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Planet News !2021-04-29T16:37:17+01:00

Nine-year-old is first UK person to have air pollution listed on death certificate

The Government has been urged to set much tougher legally binding pollution targets by the coroner in an inquest into a nine-year-old girl who died of a fatal asthma attack after being exposed to toxic air.

Philip Barlow, assistant coroner for Inner South London, ruled in a landmark second inquest last year that air pollution contributed to the death of nine-year-old Ella Kissi-Debrah from an asthma attack.

In a report to prevent future deaths, he said legally binding targets for particulate matter in line with World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines would reduce the number of deaths from air pollution in the UK and the Government should take action to address the issue.

The WHO limit is 10 micrograms of tiny “particulate” matter per cubic metre – and if the UK were to introduce such a limit about 15 million people would be living in areas with illegally high levels of pollution.The current UK – and EU – limit is 25 micrograms per cubic metre, which far exceeds the level of air pollution any part of the country, yet air pollution is responsible for an estimated 36,000 early deaths a year.

Mr Barlow also said greater public awareness of air pollution information would help individuals reduce their personal exposure.

And he warned the adverse effects of pollutants were not being sufficiently communicated to patients and their carers by medical staff

Responding to the report, Ella’s mother Rosamund Kissi-Debrah called on the Government to act on the recommendations in the coroner’s report, warning “children are dying unnecessarily because the Government is […]

Overshoot or Omnicide?

Questions and Answers with Sam CaranaAbove image shows a non-linear blue trend based on 1880-2020 NASA Land+Ocean data that are adjusted 0.78°C to reflect a pre-industrial base, to more fully reflect strong polar warming, and to reflect surface air temperatures over oceans. This blue trend highlights that the 1.5°C threshold was crossed in 2012 (inset), while the 2°C threshold looks set to be crossed next year and a 3°C rise could be reached at the end of 2026. Overshoot?The blue trend in the image at the top shows the temperature rise crossing 1.5°C in 2012. Could this have been a temporary overshoot? Could the trend be wrong and could temperatures come down in future, instead of continuing to rise, and could temperatures fall to such extent that this will bring the average temperature rise back to below 1.5°C?To answer this question, let's apply the method followed by the IPCC and estimate the average temperature rise over a 30-year period that is centered around the start of 2012, i.e. from 1997 to the end of 2026. The IPPC used a 30-year period in its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 ºC, while assuming that, for future years, the current multi-decadal warming trend would continue (see image below).As said, the image at the top shows the temperature rise crossing 1.5°C in 2012. For the average temperature over the 30-year period 1997-2026 to be below 1.5°C, temperatures would have to fall over the next few years. Even if the temperature for 2021 fell to a level as low as it was in 2018 and remained at that same lower level until end 2026, the 1997-2026 average would still be more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial. Furthermore, for temperatures to fall over the next few years, there would need to be a fall in concentrations of greenhouse gases over the next few years, among other things. Instead, greenhouse gas levels appear to be rising steadily, if not at accelerating pace.What did the IPCC envisage? As the image below shows, the IPCC in AR5 did envisage carbon dioxide under RCP 2.6 to be 421 ppm in 2100, while the combined CO₂e for carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide would be 475 ppm in 2100. The image below, based on a study by Detlef van Vuuren et al. (2011), pictures pathways for concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, for each of four Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs).Above image shows that, for RCP 2.6 to apply in the above study, there is little or no room for a rise in these greenhouse gases. In fact, the study shows that methane levels would have to be falling dramatically. At the moment, however, methane concentrations show no signs of falling and instead appear to be following if not exceeding RCP 8.5, as discussed in a recent post and as also illustrated by the images below. Greenhouse gas levels are risingAs the image below shows, the carbon dioxide (CO₂) level recorded at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, was 421.36 parts per million (ppm) on April 8, 2021.  The N20 satellite recorded a methane peak of 2862 ppb on the afterrnoon of March 29, 2021, at 487.2 mb, as the image below shows.A similarly high methane peak was recorded by the MetOp-1 satellite at 469 mb on the morning of April 4, 2021. Below are the highest daily mean methane levels recorded by the MetOp-1 satellite at selected altitudes on March 10 or 12, for the years 2013-2021, showing that methane levels are rising, especially at the higher altitude associated with 293 mb. Similarly, nitrous oxide levels show no signs of falling, as illustrated by the image below.Methane grew 15.85 ppb in 2020, how fast could CO₂e rise? Rising greenhouse gas levels and associated feedbacks threaten to cause temperatures to keep rising, in a runaway scenario that cannot be reverted even if emissions by people were cut to zero.Peaks in greenhouse gas levels could suffice to trigger the clouds feedback, which occurs when a CO₂e threshold of around 1,200 ppm is crossed, and the stratocumulus decks abruptly become unstable and break up into scattered cumulus clouds. Once the clouds tipping point is crossed, it will be impossible to undo its impact, in line with the nature of a tipping point. In theory, CO₂ levels could come down after the stratocumulus breakup, but the stratocumulus decks would only reform once the CO₂ levels drop below 300 ppm.A recent post repeated the warning that by 2026, there could be an 18°C rise when including the clouds feedback, while humans will likely go extinct with a 3°C rise and most life on Earth will disappear with a 5°C rise. In conclusion, once the clouds feedback gets triggered, it cannot be reverted by people, because by the time the clouds feedback starts kicking in, people would already have disappeared, so there won't be any people around to keep trying to revert it.[ click on images to enlarge ]Methane levels are rising rapidly. The image to the right shows a trend that is based on NOAA 2006-2020 annual gobal mean methane data and that points at a mean of 3893 ppb getting crossed by the end of 2026. Why is that value of 3893 ppb important? On April 8, 2021, carbon dioxide reached a peak of 421.36 ppm, i.e. 778.64 ppm away from the clouds tipping point at 1200 ppm, and 778.64 ppm CO₂e translates into 3893 ppb of methane at a 1-year GWP of 200. In other words, a methane mean of 3893 ppb alone could cause the clouds tipping point to get crossed, resulting in an abrupt 8°C temperature rise. Such a high mean by 2026 cannot be ruled out, given the rapid recent growth in mean annual methane levels (15.85 ppb in 2020, see inset on image). Additionally, there are further warming elements than just carbon dioxide and methane, e.g. nitrous oxide and water vapor haven't yet been included in the CO₂e total. Moreover, it may not even be necessary for the global mean methane level to reach 3893 ppb. A high methane peak in one single spot may suffice and a peak of 3893 ppb of methane could be reached soon, given that methane just reached a peak of 2862 ppb, while even higher peaks were reached over the past few years, including a peak of 3369 ppb recorded on the afternoon of August 31, 2018.  Abrupt stratocumulus cloud shattering  [ click on images to enlarge ]Catastrophic crack propagation is what makes a balloon pop. Could low-lying clouds similarly break up and vanish abruptly? Could peak greenhouse gas concentrations in one spot break up droplets into water vapor, thus raising CO₂e and propagating break-up of more droplets, etc., to shatter entire clouds?In other words, an extra burst of methane from the seafoor of the Arctic Ocean alone could suffice to trigger the clouds tipping point and abruptly push temperatures up by an additional 8°C. Omnicide?This brings the IPCC views and suggestions into question. As discussed above, for the average temperature to come down to below 1.5°C over the period 1997-2026, temperatures would need to fall over the next few years. What again would it take for temperatures to fall over the next few years? Imagine that all emissions of greenhouse gases by people would end. Even if all emissions of greenhouse gases by people could magically end right now, there would still be little or no prospect for temperatures to fall over the next few years. Reasons for this are listed below, and it is not an exhaustive list since some things are hard to assess, such as whether oceans will be able to keep absorbing as much heat and carbon dioxide as they currently do. By implication, there is no carbon budget left. Suggesting that there was a carbon budget left, to be divided among polluters and to be consumed over the next few years, that suggestion is irresponsible. Below are some reasons why the temperature is likely to rise over the next few years, rather than fall.How likely is a rise of more than 3°C by 2026?• The warming impact of carbon dioxide reaches its peak a decade after emission, while methane's impact over ten years is huge, so the warming impact of the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere is likely to prevent temperatures from falling and could instead keep raising temperatures for some time to come. • Temperatures are currently suppressed. We're in a La Niña period, as illustrated by the image below. [ click on images to enlarge ]As NASA describes, El Niño events occur roughly every two to seven years. As temperatures keep rising, ever more frequent strong El Niño events are likely to occur. NOAA anticipates La Niña to re-emerge during the fall or winter 2021/2022, so it's likely that a strong El Niño will occur between 2023 and 2025. • Rising temperatures can cause growth in sources of greenhouse gases and a decrease in sinks. The image below shows how El Niño/La Niña events and growth in CO₂ levels line up.  • We're also at a low point in the sunspot cycle. As the image on the right shows, the number of sunspots can be expected to rise as we head toward 2026, and temperatures can be expected to rise accordingly. According to James Hansen et al., the variation of solar irradiance from solar minimum to solar maximum is of the order of 0.25 W/m⁻². • Add to this the impact of a recent Sudden Stratospheric Warming event. We are currently experiencing the combined impact of three short-term variables that are suppressing the temperature rise, i.e. a Sudden Stratospheric Warming event, a La Niña event and a low in sunspots. Over the next few years, in the absence of large volcano eruptions and in the absence of Sudden Stratospheric Warming events, a huge amount of heat could build up at surface level. As the temperature impact of the other two short-term variables reverses, i.e. as the sunspot cycle moves toward a peak and a El Niño develops, this could push up temperatures substantially. The world could be set up for a perfect storm by 2026, since sunspots are expected to reach a peak by then and since it takes a few years to move from a La Niña low to the peak of an El Niño period. • Furthermore, temperatures are currently also suppressed by sulfate cooling. This impact is falling away as we progress with the necessary transition away from fossil fuel and biofuel, toward the use of more wind turbines and solar panels instead. Aerosols typically fall out of the atmosphere within a few weeks, so as the transition progresses, this will cause temperatures to rise over the next few years. Most sulfates are caused by large-scale industrial activity, such as coal-fired power plants and smelters. A significant part of sulphur emissions is also caused by volcanoes. Historically, some 20 volcanoes are actively erupting on any particular day. Of the 49 volcanoes that erupted during 2021, 45 volcanoes were still active with continuing (for at least 3 months) eruptions as at March 12, 2021. • Also holding back the temperature rise at the moment is the buffer effect of thick sea ice in the Arctic that consumes heat as it melts. As Arctic sea ice thickness declines, more heat will instead warm up the Arctic, resulting in albedo changes, changes to the Jet Stream and possibly trigger huge releases of methane from the seafloor. The rise in ocean temperature on the Northern Hemisphere looks very threatening in this regard (see image on the right) and many of these developments are discussed at the extinction page. There are numerous further feedbacks that look set to start kicking in with growing ferocity as temperatures keep rising, such as releases of greenhouse gases resulting from permafrost thawing and the decline of the snow and ice cover. Some 30 feedbacks affecting the Arctic are discussed at the feedbacks page. • The conclusion of study after study is that the situation is worse than expected and will get even worse as warming continues. Some examples: a recent study found that the Amazon rainforest is no longer a sink, but has become a source, contributing to warming the planet instead; another study found that soil bacteria release CO₂ that was previously thought to remain trapped by iron; another study found that forest soil carbon does not increase with higher CO₂ levels; another study found that forests' long-term capacity to store carbon is dropping in regions with extreme annual fires; a recent post discussed a study finding that at higher temperatures, respiration rates continue to rise in contrast to sharply declining rates of photosynthesis, which under business-as-usual emissions would nearly halve the land sink strength by as early as 2040; the post also mentions a study on oceans that finds that, with increased stratification, heat from climate warming less effectively penetrates into the deep ocean, which contributes to further surface warming, while it also reduces the capability of the ocean to store carbon, exacerbating global surface warming; finally, a recent study found that kelp off the Californian coast has collapsed. So, both land and ocean sinks look set to decrease as temperatures keep rising, while a 2020 study points out that the ocean sink will also immediately slow down as future fossil fuel emission cuts drive reduced growth of atmospheric CO₂.  Where do we go from here? [ image from earlier post ] The same blue trend that's in the image at the top also shows up in the image on the right, from an earlier post, together with a purple trend and a red trend that picture even worse scenarios than the blue trend. The purple trend is based on 15 recent years (2006-2020), so it can cover a 30-year period (2006-2035) that is centered around end December 2020. As the image shows, the purple trend points at a rise of 10°C by 2026, leaving little or no scope for the current acceleration to slow, let alone for the anomaly to return to below 2°C.The red trend is based on a dozen recent years (2009-2020) and shows that the 2°C threshold could already have been crossed in 2020, while pointing at a rise of 18°C by 2025. In conclusion, temperatures could rise by more than 3°C by the end of 2026, as indicated by the blue trend in the image at the top. At that point, humans will likely go extinct, making it in many respects rather futile to speculate about what will happen beyond 2026. On the other hand, the right thing to do is to help avoid the worst things from happening, through comprehensive and effective action as described in the Climate Plan. Links• Climate Plan https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/climateplan.html• NOAA Global Climate Report - February 2021 - Monthly Temperature Anomalies Versus El Niño https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/202102/supplemental/page-4• NOAA Northern Hemisphere Ocean Temperature Anomaly https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cag/global/time-series/nhem/ocean/12/12/1880-2021 • NOAA Sunspots - solar cycle progression https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/solar-cycle-progression• Smithsonian Institution - Volcanoes - current eruptions https://volcano.si.edu/gvp_currenteruptions.cfm• IPCC Special Report Global Warming of 1.5 ºC - Summary for Policy Makers https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm• IPCC AR5 WG1 Summary for Policymakers - Box SPM.1: Representative Concentration Pathways https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf• The representative concentration pathways: an overview - by Detlef van Vuuren et al. (2011) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-011-0148-z• Young people's burden: requirement of negative CO₂ emissions - by James Hansen et al. (2017) https://esd.copernicus.org/articles/8/577/2017• 2020: Hottest Year On Record https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2021/01/2020-hottest-year-on-record.html• What Carbon Budget? https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2021/01/what-carbon-budget.html• Most Important Message Ever https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2019/07/most-important-message-ever.html • High Temperatures October 2020 https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2020/10/high-temperatures-october-2020.html• Temperature keep rising https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2020/12/temperatures-keep-rising.html• More Extreme Weather https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2021/02/more-extreme-weather.html• Extinctionhttps://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/extinction.html• Feedbacks https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/feedbacks.html• Sudden Stratospheric Warming https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/sudden-stratospheric-warming.html • Possible climate transitions from breakup of stratocumulus decks under greenhouse warming - by Tapio Schneider  et al. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41561-019-0310-1• Iron mineral dissolution releases iron and associated organic carbon during permafrost thaw - by Monique Patzner et al. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-20102-6• Global maps of twenty-first century forest carbon fluxes - by Nancy Harris et al. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-00976-6• A trade-off between plant and soil carbon storage under elevated CO2 - by César Terrer et al. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-021-03306-8• Forests' long-term capacity to store carbon is dropping in regions with extreme annual fires https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/forests-long-term-capacity-to-store-carbon-is-dropping-in-regions-with-extreme-annual-fires • Decadal changes in fire frequencies shift tree communities and functional traits - by Adam Pellegrini et al. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-021-01401-7• NOAA - Annual Mean Growth Rate for Mauna Loa, Hawaiihttps://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/gr.html• NOAA - Trends in Atmospheric Methanehttps://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends_ch4• The Climate Data Guide: Nino SST Indices - by Kevin Trenberth & NCAR Staff (Eds) https://climatedataguide.ucar.edu/climate-data/nino-sst-indices-nino-12-3-34-4-oni-and-tni• NASA - El Niñohttps://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/ElNino• Historical change of El Niño properties sheds light on future changes of extreme El Niño - by Bin Wang et al. https://www.pnas.org/content/116/45/22512• NOAA - ENSO: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions, April 12, 2021https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/lanina/enso_evolution-status-fcsts-web.pdf• Upper Ocean Temperatures Hit Record High in 2020 - by Lijing Cheng et al. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00376-021-0447-x• Large-scale shift in the structure of a kelp forest ecosystem co-occurs with an epizootic and marine heatwave - by Meredith McPherson et al.https://www.nature.com/articles/s42003-021-01827-6• External Forcing Explains Recent Decadal Variability of the Ocean Carbon Sink - by Galen McKinley et al. (2020) https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2019AV000149• Maximum warming occurs about one decade after a carbon dioxide emission - by Katharine Ricke et al. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/12/124002 • Blue Ocean Event https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2018/09/blue-ocean-event.html • Confirm Methane's Importance https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/2021/03/confirm-methanes-importance.html• FAQs https://arctic-news.blogspot.com/p/faq.html

A Sketch for Teaching the Anthropocene in the Alps

By Heidi E. Danzl (trans. Kristy Henderson) The Alps can be considered a hot spot for climate change due to changing growing seasons and tree lines, species migration, more intense weather events, increased glacial melt, droughts, mudslides, avalanches, flooding, and the omnipresence of micro-technofossils. They are therefore well suited to teaching the Anthropocene and exploring its impacts. In the following, I sketch several ideas for teaching the Anthropocene based on existing cultural events, institutions, and practices within contemporary Alpine communities.

Global Climate Change: What you must know Today

Climate change links with disturbance in the concentration of greenhouse gases, resulting in the rise of average global temperature. As goes by the studies, the effects of global climate change are impacting every sphere of life today. While this is very much told about climate change in the current sources of information, some facts still […] The post Global Climate Change: What you must know Today appeared first on Nature Talkies - We Talk about Nature.

Dazzling and Dangerous: Epidemics, Space Physics, and Settler Understandings of the Aurora Borealis

By Jennifer Fraser and Noah Stemeroff Earlier this year, Explore, a multimedia company that operates the largest live nature camera network on the planet, noticed that one of its livestreams was going viral. The feed in question broadcasts from Churchill, Manitoba. Positioned directly beneath the auroral oval, this camera offers viewers a chance to catch a glimpse of the spectacular auroral displays that grace the city’s skyline nearly three hundred days of every year.

Animal Cruelty: It’s Time You Actively Fight The Menace

Animal cruelty practices are making over the world every day where millions of animals are killed ruthlessly. And perhaps there seems no end to this brutality of people starving their dogs to death or killing them to dine on a delicious meal for the day.  The animal cruelty cases present several menaces acts, including intentional […] The post Animal Cruelty: It’s Time You Actively Fight The Menace appeared first on Nature Talkies - We Talk about Nature.

Global Warming, Sea-Ice Loss Intensify Polar Bear Decline

The unabated global warming and the melting Arctic sea ice can result in the extinction of Polar years in the near-century, say the scientists. Meanwhile, studies show that all the 19 subpopulations of polar bears have experienced ice loss over the current times. If not taken charge, the situation would worsen, forcing the animals to […] The post Global Warming, Sea-Ice Loss Intensify Polar Bear Decline appeared first on Nature Talkies - We Talk about Nature.

Book Review: Elizabeth Hennessy, On the Backs of Tortoises: Darwin, the Galápagos, and the Fate of an Evolutionary Eden

By Rodrigo Salido Moulinié The reports said they wanted to kill the turtle. They surrounded the research station and refused to let supplies go through to the 33 people—and the colony of reptiles—inside the building. Yet the fishermen went on strike and took the building not because they hated that turtle (they did not even intend to harm it), but because of what it meant: an allegory of the politics of conservationism, development, and the local making of science.

Increasing Natural Disasters Are “Not So Natural” Afterall

Do you ever wonder why the news channels are always flashing news about a natural disaster raging in some or the other part of the world? The Emergency Events Database (EM-DAT) states that the occurrence of natural disasters has hiked three-fold merely in the last four decades.  When the world is standing amidst a climate […] The post Increasing Natural Disasters Are “Not So Natural” Afterall appeared first on Nature Talkies - We Talk about Nature.

Understanding Ecology: A beginner’s handbook

Ecology, as we have all studied in our school times, is the study of organisms and how they interact with their surrounding environment. All living beings make up the biotic component while the nonliving things of our ecosystem comprise the abiotic component.  Changes occurring in the ecosystem due to different factors like increase in temperature, […] The post Understanding Ecology: A beginner’s handbook appeared first on Nature Talkies - We Talk about Nature.

Air Pollution: Is There Any way Out?

If you look at the world that we live in, you will see both luxury and misery. However, that’s just the surface level observation — beneath it all exists the misery that nature endures due to our luxury. Pollution and air pollution mainly is what we are talking about. We gave birth to it, and now […] The post Air Pollution: Is There Any way Out? appeared first on Nature Talkies - We Talk about Nature.

Climate Change: How Did We End Up Here?

If we take our eyes off of the money and power for a moment, we are exposed to bigger issues that we have been ignoring for a long while now. Yes, we are talking about climate change.  It is probably the only matter that humans, as a race, should be really concerned about. After all, […] The post Climate Change: How Did We End Up Here? appeared first on Nature Talkies - We Talk about Nature.

Top Reasons Why We Should Properly Recycle E-Waste

We live in a “futuristic” digital era, driven by innovativeness and a forward-looking approach. Each day we witness the emergence of a new technology that discards the ideas from the past. This might seem fascinating but unknowingly, technology advancement is resulting into exponential amounts of electronic trash every year. As such, proper e-waste recycling has […] The post Top Reasons Why We Should Properly Recycle E-Waste appeared first on Nature Talkies - We Talk about Nature.

Benefits of Going ‘Solar’ at Home or Business

“Solar power is the last energy resource that isn’t owned yet – nobody taxes the sun yet” ~ Bonnie Rait. And before energy resources like coal and oil get exhausted from our Mother Earth, let’s save the mankind with solar power. Keeping in view the fast-paced depletion and overutilisation of natural resources today, the benefits […] The post Benefits of Going ‘Solar’ at Home or Business appeared first on Nature Talkies - We Talk about Nature.

Potentially Harmful Environmental Factors to Keep an Eye on

“It is our collective and individual responsibility…to preserve and tend to the environment in which we all live” – Dalai Lama There exists constant interactivity between humans and a wide range of environmental factors. These interactions play a major role in affecting our health and quality of life. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), […] The post Potentially Harmful Environmental Factors to Keep an Eye on appeared first on Nature Talkies - We Talk about Nature.

Super-enzyme breaks down plastic bottles in ‘a matter of days’

From BBC Science Focus Magazine:

Professor John McGeehan, director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth Professor John McGeehan at work

The enhanced protein is made up of two enzymes produced by a type of bacteria that feeds on plastic bottles.

A so-called “super-enzyme” that eats plastic could be “a significant leap forward” in finding solutions to tackle the pollution crisis, scientists hope.

The enhanced protein is made up of two enzymes produced by a type of bacteria that feeds on plastic bottles, known as Ideonella sakaiensis.

Professor John McGeehan, director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth, said that unlike natural degradation, which can take hundreds of years, the super-enzyme is able to convert the plastic back to its original materials, or building blocks, in just a few days.

“Currently, we get those building blocks from fossil resources such as oil and gas, which is really unsustainable,” he said. “But if we can add enzymes to the waste plastic, we can start to break it down in a matter of days.”

He said the process would also allow plastics to be “made and reused endlessly, reducing our reliance on fossil resources”.

In 2018, Prof McGeehan and his team accidentally discovered that an engineered version of one of the enzymes, known as PETase, was able to break down plastic in a matter of days.

As part of their current study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of […]

Global climate goals ‘virtually impossible’ without carbon capture – IEA

capturing CO2 cartoon

Up to $160 billion needs to be invested in the technology by 2030, a ten-fold increase from the previous decade, it added. “Without it, our energy and climate goals will become virtually impossible to reach,” the IEA head Fatih Birol said in a statement.

A sharp rise in the deployment of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) technology is needed globally if countries are to meet net-zero emissions targets designed to slow climate change, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Thursday.A growing number of countries and companies are targeting net zero carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by around the middle of the century in the wake of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

To reach that, the amount of CO2 captured must rocket to 800 million tonnes in 2030 from around 40 million tonnes today, the IEA, which advises industrialised nations on energy policies, said in a report.

Up to $160 billion needs to be invested in the technology by 2030, a ten-fold increase from the previous decade, it added.

“Without it, our energy and climate goals will become virtually impossible to reach,” the IEA head Fatih Birol said in a statement.

The global economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic risks delaying or cancelling projects dependent on public support, the IEA said.

An oil price slide had also reduced revenues for existing CCUS facilities selling CO2 for so-called enhanced oil recovery (EOR). However, the IEA added: “Economic recovery packages are a unique window of opportunity […]

Greenpeace petitions UK Government to ban supertrawlers catching 7,000 tons of fish

A YouGov poll, commissioned by Greenpeace, has shown that more than 4 in 5 members of the British public believe supertrawlers, factory trawlers over 100m long, should be banned from fishing in the UK’s Marine Protected Areas. 81% said supertrawlers should be banned from fishing in protected areas, with just 4% saying they should be permitted to fish in them.

This comes after an investigation revealed that supertrawlers spent almost 3000 hours fishing in UK Marine Protected Areas in 2019, more than double the number of hours they spent fishing in UK protected areas in 2018. Marine Protected Areas exist to protect vulnerable ecosystems and marine life, like porpoises and reefs.

The Dutch-owned Annelies Ilena supertrawler in UK waters The Dutch-owned Annelies Ilena supertrawler in UK waters

A Greenpeace petition calls on the government to ban supertrawlers from protected areas, and has already gathered 125,000 signatures, including those of Sir Michael Palin, Joanna Lumley, Gillian Anderson Green MP Caroline Lucas, Alison Steadman and the explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Philip Evans, an oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said “This polling makes absolutely clear that the public is united behind our call for a ban on supertrawlers fishing in protected areas. After a decade of political division, our call cutting across the political divide should send a firm message to the government that enough is enough. Supertrawlers must be banned from our protected areas.

“Britain’s departure from the EU’s Common Fisheries […]

The drive to plant one trillion trees by 2030

From TIME Magazine, an announcement by Jane Goodall and Howard Benioff (excerpt):

“By far the most cost-effective of all the big solutions to climate change is to protect and restore forests. Forests extract and store CO2 from the atmosphere and produce the oxygen we breathe. But these complex ecosystems have been systematically destroyed. We have already lost nearly half the world’s trees, most within the last 100 years. And most of the remaining trees—about 3 trillion—are still under threat, even though they are a critical tool in the fight against climate change.

At this moment in time, massive fires have yet again erupted around the world, from California to the Congo Basin to the Amazon. Far too many of these fires are intentionally set because agricultural profits have been prioritized over the health of our planet. A call to stop deforestation is more important than ever before.”

View of the Congo river, Odzala national park View of the Congo river, Odzala National Park Republic of Congo

A new World Economic Forum (WEF) initiative, the Trillion Tree challenge (1T.org), has been launched in an effort to bring together old and new partners to add momentum to the regreening of our planet and plant 1 trillion trees around the world by 2030. Companies joined by NGOs and youth movements as well as a number of governments, such as the U.S., have pledged their support for this solution. Those involved will be able to share best practices, […]

Scottish officials raised concerns that Shell’s £5m tree-planting scheme would be seen as “greenwashing”

Glen-Garry-in-Lochaber-ScotlandAs a result of UK Freedom of Information requests, internal emails seen by The Ferret investigative blog have revealed that, in the run-up to an announcement by Shell last October that it was funding a new £5m tree-planting initiative, Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) officials raised a number of concerns.

In August 2019, Jo Ellis, FLS head of planning and environment, noted “I do think we need to be cautious about how we communicate this…I don’t want us to come across as falling for the greenwashing. The fact remains that mitigation work such as tree planting will not be sufficient to offset carbon emissions for the long term (we need to be reducing the use of fossil fuels).”

“The tiny amount Shell is putting into green initiatives is dwarfed by what it is still spending on investigating new oil and gas reserves, and in blocking initiatives to set legally binding emissions reductions targets.” she added.

“What we should actually be doing is reducing emissions – e.g. stop using petrol, which Shell is not planning to do. But until such time as technology moves us to a low emissions, projects that sequester carbon such as this one will buy us time.”

Ellis continued: “Personally I would have a problem with them saying anything that implies that this is going to make what they do environmentally friendly. This is all about reducing the harm that they do, not about them doing good.”

FLS director of land management, […]

Why does earth smell so wonderful after rain ?

rain falling on grass in sunlightThat wonderful smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather is called Petrichor – a heady mixture of plant oils, bacterial spores and ozone.

In 1964, two Australian scientists, Isabel Joy Bear and R. G. Thomas, determined that one of the main causes of this distinctive smell is a blend of oils secreted by some plants during arid periods. When a rainstorm comes after a drought, compounds from the oils—which accumulate over time in dry rocks and soil—are mixed and released into the air.

In moist, forested areas in particular, a common substance is geosmin, a chemical produced by a soil-dwelling bacteria known as actinomycetes. The bacteria secrete the compound when they produce spores, then the force of rain landing on the ground sends these spores up into the air and the moist air conveys the chemical into our noses.

Actinomycetes image showing their beautiful filaments

Actinomycetes can be found almost everywhere and are often called “Nature’s pharmacists”. They are remarkable filamentous organisms responsible for producing an estimated 70% of the antibiotics used in human therapy (making them the most robust natural source of antibiotics). They have key role in composting, in that their filaments stretch through the soil and work together to control harmful or unwanted soil bacteria.
 
And the final, important ingredient in […]
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