Planet News !

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

Pulling carbon dioxide from the air by farming

Basalt columns along the Snake River Gorge, Twin Falls, Idaho, USAExciting news as ‘rock weathering’ experiment pulls carbon dioxide from the air and boosts crop production by 12%.

The Working Lands Innovation Center (WLIC) has been partnering with farmers, ranchers, government, the mining industry and Native American tribes in California on some 50 acres of cropland soil amendment trials and their experiments have yielded results that may be another important step in fighting climate change.

Rock chemistry

Many processes weather rocks on Earth’s surface, influenced by chemistry, biology, climate, and plate tectonics. The dominant form of chemical weathering occurs when carbon dioxide combines with water in the soil and the ocean to make carbonic acid.

About 95% of Earth’s crust and mantle – the thick layer between the planet’s crust and its core – is made of silicate minerals, which are compounds of silicon and oxygen.

When carbonic acid comes in contact with certain silicate minerals, it triggers a chemical process known as the ‘Urey reaction’. This reaction pulls gaseous carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and combines it with water and calcium or magnesium silicates, producing two bicarbonate ions. Once the carbon dioxide is trapped in these soil carbonates, or ultimately washed into the ocean, it no longer warms the climate

Now, emerging science – including at the California Collaborative for Climate Change Solutions’ (C4) WLIC – shows that it is possible to accelerate rock weathering rates.

Enhanced rock weathering could both slow global warming and improve soil health, making it […]

When the taps run dry in England

Photo of a disused tap with a solitary drip of waterThere is a serious risk that some parts of England will run out of water within the next 20 years. 

The UK Commons Select Committee published a damning report today continuing “Some areas are facing shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. The responsible bodies – the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (the Department), the Environment Agency and Ofwat – have collectively taken their “eye off the ball” and urgent action is now required if we are to have a reliable water supply in the years ahead.”

“Over 3 billion litres, a fifth of the volume used, is lost to leakage every day. Despite this, no progress has been made in reducing leakage over the last 20 years. The government’s weak efforts to encourage reductions in water consumption have achieved very little. Water companies have at least now been given tougher targets to make improvements, but we are calling for the responsible bodies to go further, and annually publish clear performance tables so that the government and the water companies can be properly held to account.”

“Government has been too slow to implement policies that could improve water efficiency such as product labelling and changes to building regulations. Nor has it done enough to resolve the tension that water companies face between needing to invest in infrastructure to improve water supply and the pressure to keep water bills affordable for consumers, particularly […]

Beautiful pink snow in the Italian Alps heralds another environmental catastrophe

Researcher-Biagio-di-Maio-sampling-the-pink-snow-on-Presena-glacierAn alarming, yet beautiful new phenomena, has gripped both Alpine tourists and scientists alike – the appearance of pink snow on the Presena glacier in Italy. 

Known as the “giant of the alps”, Presena sits 3,069 metres above sea level and is described as a paradise for all those who love nature, history and mountain sports. Situated on the border between Val di Sole and Valle Camonica, between Trentino and Lombardy, the glacier is part of the Presanella mountain group.

A type of algae usually found in Greenland has started to grow there – and it’s turning the glacier pink. The plant, known as Ancylonema nordenskioeldii, is present in Greenland’s so-called Dark Zone, where the ice is also melting.

Despite its rosy appearance, pink snow is not good news on the climate change front. Usually, ice reflects over 80 per cent of the sun’s radiation back into the atmosphere. As the ice changes colour, it loses the ability to reflect heat, meaning the glaciers are starting to melt faster.

The pace of melting ice in the mountains was already sufficient cause for concern that a local ski resort, Pontedilegno-Tonale, initiated a conservation project in 2008 using enormous pieces of geotextile fabric to cover up the glaciers all summer, keeping them cold and protecting them from melting.

Biagio Di Mauro of Italy’s National Research Council has been investigating the mysterious  appearance of the pink glacial ice and stated “The alga is not dangerous, it […]

Ellie Goulding loses 1,000 followers every time she posts about climate change

 

Ellie-Goulding-UN-global-goodwill-ambassadorLong-time climate advocate and activist Ellie Goulding joined Tom Mustell and Lucy Siegle for the So Hot Right Now podcast this week and spoke openly about the fears and real impact to artists speaking out on environmental issues.

Despite her tremendous personal reach, with 22 billion social media streamings and 33 million followers overall, across combined social platforms, it’s clear that she has felt obliged to tread carefully in the past.

“Protesting wasn’t seen as cool…. I was really conscious to begin with, not to merge the two and keep my activism really separate. I genuinely thought that activism could jeopardise my job and I believe it has.”

“I lose followers every time I post anything about climate change. I lose at least a thousand followers.”

“Because people are following me for a very specific reason and it’s not the environment.”

“People say ”F**k you for posting this, we don’t want to hear this, it’s not what we’re interested in. Stop preaching. Climate change isn’t real.”

“That’s why there is a lack of artists speaking out about it because they’re just terrified for their job. I get that. I understand that. We can all be honest and say that it has affected some artists’ careers.”

Let’s hope that principled and brave artists like Ellie feel able to continue speaking out despite the cost and use their platforms to provoke thought and debate, on the most important issue of our time.

 

During lockdown, when freedom seemed lost, the world outside opened up

Deer in the woodsDuring lockdown, when freedom seemed lost, the world outside opened up. Wildlife, much unseen, appeared, fleetingly at first. Tentative, cautious steps, but over time the natural world became bolder, more daring. A new kingdom, once forgotten emerged into the pure, unpolluted air.

COVID-19 leaves Venetian canals pristine: A beautiful illusion ?

Venetian canals run clear for the first time in 60 years Venetian canals run clear for the first time in 60 years

In April, the world was marvelling at the images of swans, dolphins, dense shoals of fish, jellyfish and even the occasional octopus, recolonising the Venetian canals, taking advantage of humankind retreating behind close doors. It seemed that there was a silver lining to the pandemic: As one observer noted, “What a marvel this Venice was. This virus brought something….beautiful.”

There were precious few reasons to be cheerful during the pandemic as the world went into lockdown, people fought for their lives in hospitals around the world and economies were paralysed but the sight of nature recolonising our empty cities was heart-warming. Wildlife needed only the smallest respite from humankind to re-establish itself.

Before the Coronavirus pandemic, Venice faced serious problems including flooding, unsustainable over-tourism, the sinking of historical buildings into the water and a dwindling population.

Now, this crisis is prompting authorities in the Italian port to reconsider its mass-tourism model.

Up to 30 million people visited in 2018. Now, like so many other places, the city is deserted.

“We’ve gone from one extreme to the other,” explained Matteo Secchi of the Venessia Association. “Here, a few months ago, we couldn’t even pass each other. Now the streets are empty.”

The clear water running through the canals teeming with wildlife and the empty monuments and plazas have a tranquil and intense beauty nowadays – but that comes at […]

UK’s National Grid goes coal-free for the longest period since the Industrial Revolution

Coal has not been used to generate power for 60 days

Partly due to a collapse in demand during the Coranavirus lockdown and a greater emphasis on using solar power, the UK National Grid managed to take coal plants off the network on April 10th and to avoid bringing them back online in Britain since.

Britain continues to phase it out, with two of Britain’s oldest coal-fired power stations having closed at the end of March this year, leaving just three left on the mainland.

This is a major shift from 10 years ago when 40% of the nation’s energy came from coal and only 3% came from renewables such as wind and solar power.

In 2020, the UK has the biggest offshore wind industry in the world, with the 659MW Walney Extension the world’s biggest operational offshore wind farm to date. Located in the Irish Sea near Cumbria and covering an area equal to 20,000 football pitches, it is designed to operate for 25 years and supplies enough electricity to power 590,000 UK homes. Overall, Britain’s wind farms had a bumper quarter, with output up 40% on this time last year.

Walney windfarm in Cumbria UK The Walney Extension offshore wind farm is the largest in the world.

In parallel, UK solar farms generated […]

Seeing the wood for the trees in carbon offsetting

Operation Arch of Fire in Brazil Operation Arch of Fire combatting illegal logging in Brazil

Companies are falling over themselves to offer their customers ways of contributing to cutting carbon emissions with good intent, offering them easy, “tick-box” options at the end of their on-line purchases to participate.

But are these schemes any good ? How can the consumer be assured of the benefits of the scheme they have implicitly signed up to ?

A major part of the problem is that the majority of carbon offsetting projects require a long-term investment which needs to be protected for its lifetime if it is to deliver all the benefits promised when first initiated.

Worldwide tree-planting schemes are an excellent example of how good intentions can go astray.

An endangered Mogno tree in Brazil will have to stand for 25 years, in good health, to sequester 275 Kg of carbon dioxide. It must be protected against illegal logging, disease and land clearing, often in remote sites where the indigenous people struggle to achieve even a rudimentary standard of living. At state level, the government may be committed to the success of a reforestation scheme but local officials, militia, tribal leaders and working populations may not – corruption and basic human needs will win (almost) every time. According to Haley Dixon, writing for the Daily Telegraph, “in eastern Madagascar, in the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor, an area of ecological importance known as the CAZ, do not realise that the trees they cut down […]

Destruction of habitat is creating the perfect conditions for diseases like COVID-19 to emerge

Republished from an article by John Vidal, the Environment Editor of Ensia with permission:

As habitat and biodiversity loss increase globally, the novel coronavirus outbreak may be just the beginning of mass pandemics.

Mayibout 2 is not a healthy place. The 150 or so people who live in the village, which sits on the south bank of the Ivindo River, deep in the great Minkebe forest in northern Gabon, are used to occasional bouts of diseases such as malaria, dengue, yellow fever and sleeping sickness.

Mostly they shrug them off.

But in January 1996, Ebola, a deadly virus then barely known to humans, unexpectedly spilled out of the forest in a wave of small epidemics. The disease killed 21 of 37 villagers who were reported to have been infected, including a number who had carried, skinned, chopped or eaten a chimpanzee from the nearby forest.

I traveled to Mayibout 2 in 2004 to investigate why deadly diseases new to humans were emerging from biodiversity “hot spots” like tropical rainforests and bushmeat markets in African and Asian cities.

It took a day by canoe and then many hours down degraded forest logging roads passing Baka villages and a small gold mine to reach the village. There, I found traumatized people still fearful that the deadly virus, which kills up to 90% of the people it infects, would return.

Villagers told me how children […]

GEF says the Coronavirus was a collision between human systems and natural systems… and what we can do about it.

The Global Environment Facility’s new report published on May 16th, 2020 says “The coronavirus pandemic has forced us all to confront how environmental degradation bringing wildlife and people too close together endangers economies and societies alike.”

“The coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered most of the world in 2020 has its roots in the environmental degradation that the Global Environment Facility and its partners are working to stop. It is increasingly clear that to manage this crisis and avert future ones, we need to understand the root cause of zoonotic diseases – namely, a collision between human systems and natural systems.”

“Recognizing the urgency of this moment, and the high stakes for governments and businesses who are starting to think through economic recovery plans, the GEF Secretariat has outlined a set of steps for the immediate, medium, and longer term to help address the present situation and reduce the probability of new environmental crises emerging in the foreseeable future. The response spans measures to address wildlife trading, deforestation, urban sprawl, and other pressures on ecosystems that are bringing wild animals and humans in dangerous proximity.”

“The response also includes efforts to support a green economic recovery consistent with sustainable and nature-based development. These steps focus on the acceleration of needed transformations to economic and social systems to reduce their conflict with nature – building on efforts already underway by the GEF-funded Good Growth Partnershipand the GEF Impact Programs on Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration; Sustainable Cities; and Sustainable Forest Management.”

“The […]

Prince Charles urges a green recovery after lockdown ends

An opportunity to “Build Back Better” after the Coronavirus pandemic

HRH The Prince of Wales it to launch a “Great Reset“ project on June 1st with Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Form. 

A Sustainable Markets Initiative spokesman, speaking to the Daily Telegraph said “No-one could have anticipated this horrific pandemic but one unmistakable positive consequence of it is that the environmental pollution that has been so hard to slow in recent decades has virtually ground to a halt in some key areas almost overnight.”

“Before industries simply return to the old ways of doing things, this group, led by the Prince and Professor Schwab, is setting out to show we have a chance to recover by doing things differently and with a lot less negative impact on the world we live in.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Prince Charles has been working with global leaders and the WEF “to determine how Sustainable Markets can serve as a catalyst to ‘build back better’ and to create a more environmentally sustainable future”.

“The Prince believes that as countries and businesses around the world look to rebuild after this crisis, there is a unique but narrow window of opportunity to accelerate the sustainability agenda in a way that puts people and planet first,” he added.

“Today we see growing momentum around a ‘green recovery’.

Speaking at Davos, Prince Charles said “The world is in the midst of a crisis”, with “global warming, climate change, and the devastating loss of biodiversity, the greatest threats humanity has ever […]

We need a Plan…


Hans Rosling

“Instead of finding someone to blame and expecting them to take responsibility, what we need in order to save the planet from the huge risks of climate change is a realistic plan. We must put our efforts into inventing new technologies that will enable 11 billion people to live the life that we should expect all of them to strive for. The life we are living now on Level 4, but with smarter solutions.”
Hans Rosling, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think

Can Earth survive ?

“Can Earth survive ? The simple answer is a resounding “yes.” When humans are gone, as the fossil record suggests will happen eventually, Earth will clean itself up and take on yet another new look, just as it has done many times in the past. In many ways, Earth’s existence has been tested far more dramatically in the past than by anything humans have thrown at it.”

Jeremy Hsu

The perennial cry to save the earth

“The perennial cry to “Save the Earth” is odd. Planet Earth survives massive asteroid strikes — it’ll survive anything we throw at it. But life on earth will not.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson

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