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69 Global Warming News Articles
for October of 2020
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Climate Change Is Real. Donald Trump Thinks It's A Hoax.


10-29-20 Controlling deforestation and wildlife trade could prevent pandemics
Future pandemics could be prevented if unsustainable practices like deforestation and the industrial-scale wildlife trade are halted, according to a global biodiversity report. The cost of doing so would be paid back many times over, simply because our society wouldn’t have to go through another pandemic. Millions of people are living or working in close contact with wild animals that carry diseases, and these industries aren’t properly regulated. The more people cut down forests for farmland, for example, the more they are pushing into animals’ habitats and thus coming into regular contact with disease-carrying wildlife. Controlling the global wildlife trade and reducing land-use change would cost $40-58 billion per year, the report says. That is a lot, but the covid-19 pandemic is estimated to have cost the global economy $8-16 trillion by July. In total, pandemics cost $1 trillion per year – including treatment costs and economic and productivity losses – including the ongoing HIV and influenza pandemics. “It’s a really incredible efficient economic return on investment we’re going to see if we can do this right,” says report author Peter Daszak at EcoHealth Alliance in New York. The report was published by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Almost every known pandemic disease came from an animal, says Daszak. Covid-19 came from bats in China. “HIV emerged from the hunting of chimpanzees,” he says, and the recent African Ebola outbreak stemmed from the hunting of wild primates. Many of the most harmful practices are driven by consumption practices in the West. “The reason roads are being built in the rainforests of Indonesia is to supply palm oil,” says Daszak. Palm oil is used in many food products, including packaged bread, ice cream and peanut butter.

10-29-20 'Moderate to strong' La Niña weather event develops in the Pacific
A moderate to strong La Niña weather event has developed in the Pacific Ocean, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The naturally occurring phenomenon results in the large scale cooling of ocean surface temperature. This La Niña, which is set to last through the first quarter of 2021, will likely have a cooling effect on global temperatures. But it won't prevent 2020 from being one of the warmest years on record. La Niña is described as one of the three phases of the weather occurrence known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). This includes the warm phase called El Niño, the cooler La Niña and a neutral phase. A La Niña develops when strong winds blow the warm surface waters of the Pacific away from South America and towards Indonesia. In their place, colder waters from deep in the ocean come up to the surface. This event leads to significant weather changes in different parts of the world. If a really strong La Niña event were to occur, research suggests that the UK and Northern Europe might experience a very wet winter. Normally La Niña means countries like Indonesia and Australia can get much more rain than usual, and a more active monsoon occurs in southeast Asia. There are likely to be more storms in Canada and the northern US, often leading to snowy conditions. Southern US states can be hit by drought at the same time. The last time that a strong event developed was in 2010-2011. The WMO says there is a now around a 90% chance of tropical Pacific sea temperatures remaining at La Niña levels for the rest of this year. There is a 55% chance of the conditions persisting through the first quarter of next year. While a La Niña event normally exerts a cooling influence on the world, this is unlikely to make too much of a difference to 2020. "La Niña typically has a cooling effect on global temperatures, but this is more than offset by the heat trapped in our atmosphere by greenhouse gases," said Prof Petteri Taalas, from the WMO. "Therefore, 2020 remains on track to be one of the warmest years on record and 2016-2020 is expected to be the warmest five-year period on record," he said. "La Niña years now are warmer even than years with strong El Niño events of the past."

10-29-20 Climate change: China's forest carbon uptake 'underestimated'
China's aggressive policy of planting trees is likely playing a significant role in tempering its climate impacts. An international team has identified two areas in the country where the scale of carbon dioxide absorption by new forests has been underestimated. Taken together, these areas account for a little over 35% of China's entire land carbon "sink", the group says. The researchers' analysis, based on ground and satellite observations, is reported in Nature journal. A carbon sink is any reservoir - such as peatlands, or forests - that absorbs more carbon than it releases, thereby lowering the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. China is the world's biggest source of human-produced carbon dioxide, responsible for around 28% of global emissions. But it recently stated an intention to peak those emissions before 2030 and then to move to carbon neutrality by 2060. The specifics of how the country would reach these goals is not clear, but it inevitably has to include not only deep cuts in fossil fuel use but ways also to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. "Achieving China's net-zero target by 2060, recently announced by the Chinese President Xi Jinping, will involve a massive change in energy production and also the growth of sustainable land carbon sinks," said co-author Prof Yi Liu at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics (IAP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China. "The afforestation activities described in [our Nature] paper will play a role in achieving that target," he told BBC News. China's increasing leafiness has been evident for some time. Billions of trees have been planted in recent decades, to tackle desertification and soil loss, and to establish vibrant timber and paper industries. The new study refines estimates for how much CO2 all these extra trees could be taking up as they grow.

10-29-20 China’s 2060 net-zero goal needs large-scale negative emissions tech
China’s pledge to reach carbon neutrality by 2060 may depend on extracting greenhouse gases from the air at massive scales – on the order of 2.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year. Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the ambitious target last month at the UN general assembly, saying that the country’s aim was “to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030”. To do so would require significant use of negative emissions technologies, such as capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air and the planting of new forests, according to analysis by Shreekar Pradhan at the University of Virginia and his colleagues. The researchers used a model that includes projections of future changes to global temperature and atmospheric carbon concentrations. They simulated four potential trajectories of emissions reductions: a scenario with no climate mitigation policy, used as a reference; one in which only China achieves net zero by 2060; a global net-zero scenario in which all countries achieve overall carbon neutrality by 2060; and a final scenario that limits global warming to 1.5°C by 2100. The researchers predicted that the global net-zero scenario will result in about 1.8°C of warming by 2100. Although China is now the world’s biggest carbon emitter, the modelling suggests that if it is alone in achieving net-zero emissions by 2060, the world will remain on course for more than 3°C of warming over pre-industrial levels by 2100. The researchers also looked at China’s path to net zero. They concluded that China will need to make significant use of negative emissions technologies. These include so-called direct air capture that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, an option that isn’t currently available commercially. Direct air capture may ultimately prove to be expensive to operate. It may never become a commercial option.

10-28-20 Biobank to house 800 coral species so we can restore reefs in future
An Australian conservation team is compiling a comprehensive living biobank of coral species, in case we need to rebuild the world’s reefs in future. The Living Coral Biobank plans to collect and house more than 800 species of the world’s hard corals in a dedicated facility in Port Douglas, northern Australia. The biobank is a biodiversity insurance policy, says Dean Miller, director of the Living Coral Biobank Project. “We’re keeping this living stock of corals alive should we need to use them for restoration and rehabilitation activities,” says Miller, adding that having to replant coral reefs is a “worst-case scenario”. The Great Barrier Reef has experienced three mass bleaching events in the past five years, which has been especially catastrophic in the northern part of the reef. The reef has lost more than half of its coral colonies since 1995. Starting on 6 November, the team will begin to collect living fragments, tissue and DNA samples of corals from the Great Barrier Reef. On its first expedition, the team will identify and gather specimens of 20 coral species – 5 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef’s 400 species. A purpose-built facility to house the coral samples is planned for completion by 2025. In the meantime, they will be kept in holding tanks in Cairns. As a back-up, corals will be stored in various public and private aquariums around the world. Samples from the first expedition will be additionally housed by one public and 10 private aquariums in Australia. The team hasn’t yet announced a detailed timetable for subsequent expeditions. Under favourable conditions, corals can live for thousands of years, says Miller. Corals can produce both sexually and asexually. Under asexual reproduction, they bud and produce clones of themselves. “We anticipate that the corals will double in size every six months, so effectively the biobank collection will double every six months,” says Miller.

10-27-20 Arctic sea ice loss could trigger huge levels of extra global warming
If Arctic sea ice vanishes in summers by the middle of the century as expected, the world could see a vicious circle that drives enough global warming to almost wipe out the impact of China going carbon neutral. Ice losses in frozen regions are known to trigger “climate feedback” loops. For instance, white ice reflects much of the sun’s energy, so when it is replaced by dark open water that absorbs heat, more warming occurs. But how much more warming is an open question. To answer it, Ricarda Winkelmann at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and her colleagues modelled the impact of such feedbacks on global temperature rises if ice disappeared from mountain glaciers, the Greenland and West Antarctica ice sheets, and the Arctic in summer. They found that the loss of ice in all four places would, over centuries to millennia, contribute an extra 0.43°C of warming globally in the event of the world holding temperature rises to 1.5°C. However, Arctic feedbacks could bring warming on much shorter time scales. Summers in the region are expected to be ice-free before 2050. That means the Arctic alone could account for an extra 0.19°C of global warming around mid-century, on top of the 1.5°C. A fifth of a degree is a huge number: China’s recent pledge to become carbon neutral by 2060 is estimated to lower global warming by 0.2-0.3°C. The Arctic feedbacks would have an even bigger impact locally, raising temperatures 1.5°C in a region that is warming faster than the rest of the world and beset by record fires. “The ice masses on Earth matter. It’s in our hands what happens with the ice masses and that in turn will have an effect on our global climate,” says Winkelmann. The team used computer simulations of Earth systems to quantify the feedbacks that would follow the total loss of ice – a dramatic scenario that could be averted if humanity curbs emissions.

10-26-20 Climate change: 'Dangerous and dirty' used cars sold to Africa
Millions of highly polluting used cars from rich countries are being "dumped" on developing nations, according to a UN report.Between 2015 and 2018, some 14 million older, poor quality vehicles were exported from Europe, Japan and the US. Four out of five were sold to poorer countries, with more than half going to Africa. Experts say that up to 80% failed to meet minimum safety and environmental standards in exporting countries. As well as causing accidents, these cars make air pollution worse and contribute heavily to climate change. Many of the vehicles have also been tampered with to remove valuable parts. The report, published by the UN Environment Programme (Unep), says that both exporters and importers need to put tougher regulations in place to stem the flow of these cars. Car ownership is booming all over the world with an estimated 1.4bn vehicles on the roads, a number that's expected to reach around two billion by 2040. Much of that growth is happening in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. In their three-year analysis, researchers found that regulations on car imports in the majority of the 146 countries they studied were "weak" or "very weak". A second study on the issue, by the Netherlands Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate, shows that many cars and vans shipped from Dutch ports to Africa are outdated and contribute to worsening air quality on the continent. "What we can say is that of those 14 million vehicles up to around 80% are not roadworthy and don't meet a vehicle emission standard that is called Euro 4," said Rob de Jong, from Unep, one of the report's authors. The Euro 4 car standard came into force in Europe in January 2005. "That means that those vehicles emit 90% more emissions because they are not meeting this minimal standard," said Mr de Jong.

10-26-20 Japan steps up climate ambition with 2050 net zero emissions goal
The Japanese government has said it will cut the country’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2050, in the latest sign of growing momentum on international climate action. Yoshihide Suga, who was elected prime minister last month, said curbing emissions was no longer a brake on economic growth. “We need to change our mindset that proactively taking measures against global warming will bring about changes to industrial structures, as well as the economy and society, and lead to major growth,” he told Japan’s parliament. The net zero move marks a strong shift in ambition by the world’s fifth biggest emitter, up from an existing target of reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, and brings it level with the UK and EU. Japan’s past pledges had been rated “highly insufficient” by climate analysts. The third largest economy in the world is heavily reliant on fossil fuels for its energy supplies, with electricity supplies overwhelmingly provided by coal and gas following the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011. However, solar power generation has grown rapidly in the past five years, and Suga mentioned “next generation” solar cells as one way to meet the country’s new goal. The greater ambition is important not just domestically but because it injects further momentum into international efforts on meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. While the pandemic has led to the postponement of the major COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow to next year, recent weeks have seen China pledge to become carbon neutral by 2060, the EU taking steps to enshrine its 2050 net zero target in law, and the UK indicating it will produce a more ambitious climate plan on 12 December. Alok Sharma, the UK minister presiding over COP26, said he was “delighted” by Suga’s announcement. Laurence Tubiana, the former French diplomat who helped forge the Paris deal, said she was “very pleased” but countries must now “deliver robust plans” to meet their goals./p> 10-25-20

Climate change: Technology no silver bullet, experts tell PM
Can we trust the silver bullet of technology to fix climate change? The prime minister seems to think so. In a speech due soon, he is expected to pledge his faith in offshore wind power, solar, carbon capture, hydrogen, clean cars, and zero-emission aviation. Clean technologies are clearly a huge part of any solution. But the PM is being accused of techno-optimism bias, because he does not mention other key factors in reducing emissions. In fact, experts say, tackling climate change will need action right across society and the economy - with a host of new incentives, laws, rules, bans, appliance standards, taxes and institutional innovations. They also warn that citizens’ behaviour must shift, with people probably driving and flying less, and eating less meat and dairy produce. In other words, when it comes to cutting carbon emissions, there’s no silver bullet – it’s more like silver buckshot. But Boris Johnson still seems to have a bandolero stuffed with technologies resembling silver bullets. Let’s see whether they’ll go with a bang. Take cars. The prime minister is due to accelerate the transition towards battery- and hydrogen-powered vehicles. But Professor Jillian Anable from Leeds University warns that even electric cars pose "their own problems that politicians seem reluctant to acknowledge." “Producing electricity and hydrogen requires huge numbers of wind farms or the like, and the cars themselves need resource-hungry tyres, and batteries. "They also need roads and parking spaces that could otherwise be used for gardens and trees that soak up carbon dioxide," she said. “The harsh reality is that we have to find ways to limit the number of cars and the amount that we drive them” There is widespread agreement that hydrogen will play a role in reducing climate change – but how much, and in what industrial sectors, is another matter. A key question is whether it’s sourced from natural gas – which is expensive and, depending on the process used, can yield troublesome carbon dioxide as a by-product - or by using surplus wind energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The latter process does the job cleanly but at still greater cost. Jess Ralston, from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit think tank, said: “Hydrogen can power cars, but electricity seems to have won that technology race. It could heat homes, but electric heat pumps are emerging as a better bet. “Hydrogen could be really useful, though, in industries such as steelmaking and in heavy transport – including buses that we’re already seeing. But it’s no silver bullet.”

10-25-20 Recycling meets reality
The recycling industry is like an ecosystem just beginning to recover from a devastating wildfire. The good news is that what's coming back is an industry that has been forced to rethink and reinvent itself. If your neighborhood is like most locales in the United States, there's a thing that's hard to unsee once you notice: The trucks that empty your blue recycling bin look just like the trucks that collect your trash. So — they are taking your stuff to be recycled, right? The trucks aren't just loading up all those carefully separated newspapers, cardboard boxes, metal cans, plastic bottles, and glass jars, and dumping them along with the rest of the garbage? Rest easy. Your recyclables are (probably) winding up exactly where they're supposed to go. Same trucks, different destination — most often a sorting plant much like the materials recovery facility (MRF, pronounced "murf") that Michael Taylor is explaining right now. "Our facility serves 2.6 million people," says Taylor, raising his voice over the din of conveyor belts, blowers, and separation screens moving multiple streams of sorted recyclables through a space the size of a football field. That works out to an average of nearly 1,000 tons per day — a round-the-clock flow of material pouring in from curbside bins across metropolitan Baltimore, the District of Columbia and most of the suburbs in between. That also makes this MRF in Elkridge, Maryland, one of the busiest in the United States, says Taylor, who runs it for the facility's owner, Houston-based recycling giant Waste Management. But other than that, it's pretty typical of the hundreds of other MRFs around the country. "We are a hardcore manufacturer, except we do it in reverse," says Taylor. "We're taking this mixed-up stream of material and we're de-manufacturing it, breaking it down into individual components." In the same way that Ford or Chevrolet builds cars, he says, "I'm building bales of newspaper, bales of aluminum cans, bales of PET water and soda bottles." Indeed, this is the fundamental business model for Waste Management's MRFs and many others: Charge cities for the cost of collecting and sorting recyclables, then share with them any profit the MRF makes from selling the sorted bales to recycling mills. These mills are the firms that will actually turn the stuff into raw materials for brand-new bags, boxes, fleece jackets, shoes, and more. But that last step is also where the story gets messy. This isn't so much because of the coronavirus pandemic: Most U.S. cities (although by no means all) are trying to maintain curbside recycling as an essential service. If anything, the quantity of residential recyclables has mushroomed as people stay home. No, what's hit recycling hard is that roughly a third of the bales coming out of this MRF and others like it used to go to recycling mills in China and other countries. But in July 2017, the Chinese government announced that its plants would quit accepting "contaminated" material from outsiders — contamination being, say, the residual paper, glass, and metal that never got completely separated from a bale of plastics. Part of a larger initiative known as National Sword, the policy stated that China would drop the allowable fraction of contaminants from 5 percent or even 10 percent down to 0.5 percent, effective March 1, 2018. Since 0.5 percent was a standard that was much more expensive for MRFs to meet — if they could do it at all — the year that followed saw their carefully sorted bales of recyclables glut the market. This led to steep drops in prices and a lot less money flowing back to the cities through those profit-sharing arrangements. Dozens of cities responded by suspending curbside pickup, and the media began to run dire headlines like "The World's Recycling Is in Chaos."

10-23-20 China's cuts to air pollution may have saved 150,000 lives each year
Levels of harmful air pollution over China have been falling steadily since 2015, due to stricter controls on emissions. China’s air is still terribly polluted, but the reduction has probably prevented 150,000 premature deaths per year. “It’s probably the fastest any country has improved their air quality ever,” says Ben Silver at the University of Leeds in the UK. “But it’s still really bad.” Silver and his colleagues tracked levels of tiny particles, called PM2.5, using data from over 1600 monitoring stations dotted around China. In line with previous studies, they found that levels of PM2.5 declined from 2015 to 2017. Other researchers had expressed concern that the apparent decline in pollution might be nothing to do with falling emissions, but due to changes in weather patterns, which can affect where pollutants build up. So the team used a model of the air over China, which simulated wind patterns and the chemistry of the pollution. They ran the model twice, once with a decline in emissions after 2015 and another with no decline. The latter model saw little change in pollution levels, suggesting weather changes alone couldn’t be responsible for the decline. “We showed the weather was a relatively small effect, compared to emissions reductions,” says Silver. The most important source of China’s air pollution is industry, followed by people burning fuel for cooking and heating in their homes, power generation, transport and agriculture. “The major decline has been in industry and power generation,” says Silver. “That’s usually the easiest thing to target, because you have big point sources like factories.” It is difficult to determine how many people are killed by air pollution, and how many would be saved by cutting it. “You can’t ever isolate a single death and say ‘PM2.5 killed this person’,” says Silver. Instead, epidemiologists treat it as a risk factor for early death.

10-23-20 Norway funds satellite map of world's tropical forests
A unique satellite dataset on the world's tropical forests is now available for all to see and use. It's a high-resolution image map covering 64 countries that will be updated monthly. Anyone who wants to understand how trees are being managed will be able to download the necessary information for analysis - for free. The Norwegian government is funding the project through its International Climate and Forests Initiative (NICFI). The dataset should be an enormous help in the fight against deforestation, said Sveinung Rotevatn, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment. "There are many parts of the world where high-resolution images simply aren't available, or where they are available - the NGOs, communities, and academia in those countries can't afford them because they're quite expensive. "So, we've decided to foot the bill for the world, basically," he told BBC News. The NICFI has awarded a $44m (£33m) contract to Earth-observation specialists Airbus, Planet and Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT) for access to their pictures and expertise. European aerospace giant Airbus is opening up its Spot image archive going back to 2002. US-based Planet operates the single biggest constellation of imaging satellites in orbit today. The San Francisco firm acquires a complete picture of the Earth's land surface daily (cloud permitting), and it will provide the bulk of the data for the monthly map going forward. KSAT will tie the information together and provide the technical support for users. The Planet video at the top of this page gives a good demonstration of how satellite imagery can be used to track deforestation. It shows a section of the Amazon being systematically felled over a period of three years. For Planet CEO Will Marshall, the new project encapsulates what his company is about. "It's very validating," he said. "Our mission, when we set up the company, was to see change all over the planet and to help people make smarter decisions. And the canonical example for us was forests.

10-23-20 Should Japan dump radioactive water from Fukushima into the ocean?
Around 1.2 million tonnes of water contaminated by radioactive substances from the 2011 Fukushima disaster will be dumped in the Pacific ocean, under a plan expected to be approved by the Japanese government within weeks. The water is sitting in around 1000 tanks at the former nuclear power station, but the amount is growing daily as rainfall and groundwater entering the site continue to be contaminated. With 160 tonnes a day on average being added last year, the International Atomic Energy Agency expects existing capacity will be full by mid-2022. That is why the Japanese government is reportedly going to approve a strategy of discharging the water to the ocean, as recommended by advisers. The release would start around 2022 and last over a period of decades. The news sparked immediate complaints from Japanese fishing groups and veiled warnings that China would ban Japanese seafood imports. But are they right to be worried about the environmental and health impact of releasing such a large amount of contaminated water? Much of the existing water has already been filtered by a process designed to remove more than 62 radioactive contaminants. The Japanese government and Tepco, the company that runs the site, have emphasised the main radionuclide remaining is tritium, which Francis Livens at the University of Manchester, UK says is very hard to separate, because it is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen and so part of the water molecules themselves. Tepco has looked at technology to remove the tritium, but a presentation by the firm shows most would not work for the low concentrations in the tanks. Livens points out most operating nuclear sites release tritium. Tritium is light, so could reach as far afield as the US west coast within two years, says Ken Buesseler at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Fortunately, he says tritium is relatively harmless for marine life as the low energy particles it emits do little damage to living cells.

10-22-20 Why geothermal energy should be Biden's easy answer to the fracking question
Get all those oil and gas workers building the zero-carbon future. Pennsylvania is second only to Texas in natural gas production, and President Trump basically has to win the state to have any reasonable chance of victory. Thus, he is relentlessly attacking Joe Biden on the issue of fracking. At a rally in Erie recently, he said the "Democrat Party hate fracking, they hate coal, good beautiful clean coal … they hate American energy and Joe Biden will shut it all down." This is a lie regarding Biden's platform. He promises to ban new fracking on federal land, which is not even close to banning it altogether. However, it is actually true that fracking is not long for the world, no matter what Biden does. Luckily, there is a zero-carbon energy alternative that is ready to employ all the laid-off oil and gas workers, and a lot more besides: geothermal. This should be Biden's easy response to Trump's taunts and the actual problem of lost oil and gas jobs. The reason that oil and gas fracking is all but doomed is that wind and solar are now beating all other technologies for new generation capacity on price in most places across the country — nuclear, coal, oil, and even natural gas — and they will only get cheaper. With even modest climate policy, superior zero-carbon technology will soon out-compete most carbon-based electricity and transportation. With aggressive policy, that process will happen much faster. Furthermore, the coronavirus pandemic has walloped the fracking industry, as oil demand has cratered with the collapse of travel. Indeed, the government will probably have to spend billions of dollars over the coming years capping wells that bankrupt fracking outfits have (as usual) abandoned because they didn't have enough insurance. The good news is that, as David Roberts writes in an extensive article for Vox, geothermal power technology is finally reaching the liftoff stage. This is one of those technologies that is theoretically very promising but an engineering nightmare. Essentially, the molten core of the earth is very hot thanks to the decay of radioactive isotopes inside it, and you can use that (virtually inexhaustible) heat to generate electricity. In certain volcanically active places you can access the heat easily, but to really get at the potential, you've got to build geothermal stations all over the place. That means drilling down hundreds or thousands of feet to get to the hot zone, and transporting that heat back up somehow to run a turbine. Geothermal would be an excellent complement for wind and solar, because it can be switched on and off at will — providing either baseload or quick-deployment power to compensate for changing wind and sun conditions, but until now it hasn't been feasible at a large scale. For years the drilling technology to do this kind of thing did not exist. Ironically, the fracking revolution has created exactly the innovations needed. One method is to find a natural reservoir of hot water trapped relatively close to the surface, pump it out through a well, and then pump it back down again once it has run the turbine. Or you can create a new reservoir by pumping down some water to crack apart the rock layers, and then pumping it back out again. Further along the engineering frontier, you can drill down very far to get water hot enough that it becomes "supercritical" and hence able to hold dramatically more energy, or heat the water through an entirely closed loop with deep horizontal pipes. The second option is akin to oil and gas fracking, and it's bound to raise some environmentalist hackles because of all the water contamination and seismic instability that have come with that process. However, as Roberts points out, there are key differences that make geothermal substantially less risky. For instance, the point is to get enough water down that it can be sucked back up, not shake loose fossil fuels by blasting the rock layers apart. That means safer fluid (typically water or brine, as opposed to the toxic chemicals used in gas fracking) injected at lower pressure, and a steady process of injection and removal once the operation is going. Most induced earthquakes from gas fracking come after the waste water is re-injected into the well all at once, which would not happen here. It's not zero-risk, but it's likely tolerable with safety mechanisms given the benefits. After all, even wind turbines and solar panels come with some environmental trade-off.

10-22-20 More pollution expected from stay-home workers
Air pollution in big cities could increase because so many people are working from home, a report says. Gas burning from boilers is a major source of local pollution, accounting for 21% of total NOx emissions across Greater London, for instance. Computer modelling predicts that boiler use will rise by 56% this winter due to coronavirus changing work patterns. The report assumes that workers’ offices will continue to be heated for staff still needed in the workplace. It also assumes that NOx emissions from cars will stay roughly the same, because although fewer people are going to the office, many are using cars when previously they would have taken buses or trains. The study from the think tank ECIU warns that the predicted spike in emissions may threaten the UK’s legally binding air quality targets. It says the increase in energy use may driving up NOx emissions by approximately 12% in towns and cities – enough to offset the last two years’ worth of progress on reducing traffic emissions. The report says: “The increase in pollution from gas boilers provides a graphic illustration of their forgotten role in contributing to air pollution.” Some estimates suggest that energy bills will rise on average £32 a month through home working. But that could be offset by a decrease in the costs of commuting. Debate over air pollution in the UK tends to focus on motor vehicles, but boilers are a major contributor in big cities. Dirty air from devices like boilers doesn't directly kill people. But it's estimated in the UK to contribute to the shortening of the lives of around 40,000 people a year, principally by undermining the health of people with heart or lung problems. This is not a count of actual deaths - it's a statistical construct, with a lot of uncertainty involved. Government advisers say the 40,000 number might range from fewer than 7,000 to as many as 80,000.

10-22-20 Colorado River drought can be predicted by warming in the ocean
Forecasting drought in the Colorado River, one of the most important rivers in the arid western US, could come down to ocean temperatures thousands of kilometers away. The Colorado River runs for just over 2400 kilometres, providing water to vast farmlands and 30 million people in seven US states and Mexico. A team of researchers found that distant sea surface temperatures today could help predict the river’s water supply up to two years into the future. “If we can predict the shortage of Colorado River water supply one year before, the water resource managers can develop a mitigation plan against the upcoming water shortage,” says Yoshimitsu Chikamoto at Utah State University. Most models that forecast water in the Colorado River rely on recent atmospheric and weather data, but when preparing for a drought requires more time, policy-makers and scientists need longer-term forecasting models. Chikamoto and his colleagues’ model uses data on global sea surface temperatures between 1960 and 2015, and relies on “ocean memory”, or the ocean’s ability to retain heat and release it slowly. While atmospheric heat is released and transferred relatively quickly, the ocean can store large amounts of heat and release it over the span of years. According to the researchers’ results, Colorado River water shortages were preceded by cooling in the tropical Pacific Ocean one to two years prior, warming in the north Pacific Ocean two to three years prior and warming in the southern tropical Atlantic Ocean three to four years prior. They found that more distant oceans affected the river more strongly. The researchers say this could be due in part to the Pacific North American pattern, an annual climate fluctuation that affects the East Asian jet stream and temperatures over western North America.

10-22-20 Planners 'must prepare' for weather extremes - Met Office
The Met Office is launching a tool to help planners prepare for further extremes of rainfall and high temperatures. It warns that wild weather in the future is likely to place increasing challenges on health, infrastructure and services. The projections follow a year of UK extremes. The country experienced its wettest February, a record sunny May and the wettest ever day on 3 October. This new analysis doesn’t speculate on possible record high temperatures. Instead, it offers a projection of what researchers call “relatively high extremes” - the sort of weather you’d expect once every 50 years. The UK Met Office says this is the timeframe that informs decision-making by planners. It says the government, organisations and engineers typically plan to safeguard against a one-in-50-year event – not to protect buildings and systems against more freakish weather. For London, the high temperature numbers steadily creep up from 1950 - when 35C was a one-in-50-year event - to 2100, when a temperature high-point of 39C is projected to occur every 50 years. Prof Jason Lowe from the Met Office said: “Some of the most severe consequences of climate change will come from an increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events. “We know that, on average, the UK is projected to become hotter and drier in summer, and warmer and wetter in winter. “This tells us a lot, but for those assessing climate change risk it’s important to better understand how extreme weather events are likely to change too.” His Met Office colleague Dr Simon Brown added: “If you’re designing a flood-relief scheme or building a railway, for example, you can’t assume that the climate will remain the same - because we know that it is already changing. “The things you want to know will be 'how much heat or rainfall will my project have to cope with', and that is what our projections will do.”

10-22-20 Climate change: 'Cooling paint' could cut emissions from buildings
A new type of white paint has the potential to cool buildings and reduce the reliance on air conditioning, say researchers. In a study, the new product was able to reflect 95.5% of sunlight and reduce temperatures by 1.7C compared to the ambient air conditions. The engineers involved say the impact is achieved by adding different-sized particles of calcium carbonate. Buildings of all types are one of the biggest sources of CO2 emissions. According to the World Green Building Council, the lighting, heating and cooling of buildings is responsible for around 28% of global CO2. That's because the heating and cooling of buildings is mainly powered by coal, oil and gas - In Europe, around 75% of this energy need comes from fossil fuels. For decades, researchers have been trying to come up with ideas to increase the efficiency of cooling and heating. A number of reflective paints have been developed for the outside of homes and offices that would reflect away sunlight and reduce the temperatures inside. As yet, none of these products have been able to deflect enough of the Sun's rays to make the building's temperature lower than the ambient conditions. Now, researchers in the US say they have developed a white paint with strong cooling properties. "In one experiment where we put a painted surface outside under direct sunlight, the surface cooled 1.7C below the ambient temperature and during night time it even cooled up to 10C below the ambient temperature," said Prof Xiulin Ruan, from Purdue University in Indiana, who's an author on the study. "This is a significant amount of cooling power that can offset the majority of the air conditioning needs for typical buildings."

10-21-20 Superwhite paint can cool buildings even in hot sunlight
A new superwhite paint is so reflective that it can cool a surface to below the surrounding air temperature, even under sunlight. It could help reduce the use of energy-intensive air conditioning in hot countries. With global energy use expected to grow 90 per cent by 2050, ways to passively keep cool without using energy will be vital in coming decades. While “cool roofs” painted white are a common sight in hot climates, materials experts think they can do one better. Xiulin Ruan at Purdue University and his colleagues developed a white paint that was so reflective and good at radiating heat that it cooled a surface to 1.7°C below the surrounding noon air temperature during tests in Indiana. Compared with existing, commercial heat-reflective paints that reflect about 80-90 per cent of solar energy, the new one managed 95.5 per cent. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, the surface can be cooled below the surrounding temperature because it emits enough heat through radiative sky cooling, the natural process of a body under the sky – such as a roof – radiating heat out to space. Light-coloured surfaces regularly do this on cloudless nights, but it wasn’t until 2014 that we found a material that managed the feat in daylight, when our cooling needs are greatest. Compared with that breakthrough, Ruan says his team’s paint is thinner, cheaper and could be easily scaled up. The acrylic paint is made with calcium carbonate, and partly achieves its qualities by containing particles of many different sizes, which help to scatter different wavelengths in the solar spectrum. Ruan estimates a typical US home of 200 square metres would save about $50 per month on cooling costs, compared with using an existing heat-resistant paint. “This is a very nice result,” says Aaswath Raman at the University of California, Los Angeles. “It demonstrates a paintable solution that employs materials commonly used by the paint industry, and gets reasonably good cooling performance. One potential limitation could be its use of organic solvents, but that could be addressed in the future.”

10-21-20 US election 2020: What the results will mean for climate change
Who occupies the White House for the next four years could play a critical role in the fight against dangerous climate change, experts say. Matt McGrath weighs the likely environmental consequences of the US election. Scientists studying climate change say that the re-election of Donald Trump could make it "impossible" to keep global temperatures in check. They're worried another four years of Trump would "lock in" the use of fossil fuels for decades to come - securing and enhancing the infrastructure for oil and gas production rather than phasing them out as environmentalists want. Joe Biden's climate plan, the scientists argue, would give the world a fighting chance. In addition to withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement - the international pact designed to avoid dangerous warming of the Earth - President Trump's team has worked hard to remove what they see as obstacles to efficient energy production. Over the past three years, researchers at Columbia University in New York have tracked more than 160 significant rollbacks of environmental regulations. These cover everything from car fuel standards, to methane emissions, to light bulbs. This bonfire of red tape has occurred at the same time that the US is reeling from several years' worth of severe wildfires in western states. Many scientists have linked these fires to climate change. So where are we after four years of Donald Trump - and where are things likely to go after the election on 3 November? "Trump believes that regulations are all cost and no benefit," says Prof Michael Gerrard from Columbia University in New York. "He denies that there really is such a thing as anthropogenic climate change, or at least that it is bad. He believes that if you cut back on regulations of all kinds, not just environmental, but also occupational and labour and everything else, it'll create more jobs."

10-21-20 US election 2020: Trump's impact on the environment, health and space
AS US President Donald Trump prepares to face the ballot box in the hopes of winning a second term, his handling of the coronavirus pandemic will be at the forefront of voters’ minds. But Trump’s impact on health, space and environment policy during his time in office also warrants examining. In the past four years, Trump has promised to reverse environmental regulations and climate change policy, to repeal and replace his predecessor Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare policy and to revive the fortunes of NASA. Has he succeeded? One promise Trump has kept is the removal of the US from the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, in which nearly all nations agreed goals to reduce carbon emissions in an attempt to keep global warming below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. During a campaign speech in May 2016, Trump said: “We’re going to cancel the Paris climate agreement and stop all payments of US tax dollars to UN global warming programmes.” He followed through once in office, announcing in June 2017 that the US would exit the agreement, though Congress continued to fund such UN programmes. Environmental campaigners were dismayed. As the US is the second largest carbon emitter behind China, combating global warming can only be done with it on side. “The alternative is the end of the world as we know it,” says Kassie Siegel at the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund in Washington DC. “We’ve known this for a long time, we’ve known what the science demands.” “The Paris climate accord shackles economies and has done nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” says Judd Deere, deputy press secretary for the White House. The US won’t officially exit the Paris Agreement until 4 November, the day after the US election, due to the rules of withdrawal in the accord. Siegel thinks rejoining could happen quickly under another president, but other environmental policy changes may be harder to reverse. The Trump administration has rolled back dozens of regulations, such as endangered species protections, limits on greenhouse gas emissions and emissions standards for power plants and vehicles. “There’s a whole suite of things intended to ram through as much fossil fuel production as possible,” says Siegel. These include weakening regulations put in place under the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP). Its Trump-era replacement, the Affordable Clean Energy rule, scraps federal emissions standards and gives responsibility for setting those standards to state governments. This effectively takes the legs out from the US Environmental Protection Agency, which is responsible for policing infractions but is now unable to set common standards. The CPP called for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 32 per cent between 2005 and 2030, and would have relied on states moving away from using coal power plants. Its elimination makes it easier to keep coal plants operating for longer.

10-21-20 Satellites picture methane across the globe
Want to understand what methane is doing in our atmosphere? Take a look at the new interactive global map produced by Montreal firm GHGSat. Its Pulse tool allows you to move around the world to see how concentrations of the powerful greenhouse gas vary in space and time. From the highs above oil and gas fields in the southwestern United States, to the naturally elevated levels in permafrost regions during summer. The map shows monthly averages which, GHGSat says it will update weekly. Pulse combines the focussed data from the company's two small methane-detecting spacecraft with the wide-field observations from the EU and European Space Agency's Sentinel-5P Tropomi mission. The Canadian pair are used to "tune up" the European detections so the map can display concentrations on a 2km by 2km grid scale. Centre the map over southern China, and you can see the effect the country's fleet of coal-fired power stations has in raising concentrations. Move across to northern Italy and look at how the Dolomite Mountains trap methane in the Po Valley, as they do all pollutants emanating from this industrialised sector of the nation. Just like carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) is increasing in the atmosphere. The globally averaged monthly trend is now above 1,876 parts per billion. Quite why methane is climbing as rapidly as it is, though, is not fully understood. Emissions associated with fossil-fuel use are obviously a major factor, but there are many natural sources of the gas that require a more complete explanation, too. What is certain, however, is that the rise can't be left unchecked. Methane's global warming potential is 30 times that of carbon dioxide over a 100-year time period, so it's imperative any unnecessary releases are constrained or curtailed. GHGSat's business is about identifying human-produced sources and working with those responsible to close off the emissions. But company CEO, Stephane Germain, hopes the new Pulse map will initiate a much wider conversation about the methane issue.

10-21-20 Climate change: 'Cooling paint' could cut emissions from buildings
A new type of white paint has the potential to cool buildings and reduce the reliance on air conditioning, say researchers. In a study, the new product was able to reflect 95.5% of sunlight and reduce temperatures by 1.7C compared to the ambient air conditions. The engineers involved say the impact is achieved by adding different-sized particles of calcium carbonate. Buildings of all types are one of the biggest sources of CO2 emissions. According to the World Green Building Council, the lighting, heating and cooling of buildings is responsible for around 28% of global CO2. That's because the heating and cooling of buildings is mainly powered by coal, oil and gas - In Europe, around 75% of this energy need comes from fossil fuels. For decades, researchers have been trying to come up with ideas to increase the efficiency of cooling and heating. A number of reflective paints have been developed for the outside of homes and offices that would reflect away sunlight and reduce the temperatures inside. As yet, none of these products have been able to deflect enough of the Sun's rays to make the building's temperature lower than the ambient conditions. Now, researchers in the US say they have developed a white paint with strong cooling properties. "In one experiment where we put a painted surface outside under direct sunlight, the surface cooled 1.7C below the ambient temperature and during night time it even cooled up to 10C below the ambient temperature," said Prof Xiulin Ruan, from Purdue University in Indiana, who's an author on the study. "This is a significant amount of cooling power that can offset the majority of the air conditioning needs for typical buildings." So how does the new paint work? According to the researchers, the key has been to add calcium carbonate to the mix. The scientists found that by using high concentrations of this chalky substance, with differing particle sizes, they were able to develop a product that reflected 95.5% of sunlight

10-20-20 Colorado battles a record-breaking wildfire
The Cameron Peak wildfire has become the biggest fire in Colorado state history after burning over 200,000 acres. Residents have been forced to evacuate their homes as firefighters work to keep the blaze contained. The previous record for the largest wildfire in Colorado was set earlier this year, and saw 139,000 acres burned.

10-20-20 Even the deepest, coldest parts of the ocean are getting warmer
It’s not yet clear if a small increase in temperature is the result of climate change. Things are heating up at the seafloor. Thermometers moored at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean recorded an average temperature increase of about 0.02 degrees Celsius over the last decade, researchers report in the Sept. 28 Geophysical Research Letters. That warming may be a consequence of human-driven climate change, which has boosted ocean temperatures near the surface (SN: 9/25/19), but it’s unclear since so little is known about the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean. “The deep ocean, below about 2,000 meters, is not very well observed,” says Chris Meinen, an oceanographer at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Miami. The deep sea is so hard to reach that the temperature at any given research site is typically taken only once per decade. But Meinen’s team measured temperatures hourly from 2009 to 2019 using seafloor sensors at four spots in the Argentine Basin, off the coast of Uruguay. Temperature records for the two deepest spots revealed a clear trend of warming over that decade. Waters 4,540 meters below the surface warmed from an average 0.209° C to 0.234° C, while waters 4,757 meters down went from about 0.232°C to 0.248°C. This warming is much weaker than in the upper ocean, Meinen says, but he also notes that since warm water rises, it would take a lot of heat to generate even this little bit of warming so deep. It’s too soon to judge whether human activity or natural variation is the cause, Meinen says. Continuing to monitor these sites and comparing the records with data from devices in other ocean basins may help to clarify matters.

10-19-20 Plastic baby bottles shed millions of microplastics when shaken
Plastic feeding bottles release an average of 4 million microplastic particles per litre into baby formula during preparation, but it still isn’t clear whether ingesting microplastics is harmful to infant health. John Boland at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland and his colleagues measured microplastics released during the process of baby formula preparation in feeding bottles made of polypropylene plastic, which they estimate account for almost 69 per cent of such bottles available on the market. The researchers cleaned and sterilised brand-new polypropylene feeding bottles, left them to dry and then poured in purified water, which had been heated to 70°C, the World Health Organization-recommended temperature for infant formula preparation. After putting the bottles on a mechanical shaker for a minute to mimic the formula mixing process, Boland and his team filtered the water and analysed it under a microscope. They discovered that the bottles were leaking an average of 4 million microplastic particles per litre into the water inside, with a range of between 1 and 16 million particles per litre. The researchers found similar results when they used water containing baby formula. “We were surprised by the quantity,” says Boland. “Based on research that has been done previously looking at the degradation of plastics in the environment, we had a suspicion that the quantities would be substantial, but I don’t think anyone expected the very high levels that we found.” Boland says his team was also surprised to discover that the shedding of microplastics by the bottles was temperature dependent. When the researchers repeated their experiments using water at a range of temperatures, they found that particle shedding accelerated as temperature rose. Shaking the bottles also increased microplastic release.

10-19-20 Why the US election could decide battle against climate change
Who occupies the White House for the next four years could play a critical role in the fight against dangerous climate change, experts say. Matt McGrath weighs the likely environmental consequences of the US election. Scientists studying climate change say that the re-election of Donald Trump could make it "impossible" to keep global temperatures in check. They're worried another four years of Trump would "lock in" the use of fossil fuels for decades to come - securing and enhancing the infrastructure for oil and gas production rather than phasing them out as environmentalists want. Joe Biden's climate plan, the scientists argue, would give the world a fighting chance. In addition to withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement - the international pact designed to avoid dangerous warming of the Earth - President Trump's team has worked hard to remove what they see as obstacles to efficient energy production. Over the past three years, researchers at Columbia University in New York have tracked more than 160 significant rollbacks of environmental regulations. These cover everything from car fuel standards, to methane emissions, to light bulbs. This bonfire of red tape has occurred at the same time that the US is reeling from several years' worth of severe wildfires in western states. Many scientists have linked these fires to climate change. So where are we after four years of Donald Trump - and where are things likely to go after the election on 3 November? "Trump believes that regulations are all cost and no benefit," says Prof Michael Gerrard from Columbia University in New York. "He denies that there really is such a thing as anthropogenic climate change, or at least that it is bad. He believes that if you cut back on regulations of all kinds, not just environmental, but also occupational and labour and everything else, it'll create more jobs."

10-18-20 Why the US election could decide battle against climate change
Who occupies the White House for the next four years could play a critical role in the fight against dangerous climate change, experts say. Matt McGrath weighs the likely environmental consequences of the US election. Scientists studying climate change say that the re-election of Donald Trump could make it "impossible" to keep global temperatures in check. They're worried another four years of Trump would "lock in" the use of fossil fuels for decades to come - securing and enhancing the infrastructure for oil and gas production rather than phasing them out as environmentalists want. Joe Biden's climate plan, the scientists argue, would give the world a fighting chance. In addition to withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement - the international pact designed to avoid dangerous warming of the Earth - President Trump's team has worked hard to remove what they see as obstacles to efficient energy production. Over the past three years, researchers at Columbia University in New York have tracked more than 160 significant rollbacks of environmental regulations. These cover everything from car fuel standards, to methane emissions, to light bulbs. This bonfire of red tape has occurred at the same time that the US is reeling from several years' worth of severe wildfires in western states. Many scientists have linked these fires to climate change. So where are we after four years of Donald Trump - and where are things likely to go after the election on 3 November? "Trump believes that regulations are all cost and no benefit," says Prof Michael Gerrard from Columbia University in New York. "He denies that there really is such a thing as anthropogenic climate change, or at least that it is bad. He believes that if you cut back on regulations of all kinds, not just environmental, but also occupational and labour and everything else, it'll create more jobs."

10-18-20 Have we reached 'peak oil'?
Drop in demand for fossil fuels sends the industry into free fall. The U.S. oil and gas industry faces a daunting recovery from the pandemic, said Paul Takahashi at the Houston Chronicle. "About 107,000 oil, gas, and petrochemical workers have been laid off between March and August," a staggering total even for an industry that is accustomed to soaring heights and crushing lows. But analysts say this oil bust is different even from those in the past. "Growing concerns about climate change" are expected to keep reducing demand for fossil fuels, meaning those jobs lost now might not return after this downturn. Even if crude prices "claw their way back to $45 per barrel" by the end of 2021 — up from around the $40 price mark where they have remained for months — an estimated 70 percent of the jobs lost may disappear permanently. A drop to $35 per barrel, and the industry is looking at 100,000 jobs gone for good. The collapse in oil prices hasn't just hurt the drilling states, said Alexander Osipovitch and Ryan Dezember at The Wall Street Journal. "Wisconsin doesn't produce a drop of oil or gas, but there has been a bust there too," because of its supportive ecosystem for fracking. Wisconsin, along with northern states like Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois, employs thousands of workers in open-pit salt mines that ship "pebbly grains ideal for hydraulic fracking" by the trainload to drilling fields in Texas, Appalachia, and North Dakota. Now the "local governments that envisioned the mines bringing long-term prosperity are looking at budget crunches." All the places that rely on fracking face another threat, said the Journal in an editorial: Democrats who want to shut down the industry. "Hydraulic fracturing combined with horizontal drilling has unleashed a gusher of natural gas production in the Midwest and Southwest." Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris now say they don't plan to ban fracking, but there is no way to reconcile that with their goal of making the U.S. carbon-neutral by 2035. In reality, natural gas fracking has let utilities shift away from coal, and has "done more to reduce CO2 emissions over the last decade than government regulation and renewable subsidies." The U.S. has eased "economically destructive climate regulation," and still, thanks to fracking, last year the U.S. led the world in carbon reductions. Demand for energy is starting to tick back up, just not the way it used to, said Jeffrey Blair at Bloomberg. Oil refineries have relied on "long-standing patterns of consumption" of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel. But while "thousands of airliners lie mothballed," gasoline consumption is rising quickly to pre-pandemic levels as "millions of drivers forgo mass transit to get in their cars." Refineries still aren't celebrating, though. Their ability to produce enough gasoline is constrained without buyers for pricier diesel and jet fuel. It's just not going to be easy from here on out for Big Oil, said Julian Lee also at Bloomberg. The pandemic has "accelerated" trends that have been building for years as more countries shift away from fossil-fuel dependence. OPEC finally admitted last week that "peak oil" could arrive by 2040. For some rich nations, it may already be here. Those companies that can't adapt "will go the way of the T. rex."

10-18-20 Climate change: Arctic Circle teens call for help to save their homes
Teenagers living in remote Arctic communities say they’re worried about the effects of climate change. Scientists warn that melting ice and warming temperatures show rapid climate change is taking place. Rarely heard young people from multiple countries within the Arctic Circle say their way of life is at risk and governments must act.

10-16-20 Kamala Harris asks Amy Coney Barrett: 'Do you believe climate change is happening?'
US Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett has been asked by Democratic vice-president candidate Senator Kamala Harris whether she believes climate change is happening. Judge Barrett declined to express a view on what she called a "very contentious matter of public debate". The questioning came on day three of Judge Barrett's Senate confirmation hearing. (Webmaster's comment: She refuses to answer every question.)

10-16-20 Colorado wildfire: Huge smoke plumes from Cameron Peak Fire, largest in state history
The US state of Colorado is battling the largest wildfire in its history. More than 164,000 acres have burned since the Cameron Peak Fire ignited in August. No deaths have been reported and the cause of the blaze is still being investigated.

10-16-20 Extreme weather: October downpour sees UK's wettest day on record
Saturday 3 October was the wettest day for UK-wide rainfall since records began in 1891, Met Office researchers have said. The downpour followed in the wake of Storm Alex and saw an average of 31.7mm (1.24ins) of rain across the entire UK. The deluge was enough to exceed the capacity of Loch Ness - the largest lake in the UK by volume - the researchers added. The previous record wettest day was 29 August 1986. It has been a year of stark contrasts across the UK when it comes to rainfall. Two named storms, Ciara and Dennis, helped push February to the top of the records as the wettest ever in the UK. This was followed by a very dry and bright spring that saw May break the record for sunniest calendar month with 266 hours of sunshine. But a middling summer has been followed by a drenching autumn across much of the UK. In the wake of Storm Alex, the heavens opened almost everywhere. "The main characteristic for October 3 was moderate but persistent rain, and it was very widespread," said Dr Mark McCarthy, from the Met Office. "We had 30 to 50mm of rain, quite extensively across large parts of the UK that day, and that's quite unusual." If all that rain was collected together, Dr McCarthy said, it would over top the UK's biggest lake by volume. "So 31.7mm across the area of the UK equates to around 7.6 cubic kilometres of water by volume," he said, adding: "Loch Ness is around 7.4-7.5 cubic kilometres." While the previous record came during the very wet summer of 1986, the third wettest day across the UK was on 15 February this year with 27.2mm. Many parts of the UK have already passed their average October rainfall in the first couple of weeks of the month. Oxfordshire is leading the way as the wettest county, with around 148% of its long-term average October rain experienced so far.

10-15-20 Climate change may have driven early human species to extinction
Sudden climatic changes may have been a significant driver of the extinction of early human species. Pasquale Raia at the University of Naples Federico II in Italy and his colleagues have used climate modelling and fossil records to determine the effect climate change had on the survival of the species in our Homo genus. The researchers used a database of 2754 archaeological records of the remains of several species alive over the past 2.5 million years, including Homo habilis, Homo ergaster, Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens. They cross-referenced these records with a climate emulator, which modelled temperature, rainfall and other weather data over the past 5 million years. The aim was to determine the climatic niche for each species – a range of conditions including temperature and precipitation that are optimal for survival – and how widely distributed the niche area was through time. The team found that H. erectus, H. heidelbergensis and H. neanderthalensis all lost a significant portion of their climatic niche area just before they became extinct. “Species are good at surviving when they have a large area at their disposal to live in,” says Raia. But when liveable areas decrease and the result is small patches that are geographically isolated from each other, species enter what is known as an extinction vortex. The reductions in liveable area resulted from sudden climatic changes, the team found. H. erectus, for example, went extinct during the last glacial period, which began about 115,000?years ago. The researchers suggest this was the coldest period the species had ever experienced. The team found that for the Neanderthals, competition with H. sapiens was also a factor, but that even without the presence of our species the effect of climate change alone may have been enough to lead to extinction. Even species with the ability to control their local environment – such as by wearing clothes or creating fires – were susceptible to the effects of climate change, says Raia.

10-15-20 Glitter litter 'could be damaging rivers'
Scientists have found evidence that glitter used in cosmetics and body paint may harm rivers and lakes. They say biodegradable alternatives are no better for the environment than conventional types of glitter. Glitter contains microplastics, which can find their way into rivers and oceans, taking many years to degrade. Last year, scientists called for a total ban on glitter over concerns the particles are polluting oceans and hurting marine life. The researchers behind the new study say they have found the first direct evidence of impacts on the web of life in rivers and lakes. In laboratory tests, all types of glitter affected the growth of pond plants and microscopic algae. Dr Dannielle Green, senior lecturer in biology at Anglia Ruskin University, told BBC News: "Glitter is a type of microplastic, it can have the same effects as other microplastics and it shouldn't be released in large quantities into the environment. "And if you're wearing it as make-up it would be sensible to wipe it off and put it in the bin rather than wash it into our waterways." Traditional glitter consists of a plastic core made of polyester PET film, which is coated with aluminium and then covered with another thin plastic layer. There have been efforts to phase out PET glitter with the introduction of more biodegradable alternatives. One version has a core of cellulose, coated with aluminium for reflectivity and then topped with a thin plastic layer. Another form is mica glitter, which is increasingly used in cosmetics. To test the effects of glitter, the researchers collected water, sediments and plants from the River Glaven in Norfolk. They set up miniature ponds in the lab, which they dosed with six different types of glitter. All types decreased the abundance of common plants such as duckweed as well as microscopic algae. The cellulose biodegradable form also increased the abundance of a non-native snail, which the scientists say could lead to further disruptions on the food web. The experiments tested the effects of large amounts of glitter, similar to where glitter is mass-released at festivals or during protests. They say they are less concerned about the effects of smaller quantities, such as those used in make-up. The impact on plants and snails were seen after 36 days; it's not known what happens in the long term. The study is published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials.

10-15-20 How planting 70 million eelgrass seeds led to an ecosystem’s rapid recovery
The study is a blueprint for capitalizing on this habitat’s capacity to store carbon. In the world’s largest seagrass restoration project, scientists have observed an ecosystem from birth to full flowering. As part of a 20-plus-years project, researchers and volunteers spread more than 70 million eelgrass seeds over plots covering more than 200 hectares, just beyond the wide expanses of salt marsh off the southern end of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Long-term monitoring of the restored seagrass beds reveals a remarkably hardy ecosystem that is trapping carbon and nitrogen that would otherwise contribute to global warming and pollution, the team reports October 7 in Science Advances. That success provides a glimmer of hope for the climate and for ecosystems, the researchers say. The project, led by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and The Nature Conservancy, has now grown to cover 3,612 hectares — and counting — in new seagrass beds. By comparison, the largest such project in Australia aims to restore 10 hectares of seagrass. The results are “a game changer,” says Carlos Duarte. “It’s an exemplar of how nature-based solutions can help mitigate climate change,” he says. The marine ecologist at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia is a leader in recognizing the carbon-storing capacity of mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses. The team in Virginia started with a blank slate, says Robert Orth, a marine biologist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in Gloucester Point. The seagrass in these inshore lagoons had been wiped out by disease and a hurricane in the early 1930s, but the water was still clear enough to transmit the sunlight plants require. Within the first 10 years of restoration, Orth and colleagues witnessed an ecosystem rebounding rapidly across almost every indicator of ecosystem health — seagrass coverage, water quality, carbon and nitrogen storage, and invertebrate and fish biomass (SN: 2/16/17).

10-15-20 Idris Elba: We can all help solve climate change
Idris Elba and his wife, Sabrina Dhowre Elba, have said individuals can make a difference in tackling climate change. The couple were speaking to Liz Bonnin for BBC Radio 5 Live's new podcast 'What Planet Are We On?' Actor, producer and DJ, Idris said: "There is definitely something that we can all do. You are doing it now listening to this. There is hope." Sabrina, who is a model and actress, added: "There is a method, there are steps. "It isn't just throw your hands in the air and go 'the world is on fire'. "There are solutions and it's figuring out what those solutions are and how we can each play a part because we do know that every person can make a difference. "It is so easy to feel hopeless when you do hear all of that scaremongering but people can make a change. Each individual person." Climate change is often seen as a problem that's so big, it needs to be tackled at the level of world governments. But the couple say every person can play a role. The 10-part podcast explores issues and solutions around climate change. The couple feature in an episode which looks at the impact of climate change on our global food systems. Idris said he wanted to use his platform to "shine a light" on those most affected by global warming. "There's no shortage of voices talking about climate change and the green debate," he said, "but there's not much visibility on the people that haven't much at all and still suffer climate change. "We look at small farmers as slightly unrelated to us, somewhere in the Sahara, but that food chain links to all of us. "The effect is not apparent now, but it will be massively." Sabrina and Idris are ambassadors for the UN's International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Some of IFAD's projects aim to make food production more resilient to the impacts of climate change. They are piloting climate adaption technologies such as rainwater harvesting and supplementary irrigation. Sabrina said she and Idris had a strong passion for taking care of the planet for the coming generations.

10-15-20 I Am Greta: The coming of age movie wrapped up in a super-hero flick
There are many extraordinary things about the new documentary I Am Greta. The first is that the film happened at all. Its director Nathan Grossman had never made a documentary feature before. The former film student was curious when he heard, in 2018, that 15-year-old Swedish girl Greta Thunberg had decided to bunk off school to sit alone outside the country's parliament in Stockholm as part of what she was calling a "climate strike". He started filming a few days later. At first he shot in a low-quality mode on his camera to save space on memory cards, thinking he would be lucky if her story made a short feature for the local news. But, within weeks, children around the world had started their own climate strikes. Arnold Schwarzenegger was retweeting Thunberg's posts and Grossman had switched to full high definition. He continued to film Thunberg and her father at every twist and turn of the adventure that unfolded over the next year. And what an adventure. Thunberg herself said it could be a movie but it would be a very surreal one "because the plot would be so unlikely". Just being along for the ride is exciting enough, but I Am Greta does much more than that. What Grossman has made is a coming of age movie wrapped up in a super-hero flick. This is the story of how a troubled and lonely child discovers her hidden powers and uses them to change the course of the world. The whole thing is just so unlikely. It turns out that this small, rather dour girl with pigtails has a preternatural charisma. As we unravel the paradox of why that is, we begin to understand what is so special about Thunberg. Most people don't realise how unforgiving documentaries are on their subjects: If you pretend to be something you are not, you will be found out. The only way to be "good" at films like this is simply to be yourself. Watching the film, you realise Thunberg is so fascinating because she is utterly authentic. She isn't doing this for appearances, she isn't doing it because she wants fame or attention, she is doing it because she has no choice. She feels compelled to do something - anything - to try to get the world to take climate change seriously.

10-14-20 Rethinking your pension may just be the greenest thing you can do
Changing where you keep your money could reduce your carbon footprint by up to 27 times more than giving up flying or going vegan, writes Graham Lawton. MANY of us at New Scientist have specialist areas of weakness. Mine is physics. In the grand scheme of things, they are actually considered a strength: if I can understand an article about, say, quantum theory, then anyone can. But recently, it has dawned on me that I have a more serious weakness in my understanding of the world. One which, as I write about environmental issues, I ought to fill. The subject? Finance. Ugh. I skim past those pages in the newspaper. As soon as somebody mentions bonds or derivatives, my brain seizes up. Frankly, I am an snob about it. I think there are higher-minded and more important things to think about than money. But I have come to realise that finance ignorance, or f-wittery if you will, isn’t a useful state. If we are going to transition the world to a more sustainable future, reform of the financial system is a non-negotiable starting point. The fine details of bonds and derivatives still elude me. But thanks to a documentary called Our Planet: Too Big To Fail made by the conservation group WWF and a pressure group called Make My Money Matter, I now grasp the rudiments of the global financial system and its connections to things I care about: climate change and destruction of nature. Here’s the technical bit; concentrate! In essence, finance is the business of transferring money from people who own capital to people who need it to fund expensive projects, in return for a share of the spoils. All too often, the first question that gets asked is, what’s my return? The second is, how quickly can I get it? And so capital frequently flows into projects that ruthlessly squeeze profit from nature, such as fossil fuel extraction, mining and deforestation. What’s more, an accounting system that greedily counts the profits, but often writes off external environmental costs, incentivises destructive practices such as dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

10-14-20 We must pay attention to subtle yet deadly aspects of climate change
Catastrophic events hog the climate limelight but there are more understated effects that demand attention too, says Hannah Cloke. SOME climate crises are big, noisy and obvious: think hurricanes, typhoons, floods and wildfires. But there are other climate crises that tend to be overlooked. These are quieter and more insidious, and we often fail to properly recognise them. Take the example of when the UK’s Office for National Statistics reported that, in the second week of August, deaths from covid-19 had reached the lowest weekly levels for five months. Among a flurry of coronavirus statistics, the statisticians were keen to point out, presumably to avoid any panic, that the spike in deaths that occurred that week – 9392 deaths in total, 447 more than the previous week – was probably due to a heatwave rather than the coronavirus. Let’s be clear: an unusually hot week in the UK, which we know is made much more likely by climate change, probably killed a jumbo jet full of people in just a few days. The heatwave may have killed three times as many people that week than died with covid-19. Yet there was very little outcry and few calls for a public enquiry. After record-breaking heat in the first half of August in the UK, the second half of the month brought torrential downpours. In Scotland – where world leaders will meet next year to discuss actions to slow down climate change – a deluge-induced landslide derailed a train, killing three people. The UK’s climate death toll is rising. But faced with non-stop pandemic news, public concern about environmental issues is falling, according to polling company YouGov. It found that environmental concern in the country peaked towards the beginning of this year. A person worried about inaction on climate change might despair. But there is good news. When facing a foe that can strike anyone – including the rich and powerful – we have shown that we are willing to spend big to save lives.y

10-14-20 How the coronavirus has impacted climate change – for good and bad
Global warming has become a forgotten crisis during the coronavirus pandemic. But a year that has set worrying climate records also shows how we can remake the world for the better. THE orange skies looked more like a smoking hellscape from the film Blade Runner 2049, but this was California 2020. The images of the huge wildfires there, and in Australia earlier in the year, are perhaps as emblematic of 2020 as those of queues of people wearing face masks. Climate change hasn’t stopped because of a global pandemic. Yet our turbocharged heating of Earth has become an almost forgotten crisis. “Climate change has been put on the back burner,” says climate scientist Corinne Le Quéré at the University of East Anglia, UK, who advises the UK and French governments. In the meantime, the world has seen a welter of uncomfortable records or near-records this year on measures related to climate change, from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice loss, with ever-clearer consequences for global health, wealth and happiness. “It’s understood the covid crisis is a short-term public health crisis and an economic crisis for a few years,” says Petteri Taalas at the World Meteorological Organization. “But it’s very well understood that the magnitude of crisis we face if we fail with climate mitigation would be something very different.” Coronavirus is far from over. But it is time to think what we want the world to look like 10, 20 and 30 years down the line. What has been happening with the climate crisis while the world’s attention has been diverted? How has the pandemic changed the game, and what can and must we do now to avoid catastrophic warming? Read on to find out.First, a recap. Humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels has driven atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from about 280 parts per million before the industrial revolution to an average of 409.8 ppm last year, with that figure now rising by more than 2 ppm year on year. The culprit is mainly CO2 we emit by fossil fuel burning and land use change, such as converting forest to farmland. Despite briefly flatlining from 2014 to 2016, emissions have grown again, reaching 43.1 billion tonnes in 2019. The world has now already warmed about 1°C since the pre-industrial age.

10-14-20 Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its corals since 1995
Australia's Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of its corals since 1995 due to warmer seas driven by climate change, a study has found. Scientists found all types of corals had suffered a decline across the world's largest reef system. The steepest falls came after mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017. More mass bleaching occurred this year. "There is no time to lose - we must sharply decrease greenhouse gas emissions ASAP," the researchers said. The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, was conducted by marine scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Queensland. Scientists assessed the health and size of coral colonies across the reef from 1995 to 2017. They found populations had dropped by more than 50% in all coral sizes and species, but especially in branching and table-shaped corals. These are the large, structural species which usually provide habitats for fish and other marine life. Prof Terry Hughes, a study co-author, said these coral types had been "worst affected" by the back-to-back mass bleachings which damaged two-thirds of the reef. Bleaching occurs when corals under stress drive out the algae - known as zooxanthellae - that give them colour. Corals can recover if normal conditions return, but it can take decades. A study in 2019 found that damaged coral colonies had struggled to regenerate because most of the adult corals had died. "A vibrant coral population has millions of small, baby corals, as well as many large ones," said lead author Dr Andy Dietzel. "Our results show the ability of the Great Barrier Reef to recover - its resilience - is compromised compared to the past, because there are fewer babies, and fewer large breeding adults." Last year, the Australian government's official agency on the reef confirmed that human-driven warming remained the biggest threat to the reef's long-term survival.

10-14-20 Rewilding farmland in tropical regions would store vast amounts of CO2
Restoring farmland to its original natural state is a crucial component in trying to tackle biodiversity loss. New modelling suggests that it’s not only the total area of land restored that matters – it’s also its location. Bernardo Strassburg at the Pontifical Catholic University in Brazil and his colleagues have concluded that returning 30 per cent of farmland to its natural state in several key areas around the world would remove 465 gigatonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere – almost half of the total rise in CO2 since the Industrial Revolution. The restoration effort would be so successful because natural forests and grasslands can store far more carbon than farmland. Restoration would have other benefits too: it would mitigate against 71 per cent of the animal extinctions expected to occur in the decades ahead. The high-priority areas the team identified include coastal areas of Brazil and West Africa, and much of south-east Asia. The researchers analysed data related to 2870 million hectares globally that have been converted to farmland. About 54 per cent of the land was originally forests and 25 per cent was grasslands. The rest was originally shrubland, arid land or wetland. They evaluated the lands based on three criteria: animal habitat, carbon storage potential, and the cost-effectiveness of conversion to its original state. The highest priority areas were those that were optimal for all three, but the team also took into account a distribution that would restore a variety of ecosystems, including wetlands and shrublands. To study biodiversity effects, their model included maps of the geographic distribution of more than 22,000 animal species. “There is a well-known ecological relation between how much a species has lost of its original range and the probability of extinction,” says Strassburg. “As habitat is restored, the probability of extinction is reduced.” Even a smaller amount of restoration would still have a significant effect, the modelling suggests. A 15 per cent restoration could avoid around 60 per cent of extinctions while capturing 299 gigatonnes of CO2.

10-14-20 US West Coast fires: Is Trump right to blame forest management?
President Trump has sought to highlight forest management rather than climate change as the key factor explaining the wildfires burning across California, Oregon and Washington states. When asked during a visit to California about the role of climate change, Mr Trump said: "I think this is more of a [forest] management situation." However, a recent review of research into the causes of these fires suggests rising temperatures are playing a major role. So is President Trump right to point to poor forest management? Firstly, most forest in California, Oregon and Washington isn't the responsibility of the state authorities - in fact, their share of forest land is small. In California state, the federal government owns nearly 58% of the 33 million acres of forest, according to the state governor's office. The state itself owns just three per cent, with the rest owned by private individuals or companies or Native American groups. There's a similar picture in Oregon, with significant proportions of forest land in federal rather than state hands, as well as under private ownership. And in Washington state, only 12% of forest land is in the hands of the state authorities, with 43% federally-owned and 36% in private hands. Federal agencies like the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Parks Service are responsible for the upkeep of federally-owned land, and as far as private forest land is concerned, it's up to the owners to manage these areas. State and federal agencies have programmes and regulations to encourage co-operation and best practice when it comes to managing private forested areas, including reducing the threat of wildfires. But there've also been funding cuts to federal agencies under President Trump, although the administration has given some more money for specific programmes to reduce the risk of wildfires. Two years ago, President Trump also criticised California's forest management. He pointed to Finland, where he said they raked and cleared the forests to prevent fires. Finland is not directly comparable to California due to differences in climate, types of vegetation and land use.

10-13-20 German ship completes historic Arctic expedition
The German Research Vessel Polarstern has sailed back into its home port after completing a remarkable expedition to the Arctic Ocean. The ship spent a year in the polar north, much of it with its engines turned off so it could simply drift in the sea-ice. The point was to study the Arctic climate and how it is changing. And expedition leader, Prof Markus Rex, returned with a warning. "The sea-ice is dying," he said. "The region is at risk. We were able to witness how the ice disappears and in areas where there should have been ice that was many metres thick, and even at the North Pole - that ice was gone," the Alfred Wegener Institute scientist told a media conference in Bremerhaven on Monday. RV Polarstern was on station to document this summer's floes shrink to their second lowest ever extent in the modern era. The floating ice withdrew to just under 3.74 million sq km (1.44 million sq miles). The only time this minimum has been beaten in the age of satellites was 2012, when the pack ice was reduced to 3.41 million sq km. The downward trend is about 13% per decade, averaged across the month of September. "This reflects the warming of the Arctic," said Prof Rex. "The ice is disappearing and if in a few decades we have an ice-free Arctic - this will have a major impact on the climate around the world." The €130m (£120m/$150m) cruise set off from Tromsø, Norway, on 20 September last year. The project was named the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC). The idea was to recreate the historic voyage of Norwegian polar researcher Fridtjof Nansen, who undertook the first ice drift through the Arctic Ocean more than 125 years ago. RV Polarstern embedded itself in the ice on the Siberian side of the Arctic basin with the intention of floating across the top of the world and emerging from the floes just east of Greenland.

10-13-20 Climate change: Better warning systems needed for extreme weather - UN
A new UN report says the world needs to rapidly raise investment in early warning systems for extreme weather events. Over the past 50 years, recorded disasters have increased five-fold, thanks in part to climate change. The study warns that one in three people on Earth are not adequately covered by warning systems. The numbers of people in need after natural disasters could increase by 50% over the next decade. The State of Climate Services 2020 has been produced by experts from 16 international agencies and financial institutions, and co-ordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Over the past 50 years, it says, some 11,000 disasters involving weather, climate and water-related hazards have occurred claiming two million lives and causing more than $3.5 trillion in economic losses. In 2018, around 108 million people sought help from international agencies to cope with natural disasters. The authors of the new report say that by 2030 this number could increase by 50% at a cost of around $20bn a year. Effective early warning systems are key says the study - And the researchers who have compiled it are calling for a change in emphasis from simply forecasting what the weather will be, to showing the impact of that weather system. Good quality warning systems are critically needed in the least developed countries and in small island states. These countries have lost billions to weather and climate related disasters over the past five decades. Around 70% of the deaths connected to these disasters occurred in the poorest nations. Yet according to the WMO, just 26% of weather observation networks in Africa meet their standards. The advent of the coronavirus has made the building of early warning systems more difficult, the report says.

10-12-20 Microwaving plastic waste can generate clean hydrogen
Chemists have used microwaves to convert plastic bags, milk bottles and other supermarket packaging into a clean source of hydrogen. Plastic waste can already be converted to hydrogen using other methods, and commercial facilities are being developed to transform the plastic. However, a new approach holds the promise of being quicker and less energy-intensive. Peter Edwards at the University of Oxford says he and his colleagues wanted to “confront the grim reality” of plastic waste, with the UK alone producing 1.5 million tonnes each year. As the density of hydrogen in plastic bags is about 14 per cent by weight, plastic offers a possible new source for countries eyeing cleanly produced hydrogen to tackle climate change. Most existing approaches involve first using very high temperatures of more than 750°C to decompose plastic into syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, and then using a second step to separate out the hydrogen. Edwards and his team instead broke the plastic into small pieces with a kitchen blender and mixed it with a catalyst of iron oxide and aluminium oxide. When blasted with a microwave generator at 1000 watts, the catalyst created hot spots in the plastic and stripped out the hydrogen – recovering 97 per cent of the gas in the plastic within seconds. The solid material left over was almost exclusively carbon nanotubes. The single-step approach has the advantage of just heating the catalyst, not all of the plastic, resulting in less energy use, as the plastic does not absorb microwaves. The results hold out “an attractive potential solution for plastic waste”, says Edwards. Although only done at a small scale, using about 300 grams of plastic for each test, larger experiments are already being planned.

3 10-12-20 Building digital twins of Earth could help Europe cut carbon emissions
Work is set to begin within months on building “digital twins” of Earth to better predict the future of climate change, extreme weather and the environment. The Destination Earth project aims to create a crucial tool for everyone from politicians and city planners to energy companies and reinsurance firms to simulate in unprecedented detail how human and physical systems will change in a warming world. Three digital twins are initially planned, which would be detailed simulacrums of reality built on satellite and field data covering extreme weather and disaster risk management, climate change adaptation and the state of the oceans. More twins will come later. The European Union is funding the project and sees it as vital to informing government decisions on the EU’s flagship Green Deal, which aims to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. For example, some twins could allow policy-makers to model the future impact of swapping out gas power stations for renewables, or one crop for another. “It’s key for us and future generations. We have so much data and computing and we need to use it better to support environmental objectives,” says Massimo Craglia at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC). Peter Bauer at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), one of three groups being consulted on the project, says it will accelerate efforts to model Earth. “If you look at the evolution of climate models, IPCC [the UN climate science panel] assessments, all these models are getting better. But it’s clear they are not fit enough to provide decision-making information at a national or regional level, such as how extreme weather patterns are going to change in the next decade. ”Destination Earth should bring a dramatically improved level of mapping resolution – greater detail at a local level – than most observations and modelling today. It will also layer machine learning on top to make sense of the patterns in the petabytes of data produced daily by the European Space Agency (ESA), ECMWF and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites.

10-10-20 Hurricane Delta makes landfall in storm-battered Louisiana
Hurricane Delta has made landfall in the US state of Louisiana, which is still recovering from the damage caused by a previous hurricane in August. This is the 10th named storm to make US landfall so far this year, breaking a record that has stood since 1916. Delta hit Creole, Louisiana as a Category 2 hurricane at 18:00 local time (00:00 BST) on Friday, with winds of 100 mph (155 km/h). It weakened to a Category 1 as it moved inland, causing widespread power cuts. The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) also warned of an eight-foot-high "life-threatening storm surge" across the Louisiana coast, caused by high winds from Delta. The hurricane first made landfall near Puerto Morelos on Mexico's Caribbean coast on Wednesday, forcing thousands of tourists and residents to move into shelters for safety. Having crossed the Gulf of Mexico, Delta is now moving across central and north-eastern Louisiana, and will enter northern Mississippi and the Tennessee Valley on Saturday. "Rapid weakening is expected overnight and Saturday," the NHC said. "Delta is forecast to weaken to a tropical storm tonight and to a tropical depression on Saturday." Schools and government offices shut their doors and officials in a dozen parishes called for evacuations. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards previously said that 2,400 National Guard personnel were being mobilised to help the state's residents. Many people left their homes to try to get out of the storm's path. Parts of the state were already severely storm-damaged from the more powerful Category 4 Hurricane Laura, which ripped through homes and uprooted trees when it hit on 20 August. More than 6,000 people are still displaced and living in temporary accommodation, such as hotels, after their homes were destroyed. Streets in cities such as Lake Charles, which was particularly badly-hit by Hurricane Laura, remain littered with debris.

10-9-20 50 years ago, scientists were looking for ways to predict earthquakes
Excerpt from the October 10, 1970 issue of Science News. Seismologists are studying ways to predict the occurrence of earthquakes…. One possibility … is to monitor subterranean fluid pressures.… Fluctuations in the production rates of oil, gas and water wells are often associated with earthquakes, and sometimes precede them soon enough to provide some warning. It’s still not possible to predict when or where earthquakes will strike. But hazard models can estimate the likelihood that a quake will rock an area within a given time frame. Scientists now know that wastewater injection can trigger earthquakes, and account for those underground fluids in hazard models. When a quake does hit, modern early warning systems can help people brace for shaking. Those systems use readouts from seismic sensors to gauge when surrounding areas will start to tremble, offering seconds to minutes of advance notice (SN: 4/4/14). The first public system in the United States started sending alerts to Californians in 2019. A rollout to other quake-prone states has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

10-8-20 Large-scale changes in Earth’s climate may originate in the Pacific
Long ago, ‘catastrophic’ purge of North America’s western ice sheet may have kicked off losses to the east. The retreat of North America’s ice sheets in the latter years of the last ice age may have begun with “catastrophic” losses of ice into the North Pacific Ocean along the coast of modern-day British Columbia and Alaska, scientists say. In a new study published October 1 in Science, researchers find that these pulses of rapid ice loss from what’s known as the western Cordilleran ice sheet contributed to, and perhaps triggered, the massive calving of the Laurentide ice sheet into the North Atlantic Ocean thousands of years ago. That collapse of the Laurentide ice sheet, which at one point covered large swaths of Canada and parts of the United States, ultimately led to major disturbances in the global climate (SN: 11/5/12). The new findings cast doubt on the long-held assumption that hemispheric-scale changes in Earth’s climate originate in the North Atlantic (SN: 1/31/19). The study suggests that the melting of Alaska’s remaining glaciers into the North Pacific, though less extreme than purges of the past, could have far-ranging effects on global ocean circulation and the climate in coming centuries. “People typically think that the Atlantic is where all the action is, and everything else follows,” says Alan Mix, a paleoclimatologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis. “We’re saying it’s the other way around.” The Cordilleran ice sheet fails earlier in the chain of reaction, “and then that signal is transmitted [from the Pacific] around the world like falling dominoes.” In 2013, Mix and colleagues pulled sediment cores from the seafloor of the Gulf of Alaska in the hope of figuring out how exactly the Cordilleran ice sheet had changed prior to the end of the last ice age. These cores contained distinct layers of sand and silt deposited by the ice sheet’s calved icebergs during four separate occasions over the last 42,000 years. The team then used radiocarbon dating to determine the chronology of events, finding that the Cordilleran’s ice purges “surprisingly” preceded the Laurentide’s periods of abrupt ice loss, known as “Heinrich events,” by 1,000 to 1,500 years every single time.

10-8-20 Attenborough: 'Curb excess capitalism' to save nature
Sir David Attenborough says the excesses of western countries should "be curbed" to restore the natural world and we'll all be happier for it. The veteran broadcaster said that the standard of living in wealthy nations is going to have to take a pause. Nature would flourish once again he believes when "those that have a great deal, perhaps, have a little less". Sir David was speaking to Liz Bonnin for BBC Radio 5 Live's new podcast 'What Planet Are We On?'. Speaking personally and frankly, Sir David explained, "We are going to have to live more economically than we do. And we can do that and, I believe we will do it more happily, not less happily. And that the excesses the capitalist system has brought us, have got to be curbed somehow." "That doesn't mean to say that capitalism is dead and I'm not an economist and I don't know. But I believe the nations of the world, ordinary people worldwide, are beginning to realise that greed does not actually lead to joy." Sir David said when we help the natural world, it becomes a better place for everyone and in the past, when we lived closer to nature, the planet was a "working eco-system in which everybody had a share". The 10-part podcast is being released on the second anniversary of the publication of a key scientific report on global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change study looked at how the world would cope if temperatures rose by 1.5C by the end of this century. The podcast series explores issues and solutions around climate change, and features the BBC environment correspondent, Matt McGrath, and science correspondent, Vic Gill, along with interviews with well-known names like Idris Elba, Lily Cole and Jay Blades. Sir David also spoke about his frustrations with the postponement of COP26, in Glasgow, the UN's major climate change conference. He called the pandemic "a disaster for all of us" saying it's depressing that every time we get to a moment to do something about climate change, it's delayed to another year. The broadcasting legend also spoke about giving up the "busyness" of things like travelling and meetings. "We've had time to sit down and suddenly you realise out there in the park or if I'm lucky enough, in the garden, there's a bird singing and I've not heard that for a bit … and that lifts the spirit to an extraordinary degree and you begin to realise, what is really important".

10-8-20 Prince William and Sir David Attenborough join forces on 'Earthshot' prize
Prince William and Sir David Attenborough have joined forces to launch what they hope will become the "Nobel Prize for environmentalism". They say the search is on for 50 solutions to the world's gravest environmental problems by 2030. With £50m to be awarded over a decade, the "Earthshot Prize" is the biggest environmental prize ever. The Prince said "positivity" had been missing from the climate debate - something the award could supply. "The Earthshot prize is really about harnessing that optimism and that urgency to find some of the world's solutions to some of the greatest environmental problems," he told the BBC. Anyone could win,he explained, as he called for "amazing people" to create "brilliant innovative projects". These, he said, could help save the planet. To mark the event BBC Radio 4's Today Programme has secured an unprecedented exclusive joint interview with the Prince and Sir David. During the conversation Prince William said the launch of the new prize marks the moment he takes up the baton of environmental campaigning from his father. "I feel right now it's my responsibility", he said. The world is "at a tipping point", explained the Prince, who said the Earthshot Prize is his and Sir David's effort to ensure we hand the planet on to our children and grandchildren "in a better state than we found it." Nick Robinson quoted a Today interview with Prince Charles in which he had said sometimes his ideas on the environment were regarded as a bit "dotty". "Was there a time when even you, I wonder, thought, what's my father banging on about?", Mr Robinson asked the Prince. "I regularly wonder what my father's banging on about. I'm sure every son thinks the same," Prince William replied. "He's talked about this for a long time and long before people sort of cottoned on to climate change. So, I've always listened to and learnt and believed in what he was saying." "I think the dotty person now would be the person who doesn't believe in climate change," the Prince added. The Earthshot Prize will make five awards of £1m each year for 10 years.

10-7-20 Feng Zhang interview: CRISPR can fight covid-19 and climate change
CRISPR gene editing is already treating disease. But there’s far more it might do, from fighting cancer and covid-19 to putting the brakes on climate change, says Feng Zhang, a pioneer of the technique. IT IS no exaggeration to call Feng Zhang one of the most groundbreaking scientists working today. In his 20s and 30s, he helped develop two revolutionary technologies. The first, known as optogenetics, involves inserting genes into brain cells to allow them to be switched on and off by shining a light on to them. This technique has helped us understand how the brain works and is being explored as a potential treatment for some neurological conditions. The second, CRISPR, is a gene-editing technology that promises to correct a near-limitless list of human diseases. These days, Zhang has a dual appointment at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research and the Broad Institute, both in Massachusetts, and is often spoken of as a future Nobel laureate. Powerful tools can be used in different ways, however, and when it comes to CRISPR, there have already been some worrying developments. Two years ago, biophysicist He Jiankui was widely criticised – and eventually handed a prison sentence – for using CRISPR to gene edit human embryos. Many researchers, including Zhang, feel his actions were an ethical overstep. Meanwhile, Zhang is party to an ongoing dispute over who should own the patent for CRISPR. Other scientists were first to publish details of the technology, but he was quickest to show it works in human cells. New Scientist caught up with Zhang to discuss those controversies and to get the low-down on the future of CRISPR. These days, Zhang is optimistic that the technology may help us in the battle against covid-19 and that it may have applications that go far beyond medicine.

10-7-20 Gene-editing CRISPR technique can help us cut emissions from farming
There are risks to using CRISPR, but also to not embracing it, because it will be much harder to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food production without gene editing. ASK most people to list the causes of climate change, and you would expect to hear about oil companies, flights and cars. But, increasingly, we are realising that producing our food has massive environmental impacts. Farming is one of the main drivers of deforestation and global warming, among many other issues. The flip side of this is that improving the way we farm can have massive environmental benefits. Boosting yields so that we can grow the same amount of food on half the land could save a forest, along with all the carbon that it stores. One of the best ways to do this is to develop better breeds. The plants and animals we eat have already been transformed by conventional breeding, but it is a slow and clumsy process. Now we have a much more powerful and precise tool: CRISPR gene editing (see “Feng Zhang Q&A: CRISPR pioneer on the exciting future of gene editing”). Gene editing can be used in two ways. One is to quickly introduce desirable gene variants that already exist in other plants and animals. For instance, some beef cattle have very light coats due to a tiny change in one pigmentation gene. This same tiny change has been edited into dairy cows in New Zealand, with the aim of making them more heat tolerant in a warmer world (see “We may be able to tell someone’s heart rate just by looking at them”). Gene editing could also be used to make more extensive changes. For instance, many groups are trying to give extra crops the ability to fix nitrogen, just as peas and beans can. Such crops would need much less fertiliser, reducing emissions of the potent greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. Another idea is to create crops with deeper roots that release suberin, a rot-resistant molecule found in cork. The idea is to lock away more carbon in the soil to help slow global warming.

10-7-20 Climate change and big tech are jeopardising the future of astronomy
California's wildfires came worryingly close to burning down a treasured observatory. Sadly, fires aren't the only threat to astronomy, writes Chanda Prescod-Weinstein. AS A teenager, I read Dennis Overbye’s history of cosmology, Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos. I was fascinated by the stories of now-dead men clashing, sometimes angrily, over measurements of what we would come to call the Hubble-Lemaître constant, which measures the rate of expansion of space-time. Georges Lemaître first connected this idea with astronomical observations in 1927, and Edwin Hubble published the idea in English – along with substantive data to support it – in 1929. To achieve this, Hubble used the 2.5-metre Hooker telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory, which was state-of-the-art equipment at the time. Mount Wilson is in California’s San Gabriel mountains, which are just north-east of where I grew up, east of downtown Los Angeles. A few weeks ago, I wept while reading an open letter from the observatory’s chairman Sam Hale about a fire that was approaching the facility where Hubble changed how we saw the universe. Hale didn’t know if the observatory would still exist the next day, as the Bobcat Fire raged through the Angeles National Forest. I had to go to bed knowing I would find out in the morning if the facility and the many LA county TV and radio communications towers nearby had survived. For the next two weeks, I went through that cycle repeatedly – bad late-night news about an approaching fire would arrive and an urgent search for webcam footage would ensue. Each time, as I watched the flames nearly lick the observatory, I thought about fire as a natural phenomenon in the universe. Fire is hot gas and sometimes plasma, one of the natural states of matter. Our sun is a large ball of gas and plasma produced by continuous nuclear explosions. The flames of our sun are magnificent and beautiful, so different from the ones that have ravaged California.

10-7-20 September was world's 'hottest on record'
September was the warmest on record globally, according to the weather service Copernicus. It was 0.05C hotter than September last year, which in turn set the previous record high for the month. Scientists say it’s a clear indication of temperatures being driven up by emissions from human society. Copernicus, which is the European Union's Earth observation programme, said warmth in the Siberian Arctic continues way above average. And it confirmed that Arctic sea ice is at its second lowest extent since satellite records began. This year is also projected to become the warmest on record for Europe, even if temperatures cool somewhat from now on. The elevated heat globally contributed to record wildfires in California and Australia. It also helped fuel the hottest day on record - a searing 54.4C (130F) in Death Valley. And it had a hand in the torrential downpours that inundated the south of France with more than half a metre of rain in a day. Météo-France, the French met office, said a downpour like this was expected once in 100 years – they had two in a month. Samantha Burgess, deputy director of the Copernicus Climate Change Service, told BBC News: "Some of these events are extraordinary – although we mustn't create a false expectation that temperatures will go up year on year. “Climate and weather are highly variable. But we predicted that these sort of events would happen, given our effect on the climate.” Weather records are always being broken naturally, but meteorologists say they’re disturbed by some of the new extremes. The UK is not immune. It enjoyed its sunniest Spring on record; August saw a record number of days overtopping 34C; and the town of Reading has just endured its wettest ever 48-hour period. Ed Hawkins, from Reading University, told us: “We have been saying this for decades – more and more greenhouse gases will lead to more and more warming.”

10-6-20 Boris Johnson: Wind farms could power every home by 2030
Offshore wind farms will generate enough electricity to power every home in the UK within a decade, Boris Johnson has pledged. Speaking to the Conservative party conference, the PM announced £160m to upgrade ports and factories for building turbines to help the country "build back greener". The plan aims to create 2,000 jobs in construction and support 60,000 more. He said the UK would become "the world leader in clean wind energy". "Your kettle, your washing machine, your cooker, your heating, your plug-in electric vehicle - the whole lot of them will get their juice cleanly and without guilt from the breezes that blow around these islands," he said. Mr Johnson's speech comes after he made a pledge at a UN biodiversity summit in New York to protect 30% of UK land for nature as a "boost for biodiversity". The scheme will see the money invested into manufacturing in Teesside and Humber in northern England, as well as sites in Scotland and Wales. Mr Johnson said the government was raising its target for offshore wind power capacity by 2030 from 30 gigawatts to 40 gigawatts. The commitments are the first stage of a 10-point plan for a "green industrial revolution" from the government, with No 10 promising the rest of the details later this year to "accelerate our progress towards net zero emissions by 2050". The net zero target means greenhouse gas emissions would be dramatically slashed and any remaining emissions offset, neutralising environmental impacts and slowing climate change. Mr Johnson's speech comes amid a "fractious" mood on the Conservative backbenches about his handling of the Covid-19 crisis, BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg says. She said the occasion could provide the prime minister with an opportunity to sell his vision of the country post-pandemic to party members. But she added this year's speech - to be delivered virtually without a live audience - would not allow him to plug into the energy of a crowd as he normally would.

10-5-20 Countries that backed renewables over nuclear power have cut more CO2
Nations that embraced renewable energy have significantly cut their carbon emissions, but those pursuing nuclear power failed to do so, researchers have found. Nuclear and renewables are seen as two key ways for governments to decarbonise, but the question of whether one is more effective for tackling climate change hasn’t been fully addressed. With several countries on the brink of deciding whether to back new nuclear plants to meet carbon targets, the answer matters. To find out, Benjamin Sovacool at the University of Sussex, UK, and his colleagues looked at carbon dioxide emissions and GDP over 25 years. They found that in 117 countries using renewables, CO2 emissions per capita dropped from 0.69 tons on average during 1990 to 2004 to 0.61 tons in 2000 to 2014. These latter figures include a further six countries. However, in the same periods, the 30 countries using nuclear stayed largely flat, shifting from an average 0.52 tons of CO2 per capita to 0.51. The two groups of countries overlap because some fall into both. Renewables included wind, solar, hydro and biomass energy. For Sovacool, the lesson for governments is clear: “If you’re focusing on what we can do to mitigate emissions in the next 15 years, pursue renewables and not nuclear. The current [nuclear] technology we have, when deployed at scale, historically is not as good at cutting emissions. There may be many reasons to do nuclear, but fighting climate change isn’t one of them.” The reason for the results isn’t clear – the analysis found a correlation, not a causation – but Sovacool has ideas. Nuclear power is restricted due to international treaties limiting the spread of nuclear weapons, as material from reactors can be used to make bombs. Renewables aren’t, enabling more countries to learn from one another, such as Germany benefiting from Chinese economies of scale on solar.

10-5-20 McDonald's among food firms urging tougher deforestation rules
Food firms in the UK including McDonald's are urging the government to toughen up rules designed to protect rainforests. Ministers are planning a new law forbidding big firms to use produce from illegally deforested land. But the firms say the law should apply to all deforestation, whether it's legal or illegal. That's because the effect on the climate, and on nature, is the same if trees are felled legally or not. The firms have written a letter to the government on the closing day of its consultation on forest protection. It says: "Restricting action to illegal deforestation would not achieve halting the loss of natural ecosystems, especially when governments have discretion to decide what is legal." The 21 signatories include including Unilever, Tesco, Lidl, Nando's, Nestle, the convenience food maker Greencore and the chicken producer Pilgrim's Pride. Currently the government's plans refer only to major companies like these, but the signatories say this would allow medium-sized firms to continue importing large amounts of commodities from previously forested land. They are pressing for a level playing field so smaller operators don't gain a competitive advantage. The letter represents something of a breakthrough for environmental campaigners. They've have long argued that it's pointless for the UK to protect its own landscape - as the Prime Minister says he intends - if ingredients in food or fodder such as beef, cocoa, soy, rubber and palm oil have contributed to environmental destruction abroad. Robin Willoughby, from the green group Mighty Earth said: "The proposed legislation would continue to allow rampant deforestation in hotspots such as Indonesia and Brazil (where much of the deforestation is legal). "With the Amazon in flames and forests being cut down at an alarming rate, Nature doesn't recognise the difference between legal and illegal deforestation."

10-5-20 Cattle are being gene edited to help them survive climate change
CRISPR genome editing has been used to create a cow with grey patches instead of black, meaning it will absorb less heat. The aim is to reduce heat stress in the animals due to global warming – which, ironically, is in no small part due to emissions and deforestation from cattle ranching. “Genome editing is a promising approach to rapidly improve and adapt livestock to changing environmental conditions,” says Goetz Laible at AgResearch in New Zealand. “On a global scale, even modest improvements in productivity from colour-diluted cattle would translate into substantial environmental benefits.” New Zealand dairy cows already become heat stressed for nearly 20 per cent of the time they are being milked, which can halve yields. Heat also reduces fertility, says Alison Van Eenennaam at the University of California, Davis. “It’s hard to get them pregnant during the heat.” Dairy cows also need to have a calf every year or so to maintain milk production. Cattle with black or mostly black coats, like Holstein Friesian dairy cows, are thought to suffer more from heat stress. So Laible and his colleagues decided to find out if they could benefit from lighter coats like those of some Highland beef cattle, caused by a tiny change in a gene involved in pigmentation called PMEL. Using standard breeding techniques to cross beef cattle with dairy cattle would result in offspring that weren’t ideal for producing either milk or meat. Instead, Laible’s team used CRISPR to change the PMEL gene in fetal skin cells from a male Holstein Friesian that were growing in a dish. The researchers then used cloning to generate embryos for implantation. Two calves were born, with dramatic changes in coloration. One calf had to be put down after birth and the other died of an infection when it was four weeks old. These health issues are thought to be result of the cloning process, rather than the genetic editing. Cloning isn’t necessary to produce CRISPR-edited cows, so the team will avoid it when they create more calves with this edit, says Laible.

10-5-20 Kamchatka: Pollution killing sea life in Russian far east
Many dead sea creatures have washed up on beaches in Kamchatka, in Russia's far east, in what is being treated as a major marine pollution incident. Video and photos posted on social media show dead octopuses, seals and other dead sea life, as well as a large stretch of discoloured ocean. Local residents who used the Pacific beaches complained of vomiting, fever, rashes and swollen eyelids. Initial analysis detected oil products and phenol in the water. The environmental group Greenpeace has called it "an ecological disaster". Kamchatka is one of Russia's remotest regions, famous for its pristine nature and active volcanoes. "We began to see that something was wrong with the water because after an ordinary surf you come out feeling good, but this time it felt like we had burned eyes, we couldn't even see straight," local surfer Rasul Gadzhiev said. Another surfer, using the Instagram handle yola_la, wrote that "the seabed is all dead. Octopuses, fish, starfish and sea urchins - they're all dead from Cape Nalychev to Avacha Bay, and that's more than 40km (25 miles)". She said surfers in the area had first complained of feeling ill three weeks ago. The Kamchatka administration website says Russia's emergencies ministry is investigating. Specialists are collecting samples from the beaches and rivers and using drones to help in their analysis. The website says there were reports in late September that the waters on Khalaktyr beach had changed colour and had a peculiar smell. It confirmed that dead octopuses, seals and other sea creatures had been washed up. Kamchatka governor Vladimir Solodov said volunteers were also helping the authorities in their investigation. "We cannot claim that the ocean is dying wholesale here, but now it's really important for us to assess the scale of this," he said.

10-4-20 How the presidential election could decide the fate of global climate politics
The 2020 election would determine federal environmental policy for the next four years. But science tells us four years could make a major difference. It's fall 2020, and the presidential campaign in the U.S. is happening against the backdrop of extreme weather events the world over. In the U.S., wildfires are burning — fueled in part by hotter, drier conditions out West. Hurricanes are plaguing the Caribbean. And the Arctic is seeing its second-lowest ice cover ever. And the climate world — activists, diplomats, scientists, and business people — anxiously awaits the fate of the best diplomatic shot to limit global warming: the 2015 Paris agreement. "This election is really going to be very, very critical for whether or not we're actually able to meet the Paris agreement goals and secure the future of the vulnerable around the world," said Rueanna Haynes, a former Trinidad and Tobago climate negotiator who's now a senior legal adviser at Climate Analytics, a policy nonprofit. The pact reached five years ago was the first universal, binding accord to address the climate crisis. In it, almost every country agreed to keep the increase in the globe's average temperature to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). In 2017, during a Rose Garden speech in which he called the deal "draconian," President Donald Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the emissions mitigation framework. But Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden says he'll put the U.S. on course again if he's elected. "I'll bring us back into the Paris agreement," Biden said in a speech last week during a historic West Coast wildfire season. "I'll put us back in the business of leading the world on climate change. And I'll challenge every other country to up the ante on climate commitments." U.S. involvement — and pushing others to make bolder pledges — is crucial. In the Paris agreement, governments agreed to set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But the targets themselves aren't legally binding, and so far, they're not nearly ambitious enough. Climate Action Tracker, a collaboration of two research organizations that tracks how much warming we're on track to see, estimates the world will warm around 2.7 C (4.9 F) by 2100 if countries hit their current pledges and carbon-cutting targets. The accord was built on the idea that once countries sign-on, they name emissions reduction targets, report their progress and pressure each other to increase their ambition in the next round of target-setting. "In a process like that, it's quite detrimental that the second-largest emitter pulls out," said Håkon Sælen, a senior researcher at the Center for International Climate Research, referring to the U.S. withdrawal. Sælen and colleagues modeled what that might mean in the long term, and found that eventually, it will lower other nations' trust and willingness to reduce their own emissions. "One thing we find is that, over time, the effect on other countries' emissions is actually even larger than the direct effect on U.S. emissions," Sælen said. So far, the globe has warmed about 1 C (1.8 F) since the pre-industrial era, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The worsening impacts include hotter heatwaves, more intense hurricanes, and rising sea levels that make storm surges more damaging. The changing climate poses an existential threat to some of the world's most vulnerable people, who are coming to expect more unprecedented events like Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane that intensified rapidly last year and pounded the Bahamas for a day and a half.

10-3-20 How the presidential election could decide the fate of global climate politics
It's fall 2020, and the presidential campaign in the U.S. is happening against the backdrop of extreme weather events the world over. In the U.S., wildfires are burning — fueled in part by hotter, drier conditions out West. Hurricanes are plaguing the Caribbean. And the Arctic is seeing its second-lowest ice cover ever. And the climate world — activists, diplomats, scientists, and business people — anxiously awaits the fate of the best diplomatic shot to limit global warming: the 2015 Paris agreement. "This election is really going to be very, very critical for whether or not we're actually able to meet the Paris agreement goals and secure the future of the vulnerable around the world," said Rueanna Haynes, a former Trinidad and Tobago climate negotiator who's now a senior legal adviser at Climate Analytics, a policy nonprofit. The pact reached five years ago was the first universal, binding accord to address the climate crisis. In it, almost every country agreed to keep the increase in the globe's average temperature to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). In 2017, during a Rose Garden speech in which he called the deal "draconian," President Donald Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the emissions mitigation framework. But Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden says he'll put the U.S. on course again if he's elected. "I'll bring us back into the Paris agreement," Biden said in a speech last week during a historic West Coast wildfire season. "I'll put us back in the business of leading the world on climate change. And I'll challenge every other country to up the ante on climate commitments." U.S. involvement — and pushing others to make bolder pledges — is crucial. In the Paris agreement, governments agreed to set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But the targets themselves aren't legally binding, and so far, they're not nearly ambitious enough. Climate Action Tracker, a collaboration of two research organizations that tracks how much warming we're on track to see, estimates the world will warm around 2.7 C (4.9 F) by 2100 if countries hit their current pledges and carbon-cutting targets. The accord was built on the idea that once countries sign-on, they name emissions reduction targets, report their progress and pressure each other to increase their ambition in the next round of target-setting. "In a process like that, it's quite detrimental that the second-largest emitter pulls out," said Håkon Sælen, a senior researcher at the Center for International Climate Research, referring to the U.S. withdrawal. Sælen and colleagues modeled what that might mean in the long term, and found that eventually, it will lower other nations' trust and willingness to reduce their own emissions. "One thing we find is that, over time, the effect on other countries' emissions is actually even larger than the direct effect on U.S. emissions," Sælen said. So far, the globe has warmed about 1 C (1.8 F) since the pre-industrial era, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The worsening impacts include hotter heatwaves, more intense hurricanes, and rising sea levels that make storm surges more damaging. The changing climate poses an existential threat to some of the world's most vulnerable people, who are coming to expect more unprecedented events like Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane that intensified rapidly last year and pounded the Bahamas for a day and a half.

10-1-20 California wildfires: Glass Fire as seen by firefighters
Firefighters have filmed their journey through the Glass Fire - one of dozens of wildfires burning their way through California. Scientists say this year's wildfires across the US West Coast are the worst in 18 years and have linked their increasing prevalence and intensity to climate change.

10-1-20 By 2100, Greenland will be losing ice at its fastest rate in 12,000 years
The rate of loss currently matches the peak reached during a 3,000-year warm period. By 2100, Greenland will be shedding ice faster than at any time in the past 12,000 years, scientists report October 1 in Nature. Since the 1990s, Greenland has shed its ice at an increasing rate (SN: 8/2/19). Meltwater from the island’s ice sheet now contributes about 0.7 millimeters per year to global sea level rise (SN: 9/25/19). But how does this rapid loss stack up against the ice sheet’s recent history, including during a 3,000-year-long warm period? Glacial geologist Jason Briner of the University at Buffalo in New York and colleagues created a master timeline of ice sheet changes spanning nearly 12,000 years, from the dawn of the Holocene Epoch 11,700 years ago and projected out to 2100. The researchers combined climate and ice physics simulations with observations of the extent of past ice sheets, marked by moraines. Those rocky deposits denote the edges of ancient, bulldozing glaciers. New fine-tuned climate simulations that include spatial variations in temperature and precipitation across the island also improved on past temperature reconstructions. During the past warm episode from about 10,000 to 7,000 years ago, Greenland lost ice at a rate of about 6,000 billion metric tons each century, the team estimates. That rate remained unmatched until the past two decades: From 2000 to 2018, the average rate of ice loss was similar, at about 6,100 billion tons per century. Over the next century, that pace will accelerate, the team says. How much depends on future greenhouse gas emissions: Under a lower-emissions scenario, ice loss is projected to average around 8,800 billion tons per century by 2100. With higher emissions, the rate of loss could ramp up to 35,900 billion tons per century.

10-1-20 Plastic straw ban in England comes into force
A ban on single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds has come into force in England. The measure, originally due to start in April, makes it illegal for businesses to sell or supply the items. People in England use an estimated 4.7 billion plastic straws, 316 million plastic stirrers and 1.8 billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds each year. Environmental campaigners welcomed the ban but called for a crackdown on further single-use items. An exemption will allow hospitals, bars and restaurants to provide plastic straws to people with disabilities or medical conditions that require them. Environment Secretary George Eustice said the government was "firmly committed" to tackling environmental "devastation" caused by single-use plastics. Campaigners welcomed the move but said the items formed only a "fraction" of the plastic waste littering the environment. Sion Elis Williams, of Friends of the Earth, said ministers "must also do more to challenge our throwaway culture by forcing a shift away from all single-use materials in favour of reusable alternatives". Tatiana Lujan, of environmental law charity ClientEarth said straws, cotton buds and stirrers were "some of the most pointless plastics out there" and the ban on them was "a no-brainer". But they remained "a tiny fraction" of single-use plastics, she said, adding that countries such as Ireland and France had "shown far more ambition" with targets on reusable packaging and deposit return schemes. Mr Eustice said the government was "building plans" for a deposit return scheme to encourage recycling of single-use drinks containers. The Welsh government has said it is also considering a similar ban on plastics. A number of national restaurant chains ditched plastic straws before the ban was announced.

10-1-20 Cambridge University to cut fossil fuel investments by 2030
Cambridge University is to cease investments in fossil fuels by 2030, it has announced. At the same time, its £3.5 billion endowment fund will "ramp up" investments in renewable energy. Vice-chanceller Prof Stephen J Toope said there was an "environmental and moral need for action" to find "solutions to the climate crisis". The student-led Cambridge Zero Carbon Campaign said it was "a historic victory for the divestment movement". The disinvestment is part of the university's plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2038, more than a decade before the date set by the UK government. Alice Gilderdale, from the Cambridge Zero Carbon Campaign, said the announcement "comes five years too late and we'll be pushing for the 2030 commitment to be brought forward". It will continue to campaign for the university to "end all its ties" to the fossil fuel industry, she added. The university plans to withdraw investments with conventional energy-focused public equity managers by December 2020, build up significant investments in renewable energy by 2025 and divest from all meaningful exposure in fossil fuels by 2030. Chief investment officer Tilly Franklin said: "Climate change, ecological destruction, and biodiversity loss present an urgent existential threat, with severe risks to humankind and all other life on Earth. "The investment office has responded to those threats by pursuing a strategy that aims to support and encourage the global transition to a carbon-neutral economy." The university added all future research funding and donations will need to demonstrate In 2019, it commissioned a report into the advantages and disadvantages of the divestment. Cambridge Zero Carbon Society has campaigned against the university's fossil fuel investments for five years, including a a week-long sit-in in 2018.

10-1-20 What wobbling rocks can tell us about nuclear safety
We've all seen them; we've even taken pictures of ourselves pretending to hold them up or to push them over. These are the precariously balanced rocks on a hill or a coastal cliff. It's as if the gentlest nudge would send them tumbling. In truth, the disturbance needed to unsettle the blocks is quite significant, and that got husband and wife geologists Drs Dylan and Anna Rood wondering about how these great stones could be used to decipher earthquake history. Think about it: if a precariously balanced rock has held its position for 10,000 years without tipping over, it means the land around the stone hasn't experienced shaking above a certain level in all that time. "The turn of phrase we're trying to coin is that these precariously balanced rocks, or PBRs, are an 'inverse seismometer'," explains Anna. "A normal seismometer records an event that has happened, whereas our PBR is still standing there, and so it records an earthquake that hasn't happened. Specifically, a large earthquake," the Imperial College London, UK, researcher tells BBC News. This is really useful information if you want to build a nuclear power station or waste repository; or maybe a major dam or bridge. Knowing how robust that structure needs to be requires an understanding of the seismic hazards that could reasonably be foreseen during its lifetime. Can it expect a certain threshold of shaking once every 100 years, or every 1,000 years, or indeed only once every 10,000 years? The answer will bear directly on the cost of a safe construction as well as the insurance risk. Planners may be fortunate in that the location where they want to put up that new power station already has a detailed, instrumented record of seismic behaviour. But there will be places where that record is sparse - places where it's known large tremors can occur but where the history of the size and frequency of events is extremely patchy. For these sites, geologists will normally conduct what's called a probabilistic seismic hazard analysis in which they'll try to model the possibilities, taking account of all the potential local sources of earthquakes, such as nearby fault lines. What Dylan and Anna have now shown is that any precariously balanced rocks in the vicinity can be used to constrain those models by excluding the most far-out-there possibilities. As proof of principle they studied PBRs near the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in coastal Central California. These are tall chert blocks that have eroded free of the surrounding rock platform and as a consequence could fall over given the right amount of shaking. But precisely how much shaking would be needed, and how long the blocks have been in this free-standing state are the two unknowns the team had to solve to use the PBRs as inverse seismometers.


Donald Trump's Plan: Gut The EPA

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Global Warming News Articles for September of 2020