australia are blocking aggressive climate action, the study says. Christian Aid says this mirrors the exploitation of the Pacific islands for their best rugby players. The charity says that the Pacific nations are among the countries that have done the least to cause the climate crisis. Carbon emissions per person in Samoa are just 0.7 tonnes every year but the average Australian produces 24 times more, at 16.5 tonnes. According to figures produced by the Climate Action Tracker, which monitors the climate plans of different countries, the three Pacific island nations emit less than 1.8 million tonnes from fossil fuel use between them. For a country like New Zealand the same figure runs to nearly 37 million tonnes. But the islands are now experiencing some of the worst impacts of a changing climate with rising sea levels threatening land and people. The region is likely to see more Category Three and Category Five storms in the coming decades. There are concerns that the movement of people connected to climate change could leave these countries unable to field competitive rugby teams. "As a Pacific island rugby player, tackling the climate crisis is close to my heart," said former Samoan international flanker Jonny Fa'amatuainu, who played for Bath as well as clubs in Wales and Japan. "My grandparents and other families who lived in a village on the coast in Samoa moved inland two years ago because of climate change." "The Pacific islands are the soul of our sport, and we have produced some of the most dynamic and exciting players on the planet. Yet as this report underlines, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji are all facing increased risks from rising sea levels and extreme weather."
9-18-19 Greta Thunberg attends Congressional hearing
Speaking at a congressional hearing, climate activist Greta Thunberg pushed a Republican lawmaker on the issue of climate change. The teenager attended the hearing alongside other young activists.
9-18-19 The school climate strikes this Friday need the support of adults
The school strikes for the climate have energised the climate change fight. People of all ages should heed the call to join in on 20 September, says Alice Bell. IT IS just over a year since Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, frustrated by political inaction on climate change and following Sweden’s hottest summer in more than 250 years, skipped school and sat in front of the Swedish parliament with a handwritten “Skolstrejk för klimatet” (School strike for the climate) sign. Before long, teenagers in other countries were following her lead, building momentum towards the global Fridays for Future school strike movement. They have brought a new energy, bluntness and charisma to the climate debate – and shown spectacular skill at embarrassing politicians. On 20 September, they are asking adults all over the world to join them in showing up on the streets. Whether you are an employee, employer or neither, it’s worth asking what you can do to answer that call. If nothing else, this is a chance to show a positive spirit of intergenerational cooperation on an issue that could be very generationally divisive – and in a world increasingly scarred by such conflict. Climate change is an issue for us all. We should send a clear signal that we know delegating it to the young to sort out will leave it too late. Australia shows how support can be mobilised. It was one of the first places outside Sweden to spark a youth strike. By dint of their nation’s location on the globe, Australians will be some of the first to strike. There, the Not Business As Usual coalition of employers has pledged to support the strike, whether by closing company doors, having a meeting-free day, allowing a longer lunch break to attend protests or just making it clear that teams won’t be penalised for taking a few hours off.
9-18-19 Meltwater from Greenland could raise sea level an extra 7 centimetres
Melting and refreezing is turning the absorbent surface snow of Greenland into solid ice. This means more water is draining straight into the sea instead of soaking into the snow and refreezing deeper down. Now a study suggests that this will cause an extra sea level rise by 2100 of at least a few centimetres. “As a human and a father of three, it’s a little terrifying,” says Michael MacFerrin at the University of Colorado, whose team discovered the effect. The Greenland ice sheet is made of snow. Deeper layers gradually turn to ice, but the surface used to consist almost entirely of porous snow. When parts of it melted, the water sank through the snow and refroze deeper down, forming chunks of ice. Extracted ice cores and radar observations show that surface melting is becoming so common and widespread in Greenland that these bits of ice are getting larger and joining up to form extensive solid slabs. “This process really is transforming the surface of the ice sheet in the interior of Greenland,” says MacFerrin. At present, almost all ice loss from Greenland is a result of glaciers flowing faster into the sea. According to a recent survey of climate scientists, Greenland ice loss alone could add 33 centimetres, or maybe even 100 centimetres, to global sea level by 2100. In parts of Greenland, however, meltwater now runs over the surface of this ice rather than sinking into snow. This was first observed in 2012, when there was extensive surface melting across Greenland. Now computer modelling by MacFerrin’s team suggests that meltwater runoff from the interior could add somewhere between 2 and 7 additional centimetres to sea level by 2100 (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1550-3). That is roughly double previous estimates that don’t take this slab-forming effect into account.
9-18-19 Climate change will boost risk of extreme flooding in northern Europe
Climate change will increase the risk of heavy rainfall and storm surges combining to cause extreme flooding around the UK, Germany and other parts of northern Europe. Coastal communities already face the prospect of a worst-case average sea level rise of about a metre by the end of the century, as temperatures rise. But Emanuele Bevacqua at the University of Reading, UK, and his colleagues found the risk from rising seas may be aggravated further by compound flooding, where heavy rainfall and storm surges occur at the same time to have greater impact. The team came to this conclusion after running simulations and looking at projected changes in storm surges, precipitation and waves. The results don’t account for defences and local topography, but Bevacqua says the potential hazard from compound flooding should still be factored into risk assessments for coastal communities. Today, the greatest risk of such floods in Europe is in the south. If climate change continues unchecked at its current trajectory, however, the probability of compound flooding is projected to increase across northern Europe too. The greater risk is clearest for the UK’s west coast, northern France, the east coast of the North Sea and parts of the Black Sea. Hotspots in the UK are expected to include the Bristol Channel, plus the coast in Devon and Cornwall, although Bevacqua says it is hard to pin down precise risk for very local areas, and this should be seen more as a broader trend for northern Europe.
9-18-19 Climate change: Warming to drive 'robust increase' in UK flooding
Coastal areas in the UK and Northern Europe will experience an increase in "compound flooding" in coming decades say researchers. These events, where storm surges and heavy rainfall combine, will become more common thanks to rising global temperatures. Devon, Cornwall and the Bristol channel may become "hotspots" with events seen more than once every six years. The study is published in the journal Science Advances. Researchers say that floods on the Avon in Bristol in 2014 and in Ravenna in Italy in 2015 are both good examples of compound events that have caused significant losses to people and property. These events are marked by a combination of storm surge and heavy rainfall, sometimes driven by the same low pressure system. Storm surges can be made worse with heavy precipitation but they can also cause trouble by blocking or slowing down the draining of a river into the sea following a period of sustained rainfall. Despite the fact that they often occur at the same time, risk assessment planners generally see the storm surge and rainfall as separate events. This new study uses computer models to asses the current climate, and shows that around 3% of coastal areas experience compound flooding events more than once every six years. At the moment, these are mainly in the Mediterranean, around the Gulf of Valencia in Spain, Algeria, the Gulf of Lyon in France and in southern Turkey. The continent wide analysis suggests that the difficulties posed by compound events will increase in a warmer world, and will move to threaten Northern Europe far more than they do at present. According to the modelling carried out by the team of researchers, "compound flooding is projected to robustly increase along the west coast of Great Britain, Northern France, and along the east and south coast of the North Sea".
9-18-19 Deliberate drowning of Brazil's rainforest is worsening climate change
It isn't just Bolsonaro and the fires. Hydroelectric dams in the Amazon are submerging millions of trees, transforming huge carbon sinks into sources of planet-warming gases. IN BALBINA, a small town in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon, the shoreline of a vast reservoir sparkles blue and a mild wind ruffles the water, lifting small whitecaps. Within a few months, fire will devastate vaste swathes of the forest, some not far from here, but the story I’ve come to investigate lies just below the water’s surface, where millions of trees have been drowned by a hydroelectric dam blocking the Uatumã river. The submerged jungle is no longer sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Instead, the rotting corpses of once-magnificent trees are belching out yet more greenhouse gases. No wonder the Balbina dam is known by experts as “the worst hydroelectric power plant in the world”. And yet its environmental impact is worse than previously thought, as I discovered when I visited the region earlier this year to spend time with climate researchers. Their findings suggest that any dam built in tropical lowlands could be exacerbating the climate crisis, which is particularly alarming now that Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro has promised to extract more of the Amazon’s resources, including hydroelectric power.Completed in 1989, the Balbina dam was controversial from the start. Its construction ensured that an area substantially larger than Greater London was flooded, engulfing territory that belonged to indigenous groups previously decimated by disease and violent confrontations with settlers. The Brazilian government claimed the project would modernise the Amazon. But the dam never achieved its advertised capacity, and over the past decade whatever green credentials it had have been discredited.
9-18-19 People like the idea of a carbon tax - if the money is put to good use
Few countries have a tax on carbon that is high enough to make a difference, at least partly because politicians fear a backlash from citizens. But a survey has shown that such nervousness may be misplaced. A carbon tax is usually applied to companies that extract or import fossil fuels. The costs are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. For instance, natural gas used for heating would be more expensive. Liam Beiser-McGrath at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and his colleagues asked 3000 people in the US about this idea. They found that a majority of people would support a meaningful tax providing the money is either used to fund renewable energy or redistributed back to people, for example as a rebate – an approach often called “tax and dividend”. “It’s more politically feasible than previously thought,” says Beiser-McGrath. It is thought a carbon tax of at least $50 dollars per tonne emitted is needed to make a significant dent in emissions. This would cost the average consumer $720 per year. In the online survey, carried out in February 2018, people were randomly asked about carbon taxes of between $10 and $70 per tonne, which would cost between $144 and $1008 a year. Support for a carbon tax dropped rapidly as the cost rose. But there were also large variations in support depending on what happened to the money. The least popular option was using the revenue to reduce corporate taxes, with fewer than 40 per cent backing this even at $10 a tonne. Using the revenue to fund renewables was the most popular choice: 57 per cent backed such a tax even at $50 a tonne. The tax and dividend was the second most popular option. In a tax and dividend system, people who buy more goods would end up paying more in carbon taxes, but everyone would be given the same amount back, say $720. This means that people who lead greener lifestyles would end up better off overall.
9-18-19 Greta Thunberg to US politicians: 'Sorry, you're not trying hard enough'
Greta Thunberg has told US politicians that they're not doing enough to combat climate change. "I know you are trying, but just not hard enough. Sorry," said the climate activist, who's inspired young people across the world to protest against the impact of global warming. She told the Senate climate task force in Washington DC to "save your praise". "Don't invite us here to just tell us how inspiring we are without actually doing anything about it," she said. The 16-year-old was one of several young activists from around the world invited to address the task force during two days of action and speeches Their aim is to increase support among US lawmakers for the urgent action on climate change, which Greta and others are campaigning for. Senator Ed Markey, who leads the climate team, ignored Greta's advice not to praise her, describing her as a "superpower". "You put a spotlight on this issue in a way that it has never been before. And that is creating a new X factor," he said. Instead of submitting a personal statement, as is usual ahead of a hearing, she sent Congress a major report on global warming along with eight sentences of her own. "I am submitting this report as my testimony because I don't want you to listen to me," she said. "I want you to listen to the scientists. And I want you to unite behind the science. And then I want you to take action." During her visit to the US capital, the teen activist also met former President Barack Obama who called her "one of our planet's greatest advocates". Greta's appearance in front of US politicians comes ahead of planned climate strikes around the world on Friday. There will be 4,638 events in 139 countries, according to the Swedish activist. A further strike is planned for the following Friday. In some places, like Victoria in Australia, students and public workers are being actively encouraged to walk out of school and work.
9-18-19 Special report: How climate change is melting France’s largest glacier
As the UN prepares its report on the fate of the world’s ice, Adam Vaughan visits the dramatically changing landscape of Mer de Glace near Mont Blanc. “IT’S very fast. We are confronted with the reality of the retreat,” says glaciologist Luc Moreau about the rapidly vanishing ice at France’s biggest glacier. We are looking at the unmistakeable fingerprint of climate change as told by the historical photos hanging in a hotel overlooking the Mer de Glace, the “sea of ice” near the Alps’ highest summit, Mont Blanc. About a century ago, women with boaters and parasols sat near the Montenvers train station above the glacier, which then was almost level with a tongue of jagged ice snaking into the distance. Today, visitors are greeted by a slightly sad and largely grey glacier that is about 100 metres lower. From the station, a short trip by cable car takes me to the height where, in 1988, a visitor could descend down three steps to reach the glacier. There are 580 steps down to the glacier now. Of these, 80 were added this year – a stark illustration of the accelerating effects of global warming. The fate of the world’s glaciers will be laid bare by the UN climate science panel on 25 September, just days after research is expected to confirm that the extent of Arctic sea ice this summer reached the second lowest level ever recorded. There are some 170,000 glaciers worldwide covering an area of about 730,000 square kilometres. Monitoring of 500 glaciers globally shows they are retreating across the board and, since 1960, the rate at which they are losing ice has increased. A leaked draft of a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on our planet’s oceans and ice warns that, this century, melting glaciers will “first give too much water and then too little”.
9-18-19 Most people in the UK back limits on flying to tackle climate change
Two-thirds of people in the UK think the amount people fly should be reined in to tackle climate change, polling has found. Amid a backdrop of protests against aviation expansion and the rise of the Swedish flygskam (flight shame) movement, in a poll of 2000 adults, 28.2 per cent said air travel should definitely be limited, with 38.7 per cent saying it should probably be restricted. Just 22.2 per cent felt there was no need for limits, and 10.8 per cent said they did not know. The poll was conducted by YouGov for the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (CAST), an academic research collaboration in the UK. It comes after campaigners were arrested last week for plans to fly drones near Heathrow airport. The Heathrow Pause group says the green light for a third runway at Heathrow is a “dangerous folly” due to its climate impact. Lorraine Whitmarsh at Cardiff University and CAST says that more than two-thirds of people supporting limits on air travel is higher than she expected, and signals a shift in social attitudes. “Just a few years ago when we asked people if they were willing to reduce their flying, most people were negative about that,” she says. She says her research suggests that attitudes are changing due to increased exposure to media coverage of climate change and perceptions that extreme weather events are becoming more common. The polling also found that 48 per cent of people had become more worried about climate change in the past year, up from around a quarter when the question was asked in 2014. Reducing meat consumption was less popular than curtailing flights, with 53 per cent supporting eating less meat to tackle climate change. Whether people will actually do it remains to be seen. A recent years-long study of Europeans found people tend to opt for small climate actions such as driving more efficiently rather than taking fewer long-distance flights.
9-18-19 Air pollution can reach the placenta around a developing baby
A study of women in Belgium found black carbon particles, or soot, within the organ. Breathing in polluted air may send soot far beyond a pregnant woman’s lungs, all the way to the womb surrounding her developing baby. Samples of placenta collected after women in Belgium gave birth revealed soot, or black carbon, embedded within the tissue on the side that faces the baby, researchers report online September 17 in Nature Communications. The amount of black carbon in the placenta correlated with a woman’s air pollution exposure, estimated based on emissions of black carbon near her home. “There’s no doubt that air pollution harms a developing baby,” says Amy Kalkbrenner, an environmental epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee who was not involved in the new work. Mothers who encounter air pollution regularly may have babies born prematurely or with low birth weight (SN: 5/13/15). These developmental problems have been tied to an inflammatory response to air pollution in a mother’s body, including inflammation within the uterus. But the new study, Kalkbrenner says, suggests that “air pollution itself is getting into the developing baby.” The study looked particularly at black carbon, a pollutant emitted in the burning of fossil fuels such as gasoline, diesel and coal. Researchers in Belgium at Hasselt University in Diepenbeek and Katholieke Universiteit Leuven used femtosecond pulsed laser illumination to test the tissue for soot. The technique involves using extremely fast laser bursts — each one-quadrillionth of a second — to excite electrons within the tissue, which then emits light. Different tissues are known to generate certain colors, such as red for collagen and green for placental cells. The black carbon was distinct and released white light.
9-17-19 The myth of energy independence
Attacks on Saudi oil facilities make the case for going green. It looks like the world oil market avoided a worst-case scenario over the weekend. Saturday's drone strikes against Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure may have temporarily knocked out a hefty chunk of the country's production capacity, but by all accounts something close to full production should be restored soon. Still, oil prices jumped roughly 20 percent after the attacks, and remained 10 percent higher as of Monday. That was despite the recent massive boom in U.S. oil production and President Trump's commitment to "American energy dominance." It was a stark reminder that, when it comes to energy sources like oil, coal, and natural gas, there is no hiding from the fluctuations of the global market. Should the worst-case scenario ever arrive, our domestic production, however big, will not protect us. The only way to be truly independent of those risks is to not use those energy sources at all. The basic problem here is fungibility — the fact that a gallon of oil drilled and produced in Russia is just as good as a gallon drilled and produced in the U.S. or anywhere else. The same generally goes for a pound of coal or a cubic foot of natural gas. And while there are plenty of barriers to free trade across the globe — from legal sanctions and tariffs to practical problems of price and infrastructure — consumers of all these energy sources all over the world are generally able to buy from producers all over the world. That means a shock to production anywhere in the world affects prices everywhere else. Even if America currently produces 18 percent of the world's oil, changes to the other 82 percent will still move the prices Americans pay at the pump, for good and ill. That drones were able to temporarily cripple Saudi Arabian production — which currently accounts for 12 percent of the global total — still matters enormously.
9-17-19 BBC Briefing on energy: how do I use it?
Our dual needs to save the planet and power our modern lives have thrown a spotlight on the way we produce and use energy. Bombarded by often contradictory information about energy consumption and the urgency of our climate change goals, people are demanding better explanation of the facts behind the rhetoric. That is why energy has been chosen as the first topic for the BBC Briefing, a mini-series of in-depth, downloadable guides to the big issues of the day. With input from academics, researchers and journalists, the Briefing offers the context and evidence in one place. You can download a copy, or read it in your browser, via the following link. We hope this pilot, examining key national issues in a new, more in-depth way, provides useful and reliable data, research and analysis for you to digest wherever you are. If you'd like some tips on navigating it, scroll down this page. The BBC Briefing has inspired a collection of special reports, features and analysis from across BBC News to help you find out even more. The BBC's director of news and current affairs, Fran Unsworth, says: "In a fast-changing world with increasing polarisation and disinformation, it's hard to understand the big issues of the day, so BBC News is trying a new way to help you make sense of some complex issues. "BBC Briefing online gives you in-depth insight into some of the biggest challenges facing Britain today. This starts with energy - how we can keep the lights on and meet our climate targets. We hope you find it useful." The next BBC Briefings will be on immigration and housing.
9-17-19 The road to clean energy
There is unprecedented consensus that we are headed for a world of extreme weather patterns with devastating consequences for hundreds of millions of people. Can a climate catastrophe be avoided? The government wants the UK to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Is that possible and, if yes, how? It was here, arguably, where the UK’s green revolution began, with an enterprising local farmer, Martin Edwards. “It all started with a storm,” he says. “We lost the roof of the house and my mother said if only we could use the wind rather than be done in by it – that got me thinking.” The next four years were spent shopping for wind turbines in Denmark, tense negotiations with the local council and overcoming a cautious rural community. In 1991, Edwards and his brother opened the UK’s first commercial wind farm. “The locals thought we were fruitcakes,” says Edwards, “but they didn’t object too much – mostly because they didn’t really know what a wind farm would look like. No-one had ever seen one so they didn’t know what they were getting.” The original 10 turbines have since been replaced by four bigger, better, more efficient generators of renewable energy. Eerily beautiful to some, an eyesore to others, they emit a low hum audible only when close up. The turbines seem to turn slowly but Edwards assures me the tips of the blades are moving at over 100mph. There are now more than 10,000 of these modern day white windmills in the UK - 2,000 of them onshore, and 8,000 much bigger versions offshore, and the price of wind energy has plummeted since Edwards installed his first turbines. Wind power has made it possible for the UK to contemplate a zero carbon future. What was once a seemingly impossible dream is now a government commitment for the year 2050. The change in our supply of electricity is extraordinary, according to Emma Pinchbeck from RenewableUK, a not-for-profit renewable energy trade association. “We're in the middle of basically an industrial revolution,” she says. “If you look back 10 years ago when we thought about renewables, we only thought about them as this kind of niche climate change technology and now they're the backbone of the energy system.” In the past two years, the cost of large-scale renewables has halved. In May this year, Britain went just over a week without using electricity generated from burning coal - the first time this had happened since the 1880s. “The first time we had no coal was for only half an hour in 2016, so it's a really rapid shift,” says Pinchbeck.
9-17-19 Are cities as bad for the environment as we think?
Our cities are increasingly under scrutiny over their impact on climate change. But in terms of carbon dioxide - one of the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming - could life away from the UK's big towns be doing more damage? According to the most recent government statistics, the UK's 63 largest towns and cities - defined here as built-up urban areas with 135,000 or more people - account for almost half of all of the country's carbon dioxide (or CO2) emissions. London alone makes up 11% of the total. But are these headline stats masking a more nuanced picture about the role of cities as contributors to climate change? If we look at carbon emissions on a per resident basis, it could be that life in smaller towns, villages and the countryside has a greater impact. The European Commission calculates UK emissions at 5.7 tonnes per person. That ranks the UK as one of the lowest carbon emitters per person among major economies. The US produces 15.7 tonnes per resident, while China - despite being the world's largest CO2 polluter - emits a mid-range 7.7 tonnes per person. UK government statistics for 2017 place the average slightly lower, at 5.3 tonnes per head. All but 10 of our 63 largest towns and cities emit below that average, with Ipswich coming out as the greenest major town in the UK from a climate perspective. It emits three tonnes of CO2 for every resident. Even London, despite valid worries about air quality, has the ninth-lowest carbon emissions per resident at 3.6 tonnes per person. Meanwhile, energy-intensive steel and chemicals industries contribute to the Swansea area - including Neath Port Talbot - and Middlesbrough (combined with Stockton, and Redcar and Cleveland) having the highest carbon emissions per person in the UK, at 22.4 and 12.1 tonnes per head respectively. Examining the sources of carbon emissions helps us understand why cities produce comparatively little CO2.
9-17-19 Wild wheat genetics offer climate hope for food crops
Wild relatives of food crops, such as wheat, host an abundant array of genetic material to help the plants cope with a changing climate. In a study over 28 years showed that populations of wild wheat developed "beneficial mutations" such as a tolerance to temperature increases. Researchers say the results improve our understanding of how plants are responding to a warming world. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "We get some very exciting results," explained lead author Yong-Bi Fu, a research scientist from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. "One of which is that we can demonstrate that over 28 years, and 28 generations, you can see the wild relative of the plant accumulate more genetic mutations, and we found that most of the population is still adaptable." Although the team did find that there were individual specimens in the study that did not survive the conditions associated with a warmer environment, there were others that were able to adapt in such a way that meant they could cope with a warmer world. The study involved 10 populations of emmer wheat in Israel. Dr Fu say that the temperature increase over the three decades amounted to up to two degrees Celsius, which is similar to the increase that the Paris Climate Agreement hopes to limit global average temperatures from rising above pre-industrial levels. "That is really exciting because it means that the population is able to get beneficial mutations," Dr Fu told BBC News. "This mutation is crucial, and we can see that we need a lot of effort to protect and conserve the crop's diversity in the wild, natural population." The team suggested that this insight helped to improve our knowledge of how plants could adapt to future climate change. Dr Fu also highlighted the work of UK scientists who, reporting in Nature Biotechnology, who were developing ways to clone disease-resistance (R) genes from wild relatives in order to engineer broad-spectrum resistance in domesticated crops. He said that a similar approach could be used to clone climate-resistant genes from the plants' wild relatives in order to make our food crops more climate resilient.
9-16-19 Saudi oil attacks: Why does the US hide oil underground?
In the wake of the attacks on key Saudi Arabian oil infrastructure, American officials have been talking about drawing on a huge emergency stash of oil kept in the United States. As oil prices spiked, President Donald Trump tweeted they could use the oil "to keep the markets well-supplied". The oil he was referring to amounts to more than 640 million barrels which are stored in salt caverns beneath the states of Texas and Louisiana. The idea of holding these "strategic reserves" dates back to the 1970s. All members of the International Energy Agency have to hold the equivalent of 90 days' worth of petroleum imports, but the US stockpile is the largest emergency store in the world. US politicians first came up with the idea of an oil stockpile in the early 1970s, after an oil embargo by Middle East nations caused prices to skyrocket around the world. Members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries - including Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia - refused to export oil to the US because it supported Israel in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. The war lasted just three weeks in October that year. But the embargo - which also targeted other countries - lasted until March 1974, causing prices to quadruple worldwide from about $3 to nearly $12 per barrel. Pictures of cars queuing up at petrol pumps in affected nations became some of the defining images of the crisis. The US Congress passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act in 1975. It established the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in the event of another major supply problem. At present, there are four sites where oil is stored: near Freeport and Winnie in Texas, and outside Lake Charles and Baton Rouge in Louisiana. The largest site at Bryan Mound near Freeport has a storage capacity equivalent to 254 million barrels of oil. The reserve's website says that on 13 September there were 644.8 million barrels of oil held in these caves. (Webmaster's comment: Iran had NO MOTIVE to attack the Saudi oil fields and Saudi Arabia has a much stronger military. Saudi Arabia is at war with Yemen and Yemen’s Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the attack, which makes much more sense than Iran attacking them with no motive.)
9-17-19 School strikes are changing the world, says UN climate science advisor
Finnish meteorologist Petteri Taalas is secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization and a climate science advisor to the UN secretary general António Guterres. He will lead the science team at the forthcoming UN Climate Summit in New York that begins on 23 March. Graham Lawton caught up with him in London. What has happened since last year’s report on keeping warming to 1.5 degrees, which warned us that we have to act immediately? We haven’t been able to tackle emissions, they are still growing and consumption of fossil fuels is still growing. But what has happened is the mental attitude has changed, the message has been clearly heard. The public and young people have started demanding action. The private sector is more and more interested in investing in climate-friendly technologies. Sentiment has moved in the right direction, that’s obvious. So is 1.5 degrees possible? It is technically and economically doable, but one has to take account of the political realities. You have to think about what is acceptable to the general public. I’m now living in France and I saw the yellow vest moment when they tried to raise the petrol price a little bit. That is something the policymakers face. If unpopular decisions are made then your next government could be somebody who is not so favourable to climate mitigation.It’s a question of what is politically wise. Is it wiser to talk about 2 degrees, or 1.5? We have recognise that there is a group of countries that are not happy with 1.5 degrees because 2 degrees was already seen as a very ambitious target. If there’s a bunch of countries saying “we don’t care any more because it’s not realistic” – that’s a bit of a backlash.That was a bit of that sentiment in Abu Dhabi in July, where we had a preparatory meeting for the climate summit. There were several countries saying we were happy with 2 degrees but 1.5 is not realistic.
9-16-19 Faster pace of climate change is 'scary', former chief scientist says
Extreme events linked to climate change, such as the heatwave in Europe this year, are occurring sooner than expected, an ex-chief scientist says. Prof Sir David King says he's been scared by the number of extreme events, and he called for the UK to advance its climate targets by 10 years. But the UN's weather chief said using words like “scared” could make young people depressed and anxious. Campaigners argue that people won't act unless they feel fearful. Speaking to the BBC, Prof King, a former chief scientific adviser to the government, said: “It’s appropriate to be scared. We predicted temperatures would rise, but we didn’t foresee these sorts of extreme events we’re getting so soon.” He said the world had changed faster than generally predicted in the fifth assessment report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2014. He referred especially to the loss of land ice and sea ice, and to the weather extremes in which he said warming probably played a role. Several other scientists contacted by the BBC supported his emotive language. The physicist Prof Jo Haigh from Imperial College London said: “David King is right to be scared – I’m scared too." “We do the analysis, we think what’s going to happen, then publish in a very scientific way. "Then we have a human response to that… and it is scary.” Petteri Taalas, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a specialised UN agency, said he fully supported United Nations climate goals, but he criticised radical green campaigners for forecasting the end of the world. It’s the latest chapter in the long debate over how to communicate climate science to the public. Dr Taalas agrees polar ice is melting faster than expected, but he’s concerned that public fear could lead to paralysis – and also to mental health problems amongst the young.
9-16-19 Fires devastating Australia’s east coast have arrived unusually early
Fires devastating Australia’s east coast have arrived uncharacteristically early this year. It is only just spring and so this may be an ominous sign of more trouble to come. At the height of the recent fires, around 140 were burning across eastern Queensland and northeast New South Wales, destroying dozens of homes and forcing thousands to evacuate. Some of the fires stretched hundreds of kilometres. While the number of fires has now shrunk, this could lull people into a false sense of security, says Philip Stewart at the University of Queensland.The latest weather forecasts say the chances of fire are “high” and “very high” across affected areas in the coming days. Australians are being warned that the threat of fire will be higher than normal in most of the country this summer. A change in wind direction or strength could stoke fires or cause them to change direction, says Stewart. “Until fires are completely out it is not really good to say that it’s safe.” A combination of very low humidity, gusty winds and abnormally high temperatures led to the dangerous conditions. Some areas saw temperatures soar to 10 degrees higher than average, according to figures from the Bureau of Meteorology. Some regions are also into their third year of record low rainfalls. The fires have been fuelled by Australia’s eucalypt forests. When humidity is low, the amount of oil in the trees’ leaves increases and they become more flammable.On top of this, several of the fires appear to have been started deliberately, says Paul Read, co-director of the National Centre for Research in Bushfire and Arson. Police are questioning suspects. To better mange the fires, there needs to be a recognition that Australia is a fire prone continent and a return to the controlled burning practiced by indigenous Australians for millennia, says Stewart. “They didn’t just sit back and wait until vegetation was so dry that you had catastrophic fire event as you see now,” he says.
9-16-19 Indonesia haze: Why do forests keep burning?
Almost every year, a smoky haze blankets the South East Asian region - signalling the return of forest fires in Indonesia. For many in this region, grey skies and a lingering acrid smell are not unfamiliar, but 2019 has already brought with it some of the worst haze levels in years. But what causes these fires - and why do Indonesia's forests burn each year? According to Indonesia's national disaster agency, there were 328,724 hectares of land burnt this year from January to August alone. Among the most affected regions were Central, West and South Kalimantan, Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra. But Indonesia's not the only culprit. There have also been cases of open burning in neighbouring Malaysia, though it pales in comparison to Indonesia. As of 14 September, there were 10 hotspots in the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, compared to 627 in Kalimantan, according to the ASEAN specialised meteorological centre. The burning usually peaks from July to October during Indonesia's dry season. Many farmers take advantage of the conditions to clear vegetation for palm oil, pulp and paper plantations using the slash-and-burn method. They often spin out of control and spread into protected forested areas. The problem has accelerated in recent years as more land has been cleared for expanding plantations for the lucrative palm oil trade. The burnt land also becomes drier, which makes it more likely to catch fire the next time there are slash-and-burn clearings. The haze usually measures hundreds of kilometres across. It has spread to Malaysia, Singapore, the south of Thailand and the Philippines, causing a significant deterioration in air quality. In Malaysia, hundreds of schools have been forced to close after the haze reached "very unhealthy levels" of 208 on the Air Pollutants Index (API) in several districts.
9-16-19 2019 ozone hole could be smallest in three decades
The ozone hole over Antarctica this year could be one of the smallest seen in three decades, say scientists. Observations of the gas's depletion high in the atmosphere demonstrate that it hasn't opened up in 2019 in the way it normally does. The EU's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) says it's currently well under half the area usually seen in mid-September. The hole is also off-centre and far from the pole, the EU agency adds. CAMS' experts, who are based in Reading, UK, are projecting stable levels of ozone or a modest increase in the coming days. Ozone is a molecule that is composed of three oxygen atoms. It is responsible for filtering out harmful ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. The gas is constantly being made and destroyed in the stratosphere, about 20-30km above the Earth. In an unpolluted atmosphere, this cycle of production and decomposition is in equilibrium. But chlorine and bromine-containing chemicals released by human activity have unbalanced the process, resulting in a loss of ozone that is at its greatest in the Antarctic spring in September/October. The Montreal Protocol signed by governments in 1987 has sought to recover the situation by banning the production and use of the most damaging chemicals. This past week has seen the area of deep thinning cover just over five million square km. This time last year it was beyond 20 million square km, although in 2017 it was just above 10 million sq km. In other words, there is a good degree of variability from year to year. The conditions for thinning occur annually just as the Antarctic emerges from Winter. The reactions that work to destroy ozone in the cold stratosphere are initiated by the return of sunshine at high latitudes.
9-15-19 This Antarctic robot can provide insight on climate change and life beyond Earth
Meet Icefin. ritney Schmidt, an astrobiologist, sat in a small yellow tent, carefully studying the handful of monitors set up before her. They displayed a live-stream of telemetry data, sonar readings, and a video feed from a robotic vehicle exploring the oceanic underbelly of Antarctica's ice near the United States' McMurdo Station. The exploration is part of an effort to ultimately search for life in the alien ocean of Europa, one of Jupiter's moons. The mission will also help us understand the physics of melting glaciers, and prepare for sea-level rise. Europa has an ocean that covers the whole globe and is capped by a thick layer of ice. It is one of the spots humans are most likely to find life beyond Earth. The ice-covered ocean in Antarctica is an apt testing ground for technology we might one day send to Europa. Schmidt and her Georgia Tech team launched the robotic vehicle, named Icefin, through a hole in the 12-foot-thick layer of ice covering the ocean below. The video feed shows a wall of ice stretching down into the abyss. This is the underside of the Erebus Glacier Tongue, a glacier that flows off the nearby land, plows into the frozen ocean, and plunges 1,000 feet down into the water. Every once in a while, some of Antarctica's wondrous marine life swims past. It's an otherworldly environment — and that is exactly the point. "Europa is kind of the reason I get up in the morning," Schmidt said. "Because I'm interested in the question of, 'is there life beyond Earth?'" But Icefin itself will not go to Europa, and any robotic mission to the Jovian moon is probably decades away. While Icefin's great-great-grandchild may become an interplanetary explorer, Icefin itself is tackling another, more immediate, scientific challenge: understanding melting glaciers. Glaciers around the world are disappearing at an unprecedented rate. According to a recent study, 335 billion tons of glacial ice is lost each year, amounting to about 0.04 inches of sea-level rise per year. Just in August, Iceland held a funeral for the first of its glaciers to be lost to global warming. Now, as the ocean warms, its role in melting glaciers from below is the subject of intense research. Schmidt directs Icefin toward a critical juncture underneath the glacier: the grounding line. This is where the glacier lifts off the seabed and starts to float on the ocean. "That's the most dynamic part of the climate system," Schmidt said. "As the ocean warms up, it's eroding that place. And then the grounding line moves back over time and that can make the whole thing unstable." But the grounding line is also deep below the ice, far out of reach of divers and boats. This robot, however, even if still wearing its space-explorer training wheels, is able to reach it.
9-15-19 Microplastics may stop hermit crabs from choosing the best home
Microplastics appear to disrupt the ability of hermit crabs to choose a good home, suggesting pollution in the oceans may harm the species. Up to 10 per cent of the plastics we use end up in the oceans. Much of it breaks down into tiny particles, known as microplastics, which are bad news for marine life. When ingested by filter feeders, fish and other organisms, they can have detrimental effects on health and reproductive success. But few studies have explored how microplastics might influence behaviour. A key decision for hermit crabs is choosing when to abandon their shell and move into a new, bigger one. If microplastics in the water influence the crabs’ cognition you would expect them to take longer to move into a better shell and change shells less often. To test this idea, Andrew Crump and colleagues at Queen’s University Belfast took 64 hermit crabs from around the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland, half of which were left for five days in a 4 litre tank containing 50 grams of microplastics. The team removed each crab from its shell, gave it one that was 50 per cent too small, and placed it in an observation chamber with an empty shell of just the right size. Crabs exposed to the microplastics were around half as likely to enter the new shell after 45 minutes as those not exposed. “Maybe microplastics reduced their ability to sense the shell,” says Crump, who presented the research at a conference of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour in Konstanz, Germany, last month. The impact in the wild may not be as drastic as seen in the experiments, as the concentration of microplastics Crump and his team used was much higher than in the natural environment.
9-14-19 New storm to hit Bahamas two weeks after Hurricane Dorian
A new storm is threatening the Bahamas just two weeks after Hurricane Dorian tore through part of the islands. Tropical Depression Nine strengthened into Tropical Storm Humberto on Friday night. It is currently moving towards Great Abaco, one of the islands worst hit by Dorian. About 1,300 people are missing in the Bahamas following the hurricane, while at least 15,000 are in need of shelter, food and medical care. At 09:00GMT, the US National Hurricane Center said the storm was about 70 miles (110km) east of Great Abaco, with maximum sustained winds of 40mph (65km/h). It was moving north-west at about 7mph and was expected to pass near or over the north-western Bahamas on Saturday and be off the Florida coast later in the weekend. Humberto is expected to bring rainfall of up to 15cm (6in) in some areas of the Bahamas, although no significant storm surge is threatened. The BBC Weather service has advised that Humberto could strengthen into another hurricane over the coming days, although this is not likely to happen until it has passed over the Bahamas. Carl Smith, from the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency (Nema), told reporters the storm could hinder the ongoing search for missing people, as well as efforts to get essential supplies to Grand Bahama and Great Abaco - the worst hit islands. "I hope it does not disrupt it," he said. "We have taken precautionary measures to address the potential impact that we may encounter." Hurricane Dorian battered the Bahamas earlier this month, killing at least 50 people. As the clean-up operation continues, the death toll is expected to rise. Dorian was packing sustained winds of 295km/h (185mph) when it made landfall at Elbow Cay on the Abacos on 1 September. It equalled the highest winds ever recorded for a hurricane at landfall when it struck the Abaco Islands.
9-13-19 Climate change: Electrical industry's 'dirty secret' boosts warming
It's the most powerful greenhouse gas known to humanity, and emissions have risen rapidly in recent years, the BBC has learned. Sulphur hexafluoride, or SF6, is widely used in the electrical industry to prevent short circuits and accidents. But leaks of the little-known gas in the UK and the rest of the EU in 2017 were the equivalent of putting an extra 1.3 million cars on the road. Levels are rising as an unintended consequence of the green energy boom. Cheap and non-flammable, SF6 is a colourless, odourless, synthetic gas. It makes a hugely effective insulating material for medium and high-voltage electrical installations. It is widely used across the industry, from large power stations to wind turbines to electrical sub-stations in towns and cities. It prevents electrical accidents and fires. However, the significant downside to using the gas is that it has the highest global warming potential of any known substance. It is 23,500 times more warming than carbon dioxide (CO2). Just one kilogram of SF6 warms the Earth to the same extent as 24 people flying London to New York return. It also persists in the atmosphere for a long time, warming the Earth for at least 1,000 years. The way we make electricity around the world is changing rapidly. Where once large coal-fired power stations brought energy to millions, the drive to combat climate change means they are now being replaced by mixed sources of power including wind, solar and gas. This has resulted in many more connections to the electricity grid, and a rise in the number of electrical switches and circuit breakers that are needed to prevent serious accidents. Collectively, these safety devices are called switchgear. The vast majority use SF6 gas to quench arcs and stop short circuits. "As renewable projects are getting bigger and bigger, we have had to use it within wind turbines specifically," said Costa Pirgousis, an engineer with Scottish Power Renewables on its new East Anglia wind farm, which doesn't use SF6 in turbines.
9-13-19 Climate change may be throwing coral sex out of sync
Spawning is out of whack for at least three species in the Red Sea, researchers say. Bad timing for coral sex might be an underappreciated threat of climate change. Spawning is out of sync for at least three widespread coral species in the Red Sea, says Tom Shlesinger, a marine biologist at Tel Aviv University. And warmer seawater temperatures could be playing a role. Records from the 1980s suggest that whole swaths of corals from particular species typically let colorful egg-sperm bundles float out of their tiny mouths and up into the water on the same few nights a year, Shlesinger says. Released in a big synchronized cloud, the sex cells separate from one another, gaining a chance at fertilization during the brief time that they survive on their own in seawater. It’s “a wonder of nature,” he says. But after four years of recent monitoring, Shlesinger argues that three of the five species studied no longer tightly synchronize their species-wide gamete releases. And few if any new colonies of these kinds of corals are showing up in recent surveys, so the species might dwindle away in the region, Shlesinger and Yossi Loya, also at Tel Aviv University, warn in the Sept. 6 Science. Shlesinger didn’t set out to compare local spawning synchrony. But “it’s something that kind of grabbed me,” he says. After realizing some corals weren’t spawning when expected, “I started going to the sea at night.” By the second year of his questing, he was snorkeling or diving several hours a night during spawning months. Some 150 species of corals mingle in the long, narrow gulf of the Red Sea that stretches northeast past Eilat in Israel and Aqaba in Jordan. Unlike the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, where more than 100 coral species can release their gametes together on the same night, the Red Sea’s corals spawn one species or a few at a time on their own special nights.
9-13-19 Plastic packaging: How are supermarkets doing?
Bunches of bananas wrapped in plastic. A pre-peeled orange in a plastic box. Shrink-wrapped cucumbers. Over-packaged food has been bothering shoppers for years and supermarkets have responded by looking for alternatives to all that plastic. But now MPs are saying that the UK needs to move away from all single-use packaging - not just plastic. Using aluminium, glass, paper or compostable plastics as an alternative also has an environmental impact, potentially pushing up energy use and carbon emissions, says a report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. It says reuse and refill schemes could be part of the solution and wants the government to consider whether official intervention could encourage more shops to offer refillable options. Here we look at how six leading supermarkets are tackling the packaging problem.
9-13-19 Why we are worse than Brazil
Everyone has been shrieking about Brazil’s poor stewardship of the burning Amazon, said Arno Kopecky, but Canada deserves just as much ire. This country has the second-largest intact forest on Earth after the Amazon, and we are wantonly destroying it. The boreal, as it’s called, has been emitting more carbon than it absorbs since 2002. That’s partly because our logging industry chops down 990,000 acres of it each year, “mostly to supply the U.S. with Kleenex and toilet paper.” Worldwide, we place third for loss of intact forests, behind just Russia and Brazil—and if you calculate that loss per capita, “we lead them by a large margin.” But the main reason the boreal has turned “from carbon sink to source” is fire. Last summer, British Columbia lost nearly 3 million acres to blazes that blanketed western Canada in smoke. And because of the drying effects of climate change, the trees aren’t growing back and are increasingly being replaced by grasslands. Worst of all, though, is our “desecration of the last stands of ancient temperate rain forest” anywhere in the world. That rain forest, on British Columbia’s lush coast—home to 1,000-year-old trees—is already 80 percent logged. Unlike Brazil, we don’t need foreign aid to save our forests. We just need the will.
9-13-19 Weak Amazon protections
Seven South American countries signed a pact last week to boost protections for the Amazon basin—a deal sparked by international outrage over fires that have burned thousands of square miles of rain forest this summer. The agreement will see the Amazonian nations set up a disaster response network and bolster satellite monitoring. But environmentalists said the Colombia summit produced few concrete measures to defend the forest known as the Earth’s lungs. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro—whose country contains 60 percent of the Amazon—attended by videoconference and griped that foreign leaders’ concerns about the Amazon were driven by “the sole goal of attacking Brazil’s sovereignty.”
9-13-19 Largest ever polar expedition will soon be frozen in drifting sea ice
The biggest scientific project ever to take place in the Arctic is about to kick off. Within days, a ship is set to begin drifting in the sea ice off Siberia, from where it will eventually become locked in the ice for months of the Arctic winter. The Polarstern icebreaker is set to depart from Norway on 20 September – around the same time that researchers are expected to confirm the area of Arctic sea ice has reached the second lowest level on record. The ship is part of an epic endeavour called MOSAIC, which will involve some 600 scientists studying climate change, Arctic wildlife and more over the course of a year. Winter sea ice in the Arctic is too thick even for icebreakers to penetrate. Instead, the expedition will borrow an idea pioneered by Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen who in the 19th century took advantage of a major ocean current to drift to the central Arctic. “It doesn’t make sense to fight the ice, rather we are going to work with it,” says the expedition’s leader, Markus Rex of the Alfred-Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Germany. The expedition will be an complex logistical endeavour. The Polarstern, loaded with scientific equipment, fuel and food, will be supported by a fleet of four other icebreakers. For half a year the ice will be impenetrable, so a runway on the ice will operate to fly in supplies. The scientific research will involve a camp on the ice that might stray as far as 50 kilometres from the ship. Scientists will study the atmosphere, the physics of sea ice, and ocean chemistry among much else. The behaviour of the region’s rapidly-declining sea ice, which is expected to disappear entirely over summer in coming decades due to climate change, has been well-studied in summer. But for winter, Rex says there is little data beyond satellite images and basic temperature records from ocean buoys.
9-13-19 'Cocktail of pollutants' found in dolphins in English Channel
Dolphins living in the English Channel are exposed to a "cocktail of pollutants", say scientists. A study found some of the highest recorded levels of toxic chemicals and mercury in the bodies of bottlenose dolphins off the French coast. Researchers say more needs to be done to tackle the "invisible" problem of lingering pollutants in the oceans. The Channel is home to one of the last remaining large European populations of bottlenose dolphins. They found high concentrations of mercury in skin and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in blubber. Other industrial chemicals, such as dioxins and pesticides, were also found in blubber samples, which together may act as a "cocktail of pollutants", they said. The chemicals are passed down from mother to calf. "Our results indicated the important transfer of PCBs by females to their young, which may raise concern for the population," said the team of researchers led by Dr Krishna Das of the University of Liege, Belgium. The scientists say the bottlenose dolphin's habitat - an area known as the Normanno-Breton Gulf - should become a special area of conservation to protect the population. The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, chimes with data from investigations of strandings, said ZSL's Rob Deaville, of the UK Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme. "As apex predators, bottlenose dolphins are at higher risk of exposure to some of the chemicals mentioned in this study - and as many of the European coastal populations of bottlenose dolphins are relatively small in size, they may therefore be under greater conservation threat," he said. PCBs, used in plastics, paints and electrical equipment, were banned several decades ago, but persist in the environment, where they can build up in the blubber of dolphins and whales. The chemicals have been found in the blubber of bottlenose dolphins washed up on beaches around Europe. One killer whale found dead off Scotland in 2016 contained among the highest levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, ever recorded.
9-13-19 Decline of migrating birds could be partly due to pesticides
It’s not just bees that are being harmed by the pesticides called neonicotinoids, it’s birds too. A study in Canada has shown that migrating white-crowned sparrows lose weight just hours after eating seeds treated with the neocotinoid imidacloprid, delaying their onward migration by several days. Although the main manufacturer of the pesticide disputes the findings. Birds that arrive late at breeding grounds are less likely to raise young successfully and sometimes don’t breed at all, says Christy Morrissey at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, whose team carried out the study. “This has serious impacts on populations.” In North America, populations of 57 of the 77 bird species associated with farmland are in decline. Morrissey thinks neonicotinoids could be contributing to these declines. However, she does not think that banning these pesticides is the answer. Farmers will just use alternative pesticides that may turn out to be just as bad. Instead, we need to find ways of farming that don’t rely on quick chemical fixes, Morrissey says. Dave Goulson at the University of Sussex agrees. “The regulatory system keeps failing, by allowing new harmful chemicals into use,” he says. “The only long-term solution is to move away from a reliance on pesticides to solve every problem.” Neonicotinoids are applied to seeds before planting to kill insects that feed on the seedlings. They are much less toxic to birds and mammals than insects, so in theory these animals should not get high enough doses to harm them.But lab studies by Morrissey have shown that even low doses of imidacloprid make white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) lose weight. Now her team has caught wild sparrows on a migratory stopover, tagged them with tiny radio transmitters and fed them either imidacloprid or a harmless control.
9-13-19 Birds fed a common pesticide lost weight rapidly and had migration delays
Neonicotinoid insecticides have previously been implicated in declining bee populations The world’s most widely used insecticides may delay the migrations of songbirds and hurt their chances of mating. In the first experiment to track the effects of a neonicotinoid on birds in the wild, scientists captured 24 white-crowned sparrows as they migrated north from Mexico and the southern United States to Canada and Alaska. The team fed half of those birds with a low dose of the commonly used agricultural insecticide imidacloprid and the other half with a slightly higher dose. An additional 12 birds were captured and dosed with sunflower oil, but no pesticide. Within hours, the dosed birds began to lose weight and ate less food, researchers report in the Sept. 13 Science. Birds given the higher amount of imidacloprid (3.9 milligrams per kilogram of body mass) lost 6 percent of their body mass within six hours. That’s about 1.6 grams for an average bird weighing 27 grams. Tracking the birds (Zonotrichia leucophrys) revealed that the pesticide-treated sparrows also lagged behind the others when continuing their migration to their summer mating grounds. The findings suggest that neonicotinoid insecticides, already implicated in dropping bee populations, could also have a hand in the decline of songbird populations across North America. From 1966 to 2013, the populations of nearly three-quarters of farmland bird species across the continent have precipitously dropped. The researchers dosed the birds in the lab with carefully measured amounts of pesticide mixed with sunflower oil. In the wild, birds might feed on seeds coated with imidacloprid. The highest dose that “we gave each bird is the equivalent of if they ate one-tenth of [a single] pesticide-coated corn seed,” says Christy Morrissey, a biologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada. “Frankly, these were minuscule doses we gave the birds.”
9-12-19 Protesters suspended from a bridge in Houston
Greenpeace activists suspended themselves over a port in Houston ahead of the Democratic debates to protest against the use of fossil fuels. Houston Ship Channel is a waterway that connects the city with the Gulf of Mexico. The Texas Coast Guard temporarily closed a part of the shipping port.
9-12-19 Why are countries failing on their promise to stop deforestation?
Five years ago, countries and businesses committed to halving deforestation by 2020 and ending it entirely by 2030. The 2020 goal was a big, bold target – and one that has fallen flat on its face. Since 2014, the area of forest destroyed annually has got dramatically worse, increasing more than 40 per cent globally. An area of 26 million hectares, roughly the size of the UK, was lost annually between 2014 and 2018, each year unlocking carbon emission equivalent to the EU’s annual footprint, a report by an international group of research institutions and NGOs has found. The vast majority of the deforestation took place in the tropics. The losses mean the 2020 target is now likely impossible to meet. “It’s wake-up call. The situation now is more dire than five years ago,” says Stephanie Roe of the University of Virginia, one of the report authors. So why is the world failing to make good on its promises to stop deforestation? While the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests was endorsed by some big forest countries including Indonesia and a few Brazilian states, along with the US and EU, it notably did not include Brazil. The country has the biggest forests and still has the biggest absolute losses. While it made huge strides in cutting deforestation after the rampant clearances in the noughties, preliminary deforestation data and the fires in the Amazon this year suggest progress is now going into reverse. “There is a clear political agenda to prioritize agriculture and extractive industries and roll back environmental protections,” says Constance McDermott at the University of Oxford. While Latin America is still suffering the biggest absolute forest loss, Africa has seen the most significant change, with tree cover loss up 146 per cent in the past five years. This is largely due to economic growth, particularly in the Congo basin. “There is pressure to allow expansion of palm oil, cocoa and other commercial land uses,” says McDermott. The Democratic Republic of Congo continues to suffer from political instability, she says, which research has linked to forest cover.
9-12-19 World 'losing battle against deforestation'
A historic global agreement aimed at halting deforestation has failed, according to a report. An assessment of the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) says it has failed to deliver on key pledges. Launched at the 2014 UN climate summit, it aimed to half deforestation by 2020, and halt it by 2030. Yet deforestation continues at an alarming rate and threatens to prevent the world from preventing dangerous climate change, experts have said. The critique, compiled by the NYDF Assessment Partners (a coalition of 25 organisations), painted a bleak picture of how the world's forests continue to be felled. "Since the NYDF was launched five years ago, deforestation has not only continued - it has actually accelerated," observed Charlotte Streck, co-founder and director of Climate Focus, which co-ordinated the publication of the report. The report says the amount of annual carbon emissions resulting from deforestation around the globe are equivalent to the greenhouse gases produced by the European Union. On average, an area of tree cover the size of the United Kingdom was lost every year between 2014 and 2018. Tropical forest loss accounts for more than 90% of global deforestation, with the hotspot being located in Amazon Basin nations of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Peru. Craig Hanson, vice-president of food, forest, water & the ocean at the World Resources Institute, described the findings as a "mixed report card". "There are some places in the world where we are suffering dramatic loss of primary forest, so we are losing the battle on stopping deforestation," he told reporters. "In other places, we are finding that there are new trees that are enriching rural landscapes, but we are still seeing a net reduction in the number of forests the world has." Worryingly, say the authors, a new deforestation hotspot in West Africa is emerging. The rate of tree-felling in the Democratic republic of Congo has doubled in the past five years. The New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) is a voluntary and a legally non-binding agreement to take action to halt global deforestation. It was first endorsed at the United Nations Climate Summit in September 2014, and by October 2017 40 governments, 57 multi-national companies and 58 non-government organizations had endorsed the declaration.
9-12-19 Australia bushfires are now 'hotter and more intense'
It's only the start of the fire season in Australia, but more than 140 bushfires are already raging across Queensland and New South Wales. Experts say they expect the fires this season to be hotter and more intense - and there's a reason behind the trend.
9-12-19 Generator that runs on heat escaping to the sky can charge phones
A device that makes electricity at night using heat radiating from the ground could be used to power lights and mobile phones in remote locations. Over 1 billion people globally – mostly in poor, rural communities – still don’t have access to electricity. Cheap solar cells are increasingly used to power lights, mobile phones and home appliances in these communities, but they only work during the day. Now, Aaswath Raman at the University of California, Los Angeles, and his colleagues have invented a device that makes electricity at night using the thermoelectric effect. This effects allows temperature differences to be converted to electricity. Thermoelectric devices have traditionally been used to extract electricity from waste heat from factories and car exhausts, by taking advantage of the temperature difference with the cooler surrounding air. Raman’s team took a different approach. They created a temperature difference using a mechanism called radiative sky cooling, which causes sky-facing surfaces to become colder than the surrounding air as they naturally radiate heat into the sky. This phenomenon explains, for example, why frost can form on grass even when the air temperature is above zero. The researchers constructed a polystyrene box with a black disc on the outside facing upwards and an aluminium block on the inside. The black disc was designed to cool down by losing heat to the sky, while the aluminium block was designed to warm up by absorbing heat from the night air. The two were coupled to a commercial thermoelectric generator that converted the temperature difference to electricity. The system produced 25 milliwatts of energy per square metre when the team tested it on a rooftop in Stanford, California on a clear night with a midnight temperature of 1 degree Celsius. This was enough to switch on an LED light.
9-12-19 This device harnesses the cold night sky to generate electricity in the dark
A prototype powered a small light-emitting diode in a trial run. A new device is an anti-solar panel, harvesting energy from the cold night sky. By harnessing the temperature difference between Earth and outer space, a prototype of the device produced enough electricity at night to power a small LED light. A bigger version of this nighttime generator could someday light rooms, charge phones or power other electronics in remote or low-resource areas that lack electricity at night when solar panels don’t work, researchers report online September 12 in Joule. The core of the new night-light is a thermoelectric generator, which produces electricity when one side of the generator is cooler than the other (SN: 6/1/18). The sky-facing side of the generator is attached to an aluminum plate sealed beneath a transparent cover and surrounded with insulation to keep heat out. This plate stays cooler than the ambient air by shedding any heat it absorbs as infrared radiation (SN: 9/28/18). That radiation can zip up through the transparent cover and the atmosphere toward the cold sink of outer space. Meanwhile, the bottom of the generator is attached to an exposed aluminum plate that is continually warmed by ambient air. At night, when not baking under the sun, the top plate can get a couple of degrees Celsius cooler than the bottom of the generator. Engineer Wei Li of Stanford University and colleagues tested a 20-centimeter prototype of the device on a clear December night in Stanford, Calif. The generator produced up to about 25 milliwatts of power per square meter of device — enough to light a small light-emitting diode, or LED bulb. The team estimates that further design improvements, like better insulation around the cool top plate, could boost production up to at least 0.5 watts per square meter.
9-11-19 Planet Earth has 9 safety limits and we’ve already exceeded 4 of them
A decade ago, Johan Rockström identified the limits to Earth's life support systems. From chemical pollution to climate change, we're veering into the danger zone - so why is he (cautiously) optimistic about the future? HUMANITY can only thrive if our planet is hospitable to us, but what are the limits to its stability? That was the question posed by Johan Rockström in 2009 in the first scientific assessment of the limits to safe living for humans on Earth. He and 28 co-authors called them the planetary boundaries. They warned that if we exceed any of those nine boundaries, we risk destabilising Earth’s life-support systems and plunging the planet into chaos. The good news, they said, is that staying inside them provided a “safe operating space” for humanity. The bad news is that we have already exceeded four of them. The boundaries have drawn plenty of criticism, so does Rockström still stand by the findings? Is he more or less pessimistic about where we are headed? And where do Harley-Davidsons fit in? Johan Rockström: For the past 10,000 years, our planet has been in a uniquely stable state, a warm interglacial era with largely unchanging climate and ecosystems that we call the Holocene. It is the era during which human civilisation has developed, from hunter-gatherers to digital technology. It is all we know. But humanity is now driving changes like global warming and species extinctions. These threaten to push us beyond the thresholds of the life-support systems that have sustained the Holocene. The changes could be abrupt and irreversible. We don’t know where things may end up. If the Holocene is our desired reference point – the stable planet we know and depend on – we need to find out where those thresholds are, thus identifying our safe operating space. That is what our research on planetary boundaries tries to do. We identify nine. There are three that operate at a planetary scale: the oceans, the atmospheric climate system and the stratospheric ozone layer. Each has thresholds beyond which danger lies. There are four more that we call biosphere boundaries. They help regulate the planetary systems. They are biological diversity, the hydrological cycle, land cover such as forests, and the flows of nutrients vital to life, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Finally, we identify two categories of alien things that don’t exist naturally: novel entities including nuclear waste and gender-bending chemicals, and aerosol air pollution, which alters Earth’s energy balance and impacts regional climate systems such as the south Asian monsoon.
9-10-19 COP26: Glasgow to host UN climate change summit in 2020
A major United Nations climate change summit will take place in Glasgow. The UK has won the bid to host the 26th Conference of the Parties, known as COP26, following a partnership with Italy. Up to 30,000 delegates are expected to attend the event at Glasgow's Scottish Events Campus (SEC) at the end of next year. It is designed to produce an international response to the climate emergency. The UK will host the main COP summit while Italy will host preparatory events and a significant youth event, as part of the agreement. Claire Perry, UK nominated president for COP26, said: "In 2020, world leaders will come together to discuss how to tackle climate change on a global scale - and where better to do so than Glasgow, one of the UK's most sustainable cities with a great track record for hosting high-profile international events." The Scottish government's Climate Change Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the decision to host COP26 in Scotland was right "given our leadership on climate action". She continued: "Scotland was one of the first countries in the world to acknowledge the global climate emergency and the Scottish government has introduced the toughest targets in the UK to ensure our action matches the scale of our climate ambitions. "We look forward to working collaboratively with partners to deliver an ambitious and effective conference that ensures Scotland plays a leading role to help promote the increased global effort to tackle climate change." Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the announcement was a "vote of confidence" from the UK's international partners. He added: "The UK is leading the world in tackling climate change. We're the first major economy to pass laws to end the UK's contribution to global warming. "Since 1990 the UK has reduced its emissions by over 40% while growing the economy by over two thirds." The UK government said it had cut greenhouse gas emissions by 16 million tonnes in the last eight years. Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack said: "The UK government is showing great leadership on this vital issue - becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050."
9-10-19 What it will take to actually fight climate change
Ponder the onrushing disaster of climate change, and the towering task of getting greenhouse gas emissions down in time to avoid existential calamity, and one can be led very easily to an enervating political despair. The battle is basically lost, or so says the famed novelist Jonathan Franzen in a New Yorker essay this week. While we should try to reduce emissions, he writes, "All-out war on climate change made sense only as long as it was winnable." Just like his similar effort from four years ago, Franzen's argument is sloppy, muddled, and premised on elementary factual errors. But it makes a good reason to consider some historical occasions in which human societies have faced and overcome similarly-long odds in the past — like the French Revolution, when ordinary people, pulsing with furious revolutionary energy, flung themselves at seemingly-invulnerable adversaries and won. First, let's examine Franzen's case. He says that "consensus among scientists and policy-makers is that we'll pass this point of no return if the global mean temperature rises by more than two degrees Celsius" which we will almost certainly blow past, and hence the game is basically up. He then reasons that climate policy should not now be too aggressive, because there is often an inherent trade-off between green developments and environmental preservation. "Our resources aren't infinite. Even if we invest much of them in a longest-shot gamble, reducing carbon emissions in the hope that it will save us, it's unwise to invest all of them," he writes, saying some should be saved for humanitarian aid and that renewable mega-projects that threaten ecosystems should not be built. There is just one problem: Neither premise is true. The science on tipping points is very unsettled, but as the University of Exeter's Timothy Lenton (perhaps the top climate researcher on this particular point) explains in a Climatic Change paper, there are lots of potential tipping points, some are a lot more sinister than others, they will be reached at different temperatures, and, while we can't rule out tripping some at under 2 degrees, the likeliest early tripwire is between 2-4 degrees. Now, that is not at all comforting, but it means there is no certain climate doomsday point — every tenth of a degree of warming means worse direct impacts and a greater likelihood of extreme disaster. Second, it is simply false to say there is a trade-off between climate policy and environmental preservation, because unchecked climate change will obliterate the biosphere. One should avoid wrecking key ecosystems, but if the energy payoff is sufficiently high, it still might be worth doing, because if climate change is not stopped the ecosystem will be wrecked anyway. High levels of warming will do orders of magnitude more damage to Franzen's beloved bird population than all the windmills in the world. Climate writer David Roberts carefully explained this to Franzen back in 2015, but apparently it didn't sink in.
9-10-19 Climate change: 'Invest $1.8 trillion to adapt'
Investing $1.8 trillion over the next decade - in measures to adapt to climate change - could produce net benefits worth more than $7 trillion. This is according to a global cost-benefit analysis setting out five adaptation strategies. The analysis was carried out by the Global Commission on Adaptation - a group of 34 leaders in politics, business and science. They say the world urgently needs to be made more "climate change resilient". The commission, led by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Bank chief executive Kristalina Georgieva and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, argues that it is an urgent moral obligation of richer countries to invest in adaptation measures that will benefit the world. The report says those most affected by climate change "did least to cause the problem - making adaptation a human imperative". Its primary aim is to put climate change adaptation on to the political agenda around the world. And to do this, it sets out "concrete solutions" and an economic plan. There are, it says, five things the world should invest in over the next decade:
- Warning systems: For the vulnerable island and coastal communities in particular, early warnings about storms, very high tides and other extreme weather can save lives. Better weather monitoring and a simple app for fishing communities in the Cook Islands, for example, allows them to plan according to the sea conditions
- Infrastructure: Building better roads, buildings and bridges to suit the changing climate. One project in New York City has set out to paint rooftops white - a heat-reflecting strategy to cool buildings and neighbourhoods
- Improving dry-land agriculture: Something as simple as helping farmers to switch to more drought-resistant varieties of coffee crop could protect livelihoods and prevent hunger
- Restoring and protecting mangroves: Underwater mangrove forests protect about 18 million people from coastal flooding, but they're being wiped out by development. Restoration projects could protect vulnerable communities from storms and boost fisheries' productivity
- Water: Protecting water supplies - and making sure that water's not being wasted - will be vital in a changing climate
9-10-19 World leaders set to discuss how to ramp up climate change efforts
Hopes of a breakthrough in international climate change ambitions are being downplayed for a landmark meeting in New York in a fortnight. The United Nations climate action summit looks set to disappoint the thousands of campaigners who will take to the city’s streets just days earlier. The summit is arguably the most important moment for climate change since the Paris climate deal was agreed in 2015. A key part of the historic agreement was that by 2020, countries would “ratchet up” the carbon-curbing plans they put forward for Paris, which are insufficient to meet the accord’s goals. UN secretary general António Guterres has called on leaders to come to New York with concrete, realistic plans, rather than “beautiful speeches”. He has set the bar high for heads of state, who are expected to include Narendra Modi of India, Emmanuel Macron of France, Angela Merkle of Germany, and the UK’s Boris Johnson. Guterres has made four specific requests: carbon neutrality plans for 2050, ways to tackle fossil fuel subsidies, taxing carbon and no new coal power beyond 2020. Three days before the meeting, Greta Thunberg will be among the thousands expected on New York’s streets for a “global climate strike”, with potentially millions more joining worldwide. Two days after the UN summit, scientists will issue a special report on how global warming will affect the planet’s oceans and frozen corners. But despite the spotlight these events will shine on the summit, hopes are relatively low. “I don’t think we should expect some huge breakthrough,” says Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics. A source close to the UK government, who does not want to be named, says: “It is not quite where everybody hoped it would be at this point.” This is partly due to the EU and the US. The leadership role that the latter played ahead of the Paris summit was crucial to unlocking commitments from China, but such leadership has been absent under Donald Trump, who has kickstarted the process of withdrawing the US from the Paris accord in 2020. The EU’s failure this summer to adopt a goal of net zero emissions for 2050 also hurt momentum this year.
9-10-19 Building climate change defences could massively boost world economy
Countries could reap a $7 trillion economic prize by investing in measures such as flood defences and protecting mangrove forests to adapt to a rapidly-changing climate, according to an analysis backed by Ban Ki-Moon, Bill Gates and the head of the World Bank. The first report from the Global Commission on Adaptation argues it is time to rethink climate change adaptation as an opportunity rather than a burden. “Clearly we are seeing climate impacts are here and now. One can’t avoid opening the paper and seeing what is happening around the world,” says Manish Bapna at the World Resources Institute and an author of the report. There is a strong economic case for acting, says Bapna. The commission’s analysis found every dollar invested in adaptation could yield between $2 and $10 in net economic benefits. If $1.9 trillion was spent over ten years globally on making infrastructure more resilient and other measures such as early warning systems for extreme weather, it would result in $7tn of total net benefits. Ban, Gates and Kristalina Georgieva of the World Bank said the world’s adaptation to a warming world has been “gravely insufficient” so far. Meanwhile, “massive wildfires ravage fragile habitats, city taps run dry, droughts scorch the land,” they write in the report’s foreword. Failing to adapt to climate change is not an option, the commission said, pointing out that growth in global agriculture yields could be depressed by nearly a third without action. The report also rejects the “false choice” of choosing between climate mitigation – cutting emissions – and adaptation. “We must do both,” the commission said.
9-10-19 Logging study reveals huge hidden emissions of the forestry industry
The wood industry is a massive source of uncounted carbon emissions, according to a pioneering study in North Carolina. The same is probably true globally. In places where trees are replanted after being cut down, the wood industry is often promoted as being sustainable. But no one is counting all the carbon emissions associated with logging because international rules on how this should be done are wildly inadequate, says economist John Talberth at the Center for Sustainable Economy, an environmental think-tank based in Oregon, US. “The accounting rules were written by loggers for loggers,” he says. “That’s why you hear of agriculture as a big source of emissions, but not logging and wood products.” Each year 80,000 hectares of trees in North Carolina are cut down to produce wood pellets that are then burnt in power plants in the UK, as well as for paper and timber. The state does not count the resulting emissions. But Talberth has calculated them based on data from the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Inventory and Analysis Program. His life-cycle analysis takes account of factors such as the carbon released as the roots of cut trees rot in the ground and the fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides applied to tree plantations. The conclusion: logging in North Carolina emits 44 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. That makes it the third largest source in the state, just behind electricity generation and transportation, and far ahead of farming and other industries. Talberth has carried out studies like this before on a small scale. In 2017, he found that logging was the single biggest source of carbon emissions in Oregon. An independent study by Oregon State University came to the same conclusion in 2018.
9-10-19 UK farms plan for going 'carbon neutral'
The farm union NFU has launched a plan to make British agriculture carbon neutral in two decades. Farming creates 10% of the UK’s emissions, and farmers have long been criticised for their failure to tackle their pollution. But the NFU says the industry can reduce gases almost completely by 2040 - a decade ahead of the government’s overall zero emissions target. Environmentalists welcomed elements of the plan. But Friends of the Earth said it was astonished there was no mention of eating less meat. The NFU (National Farmers Union) says its three-part roadmap will produce quality, affordable food while tackling emissions. It rests on improved productivity. increasing the number of trees and hedges, and growing more crops for energy. The union says farmers can cut direct pollution from farming by working smarter to deliver the same value but with fewer emissions. That would mean applying farm chemicals more precisely using satellite technology. It would also see farmers capturing methane from manure to heat people’s homes. Another idea would be to change the diets of sheep and cattle so they don’t belch so much methane. Farmers could also introduce a wider variety of plant species to pastures. The second element of the plan is to capture carbon from the atmosphere by expanding hedges, planting more woods to soak up CO2 and farming in ways that increase the carbon content of the soil. The third element is to increase the numbers of crops grown for energy, like coppiced timber, or crops grown for fibres such as hemp. Some of these plans will be widely welcomed, especially those that will also boost wildlife and flood protection, as well as cutting emissions. Others will prove controversial.
9-9-19 Ancient crystal growths in caves reveal seas rose 16 meters in a warmer world
Findings on the Spanish coast of Mallorca hint at how oceans could respond to climate change. The future of sea level rise may be written into the walls of coastal Spanish caves. Mineral “bathtub rings” deposited inside the limestone Artà Caves on the Balearic island of Mallorca show how high seas rose during the Pliocene Epoch — a time when Earth was about as warm as it’s expected to get by 2100. Those mineral deposits suggest the planet’s seas were around 16 meters higher on average than they are today, researchers report August 30 in Nature. That measurement provides the most precise peek yet into what may come as climate change causes ice sheets to melt and ocean waters to rise — a process that could happen over hundreds to thousands of years. Previous estimates of Pliocene sea levels gave similar results, but relied on more indirect dating methods or failed to incorporate information about the subsequent rise and fall of the Earth’s crust. The Artà analysis, however, takes that rise and fall into account. The new study’s combination of precision dating and corrected sea levels also may help answer a crucial question: How much of Earth’s biggest ice sheet melted during the Pliocene? These sea level measurements suggest that, while smaller ice sheets in Greenland and western Antarctica melted severely, only the parts of the massive eastern Antarctic ice sheet that jutted into the sea melted during that era, says Alan Haywood, a paleoclimatologist at Leeds University in England who was not involved in the study. It’s still unclear, however, how today’s unique warming patterns will affect ice sheets. “Anything that gives us added information on how sensitive the ice sheets are … is going to be very important,” Haywood says.
9-9-19 Solar panels: Thousands of customers complain
Thousands of people who bought solar panels have complained to a financial watchdog that they are not bringing them the returns they were promised. Many people took out loans to pay for panels on the promise they would save thousands of pounds in electricity costs and make money generating power. They say they have not had the expected savings, and the Financial Services Ombudsman has had 2,000 complaints. Barclays Bank has put aside £38m to deal with potential claims. Brian Thompson from Rowlands Gill, Gateshead, told BBC Inside Out he was contacted by a salesman for PV Solar UK but told him he did not want to take a loan on as he was preparing for retirement. He said he was told the move would provide money towards his pension, which persuaded him, and he took out a loan with Barclays of more than £10,000 over 10 years. Mr Thompson said the payments he was getting back from the power his solar panels sent to the National Grid did not correspond with what he was told. "I had to dip into my savings which I was putting away for retirement to pay the loan off. To me it was lies," he said. An independent survey of Mr Thompson's system showed even after 20 years the income from the panels would not cover the cost of the loan. Barclays offered him some compensation but Mr Thompson said it was not enough. PV Solar UK went into liquidation in 2017. Robert Skillen, who was the director of the firm when Mr Thompson bought his system, said Mr Thompson's panels would make him money. Mr Skillen is now in business claiming to help people who have been missold solar panels. He did not want to be interviewed. Tony Walch, from Bolton, was told he would be better off by £30,000 over 20 years when he bought solar panels from MyPlanet. He said: "They were very, very persuasive. Everything they said was plausible. It was a no-brainer."(Webmaster's comment: Be sure you get claims in writing. Being told can just be lies!)
9-9-19 Brazil worker who protected indigenous tribes killed in Amazon
Police in Brazil are investigating the murder of an official who had worked to protect indigenous people from farmers and loggers attempting to seize land. Maxciel Pereira dos Santos was reportedly shot twice in the head in the city of Tabatinga, near Brazil's borders with Colombia and Peru. Union officials said Mr Santos was shot in front of members of his family. The killing comes amid international outrage over the rate of destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. At least 80,000 fires were recorded there between January and August this year - more than double the number in the same period last year. Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro has drawn intense domestic and international criticism for failing to protect the region. He has often stated support for farmers and loggers working in the region, while criticising environmental campaigners and slashing the budget of the country's environmental agency. The union which represents staff at Brazil's indigenous protection agency, Funai, said Mr Santos had been shot twice in the head as he drove his motorcycle down a busy street. INA officials said he was killed in retaliation for his work at the Vale do Javari reserve, where for years he helped prevent hunters, farmers and loggers illegally entering the area. The reserve is said to be home to the world's highest concentration of uncontacted indigenous tribes. Mr Santos served more than 12 years at Funai, including five as chief of environment services at the Vale do Javari reservation, INA said. The union called on the Brazilian government to demonstrate Brazil "no longer condones violence against those who engage, under the rule of law, in the protection and promotion of indigenous rights". Brazil's land and environmental activists have long been a target for the mining and logging industry. According to the environmental watchdog Global Witness, Brazil was the deadliest country in 2017, with a record 57 such activists killed, of 201 deaths worldwide. Brazil was eclipsed last year by the Philippines, where 30 activists were killed, of 164 worldwide, Global Witness said.
9-8-19 Storm Dorian: Widespread power cuts as winds batter Nova Scotia
Storm Dorian has smashed into the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, toppling trees and cutting power to more than 450,000 homes. Now a post-tropical cyclone, Dorian hit Halifax on Saturday with winds of 100mph (160km/h) and is due to cross into Newfoundland. The Canadian government said the military would help recovery efforts. It comes days after Dorian devastated parts of the Bahamas. The death toll there is 43 but expected to increase. The former hurricane has churned northwards up the US eastern seaboard to Canada. The Canadian Hurricane Centre said it had received reports of rainfall as high as 150mm (six inches) in some areas. Video footage from Halifax showed a crane collapsing onto a block of partially built flats. There were no reports of injuries. The storm is expected to pass over northern Newfoundland and eastern Labrador on Sunday. Residents close to the shore have been advised to evacuate as a precaution. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been briefed on the storm. Last Sunday, Dorian struck islands in the north-west Bahamas as a category five hurricane, with winds reaching 185mph (295km/h). On Sunday, ships and aircraft were still helping to move thousands of people from Grand Bahama and the Abacos Islands. Officials believe hundreds of bodies are yet to be found in areas flattened by the winds or smashed by storm surges.
9-8-19 Catherine McKenna: Canada environment minister given extra security
Canada's environment minister says she has been assigned a security detail because of abuse she has received both online and in person. Catherine McKenna said in one recent incident a man in a car pulled up alongside her and her children, swore and called her a "climate Barbie". In Canada, government ministers rarely need high levels of protection. The move comes as other environmental activists, particularly women, report increasing levels of abuse. Climate change has become a major issue in Canada's federal election in October, with the two main parties taking opposing views on the subject. Ms McKenna said she would now have extra protection at certain times, but did not give details. "There are places, yes, that I have to have security now and I don't think that's a great situation," she said, quoted by Canadian Press news agency. "I'm someone who is trying to do my job, live my life, and talk and engage with people, and it makes it harder. I'm not going to let this stop me but I wish it would stop." Online abuse has been going on since she was elected, she added, but in recent months public confrontations have become worse. She said she had received messages that included sexualised insults and threats against her family. In person she has been called an enemy, a traitor and a "communist piece of garbage". "The vocal sexism and hateful comments that are directed to people who work on climate change is unacceptable," she told AFP news agency. Two years ago Canadian Conservative MP Gerry Ritz apologised to Ms McKenna after calling her "climate Barbie". As the climate change debate rages, many activists have found themselves the targets of threats and abuse. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who inspired a global movement, recently completed a voyage across the Atlantic on board an environmentally friendly yacht - but faced a barrage of attacks along the way. (Webmaster's comment: Male brutes will attack any woman for any reason.)
9-7-19 4 inconvenient truths about climate change
It's too late to prevent climate change. We can now only prevent its worst consequences. t this week's climate symposium on CNN, Elizabeth Warren answered a question about whether the government should be regulating lightbulbs in an interesting way. She said, basically, that we're focusing on the wrong thing. There's nothing wrong with more efficient lightbulbs, but it's small beer. That's what the fossil fuel companies want us to be arguing about, because most of the carbon is thrown up by three industries — construction, electric power, and oil — and arguing about lightbulbs takes attention away from those sectors. The obvious inconvenient truth that Warren is pointing out here is that we aren't going to be able to fight climate change with a series of small-change consumer choices. It's going to require massive changes in large industries, which is a heavier political lift. Below the radar, there's another inconvenient truth being implied: that people are really irritated by losing even small conveniences, and so focusing energy on these small-beer fights has a real cost in terms of being able to fight the bigger fights. She's right about both. But those aren't the most inconvenient truths about the fight against climate change. Here are four that we need to start acknowledging more widely if we're going to make the kind of progress we so urgently need.
- Demand for energy is relatively inelastic. One of the reasons why gasoline taxes work so well for generating highway funds is that when the price of gas goes up, the demand for gas doesn't go down that much or that quickly. The reason: There's no substitute for energy. When beef prices spike, people switch to pork or chicken to minimize the negative impact on their lifestyle. But when gas prices spike, they can't stop commuting to work.
- People are selfish in their loss-aversion. It's a well-known fact that humans are loss-averse. We'll spend a lot more to preserve what we have than we will to gain something new; we fear losses more than we desire gains.
- America is only a small part of the climate problem. Obviously, America is a much bigger contributor to climate change than most countries — and we're going in the wrong direction under this administration. But we're no longer the largest single national contributor — that honor belongs to China. And as China grows, and much of the rest of the developing world grows with it, their share of the world's carbon footprint is going to grow as well.
- It's already too late to prevent climate change. Because of all of the above, and because climate change is already happening, we shouldn't be talking about preventing it. We should be talking about preventing the worst consequences. That does mean radically reducing humanity's carbon footprint, of course. But it also means talking seriously about adaptation — and preparing to spend the money it will take to adapt.
9-7-19 Venice Film Festival: Climate protesters hold red carpet sit-in
Hundreds of activists have staged a sit-in on the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival in protest at the huge cruise ships they say are damaging the environment. The protest came hours ahead of Saturday's closing ceremony, with guests due to include the Rolling Stones star Mick Jagger. The Italian government recently announced that large cruise ships would be banned from the city's historic centre.
9-7-19 Hurricane Dorian: Hundreds flee chaos in storm-ravaged Bahamas
Hundreds of Hurricane Dorian survivors have fled the Bahamas as thousands more anxiously await evacuation from the devastated islands. The hurricane tore through the islands earlier this week, leaving a trail of destruction and a humanitarian crisis in its wake. The official death toll rose to 43 on Friday, but is expected to increase further, officials told local media. With aid efforts under way, many survivors are scrambling to evacuate. On Friday, crowds desperate to leave amassed in their thousands at ports in Great Abaco and Grand Bahama, two of the worst-hit islands. Frustrations mounted as survivors, carrying what few possessions they had left, complained of "chaotic" and slow evacuations. As Gee Rolle, 44, waited for a private boat with his wife, he criticised the government, telling the Associated Press "only animals can live here". Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, speaking to survivors at the port in Abaco, called for calm and promised more free transport. Later on Friday, Mr Minnis confirmed the death toll had risen to 43, up from 30. In a statement he said: "The loss of life we are experiencing is catastrophic and devastating." Now a category one hurricane, Dorian is currently churning along the Atlantic coast of North America, towards the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Earlier on Friday, hundreds who refused to evacuate Ocracoke Island in North Carolina were stranded when the hurricane made landfall. On Friday, many of the evacuations were carried out by private boats and planes, as the Bahamian government awaited the arrival of other transport. Helicopters and boats had been deployed but could be delayed by severe flooding, the Bahamian Health Ministry said. Around 250 evacuees left Abaco on a boat bound for the Bahamian capital, Nassau. National Voice of the Bahamas radio reported that another boat with hundreds aboard was on its way.
9-6-19 Amazon fires: Seven countries sign forest protection pact
Seven South American countries have agreed measures to protect the Amazon river basin, amid global concern over massive fires in the world's largest tropical forest. Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Suriname signed a pact, setting up a disaster response network and satellite monitoring. At a summit in Colombia, they also agreed to work on reforestation. More than 80,000 fires have broken out in the Amazon rainforest this year. "This meeting will live on as a co-ordination mechanism for the presidents that share this treasure - the Amazon," said Colombian Presiden Iván Duque, who hosted the summit in the city of Leticia. Meanwhile, Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra said: "Goodwill alone is not enough anymore." The seven nations also agreed to put more efforts into education and increase the role of indigenous communities. The countries were represented in Leticia by presidents, vice-presidents and ministers. Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took part by videolink because he was preparing for surgery. The number of fires between January and August 2019 is double that of the same period last year, according to the country's National Institute for Space Research (Inpe). President Bolsonaro has drawn intense domestic and international criticism for failing to protect the region. Environmentalists say his policies have led to an increase in fires this year and that he has encouraged cattle farmers to clear vast swathes of the rainforest since his election last October. Bolivia has also seen fires rage across the forest near its borders with Brazil and Paraguay. Meanwhile, Brazil's leading meat export industry group and agricultural businesses have joined an environmental campaign calling for an end to deforestation in public lands in the Amazon and demanding government action. Several international retailers have said they are suspending purchases of Brazilian leather because of the links between cattle ranching and the fires devastating parts of the Amazon rainforest.
9-6-19 Hurricane Dorian lashes US as Bahamas counts cost
Heavy rains from Hurricane Dorian are battering the south-eastern seaboard of the US after causing at least 30 deaths and much destruction in the Bahamas. Dorian, now a category one storm, has left thousands of homes in South and North Carolina without power as it moves slowly northwards. Forecasters warn that some areas could experience dangerous storm surges. On 1 September, Dorian hit the Bahamas with winds of up to 185mph - equalling the highest ever recorded at landfall. It battered the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama, in the north of the archipelago, for two days. Officials say the final death toll in the Bahamas will be staggering. Dorian is expected to weaken slowly over the next few days. It currently has maximum sustained winds of 90mph (150km/h), down from 105mph earlier in the day. Bahamas PM Hubert Minnis called the storm "one of the greatest national crises in our country's history". He expected the number of fatalities to increase. The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that at 02:00 local time (06:00 GMT) Dorian was 55 miles (90km) east of Wilmington in North Carolina and moving north-east at about 15mph. The NHC said Dorian would move "near or over" the coast of North Carolina in the next few hours. In South Carolina, more than 250,000 homes and businesses in coastal areas were left without power, officials said. Social media footage showed flooding in the centre of the city of Charleston. Graphics showed waters could rise up to 8ft (2.4m) above ground level on the South Carolina coast, and up to 15in of rain could fall in the coming days. More than 2.2 million people have been ordered to evacuate along the eastern seaboard.
9-6-19 Are forest fires as bad as they seem?
As South American countries meet in Colombia to discuss the fires in the Amazon basin, other parts of the world have also been ablaze. Vast tracts of forest in Russia, Asia and Africa have been burning. The extent of the fires has sparked outrage around the world. But is the scale of these fires unprecedented, or have there been years in which they have been more extensive? With the help of satellite data we have looked at four areas - Brazil, Siberia, Indonesia and Central Africa. And we have concluded that although fires this year have wrought significant damage to the environment, they have been worse in the past. Around 60% of the Amazon rainforest is in Brazil. The number of fires between January and August 2019 is double that of the same period last year, data from the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) suggests. A record-breaking number of fires across Brazil was initially reported. However, this claim did not reflect all the historical data available. Although it is the highest number of fires (for the year to 27 August) for almost a decade, it is actually lower than for most years in the period 2002 to 2010. There is a similar pattern for other areas of Brazilian forestry that are not part of the Amazon basin. If we look at satellite images for the overall area of burnt forest in Brazil's Amazon region each year, again we see very high levels in the early 2000s. For 2019, we have data up to the end of August, and the overall area burnt for those eight months is 45,000 sq km. This has already surpassed all the area burnt in 2018, but appears unlikely to reach the peaks seen in the previous decade. Fires are common during the dry season and can occur naturally, especially during droughts. (Greenpeace comment: Siberia, one of the coldest places on Earth, is on fire. The Amazon, one of the wettest places on Earth, is on fire. Fires are burning across the planet, we need to act fast.)
9-6-19 What Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren get wrong about nuclear power
At the recent climate town hall for the Democratic presidential candidates, both Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders displayed an excellent command of the facts, and better still a serious appreciation of the extreme urgency of the subject — particularly in contrast to their rival Joe Biden, who was rambling and unclear (when he wasn't literally bleeding from the eyes). Either Sanders or Warren would be head and shoulders above any previous president on climate, Barack Obama very much included. But both have committed a serious policy error. They both disavowed the use of nuclear power, and worse, said existing nuclear power plants should be gradually dismantled. Sanders touted his (otherwise excellent) climate plan, which would put a "moratorium" on existing nuclear power license renewals. Warren agreed at the town hall, saying "we won't be building new nuclear plants. We will start weaning ourselves off nuclear and replace it with renewables." This is a bad priority for climate policy. Now, it's perfectly understandable where this attitude comes from. Nuclear waste is dangerous and can remain so for tens of thousands of years, and nuclear accidents can be the stuff of nightmares. The idea of dying horribly from some invisible atomic poison one can neither see nor smell tends to grip the imagination, as demonstrated by the huge success of the brilliant HBO series Chernobyl. If nuclear goes wrong, it goes very wrong. As a result, many environmentalists have internalized the idea that nuclear is just as bad as coal, if not worse. But this simply is not the case. Not only does nuclear produce near-zero emissions, even if we grant all the worst estimates of how many people have died from nuclear accidents, the total is utterly dwarfed by the ziggurat of skulls piled up yearly just from the direct effects of carbon pollution. The Chernobyl disaster (the worst nuclear accident by far) killed somewhere between 4,000 and 60,000 people, while Fukushima killed about 1,600. Meanwhile a recent study found about 3.6 million premature deaths caused every year just by fossil-fuel air pollution alone. As Hannah Ritchie calculates, per unit of electricity generated, oil is 263 times more deadly than nuclear, ordinary coal 352 times deadlier, and lignite coal 467 times deadlier. (Then on top of that there are a still-unknown but definitely growing number of climate casualties.)
9-5-19 Greenland: 'It's scary to see the ice melting'
Three young Greenlanders witnessing the ice caps melting have expressed worry about the impact that would make on other countries. Scientists researching the Greenland ice sheet say this summer‘s melting has raised the level of the oceans, adding that the rate of melting is accelerating and will increasingly threaten millions of people living in coastal cities and low-lying areas around the world.
9-5-19 Coral reefs are now spawning out of sync and might fail to reproduce
Corals need to spawn within minutes of each other to reproduce optimally, but some are now days and even months out of whack. Climate change is to blame for this previously unknown threat, researchers say. Each year, whole coral reefs release millions of tiny egg and sperm bundles simultaneously – turning the ocean into a bright underwater blizzard that can sometimes be seen from space. They need to spawn en mass to outfox predators and stop the sex cells from becoming too diluted in the water. Missing the window by minutes leads to reduced fertilisation and missing it by a few hours or days can mean individual corals fail to fertilise at all, according to Tom Shlesinger and Yossi Loya at Tel Aviv University in Israel. Links between global warming and coral bleaching and reef mortality are well-established, but its effect on coral spawning synchronisation is not as well studied. To examine this impact, Shlesinger and Loya compared spawning behaviour on a reef in the Red Sea over recent years with historical data from the 1980s. Between 2015 and 2018, the two researchers conducted 225 night-time surveys, each lasting between 2.5 and 5.5 hours. They meticulously tracked signs of fertility among five of the most abundant coral species. Coral spawning relies on environmental cues: temperature and daylight patterns can help them work out when to get ready to spawn, while the exact night spawning occurs is thought to be triggered by lunar cycles and the exact hour is cued by the sunset. Back in the 1980s, the major breeding season occurred from June to September, with one coral species having a slightly different breeding season to another based on the lunar cycle. This is thought to help prevent nearby corals becoming hybrids.
9-5-19 New Scientist joins the Covering Climate Now initiative
“We must change our attitudes, that message hasn’t got through to everybody,” said the UN secretary general, speaking out on a lack of action on climate change. But these weren’t the words of António Guterres, the incumbent who has called for leaders to present plans rather than “beautiful speeches” at a crunch climate summit on 23 September, but those of Maurice Strong nearly three decades ago. As New Scientist reported at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, governments had reached an agreement on climate change but there was a lack of commitment to it. Since that landmark meeting, New Scientist has followed the twist and turns of international efforts to rein in carbon emissions, from the perceived failings of Copenhagen in 2009 to the success of the Paris deal adopted in 2015. Over the decades, the science has become clearer, and the effects more obvious. That is why we have joined Covering Climate Now, a journalistic collaboration of more than 200 news outlets with a combined audience of nearly half a billion. The initiative commits titles to recognise the importance of the climate crisis with extensive coverage ahead of the upcoming UN climate action summit taking place in New York later this month. Climate change is an issue that affects both science and the world at large. This summer alone, we have reported on the unprecedented fires in the Arctic and those raging in the Amazon, along with bold plans for countries to move to zero emissions. Twenty-seven years on from the Rio summit, the message still hasn’t reached everyone. We are now redoubling our efforts, and we would like to hear from you, our readers, on what stories you would like us to cover. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.
9-4-19 Guilt-free online shopping is possible if we reinvent home delivery.
PAUL WRIGHT didn’t know what to expect when he showed up for his new job. For the previous few years he had earned his keep playing online poker. But he was in a relationship now and needed a stable income. With a lengthy gap in his CV, he had decided to take work where there was lots of demand: as a delivery driver for Amazon. It was a rude awakening. One of his first shifts involved driving some 50 kilometres around the north-east of England, including through a toll system, dropping off packages as he went. “By the time you take off the £1.70 toll charge and the petrol for that huge route, it makes your hourly rate terrible,” says Wright. He was driving great distances, criss-crossing the region, yet earning less than he had from the comfort of his living room. The woes of workers in the gig economy have long been making headlines. What is rarely considered is the problems that deliveries create for the environment and life in cities. Vans aren’t just carrying packages and stressed drivers, they are also belching out air pollution and clogging up streets – and that affects us all. It doesn’t have to be this way. If we are smart, we can make deliveries less painful for people like Wright, and less polluting for us all. Making more deliveries on bikes or even by delivery robots could help. Some people want to go even further and completely reinvent the way we do home delivery. Ten or 20 years ago, many of us drove to a supermarket to do food shopping. When you needed a new skirt or shirt, you went to the high street. People only had things delivered when it was really needed, and it had been like that for decades. Online shopping still accounts for only about a tenth of retail sales in many developed countries. But what is important is the pace of growth. In 2015, each UK household placed just over two online orders a month. Next year, the average household is predicted to order something online once a week.
9-4-19 Global shipping needs to clean up its act now – here’s how to do it
Bertrand Piccard co-piloted the first round-the-world solar-powered flight. Now he’s aiming to green one of the world’s dirtiest, yet most crucial industries. THREE per cent. That is how much the shipping industry contributes to total global carbon emissions. It might not sound much for a sector that carries 90 per cent of world trade. But given current predictions for climate change, that number needs to fall drastically, and fast. It isn’t just about greenhouse gases. The shipping industry still uses “bunker fuel” made from the remnants of petrol refining. Loaded with noxious gases and fine particles, it is a major contributor to the 4.2 million people whose deaths are attributed to air pollution globally every year. Some progress has been made already, with an agreement to slash the maximum sulphur content in fuels from 3.5 to 0.5 per cent from 2020. This took the 174 members of the International Maritime Organization 12 years to negotiate. We don’t have that kind of time for the next steps. In 2018, the shipping industry set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 to half what they were in 2008. The world’s largest shipping company, Maersk, set a zero-carbon target for mid-century, and has ploughed more than $1 billion into cutting emissions. Other companies are taking similar steps, installing scrubbers to reduce sulphur emissions, converting boats to run on liquefied natural gas and even fitting sails. The truth is, though, that the technologies to help them hit their most ambitious targets don’t yet exist. If we leave the companies to carry all the responsibility and risk, we shouldn’t be surprised if they abandon their ambitions. To succeed, we must combine easy-to-implement, short-term measures with ambitious, long-term policies and investment.
9-4-19 The deadly hidden risks within the most prominent economic model of climate change
Is climate change a crisis demanding immediate aggressive action to smash down carbon emissions, or is it an annoying inconvenience that can be dealt with slowly over decades? Most climate scientists are in the former camp — as shown in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report advocating for an eye-watering 50-percent cut in emissions by 2030. But many economists are in the latter camp, taking a relatively cavalier attitude about climate change. They have built models showing the economic damage of warming will not be that great, or that the costs of mitigation could be even greater, and therefore we shouldn't be too aggressive in keeping emissions down — which could be even worse than doing nothing, by their lights. As a result, they generally serve to advance policy responses centered around putting a price on carbon, or, in other words, using market mechanisms to gradually wean our existing economic structures off fossil fuels, but foregoing any sort of massive intervention that would disrupt the status quo. These models, however, have some hellishly risky assumptions buried deep in their guts. If we take the economists' advice, we will be taking a terrific gamble with all of human society. The most prominent of these economists is certainly Professor William Nordhaus of Yale, who won the 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize in economics for his work constructing the most famous economic model of climate change. It's called the Dynamic Integrated Model of Climate and the Economy, or DICE, and it attempts to account for the interactions of labor, capital, interest rates, etc., in a warming climate.
9-4-19 Greenland's rapidly vanishing glaciers
BBC science editor David Shukman went back to the same spot on the Sermilik glacier, in southern Greenland, that he visited in 2004. The glacier has thinned by 100m in 15 years. Researchers say they're "astounded" by the acceleration in melting and fear for the future of cities on coasts around the world.
9-4-19 Hurricane Dorian: Scale of Bahamas devastation emerges
Rescuers have begun to reach areas of the northern Bahamas devastated by Hurricane Dorian, with aerial images showing a trail of destruction. PM Hubert Minnis said some areas had been "decimated" and expected the current death toll of seven would rise. The hurricane winds that hit the Abaco Islands equalled the highest ever recorded at landfall, and Grand Bahama also suffered severe damage and floods. Dorian has moved off north but still threatens the eastern US seaboard. Although the hurricane has weakened to a category two storm with maximum sustained winds of 105mph (165km/h), it has grown larger in area. Mr Minnis confirmed the death toll had risen from five to seven, but added: "We can expect more deaths to be recorded. This is just preliminary information." It was "one of the greatest national crises in our country's history", he said. Lia Head-Rigby, who runs a relief group and overflew the Abacos, said her representatives had told her there were "a lot more dead". "It's total devastation. It's decimated. Apocalyptic," she told the Associated Press news agency. Aerial images over the Abacos, including the town of Marsh Harbour, showed mile upon mile of destruction, with roofs torn off, scattered debris, overturned cars, shipping containers and boats, and high water levels. Opposition leader Philip Brave Davis described the scenes from a flight over the islands as a "horrible sight". Parts of the Bahamas received up to 35in (89cm) of rain. The situation on Grand Bahama is less clear, as Dorian only moved on late on Tuesday after nearly two days of pummelling, cutting many communication lines. Mr Minnis said major relief agencies had yet to get through. Most rescue work was being done on an ad hoc basis by locals using boats and jet skis, but it was being hampered by flooded roads, fallen trees and submerged debris.
9-4-19 Hurricane Dorian may have wiped out at least one bird species
Hurricane Dorian is not only a catastrophe for the people living on the islands in the Bahamas battered by the record-breaking storm. It may also have killed the last few individuals of a bird called the Bahama nuthatch, meaning this species is now extinct. Several other bird species could also have been lost. “Dorian is of course a humanitarian disaster,” says conservation biologist Diana Bell at the University of East Anglia. “It is also likely to be an ecological disaster.” Last year members of her team carried out extensive surveys on Grand Bahama island and found just one Bahama nuthatch. It is now highly likely that this species has been lost, Bell says. The Bahama nuthatch (Sitta insularis) was a small bird that lived in the natural pine forests of Grand Bahama. It used to be common on the island but as the pine forests shrank its numbers fell. By 2009 fewer than 2000 birds remained. After Category 4 Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016 none were seen at all until the survey last year. Now Dorian has delivered an even more severe blow. Not only was the Category 5 storm the joint strongest Atlantic hurricane ever to strike land when it made landfall in the nearby Abaco Islands, Dorian also stalled over the island of Grand Bahama, subjecting it to a prolonged battering and driving a massive storm surge over much of the island. Seven deaths, numerous injuries and extensive damage to buildings had already been reported in the Bahamas as of Wednesday morning, and it is feared the final death toll could be much higher. Bell says several bird species may also have been lost. Besides the nuthatch, the Bahama warbler, the Bahama swallow, the olive-capped warbler and the Bahama yellowthroat are also found mainly or only on Grand Bahama and the Abaco islands.
9-4-19 Hurricane Dorian’s slow pace makes it dangerous and hard to predict
Stalled storms dump extreme amounts of rain as they swirl in place. Hurricane Dorian has been a slow, near-record-breaking, rough beast of a storm. After more than 24 hours of hovering over the northern Bahamas and pummeling the islands with wind, rain and surging seas, Dorian finally got moving again on September 3. It slouched northward toward the U.S. coast as a category 2 hurricane, with sustained winds of about 177 kilometers per hour (110 miles per hour). The second-strongest Atlantic hurricane on record (and strongest outside the tropics), Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas on September 1 as a powerful category 5 storm, with sustained winds of about 298 kilometers per hour (185 miles per hour). The hurricane’s fury was dangerous enough, but then it practically stopped — shifting a mere 40 kilometers as it churned over the Caribbean nation. That’s the second slowest trek for an Atlantic hurricane after 1965’s Hurricane Betsy, a category 4 storm. That snail’s pace has stymied forecasters trying to determine the storm’s path as it heads toward the United States. Dorian’s slog makes it one of several strong but lethargic cyclones in recent decades, a trend that includes 2017’s Hurricane Harvey (SN: 9/28/18), 2018’s Hurricane Florence (SN: 9/13/18) and Cyclone Idai, which struck Mozambique in March. In fact, over the last 70 years, cyclones around the globe have been slowing down, James Kossin, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who is based in Madison, Wisc., found in 2018 (SN: 6/6/18). Stalled-out cyclones mean more extreme rainfall — and significantly increased hazard for coastal populations lying in the storms’ paths.
9-3-19 Climate change: Greenland's ice faces melting 'death sentence'
Greenland's massive ice sheet may have melted by a record amount this year, scientists have warned. During this year alone, it lost enough ice to raise the average global sea level by more than a millimetre. Researchers say they're "astounded" by the acceleration in melting and fear for the future of cities on coasts around the world. One glacier in southern Greenland has thinned by as much as 100 metres since I last filmed on it back in 2004. Essentially because its ice sheet is seven times the area of the UK and up to 2-3km thick in places. It stores so much frozen water that if the whole thing melted, it would raise sea levels worldwide by up to 7m. No one is suggesting that could happen for hundreds or even thousands of years but even a small increase in the rate of melting in coming decades could threaten millions of people living in low-lying areas. Bangladesh, Florida, and eastern England are among many areas known to be particularly vulnerable to rises in sea level over the course of the century. And although the island of Greenland is remote, stretching from the north of the Atlantic high into the Arctic, its fate could have major implications for the severity of future flooding and may even alter coastlines and force communities to move inland. One of the scientists studying the ice sheet, Dr Jason Box of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), says he's unnerved by the potential dangers and that coastal planners need to "brace themselves". "Now that I'm starting to understand more of the consequences, it's actually keeping me awake at night because I realise the significance of this place around the world and the livelihoods that are already affected by sea level rise," he told me.
9-3-19 Dorian batters Bahamas with strong hurricane winds for record time
Parts of Grand Bahama were battered by the strongest winds of hurricane Dorian for up to 15 hours on Monday, driving a storm surge that inundated most of the Caribbean island. No land in or around the Atlantic, and possibly worldwide, has ever been subjected to such powerful hurricane winds for so long in recorded history. By Tuesday, five deaths and extreme damage to infrastructure had been reported in the nearby Abaco Islands, also part of The Bahamas, which were struck first. The full extent of the impact on Grand Bahama is unlikely to become clear for days. When New Scientist went to press, the island was still being hit by extreme weather, even as Dorian weakened from a category 5 to a category 3 hurricane and moved slowly away. Dorian is now forecast to move north up the US east coast. Storm surges and heavy rain are expected to cause extensive damage there even if the eye of the storm remains offshore. The fastest winds in a hurricane occur in the wall of the eye – the clouds around the clear centre of the storm – and drop off rapidly further out. Since a hurricane typically moves at least 15 kilometres an hour, the strongest winds don’t usually last long in any one place. But Dorian isn’t only notable as the joint strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded to strike land. It is also remarkable because it slowed to a near halt over Grand Bahama. This meant that parts of the island remained in the eye wall, with sustained wind speeds of around 300km/h, for between 10 and 15 hours on Monday. There is some evidence that hurricanes are moving more slowly due to global warming, though what part if any this played in Dorian’s stall isn’t yet clear. Grand Bahama was also inundated by a massive storm surge of up to 7 metres, fuelled by the intense winds. Video footage showed the airport turned into an inland sea and waves lapping at the windows of houses.
9-3-19 What is sustainable palm oil?
Palm oil is used in everything from cosmetics to food to soap. There is enormous demand for it. But it is hugely controversial because it involves the clearing of tropical rainforests to grow palm oil plantations. This has led to the loss of biodiversity and habitat for under-threat animals such as the orang-utan. But some companies are signing up to comply with a standard known as "sustainable" palm oil. BBC environment correspondent Claire Marshall explains. There is a generally-agreed global standard set by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which is made up of oil palm growers, retailers, NGOs and manufacturers. To become officially "sustainable", a company pledges not to clear any primary forest, to have transparent supply chains, to check how much carbon they are emitting, to limit planting on peatlands, to treat workers fairly, and create wildlife zones. In 2016 75% of the total palm oil imports to the UK were sustainable. Many large retailers and leading brands use it. Chester has declared itself the first sustainable palm oil city in the country. According to the largest player in the sustainable palm oil industry, Sime Darby Plantation, the companies that buy it often don't then make it clear on product labels. One reason could be that because palm oil is so controversial few companies want to be linked to it - even if it's sustainable. Several leading environment charities say the rules aren't strict enough and the sanctions aren't strong enough. A recent report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said there was "limited evidence of the conservation effectiveness." We are unlikely to stop demanding things like ice cream, soap or ready meals. The vast majority of these need vegetable oil to be made - and palm oil is the most productive vegetable oil crop on the planet.
9-3-19 Overnight changes in Mars’ atmosphere could solve a methane mystery
Atmospheric gases may mix differently as the planet’s surface moves in and out of sunshine. Methane released in Gale crater stays in Gale crater. An overnight change in the Martian atmosphere could hold the gas close to the ground until morning, explaining why the Curiosity rover caught a whiff of methane while an overhead orbiter found none. The theory offers “a way for the two measurements to live in harmony with each other,” says planetary scientist John Moores of York University in Toronto. He and his colleagues lay out the theory’s details online August 20 in Geophysical Research Letters. Since 2003, several spacecraft have detected varying amounts of methane on Mars (SN: 1/15/09). NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed in Gale crater in 2012, has found that amounts of the gas rise and fall in a seasonal cycle (SN: 6/7/18). Methane should last no more than about 300 years in the Martian atmosphere before sunlight breaks it down. “To see a seasonal cycle tells you that something is actively producing or destroying methane in the present time,” Moores says. Microbes produce methane on Earth, so finding the gas on the Red Planet has been seen as a possible sign of life — although not a definitive one. Methane “can be produced by abiotic processes,” says Dorothy Oehler, a planetary geologist and astrobiologist with the Planetary Science Institute who is based in Houston. “But even if it’s not directly related to biology, it can enhance habitability for other kinds of microbes. So it’s an important thing to be seeking,” says Oehler, who was not involved in the new study.
9-3-19 How ancient oceans of magma may have boosted Earth’s oxygen levels
Chemical reactions involving iron could have increased oxygen-rich compounds in the mantle. We may have ancient magma oceans to thank for Earth’s breathable air. Shortly after the planet’s formation about 4.5 billion years ago, the mantle somehow became much richer in oxygen than it was originally. That rock began leaking molecules like carbon dioxide and water into the oxygen-poor atmosphere — helping to jump-start conditions suitable for life some 2 billion years before the Great Oxidation Event, when the amount of molecular oxygen in the atmosphere skyrocketed (SN: 2/6/17). The cause of that chemical transition in the mantle has been a mystery. Now, new lab experiments suggest that chemical reactions involving iron in early Earth’s magma oceans tipped the chemical balance of the mantle in favor of more oxygen-rich compounds, researchers report in the Aug. 30 Science. “This is more than a chemical curiosity.… It’s profoundly important because it really sets the stage for all of Earth’s subsequent evolution,” says Jonathan Tucker, a geochemist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the work. “The oxidation state of the Earth, and planets in general, is a very, very important factor controlling habitability.” Early in Earth’s history, the planet was pummeled by planetesimals, which could have created oceans of molten rock that dipped hundreds of kilometers deep into the mantle. Scientists have suspected that intense pressure in such magma oceans forced oxygen-containing ferrous iron to split into two different kinds of iron: one richer in oxygen, called ferric iron, and oxygen-free metal iron. This heavy metallic iron would have sunk into the Earth’s core, leaving the mantle dominated by more oxygen-rich ferric iron.
9-2-19 Wild geese change routes to cope with climate change
Barnacle geese are choosing new feeding sites to cope with climate change, according to Scottish researchers. A team from St Andrews University, along with Norwegian, Dutch and British colleagues, found that the birds were flying further north in the Arctic. The study is one of the first to provide hard evidence that wild animals are inventing new ways to cope with changing habitats. The findings are based on 45 years of observations by experts. The teams found that the migratory birds, which traditionally fuelled up, or staged, just South of the Arctic circle in Norway now mainly staged in northern Norway far above the Arctic circle.Individual geese changed to a new route with other geese learning the new habit from each other, according to the findings. The researchers added that barnacle geese had shifted their migratory route on their journey from the UK to their breeding grounds on Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago, within the last 25 years. Dr Thomas Oudman of the school of biology at St Andrews, said: "It makes sense that the birds went even further north, because where snow used to be very common there at the time of their arrival in Norway, these days it is often freshly green there: the most nutritious stage. "What surprised us is that it is mainly the young geese who have shifted. The youngsters are responding to a trend they could not have experienced during their short life." Adult geese are also increasingly shifting north, although they often return to the traditional areas in their old age. Dr Oudman added: "These patterns point at a complex social system, which enables the geese to rapidly colonise newly available areas." Contrary to most other migratory birds, barnacle geese flourish even while their natural habitat is rapidly changing.
9-2-19 Hurricane Dorian is joint strongest Atlantic storm ever to hit land
Hurricane Dorian is setting unwanted records as it devastates the Bahamas en route to Florida. It put on an unprecedented burst of intensification as it moved over water that is abnormally warm due to global warming, and is tied with a 1935 hurricane as the strongest ever to strike land in the Atlantic. On Sunday, Category 5 Dorian made landfall in Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands of the northern Bahamas with sustained winds of 300 kilometres an hour (185 mph) and gusts of up to 350 kph (220 mph) – the strongest hurricane ever to hit any island in the Bahamas. On Monday morning Dorian was moving over Grand Bahama and the city of Freeport. Its sustained wind speeds have dropped to 270 kph (165 mph), but it remains a Category 5 hurricane. It will be many days before the full extent of the damage becomes clear, but initial reports suggest it will be extreme, with storm surges of several metres in addition to the wind and one death has already been confirmed. The official forecast suggests Dorian will turn north and move up the coast of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas without its centre moving over land. It will weaken as it does so, but storm surges, rainwater flooding and wind are still expected to cause extensive damage along the coast. Hurricane Matthew followed a similar path in 2016 and caused $11 billion in damage. Weather services were also forced to clarify that Alabama is not in danger after President Trump wrongly claimed it was on Twitter. There’s no doubt that global warming has made Dorian more damaging. For starters, local sea level is around 0.2 metres higher than normal already, making storm surges that much higher and more damaging.
9-2-19 Greta Thunberg responds to Asperger's critics: 'It's a superpower'
Teenage climate activist responds to criticism, saying ‘when haters go after your looks and differences ... you know you’re winning’ Greta Thunberg has spoken about her Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis after she was criticised over the condition, saying it makes her a “different”, but that she considers it a “superpower”. Thunberg, the public face of the school climate strike movement said on Twitter that before she started her climate action campaign she had “no energy, no friends and I didn’t speak to anyone. I just sat alone at home, with an eating disorder.” She said she had not been open about her diagnosis of being on the autism spectrum in order to “hide” behind it, but because she knew “many ignorant people still see it as an ‘illness’, or something negative”. “When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning!” she wrote, using the hashtag #aspiepower./ While acknowledging that her diagnosis has limited her before, she said it “sometimes makes me a bit different from the norm” and she sees being different as a “superpower”. (Webmaster's comment: SHE IS SO SMART!)
9-2-19 Who is afraid of Greta Thunberg?
As the world starts to take note of the teen climate activist, her critics have launched increasingly personal attacks. It was, in a subtle way, a defining moment. After a 15-day trek across the Atlantic Ocean, Thunberg looked exhausted. Still, the 16-year-old climate change activist knew she had to talk about the meaning and purpose of her unorthodox journey with supporters who greeted her on an overcast New York shoreline. Predictably, the tired, petite Swedish schoolgirl faltered, losing her train of thought briefly before apologising. "I'm sorry," she said, "my brain is not working correctly." The crowd applauded. Energised by the encouragement, Thunberg finished her short speech, where she urged the rest of us to "work together, despite our differences" to avert "the biggest crisis humanity has faced … because, otherwise, it might be too late. Let's not wait any longer. Let's do it now." For me, that distinctly human moment crystalised the appeal of Thunberg - a young woman who, distressed at the world's inexorable destruction, was moved to do something about it. Alone, if necessary. She disdains celebrity. She makes no claim to heroism. She rebuffs efforts to idolise her. She isn't calculating or preoccupied with fame or ego. There is no artifice about her. She speaks plainly, without affectation or embroidery. In words and deeds, Thunberg is the embodiment of philosopher Howard Zinn's admonition: "We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power that can transform the world." Of course, the marauding swarm of vitriolic right-wing climate-change deniers see Thunberg - not how the prophetic Zinn envisioned her - but as a tiny, pretentious zealot who threatens the existing order. Their order. Their comforts. Their traditional "way of life". De rigueur, they have set out to discredit and, if possible, to destroy Thunberg with their, by now, familiar and crass modus operandi. They have mocked her. They have belittled her. They have denigrated her. They have insulted her. They have dismissed her. They have questioned her motives. They have suggested she is anti-democratic. They have, in the fetid recesses of the internet, even threatened her. To afford all their fuming, sophomoric attacks the imprimatur of seriousness, they insist - as they always do - that they are the implacable realists, who, unlike starry-eyed leftists, aren't duped by the media's veneration of a youngster peddling doom and gloom over the supposedly still-contested science about whether the end is nigh or not. They would, no doubt, recoil at any suggestion that their furious hostility towards Thunberg is also the product of a calcifying cynicism, seething malevolence or signature cruelty. Rather, they insist, it is an expression of their necessary role as sceptics or contrarians in the noble tradition of their philosophical patron saint in name only, Galileo, who also questioned the prevailing scientific orthodoxy. It is a lie and an insult. They aren't "sceptics" or "contrarians". They are scientifically illiterate bullies who amplify their malice and ignorance with a bullhorn on TV or keyboard on Twitter. They share no intellectual affinity with Galileo. None. Bereft of an argument that could remotely be considered empirically or rationally sound, they traffic in hyperbole and smears designed to pummel Thunberg into an inconsequential afterthought. The teenage revolutionary must be stopped before the climate revolution she leads goes beyond their ability to halt it.
9-2-19 Greta Thunberg has the perfect response to people who tried to mock her looks and appearance
By now, it's a truth widely accepted that Greta Thunberg is a complete inspiration. Now, she's consolidated this status even further with a message to the 'haters' who have mocked her appearance or Asperger diagnosis. The climate change activist, who is 16, took to social media in order to share why she rarely speaks publicly about her Asperger diagnosis. She also discussed some difficult times that she had experienced before becoming a climate change campaigner. In the series of tweets she also took down those who are criticising her for being too young, or her looks and appearance, in a brilliant series of tweets. Taking to the social media platform, she wrote: "When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning! I have Aspergers and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And - given the right circumstances- being different is a superpower." "I am indeed “deeply disturbed” about the fact that these hate and conspiracy campaigns are allowed to go on and on and on just because we children communicate and act on the science. Where are the adults?" Greta, you're an inspiration to us all, keep being incredible.
9-2-19 Great Barrier Reef now has 'very poor' outlook due to climate change
The Great Barrier Reef’s long-term outlook has been dropped from “poor” to “very poor” in a new report that calls for urgent action on climate change and other threats to the natural wonder. Rising sea temperatures and marine heat waves are doing the most damage to the reef’s health, according to the report written by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Josh Thomas, the group’s CEO, called this a “critical” point in the reef’s history, saying its future depends on action taken now. If nothing is done to stop the current rate of global warming, the reef will be irreparably damaged for future generations, the nearly 400-page document concludes. The finding comes from an analysis of data from scientific institutions, research centres, industry and government agencies – and is the culmination of two years of expert workshops. The report comes after back-to-back years of coral bleaching that have wreaked havoc on the coral reefs. Cyclones and outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish – which eat coral – have damaged the reefs too. Such threats are intensifying, and widespread habitat loss and degradation are affecting fish, turtles and seabirds. Only around 60 per cent of the 31 ecosystem health markers assessed in the report were classed as good to very good, and the rest were in poor or very poor condition. Beside climate change, the reef is also suffering due to coastal development, direct human use, such as illegal fishing, and land-based run-off from agriculture. While water quality is improving in some areas, the report’s authors said progress was moving too slowly. The Queensland state government is considering controversial regulations to limit nutrient and sediment run-off from farms – amid reports that only one in ten sugarcane farmers properly manage pollution into reef catchment areas.
9-2-19 Are biodegradable plastics sustainable?
Researchers are on a quest for greener plastics. lastic is kind of a wonder material. It's cheap, light and durable. But the reason it's so great is also why it can be the worst. It's so cheap that it's discarded with nary a thought. It's so durable that it can persist for centuries, filling landfills and spilling into the oceans, where it is eaten and propagates up the food chain. Plastic breaks down into bits of microplastic that fill bird and fish stomachs, causing them to starve, and sops up toxic pollutants, which can poison wildlife when ingested. While we can and should use much less plastic, we probably can't forego it altogether. Plastic packaging, for example, keeps food fresh — crucial for feeding the world. So researchers and companies have been developing biodegradable versions of the material. They're producing these materials from plants and — in pushing toward a future when everything is recycled and nothing is wasted — even food scraps and sewage. Unlike traditional plastics, which retain their chemical structure even when they break down into smaller pieces, these biodegradable plastics decompose into molecules that can safely reintegrate into the environment. "Synthetic plastics break down like rocks — they get smaller and smaller," says Taylor Weiss, a biophysicist at Arizona State University. "Biodegradable plastics break down like wood." But not all biodegradable plastics are created equal, and much of the challenge is to design, or identify, the right material for the job. Many environmentally friendlier plastics are already in the market, including plastic cups and bottles made from plants. Compared with traditional, petroleum-based plastics, these bioplastics are an improvement. They have a smaller carbon footprint — they don't release extra carbon that's been locked up in fossil fuels — and are based on renewable resources. But just because something is made from plants doesn't mean it's biodegradable: Some bioplastics aren't, while some petroleum-based plastics are, says Ramani Narayan, a chemical engineer at Michigan State University.
9-1-19 Hurricane Dorian: Bahamas braces for category five storm
Hurricane Dorian has become a catastrophic category five storm, and is expected to hit the Bahamas with devastating winds and very heavy rain. The "extremely dangerous" storm is expected to slam the north-west of the island chain on Sunday, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said, before heading to the US east coast. Grand Bahama residents have been evacuating from its predicted path. The storm surge could be as high as 15ft (4.6m), officials warned. Authorities closed some airports in the outlying islands, but the main international airport remains open on Sunday. The storm was about 35 miles east of the Bahamas' Great Abaco Island, moving westward at 8mph (13km/h) with maximum sustained winds of nearly 175mph (280km/h), putting it among the most dangerous in recent history. The core of the hurricane was expected to move over the island soon, and continue near or over Grand Bahama later on Sunday and Monday. After hitting the Bahamas, it was expected to move up the US coast, grazing Florida, which had expected a direct hit but appeared to have been spared the worst by a change in the storm's path. US President Donald Trump said he was monitoring Dorian, which he described as "an extremely dangerous storm" on Twitter. He cancelled a planned trip to Poland, sending Vice-President Mike Pence in his place. Hurricanes, which vary in strength from category one to five on the Saffir-Simpson scale, tend to get stronger as they move over warm waters like those off the coast of Florida. Category five hurricanes, with winds of at least 157mph, are extremely rare, although four other storms - Michael, Maria, Irma and Matthew - have reached this level in the last three years. Forecasters said they expected Dorian to shift eastwards around the middle of the week, putting the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina at risk.
9-1-19 The destruction of the Amazon, explained
The "lungs of the earth" are on fire, and shrinking every day. What are the consequences for the planet? Here's everything you need to know:
- What's happening? Tens of thousands of fires are burning across the vast Amazon basin, consuming 4.6 million acres of irreplaceable rain forest since the beginning of the year. Thick, black smoke, visible from space, wafts over the land, plunging Brazil's largest city, São Paulo, into daytime darkness and filling hospitals with patients in respiratory distress. More than 36,000 of the 77,000 fires in the Amazon this year began in the last month alone.
- Why is the Amazon so important? Home to three million species of plants and animals, the vast rain forest is the most biodiverse region on the planet. Some 400 billion trees absorb millions of tons of carbon dioxide every year — crucial to slowing climate change — and emit about 6 percent of Earth's oxygen. These trees also respire moisture, pulling fresh water from the ground and cycling it into the air, creating one of the atmospheric "rivers" of moisture that regulate rainfall across the planet.
- Why has it gotten so bad? Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right, pro-business former army captain, took office in January with a pledge to open the rain forest to development. "Not one centimeter" more, he vowed, would be set aside for the 1 million indigenous Brazilians who have lived in the rain forest for millennia.
- Why is he doing this? With Brazil's economy struggling, Bolsonaro sees the Amazon as the country's greatest exploitable resource, and he believes that environmentalists are a front for foreign "colonialists" who want to control Brazil. Last week he claimed that the fires were set by nongovernmental organizations trying to make his government look bad.
- What is the international community doing? French President Emmanuel Macron, who has called the Amazon fires an "international crisis," put the issue at the top of this week's G-7 summit. Macron also said he would seek to pull the EU out of Mercosur, a massive trade deal 20 years in the making that is being finalized with Brazil and other Latin American countries.
- What else can be done? If the fires burn out or can be put out, there is plenty that Brazilians can do to mitigate the damage. Indigenous leaders have proposed ways to open their lands to economic development without cutting down trees.
- Loss of ancestral homelands: A million indigenous people call the Amazon forest home, but Bolsonaro thinks their communities are a waste of valuable land. On his second day in office, he tweeted that Indians aren't part of "the real Brazil," saying, "We're going to integrate these citizens and give them value as real Brazilians."
9-1-19 Tiffany Francis-Baker: How forests shaped our literary heritage and inspired a nation
Tiffany Francis-Baker sits on a mossy tree trunk in the soft golden light of a woodland glade, discussing the role of forests in the British psyche. "The woods are a scary place often in old fairytale literature," says the writer-in-residence at the Forestry Commission. "You didn't want to be caught by a wolf or something." She mentions the phrase, "out of the woods", which harks back to our primeval fear of becoming lost in the forest. The expression was first recorded centuries ago and is one of many wood-related sayings that pepper the English language. "Knocking on wood" or "touching wood", for instance, derive from the pagan belief that vengeful spirits inhabited wood and by touching it, you could appease them. Forests have played an important role in our cultural imagination - as well as historically and industrially, says the writer and artist. "They're just very intertwined with our British identity, which I love." Forests have set the stage for some of England's literary heavyweights. For Shakespeare they were a place of both magic and menace; when in Macbeth Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane, the protagonist knows he is doomed. More recently, nature writers like Robert Macfarlane, have charted new journeys connecting humans with the landscape. For Tiffany, forests are a place for reflection and inspiration. "The great thing about nature and forests is they're constantly changing - so it's just an endless infinite cycle of inspiration." Commissioned by the Forestry Commission in its centenary year to tell the story of the nation's forests, she has set out to write a literary ballad with a twist, inspired by her love of the romantic poets and their connection with nature.