Billionaire Gives Fashion Firm Away To Fight Climate Change

The billionaire founder of the outdoor fashion brand Patagonia has given away his company to a charitable trust.  Yvon Chouinard said any profit not reinvested in running the business would go to fighting climate change.

The label has amassed a cult following due to sustainability moves like guaranteeing its clothes for life and offering reasonably priced repairs.

It is famous for an advert titled “Don’t buy this jacket” asking shoppers to consider costs to the environment. The brand’s website now states: “Earth is now our only shareholder.” Chouinard has always said he “never wanted to be a businessman”. 

A rock climbing fanatic, he started out as making metal climbing spikes for himself and his friends to wedge into rocks, before moving into clothing and eventually creating a hugely successful sportswear brand with a cult following.

Founded in 1973, Patagonia’s sales were worth around $1.5bn this year, while Mr Chouinard’s net worth is thought to be $1.2bn. 

But he has always shied away from his wealthy status, telling the New York Times he was “horrified to be seen as a billionaire”.

‘Exceeded the limits’

He claimed that profits to be donated to climate causes will amount to around $100m (£87m) a year, depending on the health of the company.

“Despite its immensity, the Earth’s resources are not infinite, and it’s clear we’ve exceeded its limits,” the entrepreneur said of his decision to give up ownership. 

The firm’s marketing campaigns – focused around asking people to buy only what they need – have not dampened sales and critics have argued by raising its prominence it has encouraged more spending rather than less. 

Prices are relatively high with jumpers, for example, costing around £200 and T-shirts around £40, but the company argues that the cost reflects the fact its clothes are meant to last a lifetime.

Patagonia’s chairman, Charles Conn, acknowledged the higher prices but said cheap fast fashion was “anathema” to the brand.

“We invest in making sure we use the least water, the least dangerous chemistries and dyes, and use the least carbon in the production of our products, which often means they cost a little bit more,” he told the BBC. 

Sandra Halliday, UK editor for FashionNetwork.com, a global fashion news website, told the BBC Mr Chouinard’s move could ironically end up boosting its sales further. 

However, she said the “maverick” founder had always been more committed to the environment than “simply making money”.

“If this was simply a marketing ploy it would be an inspired one, but it’s not, it’s actually a genuine move to try to do something better for the planet.”

People who have donated their wealth

Microsoft founder Bill Gates this year vowed to “drop off” the world’s rich list as he made a $20bn donation to his philanthropic fund. The tech boss, who is thought to be worth $118bn, had pledged to give his wealth away to charity in 2010 but his net worth has more than doubled since then.

Last year the boss of the Hut Group, which owns a range of online beauty and nutrition brands, donated £100m to a charitable foundation after becoming a billionaire when his firm was listed. Matthew Moulding said of his newfound wealth that he “couldn’t even comprehend the numbers” and was trying to make a difference. 

In 2019, Julian Richer who founded hi-fi chain Richer Sounds handed over 60% of the business to staff 

The Californian firm was already donating 1% of its annual sales to grassroots activists and committed to sustainable practices. But in an open letter to customers, the apparently reluctant businessman said he wanted to do more. 

Chouinard said he had initially considered selling Patagonia and donating the money to charity, or taking the company public. But he said both options would have meant giving up control of the business and putting its values at risk.

Instead, the Chouinard family has transferred all ownership to two new entities. The Patagonia Purpose Trust, led by the family, remains the company’s controlling shareholder but will only own 2% of its total stock, Mr Chouinard said. 

It will guide the philanthropy of the Holdfast Collective, a US charity “dedicated to fighting the environmental crisis” which now owns all of the non-voting stock – some 98% of the company. 

“Each year the money we make after reinvesting in the business will be distributed as a dividend to help fight the crisis,” Mr Chouinard said. 

Patagonia combines high-end outdoor fashion with its own brand of environmental and social activism. It’s a heady combination that certainly appeals to a loyal, if predominantly well-heeled following.

Part of the attraction comes from the fact that its environmentally conscious stance isn’t new. It was preaching eco-awareness years before sustainable fashion became fashionable.

But it’s still pretty hard to save the planet, if your business depends on selling stuff, however many recycled or renewable products you use.

By ringfencing future profits for environmental causes, Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard has done his best to square that circle.

But he is also clearly trying to ensure that Patagonia brand is future-proofed and can never fall into the hands of the kind of companies he has accused of greenwashing in the past.

And if that doesn’t appeal to wealthy outdoorsy types with a social conscience, nothing will.

NGO Retracts ‘Waste Colonialism’ Report Blaming Asian Countries For Plastic Pollution

An environmental watchdog has retracted an influential report that blamed five Asian countries for the majority of plastic pollution in the ocean.

The report, Stemming the Tide, from the US-based environmental advocacy group Ocean Conservancy, also included incineration and waste-to-energy as “solutions” to the plastics crisis. Published in 2015, it was decried as “waste colonialism” by hundreds of environmental, health and social justice groups across Asia.

The watchdog has now publicly apologised for unfairly “creating a narrative” about who is responsible for producing plastic waste and removed the report from its website. Its apology was welcomed on Wednesday as “long overdue” by Gaia, an alliance of 800 waste-reduction groups in 90 countries, and by Break Free From Plastic, a global movement of more than 2,000 organisations.

The report had caused years of harm, the groups said, by ignoring the role of countries in the global north for overproduction of plastic and for exporting plastic waste to developing countries in the guise of trade.

“This unprecedented report retraction is an opportunity to interrupt decades of waste colonialism,” said Froilan Grate, Gaia’s Asia-Pacific coordinator. 

“Ocean Conservancy is in a position to raise awareness among other organisations and policymakers about the false narrative propagated by the report.”

When contacted by Guardian about the apology, Ocean Conservancy referred it to the statement on its website, which it published in July.

The report not only “wrongly blamed” five countries – the Philippines, China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand – for the bulk of plastic pollution, but “misled, for years, governments and the public into thinking that burning plastic waste was a solution to the problem”, Grate said.

Gaia also said that Ocean Conservancy had underestimated the true cost of incineration in terms of climate and public health.

Moreover, Ocean Conservancy has admitted its error in failing to look at the contributions of Asia-Pacific communities seeking solutions to plastic waste, whom Grate said had been “disproportionately impacted” by the report. It is now engaged in a process of “restorative justice” by engaging with groups in Asia, he said.

Stemming the Tide was written by the consultancy McKinsey, with a steering group including the World Wildlife Fund, the Coca-Cola Company, Dow Chemical and the American Chemistry Council.

Christie Keith, Gaia’s international coordinator, said the five Asian countries named in the report were not to blame for plastic waste. “That fault lies with the corporations that make and push out ever-increasing quantities of plastic,” she said. “And those fighting for zero-waste community solutions deserve to be honoured and celebrated, not attacked.”

Satyarupa Shekhar, Asia-Pacific coordinator for Break Free From Plastic, said Ocean Conservancy’s report “diluted existing restrictions on incineration and opened the doors to false solutions and controversial techno-fixes to deal with the plastic pollution crisis”.

In the Philippines, a national ban on incineration is threatened by new proposals to allow waste-to-energy plants, while in Indonesia, the government continues to push for waste incineration despite a supreme court ruling revoking presidential regulations to speed up the development of waste-based power plants or incinerators.

Stemming the Tide has frequently been cited by lawmakers and US federal agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency.

Sonia Mendoza, chair of Mother Earth Foundation in the Philippines, said: “Each country should be responsible for the waste it generates and not export it under the guise of ‘trade’.”

Understanding of ocean plastic waste, including its origins, has evolved in recent years.

In the statement on its website, Ocean Conservancy said it “failed to confront the root causes of plastic waste or incorporate the effects on the communities and NGOs working on the ground in the places most impacted by plastic pollution”. Including incineration and waste-to-energy as acceptable solutions to the plastic crisis was wrong, it said.

“We did not consider how these technologies support continued demand for plastic production and hamper the move to a circular economy and a zero-carbon future.”

 “Further, by focusing so narrowly on one region of the world (east and south-east Asia), we created a narrative about who is responsible for the ocean plastic pollution crisis – one that failed to acknowledge the outsized role that developed countries, especially the United States, have played and continue to play in generating and exporting plastic waste to this very region. This too was wrong.”

Stemming the Tide was based on a paper published in Science on February 2015, which estimated for the first time how much plastic entered the ocean from mismanaged waste on land, and ranked all 192 coastal countries accordingly.

Since then, data has been published showing that the US ranks third among countries contributing to coastal plastic pollution and challenges the widely held belief that the US is adequately managing its pollution, underlining its waste footprint to developing nations. 

Other research, which Ocean Conservancy is now promoting, recommends interventions to reduce, reuse and better manage plastic across all economies. 

There can be no more hiding, and no more denying. Global heating is supercharging extreme weather at an astonishing speed. Guardian analysis recently revealed how human-caused climate breakdown is accelerating the toll of extreme weather across the planet. People across the world are losing their lives and livelihoods due to more deadly and more frequent heatwaves, floods, wildfires and droughts triggered by the climate crisis. At the Guardian, we will not stop giving this life-altering issue the urgency and attention it demands. We have a huge global team of climate writers around the world and have recently appointed an extreme weather correspondent. 

Our editorial independence means we are free to write and publish journalism which prioritises the crisis. We can highlight the climate policy successes and failings of those who lead us in these challenging times. We have no shareholders and no billionaire owner, just the determination and passion to deliver high-impact global reporting, free from commercial or political influence.

And we provide all this for free, for everyone to read. We do this because we believe in information equality. Greater numbers of people can keep track of the global events shaping our world, understand their impact on people and communities, and become inspired to take meaningful action. Millions can benefit from open access to quality, truthful news, regardless of their ability to pay for it.

Extreme Weather Getting Wilder Across The Globe

From season to season and year to year, weather events that were once rare occurrences are now increasingly commonplace. After human kind has been through once in a century like the Covid pandemic that has killed over a million people, now the world is faced with yet another once in a century like catastrophic climatic conditions around the world. 

Soaring and record-breaking temperatures, hotter air holding more moisture, extreme weather getting wilder, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, wild fires, and floods that are inundating parts of the world that has proven 2022 to be yet another year that will go down in history.

Unprecedented heat waves have occurred recently from Delhi to the Pacific Northwest, and the number of these deadly events is expected to increase. New research from the University of Washington and Harvard University gives a range of heat impacts worldwide by the end of this century, depending on future emissions of greenhouse gases.

The study was published Aug. 25 in the open-access journal Communications Earth & Environment. “The record-breaking heat events of recent summers will become much more common in places like North America and Europe,” said lead author Lucas Vargas Zeppetello, who did the research as a doctoral student at the UW and is now a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard. “For many places close to the equator, by 2100 more than half the year will be a challenge to work outside, even if we begin to curb emissions.”

“Our study shows a broad range of possible scenarios for 2100,” he added. “This shows that the emissions choices we make now still matter for creating a habitable future.”

The study looks at a combination of air temperature and humidity known as the “heat index” that measures impact on the human body. A “dangerous” heat index is defined by the National Weather Service as 103 F (39.4 C). An “extremely dangerous” heat index is 124 F (51 C), deemed unsafe to humans for any amount of time.

“These standards were first created for people working indoors in places like boiler rooms — they were not thought of as conditions that would happen in outdoor, ambient environments. But we are seeing them now,” Vargas Zeppetello said.

Across the world “intense rain storms are getting more intense,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer. And he said mountains, like those in Pakistan, help wring extra moisture out as the clouds pass. The flooding has all the hallmarks of a catastrophe juiced by climate change, but it is too early to formally assign blame to global warming, several scientists told the media. 

At least 1,136 people have been killed since June and roads, crops, homes and bridges washed away across the country. This year’s record monsoon is comparable to the devastating floods of 2010 – the deadliest in Pakistan’s history – which left more than 2,000 people dead.

The “recent flood in Pakistan is actually an outcome of the climate catastrophe … that was looming very large,” said Anjal Prakash, a research director at India’s Bharti Institute of Public Policy. “The kind of incessant rainfall that has happened … has been unprecedented.”

“This year Pakistan has received the highest rainfall in at least three decades. So far this year the rain is running at more than 780% above average levels,” said Abid Qaiyum Suleri, executive director of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute and a member of Pakistan’s Climate Change Council. “Extreme weather patterns are turning more frequent in the region and Pakistan is not a exception.”

Pakistan’s Climate Minister Sherry Rehman said “it’s been a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.” Pakistan “is considered the eighth most vulnerable country to climate change,” said Moshin Hafeez, a Lahore-based climate scientist at the International Water Management Institute. Its rain, heat and melting glaciers are all climate change factors scientists warned repeatedly about.

“Clearly, it’s being juiced by climate change,” said Jennifer Francis, a climate scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center in Massachusetts. There’s been a 400% increase in average rainfall in areas like Baluchistan and Sindh, which led to the extreme flooding, Hafeez said. At least 20 dams have been breached.

If the rains are a huge factor that impacted millions, the heat has been as relentless as the rain. In May, Pakistan consistently saw temperatures above 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit). Scorching temperatures higher than 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) were recorded in places like Jacobabad and Dadu.

The extreme heat accelerates the long-term glacier melting then water speeds down from the Himalayas to Pakistan in a dangerous phenomena called glacial lake outburst floods. “We have the largest number of glaciers outside the polar region, and this affects us,” climate minister Rehman said. “Instead of keeping their majesty and preserving them for posterity and nature. We are seeing them melt.”

As per reports, the disaster is hitting a poor country that has contributed relatively little to the world’s climate problem, scientists and officials said. Since 1959, Pakistan has emitted about 0.4% of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, compared to 21.5% by the United States and 16.4% by China.

“Those countries that have developed or gotten rich on the back of fossil fuels, which are the problem really,” Rehman said. “They’re going to have to make a critical decision that the world is coming to a tipping point. We certainly have already reached that point because of our geographical location.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged the world to come to Pakistan’s aid as he launched a $160m appeal to help the tens of millions affected in the disaster. He blamed “the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding”.

As global temperatures rise, the hottest temperatures — and the number of areas impacted by extreme heat — are also rising. That means more scorching hot days in more places.

Take the Texas cities of Austin and Houston, for example. Over the past 50 years, Austin has seen the number of days with temperatures above 100°F increase by one month, while Houston has recorded an additional month with temperatures above 95°F. In California, temperatures are estimated to have increased 3°F in the past century.

In recent years, California has become ground zero for meteorological turmoil. With record dry, hot conditions across the state, seasonal high winds (known as Diablo in Northern California and Santa Ana in the southern part of the state) caused destructive wildfires to grow and spread at an unprecedented rate.

When global temperatures rise, moisture evaporates from waterbodies and soil. Droughts in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world have become more severe and long-lasting thanks to climate change. The American West is currently in the midst of a mega drought that ranks among the worst in the past 1,200 years.

Hurricanes are growing more powerful as global temperatures rise because these storm systems draw their energy from warm ocean water. One of the most powerful storms to ever hit the United States struck the Gulf Coast in August 2020. Hurricane Katrina ripped into the Gulf Coast in August 2005, devastating entire cities and hitting communities like those in low-lying New Orleans parishes especially hard.

As the planet warms, ocean waters are also warming — and expanding. At the same time, warmer temperatures are causing land ice — think glaciers and ice caps — to melt, which is adding water to the world’s oceans. As a result, average global sea level has increased eight inches in the last 150 years.

Ice Melt from Greenland will raise sea level 10 inches

Greenland’s rapidly melting ice sheet will eventually raise global sea level by at least 10.6 inches (27 centimeters) — more than twice as much as previously forecast — according to a study published on August 29th.

That’s because of something that could be called zombie ice. That’s doomed ice that, while still attached to thicker areas of ice, is no longer getting replenished by parent glaciers now receiving less snow. Without replenishment, the doomed ice is melting from climate change and will inevitably raise seas, said study co-author William Colgan, a glaciologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland.

“It’s dead ice. It’s just going to melt and disappear from the ice sheet,” Colgan said in an interview. “This ice has been consigned to the ocean, regardless of what climate (emissions) scenario we take now.” Study lead author Jason Box, a glaciologist at the Greenland survey, said it is “more like one foot in the grave.”

One of the study authors said that more than 120 trillion tons (110 trillion metric tons) of ice is already doomed to melt from the warming ice sheet’s inability to replenish its edges. When that ice melts into water, if it were concentrated only over the United States, it would be 37 feet (11 meters) deep.

The figures are a global average for sea level rise, but some places further away from Greenland would get more and places closer, like the U.S. East Coast, would get less. Although 10.6 inches may not sound like much, this would be over and above high tides and storms, making them even worse, so this much sea level rise “will have huge societal, economic and environmental impacts,” said Ellyn Enderlin, a geosciences professor at Boise State University, who wasn’t part of the study. “This is a really large loss and will have a detrimental effect on coastlines around the world,” said NYU’s David Holland who just returned from Greenland, but is not part of the study.

According to scientists, the year 2012 (and to a different degree 2019 ) was a huge melt year, when the equilibrium between adding and subtracting ice was most out of balance. If Earth starts to undergo more years like 2012, Greenland melt could trigger 30 inches (78 centimeters) of sea level rise, he said. Those two years seem extreme now, but years that look normal now would have been extreme 50 years ago. That’s how climate change works. Today’s outliers become tomorrow’s averages.”

60 Million Years Of Climate Change Drove The Evolution And Diversity Of Reptiles

By, Harvard University

Artistic reconstruction of the reptile adaptive radiation in a terrestrial ecosystem during the warmest period in Earth’s history. Image depicts a massive, big-headed, carnivorous erythrosuchid (close relative to crocodiles and dinosaurs) and a tiny gliding reptile at about 240 million years ago. The erythrosuchid is chasing the gliding reptile and it is propelling itself using a fossilized skull of the extinct Dimetrodon (early mammalian ancestor) in a hot and dry river valley.

Newswise — Just over 250 million years ago during the end of the Permian period and start of the Triassic, reptiles had one heck of a coming out party.

Their rates of evolution and diversity started exploding, leading to a dizzying variety of abilities, body plans, and traits, and helping to firmly establish both their extinct lineages and those that still exist today as one of the most successful and diverse animal groups the world has ever seen. For the longest time, this flourish was explained by their competition being wiped out by two of the biggest mass extinction events (around 261 and 252 million years ago) in the history of the planet.

A new Harvard-led study has rewritten that explanation by reconstructing how the bodies of ancient reptiles changed and by comparing it against millions of years of climate change.

Harvard paleontologist Stephanie Pierce’s lab shows that the morphological evolution and diversification seen in early reptiles not only started years before these mass extinction events but instead were directly driven by what caused them in the first place — rising global temperatures due to climate change.

“We are suggesting that we have two major factors at play — not just this open ecological opportunity that has always been thought by several scientists — but also something that nobody had previously come up with, which is that climate change actually directly triggered the adaptive response of reptiles to help build this vast array of new body plans and the explosion of groups that we see in the Triassic,” said Tiago R. Simões, a postdoctoral fellow in the Pierce lab and lead author on the study.

“Basically, [rising global temperatures] triggered all these different morphological experiments — some that worked quite well and survived for millions of years up to this day, and some others that basically vanished a few million years later,” Simões added.

In the paper, which published Friday in Science Advances, the researchers lay out the vast anatomical changes that took place in many reptile groups, including the forerunners of crocodiles and dinosaurs, in direct response to major climate shifts concentrated between 260 to 230 million years ago.

The study provides a close look at how a large group of organisms evolve because of climate change, which is especially pertinent today as temperatures continually rise. In fact, the rate of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere today is about nine times what they were during the timeframe that culminated in the biggest climate change-driven mass extinction of all time 252 million years ago: the Permian-Triassic mass extinction.

“Major shifts in global temperature can have dramatic and varying impacts on biodiversity,” said  Stephanie E. Pierce, Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and curator of vertebrate paleontology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology. “Here we show that rising temperatures during the Permian-Triassic led to the extinction of many animals, including many of the ancestors of mammals, but also sparked the explosive evolution of others, especially the reptiles that went on to dominate the Triassic period.”

The study involved close to eight years of data collection and took a heavy dose of camerawork, CT scanning, and loads of passport stamps as Simões traveled to more than 20 countries and more than 50 different museums to take scans and snapshots of more than 1,000 reptilian fossils.

With all the information, the researchers created an expansive dataset that was analyzed with state-of-the-art statistical methods to produce a diagram called an evolutionary time tree. Time trees reveal how early reptiles were related to each other, when their lineages first originated, and how fast they were evolving. They then combined it with global temperature data from millions of years ago.

Diversification of reptile body plans started about 30 million years before the Permian-Triassic extinction, making it clear these changes weren’t triggered by the event as previously thought. The extinction events did help put them in gear though.

The dataset also showed that rises in global temperatures, which started at about 270 million years ago and lasted until at least 240 million years ago, were followed by rapid body changes in most reptile lineages. For instance, some of the larger cold-blooded animals evolved to become smaller so they could cool down easier; others evolved to life in water for that same effect. The latter group included some of the most bizarre forms of reptiles that would go on to become extinct such as a giant, long-necked marine reptile once thought to be the Loch Ness monster, a tiny chameleon-like creature with a bird-like skull and beak, and a gliding reptile resembling a gecko with wings. It also includes the ancestors of reptiles that still exist today like turtles and crocodiles.

Smaller reptiles, which gave rise to the first lizards and tuataras, went on a different path than their larger reptile brethren. Their evolutionary rates slowed down and stabilized in response to the rising temperatures. The researchers believe it was because the small-bodied reptiles were already better adapted to the rising heat since they can more easily release heat from their bodies compared to larger reptiles when temperatures got hot very quickly all-around Earth.

The researchers say they are planning to expand on this work investigating the impact of environmental catastrophes on evolution of organisms with abundant modern diversity, such as the major groups of lizards and snakes.

Rising Global Temperatures Impact Children’s Fitness

Record levels of obesity and physical inactivity among children mean they are set to bear the brunt of poorer health effects from rising global temperatures, warns a new comprehensive review of studies.

While physical fitness is key to tolerating higher temperatures, children are more obese and less fit than ever before, argues Dr Shawnda Morrison, an environmental exercise physiologist, from Slovenia’s University of Ljubljana.

This could put them at greater risk of suffering heat-related health problems, such as dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

She noted that current climate change policies fail to adequately address child health needs and that encouraging children to make exercise part of their everyday lives must be prioritised if they are to cope with living in a hotter world.

In the peer-reviewed journal Temperature, her team assessed a comprehensive review of over 150 medical and scientific studies into how children maintain physical activity, exercise, cope with heat, and how this might change as global temperatures rise.

The research, she highlights includes a study of 457 primary school 5-12 year old boys in Thailand, which found that overweight youngsters were more than twice as likely to have difficulty regulating their body temperature as those of normal weight when exercising outdoors.

In another study, data from emergency departments at children’s hospitals in the US, found attendance was higher during hotter days. Younger children were particularly likely to need emergency care.

The research also found children’s aerobic fitness is 30 per cent lower than that of their parents at the same age.

There are rapid declines in children’s physical activity globally, especially over the last 30 years.

Most children are not meeting the World Health Organization’s guideline of performing an average of at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

Physical inactivity was accelerated, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic when schools and other societal infrastructures were closed.

Higher temperatures and changes in weather patterns are projected to also lead to outbreaks of new diseases entering the human population. If there are more movement restrictions put in place to contain the novel diseases, this will have potentially devastating consequences to children’s physical fitness, mental and physical health.

“Yet, as the world warms, children are the least fit they have ever been. It is imperative that children are encouraged to do daily physical activity to build up, and maintain, their fitness, so that they enjoy moving their bodies and it doesn’t feel like ‘work’ or ‘a chore’ to them,” Morrison said. (IANS)

Temperature Rise To Cause Larger Extinction Of Species

By, Tohoku University

Newswise — A professor emeritus at Tohoku University has unearthed evidence pointing to a strong relationship between the magnitude of mass extinctions and global temperature changes in geologic times.

The research was published in the journal Biogeosciences on July, 22, 2022.

Abrupt climate change, accompanied by environmental destruction from large volcanic eruptions and meteorites, has caused major mass extinctions throughout the Phanerozoic Eon – covering 539 million years to the present.

To date, there have been few quantitative evaluations of the relationship between land temperature anomalies and terrestrial animal extinctions. Moreover, marine animals and terrestrial animals have experienced divergent extinction rates, and this phenomenon remains under-explored.

Professor Emeritus Kunio Kaiho demonstrated that marine invertebrates and terrestrial tetrapods’ extinction rates corresponded to deviations in global and habitat surface temperatures, regardless of whether it was cooling or warming. Loss of species during the ‘big five’ major extinctions correlated with a > 7°C global cooling and a > 7-9°C global warming for marine animals, and a > 7°C global cooling and a > ~7°C global warming for terrestrial tetrapods.

“These findings indicate that the bigger the shifts in climate, the larger the mass extinction,” Kaiho said. “They also tell us that any prospective extinction related to human activity will not be of the same proportions when the extinction magnitude changes in conjunction with global surface temperature anomaly.”

Kaiho cites an earlier study, which claimed a 5.2°C temperature increase in average global temperature would result in a mass extinction event comparable to previous ones. Yet, based on this study’s analysis, the temperature will need to change by 9°C, and this will not appear until 2500 in a worst-case scenario.

“Although predicting the extent of future extinctions is difficult because causes will differ from preceding ones, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that any forthcoming extinction will not reach past magnitudes if global surface temperature anomalies and other environmental anomalies correspondingly change,” Kaiho said.

Kaiho also found a lower tolerance for terrestrial tetrapods than marine animals for global warming events. However, marine animals had a smaller tolerance to the same habitat temperature changes than terrestrial animals. This is because the temperature anomaly on land is 2.2 times higher than sea surface temperature. These phenomena fit ongoing extinction patterns.

Looking ahead, Kaiho seeks to predict future animal extinction magnitudes occurring between 2000-2500.

Pope Francis Urges International Cooperation For Saving The Earth

(RNS) — Pope Francis made an impassioned appeal for the environment on Thursday (July 21), urging countries to divest from fossil fuels as temperatures rise all over the globe and put vulnerable communities at risk.

“If we learn how to listen, we can hear in the voice of creation a kind of dissonance. On the one hand, we can hear a sweet song in praise of our beloved Creator; on the other, an anguished plea, lamenting our mistreatment of this, our common home,” the pope said in a video message presented at a Vatican news conference.

“It is necessary for all of us to act decisively,” he said, “for we are reaching a breaking point.” 

Francis urged nations to cooperate on four principles that combine the need to “combat the loss of biodiversity” while giving “priority to people in vulnerable situations.”

Francis praised the “demanding” goals set out by the Paris Agreement to limit Earth’s temperature increase to1.5 degrees Celsius and said that the COP27 summit of world leaders in Egypt in November as well as the COP15 meeting on biodiversity in Canada in December represent opportunities for nations to come together in combating climate change and the extinction of species.

On July 8, the Vatican joined the United Nations Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.

Francis urged Catholics to listen to the cry of the Earth, “prey to our consumerist excesses,” and all creatures “at the mercy of our tyrannical anthropocentricism.” The pope remembered the many poor and Indigenous peoples in the world who most directly feel the impact of drought, flooding, hurricanes and heat waves.

“Finally, there is the plea of our children,” Francis said. “Feeling menaced by shortsighted and selfish actions, today’s young people are crying out, anxiously asking us adults to do everything possible to prevent, or at least limit, the collapse of our planet’s ecosystems.”

He underlined the fact that richer countries have an “ecological debt” to the world, as they have polluted the air and water more than their poorer neighbors in the last two centuries. They must therefore shoulder the costs not only within their borders, but for those nations “which are already experiencing most of the burden of the climate crisis.”

At the same time, he added, poorer countries still have a responsibility since “delay on the part of others can never justify our own failure to act.”

Pope Francis delivers his blessing as he recites the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter’s Square, at the Vatican, July 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Since 2015, the Catholic Church has participated in an ecumenical event called the Season of Creation, which starts this year on Sept. 1 with the World Day for the Care of Creation and ends on Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the environment. The ecumenical effort, whose slogan is “Listen to the environment,” urges people to pray and reflect on the environment with an emphasis on the concerns of Indigenous peoples and the communities suffering the most due to climate change.

Cardinal Michael Czerny, who heads the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, presented the pope’s message for this year’s Season of Creation at Thursday’s news conference, saying: “Enough is enough. All new exploration and production of coal, oil and gas must immediately end, and existing production of fossil fuels must be urgently phased out.”

Czerny said the Vatican backed the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, meant to work alongside the already existing Paris Agreement with an eye to holding countries and companies accountable for their dependence on fossil fuels. It is supported by Nobel Peace Prize winners, academics and a growing number of political and religious leaders.

It also focuses on ensuring that the energy transition doesn’t harm the livelihoods of workers and Indigenous peoples.

Czerny echoed Francis’ appeal that the signers to international accords aimed at reducing reliance on fossil fuels fully commit to their goals. He also praised Catholic institutions that have already done so. He joined the pope in calling for a U.N. agreement to protect the Earth and its oceans so that “ravaged ecosystems” can be restored while “upholding the rights of Indigenous peoples.”

As heat waves rage across Europe and water grows scarce in more and more places, Christina Leaño, associate director of the Laudato Si’ Movement, which aims to realize the vision laid out in Francis’ 2016 “green encyclical,” said that her group will bring their message to the upcoming U.N. summits.

In a statement on Thursday, Leaño called for “a necessary community reconversion to adopt a new multilateral agreement that will stop the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of species.”

The Laudato Si’ Movement will also call for “more ambitious national contributions to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero as soon as possible,” she said.

$2 Trillion Damage Inflicted On Other Countries By US Emissions

A new study has provided the first measurement of its liability in the climate crisis. The US has inflicted more than $1.9tn in damage to other countries from the effects of its greenhouse gas emissions, The huge volume of planet-heating gases pumped out by the US, the largest historical emitter, has caused such harm to other, mostly poor, countries through heatwaves, crop failures and other consequences that America is responsible for $1.91tn in lost global income since 1990.

While the losses to the world is enormous, the impact on the US itself is even greater. Floods, drought, wildfires and hurricanes made worse by climate change could cost the U.S. federal budget about $2 trillion each year — a 7.1% loss in annual revenue — by the end of the century, the White House said in an assessment recently. 

John Detrixhe wrote in Quartz: “Poor countries, rocked by storms and flooding from climate change, have spent years trying to hold the big carbon-emitters accountable. While most rich nations have fiercely resisted this liability, attendees at COP26 will give it another try in Glasgow.” 

According to Richard Tol, an economics professor at the University of Sussex. The US and Europe have pumped the most carbon into the atmosphere since the industrial era began, although China is quickly narrowing the gap. “Loss and damage” is the moral and legal principle that if you cause damage to a party then you are responsible for compensating them for it, Tol said.

In many cases, poorer countries that have produced hardly anything in the way of greenhouse emissions will be the hardest hit by these environmental dangers. Rich countries, and the US in particular, bear the heaviest responsibility because they’ve pushed out the overwhelming majority of carbon dioxide that’s accumulating in the atmosphere, according to most academics’ reckoning. India is among the countries seeking compensation for the losses caused by disasters tied to climate change.

Climate change can be a natural process where temperature, rainfall, wind and other elements vary over decades or more. In millions of years, our world has been warmer and colder than it is now. But today we are experiencing unprecedented rapid warming from human activities, primarily due to burning fossil fuels that generate greenhouse gas emissions.

Over a dozen years ago, at a United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, rich nations made a significant pledge. They promised to channel US$100 billion a year to less wealthy nations by 2020, to help them adapt to climate change and mitigate further rises in temperature.

That promise was broken. A recent report for the UN1 concluded that “the only realistic scenarios” showed the $100-billion target was out of reach. “We are not there yet,” conceded UN secretary-general António Guterres.

Compared with the investment required to avoid dangerous levels of climate change, the $100-billion pledge is minuscule. Trillions of dollars will be needed each year to meet the 2015 Paris agreement goal of restricting global warming to “well below” 2 °C, if not 1.5 °C, above pre-industrial temperatures. And developing nations (as they are termed in the Copenhagen pledge) will need hundreds of billions of dollars annually to adapt to the warming that is already inevitable. “But the $100 billion is iconic in terms of the good faith of the countries that promised it,” Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Dhaka says.

The world has already warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels and is on track to experience global temperature rise of 2.4 degrees Celsius by 2100. An analysis by the US government warned that intensifying wildfires could increase federal fire suppression costs by between $1.55 billion and $9.60 billion each year, representing an increase between 78% and 480% by the end of the century. Meanwhile, more frequent hurricanes in the US alone could drive up annual spending on coastal-disaster response to between $22 billion and $94 billion by 2100.

UN Summit Opens With Call To Tackle Ocean Emergency

With climate change, bio-diversity loss and pollution exacting a devastating toll on the world’s ocean — critical to food security, economic growth and the environment — the 2022 UN Ocean Conference opened in Lisbon on Monday with a call for a new chapter of ocean action driven by science, technology and innovation.

“Sadly, we have taken the ocean for granted, and today we face what I would call an ‘Ocean Emergency’,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told delegates at the opening of the conference. “We must turn the tide. A healthy and productive ocean is vital to our shared future.”

The theme of the conference, “Scaling up ocean action based on science and innovation for the implementation of Goal 14: Stocktaking, partnerships and solutions”, in line with the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, stresses the critical need for scientific knowledge and marine technology to build ocean resilience.

Human activities are placing the health of the ocean in peril.

According to the World Meteorological Organization’s State of the Global Climate in 2021 report, sea level rise, ocean heat, ocean acidification and greenhouse gas concentrations set new records in 2021.

Additionally, marine pollution is increasing at an alarming rate, and if current trends continue, more than half of the world’s marine species may be all but extinct by 2100.

The Secretary-General also stated there is good news with a legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction; a new treaty that is being negotiated to address the global plastics crisis that is choking our oceans; and a week ago multilateral action on display with a World Trade Organization agreement on ending harmful fishery subsidies. But he also noted much more needs to be done.

“Oceans are central in geopolitical balance of power,” said President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, in opening remarks. “Healthcare, economic resources, energy, mobility, migrations, scientific and technological development, climate change, all of this is present either in the context or in the outcome of a pandemic, of war and of crisis.”

“We must recover too much time (that) we have lost and give hope a chance, once again, before it is too late.”

In line with Sustainable Development Goal 14, human health, strong economic growth and a stable climate depend on a healthy ocean. The ocean is a vital buffer against climate change, absorbing about 25 per cent of all carbon dioxide emissions. More than 3.5 billion people depend on the ocean for their food security, while approximately 120 million people work directly in fisheries and aquaculture-related activities.

The majority of these workers live in developing countries, specifically Small-Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries.

“The United Nations proclamation of a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) supports efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science can fully support countries in creating improved conditions for the sustainable development of the ocean,” said President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, in his introductory statement.

More than 20 heads of state and government together with thousands of young people, business leaders, scientists and civil society representatives, will present fresh, bold and innovative solutions to ignite transformational change to effectively address the challenges the ocean is facing.

In addition to the plenary sessions, there will be eight Interactive Dialogues, which will deep dive into salient areas such as addressing marine pollution, minimizing and addressing ocean acidification, deoxygenation and ocean warming and promoting and strengthening sustainable ocean-based economies, in particular for Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries. (IANS)

The World’s Rivers Are Changing

Newswise — The way rivers function is significantly affected by how much sediment they transport and where it gets deposited. River sediment — mostly sand, silt, and clay — plays a critical ecological role, as it provides habitat for organisms downstream and in estuaries. It is also important for human life, resupplying nutrients to floodplain agricultural soils, and buffering sea level rise caused by climate change by delivering sand to deltas and coastlines. However, these functions are under threat: in the past 40 years, humans have caused unprecedented, consequential changes to river sediment transport, according to a new Dartmouth study published in Science.

Using satellite images from NASA Landsat and digital archives of hydrologic data, Dartmouth researchers examined changes in how much sediment is carried to the oceans by 414 of the world’s largest rivers from 1984 to 2020.

“Our results tell a tale of two hemispheres. The north has seen major reductions in river sediment transport over the past 40 years, while the south has seen large increases over the same period,” says lead author Evan Dethier, a post-doctoral fellow at Dartmouth. “Humans have been able to alter the world’s biggest rivers at rates that are unprecedented in the recent geologic record.” Dethier says. “The amount of sediment rivers carry is generally dictated by natural processes in watersheds, like how much rain there is or whether there are landslides or vegetation. We find that direct human activities are overwhelming these natural processes, and even outweighing the effects of climate change.”

The findings show that massive 20th century dam building in the global hydrologic north — North America, Europe/Eurasia and Asia — has reduced global in river suspended sediment delivery to the oceans by 49% relative to pre-dam conditions. This global reduction has occurred despite major increases in sediment delivery from the global hydrologic south — South America, Africa and Oceania. There, sediment transport has increased on 36% of its rivers in the region due to major land use change.

The changes to sediment transport in the south have been driven mainly by intensive land use changes, most of which are associated with deforestation. Notable examples include logging in Malaysia; alluvial gold mining in South America and sub-Saharan Africa; sand mining in Bangladesh and India; and palm oil plantations across much of Oceania. (In prior research, Dethier found that artisanal gold mining in Peru is associated with increases in suspended sediment levels).

In the north, dam building has been the dominant agent of change for rivers in the past several centuries.

“One of the motivations for this research has been the global expansion of building large dams,” says co-author Francis Magilligan, a professor of geography and the Frank J. Reagan ’09 Chair of Policy Studies at Dartmouth, who studies dams and dam removal. “In the U.S. alone, there are more than 90,000 dams listed in the National Inventory of Dams.” Magilligan says, “One way to think about this is that we, as a nation have been building on average, one dam per day, since the signing of the Declaration of Independence.”

Rivers are responsible for creating floodplains, sandbars, estuaries, and deltas due to the sediment that they transport. However, once a dam is installed, that supply of sediment, including its nutrients, is often shut off.

In the U.S. and other countries in the Northern Hemisphere, however, many dams are more than a half-century- old and fewer dams are being built in the 21st century. Recent declines in sediment transport are relatively minimal, as a result. Dam building in Eurasia and Asia in the past 30 years, especially in China, has driven ongoing reductions in global sediment transport.

“For low lying countries (countries that live at, near or below sea level) in delta regions, sediment supply from rivers has in the past, been able to help offset the effects of sea level rise from climate change,” says Magilligan “but now you’ve got the double drivers of declining sediment from dam construction and rising sea levels.” He says, “This is particularly worrisome for densely populated places like Vietnam, where sediment supply has been reduced significantly by dam activity along the Mekong River.”

The results in the north are striking and could foreshadow future changes to come for the south, as the study reports that there are more than 300 dams planned for large rivers in South America and Oceania. The Amazon River carries more sediment than any other river in the world and is a major target for these dams.

“Rivers are pretty sensitive indicators of what we’re doing to the surface of the Earth — they are sort of like a thermometer for land use change,” says co-author Carl Renshaw, the Evans Family Distinguished Professor of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth. “Yet, for rivers in the Northern Hemisphere, dams are now blocking that signal for sediment coming to the ocean.” Renshaw says that, “It’s well-established that there’s a soil loss crisis in the U.S. but we just don’t see it in the sediment export record because it’s all getting stuck behind these dams, whereas, we can see the signal for rivers in the global south.”

Dethier says, “In many cases throughout the world, we have built our environment around rivers and the way that they operate, for use in agriculture, industry, recreation and tourism, and transportation, but when human activity suddenly disrupts the way rivers function, it may become difficult to adapt in real-time to such impacts.”

How dams retain sediment and how land use is increasing downstream erosion are principles which the researchers hope can be used to help inform planning decisions and land use and environmental management policies in riparian and coastal zones in the future.

By, Dartmouth College

Indian Artisans Make Eco-Friendly Idols Of Hindu God Ganesh

Ganesh Chaturthi is just days away and like every year there are discussions about celebrating the festival popular in several parts of India with devotion and fervor. As people are busy preparing majestic idols for the festival, there are people trying to bring awareness about eco-friendly Ganeshas.

Joining them, BJP MP from Bengaluru and the Union Cabinet Minister for Chemicals, Fertilizers and Parliamentary Affairs Ananthkumar urged people to go for an environment friendly Ganesh Chaturthi with Eco-Ganesha.

He shared an image and an article by an NGO highlighting how Lord Ganesha is a god of nature representing natural elements, and mentioned that using artificial and harmful material used for the idol won’t please the god. His tweet was well received on social media as many going for the same last year were appreciated and even PM Modi urged people to use natural clay idols.

Asa per reports, artisans in the Indian city of Hyderabad have begun making eco-friendly idols of the Hindu god Ganesh ahead of a religious festival. The statues of the elephant-headed deity are being made from a special clay known as “Kolkata ganga”. The Ganesh Chaturthi festival, also known as Vinayaka Chaturti, celebrates the arrival of Ganesh to earth from Kailash Parvat with his mother Goddess Parvati/Gauri. This year the religious festival falls on September 10.

Ahead of Ganesha Chaturthi, an organisation based in Gujarat’s Vadodara has made eco-friendly ‘Vedic Ganesha idols’ for the occasion.

Mukesh Gupta, the Director of Kamdhenu Gau Amrita said that the eco-friendly Ganesha idols would benefit the environment as they can be dissolved in water or be used as fertilisers.

“With Ganesh Chaturthi coming up, we are making Ganesha idols using cow dung. The biggest advantage is that these idols can be dissolved in water at the time of visarjan (immersion) so one need not go to a river, they can immerse the idols in water tubs also, and they can be used as fertilisers. The second advantage is that this idol is cheaper than the idols made of plaster of Paris (POP) or clay,” he said. 

Meanwhile,m reports suggested, eco-friendly Ganesha idols made from cow dung by Kanta Yadav and her family in Bhopal are in great demand among people. “These Ganesha idols are made from cow dung. After the cow dung is dry, we add wood dust and maida powder to it. We pour the mixture into a mould and make an idol from it. We use natural ccolors In Hindu culture, cow dung is considered sacred and that is why we chose to make idols from it,” Kanta Yadav told ANI.

She further said, “These idols can be made in 15 minutes but it takes four to five days to dry them. After that, they are coloured and are ready in 8 days.”

These idols are inexpensive and can be bought by all Kanta said, and added “Apart from Bhopal, I get orders from other places, including Pune and Delhi. People are really keen on buying these idols. Many people want to learn how to make them too.”

No New Petrol And Diesel Cars In Europe After 2035

Come 2035 and no new cars that run either on petrol or diesel will be allowed to be sold in the European Union (EU) after the EU parliament voted to ban their sales outright.

The European Parliament has thrown its weight behind a proposed ban on selling new cars with combustion engines in 2035, seeking to step up the fight against climate change by boosting the development of electric vehicles.

The European Union assembly voted to require automakers to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 100 per cent by the middle of the next decade. The mandate would amount to a prohibition on the sale in the 27-nation bloc of new cars powered by gasoline or diesel. Attempts by some lawmakers to weaken the target to a 90 per cent cut in CO₂ emissions by 2035 were rejected.

While 339 Members of the European Parliament (MEP) voted in favor of the ban — which was proposed by the European Commission (EC), the parliament’s executive branch — 249 MEPs voted against while 24 abstained.

The new legislation is expected to help the EU achieve its target of cutting emissions from cars and light commercial vehicles by 100% by 2035 — when measured against the emissions in 2021. In fact, by 2030, while emissions from cars have to be reduced by 55%, those from vans need to be cut by 50%. According to the EC, cars and vans account for 12% and 2.5% of EU’s total carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, respectively.

The MEPs will enter into negotiations with the EU’s 27 member nations about the plans to implement this ban. The UK, which exited the EU on January 31, 2020, aims to ban the sale of new cars and vans running on petrol and diesel from 2030 and from 2035, all new cars and vans need to have zero tailpipe emission.

Environmentalists hailed the parliament’s decisions. Transport & Environment, a Brussels-based alliance, said the vote offered “a fighting chance of averting runaway climate change”.

But Germany’s auto industry lobby group VDA criticised the vote, saying it ignored the lack of charging infrastructure in Europe.

The group also said the vote was “a decision against innovation and technology” – a reference to demands from the industry that synthetic fuels be exempt from the ban, which European lawmakers rejected.

The governments of EU member states will need to give their verdicts in the coming weeks or months before a final agreement on the tougher car emission requirements is approved.

If approved by EU nations, the 2035 deadline will be particularly tough on German automakers, who have focused on powerful and expensive vehicles with combustion engines while falling behind foreign rivals when it comes to electric cars.

India Ranks At The Bottom Of Environmental Performance Index

India scored the lowest among 180 countries in the 2022 Environment Performance Index (EPI), an analysis by researchers of Yale and Columbia University which provides a data-driven summary of the state of sustainability around the world. The EPI ranks 180 countries on 40 performance indicators including climate change, environmental public health, biodiversity, among others.

Meanwhile, India has questioned its bottom ranking among 180 nations on the Environmental Performance Index. The newly released Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2022, measured by Yale and Columbia universities, ranks India at the bottom position among 180 countries. The Environment Ministry has issued a rebuttal saying the indicators used in the assessment are based on “unfounded assumptions”.

India ranked at the bottom with a total score of 18.9, while Denmark was the top scorer as the world’s most sustainable country. “…For the overall performance and ranking EPI, each country’s performance is viewed across numerous (18) categories like ecosystem vitality, biodiversity and habitat, ecosystem services and grassland loss. Unfortunately, India is consistently ranking either at the bottom or close to the bottom in almost all the categories, both regionally and globally,” as per a statement by EPI.

“This is fundamentally a question of the development model and pathways we want to pursue and the lifestyles that we as citizens want to adopt. Destroying the environment and nature in the name of ‘development’ should no longer be the path, whatever might be the justification. Such an approach is just not tenable any more,” said Ravi Chellam, CEO, Metastring Foundation & Coordinator, Biodiversity Collaborative.

The United States placed at the 20th spot of the 22 wealthy democracies in the global west and 43rd overall. The relatively low ranking reflects the rollback of environmental protections during the Trump administration. “The withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and weakened methane emission rules meant that US lost time to mitigate climate change while many of its peers in the developed world enacted policies to significantly reduce their greenhouse emissions.”

The conclusions from the EPI analysis suggest that efficient policy results are directly associated with GDP per capita. The economic prosperity makes it possible for the nations to invest in policies and programs that help lead desirable outcomes.

For the pursuit of economic prosperity manifested in industrialisation and urbanisation, trends that pose climate change strains ecosystem vitality, especially in the developing world where air and water emissions remain significant.

Data suggests, according to EPI, that developing countries do not have to sacrifice sustainability for economic security. The steps taken for climate action initiated by policymakers and stakeholders in leading countries demonstrate that focused attention can mobilise communities to protect natural resources and human well being.

The Consequences of Climate Change Are Visible From Space

Newswise — Global warming has a particularly pronounced impact on the Alpine region. Like the Arctic, this European mountain range is becoming greener. Writing in the journal Science, researchers from the University of Lausanne and the University of Basel have now used satellite data to show that vegetation above the tree line has increased in nearly 80% of the Alps. Snow cover is also decreasing, albeit so far only slightly.

Melting glaciers have become a symbol of climate change in the Alps. Now, the reduction in snow cover is already visible from space but this is by no means the biggest change. This is the conclusion of a research team led by Professor Sabine Rumpf from the University of Basel and Professor Grégoire Mariéthoz and Professor Antoine Guisan from the University of Lausanne.

Working with colleagues in the Netherlands and Finland, the researchers investigated the change in snow cover and vegetation using high-resolution satellite data from 1984 to 2021. Over this period, plant biomass above the tree line increased in more than 77% of the observed area. This phenomenon of “greening” due to climate change is already well documented in the Arctic and starts also to be detected in mountains.

Greater plant biomass in three-quarters of the Alps. “The scale of the change has turned out to be absolutely massive in the Alps,” says Sabine Rumpf, lead author of the study and, since February, assistant professor at the University of Basel. The Alps are becoming greener because plants are colonizing new areas and the vegetation is generally becoming denser and taller.

Previous studies have primarily focused on the influence of global warming on Alpine biodiversity and changes in the distribution of plant species. Until now, however, no one had conducted such a comprehensive analysis of the changes in vegetation productivity in the Alps. The authors show that the increase of plant biomass is primarily due to changes in precipitation and longer vegetation periods as a result of rising temperatures.

“Alpine plants are adapted to harsh conditions, but they’re not very competitive,” says Rumpf. As environmental conditions change, she says, these specialized species lose their advantage and are outcompeted: “The unique biodiversity of the Alps is therefore under considerable pressure.”

Already a slight reduction in snow cover. In contrast to vegetation, the extent of snow cover above the tree line has only changed slightly since 1984. For their analysis, the researchers excluded regions below 1.700 meters, glaciers and forests. In the remaining regions, they found that snow cover had decreased significantly in almost 10% of the area. This may not sound like a lot, but the researchers are keen to highlight that it is nevertheless a worrying trend.

“Previous analyses of satellite data hadn’t identified any such trend,” explains Antoine Guisan, one of the two senior authors of the study. “This may be because the resolution of the satellite images was insufficient or because the periods considered were too short.”

“For years, local ground-based measurements have shown a decrease in snow depth at low elevations,” adds Grégoire Mariéthoz. “This decrease has already caused some areas to become largely snow-free.” Based on the satellite data, it’s possible to distinguish whether a specific area is covered with snow or not, but doesn’t allow to draw conclusions about snow depth.

As global warming continues, the Alps will turn more and more from white to green, creating a vicious circle: “Greener mountains reflect less sunlight and therefore lead to further warming – and, in turn, to further shrinkage of reflective snow cover,” says Rumpf. Warming also causes further melting of glaciers and the thawing of permafrost, which may lead to more landslides, rockfalls and mudflows. Furthermore, Rumpf emphasizes the important role of snow and ice from the Alps in the supply of drinking water and, not least, for recreation and tourism.

Government Rejects Yale’s Environmental Performance Index On India

Rejecting the bottom rank in environmental performance index by the Yale Centre for Environmental Law & Policy, India on Wednesday said that many indicators used for assessing the EPI are based on “unfounded assumptions” with some of them “extrapolated and based on surmises and unscientific methods”.

Rejecting the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2022 released recently by the American University that had put India at the bottom most 180th rank, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) announced that it does not accept Yale’s analysis and gave a longish explanation for the same.

As per Yale Centre for Environmental Law & Policy website, EPI 2022 provides a data-driven summary of the state of sustainability for 180 countries using 40 performance indicators across 11 issues.

“A new indicator in the Climate Policy objective is Projected GHG Emissions levels in 2050. This is computed based on average rate of change in emission of the last 10 years instead of modeling that takes into account a longer time period, extent of renewable energy capacity and use, additional carbon sinks, energy efficiency etc. of respective countries,” the Ministry statement said, adding: “Both forests and wetlands of the country are crucial carbon sinks, which have not been factored in while computing the projected GHG emissions trajectory up to 2050 given by EPI 2022.”

India has already achieved the target of 40 per cent of installed electricity capacity from non-fossil fuel based sources.

India also said that the historical data on the lowest emission trajectory has been ignored in the computation and said: “The weight of indicators in which the country was performing well has been reduced and reasons for change in assignment of weights has not been explained in the report.”

“The principle of equity is given very low weightage in the form of indicators such as GHG emission per capita and GHG Emission intensity trend. The CBDR-RC principle is also barely reflected in the composition of the index,” the Ministry said.

The indicators on water quality, water use efficiency, waste generation per capita which are closely linked to Sustainable Consumption and Production are not included in the Index, the statement said, adding: “The Index emphasises the extent of Protected Areas rather than the quality of protection that they afford. Management Effectiveness Evaluation of Protected areas and eco-sensitive regions is not factored into the computation of Biodiversity Indices.”

Indicators such as agro biodiversity, soil health, food loss and waste are not included even though they are important for developing countries with large agrarian populations, the statement said, and gave detailed analysis of the flaws in various categories such as Climate Change Issue Category; Environmental Health indicators; Ecosystem Vitality Policy Objective; Biodiversity & Habitat; Ecosystem Services; Agriculture and Fisheries.

Bonn Climate Change Conference To Lay Groundwork For Success At COP27

UN Climate Change News, 6 June 2022 – This year’s Bonn annual UN Climate Change Conference kicked off today, designed to lay the groundwork for success at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Governments are meeting for the first time since the conclusion of the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow last November, at which the operational details of the Paris Agreement were finalized, thereby ringing in the era of implementation of the agreement.

In Bonn, governments will focus on work in the key areas of mitigation, adaptation, support to developing countries – particularly finance – and loss and damage. Speaking to delegates at the opening of the Bonn sessions, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said:

“We urgently require political-level interventions and decisions in each of these areas in order to achieve a balanced package. Doing so will send a clear message to the world that we are headed in the right direction. Because the world is going to have one question in Sharm El-Sheikh: what progress have you made since Glasgow?”

The UN’s top climate change official warned that climate change is progressing exponentially. With the world currently on track to more than double the 1.5 Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement by the end of the century, ambition must urgently be raised to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, and immediate action and progress in Bonn are needed.

“We must move these negotiations along more quickly. The world expects it. They know that while nations made a commitment to meeting the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degrees C goal, that commitment entailed accelerated action and increased climate ambition.  It is not acceptable to say that we are in challenging times — they know that climate change is not an agenda we can afford to push back on our global schedule,” she said.

COP27 in Egypt will primarily focus on implementation, and nations are expected to show how they will, through legislation, policies and programs, and throughout all jurisdictions and sectors, begin putting the Paris Agreement into practice in their home countries.

In an emotional address, Patricia Espinosa announced the end of her term in office after six years at the helm of the UN Climate Change secretariat. She implored delegates to continue to support the work of the secretariat and inclusive multilateralism, which encompasses the work of all key stakeholders to address climate change. Looking back at key milestones of the UN Climate Change process, she said: “Look at what we’ve accomplished in the last six years. Look at what we’ve accomplished in the last 30. While we are still very much behind the climate curve, the world is in a better position because of the UNFCCC, because of the Kyoto Protocol, because of the Paris Agreement. Because of collaboration. Because of multilateralism. Because of you. But we can do better, we must.”

With 197 Parties, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has near universal membership and is the parent treaty of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. The main aim of the Paris Agreement is to keep a global average temperature rise this century well below 2 Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The UNFCCC is also the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The ultimate objective of all agreements under the UNFCCC is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system, in a time frame which allows ecosystems to adapt naturally and enables sustainable development.

ITC Classmate Celebrates World Environment Day By Engaging Students In Chennai To Create Urban Forests

Encouraged by the ITC’s large-scale afforestation initiative, Classmate, the company’s leading stationery brand, has taken up a local tree plantation initiative in Chennai along with students on the occasion of the World Environment Day.

Over the past two decades, ITC Limited has been supporting a sustainable and inclusive forestry value chain for its Paperboards and Specialty Paper Business, contributing to carbon sequestration by creating a large green cover, whilst supporting large-scale livelihoods for tribals and marginal farmers.

The business has adopted an indigenous fibre-sourcing strategy by supporting the growing of renewable plantations, thus contributing to import substitution. ITC’s large-scale afforestation programme has greened over 9,50,000 acres of land and provided over 170-million-person days of sustainable livelihood to farmers to date in India.

The efforts made by ITC to promote responsible sourcing and sustainable plantations have led to the Forest Stewardship Council certification as well as membership of WWF-Global Forest and Trade Network.

ITC Classmate’s small but significant afforestation drive involving school students aims to complement the efforts of volunteers combating climate change at a local level. It has partnered with the Environmentalist Foundation of India, who have been invited by the Chengalpet district administration to create a forest patch at Vengadamangalam which is a fast-growing residential suburban pocket of Chennai and is witnessing contamination of land, water, and air with a profound shift in land use, growth, and ecology at large.

It is developing this project as an urban forest as part of a collaboration between the government, industry, students, and civic society. The objective of this afforestation project is also to motivate school students fully understand the importance of environment positive actions and develop eco-consciousness.

To ensure that, ITC Classmate has planned a dedicated orientation program in 24 schools in the city from June 10 to July 31. The program aims to enhance their understanding of nuances of resource utilization, biodiversity preservation, and sustainability.

After attending the orientation program, students are expected to volunteer at the afforestation site in Vengadamangalam and get involved in post-plant maintenance like plant watering, manuring, nourishment, etc.

Speaking about the initiative, Vikas Gupta, Chief Executive, Education and Stationary Products Business Division, ITC Ltd., said: “Climate change is today impacting us in myriad ways. Going forward, the young generation will have to play a significant role in environment conservation. At ITC, responsible capitalism is an abiding strategy that focuses on extreme competitiveness but in a manner that replenishes the environment and supports sustainable livelihood. As part of this ethos, we, at ITC Classmate, have taken it upon ourselves to enhance understanding of the youth about the afforestation and take actions that would support their hope and trust in active actions for the future. We are endeavouring to embed awareness, know-how & capability amongst students on how they can foster sustainability in their daily way of life.”

The Vengadamangalam panchayat dedicated the land parcel for the development of an urban forest with an aim to mitigate issues related to pollution and recreate lost habitats by encouraging biodiversity. ITC Classmate, through its NGO partner Environmentalist Foundation of India (E.F.I), cleaned this land parcel of any non-degradable trash and invasive plants, completed trench work, and created nourishment beds. It planted 1350 saplings of native plants in addition to planting berry-bearing, nectar-bearing, and fruit-bearing varieties on the entire plot besides fencing it with a dedicated water source for the growth of the saplings. (IANS)

Vatican Astrophysicists Offer New Way To Study Gravity After The Big Bang

Two Catholic priests, both astrophysicists from the Vatican Observatory, have suggested a radically new mathematical approach to studying the initial moments following the Big Bang that gave birth to our universe.

Little is known about the first seconds of the universe’s existence, and one of the deeper puzzles is accounting for the role gravity played in those early moments. The Rev. Gabriele Gionti, a Jesuit, and the Rev. Matteo Galaverni, a priest in the Diocese of Reggio Emilia-Guastalla in Northern Italy, set out to propose a new technique that explains how gravity might have behaved as the cosmos expanded rapidly at its inception.

Their research, published in the prestigious Physical Review D journal on April 15, proposes an alternative to the Jordans-Brans-Dicke theory of gravitation, which solves difficulties with Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity in describing gravity after the Big Bang, but which has its own inconsistencies.

Einstein’s theory works well in explaining the way matter behaves on a large scale but clashes with the way quantum physics describes the gravity among the smallest observable particles. For years, Gionti has attempted to reconcile the two.

The priests’ work is “a tassel within this search that the scientific community has been conducting for many years on quantum gravity, meaning that gravity is capable of affecting (matter) even at a very, very small scale,” said Galaverni in a Zoom interview conducted by RNS with the two priests on Thursday (May 5).

“We realized that within limits, when the gravitational constant is very high, it’s possible for the speed of light to go to zero, meaning that nothing propagates because gravity is too high,” said Gionti.

“This might be a way to explain what happened after the Big Bang,” he said. In layman’s terms, Gionti said, “It’s like being in a theater, and until now we have seen the musicians and the orchestra with our eyes. Now with gravitational waves we can also hear the music. This is revolutionizing and will revolutionize the next decades of astronomy,” he added.

Gionti clarified that their “research is based on a very speculative and theoretical mathematical approach,” which will have to be tested in its physical and observable consequences.

They wrote their theory at the Specola Vaticana, the Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo, the pope’s summer residence, drawing up their abstract calculations both on computers and  blackboards as they compared and discussed their ideas.

Pope Leo XIII created the Specola in 1918 “in a time of modernism where society accused the church of obscurantism,” Gionti said. The Vatican trials against astronomers and thinkers like Galileo Galilei and Giordano Bruni in the 16th century had pegged the Catholic Church as a “determined opponent to scientific progress,” he explained.

“The Vatican created the Vatican observatory for priests, nuns and religious to prove to the world that the church directly contributed to science by providing it with an astronomical observatory that worked scientifically like all other observatories,” Gionti said.

Gionti and Galaverni’s work stands on the shoulders of great scientists as well as on the work of religious people. It was a diocesan priest from Belgium, Georges Lemaître, who first theorized the Big Bang in the early 20th century. Numerous priests and religious contributed to today’s understanding of gravity and astronomy. The Jesuit Angelo Secchi laid out the principles for how we classify stars today from the roof of the Church of St. Ignatius in Rome.

Science and religion are “two complementary approaches that must be respected in their diversity,” Galaverni said, who added that studying the universe is “not something that proves my faith, it’s something that enriches it.”

“Science also teaches me a certain humility in looking at the universe and recognizing our smallness and seeing the greatness of God in this,” he added. While studying the laws of physics and nature, the universe seems harmonious and well-ordered, he said, adding that “for someone of faith it’s an easy step to recognize in this order the footprint of God.”

Their work has been well received by their scientific peers, “but we are not finished yet. There are other questions that we haven’t answered,” Gionti said.

Biden Plans $3.1 Billion Investment For Electric Car Batteries

The Biden administration has announced it will begin a $3.1 billion plan to boost domestic manufacturing of batteries, in a broader effort to shift the country away from gas-powered cars to electric vehicles.

The electrification of the transportation sector will be critical to mitigating human-caused climate change. The transportation sector is one of the largest contributors to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, representing roughly one-third of emissions each year.

The funding will support grants aimed at building, retooling or expanding manufacturing of batteries and battery components, as well as establishing battery recycling facilities, according to the Department of Energy. The grants will be funded through President Joe Biden’s $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law, which includes more than $7 billion to bolster the country’s battery supply chain.

The move comes after the president in April invoked the Defense Production Act to encourage domestic production of minerals required to make batteries for EVs and long-term energy storage. That order could help companies receive federal funding for feasibility studies on projects that extract materials for EV production, such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, graphite and manganese.

“These made-in-America batteries are going to help reduce emissions and create opportunities across the country,” White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy said during a call with reporters on Monday.

The White House, which has set a goal of 50% electric vehicle sales by 2030, is also working to construct a national network of EV charging stations and to create tax incentives for consumers who buy EVs. The administration has also pledged to replace its federal fleet of 600,000 cars and trucks to electric power by 2035.

The U.S. is the world’s third-largest market for EVs, behind China and Europe. Just 4% of new cars sold in the U.S. last year were electric, according to market research company Canalys.

“Positioning the United States front and center in meeting the growing demand for advanced batteries is how we boost our competitiveness and electrify our transportation system,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement on Monday.

Oceans’ Memory Decline Due To Global Warming

Most of the world’s oceans are steadily losing their year-to-year ‘memory’ under global warming, researchers have warned.

Ocean memory decline is found as a collective response across the climate models to human-induced warming. As greenhouse-gas concentrations continue to rise, such memory decline will become increasingly evident.

The study published in the journal Science Advances compared the fast weather fluctuations of the atmosphere to find that the slowly varying ocean exhibits strong persistence, or “memory,” meaning the ocean temperature tomorrow is likely to look a lot like it does today, with only slight changes.

“We discovered this phenomenon by examining the similarity in ocean surface temperature from one year to the next as a simple metric for ocean memory,” said Hui Shi, lead author and researcher at the Farallon Institute in Petaluma, California. “It’s almost as if the ocean is developing amnesia.”

Ocean memory is found to be related to the thickness of the uppermost layer of the ocean, known as the mixed layer. Deeper mixed layers have greater heat content, which confers more thermal inertia that translates into memory.

However, the mixed layer over most oceans will become shallower in response to continued anthropogenic warming, resulting in a decline in ocean memory.

Along with ocean memory decline, the thinning mixed layer is also found to increase the random fluctuations of the sea surface temperature.

As a result, although the ocean will not become much more variable from one year to the next in the future, the fraction of helpful signals for prediction largely reduces.

“Reduced ocean memory together with increased random fluctuations suggest intrinsic changes in the system and new challenges in prediction under warming,” said Fei-Fei Jin, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Hawaii.

Ocean memory loss doesn’t just impact the prediction of physical variables, but could also influence the way we manage sensitive marine ecosystems.

Besides ocean prediction, forecasting land-based impacts on temperature, precipitation as well as extreme events might also be affected by ocean memory decline due to their dependence on the persistence of sea surface temperature as a predictability source, the team said. (IANS)

Bitcoin Miners Seek Ways To Dump Fossil Fuels

For the past year a company that “mines” cryptocurrency had what seemed the ideal location for its thousands of power-thirsty computers working around the clock to verify bitcoin transactions: the grounds of a coal-fired power plant in rural Montana.

But with the cryptocurrency industry under increasing pressure to rein in the environmental impact of its massive electricity consumption, Marathon Digital Holdings made the decision to pack up its computers, called miners, and relocate them to a wind farm in Texas.

“For us, it just came down to the fact that we don’t want to be operating on fossil fuels,” said company CEO Fred Thiel.

In the world of bitcoin mining, access to cheap and reliable electricity is everything. But many economists and environmentalists have warned that as the still widely misunderstood digital currency grows in price — and with it popularity — the process of mining that is central to its existence and value is becoming increasingly energy intensive and potentially unsustainable.

The Hardin Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant that is also home to the cryptocurrency “mining” operation Big Horn Data Hub, is seen on April 20, 2022, in Hardin, Mont. Energy from burning coal is used to power thousands of computers that are kept on site to produce the digital currency known as bitcoins. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)

Bitcoin was was created in 2009 as a new way of paying for things that would not be subject to central banks or government oversight. While it has yet to widely catch on as a method of payment, it has seen its popularity as a speculative investment surge despite volatility that can cause its price to swing wildly. In March 2020, one bitcoin was worth just over $5,000. That surged to a record of more than $67,000 in November 2021 before falling to just over $35,000 in January.

Central to bitcoin’s technology is the process through which transactions are verified and then recorded on what’s known as the blockchain. Computers connected to the bitcoin network race to solve complex mathematical calculations that verify the transactions, with the winner earning newly minted bitcoins as a reward. Currently, when a machine solves the puzzle, its owner is rewarded with 6.25 bitcoins — worth about $260,000 total. The system is calibrated to release 6.25 bitcoins every 10 minutes.

When bitcoin was first invented it was possible to solve the puzzles using a regular home computer, but the technology was designed so problems become harder to solve as more miners work on them. Those mining today use specialized machines that have no monitors and look more like a high-tech fan than a traditional computer. The amount of energy used by computers to solve the puzzles grows as more computers join the effort and puzzles are made more difficult.

Marathon Digital, for example, currently has about 37,000 miners, but hopes to have 199,000 online by early next year, the company said.

Determining how much energy the industry uses is difficult because not all mining companies report their use and some operations are mobile, moving storage containers full of miners around the country chasing low-cost power.

The Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index estimates bitcoin mining used about 109 terrawatt hours of electricity over the past year — close to the amount used in Virginia in 2020, according to the U.S. Energy Information Center. The current usage rate would work out to 143 TWh over a full year, or about the amount used by Ohio or New York state in 2020.

Cambridge’s estimate does not include energy used to mine other cryptocurrencies.

A key moment in the debate over bitcoin’s energy use came last spring, when just weeks after Tesla Motors said it was buying $1.5 billion in bitcoin and would also accept the digital currency as payment for electric vehicles, CEO Elon Musk joined critics in calling out the industry’s energy use and said the company would no longer be taking it as payment.

Some want the government to step in with regulation. In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul is being pressured to declare a moratorium on the so-called proof-of-work mining method — the one bitcoin uses — and to deny an air quality permit for a project at a retrofitted coal-fired power plant that runs on natural gas.

A New York State judge recently ruled the project would not impact the air or water of nearby Seneca Lake. “Repowering or expanding coal and gas plants to make fake money in the middle of a climate crisis is literally insane,” Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardians, said in a statement.

Anne Hedges with the Montana Environmental Information Center said that before Marathon Digital showed up, environmental groups had expected the coal-fired power plant in Hardin, Montana, to close.

“It was a death watch,” Hedges said. “We were getting their quarterly reports. We were looking at how much they were operating. We were seeing it continue to decline year after year — and last year that totally changed. It would have gone out of existence but for bitcoin.”

The cryptocurrency industry “needs to find a way to reduce its energy demand,” and needs to be regulated, Hedges said. “That’s all there is to it. This is unsustainable.”

Some say the solution is to switch from proof-of-work verification to proof-of-stake verification, which is already used by some cryptocurrencies. With proof of stake, verification of digital currency transfers is assigned to computers, rather than having them compete. People or groups that stake more of their cryptocurrency are more likely to get the work — and the reward.

While the method uses far less electricity, some critics argue proof-of-stake blockchains are less secure. Some companies in the industry acknowledge there is a problem and are committing to achieving net-zero emissions — adding no greenhouse gases to the atmosphere — from the electricity they use by 2030 by signing onto a Crypto Climate Accord, modeled after the Paris Climate Agreement.

“All crypto communities should work together, with urgency, to ensure crypto does not further exacerbate global warming, but instead becomes a net positive contributor to the vital transition to a low carbon global economy,” the accord states.

Marathon Digital is one of several companies pinning its hopes on tapping into excess renewable energy from solar and wind farms in Texas. Earlier this month the companies Blockstream Mining and Block, formerly Square, announced they were breaking ground in Texas on a small, off-the-grid mining facility using Tesla solar panels and batteries.

“This is a step to proving our thesis that bitcoin mining can fund zero-emission power infrastructure,” said Adam Back, CEO and co-founder of Blockstream.

Companies argue that cryptocurrency mining can provide an economic incentive to build more renewable energy projects and help stabilize power grids. Miners give renewable energy generators a guaranteed customer, making it easier for the projects to get financing and generate power at their full capacity.

The mining companies are able to contract for lower-priced energy because “all the energy they use can be shut off and given back to the grid at a moment’s notice,” said Thiel.

In Pennsylvania, Stronghold Digital is cleaning up hundreds of years of coal waste by burning it to create what the state classifies as renewable energy that can be sent to the grid or used in bitcoin mining, depending on power demands.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection is a partner in the work, which uses relatively new technology to burn the waste coal more efficiently and with fewer emissions. Left alone, piles of waste coal can catch fire and burn for years, releasing greenhouse gases. When wet, the waste coal leaches acid into area waterways.

After using the coal waste to generate electricity, what’s left is “toxicity-free fly ash,” which is registered by the state as a clean fertilizer, Stronghold Digital spokesperson Naomi Harrington said.

As Marathon Digital gradually moves its 30,000 miners out of Montana, it’s leaving behind tens of millions of dollars in mining infrastructure behind.

Just because Marathon doesn’t want to use coal-fired power anymore doesn’t mean there won’t be another bitcoin miner to take its place. Thiel said he assumes the power plant owners will find a company to do just that. “No reason not to,” he said.

No Obituary For Earth: Scientists Fight Climate Doom Talk

It’s not the end of the world. It only seems that way. Climate change is going to get worse, but as gloomy as the latest scientific reports are, including today’s from the United Nations, scientist after scientist stresses that curbing global warming is not hopeless. The science says it is not game over for planet Earth or humanity. Action can prevent some of the worst if done soon, they say.

After decades of trying to get the public’s attention, spur action by governments and fight against organized movements denying the science, climate researchers say they have a new fight on their hands: doomism. It’s the feeling that nothing can be done, so why bother. It’s young people publicly swearing off having children because of climate change.

University of Maine climate scientist Jacquelyn Gill noticed in 2018 fewer people telling her climate change isn’t real and more “people that we now call doomers that you know believe that nothing can be done.” Gill says it is just not true. “I refuse to write off or write an obituary for something that’s still alive,” Gill told The Associated Press, referring to the Earth. “We are not through a threshold or past the threshold. There’s no such thing as pass-fail when it comes to the climate crisis.”

“It’s really, really, really hard to walk people back from that ledge,” Gill said. Doomism “is definitely a thing,” said Wooster College psychology professor Susan Clayton, who studies climate change anxiety and spoke at a conference in Norway last week that addressed the issue. “It’s a way of saying ‘I don’t have to go to the effort of making changes because there’s nothing I can do anyway.’”

Gill and six other scientists who talked with The Associated Press about doomism aren’t sugarcoating the escalating harm to the climate from accumulating emissions. But that doesn’t make it hopeless, they said.

“Everybody knows it’s going to get worse,” said Woodwell Climate Research Center scientist Jennifer Francis. “We can do a lot to make it less bad than the worst case scenario.”

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change just issued its third report in six months. The first two were on how bad warming is and how it will hurt people and ecosystems, with today’s report focusing on how the extent of disruption depends on how much fossil fuels are burned. It shows the world is still heading in the wrong direction in its fight to curb climate change, with new investments in fossil fuel infrastructure and forests falling to make way for agriculture.

“It’s not that they’re saying you are condemned to a future of destruction and increasing misery,” said Christiana Figueres, the former U.N. climate secretary who helped forge the 2015 Paris climate agreement and now runs an organization called Global Optimism. “What they’re saying is ’the business-as-usual path … is an atlas of misery ’ or a future of increasing destruction. But we don’t have to choose that. And that’s the piece, the second piece, that sort of always gets dropped out of the conversation.”

United Nations Environment Program Director Inger Andersen said with reports like these, officials are walking a tightrope. They are trying to spur the world to action because scientists are calling this a crisis. But they also don’t want to send people spiraling into paralysis because it is too gloomy.

“We are not doomed, but rapid action is absolutely essential,” Andersen said. “With every month or year that we delay action, climate change becomes more complex, expensive and difficult to overcome.”

“The big message we’ve got (is that) human activities got us into this problem and human agency can actually get us out of it again,” James Skea, co-chair of Monday’s report, said. “It’s not all lost. We really have the chance to do something.”

Monday’s report details that it is unlikely, without immediate and drastic carbon pollution cuts, that the world will limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, which is the world’s agreed upon goal. The world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit). And earlier IPCC reports have shown that after 1.5 degrees, more people die, more ecosystems are in trouble and climate change worsens rapidly.

“We don’t fall over the cliff at 1.5 degrees,” Skea said, “Even if we were to go beyond 1.5 it doesn’t mean we throw up our hands in despair.”

IPCC reports showed that depending on how much coal, oil, and natural gas is burned, warming by 2100 could be anywhere from 1.4 to 4.4 degrees Celsius (2.5 to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, which can mean large differences in sickness, death and weather disasters.

While he sees the increase in doom talk as inevitable, NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt said he knows first-hand that people are wrong when they say nothing can be done: “I work with people and I’m watching other people and I’m seeing the administration. And people are doing things and they’re doing the right things for the most part as best they can. So I’m seeing people do things.”

Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann said scientists used to think Earth would be committed to decades of future warming even after people stopped pumping more carbon dioxide into the air than nature takes out. But newer analyses in recent years show it will only take a few years after net zero emissions for carbon levels in the air to start to go down because of carbon being sucked up by the oceans and forests, Mann said.

Scientists’ legitimate worries get repeated and amplified like in the kids game of telephone and “by the time you’re done, it’s ‘we’re doomed’ when what the scientist actually said was we need to reduce or carbon emissions 50% within this decade to avoid 1.5 (degrees of) warming, which would be really bad. Two degrees of warming would be far worse than 1.5 warming, but not the end of civilization,” Mann said.

Mann said doomism has become far more of a threat than denialism and he believes that some of the same people, trade associations and companies that denied climate change are encouraging people who say it is too late. Mann is battling publicly with a retired University of Arizona ecologist, Guy McPherson, an intellectual leader of the doom movement.

McPherson said he’s not part of the monetary system, hasn’t had a paycheck in 13 years, doesn’t vote and lived off the grid for a decade. He said all species go extinct and humans are no exception. He publicly predicted humanity will go extinct in 2026, but in an interview with The Associated Press said, “I’m not nearly as stuck on 2026,” and mentioned 2030 and changes to human habitat from the loss of Arctic summer sea ice.

Woodwell’s Francis, a pioneer in the study of Arctic sea ice who McPherson said he admires, said while the Arctic will be ice free by the summer by 2050, McPherson exaggerates the bad effects. Local Arctic residents will be hit hard, “the rest of us will experience accelerated warming and sea-level rise, disrupted weather patterns and more frequent extreme weather. Most communities will adapt to varying degrees,” Francis said. “There’s no way in hell humans will go extinct by 2026.”

Humans probably can no longer prevent Arctic sea ice from disappearing in the summer, but with new technology and emissions cuts, Francis said, “we stand a real chance of preventing those (other) catastrophic scenarios out there.”

Psychology professor Clayton said “no matter how bad things are, they can always be worse. You can make a difference between bad and worse… That’s very powerful, very self-affirming.

Months After Pledge, India Yet To Submit Emissions Targets

NEW DELHI (AP) — Four months after India announced its “net-zero” target at the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, the country has yet to submit its targets for cutting greenhouse emissions, underscoring the difficulty of overhauling energy policy amid a growing population.

When asked about the delay during an unrelated event in the capital New Delhi on Tuesday, Indian environment minister Bhupender Yadav downplayed it, saying that several ministries were still discussing the matter to chart out a roadmap.

India’s Ministry of Environment, which drafts the targets and submits them to the UN Climate Agency, and the country’s top federal official in the Ministry of Power, did not respond to requests for comment this week.

“We don’t have time anymore” to wait for all countries to start reducing emissions, said New Climate Institute scientist Niklas Höhne, who tracks emission pledges for Climate Action Tracker.

Höhne added that it would be useful if India specified targets achievable with its own resources and formulated a clear plan for what could achieved with financial help from other nations.

During November’s conference in Glasgow, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his nation would stop adding greenhouses gases to the atmosphere by 2070 — two decades after the U.S., and 10 years after China. He said that India would increase its current capacity for non-fossil fuel electricity to 500 gigawatts and use energy from clean sources to meet half of its needs. Modi also said that India would cut carbon emissions by a billion tons compared with the previous target and reduce the carbon intensity of its economy by 45%.

Since these 2030 targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions haven’t yet been submitted to the U.N. climate agency, they can’t yet be counted towards the global effort.

India is not the only country to be slow to turn in targets. The 2015 Paris agreement on climate, which India signed, required countries to submit their climate targets, called Nationally Determined Contributions, by the end of 2020. Many nations missed that deadline. The more urgent deadline was to get submission in before the November negotiations in Glasgow and most nations did. Of the five top emitting nations, only India has not submitted its plans.

The delays underscore the challenges that India faces in achieving these goals. A parliamentary committee calculated that India would require over $20 billion in investment to meet its clean energy targets while only half of that was available — prompting the opposition to ask the government whether it formulated a clear roadmap before committing internationally.

India’s role is key for the world’s climate targets. It has the third-highest emissions in the world, after China and the United States, and its energy needs are expected to grow faster than any other country in the coming decades. At the same time, historically it has contributed least to the world’s cumulative emissions among the group of 20 industrial nations known as the G20.

The typical American, for instance, uses 16 times more electricity than the average Indian, according to data from the World Bank.

Many in the South Asian country of 1.4 billion residents still live in poverty and its leaders have consistently argued that it needs the “carbon space” to grow. Even in the most optimistic scenario, some of India’s future energy needs will have to be met through coal — the single biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

This was partly why the country had demanded a last-minute change to crucial language during the U.N. climate conference to “phase down” rather than “phase out” coal power. India said that developing countries were “entitled to the responsible use of fossil fuels” for their growth and blamed “unsustainable lifestyles and wasteful consumption patterns” of rich countries for the current climate catastrophe.

In any case, India faces the same reality that other nations do: Unless emissions are drastically reduced, large parts of the world will become uninhabitable due to climate shocks like deadly fires, floods, and unlivable heat, a new U.N. report said Monday. The country lost $87 billion in 2020 because of natural disasters like cyclones, floods and droughts, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

At Glasgow, Modi had stressed that India’s goals couldn’t be achieved without adequate climate finance, a stand that India has long reiterated, and called for rich countries to provide $1 trillion in help.

The lack of finance is a vital stumbling block, said Harjeet Singh, an advisor with the Climate Action Network International. He said that if he were to put himself in the shoes of a finance minister of a developing country like India, “How do I do it if I don’t see a stream of funding? Rich countries are failing in their commitment.”

Singh said that there was some hope in the plan announced by the U.S., Britain, France and Germany to provide $8.5 billion in loans and grants over five years to help South Africa phase out coal, a source of 90% of its electricity. But he added that it remained to be seen if that money would make it to those most impacted.

India’s opposition parliamentarians criticized the government for not consulting with chief ministers or state leaders before announcing India’s net-zero targets in December in the parliament. Parliamentarian Kanimozhi Karunanidhi said that India had only a fraction of the solar energy needed to meet what had been promised at Glasgow.

“I want to know how can we achieve so much? What we’ve done is nothing compared to what we’ve promised to the world,” said Karunanidhi, from Thoothukkudi in southern India.

Associated Press climate and environmental coverage receive support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

20 Countries Account For 80 Percent Of All Emissions: John Kerry

Stating that only 20 countries on the planet account for 80 per cent of all emissions, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry said, unfortunately not all countries are adopting scientific plans to restrict temperature rise.

“Unfortunately some of those countries are not yet adopting plans to do what the science tells us we do, which is needed to reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius and cut our emissions by 45 per cent in the course of this next eight year period,” he said at the 21st edition of the World Sustainable Development Summit (WSDS) being held virtually on Wednesday.

Asserting that the climate crisis is the single greatest security challenge that the world faces, Kerry called for “monumental transformation” in the way “we deal with the concept of sustainability”.

“Given the population growth rate on the planet, the level of current resource utilisation is rapacious and not at all geared to the prospect of sustainability,” he said at the ministerial session on ‘Ambition and Action in the Critical Decade for addressing Climate Change and Realising Sustainable Development’.

Commending the ambitious goals of 500 GW renewables by 2030 set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Glasgow (where the annual climate change summit was held in November 2021), Kerry said: “The criticality of achieving that goal was very simple. It is the only way that India itself becomes compliant with the 1.5 degrees goal, which we all ratified in Glasgow recently.”

The session that was moderated by former Ambassador and Distinguished Fellow, TERI, Manjeev Singh Puri, was also addressed by Ministers of Environment from Canada, Norway, Germany, Finland, France, and Spain.

Before moving on to the next speaker, Puri, said he would leave for him (Kerry) two thoughts in terms of global action. “The most important thing is what you want to do in the USA. You may not understand the huge role model impact that would have. The best practices that you would do, for example, electrification of public transport, or the use of green energy or the fact that the coal would be wound down, each and every one matter and then for all of us (remaining countries) they become the comfort zones to turn to,” he said.

“At Glasgow, who announced India’s huge commitment on renewable energy, also spoke about LIFE, which is Lifestyle for Environment. We count on you again, as leaders, the Europeans, the Americans, the Canadians, and of course, all of use, in terms of Lifestyle, if we can move away from profligate consumption, I am sure, there is lots of action in the area of production in any case.” (IANS)

Climate Change Forces Rapid Melt Of Earth’s Highest Glacier

The highest glacier on Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, “may already be a relic from an older, colder, time,” says the scientist who collected the highest ice core on the planet from it for a new study. The South Col Glacier is now losing several decades of ice accumulation every single year, the international team of scientists is reporting.

From April to May 2019, the multidisciplinary team from eight countries conducted a comprehensive scientific expedition to Mt. Everest in the Khumbu Region of Nepal as part of National Geographic and Rolex’s Perpetual Planet Expeditions partnership.

Team members, including 17 Nepali researchers, explored five areas of science that probe environmental changes and their impacts: biology, glaciology, meteorology, geology, and mapping.

They found that Earth’s warmer climate is causing melting and what the scientists call “sublimation.” This happens when the snow top gets removed and the exposed ice, which is darker, absorbs more sunshine than when the top layer of snow was intact. This, in turn, accelerates the glacier’s melt rate, they explain in a new paper in the latest issue of the “Nature Portfolio Journal Climate and Atmospheric Science.”

“The sublimation is like the drip from a leaking dam and the rapid ice loss is what happens when the dam breaks,” explained Mariusz Potocki, a glaciochemist and doctoral candidate in the Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, who collected the highest ice core.

The research team investigated the timing and cause of the rapid ice mass loss on the South Col Glacier. At 7,900 meters (26,000 feet) above sea level and just a kilometer below the peak of Mount Everest, this is the highest glacier and one of the sunniest spots on Earth.

“Once South Col Glacier ice was regularly exposed,” Potocki said, “approximately 55 meters of glacier thinning is estimated to have occurred in a quarter-century – thinning over 80 times faster than the nearly 2,000 years it took to form the ice at the surface.”

“It also suggests that the South Col Glacier may be on the way out,” he said. “It may already be a relic from an older, colder, time.”

Potocki and his fellow scientists have three main concerns:

  • The faster the ice accumulation disappears, the more quickly the glacier’s capacity to provide water for the more than the one billion people who depend on it for drinking and irrigation, will also disappear.
  • New impacts can increase the risk of avalanches in the region.
  • Future expeditions to Mount Everest could encounter more exposed bedrock as snow and ice cover continues to thin in the coming decades, potentially making the mountain more challenging to climb. On the other hand, the warming air will mean more oxygen for climbers.

The impacts of climate change on the South Col Glacier have been most intense since the late 1990s, the research team learned.

The study’s lead author Paul Mayewski, serves as scientific and expedition lead, and director of the Climate Change Institute University of Maine.

“It answers one of the big questions posed by our 2019 National Geographic and Rolex Perpetual Planet Everest Expedition – whether the highest glaciers on the planet are impacted by human-source climate change. The answer is a resounding yes, and very significantly since the late 1990s,” Mayewski declared.

The warming will have a compounding effect on the experience of climbing Mount Everest, the researchers predict. They say the surface on some sections of the route will gradually shift from snowpack to ice to exposed bedrock, and avalanches will become more dynamic due to the instability of the ice.

Glacier melt is even likely to destabilize the Khumbu base camp, home to many Mount Everest climbers and logistics teams throughout the climbing season.

One Third Of US Population Experiences Warmer Temperature

More than a third of the American population is currently experiencing rapid, above-average rates of temperature increase, with 499 counties already breaching 1.5C (2.7F) of heating, a Guardian review of climate data shows.

The US as a whole has heated up over the past century due to the release of planet-warming gases from burning fossil fuels, and swaths of the US west, north-east and upper midwest – representing more than 124.6 million people – have recorded soaring increases since federal government temperature records began in 1895.

Though the climate crisis is convulsing the US, it is doing so unevenly. Hotspots of extreme warming have emerged in many of America’s largest cities, and places as diverse as California’s balmy coast to the previously frigid northern reaches of Minnesota, while other places, particularly in the south, have barely seen their temperatures budge.

“The warming isn’t distributed evenly,” said Brian Brettschneider, an Alaska-based climate scientist who collated the county temperature data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa). “Many places have seen dramatic changes, but there are always some places below the average who will think, ‘It didn’t seem that warm to me.’ The impacts differ depending where you are.”

Ventura county in California has heated up more than any other county in the contiguous US, according to the Noaa data, experiencing a 2.6C (4.75F) increase in total warming in the period from 1895 to 2021. Meanwhile, counties that include many of America’s largest cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Boston, have all seen their average temperatures rise far beyond the national average, which stands at about a 1C (1.8F) increase on pre-industrial times.

Mark Jackson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service based in Oxnard in Ventura county said the county’s temperature increase was “a remarkable number, it’s a scary number when you consider the pace we are looking at”. Jackson said the county had seen a large increase in heatwaves, including a spell above 37C (100F) last summer that “really stressed” the local community.

Ventura county, which hugs the Californian coast north-west of Los Angeles, is known for a pleasant Mediterranean climate cooled slightly by the proximity of the ocean. But Jackson said that recent heatwaves have seen warm air flow down from mountains in the nearby Los Padres national forest to the coast, while the ocean itself is being roiled by escalating temperatures. “It’s been really remarkable to see it get that hot right up to the coast,” he said.

California is in the grip of its most severe drought in 1,200 years and scientists say this is fueling the heat seen in many places in the state – Los Angeles has warmed by 2.3C (4.2F) since 1895, while Santa Barbara has jumped by 2.4C (4.38F) – by reducing moisture in soils, which then bake more quickly.

Higher temperatures are also worsening the risk of wildfires in the state. “We lost everything,” said Tyler Suchman, founder of online marketing firm Tribal Core who in 2017 fled with his wife to escape a huge wildfire that razed their home in Ojai, in Ventura county. “It was harrowing. The winds were blowing like crazy and the hills lining the highway were all on fire, I had never seen anything like it.”

Just 11 months later, a separate wildfire destroyed the couple’s next home, in Malibu, as their neighbor scooped up water from his hot tub in a desperate attempt to tackle the flames. “No one wants us to move next to them now,” Suchman said. “You can see how the area has changed over the 18 years since we moved to Ojai. It’s a beautiful place but regrettably we can’t live there now, the risk is too great.”

Hotspots of above-average warming are found across the US. Grand county in Utah, a place of sprawling deserts, cliffs and plateaus, is the second fastest warming county in the lower 48 states, while every county in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut has warmed by more than 1.5C (2.7F) since 1895.

It’s the more northern latitudes that have experienced the most extreme recent heat, however, with counties in Alaska making up all of the top six fastest warming places since 1970 (comparable temperature data for Alaska does not go back further than the 1920s). Alaska’s North slope, situated within the rapidly warming Arctic, has heated up by an enormous 3.7C (6.6F) in just the past 50 years.

“There really is a climate shift under way in Alaska, everyone can see things are different than they used to be and everyone is concerned about what the future here will look like,” said Brettschneider, who added that even his teenage children had noticed the retreat of sea ice, an elongating fire season and a dearth of cold days.

The warmth is also melting frozen soils, known as permafrost, causing buildings to subside and roads to buckle. “If you drive on the roads near Fairbanks you better have a strong stomach because it feels like you’re riding a rollercoaster,” said Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University and chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy.

Other locations traditionally used to severe cold have also seen sharp temperature increases. Roseau and Kittson counties, in northern Minnesota, are both in the top five fastest warming counties in the lower 48 states, with their warming driven by winters that have heated up by around 3.8C (7F) in the state since modern record keeping began.

Winters are warming more quickly than summers because more heat usually escapes the land during the colder months, but it is now being trapped by greenhouse gases. “Some might say ‘well I like warmer winters’ but people are noticing negative impacts, such as changes to the growing season and the loss of cultural practices such as cross-country skiing races,” said Heidi Roop, a climate scientist at the University of Minnesota. “Even small temperature changes have big consequences.”

Globally, governments set a goal in the 2015 Paris climate agreement to avoid a temperature rise of 1.5C (2.7F) above the pre-industrial era. Beyond this point, scientists say, the world will face increasingly punishing heatwaves, storms, flooding and societal unrest.

While certain areas of the US have already passed 1.5C, the important metric is still the global average, Hayhoe said. “In some places a 2C increase is fine but 2.5C is when the wheels fall off the bus, some locations are OK with 5ft of sea level rise because of their elevation while others can’t cope with 5 in because they are low-lying,” she said. “Local vulnerability is very customized. What’s relevant for communities is whether the world meets its targets or not, it’s a collective target for the world.”

That global threshold is in severe peril, with some forecasts warning that 1.5C (2.7F) could be breached within a decade without drastic cuts to carbon emissions. Communities will need to brace themselves for the consequences of this, according to Roop.

“The warming we are seeing is pushing at the bounds of lived human experience, of what we thought was possible,” she said. “We are paying the costs for that and we need to prepare for the changes already set in motion, as well as to prevent further warming.”

The map of US counties on this article was amended on 6 February 2022 to correct the temperature conversions.

Ancient Indian Temples Are Designated ‘Iconic,’ Worrying Preservationists

Promises of ‘better connectivity, more jobs and more tourists’ sound more like threats to some locals and conservationists.

The ancient, ornately carved Hindu and Jain temples outside this central Indian city have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986, and they are on the Archaeological Survey of India’s list of national treasures.

Now, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is moving toward designating the Khajuraho group of Hindu and Jain temples an “iconic tourist destination,” causing many in this area to despair for their future.

V.D. Sharma, a local member of Parliament who belongs to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, recently proclaimed that Khajuraho is on its way to becoming “a world-class tourist destination” with “better connectivity, more jobs and more tourists” — prospects that sound more like threats to some locals and conservationists.

Built over more than a century beginning about 850 A.D. by the warrior kings of the Chandela dynasty, these monuments stand out as the pinnacle of temple architecture in northern India.

Sitting atop ornate terraced platforms, the 25 surviving buildings rise abruptly from their environs in imitation, some say, of Mount Kailash — the Himalayan peak known as the abode of the gods. The structures are carved with numerous scenes from their faiths’ mythological repertoires — both sacred and profane, contributing to India’s reputation as the land of Kama Sutra.

According to news reports, the Modi government has greenlighted more than $6 million for projects in and around Khajuraho. A $4.5 million convention center was launched last year.

“The ‘iconic city’ label is a flawed concept,” said Chinmay Mishra, a cultural activist based in Indore. “Profiteers with no vision are turning spiritual centers into amusement parks.”

Brijendra Singh, a 77-year-old tour guide, has shown visitors around the famed Khajuraho group of Hindu and Jain temples for 52 years.

Singh weaves stories around the profusely carved sculptures depicting acts of worship, human emotions, domestic scenes, amorous couples. He worries that insensitive development could threaten the material remains of Khajuraho culture, while admitting that “sustaining outstanding universal value of heritage is critical.”

Locals are also concerned that a four-lane highway now being built to deliver tourists much closer to Khajuraho will destroy the traditional fabric of Indigenous communities.

“Many houses and temples have been demolished and thousands of trees have been uprooted to widen this highway,” said Devendra Chaturvedi, a local journalist.

Another issue is the possibly destructive effect of increased air traffic. The Khajuraho airport — located a few miles from the main group of temples — has been spruced up with a new terminal building and infrastructure to accommodate more flights. Two flying training academies are being set up on the premises for training aspiring pilots.

The director of the Khajuraho airport, Pradeepta Bej, said no heritage impact assessment has been ordered, to his knowledge. In the late 1990s, a report by the National Physical Laboratory of New Delhi noted occasional higher levels of acoustic excitation around the various temples of Khajuraho.

A former chief scientist of the Delhi-based laboratory, Mahavir Singh, said, “Vibrations above five millimeters per second for a single event could cause cracks in the monuments and heritage properties, so the situation should be monitored at the airport and surrounding areas.”

Others worry that with tourists will come increased encroachments outside the temple grounds.

“Tourism isn’t the only economy,” said Nagvendra Singh, a lawyer who plans to start a grassroots organization aimed at saving the temple town. “What is the government doing about urban encroachments, vehicular pollution, dust pollution and upkeep of monuments?”

Conservationists say the government restoration is a threat in itself. Shoring up temples with plain stones, they worry, and the use of abrasive cleaning techniques could also hasten their deterioration.

A monument attendant said that the temples are being cleaned by unskilled workers who are mostly unsupervised. Further, he noted there are no scientific or chemical restoration plans for their upkeep, posing a threat that they could become piles of plain stones.

Mrudula Mane, a conservation architect based in Ahmedabad, said monuments can’t be frozen in time but proper mitigation measures would arrest their speed of decline. “Chemical treatment has to be done under close supervision,” said Mane. “Abrasive cleaning techniques could exfoliate the sandstone monuments too much and cause erosion.”

According to Mishra, similar government rebuilding efforts elsewhere have harmed their aesthetic value. He pointed to a major refurbishment of Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges; Jallianwala Bagh; and Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram in Gujarat.

Residents say Hindu nationalists are also pushing for more rituals at the temples that would misrepresent the Hindu thought and practice the temples stood for. “We can’t change people’s approach to religion,” said Anurag Shukla, a local historian, “but opening up these sites to more rituals or pujas may severely impact heritage.”

According to Shukla, the government’s primary aim is not preservation but to whip up Hindu pride.

In 2018, the Indian Parliament passed the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Bill, allowing the government in New Delhi to finance and carry out “urgent” public works within 100 meters of monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. The original act prohibited any construction around the 100-meter radius.

Shivakant Bajpai, a superintending archaeologist at the Archaeological Survey of India’s Jabalpur circle, under which Khajuraho falls, said the current development scheme would not interfere with conservation, but he deferred questions about an impact assessment at the airport.

“The airport is far away from the protected area,” he said. “We are custodians of cultural heritage, so the airport authorities should be contacted for the fallouts of development.”

Nearby residents said the government has kept them in the dark about what the “iconic” designation means or its implications.

“We are being treated like outsiders in our own lands,” said Om Dubey, who works for a grassroots civil rights group in Khajuraho.

Conservationists said the protection of sacred sites must involve both government agencies and people. Shared responsibility, they say, would spark better dialogues on developing sites versus preserving heritage.

“Preserving Khajuraho’s sacred roots is critical,” said Brijendra Singh. “If development gets precedence over our faith traditions and monuments, what will remain iconic here?”

Hitting Net-Zero Without Stopping Flying

One of the largest producers of carbon emissions is air travel, yet many view flying as a necessary enabler of tourism and international business. One promising way for consumers to take responsibility for their carbon emissions are voluntary carbon offsets (VCOs), which offer air travellers the opportunity to make a small donation to neutralise their carbon footprint. Yet there are conflicting recommendations as to how to encourage consumers to opt into these green initiatives.

Researchers from Copenhagen Business School designed three online experiments to test strategies for increasing consumer participation, which contribute to the aviation carbon offset literature and offer useful new insights for airline companies.

In this study the researchers argue that VCOs have the potential to balance the practical need for air travel with the larger considerations of sustainability, yet current VCO programmes are not effective.

“Despite their potential, few existing studies have explained how to present VCOs so they can effectively appeal to the sensibilities of individual travellers with different travel requirements. More broadly, more participation in VCOs may also increase collective awareness and creates market pressure on institutions to decide to behave responsibly,” says Associate Professor Qiqi Jiang, Department of Digitalization, Copenhagen Business School.

The main findings

The evidence from the research shows that travellers booking flights in the near future are more likely to opt-in to VCOs when they are presented with concrete messages that emphasise specific actions.

In contrast, the research found that travellers flying in the distant future are more likely to opt-in to VCOs when they are presented with abstract messages that emphasise general initiatives.

“We also found choice is useful, especially for those travellers  flying in the near future and receiving concrete messages,” adds Qiqi Jiang.

Specifically, the study suggests that airlines should adjust the presentation of VCO programmes according to the temporal distance to the flight during booking and provide travellers opportunities to select their preferred way to neutralise their carbon footprint.

The study has been published in the Journal of Travel Research.

Promoting sustainable behaviors

“At present, most airlines present only one project that individuals can support with their VCO contribution. Our findings highlight specific conditions (consumers booking flights in the near future) in which multiple options can help encourage consumers to opt in,” says co-author Associate Professor Rob Gleasure, Department of Digitalization, Copenhagen Business School.

The researchers point to the fact that current research on VCO mainly focuses on how personal attributes affect intention to opt into VCO. For example, a certain socioeconomic status or psychological factors were found to significantly influence individual willingness to opt into VCO. Besides, some studies discussed which remedies, e.g., reforestation, renewable energy or helping local communities, can best promote VCO opt-in for specific groups of users. Despite the importance of these findings, the researchers argue they offer limited practical value for practitioners in aviation, as much of the insights require extensive personal data.

“Our proposed strategies only require the airlines to know the date of the flight being booked and provide the options to offset carbon footprint,” adds Rob Gleasure.

Creating actionable solutions

The findings afford actionable solutions for both airline companies and policymakers. “For airline companies, they can adopt our suggestions on the dynamic presentation of VCO messages to increase the likelihood of VCO opt-in. Consequently, the airline companies can raise more money from VCOs to fight against the climate challenge and boost social responsibility. Growing adoption of VCOs may also highlight the practice and motivate policymakers to enforce additional regulation on corporate VCO projects and expenditures,” adds Qiqi Jiang.

In addition to the practical focus of the research, the researchers highlight that much of what persuades consumers to opt into sustainable behaviours is not the projects themselves but the manner in which they are presented.

“We also reconcile some contradictory advice by showing why appealing to principles is useful in some circumstances and not in others, why providing details is useful in some circumstances and not in others, and why providing options is useful in some circumstances and not in others. This helps to accommodate a range of green causes and users with different values and interests,” Qiqi Jiang concludes.

Neighborhood Socioeconomic Status May Impact Patient Outcomes after Heart Surgery

India’s Environment Minister Yadav Discusses Climate With US Envoy John Kerry

India’s Environment, Forest, and Climate Change Minister Bhupender Yadav on Monday had a telephonic call with US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry where the two of them discussed wide range of issues including India’s ambitious climate action targets announced during the COP26.

Taking to Twitter after he spoke with Kerry late in the evening, Yadav tweeted: “Productive phone call with US Climate Envoy Mr John Kerry. We agreed to take forward India-US Climate Actions & Finance Mobilisation Dialogue. a India is on track to achieve Paris Accord & COP26 commitments in accordance with PM Shri Narendra Modi ji’s LIFE mantra. (sic)”

Both the leaders discussed taking forward the India US Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue (CAFMD) through the four identified pillars, Climate Ambition, Finance Mobilisation, Adaptation and Resilience, and Forestry, a statement from the Environment, Forests and Climate Change Ministry said.

Yadav highlighted the importance and need to focus on L.I.F.E i.e., Lifestyle For Environment, the one-word campaign championed by Prime Minister Modi at Glasgow during the high-level segment at the annual climate change summit COP26.

The leaders also discussed the upcoming meeting of the Major Economies Forum (MEF), the statement said.

The US on November 10 had joined the International Solar Alliance (ISA) as the 101st member country. Kerry had signed the framework agreement of the ISA to catalyse global energy transition through a solar-led approach.

Prior to it, on September 13, Yadav and Kerry had jointly launched the CAFMD, which is one of the two tracks of the India-US Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 partnership launched at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate in April 2021 by Prime Minister Modi and US President Joe Biden.

Earth, One Of God’s Failed Experiments?

Could the Earth be one of the trillions of experiments God is running throughout the universe? If so, will it be a failed experiment?

Humankind’s sacred Scriptures, written in prescientific times, often portray the Earth and humanity as the center of the universe. Recent scientific discoveries have suggested that this is not so. It is time to update our theological imaginations.

I spent New Year’s weekend bingeing on NOVA’s five-part series on astronomy, “Universe Revealed,” which premiered in October. It beautifully describes the findings of NASA’s astronomical satellites, including the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope.

We have learned that our Milky Way is one of 2 trillion known galaxies in the universe. Our galaxy alone has 200 billion stars and most of these stars appear to have planets. The probability of intelligent life somewhere in our galaxy or in another galaxy is high, given these numbers.

Why would God create such a huge universe with so many possible sources of life if he did not want thousands of species to bloom? Do we think that God has so little imagination that we are the only possibility he could come up with?

This is humbling for the human species, which thinks that it is the most important thing in the universe. It means that we are just one of God’s many children — and probably not the most important. We may be in our infancy in comparison with our siblings in other parts of the universe.

A Hubble photo shows but a small portion of one of the largest seen star-birth regions in the galaxy, the Carina Nebula. Towers of cool hydrogen laced with dust rise from the wall of the nebula. Captured here are the top of a three-light-year-tall pillar of gas and the dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. Photo courtesy of NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)

Perhaps the universe is incredibly huge so that God could provide “social distance” between all his experiments so that they would not cross-contaminate.

As for us, God has granted us a very beautiful and rich planet, made from star dust. He has given us intelligence with which we have gained great power for both good and evil.

And yet he appears to have included a fail-safe in the human experiment: If we do not evolve morally, we will destroy ourselves before we can reach the stars and pollute the rest of the universe.

The human experiment can fail, and if so our failure will not be God’s failure. God gives us every chance, but we can blow it. That is what we call free will. But he has other experiments running throughout the universe, and some of them will succeed.

On the other hand, we may also succeed and join our other siblings in the universe in discovering God’s plan for uniting himself with the cosmos

Pope Benedict XVI described the risen Christ as the next step in human evolution. That evolution is a spiritual consciousness that puts service above domination, puts generosity above greed and puts love above self-indulgence.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit paleontologist, had a similar vision of the universe, infused with the Spirit, evolving into the Cosmic Christ. Do we want to be part of that evolution or will we fight it?

Perhaps we do have a special place in the universe. Perhaps like Bethlehem, Earth is a backwater in the universe that has something worth sharing. I hope so. But unless our spiritual development matches our scientific development, the human experiment will fail.

International Day of Mountains: Rescuing the Stone Giants

December 11, 2021 was the International Day of Mountains and this year’s theme is “Sustainable Mountain Tourism”. For me, mountains are both a source of recreation and an important resource.

Mountains are home to 15% of the world’s population and they attract nearly 15-20% of global tourism. Mountains host almost 50% of the biodiversity hotspots worldwide and provide freshwater to humanity for survival every day.

However, mountains have not escaped the climate crisis. Himalayan glaciers are melting faster than anywhere in the world and plastic microfibers have been found even in the highest peaks.

And this is why, I give back to the Himalayas by keeping them litter free and reintroducing a circular economy at the third pole of the world. A circular economy is possible only if we factor in the carrying capacity of our mountains, an aspect we often overlook. The never ending demands of tourists and dying belongingness of indigenous communities is adding fuel to the fire. I believe that local growth comes from locally sourced produce and local skills. Small is beautiful and sustainable – just think of homestays over luxury hotels for example!

To further this vision across the Himalayas, our team at Healing Himalayas strives to preserve our mountains and make our planet a better, safer place. We have collected more than 800 thousand kilos of non-biodegradable solid waste and engaged more than 7000 volunteers on ground. We have built one waste collection center in Kinnaur so far to handle source segregation and eventually recycling. In the year 2022 we are aiming to build another three centers in Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti.

Along with the ground action we encourage travellers and communities to be ethically mature, adopt sustainable lifestyle changes, and respect every species that inhabits our planet with us. It is through this that I believe we can bring about true change and see our mountains as providers and not as a resource.

Why India, Russia Blocked Move To Take Climate Change To UNSC

India and Russia have blocked a proposal that would have allowed the UN Security Council to deliberate on climate-related issues. What is the UNSC’s role in such issues, and why was the proposal opposed?

A contentious proposal to authorise the UN Security Council to deliberate on climate change-related issues was rejected on Monday after veto-wielding Russia and India voted against it. The draft resolution, piloted by Ireland and Niger, had been in the making for several months, and sought to create a formal space in the Security Council for discussions on climate change and its implications on international security.

This was the second time in weeks that India went against the tide to block a climate change-related proposal that it did not agree with. At the annual climate change conference in Glasgow last month, India had forced a last-minute amendment in the final draft agreement to ensure that a provision calling for “phase-out” of coal was changed to “phase-down”.

The UN already has a specialised agency, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change or UNFCCC, for discussing all matters related to climate change. The parties to the UNFCCC — over 190 countries — meet several times every year, including at a two-week year-ending conference like the one at Glasgow, to work on a global approach to combat climate change. It is this process that has given rise to the Paris Agreement, and its predecessor the Kyoto Protocol, the international instrument that is designed to respond to the climate change crisis.

The Security Council, on the other hand, exists primarily to prevent conflicts and maintain global peace.

For the last few years, however, a few European countries, led by Germany, have been pushing for a role for Security Council in climate change discussions as well, arguing that climate change had an international security dimension. Climate change-induced food or water shortage, loss of habitat or livelihood, or migration can exacerbate existing conflicts or even create new ones. This can have implications for the UN field missions that are deployed across the world in peacekeeping efforts.

The draft resolution piloted by Ireland and Niger was not the first attempt at bringing climate change on Security Council’s agenda. Last year, a similar, stronger resolution was proposed by Germany. However, it was never put to vote because of possible objections from the United States, which had made it clear that it would block any such attempt with a veto. Germany’s two-year term at the Security Council was over last year, but the proposal had other backers, and Ireland and Niger agreed to refresh the draft resolution. With the US position shifting decisively under new President Joe Biden, the draft resolution had realistic chances of getting approved if China and Russia, the known opponents of the proposal, had agreed to abstain.

Telling Numbers |Changing monsoon patterns over 30 years, and 2021 trends

On the face of it, the draft resolution seemed academic in nature. It called for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to submit a report on security aspects of climate change in the next two years. It also asked the Secretary General to appoint a special envoy for climate security. Further, it asked UN field missions to regularly report on climate change assessments in their areas of operation and take the help of climate experts in carrying out their routine functions.

UNSC and climate change

Although it is not the forum to discuss climate change, the Security Council and its secretariat has hosted a few debates and informal discussions on the subject in the past. According to a recent research report, the frequency of such discussions has increased significantly since 2017, with climate change finding a mention in several Security Council decisions as well. It said several European countries, initially led by Sweden and the Netherlands, began to make efforts towards integration of the security implications of climate change in the Security Council’s work.

The same year, one of the UN’s visiting missions in Lake Chad region heard from Nigerian President Mahamadou Issoufou about how the shrinking of Lake Chad, a direct consequence of climate change, had contributed to the rise of the Boko Haram. Issoufou told the mission that the lake had lost 90 per cent of its surface area since the 1960s, which had destroyed livelihoods of local communities which became fertile ground for Boko Haram to grow. The research paper said this account of the Nigerian President left an impression on several UNSC members.

The objections

Russia and China, two permanent members with veto powers, have always been opposed to the move to bring climate change on the Security Council agenda. While the US switched sides this year, India, which started a two-year term in January, joined ranks with Russia and China. Brazil, which will join the Security Council next year, is also known to be against this move.

The opposing countries have been arguing that the UNFCCC must remain the appropriate forum for addressing all climate change-related issues, and claim the Security Council does not have the expertise to do so. They have also been pointing out that unlike UNFCCC, where decisions are taken by consensus of all the 190-plus countries, the UNSC would enable climate change decision-making by a handful of developed countries.

“We therefore need to ask ourselves what is it that we can collectively do under this draft resolution which we cannot achieve under the UNFCCC process. Why is it that one needs a UN Security Council resolution to take action on climate change when we have commitments made under UNFCCC towards concrete climate action. The honest answer is that there is no real requirement for this resolution except for the purpose of bringing climate change under the ambit of the Security Council and the reason for that is now decisions can be taken without involvement of most developing countries and without recognising consensus,” India’s permanent representative to the UN T S Tirumurti said. “Today, climate change decisions are sought to be taken out of the wider international community represented in the UNFCCC and given instead to the Security Council. Ironically, many of the UNSC members are the main contributors of climate change due to historical emissions. If the Security Council indeed takes over the responsibility on this issue, a few states will then have a free hand in deciding on all climate related issues. This is clearly neither desirable nor acceptable,” he said.

While the draft resolution was said to have the support of more than 100 countries, Russia said many developing countries had been backing it in the hope that they would get some assistance in fighting climate change.

Asia Society Calls For Art Addressing Climate Change As Part Of New Awards

Responding to the urgency of accelerating climate change, Asia Society and the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation are launching the Frankenthaler Climate Art Awards, which will recognize visual artists currently enrolled in or recently graduated from MFA programs in the United States whose work directly addresses the climate crisis. Organized in collaboration with the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, National Gallery of Art, and The Phillips Collection, the award is designed to foster climate change awareness through the imagination and insights of an upcoming generation of visual artists. The Environmental Defense Fund will join these cultural institutions to share expertise and propagate the award in the environmental advocacy community.

Through an open call launching on January 10, 2022, the Frankenthaler Climate Art Awards will be conferred to three winning artists, selected by a jury comprised of leaders from the collaborating institutions. Each artist will receive $15,000 and be honored in April 2022 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The awards have been organized in conjunction with COAL + ICE, an immersive exhibition featuring more than 40 documentary photographers and video artists from around the world, that seeks to visualize the climate crisis. COAL + ICE will be on view at the Kennedy Center from March 15 through April 22, 2022.

“Building on the Foundation’s recent Frankenthaler Climate Initiative, which supports U.S. art museums in mitigating their own environmental impacts, the Frankenthaler Climate Art Awards seeks to raise further awareness by recognizing artists whose work sheds light on and responds to the climate crisis. We are pleased to be partnering with Asia Society in the creation of these new awards,” said Helen Frankenthaler Foundation Executive Director Elizabeth Smith.

“A new generation is bringing fresh perspectives to our global response to climate change and we look forward to discovering what young emerging artists, whose lives are inextricably enmeshed with the climate crisis, have to say about this pivotal issue for humanity,” said Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Director of the Asia Society Center on U.S.-China Relations, who spearheaded the COAL + ICE exhibition.

Speaking on behalf of the collaborating organizations and the jury, Dorothy Kosinski, Vradenburg Director & CEO of The Phillips Collection, said, “The importance of this topic is reflected in how our institutions have come together to spotlight a new generation of artists tackling the climate crisis. Climate awareness is among our most consequential priorities as cultural institutions working today.”

Starting January 10, 2022, eligible artists and collectives will be invited to submit video artworks (e.g. digital video art, animation, film) or videos about visual artworks (e.g. documentation of tactile artworks, such as sculptures or paintings, or performance works) that tackle the climate change emergency via an online portal at climateartawards.org. Videos must not be longer than 5 minutes. Applicants must be either currently enrolled in a U.S.-based fine/visual art MFA program or will have graduated from such a program in the past 5 years. They must reside in the United States, with the exception of students currently enrolled in U.S.-based programs but pursuing their studies remotely due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

A shortlist of finalist artists will be released in February, and their videos will be made accessible online at climateartawards.org. The shortlisted videos will also be displayed on a dedicated channel and as featured selections on the homepage of ikonoTV, the global art media aggregator. The three winners will then be selected from among the finalists by a jury comprised of leaders from four of the collaborating institutions: Melissa Chiu, Director, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; Molly Donovan, Curator of Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Art; Dorothy Kosinski, Vrandenburg Director & CEO, The Phillips Collection; and Michelle Yun Mapplethorpe, Vice President for Global Artistic Programs at Asia Society and Director of Asia Society Museum, New York.

Further details of the Frankenthaler Climate Art Awards, including application guidelines, may be found at climateartawards.org and on Instagram.
@ClimateArtAwards. #ClimateArtAwards #ArtForClimateAction

Strategic and operational support provided by András Szántó LLC.

András Szántó LLC assists museums, cultural organizations, commercial brands, foundations, and educational institutions worldwide in all phases of the conceptualization and implementation of cultural initiatives, from strategy to execution to the creation of exceptional content.

Quest Begins To Drill Antarctica’s Oldest Ice

Efforts are about to get under way to drill a core of ice in Antarctica that contains a record of Earth’s climate stretching back 1.5 million years. A European team will set up its equipment at one of the highest locations on the White Continent, for an operation likely to take four years. The project aims to recover a near-3km-long cylinder of frozen material.

Scientists hope this ice can help them explain why Earth’s ice ages flipped in frequency in the deep past.

“Beyond EPICA”, as the project is known, is a follow-up to a similar venture at the turn of the millennium called simply EPICA (European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica).

The new endeavour will base itself a short distance away from the original at Little Dome C, an area located roughly 40km from the Italian-French Concordia Station, on the east Antarctic plateau

At an altitude of 3,233m above sea level and over 1,000km from the coast, Little Dome C will be an inhospitable place to work. Even in summer, temperatures won’t get much above -35C.

The camp where the drill team will base itself was set up in the 2019/20. This coming season will largely be about putting in the necessary drilling infrastructure. But the technicians do aim to at least start on their core quest by getting down beyond the first 100m.

This should take the borehole past the lightly compacted snow layers, or firn, into the impervious ice layers that are the real interest for scientists. The deep ice in Antarctica contains tiny bubbles of air. These little gas pockets are a direct snapshot of the historic atmosphere.

Scientists can read off the levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping components, such as methane.

Analysing the atoms in the water-ice molecules encasing the gases also gives an indication of the temperature that persisted at the time of the snowfall that gave rise to the ice.

The previous ice core showed temperature and carbon dioxide moving in lock-step

When researchers drilled the original EPICA core, they uncovered a narrative of past climate temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide stretching back 800,000 years.

It’s become one of the key climate data-sets of recent decades.

It showed that CO2 and temperature moved in lock-step. Whenever the Earth went into an ice age and temperature fell, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere would also decline. And when the climate warmed back up again, the CO2 rose in parallel.

These cycles occurred roughly every 100,000 years – a phasing that is most likely linked to slight shifts in the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit (a larger or smaller ellipse) around the Sun.

But it is recognised from an alternative record of past climate, which has been deciphered from ocean sediments, that deeper back in time the ice age cycle was much shorter – at about every 41,000 years.

That is a period probably dominated by the way the Earth tilts back and forth on its axis. But why the switch occurred, no-one is really sure. The new Beyond Epica core may contain some clues if its ices can extend the climate narrative back to 1.5 million years ago.

“We believe this ice core will give us information on the climate of the past and on the greenhouse gases that were in the atmosphere during the Mid-Pleistocene Transition (MPT), which happened between 900,000 and 1.2 million years ago,” said team-leader Carlo Barbante, the director of the Institute of Polar Sciences of the National Research Council of Italy.

“During this transition, climate periodicity between ice ages changed from 41,000 to 100,000 years: the reason why this happened is the mystery we hope to solve.” Beyond EPICA camp was set up during the 2019/20 Antarctic summer season.

To achieve an 800,000-year record, the original EPICA project drilled to a depth of 2,774m. The bedrock at Little Dome C is just over 2,800m down. The extra 700,000 years being sought by the new project should be in the additional metres of layered ice.

“We already have the 800,000 years of ice, so much of the first few years of drilling will simply be a repeat of ice we already have,” explained Robert Mulvaney from the British Antarctic Survey.

“In practice, with many new PhD students coming online, and new groups getting involved, and new analytical techniques always being developed, we will make good use of the ice younger than 800,000 years.

“We will also use the younger ice to ensure our techniques are working well by the time we get to the deep ice, where we only get one chance to get all the analyses right,” he told BBC News.

Beyond EPICA is funded by the European Union. UK scientists are allowed to participate because the money comes from a period when Britain was still a part of the 27-member-state bloc.

UN Plans To Drastically Expand Plastic Waste Management In India

The United Nations Development Programme aims to almost triple its plastic waste management to 100 cities in India by 2024, A UNDP executive said, to combat the damaging effects of plastic pollution.

Across India’s many towns and cities, which are often ranked among the world’s most polluted, the absence of an organized management of plastic waste leads to widespread littering and pollution.

The UNDP program, which began in 2018, has so far collected 83,000 metric tonne of plastic waste. India generates about 3.4 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, according to official estimates.

 “In India although about 60% of plastic is recycled, we are still seeing the damage that plastic pollution is causing,” Nadia Rasheed, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP India, said in an interview at the Reuters Next conference broadcast on Friday.

The UNDP is working with federal think tank, NITI Aayog and have jointly developed a ‘handbook’ model for local municipalities as well as the private sector.

“In a country like India with nearly fifth of the world’s population, a key challenge is how do we make these models scalable,” Rasheed said in an interview recorded on Nov. 22.

The government needs stricter enforcement on controls around dumping of plastic waste and has a “long way to go” to raise awareness among households, Rasheed said, adding there was a need for investment into research for alternatives.

The program suffered a setback after the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread increase in waste, including medical plastic waste, and hit livelihoods of collectors, who often work in hazardous conditions.

“There was a real need to expand waste collection efforts and that was coming at the same time as lot of (COVID-19 related) restrictions were disrupting the normal waste collection,” Rasheed said.

Plastic pollution is set to triple by 2040, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has predicted, adding 23-37 million metric tons of waste into the world’s oceans each year.

India, also the world’s third-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the United States, has set 2070 as a target to reach net-zero carbon emissions, much later than those set by others and twenty years after the U.N.’s global recommendation.

Fisker Unveils ‘World’s Most Sustainable Vehicle’ As Electric Vehicle Competition Heats Up

It seems among the investor community, all everyone talks about are the EV (electric vehicle) stocks – and only the big ones at that – Tesla (TSLA), Rivian (RIVN), and Lucid (LCID).

One EV company that’s been flying under the radar, that is until it had big news at this year’s Los Angeles Auto show is Fisker Inc (FSR).

Fisker, founded and run by legendary automotive designer Henrik Fisker, unveiled the production version of its Ocean EV SUV.

Overall it’s a competitive package, penned by Henrik himself, and in top trim form the Ocean is targeting over 350 miles of range from an all-wheel drive, dual motor setup pumping out 540 horsepower.

While those are noteworthy figures, there are other EVs that can match these figures in that price range (around $65,000 for the higher end Ocean). The real twist here is the base Ocean, called the Ocean Sport, that will use a smaller range battery (targeting around 250 miles of range), and a single-motor front wheel drive, that will start — before any state and local incentives — at $37,499.

At that price level, no one so far, even Tesla, can match that price in the premium EV landscape. Yahoo Finance spoke to Henrik Fisker at the LA auto show about how the company plans to make this pricing work.

“We have a whole asset-light business model — it’s a little bit like Apple (AAPL), Foxconn, if you want — in terms of we concentrate on the product, the marketing, the design, the development, and then we outsource manufacturing,” Fisker said from the company’s imposing stand on the convention floor. “We don’t have to put thousands of dollars [in] each car because we have to keep the lights on in the factory, and pay real estate taxes and whatever it all is.”

Fisker is using large contract manufacturer Magna (MGA) to build its Ocean SUV. Magna makes cars and large components for clients like BMW (BMWYY), GM (GM), and even Ferrari (RACE).

In addition, one area that puts upward pressure on the price tags of EVs are batteries. Fisker is using CATL, the world’s largest battery manufacturer, to make a custom package for the Ocean, using cheaper LFP (lithium iron phosphate) battery cells for the Ocean Sport model, and more energy dense nickel manganese cobalt cells for the extended range Ocean trim levels.

On top of all that, Fisker wants this car to be the most sustainable car on the planet — hence the name “Ocean.”

“So the idea with this vehicle is to make it the world’s most sustainable vehicle, so we’ve got a solar roof that can give you up to 1,500 miles for a year, we’ve got a fully vegan interior with recycled materials,” he says. Even all the carpets are made from recycled plastic bottles and fishing nets from the ocean, and the carbon fiber elements on the car and the wheels are, you guessed it, recycled.

With 20,000 reservations in the order book right now, the company is seeing good interest in a car that won’t see the streets until the third quarter of 2022. But this is according to plan.

Fisker understands that production, versus prototyping, is hard. Tesla’s Elon Musk says this almost on a weekly basis. It’s in an extremely complicated process that requires proper systems, technical partners, and of course, capital, to get right.

The challenge for EV startups, Fisker says, is how to ramp up and produce several hundred thousand vehicles a year — and not take 10 years to do it. This is where Fisker’s partner Magna comes into a play, with its capability to produce thousands of cars of year, coupled with new capital raises the Fisker has made this year ($1 billion through its SPAC IPO and $600 million in a debt offering), to invest in R&D and acquire know-how and parts from technical partners. It’s the only way startups can compete with the GMs and Fords (F) of the world.

“A car is made of about 1,500 parts or even more, depending on how many screws you count, and all these parts have to come in just in time. They have to be put together exactly at the right time in the right sequence,” Fisker says. “I think most EV startups underestimate that. it has taken the traditional car industry many, many decades to perfect this, and that’s what they’re really good at.”

Earth Has A Second Moon

It’s easy to be brand loyal to the moon. We’ve only got the one, after all, unlike Jupiter and Saturn, where you’d have dozens to choose from. Here, it’s luna or nada. Or not. The fact is, there’s another sorta, kinda moon in a sorta, kinda orbit around Earth that was discovered only in 2016. And according to a new study in Nature, we may at last know how it was formed.

The quasi-moon—named Kamo’oalewa, after a Hawaiian word that refers to a moving celestial object—is not much to speak of, measuring less than 50 m (164 ft) across. It circles the Earth in a repeating corkscrew-like trajectory that brings it no closer than 40 to 100 times the 384,000 km (239,000 mi.) distance of our more familiar moon. Its odd flight path is caused by the competing gravitational pulls of the Earth and the sun, which continually bend and torque the moonlet’s motions, preventing it from achieving a more conventional orbit.

“It’s primarily influenced just by the sun’s gravity, but this pattern shows up because it’s also—but not quite—on an Earth-like orbit. So it’s this sort of odd dance,” says graduate student Ben Sharkey of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona, the lead author of the paper.

None of this means that Kamo’oalewa has to have especially exotic origins. The solar system is littered with asteroids, some of which are captured by the gravity of other planets and become more conventional—if fragmentary—moons. Others don’t orbit other planets in the common way but fall into line in front of them or behind them and pace them in their orbits around the sun, like the flocks of so-called Trojan asteroids that precede and trail Jupiter.

Either way, Kamo’oalewa was bound to get attention because its composition posed a stubborn mystery. Asteroids tend to reflect brightly in certain infrared frequencies, but Kamo’oalewa just doesn’t. It’s dimmer somehow—clearly made of different stuff, which suggests a different origin.

To investigate the mystery, Sharkey, under the guidance of his PhD adviser, planetary scientist Vishnu Reddy, first turned to a NASA-run telescope in Hawaii routinely used for studying Earth-vicinity asteroids. But even through the usually reliable instrument, the infrared signature seemed too faint. Instead they switched to a University of Arizona-run monocular telescope that, as Sharkey says, could “squeeze every last ounce of photons out of that object.”

That produced better, clearer results, but still they were incomplete. The rock was made of common silicates like other asteroids, but they were common only in their general composition, not in their infrared signature, which remained stubbornly off.

At last, the answer suggested itself. If Kamo’oalewa was behaving like a sort of quasi-moon, perhaps it was an artifact of the actual moon. Earlier in Sharkey’s PhD program, one of his advisers published a paper on lunar samples brought back by the Apollo 14 mission in 1971. When Sharkey compared the data he was getting in his telescope with what the earlier geologists came up with in the rock lab, the results matched perfectly. The kind of space-weathering lunar silicates undergo when they’re still on the surface of the moon precisely accounted for the differences in the infrared reflectivity between common asteroids and Kamo’oalewa.

“Visually, what you’re seeing is weathered silicate,” says Sharkey. “The eons of exposure to space environment and the micrometeorite impacts, it’s almost like a fingerprint and it’s hard to miss.”

How Kamo’oalewa shook free of our lunar companion is no mystery. The moon’s been getting bombarded by space rocks for billions of years, resulting in all manner of lunar debris getting ejected into space (nearly 500 bits of which have made it to the surface of the Earth as meteorites). Kamo’oalewa is one such piece of lunar rubble that spiraled away from the moon. But rather than landing on Earth or simply tumbling off into the void, it found itself a quasi-satellite in its own right.

“We see thousands of craters on the moon, so some of this lunar ejecta has to be sticking around in space,” says Sharkey. Kamo’oalewa won’t stick around all that long, as its current trajectory is not entirely stable. According to estimates from Sharkey and others, the object will remain an earthly companion for only about 300 more years—nothing at all on the cosmic clock—after which it will break free of its current gravitational chains and twirl off into the void. Originally a part of the moon, then a companion of Earth, it will spend the rest of its long life traveling on its own.

Glasgow, Greta, And Good Intentions

Both anxiety and hope are increasing in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow. There is anxiety because, barring a handful of the willfully blind, we can all see the damage we are doing to the planet. Fires, floods, and rising sea levels are creating havoc around the world, while environmental destruction and the resulting conflict are triggering large-scale refugee movements that evoke biblical images.

But there is also hope, because some—not least the climate activist Greta Thunberg, with her longstanding and heartening call for more ambitious action—recognize the scale of the challenge facing humanity. In that spirit, the European Union has launched the European Green Deal, which aims to make the EU carbon-neutral by 2050.

The United States also aims to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century, and recently announced that it would double its financial contribution to help developing countries tackle the climate crisis, to $11.4 billion per year. Some U.S. lawmakers, notably Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey, have proposed a Green New Deal, an ambitious plan to redesign the U.S. economy and eventually eliminate all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.

When we see climate action trail so far behind rhetoric, we inevitably wonder if all the talk is just hypocrisy. But it need not be.

Yet, despite these efforts, the fact is that we started out late in combating climate change and now need to accelerate corrective action if humans are not to go the way of the dinosaurs. The climate crisis is a global issue and requires action from all countries, but many developing economies, including some of the most climate-vulnerable ones, lack the financial wherewithal to do enough on their own. Some emerging economies, including South Africa and much of South and Southeast Asia, are hugely reliant on coal, and will have to undergo a disruptive green transition.

We therefore need a collective commitment to design support systems—financial and scientific—to help all countries do their part. The 2015 Paris climate agreement was a diplomatic success, marshaling the support of almost 200 countries. But the world is falling woefully short of meeting the target—limiting global warming to 1.5º Celsius, relative to preindustrial levels—that was agreed in Paris.

Will the gathering in Glasgow catalyze genuine action? Thunberg recently warned that “the leaders will say we’ll do this and we’ll do this, … and then they will do nothing.” And the widespread frustration at leaders’ insufficient climate ambition is not limited to young people. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II expressed a similar sentiment, saying that “it’s really irritating when they talk, but they don’t do.”

Such despair is natural. When we see climate action trail so far behind rhetoric, we inevitably wonder if all the talk is just hypocrisy.

But it need not be. If we want to bequeath a livable planet to future generations, it is crucial to understand why there may be a disjuncture between what each person intends to do and what the group actually delivers. Iconic games like the prisoner’s dilemma have shown this to be the case in the domain of selfish decision-making. Mobilizing the determination and commitment needed to address the climate crisis is a problem for the social sciences and moral philosophy as much as it is for politicians.

Contrary to what neoclassical economics would have us believe, the modern economy does not operate as a series of impersonal markets driven purely by the aspirations of individual actors. Rather, as Mariana Mazzucato notes in her book “Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism,” markets are “embedded in rules, norms, and contracts affecting organizational behavior, interactions, and institutional designs.”

It is therefore a mistake to equate collective action with the sum of individual intentions. When people say they want to do everything to avert climate disaster but do little, this may not be hypocrisy. They may be in the grip of what I have described in a recent paper as “Greta’s Dilemma.”

In this game, a group of people initially pursue their own interests, with no concern for how the environmental damage caused by their actions will harm future generations. If people then become environmentally conscious and take corrective action, traditional economic models would predict that such a shift will lead to improvements in future generations’ welfare.

But in the complex, strategically connected world that we inhabit today, the outcome may be different. Greta’s Dilemma illustrates the paradoxical result whereby individuals who become environmentally conscious collectively do greater damage to the environment. Akin to one of those paradoxical paintings by M.C. Escher, it is the intertwining of small individual steps that lead the group to a destination they did not seek. Far from helping future generations, they end up hurting them.

Admittedly, this game is crafted deliberately to highlight the paradox. But it shows that, in today’s complex global economy, we need to devote much greater attention to the strategic foundations of human interaction in order to design policies that can help us turn away from the brink of climate disaster.

This may sound like a narrow academic argument, but it is not. If we are to realize Thunberg’s ambition, which I believe many people—including many leaders—genuinely share, we need to use Greta’s Dilemma as a basis for designing the policies and institutions we need.

So, although we are right to fret that leaders may not do enough at COP26, we also have to be aware that there is a scientific problem here. On climate change and other issues, we need to understand the social and economic game we are playing, and try to alter its rules so that our individual moral intentions are reflected better in collective outcomes.

Reshma Kosaraju Wins Children’s Climate Prize

A teenager from Saratoga, California, has won the prestigious Children’s Climate Prize for Reshma Kosaraju, 15, of Saratoga, California, won the Children’s Climate Prize for 2021.

The Children’s Climate Prize is an international prize annually awarded to young people taking actions to bring sustainable solutions for the planet, according to the website of the organization.

Fifteen year-old Reshma Kosaraju’s project notes that fires are a natural part of a forest’s ecosystem, but the underlying conditions have changed.

The project, ‘AI against forest fires’ created by her can predict forest fires with almost 90% accuracy, said the press release.

Reshma uses open data, such as temperature, humidity, wind speed, soil moisture and human behavior to, with the help of AI, calculate where and when the probability of a forest fire occurring is greatest.

“Reshma hopes the Children’s Climate Prize will draw attention to her project, so that more people can become aware of the AI model’s existence,” the website said.

Forest fires have become a global problem, causing over 339,000 premature deaths worldwide – and threatening biodiversity by destroying animals and nature, the press release says.

The jury which selected Reshma as the winners had the following to say about her work —

Climate change and forest fires mutually reinforce each other and wildfires, today, are in many locations larger, more intense and longer lasting. Forest fires have increasingly become a global and topical issue.

Reshma represents the best of youth entrepreneurship: brave, innovative and solution-oriented. Her model uses AI and technology in an innovative and savvy way in order to accurately predict the risk of forest fires while also accounting for the independent variables of climate, weather and human behavior. A clear and scalable business concept, with a global approach to accessibility. This is an example of an extraordinary and creative solution based on a systemized approach.

The prize celebrates and sheds light on young innovators, entrepreneurs, changemakers and conservators in order to spread hope and inspire others, the website said.

The Children’s Climate Foundation awards the prize annually, works for a long-term perspective and makes it possible for others to partner in the initiative.

The winners of the Children’s Climate Prize are celebrated at a gala event in Stockholm, Sweden. They receive a diploma, medal and prize money of SEK 100,000 to continue developing their projects.

The Children’s Climate Prize was founded in 2016 by Telge Energi, the Swedish frontrunner in renewable energy. Winners over the last several years have been of Indian origin – Aadya Joshi, 17, of Mumbai, in 2020 for her project ‘The Right Green’ on deforestation; Vinisha Umashankar,13, of Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, also in 2020, for her project ‘The Solar Ironing Cart’; Shreya Ramachandran, 16, of Fremont, in 2019 for her project ‘The Grey Water Project’’; and Nav & Vihaan Agarwal, 12 and 15 years old respectively, also in 2019, for their project ‘One Step Greener.’

Glossing Over in Glasgow – Some Thoughts on COP26

A week has gone by since COP 26 with 197 Parties ended in the Scottish city of Glasgow on extended time last Saturday. Climate change which covers wide array of issues affecting all living beings engaged the people around the world for COP 26 in a way never experienced since COP1 was held in Berlin in 1995.

Extensive and round-the-clock media coverage, huge presence of the civil society, activism by the young people, substantive advocacy by large number of non-governmental organizations, even the creatively decorated conference venue – all gave COP 26 a profile never seen before.

Before Glasgow, 25 annually convened sessions of COPs have been held by Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted in New York in May 1992 which “determined to protect the climate system for present and future generations”. But never in the history of COPs there was an occasion when the Parties publicly negotiated to change the outcome document which was televised around the world as in the Glasgow COP.

As is natural for such multilateral gatherings, reactions to the question whether COP 26 was successful were different from the Parties and other entities engaged in the process. Efforts to gloss over following COP 26 left the common people uncertain and unsure whether there was really any forward movement in Glasgow.

Contradictions

What was somewhat intriguing that speaking for the United Nations system as a whole, the Secretary-General expressed his disappointment about the compromise reached in the outcome commenting “…unfortunately the collective political will was not enough to overcome some deep contradictions.”

He even warned “It is time to go into emergency mode — or our chance of reaching net zero will itself be zero.” At the same time, Secretary-General’s rather confusing, ill-composed comment in his remarks at the conclusion of COP 26 that “We are still knocking on the door of climate catastrophe” left many wondering what he was trying to convey.

Even more intriguing is that where was his leadership as the universally accepted global leader in getting rid of those contradictions he was complaining about.? On the other hand, the Executive Secretary entrusted with the responsibility of organizing COPs was upbeat about the outcome and may be reflecting another contradiction in Glasgow. COP 26 also invited the UN Secretary-General to convene world leaders in 2023 to consider ambition to 2030 dangling the traditional carrot of expectation to the people of the world.

Alok Sharma touch

Let me bring out a very uniquely remarkable thing that happened in COP 26 as its UK-appointed full-time President Alok Sharma openly and visibly choked back tears saying “I am deeply sorry” as he banged his gavel for the adoption of the Glasgow Climate Pact.

His emotions and true feelings came out spontaneously as he was considerably upset by the proposal of India, joined by China, to change the expression “phase out” relating to coal consumption as agreed to by all till the moment of adoption.

India replaced that phrase with “phase down” thereby watering down the consensus intent of the Parties at COP 26. President Sharma expressed his apologies for the way things evolved in changing the agreed COP 26 outcome negotiated under his leadership and which he was about to gavel down. In my half a century of engagement in multilateral diplomacy,

I am not aware of any conference chair apologizing ever for his inability to protect the best interest of the participants in the outcome. Bravo to Alok Sharma for that honesty and integrity! He has shown the way to all future chairs that they can openly and courageously pronounce their failure identifying those who are dragging their feet destroying a forward-looking outcome.

It was also impressive the way President Sharma asserted the reality with his pithy comment that we have kept 1.5 Celsius alive “but its pulse is weak”.

Loss and Damage

The insensitivity of the Parties and their self-centered policy positions were starkly manifested in the decision relating to a major issue known as “Loss and Damage”. Not much media highlight was given to this very relevant item on COP 26 agenda. Even the UN’s Climate Change website does include in its list of topics.

I am sure many readers are picking their brains trying to recall the issue. “Loss and damage” is used within the COP process to refer to the harms caused by anthropogenic climate change. Establishing liability and compensation for loss and damage has been a long-standing goal for vulnerable and developing countries in the Alliance of Small Island States and the Least Developed Countries Group in negotiations.

However, developed countries have resisted this. At Glasgow, the developing countries lamented the outcome on loss and damage. They had called for a financial mechanism for loss and damage, but the outcome on loss and damage only included strengthening the existing technical support functions, and expectedly more empty and rejectionist talks to convene from 2022 to 2024.

The existing UNFCCC mechanism created by COP 19, the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, focuses on research and dialogue rather than liability or compensation.
Tasneem Essop, Executive Director, Climate Action Network succinctly described COP 26 as “a clear betrayal by rich nations – the US, the EU and the UK- of vulnerable communities in poor countries.”

She went on to say that by blocking the proposal of the developing countries representing 6 billion people, on the creation of a Glasgow Loss and Damage Finance Facility “rich countries have once again demonstrated their complete lack of solidarity and responsibility to protect those facing the worst of the climate impacts.

Referring to close-door pressure tactics, Saleemul Huq, Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) regretted that “The COP Presidency has overnight been bullied into dropping the Glasgow Loss and Damage Finance Facility. The UK’s words to the vulnerable countries have been proven to be totally unreliable.”

Natalie Lucas, Executive Director, Care About Climate very forcefully spoke about the loss and damage issue and expressed total disappointment commenting that “Developed nations, including the US, have not risen to the challenge to do what is necessary to protect people. We have missed the train on mitigation, on adaptation, and now it is colliding into the most vulnerable people.”

At the end the Glasgow Climate Pact pitifully agreed “to enhance understanding of how approaches to averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage can be improved”. It clearly reflects how the “powerful” of the world impose their totally irrelevant and illogical position on the poorest and most vulnerable humanity.

About the Glasgow outcome, globally respected eminent economist Jeffrey Sachs rightly opined “That leaves us stuck between the reality of a devastating global climate crisis and rich countries’ nationalist politics…” He articulated further that “The financial failures at COP26 are both tragic and absurd … Financing for “losses and damages,” that is, to recover and rebuild from climate disasters, fared even worse, with rich countries agreeing only to hold a “dialogue” on the issue.”

Kowtowing to the obstinacy of the developed countries, UN Secretary-General insensitively tried to console the developing world by his non-committal words saying “I want to make a particular appeal for our future work in relation to adaptation and the issue of loss and damage.”

He was oblivious that the Climate Change Convention of 1992 of which he is the depository asserts that “The extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention will depend on the effective implementation by developed country Parties of their commitments under the Convention related to financial resources and transfer of technology and will take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.”

Civil society

At Glasgow, the civil society engagement and advocacy for forward-looking actions fell on deaf ears of the leaders and negotiators. The civil society was separated from the so-called Blue Zone at the conference center where the wheeling-dealing was taking place.

If the civil society seriously wants a space to be heard and make an impact on the outcome of COP processes, it should ask for that opportunity clearly offered to them in all future climate negotiations. Protesting outside and commenting on the social media have limited value in influencing the decision-makers.

Even Greta Thunberg’s disparaging slogan “blah, blah, blah …” was laughed away by the leaders. COP 26 outcome proves that in a terribly frustrating manner. For COP 27 next year, the mode of operations for the civil society participation needs to change.

American climate scientist and author Peter Kalmus articulated that “The one thing the climate summit in Glasgow made clear is that human society remains in business-as-usual mode, with no meaningful curb on fossil fuel use. The soft pledges made at COP 26 might have been acceptable decades ago, but not now.”

He went on to highlight that “Unless COP26’s failure is recognized as failure, there is no way to learn from it. Allowing global leaders to feel that what happened in Glasgow was acceptable – and spinning it as some sort of success – would be a disastrous mistake.”

The whole COP process is flawed if the powerful Parties can brush aside the wishes of countries representing a huge majority of the world population just like that. Developing countries need to join together to stop this circus and find another approach.

“Phase down” – the new mantra

There has been strong criticism of the last-minute and veto-like proposal to replace “Phase out” by “Phase down” at the final moments of the Glasgow gathering. But “phase down” has always been the position of the worst and historically responsible polluters of the world who would prefer to follow their own pace for addressing the climate crisis.

Be it emissions control, be it fossil fuels, be it financing, be it adaptation, be it mitigation, be it loss and damage, be it transfer of technology, “phase down” mode has always been the preferred way of doing business by the developed world. India has only taken a dubious lead in actually introducing the phrase in a formal COP outcome.

The global community would find more and more such instances as the climate change negotiations evolves in the coming years. “Phase down” is the new mantra of the climate change negotiators. Be prepared for that. Sorry!  (Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury is former Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations and former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations.)

Climate Change Will Destroy Environments, Undermine Efforts To Protect Sea Life

Newswise: Climate change is altering familiar conditions of the world’s oceans and creating new environments that could undermine efforts to protect sea life in the world’s largest marine protected areas, new research from Oregon State University shows.

The changing conditions also have cultural and economic implications for the people whose traditions and livelihoods are dependent on ocean resources, said James Watson, an assistant professor in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and the paper’s co-author.

“What we’re looking at here is the potential extinction of a whole environment,” said Watson, who specializes in marine social-ecological systems and understanding complex adaptive systems. “In some places, the environments we have today are not going to exist in the future. We won’t be able to go visit them or experience them. It is an environmental, cultural and economic loss we can’t replace.”

The researchers’ analysis of multiple climate scenarios showed:

60% to 87% of the ocean is expected to experience multiple biological and chemical changes, such as increases in water temperature, higher levels of acidity and changes in oxygen levels, by the year 2060.

The rate of change is expected to be even higher, 76% to 97%, in very large marine protected areas such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Galapagos Marine Reserve in Ecuador.

Increases in pH, which measures ocean acidity, are expected as soon as 2030. Ocean acidification reduces the amount of carbonate in seawater, which is necessary for marine organisms, such as corals and mollusks like oysters, to develop their shells and skeletons.

The findings were published this week in the journal One Earth. The paper’s lead author is Steven Mana‘oakamai Johnson, who conducted the research as part of his doctoral dissertation at Oregon State. Johnson, who earned his Ph.D. earlier this year, is now a postdoctoral researcher at Arizona State University.

The concept for the paper was borne from conversations between Johnson, a native of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. commonwealth in the Western Pacific Ocean, and Watson, a native of England, about what is likely to be lost due to climate change. One thing is the disappearance of ocean conditions they each experienced as children.

“All of us have experiences we define as normal under a given set of environmental conditions,” said Johnson, who is has already witnessed climate change impacts such as a devastating coral bleaching event in Saipan.

“Properties such as temperature, acidity and oxygen levels define what a given part of the ocean looks like. For both James and me, the ocean experience we grew up with and have memories of will likely not exist for our grandchildren.”

Using the last 50 years of ocean conditions as a measure of stability, the researchers used several climate models to see how six variables affecting ocean conditions might change as the planet warms. They used three warming scenarios with increasing degrees of severity.

“Our scenarios included likely, unlikely and highly unlikely degrees of warming, all of which are warmer today than they were 20 years ago,” Johnson said. “In all three scenarios, conditions in more than half of the ocean are going to be novel, meaning new and significantly different, than they have been in the last 50 years.”

Much of the change occurs in the ocean’s two extremes: the tropics and the Arctic. The warmest places are seeing warming conditions never seen before, and the coldest places, like the Arctic, are no longer as cold as they once were. The researchers also found that most of those changes will occur by 2060, though most of the change in pH, or acidity, levels is expected much sooner, by the end of the decade.

The change is more pronounced for the very large marine protected areas that are designed to preserve threatened species and rare habitats such as coral reefs around the world. As ocean conditions change, animals in those protected areas are likely to seek other locations that are more favorable for their survival.

“These marine protected areas are an important tool for achieving conservation goals and can take a lot of political and social will to establish and work as intended,” Johnson said. “In our analysis, 28 out of 29 of these areas will experience changes in conditions that could undermine conservation goals.”

The researchers’ findings present a picture of what the future might hold as the planet continues to warm, Johnson said. The research also offers important information to communities, policymakers and managers of protected habitats about how changing ocean conditions might impact them and how they might address those changes.

“For example, tuna thrive in certain ocean conditions. If the ocean gets too warm, the tuna may move to another area,” Johnson said. “If your country depends on tuna for food or livelihood, what impact will that have?

“Or if you’re a manager of a protected area, and you’re protecting a species that is no longer in the area, what do you do?”

This type of forecasting advances how climate change is quantified, Watson said. It also gives people an opportunity to come to terms with the trauma of what is being lost as well as begin to make plans for a future without those resources.

“This kind of work has been done before for changes on land due to climate change, but not for the ocean,” he said. “It’s important to acknowledge and accept what were are likely to lose, and that loss can also help motivate people to begin to adapt.”

Indian Panorama At IFFI 52 Held In Goa

With a promise to unfold stories collected from nook and corners of India on the big screen, the Indian Panorama Section opened on Sunday at the 52nd International Film Festival of India held in Goa.

Anurag Singh Thakur, Union Minister of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting inaugurated the opening ceremony of the 52nd IFFI. Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar, Governor of Himachal Pradesh was also present on the occasion. The inaugural ceremony introduced the audiences to IFFI’s official selection of 24 Feature and 20 Non-Feature films under the Indian Panorama 2021 category for this year.

Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar, Governor of Himachal Pradesh along with the Thakur felicitated the filmmakers and the cast and crew of the opening films, ‘Semkhor’ (Feature) and ‘Ved- The Visionary’ (Non-feature), and presented to them Certificates of participation.

Congratulating the filmmakers, the Union Minister, said, “You all have attempted and struggled to bring stories from the remote corners of the country. Now, content is king and if you create the right content, it will go not only National but to the International level. We have the talent among us and with all your help; we will take IFFI to new heights”. He also remembered Late Manohar Parrikar, who was instrumental in bringing IFFI to Goa’s shores.
Thakur also said that “Earlier we saw that only actors, directors, and producers were being awarded in Film festivals but now we are also honoring the technicians, the background people whose work make to a film complete.” He also urged international filmmakers to come and shoot in India.

Addressing the gathering Arlekar, said “I am not a Film Critic or an ardent follower of Films, but I have always watched the Indian Panorama, how our films reflect our society. I say this with pride that the Indian films have beautifully reflected and showed the aspirations, needs, and struggles of our society.”

The opening film in the Feature film category, ‘Semkhor’, which was screened in the Indian Panorama Section is the first-ever Dimasa language film to be screened in the Indian Panorama Section. Aimee Baruah, Director of the film, thanked IFFI for the honor and recognition of the film. She added that the film Semkhor deals with social taboos and through the film, she tried to bring forth the struggles faced by the Dimasa Community in Assam.

Rajiv Prakash, Director of the opening film in the Non-feature film category, ‘Ved- The Visionary’, remarked that, “It is the story of my father’s resilience, fortitude in the field of film-making. The movie shows his endeavors which shall remain embedded in history of cinema.”

The Jury members of the feature and non-feature films were also honored with Certificates of participation on the occasion.

The Indian panorama is a flagship component of the IFFI under which the best contemporary Indian films are selected for the promotion of film art. It was introduced in 1978 as part of the IFFI umbrella to promote Indian Films and India’s rich culture and cinematic art.

Actress and Mathura MP Hema Malini was honoured with the Indian Film Personality of the Year Award at the 52nd edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) here on Saturday.

The award, which is conferred upon an outstanding Indian film personality for his or her extraordinary contribution to the world of cinema, was presented to the actress jointly by the Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Loganathan Murugan, and Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant.

Hema Malini, who made her acting debut in 1963 with the Tamil film ‘Idhu Sathiyam’ and later made her entry into Hindi cinema as the lead actress of ‘Sapno Ka Saudagar’ in 1968, has acted in a number of films, many of which, including ‘Sholay’, went on to become superhits.

When TV host and comedian Manish Paul, who was co-hosting the event with Karan Johar, asked Hema Malini for her favourite character from among the scores she had played in her long career, the actress replied, “All of them. Everyone does a role thinking that this will be her best.”

When Paul persisted, she first said ‘Lal Pathar’, and then went on to reel out a series of names. ‘Lal Pathar’, incidentally, was one of the rare films where Hema Malini played a negative role, that of a jealous mistress of a zamindar.

The 52nd edition of the International Film Festival of India that commenced on November 20 in Goa will run till November 28. (ANI)

Pope Urges Youth To Protect Environment

Pope Francis on Sunday praised young people for their efforts to protect the Earth’s environment and told them to “be the critical conscience of society.” Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, filled with hundreds of young faithful, to mark a church day focused on youth in dioceses worldwide. “You have

Pope Francis on Sunday praised young people for their efforts to protect the Earth’s environment and told them to “be the critical conscience of society.”

Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, filled with hundreds of young faithful, to mark a church day focused on youth in dioceses worldwide.

“You have been entrusted with an exciting but also challenging task,” the pontiff said, ”to stand tall while everything around us seems to be collapsing.”

Francis expressed thanks “for all those times when you cultivate the dream of fraternity, work to heal the wounds of God’s creation, fight to ensure respect for the dignity of the vulnerable and spread the spirit of solidarity and sharing.”

He noted that many young people have criticized environmental contamination.

“We need this,” Francis said.

The pontiff said that in a world that “thinks only of present gain, that tends to stifle grand ideals, you have not lost the ability to dream.”

“Be free and authentic, be the critical conscience of society,” Francis exhorted young people.

Social justice and care of the environment have been key messages of his papacy.

The pope is expected to meet with young people from all over the world at the Catholic church’s jamboree in Lisbon, Portugal, in August 2023.

Indian Brothers Win Children’s Peace Prize For Waste Project

Indian brothers Vihaan and Nav Agarwal won a prestigious children’s prize Saturday for a project they launched that aims to reduce waste and pollution and plant trees in their home city of New Delhi.

Vihaan, 17, and his 14-year-old brother, Nav, were handed the International Children’s Peace Prize by Indian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi at a ceremony in The Hague, Netherlands. They said they plan to use the prize and the recognition it brings to expand their network across India and beyond.

“Our thought process is that we need to get the whole world zero waste. And that means not only India, not only going to every single city, every town, every village, but to actually share this message with the whole world,” Vihaan told The Associated Press in an interview a day before the award ceremony.

The brothers got the idea to begin their garbage separation and recycling project, One Step Greener, following a collapse in 2017 at a Delhi landfill and a cloud of pollution that descended over the city the next day. Vihaan has and poor air quality often requires him to stay inside.

The One Step Greener project now visits more than 1,500 homes, schools and offices throughout sprawling Delhi as the brothers and their organization work toward a goal they call “Zero Waste India.”

Vihaan said the success of One Step Greener should serve as a lesson for world leaders tackling climate change and pollution. “You have to be practical and think of solutions that are easy for people,” he said.

“As we saw with One Step … when we did a door to door pickup, it was exceptionally easy for people to just leave their waste outside. So you have to find these solutions, and there are plenty of young people who are finding these solutions all over the world. You have to encourage them.”

The award includes a study and care grant for the brothers and a fund of 100,000 euros, half of which goes to their project. The other half is invested by prize organizer KidsRights in other projects to support children’s rights.

KidsRights founder Marc Dullaert urged governments to do more to reduce pollution. “All children have an inherent right to life and to health,” he said. “How are more than 90% of children in the world breathing toxic air?”

Previous winners of the prize include include Pakistani education advocate Malala Yousafzai and Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

200 Nations Agree On Pact To Save Earth From Climate Change Glasgow Climate Pact Diluted After India, China Force Amendment On Emission From Coal

The two-week global conference ended with a historic agreement between the 200 national delegations who agreed to, for the first time, to target fossil fuels as a key driver of global warming in a bid to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050 in an effort to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The historic and much needed Glasgow Climate Pact 2021 was adopted on Saturday, November 13th, which is a mixed bag of modest achievements and disappointed expectations. The achievements include a tacit consensus on a target of keeping global temperature rise down to 1.5 degrees Celsius with the Paris Agreement target of 2 degrees being no longer appropriate to the scale of the climate emergency. The notional target of 2 degrees remains but the international discourse is now firmly anchored in the more ambitious target and this is a plus.

The Pact is the first clear recognition of the need to transition away from fossil fuels, though the focus was on giving up coal-based power altogether. The focus on coal has the downside of not addressing other fossil fuels like oil and gas but a small window has opened.

Even as the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres conceded that the final agreement was “a compromise”, several vulnerable nations were left disappointed as the deal made no mention of the $100 billion a year in funding that high-income countries had promised, in 2009, for five years starting 2020 to help low-income countries move away from fossil fuels. While the UN will come out with a report next year on the progress of delivering the funding, the issue of finance will now be taken up only in 2024 and 2026.

“This is just a very small step forward. The pace is extremely slow. We are moving in inches when we need to gallop in miles,” said Harjeet Singh, senior advisor with Climate Action Network International, a large group of NGOs working in climate space.

The original draft had contained a pledge to “phase out” coal. India introduced an amendment at the last moment to replace this phrase with “phase down” and this played negatively with both the advanced as well as a large constituency of developing countries. This was one big “disappointment”.

This amendment reportedly came as a result of consultations among India, China, the UK and the US. The phrase “phase down” figures in the US-China Joint Declaration on Climate Change, announced on November 10. As the largest producer and consumer of coal and coal-based thermal power, it is understandable that China would prefer a gradual reduction rather than total elimination. India may have had similar concerns. However, it was inept diplomacy for India to move the amendment and carry the can rather than let the Chinese bell the cat. The stigma will stick and was unnecessary.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had taken centerstage at Glasgow during its early high-level segment thanks to the absence of Xi Jinping. His commitment to achieving net-zero carbon by 2070 compared favorably with China’s target date of 2060. His announcements of enhanced targets for renewable energy were also welcomed. However, the favourable image wore thin by the end of the conference with India declining to join the initiatives on methane and deforestation. India’s ill-considered amendment on the phasing out of coal pushed the positives of its position off the radar.

According to India’s environment minister Bhupender Yadav, the change in phraseology was reflective of “national circumstances of emerging economies” as the agreement had initially “singled out” coal but was turning a blind eye to emissions from oil and natural gas, with the final agreement reflecting a “consensus that is reasonable for developing countries and reasonable for climate justice.”

According to UNEP, adaptation costs for developing countries are currently estimated at $70 billion annually and will rise to an estimated $130-300 billion annually by 2030. A start is being made in formulating an adaptation plan and this puts the issue firmly on the Climate agenda, balancing the overwhelming focus hitherto on mitigation.

There is now a renewed commitment to delivering on this pledge in the 2020-2025 period and there is a promise of an enhanced flow thereafter. But in a post-pandemic global economic slowdown, it is unlikely these promises will be met. In any event, it is unlikely that India will get even a small slice of the pie. As long as ambitious targets are not matched by adequate financing, they will remain ephemeral.

The same applies to the issue of compensation for loss and damage for developing countries who have suffered as a result of climate change for which they have not been responsible. This is now part of the multilateral discourse and the US has agreed that it should be examined in working groups. That is a step forward but is unlikely to translate into a meaningful flow of funds any time soon.

The most important is an agreement among 100 countries to cut methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. India is not a part of this group. Methane is a significant greenhouse gas with a much higher temperature forcing quality than carbon — 28 to 34 times more — but stays in the atmosphere for a shorter duration.

Another group of 100 countries has agreed to begin to reverse deforestation by 2030. Since the group includes Brazil and Indonesia, which have large areas of forests that are being ravaged by legal and illegal logging, there is hope that there will be progress in expanding one of the most important carbon sinks on the planet.

Going beyond the Glasgow summit and climate change, a noteworthy development was the US-China Joint Declaration on Climate Change. This was a departure for China, which had held that bilateral cooperation on climate change could not be insulated from other aspects of their relations. The November 10 declaration implies a shift in China’s hardline position but this may be related to creating a favourable backdrop to the forthcoming Biden-Xi virtual summit on November 15. US Climate Envoy John Kerry and China’s seasoned climate negotiator, Xie Zhenhua, were seen consulting with each other frequently on the sidelines of the conference. It appears both countries are moving towards a less confrontational, more cooperative relationship overall. This will have geopolitical implications, including for India, which may find its room for manoeuvre shrinking.

How should one assess the Glasgow outcome?

There is more ambition in the intent to tackle climate change but little to show in terms of concrete actions. These have been deferred to future deliberations. Enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) are expected to be announced at a meeting next year and further deliberations are planned on the other pledges related to Adaptation and Finance. There are no compliance procedures, only “name and shame” to encourage delivery on targets. As in the past, the can has been kicked down the road, except that the climate road is fast approaching a dead-end. What provides a glimmer of light is the incredible and passionate advocacy of urgent action by young people across the world. This is putting enormous pressure on governments and leaders and if sustained, may become irresistible.

Glasgow delivered some important successes. In response to the demands from the developing countries, and in keeping with the commitment of Paris Agreement, a new process has been initiated to define a global goal on adaptation. The Paris Agreement has a global goal on mitigation, defined in terms of temperature targets. It seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in amounts sufficient to keep the rise in global temperatures to within 2 degree Celsius from pre-industrial times, while pursuing efforts to limit this under 1.5 degree Celsius.

But a similar goal for adaptation has been missing, primarily because of difficulties in setting such a goal. Unlike mitigation efforts that bring global benefits, the benefits from adaptation are local or regional. There is no uniform global criteria against which adaptation targets can be set and measured.

In a big concession to major economies like India, China or Brazil, the COP26 has allowed old carbon credits, earned under the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms, to be traded in the new carbon market being set up, provided these credits have been earned after 2012. Countries have been allowed to use these credits to achieve their emission reduction targets till 2025.

Climate Talks Draft Agreement Expresses ‘Alarm And Concern’

Governments are poised to express “alarm and concern” about how much Earth has already warmed and encourage one another to end their use of coal, according to a draft released Wednesday of the final document expected at U.N. climate talks.

The early version of the document circulating at the negotiations in Glasgow, Scotland, also impresses on countries the need to cut carbon dioxide emissions by about half by 2030 — even though pledges so far from governments don’t add up to that frequently stated goal.

In a significant move, countries would urge one another to “accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels” in the draft, though it has no explicit reference to ending the use of oil and gas. There has been a big push among developed nations to shut down coal-fired power plants, which are a major source of heat-trapping gases, but the fuel remains a critical and cheap source of electricity for countries like China and India.

While the language about moving away from coal is a first and important, the lack of a date when countries will do so limits the pledge’s effectiveness, said Greenpeace International Director Jennifer Morgan, a long-time climate talks observer.

“This isn’t the plan to solve the climate emergency. This won’t give the kids on the streets the confidence that they’ll need,” Morgan said.

The draft doesn’t yet include full agreements on the three major goals that the U.N. set going into the negotiations — and may disappoint poorer nations because of a lack of solid financial commitments from richer ones. The goals are: for rich nations to give poorer ones $100 billion a year in climate aid, to ensure that half of that money goes to adapting to worsening global warming, and the pledge to slash emissions that is mentioned.

The draft does provide insight, however, into the issues that need to be resolved in the last few days of the conference, which is scheduled to end Friday but may push past that deadline. Still, a lot of negotiating and decision-making is yet to come since whatever emerges from the meetings has to be unanimously approved by the nearly 200 nations attending.

The draft says the world should try to achieve “net-zero (emissions) around mid-century.” That means requiring countries to pump only as much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as can be absorbed again through natural or artificial means.

It also acknowledges “with regret” that rich nations have failed to live up to the climate aid pledge.

Poorer nations, which need financial help both in developing green energy systems and adapting to the worst of climate change, are angry that the promised aid hasn’t materialized.

“Without financial support little can be done to minimize its debilitating effects for vulnerable communities around the world,” Mohammed Nasheed, the Maldives’ parliamentary speaker and the ambassador for a group of dozens of countries most vulnerable to climate change, said in a statement.

He said the draft fails on key issues, including the financial aid and strong emission cuts. “There’s much more that needs to be done on climate finance to give developing countries what they need coming out of here,” said Alden Meyer, a long-time conference observer, of the European think-tank E3G.

The document reaffirms the goals set in Paris in 2015 of limiting warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times, with a more stringent target of trying to keep warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) preferred because that would keep damage from climate change “much lower.”

Highlighting the challenge of meeting those goals, the document “expresses alarm and concern that human activities have caused around 1.1 C (2 F) of global warming to date and that impacts are already being felt in every region.”

Small island nations, which are particularly vulnerable to warming, worry that too little is being done to stop warming at the 1.5-degree goal — and that allowing temperature increases up to 2 degrees would be catastrophic for their countries.

“For Pacific (small island states), climate change is the greatest, single greatest threat to our livelihood, security and wellbeing. We do not need more scientific evidence nor targets without plans to reach them or talking shops,” Marshall Islands Health and Human Services minister told fellow negotiators Wednesday. “The 1.5 limit is not negotiable.”

Separate draft proposals were also released on other issues being debated at the talks, including rules for international carbon markets and the frequency by which countries have to report on their efforts.

The draft calls on nations that don’t have national goals that would fit with the 1.5- or 2-degree limits to come back with stronger targets next year. Depending on how the language is interpreted, the provision could apply to most countries. Analysts at the World Resources Institute counted that element as a win for vulnerable countries.

“This is crucial language,” WRI International Climate Initiative Director David Waskow said Wednesday. “Countries really are expected and are on the hook to do something in that timeframe to adjust.’’ Greenpeace’s Morgan said it would have been even better to set a requirement for new goals every year.

In a nod to one of the big issues for poorer countries, the draft vaguely “urges” developed nations to compensate developing countries for “loss and damage,” a phrase that some rich nations don’t like. But there are no concrete financial commitments.

“This is often the most difficult moment,” Achim Steiner, the head of the U.N. Development Program and former chief of the U.N.’s environment office, said of the state of the two-week talks.

“The first week is over, you suddenly recognize that there are a number of fundamentally different issues that are not easily resolvable. The clock is ticking,” he told The Associated Press.

November 19th Will Have Longest Partial Lunar Eclipse In 580 Years

On November 19, stargazers can enjoy a partial lunar eclipse which will also be the last lunar eclipse of the year. This will also be the longest eclipse in 580 years.

On November 19, stargazers can enjoy a partial lunar eclipse which will also be the last lunar eclipse of the year. The last time such a lengthy partial eclipse occurred was on February 18, 1440, and the next time a similar one will occur on February 8, 2669.

A partial lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon, but not in a perfect line. A small part of the moon gets covered by the Earth’s shadow and we can see a reddish Moon. It is also called the frost moon or beaver moon. Full moons in November earned this name as this is the time of first snowfall and frost, and beavers start building their dams or traps.

The partial lunar eclipse will be visible from North America, South America, Eastern Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Region.

In India, a small part of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam will experience the partial eclipse, and those from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand can see the end part of the penumbral eclipse. A penumbral lunar eclipse takes place when the Moon, Sun, and Earth are imperfectly aligned and the Moon moves through the outer part of Earth’s shadow called the penumbra.

Dr Debiprosad Duari, Director, Research & Academic at MP Birla Planetarium, Kolkata explains: “The partial eclipse will start around 12:48 IST and will end at 16:17 IST. The duration of the partial eclipse hence will be for 3hrs 28 minutes and 24 seconds, making it the longest eclipse of the 21st century and the longest in almost last 600 years.”

“The penumbral eclipse preceding and succeeding the umbral partial eclipse will begin at around 11:32 IST and end at 17:33 IST. At the maximum partial eclipse, at around 14:34 IST, 97% of the Moon will be covered by the Earth’s shadow and the Moon may appear to be blood red in colour, which happens when the red part of the sunlight passes through the Earth’s atmosphere get least deflected and falls on the Moon giving it a reddish tinge.”

The next total lunar eclipse will be on May 16, 2022, but it will not be visible from India. India will experience a total lunar eclipse on November 8, 2022.

Obama Urges World To Do More At Climate Summit

Former President Obama made an appearance at the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow where he praised the global community for making “meaningful progress” on tackling the climate crisis, while warning “we are nowhere near where we need to be yet.” 

Obama, whose administration helped negotiate the 2015 Paris Agreement that pledged to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), said nations “have not done nearly enough to address this crisis.”

The 44th U.S. president commended the private sector’s push to set net-zero emissions targets and also touted emissions reductions targets set in the U.K. and the European Union, while pointing out the absence of Chinese and Russian leaders from the summit.

GLASGOW, Nov 8 (Reuters) – Former U.S. President Barack Obama returned to the international spotlight Monday in Glasgow, urging young people to pressure their leaders to do more to combat climate change.

Agreeing with youth campaigners, Obama said “time is really running out.” “You are right to be frustrated,” he said. “Folks in my generation have not done enough to deal with a potentially cataclysmic problem that you now stand to inherit.”

Obama told U.N. delegates that he found it “particularly discouraging” to see the leaders of China and Russia skip the Glasgow talks. Minutes later, he called out Republican politicians back home for hindering progress on climate action.

Russian, Chinese and others’ “national plans so far reflect what appears to be a dangerous lack of urgency and willingness to maintain the status quo on the part of those governments, and that’s a shame,” he said. Obama arrived at the start of the crucial second week of the U.N. summit, as negotiators work to iron out the details of an agreement that will clarify and strengthen the 2015 Paris Agreement climate pledges.

He also sought to assure world leaders that the United States was indeed back at the negotiating table as a credible partner. “I recognize that we are living in a moment when international cooperation has atrophied – in part because of the pandemic, in part because of the rise of nationalism and tribal impulses around the world, in part because of a lack of leadership on America’s part for four years” under former U.S. President Donald Trump, who weakened climate protections.

Obama appeared on a panel with leaders from island nations vulnerable to climate-fueled sea level rise. Speaking directly to Obama, Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama noted that the United States and other developed nations failed to meet a 2020 deadline for offering $100 billion a year in promised funding for those countries. Rich nations now say the funds will be available in 2023.

“Among others, the USA is woefully short of paying its fair share of climate finance,” Bainimarama said. “Now we, the most vulnerable, are told to suck it up and wait.”

Obama tried to shine a light on progress made since the Paris deal, which his administration helped broker. But he acknowledged that deal was only meant as a starting point, with countries expected to “constantly ratchet up” their ambitions. “Most nations have failed to be as ambitious as they need to be,” he said.

Biden is “constrained in large part by the fact that one of our two major parties has decided not only to sit on the sidelines but express active hostility toward climate science,” Obama lamented. Obama said he is convinced that President Joe Biden, his former vice president, will get the U.S. Congress to pass a bill to spend $555 billion on climate change.

105 Countries At Climate Summit Pledge To Limit Methane

The  announcement on November 2nd, 2021 by 105 countries, representing two thirds of the global economy, joining a U.S. and E.U.-led coalition to cut up to 40% of methane emissions by 2030 has been the most positive outcome from the ongoing Climate Summit from Glasgow.

Despite the fact that the world’s biggest methane emitters—China, Russia and India, which together contribute 35% of methane emissions—have not signed on, it’s a significant step that could go a long way toward meeting the climate conference’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The Global Methane Pledge announced today at COP26 in Glasgow, UK, commits signatories to reducing their overall emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, compared with 2020 levels. The US government also published a detailed blueprint of how it intends to meet the goal.

The new initiative emphasises making cuts by tackling methane leaking from oil and gas wells, pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure. Significant amounts of the gas also come from other sources, such as livestock farming and decaying waste in landfill sites.

While international climate summits usually focus mostly on carbon dioxide, the dominant driver of the 1.1°C of global warming that has occurred since pre-industrial levels, methane is responsible for about 30 per cent of global warming to date, and atmospheric concentrations of the gas have surged since 2007, sparking concern from scientists.

Methane is the second-largest contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide and is responsible for more than a quarter of current global warming, says Ilissa Ocko, senior climate scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). “Cutting methane is the fastest, most effective way to slow down warming now.” The pledged reductions alone would slash warming projections by 0.2°C, according to the United Nations Global Methane Assessment.

According to analysts, Methane emission reductions from oil and gas production are the low-hanging fruit of the climate crisis: easy to fix with existing technology, and easy to track. Methane is the principal component of the natural gas used for cooking, heating and energy generation.

Human activity accounts for about 60% of global methane emissions annually, and about a third of that comes from the fossil fuel industry, according to the International Energy Agency’s 2020 Methane Tracker. Unlike carbon dioxide, which is a by-product of fossil fuel combustion, no one wants to actually emit methane, it’s just that up until recently, no one noticed, or cared, if it escaped into the atmosphere.

The Paris Agreement called for holding temperature rise to “well below 2°C,” and the countries gathered in Paris called upon the U.N.’s climate science arm to research the effects of climate change at a 1.5°C limit. The resulting report warned that even that seemingly low level of temperature rise would be catastrophic and, in doing so, galvanized a push for a more ambitious climate agenda. Today, 1.5°C is the reference point for business leaders, government officials and activists alike.

The Glasgow pledge has been hailed as “game-changing” by US president Joe Biden, who has worked with the European Union to lead the initiative. “One of the most important things we can do to keep 1.5°C in reach is reduce our methane emissions,” he said. Biden said he would tackle US methane emissions using regulations from the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Department for Transportation, which has responsibility for some gas pipelines.

In yet another big announcement made, over 100 countries have pledged to end global deforestation by 2030, with rich countries agreeing to send $19 billion dollars in public and private finance to help forested countries keep trees in the ground. It’s not the first such promise—40 countries already committed to the 2030 target in 2014. But advocates say the scale of the new deal, which covers 85% of the world’s forests, is promising, as are accompanying initiatives announced by businesses and the finance sector.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau announced his country would cut methane emissions from its sizeable oil and gas industry by 75 per cent by 2030. That is how fast the International Energy Agency says methane emissions will need to be cut if the world is to reach net zero by mid-century.

The voluntary pledge is backed by 15 of the world’s biggest methane emitters including the European Union, Indonesia and Iraq. In total, 105 countries have signed up and John Kerry, the US president’s special envoy on climate, said he expects the number to grow.

India Announces Net Zero Emissions Goal For 2070

India has promised to cut its emissions to net zero by 2070 – missing a key goal of the COP26 summit for countries to commit to reach that target by 2050. Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged on Monday, November 1st, 2921 in his speech at the opening of the COP26 U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, a target that climate advocates recognized as further off than is ideal but potentially transformative for the world’s third-largest emitter.

The announcement—which was accompanied by four other climate-related targets, all light on detail—caught climate advocates by surprise, given that Indian officials have previously rejected global pressure to make such a commitment, saying as recently as last week that net-zero goals were not the solution to the climate crisis. The Indian leader is one of more than 120 leaders to have gathered in Glasgow for the two-week conference.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in Glasgow, England for the climate summit, has announced that the country would make one billion-ton reduction in projected emissions from now until 2030.  He also increased India’s previous climate targets on renewable energy and non-fossil fuel energy made during the Paris Agreement.

India is the world’s fourth biggest emitter of carbon dioxide after China, the US and the EU. But its huge population means its emissions per capita are much lower than other major world economies. India emitted 1.9 tons of CO2 per head of population in 2019, compared with 15.5 tons for the US and 12.5 tons for Russia that year.

A net-zero target refers to the date by which a country plans to be adding no more carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases to the earth’s atmosphere than it sucks out of it, using carbon-absorbing plants and still-developing technologies. Dozens of countries have set net-zero targets over the last few years, with most wealthy nations, including the U.S., the U.K., Japan and others, opting for a 2050 goal. China, Saudi Arabia and Russia have all recently pledged to hit net-zero by 2060.

It’s not immediately clear if India’s 2070 net-zero target refers only to carbon dioxide emissions, which is responsible for around 80% of the warming effect that is driving up global temperatures, or to emissions of all greenhouse gases.

The 20-year lag behind other powerful nations’ targets may make India’s goal seem unambitious. If other major emitters were to align efforts along similarly extended time frames, the world would have no hope of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change.

But Ulka Kelkar, climate director of the India chapter of the World Resources Institute, a prominent scientific research group, says India’s goal has to be considered in the context of a developing country. Developed countries have used fossil fuels to power their industrialization for centuries and therefore have more resources available now to transition away from them.

“If it is net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, then I would say it’s on par with Western commitments,” Kelkar told a press call Monday evening. “The fair comparison, I would say, is not with the U.S. and Europe as of today, but with the U.S. and Europe of 20 or 30 years ago. That’s where we are in our development trajectory.”

India’s developing economy is still heavily reliant on coal, the most polluting fossil fuel, which makes up 70% of its energy production. Coal consumption in the country has increased by 39% over the last decade, and, because it has a population of 1.3 billion people, almost half of them under 25, the International Energy Agency says that India’s energy needs will rise by more than any other country over the next 20 years.

Kelker admitted that it would “of course” have been better to have an earlier target, but said that the announcement would have a significant impact by setting a “direction of travel” for India’s economy. ”Net zero became a topic of public discourse only six months ago. Just having this concept understood in India is going to give a very strong signal to all sectors of industry and society. So this coming from the Prime Minister is going to be pretty transformative.”

Modi also announced that by 2030, India would shave 1 billion metric tons off its projected carbon emissions and reduce the carbon intensity of its economy—how much carbon is emitted to generate a unit of economic activity—by 45% from 2005 levels. That’s up from the 33%-35% target it submitted in Paris in 2015. The country also plans to get half of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, increasing its non-polluting energy capacity to 500GW, up from a 450GW goal set in 2015.

A lot remains unclear about these targets. Modi did not specify, for example, against what baseline the plan to reduce carbon emissions by 1 billion metric tons by 2030 is set. In 2019, India emitted 2.62 billion metric tons of CO2. The baseline that the government ends up using will likely be higher, Kelker says.

In any case, reaching these targets will be a challenge. As of July 2021, India had 96.96 GW of renewable-energy capacity—representing 25.2% of its total power generation capacity. Reaching Modi’s 2030 targets will require huge investments in updating India’s electricity grid and setting up new clean energy projects.

Modi also used his speech to call on developed countries to mobilize $1 trillion of climate finance to help developing countries decarbonize and adapt to climate change. That is far higher than the current $100 billion commitment—which originally had a 2020 deadline but has now been pushed back to 2023.

6/10 Americans Are Concerned About Climate Change

President Joe Biden heads to a vital U.N. climate summit at a time when a majority of Americans regard the deteriorating climate as a problem of high importance to them, an increase from just a few years ago.

About 6 out of 10 Americans also believe that the pace of global warming is speeding up, according to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

As Biden struggles to pass significant climate legislation at home ahead of next week’s U.N. climate summit, the new AP-NORC/EPIC poll also shows that 55% of Americans want Congress to pass a bill to ensure that more of the nation’s electricity comes from clean energy and less from climate-damaging coal and natural gas.

Only 16% of Americans oppose such a measure for electricity from cleaner energy. A similar measure initially was one of the most important parts of climate legislation that Biden has before Congress. But Biden’s proposal to reward utilities with clean energy sources and penalize those without ran into objections from a coal-state senator, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, leaving fellow Democrats scrambling to come up with other ways to slash pollution from burning fossil fuels.

For some of the Americans watching, it’s an exasperating delay in dealing with an urgent problem.

“If you follow science, the signs are here,” said Nancy Reilly, a Democrat in Missouri who’s retired after 40 years as a retail manager, and worries for her children as the climate deteriorates. “It’s already here. And what was the first thing they start watering down to get this bill through? Climate change.”

“It’s just maddening,” Reilly said. “I understand why, I do — I get the politics of it. I’m sick of the politics of it.”

After President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, the Biden administration hoped to help negotiate major emissions cuts globally to slow the rise of temperatures. But it’s unclear whether Biden will be able to get any significant climate legislation through Congress before the U.N. summit starts Sunday.

In all, 59% of Americans said the Earth’s warming is very or extremely important to them as an issue, up from 49% in 2018. Fifty-four percent of Americans cited scientists’ voices as having a large amount of influence on their views about climate change, and nearly as many, 51%, said their views were influenced by recent extreme weather events like hurricanes, deadly heat spells, wildfires and other natural disasters around the world.

Over the last 60 years, the pollution pumped out by gasoline and diesel engines, power plants and other sources has changed the climate and warmed the Earth by 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit, making the extremes of weather more extreme.

In east Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains, leaf-peeper websites this year are advising fall foliage tourists that leaves are taking days longer than normal to turn from green to fiery orange and red. It’s not evidence of climate change as a one-off instance, but typical of the changes Americans are seeing as the Earth heats up.

“Normally you get the four seasons, fall, spring, and winter, and it goes in that way. But lately, it’s not been that,” said Jeremy Wilson, a 42-year-old who votes independent and works the grounds at a scenic chairlift park that runs people up to the top of the Smoky Mountains. “It’s been either way hotter, or way colder.”

Seventy-five percent of Americans believe that climate change is happening, while 10% believe that it is not, the poll found. Another 15% are unsure.

Among those who say it is happening, 54% say that it’s caused mostly or entirely by human activities compared to just 14% who think — incorrectly, scientists say — that it’s caused mainly by natural changes in the environment. Another 32% of Americans believe it’s a mix of human and natural factors.

And while Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say climate change is happening, majorities of both parties agree that it is. That breaks down to 89% of Democrats and and 57% of Republicans.

The poll also gauged Americans’ willingness to pay for the cost of cutting climate-wrecking pollution as well as mitigating its consequences.

Fifty-two percent said they would support a $1 a month carbon fee on their energy bill to fight climate change, but support dwindles as the fee increases.

“I would say, like 5, 10 dollars, as long as it’s really being used for what it should be,” said Krystal Chivington, a 46-year-old Republican in Delaware who credits her 17-year-old daughter for reviving her own passion for fighting climate change and pollution.

It’s not ordinary consumers who should bear the brunt of paying to stave off the worst scenarios of climate change, said Mark Sembach, a 59-year-old Montana Democrat who works in environmental remediation.

“I think it needs to fall a great deal on responsible corporations that’s — and unfortunately … most corporations aren’t responsible,” Sembach said. “And I think there needs to be a lot of pushback as to who ultimately pays for that.”

Artificial Intelligence Can Predict The Future Of The Earth

Newswise — AI offers additional possibilities, greater accuracy for climate models. Computer simulations that scientists use to understand the evolution of the Earth’s climate offer a wealth of information to public officials and corporations planning for the future. However, climate models — no matter how complex or computationally intensive — do contain some degree of uncertainty. Addressing this uncertainty is proving increasingly important as decision makers are asking more complex questions and looking to smaller scales.

To improve climate simulations, scientists are looking to the potential of artificial intelligence (AI). AI has offered profound insights in fields from materials science to manufacturing, and climate researchers are excited to explore how AI can be used to revolutionize how the Earth system, and especially its water cycle, can be simulated in order to dramatically improve our understanding and representation of the real world.  In particular, AI offers the potential to dramatically increase the accuracy of predictions down to the scales of interest to scientists, and even stakeholders focused on designing, financing and deploying equitable climate solutions to America’s most disadvantaged communities.

Motivated by this opportunity, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is launching a comprehensive workshop: Artificial Intelligence for Earth System Predictability (AI4ESP). After the collection of more than 150 white papers from the scientific community, AI4ESP is kicking into high gear by hosting a workshop beginning October 25. The workshop will include 17 sessions over a six-week period designed to create a new scientific community that marries climate research with artificial intelligence, applied math and supercomputing.

“Earth system predictability refers to the intersection of climate with hydrology, ecology, infrastructure and human activities,” said Nicki Hickmon, an Argonne scientist, director of operations for the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility and the lead for the AI4ESP workshop.

By linking researchers in Earth system predictability and computer sciences, AI4ESP seeks to create a paradigm shift in simulating the Earth system. AI4ESP seeks to inspire a new generation of AI algorithms specifically aimed at Earth system predictability.

According to Hickmon, continuous improvements will enhance the ability of current simulations to provide deeper insights into community-scale issues and those involving extreme weather, potentially allowing stakeholders a better grasp of the uncertainties that surround such events.

“AI for climate is still in its infancy,” said Hickmon. ​“However, it is still essential that we explore the potential of AI to see how it can better inform our models and prepare us for the future.”

Click here to see the agenda and register for the workshop, which will open with an address by Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk. The public is welcome to attend any of the open sessions. Some components of the workshop are invitation-only in order to gather the required materials for the workshop report.

The workshop is sponsored by the DOE’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research and Office of Advanced Scientific Computing Research.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://​ener​gy​.gov/​s​c​ience

Record Rainfall Drenches East To West Coasts In US

A powerful storm that swept through California this week has set rainfall records and helped douse wildfires. But it remained to be seen how much of a dent it made in the state’s drought., causing mudslides that closed roads in the San Bernardino Mountains northeast of Los Angeles.

In the northern part of the state, drenching rains caused widespread flooding and rock slides over the weekend. Strong winds knocked down trees and even toppled two big rigs on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge near San Francisco. Pacific Gas & Electric reported that 380,000 homes and businesses lost power, though most had it back Monday.

Despite the problems, the rain and mountain snow were welcome in Northern California, which is so dry that nearly all of it is classified as either experiencing extreme or exceptional drought. The wet weather also greatly reduces the chances of additional wildfires in a region that has borne the brunt of another devastating year of blazes in the state.

The National Weather Service called preliminary rainfall totals “staggering,” including 11 inches (28 centimeters) at the base of Marin County’s Mount Tamalpais and 4 inches (10 centimeters) in downtown San Francisco, the fourth-wettest day ever for the city.

“It’s been a memorable past 24 hours for the Bay Area as the long talked-about atmospheric river rolled through the region,” the local weather office said Monday. “We literally have gone from fire/drought conditions to flooding in one storm cycle.”

A rainfall record was shattered in Sacramento. Northeast of San Francisco, 5.44 inches (13.82 centimeters) fell on downtown Sacramento, shattering the one-day record for rainfall that had stood since 1880.

Interstate 80, the major highway through the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Reno, Nevada, was shut down by heavy snow early Monday. In California’s Colusa and Yolo counties, state highways 16 and 20 were shut for several miles because of mudslides, the state Department of Transportation said.

The same storm system also slammed Oregon and Washington state, causing power outages that affected tens of thousands of people. Two people were killed when a tree fell on a vehicle in the greater Seattle area.

Christy Brigham, chief of resource management and science at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, said the rain was a huge relief after the Caldor Fire torched an unknown number of the giant trees in the park, along with thousands of pines and cedars. “This amount of rainfall is what we call a season-ending event,” Brigham said. “It should end fire season, and it should end our need — to a large degree — to fight this fire.”

The impact of the nor’easter was centered across the entire New England region.  A storm offshore of the Mid-Atlantic explosively intensified Monday night, and enveloped the Northeast with strong winds and flooding rains as it comes up the coast. Flash flood watches are up from northern New Jersey and northeastern Pennsylvania into most of southern New England. Up to five inches of rain are possible, falling on soils that are largely saturated following an exceptionally wet summer. Parts of New Jersey have already seen more than 4 inches, with rainfall rates topping an inch per hour.

“We know how quickly these storms can escalate, so everyone, especially those living in basement apartments, should plan accordingly,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) tweeted Monday.

Wind advisories also stretch from the nation’s capital to the coastline of Maine, with a high-wind warning up for the shorelines of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, where gusts could top 70 mph. The nor’easter is the first of two sprawling storm systems that will bring inclement weather to the East Coast this week. Its rate of intensification is expected to qualify it as a “bomb cyclone,” or a storm that strengthens with unusual haste. High water rescues, numerous road closures and rising rivers have been reported in the region, the weather service said, including rescues reported in New Jersey’s northern Monmouth County.

A state of emergency was declared in New Jersey and New York on Monday due to the anticipated storm hazards. New York City issued a travel advisory through Wednesday morning, advising commuters to allow extra travel time and use mass transit.

Focus On China, US At UN Climate Change Conference

For two weeks in early November, the nations of the world will gather in Glasgow, Scotland, to negotiate updates to the 2015 Paris Climate Accord, the landmark agreement in which more than 190 countries pledged to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

With temperatures rising and extreme weather occurring across the globe, all eyes at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference will be on China, the leading producer of greenhouse gases, and the United States, the largest emitter both historically and on a per capita basis.

Keeping an eye on the results of the conference will be Phillip Stalley, the endowed professor of environmental diplomacy in DePaul University’s Grace School of Applied Diplomacy. Stalley’s research centers on building diplomatic bridges in environmental policy across the globe, with a special focus on China’s evolving approach to environmental diplomacy. He’s the author of “Foreign Firms, Investment, and Environmental Regulation in the People’s Republic of China.”

In this Q&A, Stalley discusses the upcoming climate conference and the roles of the U.S. and China.

With recent studies affirming the dire climate situation, what do you anticipate the U.S. and China — the two largest climate polluters — will say at the Glasgow conference?

A recent report by Chatham House estimates that, even if countries implement their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the original Paris Agreement, we still have a less than 5% chance of keeping global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, which is the stated goal of Paris. Without stronger action, the fires, floods and other extreme weather we have all witnessed recently will be a lot worse.

The key question for Glasgow and beyond is whether China and the U.S. can be convinced to offer more ambitious climate targets in their NDCs. For instance, China currently has its “30-60” pledge, which refers to its twin goals of peaking emissions before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. Neither is consistent with the 2 degree target. The hope is that China, either in Glasgow or in the not too distant future, will move forward its peak dates and offer a specific cap for its total energy-related CO2 emissions, rather than just a peak year.

On the U.S. side, some of the biggest questions involve implementation and finance. President Joe Biden has pledged to slash U.S. emissions in half by 2030, but given Republican opposition, can he pass the domestic legislation necessary to achieve that goal? In terms of finance, Biden recently announced he will work with Congress to provide $11.4 billion to aid developing countries fighting climate change. If the U.S. wants other countries to do more, it will need to prove it can contribute more to the $100 billion climate finance goal agreed to in Paris.

Will other countries be willing to listen to a new U.S. administration talk about the need for climate action now when the U.S. only a few years ago left the Paris Climate Accord?

It is certainly true that the U.S.’s uneven track record undermines its credibility in international negotiations and inhibits its ability to influence other countries. U.S. diplomats will struggle in Glasgow if Biden cannot get the infrastructure and budget bills through Congress, both of which provide extensive funding for programs to combat climate change.

It’s worth noting, however, that U.S. state and municipal governments also play an important role in climate change diplomacy. After former President Donald Trump announced America’s decision to leave the Paris Climate Accord, governors from roughly two dozen states formed the U.S. Climate Alliance, pledging to abide by the Paris targets. Additionally, despite the Trump administration’s public stance against climate regulations, more coal power was retired during his four years than were in former President Barack Obama’s second term.

Are there other types of non-traditional diplomacy and advocacy that could help persuade the U.S. and China to take action around climate change?

There are many opportunities for non-traditional diplomacy to exert influence on both countries’ approach to climate change. This is evident, for instance, in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent announcement that China will stop supporting coal power projects overseas. The reasons for this decision are complex and include commercial considerations, but part of the explanation is that Beijing was facing a great deal of pressure, from not only foreign governments, but also activists, experts and NGOs across the world. Beijing’s decision represents a victory for all the diplomats and activists who have been fighting for years to stop the funding of overseas coal.

Mullaperiyar Dam- A Ticking Time Bomb In Kerala

Damocles Sword- we have heard about it or sometimes felt around a situation like that. But an old dam in Kerala has been scaring millions of people with a fear of its disastrous breach at any time.

Once again, due to the alarming flood in Kerala State, the good old  Mullaperiyar Dam is a ticking time bomb, waiting to detonate to give way to nature’s fury. As a result, the people of Idukki and the adjoining districts of Kerala have been living in constant fear of losing their livelihood or even lives. It may wipe away two or three densely populated districts of the Kerala State itself. Google says that the average lifespan of a dam is often estimated to be 50 years. In that case, this particular dam would have been in the process of rebuilding for the third time.

As per the long history cut short; Mullaperiyar dam was built in the late 1800s in the princely state of Travancore (present-day Kerala) and given to British-ruled Madras Presidency on a 999-year lease in 1886. The agreement granted full rights to the secretary of state of Tamil Nadu, a British official, to construct irrigation projects on the land. The dam was built to divert a part of the west-flowing Periyar river eastwards to feed the arid areas of Tamil Nadu. Now there is no princely state or British rule, so better forget about the 999 year lease. Only thing we need to care is the safety and  fraternity among neighboring states and mutual help by each other.

Current safety concerns relate to several issues. First, we need to understand that the dam was constructed using stone rubble masonry with lime mortar grouting, following prevailing 19th-century construction techniques that have now become archaic. As a result, seepage, cracks and leaks from the dam have caused concern.

Considering the endangered situation, the level of water in the Mullapperiyar Dam was restricted to 136 feet. Mullaperiyar dam continues to be an issue of an ongoing disagreement between Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Multiple interpretations on everything from the integrity of the 1886 agreement governing its use to the project’s structural safety are being questioned at various stages and platforms.

Mullaperiyar dam located above Southern Naval Command is a threat to national safety, and it should be decommissioned immediately. We cannot compromise on national security. The Kerala government is hiding this potential threat to the Navy.(Aug 26, 202). If the Mullaperiyar Dam bursts, three reservoirs downstream Idukki, Cheruthoni, and Kolamavu would face the brutal onslaught of unleashed water. If these dams cannot hold the force, the lives of 3.5 million people living in the region will be changed forever.

In case the Dam bursts, with a water level at 136 feet, the resultant flood will submerge at least 50 square kilometers of land downstream. The thundering water would flow at the height of 36 feet, inundating buildings, uprooting trees, and filling muddy destruction all over the way.

On the other hand, Kerala contends it is not safe to raise the water level as Idukki district, where the dam is located, is earthquake-prone and has experienced multiple low-intensity quakes. Scientists, too, have said the dam cannot withstand an earthquake measuring over six on the Richter scale and that if such a calamity were to happen, the lives of more than three million people would be imperiled.

Tamil Nadu claims that though it has undertaken periodic repairs on the dam, the Kerala government has not raised the water level. As a result, it says it has suffered huge losses from not using the dam to its total capacity.

We remember that the 1979 Morvi Dam failure which killed up to 15,000 people, Kerala Government has repeatedly brought to the attention of the Supreme Court, the fear and safety concerns of the aging Mullaperiyar dam and alleged cracks and leaks in it’s structure. Kerala has abundant water resources, and they have no objection to giving it out to Tamilnadu. Tamilnadu is the only benefactor of this dam, providing sufficient water for irrigation and electric power generation.

While considering the extraordinary method of construction, everybody knows it is not safe. So many temporary fixings helped to survive the minor earthquakes and flooding. But there may not be the next time.  Both Kerala and Tamilnadu governments need to safeguard the lives and properties of millions of Keralites living under the shadow of vanishing at any time. If Tamilnadu wants to enjoy the water resources from Kerala exclusively for their use, let them build a new dam with no delay; keralites will gladly agree to it. But delaying an immediate action, can cause unexpected disasters in Kerala State. If so, the so far gentle nature of the public, may not be reflecting indeed.

Elections are over. Let this be the utmost important issue in southern India, lest humanity will never forgive the negligence of the judiciary and governments, who ignore the hazardous situation of tormenting millions of Keralites in the struggle.

Almost All Studies Show, Humans Cause Climate Change

Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – More than 99.9% of peer-reviewed scientific papers agree that climate change is mainly caused by humans, according to a new survey of 88,125 climate-related studies.

The research updates a similar 2013 paper revealing that 97% of studies published between 1991 and 2012 supported the idea that human activities are altering Earth’s climate. The current survey examines the literature published from 2012 to November 2020 to explore whether the consensus has changed.

“We are virtually certain that the consensus is well over 99% now and that it’s pretty much case closed for any meaningful public conversation about the reality of human-caused climate change,” said Mark Lynas, a visiting fellow at the Alliance for Science at Cornell University and the paper’s first author.

“It’s critical to acknowledge the principal role of greenhouse gas emissions so that we can rapidly mobilize new solutions, since we are already witnessing in real time the devastating impacts of climate-related disasters on businesses, people and the economy,” said Benjamin Houlton, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell and a co-author of the study, “Greater than 99% Consensus on Human Caused Climate Change in the Peer-Reviewed Scientific Literature,” which published Oct. 19 in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

In spite of such results, public opinion polls as well as opinions of politicians and public representatives point to false beliefs and claims that a significant debate still exists among scientists over the true cause of climate change. In 2016, the Pew Research Center found that only 27% of U.S. adults believe “almost all” scientists agreed climate change is due to human activity, according to the paper. A 2021 Gallup poll pointed to a deepening partisan divide in American politics on whether Earth’s rising observed temperatures since the Industrial Revolution were primarily caused by humans.

“To understand where a consensus exists, you have to be able to quantify it,” Lynas said. “That means surveying the literature in a coherent and non-arbitrary way in order to avoid trading cherry-picked papers, which is often how these arguments are carried out in the public sphere.”

In the study, the researchers began by examining a random sample of 3,000 studies from the dataset of 88,125 English-language climate papers published between 2012 and 2020. They found only four out of the 3,000 papers were skeptical of human-caused climate change. “We knew that [climate skeptical papers] were vanishingly small in terms of their occurrence, but we thought there still must be more in the 88,000,” Lynas said.

Co-author Simon Perry, a United Kingdom-based software engineer and volunteer at the Alliance for Science, created an algorithm that searched out keywords from papers the team knew were skeptical, such as “solar,” “cosmic rays” and “natural cycles.” The algorithm was applied to all 88,000-plus papers, and the program ordered them so the skeptical ones came higher in the order. They found many of these dissenting papers near the top, as expected, with diminishing returns further down the list. Overall, the search yielded 28 papers that were implicitly or explicitly skeptical, all published in minor journals.

If the 97% result from the 2013 study still left some doubt on scientific consensus on the human influence on climate, the current findings go even further to allay any uncertainty, Lynas said. “This pretty much should be the last word,” he said.

Support for the Alliance for Science is provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

U.S. Bishops Silent On Moral Issue Of Climate Change

Newswise — According to a new study by professors and an alumna from Creighton University, the vast majority of U.S. Catholic bishops were silent about climate change around Pope Francis’s 2015 ecological encyclical Laudato Si’. The study also found bishops were denialist and biased about climate change in ways that correlate with conservative political identity/ideology.

The study, “U.S. Catholic bishops’ silence and denialism on climate change,” was published Oct. 19, in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research Letters. The authors examined more than 12,000 columns published from June 2014 to June 2019 by bishops in official publications for 171 of the 178 U.S. Catholic dioceses (representing 96% of all U.S. dioceses). Among the study’s findings:

Less than 1% of columns in the study (0.8%, or 93 columns out of 12,077) mentioned “climate change,” “global warming,” or variations.

Less than 1% of columns in the study (0.46%, or 56 columns out of 12,077) described climate change as something that is real or currently happening.

Less than 1% of columns in the study (0.24%, or 29 columns out of 12,077) discussed climate change as something that is urgent.

74% of the 201 bishops in the study did not once mention climate change.

69% of the 171 dioceses studied did not publish a bishop’s column that mentioned climate change.

The study was conducted by Sabrina Danielsen, MA, PhD, an assistant professor of sociology; Daniel R. DiLeo, PhD, a Catholic theologian, associate professor, and director of the Justice and Peace Studies Program; and Emily E. Burke, BS, a 2021 undergraduate and current doctoral student in the joint Sociology and Community & Environmental Sociology Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“The research shows U.S. Catholic bishops’ diocesan communications largely ignored Catholic teachings on climate change,” says Danielsen. “This is surprising given the climate crisis we’re in and indicates that the top U.S. Catholic leaders have not capitalized on the spark of Laudato Si’.”

When bishops did address climate change, they often downplayed parts of Laudato Si’ that conflict with a conservative political identity/ideology. The encyclical repeatedly calls for public policies to address climate change, while U.S. political conservatives often oppose climate policies. Among the 93 bishops’ columns that do mention climate change, only 14 columns (15%) reference climate change politics.

“Our data suggest that as individuals, U.S. bishops failed their duty to teach the fullness of Catholic faith that includes Church teaching on climate change,” says DiLeo. “Our findings also raise questions about whether U.S. bishops will support Vatican advocacy at the 2021 U.N. Climate Change Conference in November. The U.S. Catholic Church has tremendous potential to shape climate policy, but this requires bishops’ commitment to justice as essential to the Church’s mission.”

The bishops also disproportionately prioritized social issues that correspond to conservative political identity/ideology. Laudato Si’ mentions climate change 24 times and mentions abortion once, but bishop columns addressed them with equal frequency when discussing the encyclical. Among the 211 columns that reference Laudato Si’, 59 mention climate change and 59 mention abortion or pro-life.

“Climate change is a deep concern for so many young people because it threatens every aspect of our future,” says Burke. “As a young Catholic, I want leaders who understand these hopes and anxieties and are willing to faithfully embrace Church climate change teaching.”

World’s Oldest Rubies Linked To Early Life

Newswise — While analyzing some of the world’s oldest coloured gemstones, researchers from the University of Waterloo discovered carbon residue that was once ancient life, encased in a 2.5 billion-year-old ruby.

The research team, led by Chris Yakymchuk, professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Waterloo, set out to study the geology of rubies to better understand the conditions necessary for ruby formation. During this research in Greenland, which contains the oldest known deposits of rubies in the world, the team found a ruby sample that contained graphite, a mineral made of pure carbon. Analysis of this carbon indicates that it is a remnant of early life.

“The graphite inside this ruby is really unique. It’s the first time we’ve seen evidence of ancient life in ruby-bearing rocks,” says Yakymchuk. “The presence of graphite also gives us more clues to determine how rubies formed at this location, something that is impossible to do directly based on a ruby’s colour and chemical composition.”

The presence of the graphite allowed the researchers to analyze a property called isotopic composition of the carbon atoms, which measures the relative amounts of different carbon atoms. More than 98 per cent of all carbon atoms have a mass of 12 atomic mass units, but a few carbon atoms are heavier, with a mass of 13 or 14 atomic mass units.

“Living matter preferentially consists of the lighter carbon atoms because they take less energy to incorporate into cells,” said Yakymchuk. “Based on the increased amount of carbon-12 in this graphite, we concluded that the carbon atoms were once ancient life, most likely dead microorganisms such as cyanobacteria.”

The graphite is found in rocks older than 2.5 billion years ago, a time on the planet when oxygen was not abundant in the atmosphere, and life existed only in microorganisms and algae films.

During this study, Yakymchuk’s team discovered that this graphite not only links the gemstone to ancient life but was also likely necessary for this ruby to exist at all. The graphite changed the chemistry of the surrounding rocks to create favourable conditions for ruby growth. Without it, the team’s models showed that it would not have been possible to form rubies in this location.

The study, Corundum (ruby) growth during the final assembly of the Archean North Atlantic Craton, southern West Greenland, was recently published in Ore Geology Reviews. A companion study, The corundum conundrum: Constraining the compositions of fluids involved in ruby formation in metamorphic melanges of ultramafic and aluminous rocks, was published in the journal Chemical Geology in June.

Floods In Kerala Devastate Life, Properties

After heavy rains triggered a series of landslides in Kerala, residents of the particularly hard-hit areas of Kottayam and Idukki districts are reeling under the devastation. A large number of people residing in some of the affected villages have been displaced from their homes and forced to relocate to rehabilitation camps. So far, the death toll has reached 27, PTI reported.

Torrential rain has battered the coastal state of Kerala last week, causing rivers to swell and flooding roads that left vehicles submerged in muddy waters, with some houses reduced to rubble.

State Revenue Minister K Rajan said the rescue workers have recovered 15 bodies from the debris of the landslides on Saturday. “The rescue workers have recovered 15 bodies till now. This includes 12 bodies from Koottickal in Kottayam, one body from Peerumedu and two which were recovered yesterday from Kanjar in Idukki district,” PTI quoted Rajan as saying.

Rescue efforts have continued since Saturday, with the Indian army, navy and air force assisting. The National Disaster Response Force has deployed 11 teams across south and central parts of Kerala.

At least 27 people have been killed after heavy rain triggered floods and landslides in southern India. Thirteen people were killed in a landslide in the Kottayam district, according to state officials. Nine bodies have also been recovered from the site of another landslide in the district of Idduki, officials said, adding that two people are still unaccounted for. Three fishermen in the Malappuram district also remain missing.

Five children are among the dead. There are fears the death toll could rise further as many people are missing. Several houses were washed away and people became trapped in the district of Kottayam in Kerala state.

Military helicopters are being used to fly in supplies and personnel to areas where people are trapped, officials said. Thousands of people have been evacuated and 184 relief camps have been set up across the state, where over 8,000 people are being provided food, bedding and clothing.

The government has also announced financial aid for those who have lost houses and crops. It has decided to leave the decision of whether various dams in the state should be opened to an expert committee.

In 2018, some 400 people died when heavy rains flooded the state. There was controversy over the fact that dams were opened without any warning to people living in low-lying areas. Kerala’s chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the committee will decide which dams need to be opened.

“District collectors will be notified hours before opening the dams so that local people have enough time to evacuate,” his office said in a statement.

Meanwhile, India’s meteorological department has predicted heavy, isolated rainfall in the state for up to four more days.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted on Sunday that he had spoken to Mr Vijayan about the situation. “It is sad that many people have died due to the heavy rains and landslides in Kerala. My condolences to the bereaved families,” Mr Modi wrote.

Officials from Alleppey city told BBC Hindi that the situation in the city was worrying. Alleppey has a network of canals and lagoons and it is vulnerable to flooding.

Meanwhile, several tragic stories are coming out from the affected districts.

A family of six – including a 75-year-old grandmother and three children – were confirmed dead after their home in Kottayam was swept away, news agency PTI reported.

Fishing boats are being used to evacuate survivors trapped in Kollam and other coastal towns, as sections of road have been swept away and trees uprooted. It is not uncommon for heavy rainfall to cause flooding and landslides in Kerala, where wetlands and lakes that once acted as natural safeguards against floods have disappeared because of increasing urbanisation and construction.

The 2018 floods were the worst in Kerala in a century, and displaced more than one million people. An assessment carried out by the federal government that same year found that the state, which has 44 rivers flowing through it, was among the 10 most vulnerable in India to flooding

Reliance Acquires Norway-based REC Group For $771 Million

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) on Sunday acquired Norwegian-headquartered solar module maker REC Solar Holdings (REC Group) for an enterprise value of $771 million (around Rs 5,800 crore) from China National Bluestar. REC Group is a leading international solar energy company for pioneering innovations. It is known for its high-efficiency, long-life solar cells and panels for clean and affordable solar power.

“Reliance New Energy Solar Ltd (RNESL), a wholly owned subsidiary of RIL, has acquired REC Solar Holdings AS (REC Group) from China National Bluestar (Group) Co Ltd., for an enterprise value of $771 million,” RIL said in a statement. Speaking about the acquisition, RIL chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani said, “I am immensely pleased with our acquisition of REC because it will help Reliance tap the unlimited and year-long power of Soorya Dev, the Sun God, that India is fortunate to be blessed with.”

RIL said that REC has more than 1,300 employees globally and they will become proud members of the Reliance Family after the successful completion of the transaction and become an integral part of the team that is driving one of the world’s most ambitious mission to drive green energy transition.

In the company’s annual general meeting earlier this year, Reliance Industries chairman had announced the company’s mega plan to invest Rs 75,000 crore in the next three years to set up four renewable energy gigafactories in Jamnagar, Gujarat. As a part of the plan, the oil-to-telecom-to-retail conglomerate has already started developing Dhirubhai Ambani Green Energy Giga Complex over 5,000 acres in Jamnagar. “It will be amongst the largest integrated renewable energy manufacturing facilities in the world…,” Ambani had said while revealing RIL’s green energy plan.

The complex will cover entire spectrum of renewable energy with four gigafactories —— an integrated solar photovoltaic module factory, an advanced energy storage battery factory, an electrolyser factory for the production of green hydrogen and a fuel-cell factory. Talking about why green hydrogen is important for the planet, Mukesh Ambani had, at the International Climate Summit 2021, said, “Green Hydrogen is zero-carbon energy. It is the best and cleanest source of energy, which can play a fundamental role in the world’s decarbonisation plans.”

Norway’s REC Group has an annual solar panel production capacity of 1.8 gigawatts (GW). Incorporated in 1996, REC Group is one of the biggest player in the market. It has installed around 10GW capacity globally till now. The Norway company has regional hubs in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. By 2030, Reliance Industries plans to develop capacity to generate at least 100 gigawatts of electricity from renewable sources, which can be converted into carbon-free green hydrogen, Mukesh Ambani had earlier said.

Health Of The Human Race & Survival Of The Planet In Danger

(IPS) – Addressing the UN General Assembly last month President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka raised several concerns, two that had to do with health. One concerned the health of the human race; the other the health of Planet Earth on which man struggles increasingly to survive. It is understandable for the President to draw the world’s attention to the current pandemic that plagues the people of Sri Lanka as it does the populations of most other nations that constitute the UN family that have struggled in the last two years to overcome COVID-19 which has brought some nations almost to their knees.

As we know some countries have dealt with the spreading virus more effectively and efficiently than others because they relied on the correct professional advice and had the right people in the places instead of dilettantes with inflated egos. The immediacy of the pandemic with its daily effects on health care and peoples’ livelihoods is seen as urgent political and health issues unlike the dangers surrounding our planet which, to many, appear light miles away while still others treat it with large doses of skepticism.

Quite rightly President Rajapaksa pointed to the dangers ahead for the survival of the planet – as underscored in the recent report of the Inter-government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — due to human activity and said that Sri Lanka, among other measures, aims to increase its forest cover significantly in the future.

What really matters is whether those on the ground — like some of our politicians and their acolytes who seem to think that saving the planet is somebody else’s responsibility but denuding the forests and damaging our eco-systems for private gain is theirs — pay heed to the president’s alarm signals that should appropriately have been sounded at least a decade ago. But what evoked a quick response was not the call for international action to save the people from the pandemic or the planet from climate change as President Rajapaksa told the UN but what he told the UN chief Antonio Guterres at their New York meeting.

While reiterating Sri Lanka’s stance that internal issues should be resolved through domestic mechanisms what aroused interest was the president’s sudden and unexpected readiness to invite the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora scattered across the Global North and in smaller numbers elsewhere, for discussions presumably on reconciliation, accountability and other outstanding matters. One would have thought that there would be a gush of enthusiasm from some sections of the Tamil diaspora which had previously shown an interest in being involved in a dialogue with the Sri Lanka Government over a range of issues that concern the Tamil community.

But the few reactions that have been reported from a few Tamil organisations appear lukewarm. Yes, the Non-Resident Tamils of Sri Lanka (NRTSL), a UK-based group, welcomed the President’s announcement saying that “engagement with the diaspora is particularly important at the time when multiple challenges face Sri Lanka”. However, there was a caveat. The NRTSL is supportive of “open, transparent and sincere engagement of the government of Sri Lanka,” the organization’s president V. Sivalingam was quoted as saying.

The better-known Global Tamil Forum (GTF) called it a “progressive move” and welcomed it. But its spokesman Suren Surenderan questioned what he called President Rajapaksa’s “sudden change of mind”. Surendiran said that in June President Rajapaksa was due to meet the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) but that meeting was put off without a new date been fixed. “When requests are made by democratically elected representatives of Tamil people in Sri Lanka to meet with the President, they are “deferred with flimsy excuses”, {and} now from New York he has declared that he wants to engage with us, Tamil diaspora,” Surendiran said rather dismissively in a statement.

Though the Sri Lanka Tamil diaspora consists of many organisations and groups spread across several continents there has been a studied silence from most of them, a sign that many of them are sceptical about how genuine the gesture is. In March this year, after the UN Human Rights Council passed a highly critical resolution on Sri Lanka, the Rajapaksa government proscribed several Tamil diaspora organisations and more than 300 individuals labelling them terrorist or terrorist linked. These included Tamil advocacy organizations such as the British Tamil Forum, Global Tamil Forum, Canadian Tamil Congress, Australian Tamil Congress and the World Tamil Coordinating Committee. Precisely seven years earlier in March, the Mahinda Rajapaksa government banned 424 persons and 16 diaspora organizations.

The problem for the present administration is that if it is intent on inviting Tamil organisations to participate in talks it would have to lift the existing bans on individuals and groups without which they are unlikely to talk with the government. As transpired before peace talks at various times between the government and the LTTE, the Tamil groups are most likely to insist on participation as legitimate organisations untainted by bans. That is sure to be one of the key conditions, if not the most important pre-condition.

It is also evident that the Tamil diaspora is not a homogenous entity. It consists of moderate organizations that are ready to resolve the pressing issues within a unitary Sri Lanka, to those at the other end of the spectrum still loyal to the LTTE ideology and demanding a separate state. If the Government cherry-picks the participants-particularly the ones that are more likely to collaborate with the administration, it would be seen as an attempt to drive a huge wedge in the Tamil diaspora. That could well lead to the excluded groups strengthening their existing links with political forces in their countries of domicile including politicians in government as one sees in the UK and Canada, for instance, and Tamil councillors in other elected bodies to increase pressure on Sri Lanka externally.

That is why some Tamil commentators already brand this as a “diversionary move” to lessen the international moves against Colombo. What would be the reactions of powerful sections of the Buddhist monks and the ultranationalist Sinhala Buddhists who strongly supported a Gotabaya presidency?.

And across the Palk Strait there are the 80 million or so Tamils in Tamil Nadu and an Indian Government watching developments with a genuine interest and concern.

“Mystery Plant” From The Amazon Declared A New Species

Newswise — In 1973, a scientist stumbled upon a strange tree in the Amazon rainforest, unlike anything he’d ever seen. It was about 20 feet tall, with tiny orange fruits shaped like paper lanterns. He collected samples of the plant’s leaves and fruits, but all the scientists he showed them to wound up scratching their heads– not only were they unable to identify the plant as a species that had previously been described by scientists, but they couldn’t even declare it a new species, because they couldn’t tell what family it belonged to. But in a new study in the journal Taxon, scientists analyzed the plant’s DNA and determined where it belongs in the family tree of trees, finally giving it a name meaning “Mystery of Manu,” after the park in Peru it came from.

“When I first saw this little tree, while out on a forest trail leading from the field station, it was the fruit — looking like an orange-colored Chinese lantern and juicy when ripe with several seeds — that caught my attention,” says Robin Foster, the scientist who originally collected the mystery plant in Peru’s Manu National Park, a retired curator at Chicago’s Field Museum and now a researcher with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. “I didn’t really think it was special, except for the fact that it had characteristics of plants in several different plant families, and didn’t fall neatly into any family.  Usually I can tell the family by a quick glance, but damned if I could place this one.”

Foster wasn’t the only one who couldn’t figure it out. Nancy Hensold, a botanist at the Field Museum, remembers him showing her a dried specimen of the plant more than 30 years ago. “I came to work at the Field Museum in 1990, and Robin showed me this plant. And I tried to get it identified using little fine technical characters like boiling up the ovaries of the flowers and taking pictures of the pollen, and after all that, we still didn’t know,” she recalls. “It really bugged me.”

The mystery plant sat in the Field Museum’s herbarium, a library of dried plant specimens, for years, but Hensold and her colleagues didn’t forget about it. “When you have a plant no one can put in a family, it can fall through the scientific cracks. I felt for it,” she says. The team eventually got a grant to study the plant, funded by the Field Museum’s Women’s Board, and the search was on.

The team attempted to analyze the plant’s DNA using the dried specimens, but when that didn’t work, they enlisted the help of Patricia Álvarez-Loayza, a scientist who works in the Manu National Park and has spent years monitoring the forest there, to find a fresh specimen of the plant. She did, and when the researchers back at the Field analyzed it in the museum’s Pritzker DNA Laboratory, they were shocked by what they found. “When my colleague Rick Ree sequenced it and told me what family it belonged to, I told him the sample must have been contaminated. I was like, no way, I just couldn’t believe it,” recalls Hensold.

The DNA analysis revealed that the mystery plant’s closest relatives were in the Picramniaceae family, which was a big deal to the botanists because it didn’t look anything like its closest relatives, at least at first glance. “L​​ooking closer at the structure of the tiny little flowers I realized, oh, it really has some similarities but given its overall characters, nobody would have put it in that family,” says Hensold. The researchers sent specimens to Wayt Thomas, a curator emeritus at The New York Botanical Garden and an expert in Picramniaceae. “When I opened the package and looked at the specimens, my first reaction was, ‘What the heck?’ These plants didn’t look like anything else in the family,” says Thomas, the lead author of the paper in Taxon. “So I decided to look more carefully–once I looked really carefully at the tiny, 2-3 milimeter long flowers, things fell into place.” With the DNA finally revealing what family the plant belonged to, the researchers were able to give it a formal scientific name, Aenigmanu alvareziae. The genus name, Aenigmanu, means “mystery of Manu,” while the species name is in honor of Patricia Álvarez-Loayza, who collected the first specimens used for the genetic analysis. (It’s worth noting that while Aenigmanu alvareziae is new to scientists, it has long been used by the Indigenous Machiguenga people.)

The researchers say that finally getting a scientific classification for Aenigmanu alvareziae could ultimately help protect the Amazon rainforest in the face of deforestation and climate change. “Plants are understudied in general. Especially tropical forest plants. Especially Amazon plants.  And especially plants in the upper Amazon. To understand the changes taking place in the tropics, to protect what remains, and to restore areas that have been wiped out, plants are the foundation for everything that lives there and the most important to study,” says Foster.  “Giving them unique names is the best way to organize information about them and call attention to them. A single rare species may not by itself be important to an ecosystem, but collectively they tell us what is going on out there.”

Young Climate Activists Of Indian Origin Join Hands With UN Showcasing Achievements

The United Nations in India launched its climate campaign ‘We The Change’, which aims to showcase climate solutions pioneered by young Indians as a celebration of India’s climate leadership on Monday last week. Through the WeTheChangeNow call to action, 17 young climate champions invited fellow young Indians to join the movement by sharing their climate action stories on the campaign website, also launched on Monday.

“The campaign – inspired by the stories of India’s young climate leaders – encourages us to adopt a more solution-based, innovative approach to fight climate change. We know solutions are already within reach to solve the present climate crisis. We hope that through the WeTheChangeNow campaign, we will inspire bolder climate action from people, communities and the national and state governments,” said UN Resident Coordinator in India, Deirdre Boyd. The campaign celebrates and curates innovative, sustainable and equitable climate solutions and actions being pioneered by young people in India. The focus is on strengthening engagement with governments and civil society for a more collaborative approach to climate action, a release said.

“We need enabling spaces for co-learning and collaboration for effective climate action. It’s inspiring to be part of a journey that allows me to meet other young people who are championing climate action and advocacy while collaborating with various policymakers and other climate stakeholders,” young climate campaigner and member of the UN Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, Archana Soreng said.

“India has shown great leadership in combating climate change through its strategic and timely climate policies. Currently, India is on track to meet its Paris Climate Agreement commitments and is likely to outperform its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in critical sectors, including renewable energy. Challenges remain, and the valuable contributions of young people in green action and recovery, can propel breakthrough innovations to protect India and the world, especially the most vulnerable, from the impact of climate change,” the release said.

“Over the course of the campaign, we will create spaces for young people, civil society, climate groups, media, and governments to collaborate through online dialogues, discussions, and face-to-face interactions,” it said. “The campaign’s 17 young climate leaders represent innovation and action across diverse sectors, including renewables, forest management, financing, climate entrepreneurship, sustainable agriculture, disaster risk reduction, ecosystem restoration, water conservation and waste management,” it added.

UN Secretary-General’s Advocate for Sustainable Development Goals, actor and producer, Dia Mirza, who has lent her support to the digital campaign, said: “We can still make a difference, restore our planet, and make peace with nature. These 17 young climate leaders, the faces of the ‘We The Change’ movement, are showing us the way ahead towards climate justice and climate action. Their stories have inspired me and I hope they inspire people everywhere to share their climate actions, big or small, using #WeTheChange now.” The Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE), a Delhi-based organization that uses the judicial system to advance environmental goals and empower vulnerable populations, has won the Right Livelihood Award, known as the “Alternative Nobel”.

It shared the award with three activists: Marthe Wandou, a gender and peace activist who has worked to prevent sexual violence against girls in the Lake Chad area of Cameroon; Russian environmental campaigner Vladimir Slivyak; and indigenous rights campaigner Freda Huson of the Wet’suwet’en people in Canada.

Founded in 2005 by lawyers Ritwick Dutta and Rahul Choudhary, LIFE’s attorneys are among India’s leading public interest lawyers. It has represented tribals in Odisha against Vedanta over its Bauxite mines in the Niyamgiri Hills, local communities against the Jindal Steels and Power’s mine in Chhattisgarh, horticulturalists opposing Lafarge’s limestone mining in Himachal Pradesh, and mango farmers in Ratnagiri against JSW’s thermal power plant, among others. (A 2013 profile of Dutta here on ET)

LIFE has helped communities fight against some of India’s most significant environmental threats: the construction of ecologically destructive projects in violation of the law, preventing deforestation and making industrial polluters pay for the damage caused to the environment and public health, the Swedish Right Livelihood Foundation, which awards the prize, said.

Human Footprints Thought To Be Oldest In North America Discovered

New scientific research conducted by archaeologists has uncovered what they believe are the oldest known human footprints in North America. Research done at the White Sands national park in New Mexico discovered the ancient footprints, with researchers estimating that the tracks were between 21,000 and 23,000 years old, reported Science.

The prints were buried in layers of soil in the national park, with scientists from the US Geological Survey analyzing seeds embedded in the tracks to calculate the age of the fossils. Researchers also determined that the dozen footprints found belonged to a variety of people, mostly children and teenagers. Previously, scientists had widely assumed that the earliest appearance of humans in the Americas was 11,000 to 13,000 years ago because of stone spears found throughout North America and associated with what is known as the Clovis culture.

“The evidence is very convincing and extremely exciting,” says Tom Higham, an archaeological scientist and radiocarbon-dating expert at the University of Vienna to Nature. “I am convinced that these footprints genuinely are of the age claimed.” The new research was conducted by experts from White Sands national park, the National Park Service, US Geological Survey, Bournemouth University, University of Arizona and Cornell University.

“The paper makes a very compelling case that these footprints are not only human, but they’re older than 20,000 years,” said Spencer Lucas, a palaeontologist at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science in Albuquerque to Nature. “That’s a gamechanger.”

UN Urges World Leaders To Do More To Curtail Warming

Pressure keeps building on increasingly anxious world leaders to ratchet up efforts to fight climate change. There’s more of it coming this week in one of the highest-profile forums of all — the United Nations.

For the second time in four days, this time out of U.N. headquarters in New York, leaders will hear pleas to make deeper cuts of emissions of heat-trapping gases and give poorer countries more money to develop cleaner energy and adapt to the worsening impacts of climate change. “I’m not desperate, but I’m tremendously worried,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told The Associated Press in a weekend interview. “We are on the verge of the abyss and we cannot afford a step in the wrong direction.”

Climate-changes-UNSo on Monday, Guterres and United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson are hosting a closed-door session with 35 to 40 world leaders to get countries to do more leading up to the huge climate negotiations in Scotland in six weeks. Those negotiations in the fall are designed to be the next step after the 2015 Paris climate agreement. And all this comes after Friday, when U.S. President Joe Biden convened a private forum on climate to coax leaders to act now. “We are rapidly running out of time,” Guterres said at Biden’s forum. “There is a high risk of failure” of negotiations in Glasgow.

This week’s focus on climate change comes at the end of another summer of disasters related to extreme weather, including devastating wildfires in the western United States, deadly flooding in the U.S., China and Europe, a drumbeat of killer tropical cyclones worldwide and unprecedented heat waves everywhere. Achieving some kind of success in emission-cut pledges or financial help during the week of U.N. sessions would ease the path to an agreement in Glasgow, just as early announcements of pollution curbs did in 2015, especially those from China and the United States, experts said. Now those two nations are key again. But, Guterres said, their relationship is “totally dysfunctional.”

Nigel Purvis, a former U.S. State Department climate negotiator and CEO of the private firm Climate Advisers, said the political forces going into Glasgow don’t look as optimistic as they did four months ago after a Biden virtual climate summit. But, he says, there is still hope. Countries like China, the world’s top carbon emitter, have to strengthen their Paris pledges to cut carbon pollution, while rich nations like the United States that did increase their emissions promises need to do more financially to help poorer countries.

“The Glasgow meeting is not shaping up to be as well politically prepared as the Paris conference was in 2015,” Purvis said. And Pete Ogden, vice president of the United Nations Foundation for Energy and Climate, cited “worrying mistrust between nations at a time when greater solidarity is needed.” As the world’s leaders gather, activists, other government leaders and business officials gather in New York City for Climate Week, a giant cheerleading session for action that coincides with the high-level U.N. meeting. And throughout the week the push is on the rich nations, the G-20, to do more.

“It is true that the G-20 countries bear the biggest part of the responsibility for carbon emissions. And in that regard, of course it is absolutely crucial that we see them accelerating in a very important way their actions,” U.N. climate conference chief Patricia Espinosa said Friday as her agency announced that emission pledges for the Scotland conference were falling far short of the Paris goals. The most stringent one seeks to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. That translates to about 0.4 degree Celsius (0.7 degrees Fahrenheit) from now because of warming that’s already happened.

A UN report on Friday showed that current pledges to cut carbon emissions set the world on a path toward 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.9 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming since the pre-industrial era. That shoots way past even the weaker Paris goal of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). “That is catastrophic,” Guterres said in the interview. “The world could not live with a 2.7-degree increase in temperature.” The overall goal is to have net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of the 21st century. That refers to a moment when the world’s economies are putting the same amount of carbon dioxide into the air as plants and oceans take out of it, thus not adding to global warming.

Guterres is pushing for rich nations to fulfill their longtime pledges of $100 billion a year in climate aid to poor nations, with at least half of that going to help them cope with the impacts of global warming. So far, the world is falling about $75 billion a year short, according to a new study by Oxfam. Funding to cope with climate change’s impacts fell 25% last year for small island nations, “the most vulnerable of the vulnerable,” he said. Under the Paris agreement, every five years the nations of the world must come up with even more stringent emission cuts and more funding for the poorer nations to develop cleaner energy systems and adapt to climate change.

While the leaders convene for the U.N. meetings, activists, business leaders and lower-level government officials will be part of the cheerleading in a “climate week” series of events. Planners include big name corporations announcing billions of dollars worth of commitments to fighting climate change, lots of talk by big names such as Bill Gates about climate solutions, and even all seven late-night U.S. talk show hosts focusing on climate change Wednesday night. “You’ve got the world leaders there, and so you can remind them about climate and get them focused on it” said Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group , which is coordinating climate week.

What counts most is what happens in six weeks in Glasgow, says Jonathan Overpeck, dean of environment at the University of Michigan, “But,” he said, “the more that can be agreed upon early, the easier it will be to get the commitments that are needed to put an end to climate change. … We’re not yet on an emissions reductions path that is safe for our planet and its people.”

The World’s Oceans Shapes The Fate Of The Superpowers

For centuries, oceans were the chessboard on which empires battled for dominance. But in the nuclear age, air power and missile systems dominated our worries about security, and for the United States, the economy was largely driven by domestic production, with trucking and railways that crisscrossed the continent the primary modes of commercial transit. All that has changed, as nine-tenths of global commerce and the bulk of energy trade is today linked to sea-based flows. A brightly-painted 40-foot steel shipping container loaded in Asia with twenty tons of goods may arrive literally anywhere else in the world; how that really happens and who actually profits by it show that the struggle for power on the seas is a critical issue today.

Now, in bright, closely observed prose, Bruce Jones conducts us on a fascinating voyage through the great modern ports and naval bases of this era—from the vast container ports of Shanghai and Hong Kong to the vital naval base of the American 7th fleet in Hawaii to the sophisticated security arrangements in the port of New York. Along the way, the book illustrates how global commerce works, that we are amidst a global naval arms race, and why the oceans are so crucial to America’s standing going forward.

As Jones reveals, the three great geopolitical struggles of our time—for military power, for economic dominance, and over our changing climate—are playing out atop, within, and below the world’s oceans. The essential question, he shows, is this: who will rule the waves and set the terms of the world to come?

Bruce D. Jones directs the Project on International Order and Strategy of the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution, where for four years he was also vice president. He has lived and worked in Asia, Africa, and Europe, including serving with UN operations in Kosovo and the Middle East. He has documented the changing dynamics of world power in several previous books about international affairs. He has been a senior advisor to the World Bank and has lectured or been a nonresident fellow at Princeton, Stanford, Yale, and New York University.

“Jones has managed to write an important book about foreign policy without delivering an impenetrable tome. He handles his reporting deftly, keeping the reader engaged as he roams from a Cold War-era submarine base beneath a Norwegian mountain, recently reactivated in anticipation of conflicts in the Arctic, to the bridge of a missile-equipped command vessel in the Pacific. And he deftly diagrams the connections between economic policy and national security.” Wall Street Journal

“[To Rule the Waves] revives an old strategic tenet: Who rules the oceans rules the world. Traveling around the world, Jones examines the geopolitics of ocean power. Along the way, he looks into the history of standardized shipping, courtesy of the multimodal container, and delves into what are likely to be future patterns of energy use. The author’s points are well taken . . . knowledgeable.” Kirkus Reviews

“This is nothing short of a masterwork of illumination. What is truly driving our world beneath the surface? Jones has rendered with brilliant clarity a breathtaking body of knowledge on the deep currents shaping the century ahead—strategic, environmental, and violent. This is Sapiens for the seas; there is true knowledge on every page.” —Evan Osnos, winner of the National Book Award and author of The Age of Ambition, Joe Biden, and Wildland

“Bruce Jones vividly shows how what happens on the oceans determines so much of what happens on land—from the massive fleets of container ships that make possible our world economy to the growing seaborne rivalry that is adding to the tensions between the United States and China. In lively prose, he also takes readers on a remarkable voyage around the world, from a submarine base carved deep into a fjord in northern Norway, to the world’s largest container port on reclaimed land off Shanghai, to a tiny island in the Red Sea that is a flashpoint in world affairs. Along the way we meet a diverse cast of characters who ride the global waves.” —Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of NationsThe Quest, and The Prize

“A brilliant, compelling, and clear-eyed view of the central challenge the US confronts in the new dynamics of great power competition. In To Rule the Waves, Bruce Jones provides a wonderfully accessible, highly readable assessment of the maritime components of the new geopolitics. This masterful analysis is a must read for anyone interested in geopolitics and American strategy.” —General David Petraeus, US Army (Ret.); former commander of the surge in Iraq, US Central Command, and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan; and former director of the CIA

To Rule the Waves is fascinating for its fresh perspective and engaging prose. I learned a great deal, as will anyone who wants to understand the enormous challenges that confront NATO, the EU, and the West as a whole.” —Javier Solana, former secretary-general of NATO and former EU high representative for common foreign and security policy

“Bruce Jones’s book takes us on a fascinating journey that connects history, geopolitics, trade, and climate change from the unique perspective of the oceans. His insightful exposé of the many challenges of our interconnected, global world reveals the tensions between the great powers today.” —Susana Malcorra, co-chair of the board, International Crisis Group; former UN deputy secretary-general; former Argentinian foreign minister; and former chair of the WTO Ministerial Conference

“The world’s oceans will remain a central arena of competition between the United States and China for decades. In this sweeping analytical history, Bruce Jones explains why. With engaging prose and fresh assessments, he weaves a narrative about how navies, commercial transportation, digital cables, energy, and climate change interact to make control of the oceans the main source of struggle among the superpowers. Both as writing and analysis, To Rule the Waves is a masterpiece.” —Michael McFaul, Stanford University    

John Kerry Lauds India’s Efforts To Address Climate Change

The US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry congratulated India for its ambitious climate targets and said that India has demonstrated that economic development and clean energy can go hand-in hand.

The US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry on Monday, September 13th  congratulated India for its ambitious climate targets and said that the developing country in the Global South has demonstrated that economic development and clean energy can go hand-in hand. Kerry also met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Union Power Minister RK Singh to discuss climate goals. India and the US have a major opportunity to work together on climate change in a way that will expand bilateral trade and investment in clean energy products and services, US presidential envoy for climate John Kerry said on Monday.

John Kerry along with Indian officials announced the Climate Action and Finance Mobilization dialogue, one of the two main tracks of the US-India Agenda 2030 Partnership that US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Modi announced at the Leaders Summit on Climate in April this year. The CAFMD has three parts – the first being the climate action segment under which the US and India would develop proposals to curb emissions, Kerry said. The second was finance mobilization which would focus on attracting capital and technologies for India to scale up its renewable energy generation to its announced generation target of 450 GigaWatts. Over the past months, six of the largest banks in America had publicaly committed to investing a minimum of $ 4.16 trillion in the next 10 years to make the transition happen, the US envoy said.  The third was climate adaptation and resilience that included efforts like extending India’s forest cover, he said.

The CAFMD is part of the India-US Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership launched at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate in April 2021 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden. A second strand is the US-India Strategic Clean Energy Partnership (SCEP), helmed by Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas and Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri on the Indian side and the US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. Puri and Granholm launched the revamped SCEP virtually last week.    Commending India for its goal to produce 450 GW of energy from renewable sources by 2030, Kerry said “India is a world leader in demonstrating that economic development and clean energy is not a zero sum choice … you can have it both at the same time.”

Last month, India’s Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav spoke to Kerry on the phone and tweeted afterwards that they “discussed at length how the largest and oldest democracies can set examples for other countries on Climate Action. India stands committed to working with the US on Clean Energy”. On another front of the war on climate change, India’s Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Hardeep Singh Puri worked with US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm on developing clean energy, the other track of the India-US partnership.

On Thursday, Puri and Granholm co-chaired the first ministerial meeting of revamped India-US Strategic Clean Energy Partnership (SCEP) “to advance the climate and clean energy goals of both countries”. India’s Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry said: “The two sides announced addition of a fifth Pillar on Emerging Fuels, which signals joint resolve to promote cleaner energy fuels. A new India-US Task Force on Biofuels was also announced to build on the scope of work on cooperation in biofuels sector.

This is Kerry’s second visit to India as Biden’s point-person on climate change, a priority area for the President. Announcing the visit, the State Department said: “The Special Envoy’s travel will bolster the US’ bilateral and multilateral climate efforts ahead of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which will be held October 31 to November 12 in Glasgow.”

Christian Leaders Unite To Issue Stark Warning Over Climate Crisis

Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, call on the world population – “whatever their beliefs or worldview” – to “listen to the cry of the Earth and of people who are poor.”

Global Christian leaders have joined forces to warn that the world is facing a critical moment as the climate crisis threatens the future of the planet. In an unprecedented joint declaration, Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox church, and the archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who is the leader of the global Anglican communion, call on the world population – “whatever their beliefs or worldview” – to “listen to the cry of the Earth and of people who are poor”.

Their statement says: “Today, we are paying the price [of the climate emergency] … Tomorrow could be worse.” It concludes: “This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.” The faith leaders have asked people to pray for world leaders ahead of Cop26, the global environment summit in Glasgow this autumn, and for individuals to make “meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the planet, working together and taking responsibility for how we use our resources”.

People with “far-reaching responsibilities” should lead the transition to just and sustainable economies. They said: “We stand before a harsh justice: biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions, since we have greedily consumed more of the Earth’s resources than the planet can endure. But we also face a profound injustice: the people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest on the planet and have been the least responsible for causing them.”

The world is “already witnessing the consequences of our refusal to protect and preserve [the planet]. Now, in this moment, we have an opportunity to repent, to turn around in resolve, to head in the opposite direction. We must pursue generosity and fairness in the ways that we live, work and use money, instead of selfish gain.”

For the sake of today’s children, “we must choose to eat, travel, spend, invest and live differently, thinking not only of immediate interest and gains but also of future benefits. We repent of our generation’s sin.” They said this was the first time the three faith leaders “feel compelled to address together the urgency of environmental sustainability”. The pope, who is planning to make a brief appearance at the Cop26 summit in November, has highlighted the problem of climate breakdown and environmental sustainability since becoming pope in 2013. In 2015, he issued a powerful encyclical, Laudato Si’, which emphasized overconsumption, corporate greed and individual responsibility.

Hurricane Ida Inflicts Misery Across Many States In US

From Louisiana to New York, communities are trying to piece lives back together more than a week after Hurricane Ida slammed into the Gulf Coast on August 29th. Heavy rains, devastating winds, flooded streets, death and destruction all around—the horrific conditions are being experienced by millions of Americans in nearly a dozen coastal states as Ida continued to play havoc last week. Ida made landfall on the anniversary of Katrina, the dangerous Category 3 storm that devastated Louisiana and Mississippi 16 years ago, killing more than 1,800 people and causing $125 billion in damage.

Hurricane Ida roared ashore in Louisiana on Sunday at Category 4 strength, with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph. In fact, as the eyewall of Ida hammered the Louisiana coast, a ship about 50 miles south-southwest of New Orleans clocked a peak wind gust of 172 mph, which is just shy of the strongest measured wind from a hurricane in the US. Ida was downgraded to a tropical storm moved farther inland over southeastern Louisiana and into southwestern Mississippi, the National Hurricane Center said.

As of early Monday last week, more than 1 million Louisiana utility customers are without power, according to PowerOutage.us. On Sunday evening, New Orleans said the entire city lost power after “catastrophic transmission damage.” Four deaths have been confirmed in Louisiana as crews began fanning out in boats and off-road vehicles to search communities cut off by the giant storm. A man was also missing after apparently being killed by an alligator. Even though Hurricane Ida was most devastating in Louisiana state and its neighbors in the south where entire localities were totally destroyed, its deadliest human toll was in the New York region where at least 42 people were killed — 25 in New Jersey, 16 in New York City and one in Connecticut.

A stunned U.S. East Coast faced a rising death toll, surging rivers and tornado damage on September 2nd with record-breaking rain, killing at least 46 people in their homes and cars. As many as 23 people died in New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said. At least 13 people were killed in New York City, police said, 11 of them in flooded basement apartments, which often serve as relatively affordable homes in one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets. Suburban Westchester County reported three deaths. Officials said at least five people died in Pennsylvania, including one killed by a falling tree and another who drowned in his car after helping his wife to escape. A Connecticut state police sergeant, Brian Mohl, perished after his cruiser was swept away. Another death was reported in Maryland.

Four people of Indian origin and a Nepali family of three have died in New York from the flooding caused by Hurricane Ida. Phamatee Ramskriet, 43, and her son Krishah, 22, drowned when their basement flat flooded in New York City on September 1. Mingma Sherpa, 48, and Ang Gelu Lama, 52, and their infant son Lobsang Lama, 2, also drowned when the waters from the record-setting downpour in the city inundated their basement flat. In neighboring New Jersey, Malathi Kanche, 46, drowned after she was swept away when her car stalled on a flooded road. Also in New Jersey, Danush Reddy, 31, was sucked into a 36-inch sewer pipe by the floods.

Ida’s soggy remnants merged with a storm front and soaked the Interstate 95 corridor, meteorologists said. Similar weather has followed hurricanes before, but experts said it was slightly exacerbated by climate change — warmer air holds more rain — and urban settings, where expansive pavement prevents water from seeping into the ground. The National Hurricane Center had warned since Tuesday of the potential for “significant and life-threatening flash flooding” and major river flooding in the mid-Atlantic region and New England.  Still, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the storm’s strength took them by surprise.

“We did not know that between 8:50 and 9:50 p.m. last night, that the heavens would literally open up and bring Niagara Falls level of water to the streets of New York,” said Hochul. New York City’s Central Park ended up getting 3.15 inches in just one hour, surpassing the previous one-hour high of 1.94 inches (5 cm) during Tropical Storm Henri on Aug. 21. Wednesday’s storm ultimately dumped over 9 inches (23 cm) of rain in parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and nearly as much on New York City’s Staten Island.  In Washington, President Joe Biden assured Northeast residents that federal first responders were on the ground to help clean up.

In New York, nearly 500 vehicles were abandoned on flooded highways, garbage bobbed in streaming streets and water cascaded into the city’s subway tunnels, trapping at least 17 trains and disrupting service all day. The National Weather Service said the ferocious storm also spawned at least 10 tornadoes from Maryland to Massachusetts, including a 150-mph (241 kph) twister that splintered homes and toppled silos in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, south of Philadelphia. Record flooding along the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania inundated homes, highways and commercial buildings, even as meteorologists warned that rivers likely won’t crest for a few more days. The riverside community of Manayunk remained largely under water.

The Schuyilkill reached levels not seen in over 100 years in Philadelphia, where firefighters were still getting calls about minor building collapses and people stuck in flooded cars Thursday morning. The managers of a 941-unit apartment complex near the river ordered residents to evacuate, citing “deteriorating” conditions after water rushed into the parking garage and pool areas. Due to climate change, destruction like that seen in both the Gulf and East Coast from extreme weather will be “our new normal,” Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell warned Sunday. “This is the crisis of our generation, these impacts that we are seeing from climate change, and we have to act now to try to protect against the future risks that we are going to face,” Criswell said during an interview on Sunday morning.

After surveying the damage in Louisiana Friday, President Joe Biden will travel to New Jersey and New York on Tuesday to assess the impact on the East Coast, where the storm claimed the lives of at least 50 people. Mayor of Paterson in New Jersey, André Sayegh lamented the destruction, telling CNN, “As if a once in a century virus wasn’t enough, we had a once in a century storm.”

Students From India Develop Plant-Based Air Purifier

In a development that may help in addressing the issue of indoor air purification amid the ongoing pandemic, an Indian startup has developed the world’s first ‘Plant based’ smart air-purifier “Ubreathe Life” that uses breathing plants for the filtration of contaminants. Young scientists at the Indian Institutes of Technology, Ropar and Kanpur and Faculty of Management Studies of Delhi University have developed the living-plant based air purifier “Ubreathe Life” that amplifies the air purification process in the indoor spaces. “These indoor spaces can either be hospitals, schools, offices and your homes,” says a scientist.

The IIT Ropar’s startup company, ‘Urban Air Laboratory’ claims the air purifier to be the world’s first, state-of-the-art ‘Smart Bio-Filter’ that can make breathing fresh. It has been incubated at IIT Ropar, which is a designated iHub – AWaDH (Agriculture and Water Technology Development Hub) by the Department of Science and Technology. A World Health Organization (WHO) report points out that indoor air spaces are five times more polluted than outdoor air spaces. That is a cause of concern, especially in the present Covid pandemic times. Research, recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), calls upon the governments to alter building designs by fixing air changes per hour (a measure of room ventilation with outdoor air). The ‘Ubreathe Life’ can be a solution to this concern.

Sanjay Maurya, CEO, Ubreathe claims, “The product has certain biophilic benefits, such as supporting cognitive function, physical health, and psychological well-being. Thus, it’s like having a bit of Amazon forest in your room. The consumer need not water the plant regularly as there is a built-in water reservoir with a capacity of 150ml which acts as a buffer for plant requirements,” he explained. He further said that the device supplies water to the roots whenever it gets too dry. Explaining the working of the device Maurya further said, “‘Ubreathe Life’ effectively improves indoor air quality by removing particulate, gaseous and biological contaminants while increasing the oxygen levels in the indoor space through specific plants, UV disinfection and a stack of Pre-filter, Charcoal filter and HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter fitted in a specially designed wooden box. There is a centrifugal fan that creates a suction pressure inside the purifier, and releases purified air, formed at the roots, through the outlet in a 360degree direction. The specific plants tested for air-purification include Peace Lily, Snake Plant, Spider plant etc. and all have given good results in purifying indoor air.”

The product has already been tested. Scientists said that ‘Ubreathe Life’ can be a game-changer for maintaining clean air indoors. They argued that the new research had suggested that Covid-19 vaccination by itself may not guarantee safety at workplaces, schools and even closed fully air-conditioned homes unless air filtration, air purification and indoor ventilation becomes part of the building design. “The results of testing, conducted by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories and the Laboratory of IIT Ropar maintains that the AQI (Air Quality Index) for a room size of 150sqft drops from 311 to 39 in 15 minutes after using ‘Ubreathe Life,” Director, IIT, Ropar, Professor Rajeev Ahuja said.

Dr Vinay and Dr Deepesh Agarwal from AIIMS, New Delhi said that the ‘Ubreathe Life’ infuses oxygen in the room making it conducive to patients with breathing issues, a department of science note said. Budding Indian scientists have developed a living plant-based air purifier named ‘Ubreathe Life’, which amplifies the air purification process in indoor spaces. These indoor spaces can be hospitals, schools, offices or even people’s homes. The state-of-the-art ‘Smart Bio-Filter’ can make breathing fresh, claimed Urban Air Laboratory, a startup incubated at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Ropar. The budding scientists are from IIT Ropar, IIT Kanpur and the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University.

“The technology works through the air-purifying natural leafy plant. The room air interacts with leaves and goes to the soil-root zone where maximum pollutants are purified. The novel technology used in this product is ‘Urban Munnar Effect’ along with patent-pending ‘Breathing Roots’ to exponentially amplify the phyto-remediation process of the plants. Phyto-remediation is a process by which plants effectively remove pollutants from the air,” said a release from the Ministry of Science and Technology. ‘Ubreathe Life’ effectively improves indoor air quality by removing particulate, gaseous and biological contaminants. It also increases the indoor space’s oxygen levels through specific plants, UV disinfection, and a stack of pre-filter, charcoal filter and HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter fitted in a specially designed wooden box.

A centrifugal fan creates a suction pressure inside the purifier and releases purified air, formed at the roots, through the outlet in a 360-degree direction. The specific plants tested for air purification include peace lily, snake plant, spider plant etc., and all have given good results in purifying indoor air quality, the release added.

Arctic Warming Can Cause Severe Winter Weather

A new study has now pointed out that these changes in the Arctic region induced by anthropogenic global warming have disrupted a wind system called Stratospheric Polar Vortex (SPV). In the recent past, the Arctic region has warmed rapidly and studies have shown that the temperatures in the region have risen about twice as fast as global temperatures. This phenomenon is termed Arctic amplification and multiple factors including increased greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric transport of heat to the region play important roles. Recently, researchers from India and Brazil noted that this Arctic warming was behind the heatwaves in India. The warming was found to have an impact on the frequency and intensity of heat waves. Though very counterintuitive, there have also been a few studies stating that this Arctic warming has propelled the cold winter spells in North America.

A new study has now pointed out that these changes in the Arctic region induced by anthropogenic global warming have disrupted a wind system called Stratospheric Polar Vortex (SPV). This stretching of SPV can lead to extreme cold events in parts of Asia and North America. The report published Friday in Science adds that this SPV disruption was behind the February 2021 Texas cold wave. “The SPV consists of strong westerly winds from 10km to 50km above the surface. It peaks at around 50 m/s on average near 50km and is strongest in mid-winter, however, on occasion it can weaken, and sometimes the winds reverse direction entirely,” explains one of the authors Prof. Chaim Garfinkel in an email to indianexpress.com. He is the Head of the Graduate Program in Atmospheric Science at Hebrew University, Israel. He adds that these stretching events almost certainly occurred before greenhouse gas emissions began increasing, but the current emissions are leading to an increase in the occurrence of these types of events.

Lead author Judah Cohen told theguardian.com: “When the polar vortex is nice and circular, that’s a sign all the cold air is bottled up over the Arctic…When it stretches like this, a piece of it goes into Asia and a piece of it goes towards eastern North America. So that’s what we’re seeing. And that was what happened with the Texas cold wave.” A reversal of the polar vortex is known to bring warm winter temperatures in Southern Asia. When asked if the disruption can have an effect on India, Dr Cohen told indianexpress.com that the polar vortex stretching events are associated with relatively cold temperatures in Central and East Asia but there are no strong signals in India. “If anything these events might slightly favour relatively mild temperatures,” he adds.

The team is currently studying the various dynamics of this disruption. “Our modelling work needs to be elaborated to explore stronger forcings that might occur by the end of the century,” adds Prof. Garfinkel. The team writes that by identifying the precursor pattern to these stretching events, we can extend the warning lead time of cold extremes in Asia, Canada, and the United States. “Preparing for only a decrease in severe winter weather can compound the human and economic cost when severe winter weather does occur,” concludes the report.

 

United Airlines Plans To Purchase 15 Supersonic Overture Jets From Boom Supersonic

The US airline is the first to announce plans to go supersonic, reviving dreams from the late 1960s when British Airways and Air France offered transatlantic flights aboard the Concorde. Only 20 were built during the aircraft’s 24-year operational life. The Overture, which would seat between 65 and 88 passengers, would cut flight time in half over a conventional commercial airliner, with a top speed of Mach 1.7, or 1,304 mph. A flight from New York to London would take just 3.5 hours, according to Boom, and Los Angeles to Sydney would be about eight hours. Unlike the Concorde, which was neither fuel-efficient nor quiet, the Overture will be designed to be “net-carbon zero,” and will cut emissions, according to Boom, by running on sustainable aviation fuel. The first aircraft is slated to roll out in 2025, fly in 2026 and carry its first passengers by 2029.

“United continues on its trajectory to build a more innovative, sustainable airline and today’s advancements in technology are making it more viable to include supersonic planes,” said United CEO Scott Kirby. “Boom’s vision for the future of commercial aviation, combined with the industry’s most robust route network in the world, will give business and leisure travelers access to a stellar flight experience.” The announcement is not the first of an intended partnership between a supersonic firm and a large aviation company.

Both Flexjet and NetJets announced that they planned to buy business jets from Aerion. The Reno-based company had the fastest, most ambitious rollout of its AS2, while also planning to break ground on a new research and production campus near Orlando sometime this year. Last week, it abruptly said it was shutting down because it couldn’t secure long-term funding. Boom seems to be farther along in its development stages than its former competitor. It rolled out a third-scale demonstrator aircraft, the XB1, last year. Boom CEO Blake Scholl recently told a Congressional panel that it plans to fly it for the first time by the end of 2021 or in early 2022.

Overture will be designed with in-seat entertainment screens, large personal space and contactless technology. “At speeds twice as fast, United passengers will experience all the advantages of life lived in person, from deeper, more productive business relationships to longer, more relaxing vacations to far-off destinations,” said Scholl in announcing the deal. United also has the option to buy 35 more Overtures. Scholl recently said that the Overture represents the first dramatic speed gains in new aircraft since the Concorde. “We see ourselves as picking up where Concorde left off, and fixing the most important things which are economic and environmental sustainability,” he told CNN recently, adding: “Either we fail or we change the world.”

India To Sign Mou With Florida International University On Himalayan Geology

The Government of India have given approval for signing of a MoU between the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and Florida International University, the US, for cooperation in the field of geology.

Chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Cabinet gave its approval for signing the MoU between the GSI, under the Ministry of Mines, and the varsity’s board of trustees on behalf of its Department of Earth and Environment, a government statement said. The identified area of cooperation between the two participants would include development of geological knowledge, research regarding geologic and tectonic environment of post collisions magmatism in India-Asia collisional margin, geologic history and tectonics of the Eastern Himalayan Syntaxis and developing cooperative projects in the fields of regional geological, geochemical, petrological and multi-isotopic studies related to the evolution of post collisional magmatic belts.

The MoU will provide an institutional mechanism between Geological Survey of India (GSI) and the Florida International University (FIU) on cooperation in the field of Geology.The objectives of the MoU are to understand the geologic and tectonic environment of the generation and emplacement of post-collisional magmatism in India-Asia Collision margin in particular and to construct a model of post-collisional magma genesis in continental collision zones in general and to construct the geologic and tectonics of the Eastern Himalayan Syntaxis.

The identified area of cooperation between the two Participants will be as follows:

  • Development of the geological knowledge, research regarding geologic and tectonic environment of post collisions magmatism in India-Asia collisional margin, geologic history and tectonics of the Eastern Himalayan Syntaxis.
  • Developing cooperative projects in the fields of regional geological, geochemical, petrological and multi-isotopic studies related to the evolution of post collisional magmatic belts.

Thunberg Warns, World Leaders Have No Excuse On Climate Change

Greta Thunberg said that the recently released UNICEF index indicated that children would be the worst affected. The world’s children cannot afford more empty promises at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), youth activists including Greta Thunberg said, after a UN report found virtually no child will escape the impact of global warming.

In the first index of its kind, published on Friday, UN children’s agency UNICEF found that almost all the world’s 2.2 billion children are exposed to at least one climate or environmental risk, from catastrophic floods to toxic air. Last week a UN climate panel of the world’s top atmospheric scientists warned that global warming is dangerously close to spiralling out of control, with deadly heat waves, hurricanes and other extreme events likely to keep getting worse.

Ms Thunberg, 18, said the UNICEF index confirmed children would be the worst affected, and when world leaders meet in Glasgow in November for COP26 they needed to act rather than just talk. “I don’t expect them to do that, but I would be more than happy if they could prove me wrong,” she told journalists ahead of the index’s publication on the third anniversary of Fridays For Future, a now-global youth movement that started with her solo protest outside her Swedish school.

Ms Thunberg was joined by young activists around the world including Mitzi Jonelle Tan, 23, from the Philippines, who spoke of doing homework by candlelight as typhoons raged outside or fearing drowning in her bed as floodwaters filled her room. After months of extreme weather and dire warnings from scientists, world leaders’ “empty promises and vague plans” were no longer enough, Ms Tan said. “There’s no excuse for this COP… to not be the one that changes things.”

Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director said young people globally were leading by example, pointing to a survey by the organisation that found nine in ten of them in 21 countries felt it was their responsibility to tackle climate change. They were more at risk than adults in the “increasingly unrecognisable” world they stood to inherit, she said, being less able to survive extreme weather events and more susceptible to toxic chemicals, temperature changes and disease. The UNICEF index showed around one billion children in 33 mostly African low-emission countries faced a “deadly combination” of extreme weather and existing issues like poverty, making them uniquely vulnerable.

Scientists Warn Time Of Reckoning Has Come For The Planet

Heatwaves and the heavy rains that cause flooding have become more intense and more frequent since the 1950s in most parts of the world, and climate change is now affecting all inhabited regions of the planet. Drought is increasing in many places and it is more than 66% likely that numbers of major hurricanes and typhoons have risen since the 1970s.

“If there was still a need for a proof that climate changes is caused by human activities, then this is the report that provides it,” said Prof Corinne Le Quéré of the University of East Anglia. And the consequences of humanity’s massive act of atmospheric interference are now clear: what is hot today will become hotter tomorrow; extreme floods will become more frequent, wildfires more dangerous and deadly droughts more widespread. In short, things can only get worse.

“Our future climate could well become some kind of hell on Earth,” said Prof Tim Palmer, of Oxford University. Or, as Prof Dave Reay, executive director of Edinburgh University’s Climate Change Institute, put it: “This is not just another scientific report. This is hell and high water writ large.”

Certainly the numbers outlined in the report were stark and strikingly emphatic in comparison with past, far more cautious, IPCC offerings. As it makes clear, humans have pumped around 2,400bn tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since 1850, creating concentrations of the gas that have not been seen on Earth in the last 2 million years.

And the consequences of humanity’s massive act of atmospheric interference are now clear: what is hot today will become hotter tomorrow; extreme floods will become more frequent, wildfires more dangerous and deadly droughts more widespread. In short, things can only get worse.

Indeed, by the end of the century they could become threatening to civilisation if emissions are allowed to continue at their present rate. “That might seem like a long way away but there are millions of children already born who should be alive well into the 22nd century,” added Prof Jonathan Bamber of Bristol University, another report author.

In fact, they could become utterly catastrophic with the occurrence of world-changing events – such as continent-wide forest die-backs or collapsing Antarctic ice sheets, says Prof Andrew Watson of Edinburgh University. “The IPCC report gives a comprehensive update on the knowns of climate change, and that makes for grim reading. But it also makes the point that climate models don’t include ‘low probability-high impact’ events, such as drastic changes in ocean circulation, that also become more likely the more the climate is changed. These ‘known unknowns’ are scarier still.”

The new IPCC report is certainly a very different, uncompromising document compared with previous versions, as meteorologist Keith Shine of Reading University pointed out. “I was heavily involved in IPCC’s first assessment report back in 1990. We weren’t even sure then that observed climate change was due to human activity. The IPCC now says the evidence is ‘unequivocal’. That means there is no hiding place for policymakers.”

A Crucial Ocean Circulation’s Instability Would Have Serious Impacts On Our Weather

A crucial system of currents in the Atlantic Ocean that helps control temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere and has implications for the entire planet’s weather systems is showing signs of instability due to human-made climate change, scientists say.  Its collapse would have dire consequences for our weather and life on Earth.

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) — which the Gulf Stream is a major part of — helps maintain the energy balance in the Atlantic Ocean. It is often described as a “conveyor belt” that takes warm surface water from the tropics and distributes it to the north Atlantic. The colder, saltier water then sinks and flows south.

A study, published Thursday in Nature and Climate Change, warned of “an almost complete loss of stability of the AMOC over the course of the last century. Researchers say it could be close to a collapse from a strong circulation to a weak circulation, though the threshold for such a collapse is still uncertain.

Scientists have warned for years that the circulation is weakening. Heavy rain and melting ice sheets are making the water in the North Atlantic Ocean less salty, which makes it lighter and less likely to sink. If the water in this region becomes too light, the entire circulation could be disrupted.

Global weather patterns are critically linked to the circulation and its transport of heat and nutrients around the planet. A collapse of this system would result in significant and abrupt changes, including fast sea level rise, more extreme winters in Western Europe and disruptions to monsoon systems in the tropics.

It could also have a cascading effect and destabilize other components of the Earth’s climate system, including the Antarctic ice sheet and the Amazon rainforest.

This scenario was the premise for the 2004 climate science fiction film “The Day After Tomorrow,” in which a series of extreme weather disasters strike after climate change caused the AMOC to collapse.

The circulation is weaker than it has been in around 1,000 years, scientists had previously said, but they did not know whether it had actually been destabilized or undergoing natural changes. This week’s study used eight datasets looking at surface temperatures and salinity in the North Atlantic over a period of 150 years, and found global warming was driving the destabilization.

“The difference is crucial,” the study’s author, Niklas Boers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told CNN in an email.

“Imagine a chair, which can be either shifted (with all four legs remaining on the ground) or tilted. Both change the position of the chair (corresponding to the change in mean AMOC strength), but in the first case the stability of the chair won’t be affected, while in the latter case there exists a critical point. If we tilt the chair just slightly further, it will fall down. My results suggest that what is happening to the AMOC is more likely to be a tilting than only a shifting, so the AMOC has moved toward the critical threshold at which it may collapse,” he said.

Boers added that he himself was surprised by his findings that the AMOC had been destabilized and was “moving toward its critical threshold, at which it could abruptly collapse.”

A collapse of the circulation would mean significant cooling in Europe, Beors said, “but maybe more concerning is the effect of an AMOC collapse on the tropical monsoon systems of South America, Western Africa, and India; especially in Western Africa, an AMOC collapse could lead to permanent drought conditions.”

Boers recognizes in his study that he and other scientists still don’t know if and when the current might collapse, but he called on the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions “as much and as quickly as possible.”

“Every gram of extra greenhouse gas in the atmosphere will increase to the probability of an AMOC collapse in the future, so emitting as little as possible, both on individual but of course also on collective and international level, is the key.”

The study comes ahead of a major report by the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change on Monday, which has been years in the making and is expected to provide the most conclusive look yet at the extent of human-made climate change. It will also likely paint a picture of what the future could look like, depending on what action the world takes to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

Biden’s New Policy Will Ensure 50% Of Vehicles Sold In US By 2030 Are Electric

President Biden announced on August 5th a multistep strategy aimed at rapidly shifting Americans from gasoline-powered cars and trucks toward electric vehicles — a central part of his plan to reduce the pollution that is heating the planet.  The new plan targets that half of vehicles sold in the country by 2030 will be battery electric, fuel-cell electric or plug-in hybrid.

Biden signed the executive order at the White House alongside representatives from Ford, GM and Stellantis, and members of the United Auto Workers Union. The automakers are supporting Biden’s new target, announcing their “shared aspiration” that 40-50% of their cars sold by 2030 to be electric vehicles, according to a joint statement from the three automakers.

Speaking from the White House South Lawn in front of four electric vehicles, Biden said the future of America’s car manufacturing “is electric and there’s no turning back. The question is whether we’ll lead or fall behind in the race for the future,” the president added. Throughout Biden’s remarks, he emphasized that a move toward electric vehicles should come with an assurance that those vehicles and the batteries powering them should be made in the US and with union workers.

“There’s a vision of the future that is now beginning to happen, a future of the automobile industry that is electric — battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric, fuel cell electric,” said Mr. Biden, who announced the plan from the South Lawn of the White House before an array of parked electric vehicles, including the Ford F150 Lightning, the Chevrolet Bolt EV and a Jeep Wrangler. “The question is whether we’ll lead or fall behind in the future.”

The Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation also announced Thursday they are reversing a Trump-era rollback of fuel emissions standards. The newly proposed standards from the agencies for light-duty vehicles will be 10% more stringent than the Trump-era rules for 2023 model year vehicles, then becoming 5% more stringent each year through 2026 model year vehicles.

The proposed emissions standard for mileage year 2026 is 52 miles per gallon, up from 43.3 miles per gallon under the Trump administration, which is the current mileage standard. The new standard is also up from 50.8 miles per gallon under the Obama administration rules for mileage year 2026.

The Biden administration’s proposed standard would translate to a label value — what the consumer would see on a new car sticker — of 38.2 mpg. The EPA estimates that implementing these standards would avoid 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions through 2050.

With the impacts of a warming planet seen in record droughts, deadly heat waves, floods and wildfires around the globe, scientists say that simply restoring Obama-era climate controls will not be enough.

The agencies also announced a separate set of regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for heavy-duty trucks. The first rulemaking process for trucks is expected to be finalized next year, and will apply to heavy duty vehicles starting with the 2027 mileage year, according to the EPA.

A rapid transition to electric cars and trucks faces several challenges. Experts say it will not be possible for electric vehicles to go from niche to mainstream without making electric charging stations as ubiquitous as corner gas stations. And while labor leaders attended the White House event and referred to Mr. Biden as “brother,” they remain concerned about a wholesale shift to electric vehicles, which require fewer workers to assemble.

Speaking on Wednesday night, a senior administration official echoed Biden’s comments.  “This is a paradigm shift,” a senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday. “What we’re hearing across the board is a consensus about the direction where this industry is going, and a coming together around the recognition that this is the moment of truth, not just for climate action for economic action as well.”

Biden has asked Congress for $174 billion to create 500,000 charging stations. An infrastructure bill pending in the Senate includes just $7.5 billion. However, it also provides $73 billion to expand and update the electricity grid, an essential step for carrying power to new auto charging stations. The International Council on Clean Transportation, a research organization, concluded that the nation would need 2.4 million electric vehicle charging stations by 2030 — up from 216,000 in 2020 — if about 36 percent of new car sales were electric.

A second bill, which could move through Congress this fall, could include far more spending on electric vehicles, consumer tax incentives and research. Neither proposal is guaranteed to pass in the closely divided Congress.

There are concerns that ome environmental advocates and lawmakers fear car companies could skirt the standards with loopholes — including allowances for EV makers like Tesla to sell credits to companies that sell gas-guzzling cars, thereby allowing them to meet the standards without electrifying their fleets.  “We must guard against the inclusion of legacy loopholes, which may allow for even lower greenhouse gas emissions standards than before,” Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts said in a statement. “We know the highest standards possible are economically feasible and technologically achievable because the automotive industry is already installing them.”

“President Biden has called global warming an existential threat, but these standards won’t protect us,” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Transport Campaign at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. “The only reason automakers have ever cut pollution is because strong rules forced them to. And these rules won’t.”

The youth climate advocacy group Sunrise Movement sharply criticized Biden’s electric vehicles target, saying it’s not sufficient enough to combat the climate crisis. “Biden cannot think of himself as the climate president with a 50% electric vehicles goal,” Sunrise executive director Varshini Prakash said in a statement. “FDR didn’t set a goal to half win the war, and JFK didn’t set a goal to get halfway to the moon. If we are still selling gas cars in 2030, they’ll be on the road for another 10, 15, 20 years — long after his presidency and well into our already unstable futures.”

New York City’s Hidden Old-Growth Forests Scientists are salvaging centuries of climate and historical data from demolished structures

Newswise — In the popular imagination, New York City is a mass of soaring steel-frame skyscrapers. But many of the city’s 1 million buildings are not that modern. Behind their brick-and-mortar facades, its numerous 19th- and early 20th-century warehouses, commercial buildings and row homes are framed with massive wooden joists and beams. These structures probably harbor at least 14 million cubic meters of timber, the volume equivalent of about 74,000 subway cars. Their main sources: old-growth forests that long predated New York, and were erased to create it.

Historic preservation has never been New York’s strong point; about 1,000 old buildings are demolished or gut-renovated every year, the remains mostly going to landfills. Now, a team from the Tree Ring Laboratory at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is harnessing the destruction to systematically mine torn-out timbers for data. Annual growth rings from trees that were young in the 1500s may offer records of past climate no longer available from living trees. Studies of timber species, ages and provenances can shed light on the history of U.S. logging, commerce and transport.

“New York City is a huge repository of old timbers, probably the biggest in the country. It’s an amazing resource for science,” said dendrochronologist (tree-ring scientist) Mukund Palat Rao, one of the leaders of the effort (his position at Lamont is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). “These forests don’t exist anymore—they’re inside the buildings. They’re being demolished at a rapid pace, and getting thrown away. We’re trying to collect whatever we can.”

After its settlement by the Dutch in the 1620s, New York grew steadily but slowly. Then, about 1840, great waves of immigrants began arriving. A resulting major growth spurt lasted some 80 years before tapering off. During this time, much of the now existing city was built. Before steel came in during the early 20th century, the framing material of choice was wood. Starting in the 1700s, loggers to the north cut vast swaths of white pine, spruce, hemlock and balsam fir, often floating it down the Hudson River. By the latter 1800s, three-quarters of the Northeast’s virgin forests were stripped. Many builders then looked to the vast old-growth longleaf pine ecosystems of the U.S. Southeast. When the eastern seaboard was exhausted, loggers moved on to Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Today, only about 3 percent of the South’s old longleaf forests remain.

In a study just published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, the researchers shed unprecedented light on this period. The study looks at joists taken from Manhattan’s gigantic 1891 Terminal Warehouse, an iconic structure that still occupies an entire block in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Early on, it stored everything from carpets, furs and liquor to Broadway stage sets and stone sarcophagi. In the 1980s, it was converted into the country’s largest mini-storage facility. A run of railroad tracks bisecting its cavernous interior became for more than a decade the site of the infamously decadent Tunnel nightclub. The warehouse has also served as a spooky set for movies including the “Ghostbusters” series.

In 2019, new owners wanted to open up space for new shops, offices and restaurants. This involved pulling out enormous wooden joists holding up some interior sections of the building. Hoping to reuse the joists, they called Edward Cook, head of the Tree Ring Lab, to see what could be learned about them.

Cook is a hero of archaeodendrochronology, the study of wood from old buildings. Early in his career, his examinations of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall and other historic structures showed that their ages could be pinned down by studying tree rings in their framing. He has since dated about 150 old houses and other buildings across the Northeast. In 2014, he and colleagues analyzed the remains of a wooden sloop accidentally turned up during excavations at the destroyed World Trade Center site. They determined it had been built from old-growth white oak cut somewhere near Philadelphia around 1773, and served for 20 or 30 years before being dumped on the mucky shoreline of New York harbor.

The tree-ring lab crew went down to the Terminal Warehouse’s massive basement. Here, they found piles of removed joists, 22 feet long, a foot wide and 3 inches deep. Looking at the ends in cross section, they could see that many displayed 150 or more annual growth rings—a dendrochronologist’s delight. (Caroline Leland, the study’s lead author with Rao, also noted several humongous bird-cage-like things—tools of the trade once used by go-go dancers at the Tunnel, she guessed.) Amid combustion fumes and deafening racket, a building worker chain sawed off the ends of a couple of dozen of the best-looking joists, and the scientists took them back to the lab.

Based on resin content and certain patterns and colors in the timbers’ rings, the team determined that the joists were perfect specimens of old-growth longleaf pine, prized by 19th-century builders for their density, strength and resistance to rot.

Trees’ growth rings vary each year according to weather; in the simplest translation, wider rings mean wetter years with good growing conditions. After that, it gets more complicated; by measuring and comparing rings in excruciating detail, dendrochronologists can create a year-by-year fingerprint that most or all of the trees from the same place have in common. The joists came from different parts of different trees, so no two represented the exact same time span. But many overlapped in time. This allowed the scientists to assemble a master chronology, from the date the oldest trees started growing to the date they were cut.

Based on the characteristics of some of the joists’ outer rings, the scientists determined that most of the trees had been felled in 1891or a bit earlier. And, all the trees were ancient; most started out as saplings anywhere from the early 1600s to the mid-1700s. The oldest had sprouted around 1512.

They then compared their data to previous studies of rings in rare living longleaf stands, ranging from Louisiana to North Carolina. Because yearly conditions vary from site to site, each site exhibits localized ring patterns. By comparing these, they were then able to deduce where the timbers had come from: The rings from the joists lined up nicely with those of living trees from eastern Alabama’s Choccolocco Mountain and Spreewell Bluff, just across the border in western Georgia. Both areas had been heavily logged in the late 1800s, when steam power and rail networks were expanding mightily, allowing lumber to be shipped to ravenous faraway markets like New York.

Delving into regional historical archives, the team hypothesized that the trees were sawed at the Sample Lumber Company, near Hollins, Alabama. Then, in one of a couple of possible scenarios, they would have been shipped by a series of connecting railroads to the port of Savannah, Ga. There, the 250-pound joists would have been loaded into openings in the hulls of schooners bound for the banks of the Hudson, where the Terminal Warehouse was rising.

“To think of all those old trees, just clear cut—that was really sad,” said Leland. On the other hand: “There is a lot of history locked up in those timbers. It’s really difficult to find living old growth in the eastern United States now. If we can get enough samples, it may allow us to develop a better understanding of the long-term climate in the regions these trees come from.”

The scientists now wanted more old timbers. Luckily, they had a connection with Alan Solomon, a New York entrepreneur and polymath. Solomon comes from a family of scrap-metal dealers, so he knows salvage. He is also an intensely driven historical researcher and preservationist. Among other pursuits, he fought for seven years in the late 1990s and early 2000s to stop the demolition of 211 Pearl Street, a circa 1831 commercial building in lower Manhattan commissioned by soapmaker William Colgate. (Yes, that Colgate, progenitor of the Colgate-Palmolive mega-corporation.) Solomon had heard that New York writer Herman Melville might have written his famous 1853 short story “Bartleby the Scrivener” at 211 Pearl. This may or may not have been true. In the end, the building was destroyed and replaced by a skyscraper. A salvager carted away some of the timbers and sold them for reuse in other buildings, including a hotel in New Hampshire.

By 2019, Solomon was running his own Brooklyn-based timber-salvage company, Sawkill Lumber. (Named after a creek that once ran from the present-day site of the American Museum of Natural History to the East River. It powered an early 1600s Dutch sawmill that probably helped devour the old-growth forest of Manhattan itself.) Solomon also authored a book about reclaimed wood, for which he consulted Ed Cook. After that, Solomon ended up helping with historical research for the Terminal Warehouse project. With his finger on the pulse of New York demolitions, he was more than happy to have the dendrochronologists tag along with him to active sites and saw out samples as walls were being taken down and workers piled up debris.

Among other places, they showed up with their own chainsaws and hardhats to the remodeling of an 1898 firehouse on Manhattan’s Lafayette Street; a couple of doomed horse stables in Brooklyn; the 19th-century St. Mary’s Church in Brooklyn’s Clinton Hill neighborhood, which was coming down for a modern development; and various warehouses, homes and mixed-use building scattered around the city. So far, they have material from 18 buildings, and plan to collect more.

The one other site they have analyzed so far is 211 Pearl; Solomon had hung on to some of the remains. They identified the framing as white pine. They then compared the timbers to studies of rare living white pines from Pennsylvania, upstate New York and Quebec, and found the best match in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Here, they learned, the pines had once grown as much as four feet in diameter and 160 feet tall. Logging had started in the 1750s and peaked in the 1870s, with much of the wood being sawed in the upstate town of Glens Falls, and sent down to New York.

The living-tree studies to which the researchers compared the Pearl Street timbers extended back to 1690—quite a respectable stretch. But some of the Pearl Street timbers were even older: 1532. If more such specimens can be found, said Rao, this should allow the scientists to extend the climate record for this region considerably. Interestingly, the trees appear to have been cut in 1789, four decades before 211 Pearl went up. Were they stockpiled? Or, perhaps recycled from an even earlier building?

The dendrochronologists have now joined with Solomon to try founding a nonprofit aimed at promoting the preservation of old timbers in New York. They are also talking with a small group of engineers and architects who want to lobby the city for an ordinance that would identify old timbers uncovered in demolitions, and require companies to contact salvagers.

“I’d like to see information from a big network of buildings,” said Leland. “We could develop a sort of history of the urban forest.”

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory is Columbia University’s home for Earth science research. Its scientists develop fundamental knowledge about the origin, evolution and future of the natural world, from the planet’s deepest interior to the outer reaches of its atmosphere, on every continent and in every ocean, providing a rational basis for the difficult choices facing humanity. www.ldeo.columbia.edu  |  @LamontEarthThe

The Earth Institute, Columbia University mobilizes the sciences, education and public policy to achieve a sustainable earth. www.earth.columbia.edu.

Decline In CO2 Cooled Earth’s Climate Over 30 Million Years Ago, Scientists Find

Newswise — New research led by the University of Bristol demonstrates that a decline in the concentration of atmospheric CO2 played a major role in driving Earth’s climate from a warm greenhouse into a cold icehouse world around 34 million years ago. This transition could be partly reversed in the next centuries due to the anthropogenic rise in CO2.

Between 40 and 34 million years ago, Earth’s climate underwent a major climatic transition. Before 40 million years ago, during the Eocene, Antarctica was covered by lush forests, but by 34 million years ago, in the Oligocene, these forests had been replaced by thick continental ice sheets, as we know Antarctica today. The main driver of this greenhouse to icehouse transition is widely debated, and little information is available about how climate changed on land. An international team led by Dr Vittoria Lauretano and Dr David Naafs at the University of Bristol used molecular fossils preserved in ancient coals to reconstruct land temperature across this transition.

The team used a new approach based on the distribution of bacterial lipids preserved in ancient wetland deposits. It was developed as part of the ERC-funded project, The Greenhouse Earth System (TGRES), which also funded this study. The TGRES PI and paper co-author Rich Pancost, from the University’s School of Chemistry, explained: ‘These compounds originally comprised the cell membranes of bacteria living in ancient wetlands, with their structures changing slightly to help the bacteria adapt to changing temperature and acidity. Those compounds can then be preserved for tens of millions of years, allowing us to reconstruct those ancient environmental conditions.’

To reconstruct temperature change across the greenhouse to icehouse transition, the team applied their new approach to coal deposits from the southeast Australian Gippsland Basin. These remarkable deposits span over 10 million years of Earth history and have been extensively characterised by collaborators on the study from the University of Melbourne, Dr. Vera Korasidis and Prof. Malcolm Wallace.

The new data show that land temperatures cooled alongside the ocean’s and by a similar magnitude of about 3C. To explore causes of that temperature decline, the team conducted climate model simulations, Crucially, only simulations that included a decline in atmospheric CO2 could reproduce a cooling consistent with the temperature data reconstructed from the coals.

These results provide further evidence that atmospheric CO2 plays a crucial role in driving Earth’s climate, including the formation of the Antarctic ice sheet.

Jainey Bavishi Nominated By Biden To Key Environmental Job

The Biden administration has nominated, a leading expert on responding to the challenges of climate change, Jainey Bavishi to a top leadership position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Bavishi will serve as one of the two top deputies to NOAA administrator Rick Spinrad, an ocean scientist, who was confirmed by the Senate last month after being nominated by President Joe Biden in April.

The Biden administration has made confronting climate change one of its top priorities, and the appointment of Bavishi is fitting at an agency responsible for environmental prediction and monitoring and protecting the nation’s coasts, oceans and fisheries.

Bavishi most recently served as the director of the New York Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency, where she led a team that prepares the city for impacts of climate change. The office is working on several initiatives to protect the city’s structures and inhabitants, including installing a 2.4-mile flood protection system consisting of flood walls and floodgates and improving underground interior drainage systems in Manhattan.

“The Biden administration has picked a tremendous climate champion to serve the American people,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in an emailed statement. “Jainey’s leadership and vision has transformed New York City’s coastline and has helped to protect New Yorkers from destructive flooding and deadly heat waves.”

Her official title within the administration, if confirmed by the Senate, will be assistant secretary for oceans and atmosphere at the Department of Commerce. But, in practice, she will work at NOAA, which is housed in the Commerce Department, and serve as assistant secretary for conservation and management.

Bavishi “brings to the post a powerful combination of top-notch management skills, knowledge of Federal government and on-the-ground experience with environmental conservation and resilience,” wrote Kathy Sullivan, who served as NOAA administrator under President Obama, in an email.

Before Bavishi’s post in the New York Mayor’s office, she served in the Obama administration as the associate director for climate preparedness at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and as director of external affairs and senior policy adviser at NOAA. While at the Council on Environmental Quality, she was responsible for institutionalizing climate resilience considerations across Federal programs and policies.

Prior to that, Bavishi was the executive director of R3ADY Asia-Pacific, a Hawaii-based public-private partnership to reduce the risk of natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region. There she worked with David Lassner, president of the University of Hawaii.

“Jainey has spent her entire career in service to people and the planet,” Lassner wrote in an email. “[S]he developed a deep understanding and appreciation of the interactions and interrelationships among the land, seas, and atmosphere with human behavior as well as proven skills in collaboration on complex matters across public and private sectors to achieve outcomes.”

Her background in working across organizations will probably be relied on by Spinrad, who listed developing services to support climate change work within NOAA and with its partners as one of his top priorities.

Bavishi may also get pulled into efforts to explore the development of a “National Climate Service,” which makes climate data, forecasts, and decision support tools available to the public akin to the National Weather Service’s efforts with weather information.

NOAA faces numerous additional challenges that Bavishi will probably join Spinrad in attempting to address, which include:

– addressing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, marine litter and ocean plastics, the health of corals, and keeping fisheries sustainable, while advancing the nation’s “blue economy” of goods and services the oceans provide to coastal communities;

– restoring the agency’s reputation and staff morale in the wake of “Sharpiegate,” involving President Trump’s false claim that Hurricane Dorian was going to strike Alabama, as well as the appointment of two climate science skeptics to senior positions in the waning days of his administration;

– increasing gender and racial diversity at the agency, where women and African Americans are deeply underrepresented.

“Jainey has been prepared for this opportunity to: represent the interests of communities across America who are struggling with disparate impacts of climate disasters,” wrote Flozell Daniels, Jr., president of the Foundation for Louisiana, where Bavishi also worked previously. The foundation is a social justice grant maker that aims to address long-standing inequities for Louisianans.

While Bavishi’s portfolio at NOAA will probably focus on climate adaptation and resource management, the White House has yet to nominate a second deputy to Spinrad who would concentrate on environmental prediction and observations, including weather forecasting. The agency faces several additional challenges in these areas, which include:

– improving the agency’s flagship weather prediction system, which lags behind its counterparts in Europe;

– launching a new generation of weather satellites;

– upgrading the National Weather Service’s aging and declining information technology infrastructure.

The Biden administration has signaled supporting NOAA’s activities is a clear priority by proposing a $7 billion budget for the agency, the most in its history.

As director of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Resiliency, Jainey Bavishi has been overseeing a $20 billion plan to prepare the Big Apple and its 520 miles of coastline for climate change impacts. She leads a cross-disciplinary team at Resiliency which uses a science-based approach in its analysis, policymaking, programs, and project development, as well as capacity building, the White House said.

Climate Change Is Driving Deadly Weather Disasters From Arizona To Mumbai

Heat waves. Floods. Wildfires. It’s been a destructive summer so far, and forecasts for droughts, fires and hurricanes are looking downright bleak.

We know that climate change is to blame. But how exactly is global warming driving dangerous weather?

Lauren Sommer and Rebecca Hersher from NPR’s climate team broke down the details in a conversation with Morning Edition’s Noel King.

The country is experiencing yet another heat wave this week. Is it just us or is this summer unusual?

It’s not just our memories — this past June was the hottest June recorded in the U.S. in more than a century, about four degrees hotter on average. Heat waves (like in the Pacific Northwest) can be deadly, and many cities are just realizing now how underprepared they are to deal with them.

What’s the connection between these extreme heat events and climate change?

There’s been about two degrees Fahrenheit of warming so far worldwide. The number sounds small, but it’s enough to “profoundly shift the statistics of extreme heat events,” according to Dr. Radley Horton, a climate scientist at Columbia University. He says these “dangerous thresholds of really high temperature and high humidity” could potentially happen twice as often as they have in the past.

What does this mean for wildfires?

About 95% of the West is in drought right now, and there’s a clear cycle where heat dries out land and vegetation. So when wildfires do happen, they burn hotter and even create their own weather systems in which huge pyrocumulus clouds can generate lightning strike — in turn causing even more fires.

What does a hotter Earth have to do with flash flooding?

It’s been a wild few weeks for flash flood disasters, from Central China to western Europe to Mumbai to Arizona. These fast-moving waters have killed hundreds of people, but they’re not a surprise to climate scientists, who have been sounding the alarms for years.

Even though these floods happened around their world, their root cause was the same: extreme rain. And it’s getting more common as the Earth gets warmer (hot air + hot water = more moisture in the air).

Plus, as the planet heats up, some climate models show winds in the upper atmosphere slowing down in certain places, which would mean that extreme weather would linger there longer.

Scientists are working hard to predict how common these disasters will be in the years to come. After all, lives are on the line.

 

Largest Known Comet Is Heading Close Enough To Us To Become Visible

Astronomers have discovered the largest known comet, and it’s about a thousand times more massive than others.  Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein, so named because it was found by University of Pennsylvania department of physics and astronomygraduate student Pedro Bernardinelli and Professor Gary Bernstein, is between 62 to 124 miles (100 to 200 kilometers) across. The team announced the discovery in June. This unusual comet will make itsclosest approach to our sun in 2031, but you’ll likely need a large amateur telescope to see it.  The giant comet, also known as C/2014 UN271, is from the outskirts of our solar system and has been making its way toward our sun for millions of years. This is also the most distant comet to be discovered on its inbound journey, which will provide scientists a chance to observe and study it for years to come.

Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein was found in six years of data collected by the Dark Energy Camera, which is located on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The data collected by this camera feeds into The Dark Energy Survey, a collaboration of more than 400 scientists across seven countries and 25 institutions. The camera, also known as DECam, is helping to map 300 million galaxies across the night sky — but it also captures glimpses of comets and trans-Neptuinan objects, or icy celestial bodies that reside along the outskirts of the solar system, beyond Neptune’s orbit.

Bernardinelli and Bernstein used algorithms at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to identify trans-Neptunian objects. During their work, the astronomers traced 32 detections to one object. Comets are icy relics that were kicked out of the solar system when the giant planets formed and migrated to their current configurations. As comets approach our sun during their orbits, their ices evaporate, creating their signature appearance.

Comets include a nucleus, or the solid “dirty snowball” at its center. Comas are the gaseous clouds that form around the nucleus as the comet’s ices evaporate. The evaporating gas and dust is pushed behind the comet as well, creating two tails illuminated by sunlight. These tails can be hundreds or even millions of miles in length. Images of the object taken between 2014 and 2018 did not show a cometary tail. But within the past three years, the object grew a tail, which officially makes it Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein.

Observations made using the Las Cumbres Observatory network of telescopes around the globe helped confirm the status of the active comet. “Since we’re a team based all around the world, it just happened that it was my afternoon, while the other folks were asleep. The first image had the comet obscured by a satellite streak, and my heart sank. But then the others were clear enough and gosh: there it was, definitely a beautiful little fuzzy dot, not at all crisp like its neighbouring stars!” said Michele Bannister, astronomer at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, in a statement.

The comet’s journey started over 3.7 trillion miles (6 trillion kilometers) away from the sun, or 40,000 astronomical units. The distance between Earth and the sun is one astronomical unit. For reference, Pluto is 39 astronomical units from the sun. The comet came from the OortCloud of objects, an isolated group of icy objects that are more distant than anything else in our solar system. Scientists believe this is where comets come from, but they have never actually observed an object within the OortCloud.

The OortCloud is located between 2,000 and 100,000 astronomical units from the sun. Eventually, NASA spacecraft like Voyager 1 and 2, as well as New Horizons will reach the OortCloud. But by the time they do, their power sources will have been dead for centuries. Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein is currently about 1.8 billion miles (3 billion kilometers) away — about the distance of Uranus from the sun– and at its closest point in 2031, it will be just a bit more than Saturn’s distance to the sun.

“We have the privilege of having discovered perhaps the largest comet ever seen — or at least larger than any well-studied one — and caught it early enough for people to watch it evolve as it approaches and warms up,” Bernstein said in a statement. “It has not visited the planets in more than 3 million years.” This unusual opportunity to study an inbound comet will allow astronomers a chance to better understand the origin and composition of the comet. It may be just one of many giant comets originatingin the OortCloud.

Indian Scientists In Antarctica Discover New Species

Biologists from the Central University of Punjab have discovered a new species of moss in Continental Antarctica. The species has been named Bryumbharatiensis after one of the remotest Indian research stations in the desert continent of Antarctica. Coincidentally, the name also pays tribute to the Hindu Deity Bharati, who is the Goddess of learning. Presenting our discovery of Bryumbharatiensis, a new species of moss from Antarctica named after Goddess Saraswati (Bharati)! BBC featured a detailed story on the discovery. @narendramodi@PMOIndia@EduMinOfIndiahttps://t.co/Igbqkf53jW — Felix Bast (@ExaltFibs) July 12, 2021

The plant was first discovered growing on some rocks near the research station by Dr. Felix Bast, a polar and marine biologist who heads the Department of Botany in the Central University of Punjab. He was part of the Indian Antarctic Expedition 2016-17. With the rising earth temperature, Antarctica has been fast losing large amounts of its ice cover. With areas that were once perennially frozen now slowly being thawed and melting away for the first time in millions of years, patches of green have appeared on what was once a frigid wasteland. Thus, increasing the likelihood of discovering new species of plants and microbes that were previously frozen deep under the thick ice sheets. So, in 2017, a team of biologists from Punjab University had gone to the Indian research station as a part of a six month long expedition, specifically to collect samples and examine the plant life.

After it was first discovered, samples were brought back by Dr. Bast to the university, where it was extensively researched upon by a group researchers including Wahid Ul Rahman, a fourth-year PhD student at CUPB and Kirti Gupta, the head of the Botany Department at DAV College in Bathinda. The identification and classifying of new species is a laborious process and it took over five years of careful study of the DNA sequencing of the plant, for scientists to confirm the existence of Bryumbharatiensis. A paper was then published in the journal of Asia-Pacific Biodiversity – a leading international journal by the team, describing the discovery of the moss.

It is yet unknown how the moss survived the rock and ice that makes up close to 99 percent of the Antarctic landmass. Plants require amongst other things, sunlight, water, and several minerals including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to survive. It was discovered that this moss grows primarily in areas inhabited by large numbers of penguins. Penguin excrement is an excellent source of nitrogen and it has been theorized that it is used by the moss as a form of manure.

Antarctica being at the very bottom of the Southern Hemisphere faces an interesting phenomenon where the entire continent experiences six whole months of continuous sunlight during the summers and the six months of winter are spent in constant darkness. Scientists think that the moss dries up, not entirely unlike a seed and remains dormant during the winter months. And when the sun comes out in September it germinates by absorbing the water from the melted snow. Over a hundred different moss species have been previously been found in the Antarctic. This particular moss is native to Eastern Antarctica and monumentally, the first and only plant species discovered in last four decades of the Indian Antarctic Mission.

A 16-Million-Year-Old Tree Tells A Deep Story Of The Passage Of Time

The sequoia tree slab is an invitation to begin thinking about a vast timescale that includes everything from fossils of armored amoebas to the great Tyrannosaurus rex. PaleobotanistScott Wing hopes that he’s wrong. Even though he carefully counted each ring in an immense, ancient slab of sequoia, the scientist notes that there’s always a little bit of uncertainty in the count. Wing came up with about 260, but, he says, it’s likely a young visitor may one day write him saying: “You’re off by three.” And that would a good thing, Wing says, because it’d be another moment in our ongoing conversation about time.

The shining slab, preserved and polished, is the keystone to consideration of time and our place in it in the “Hall of Fossils—Deep Time” exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The fossil greets visitors at one of the show’s entrances and just like the physical tree, what the sequoia represents has layers.

Each yearly delineation on the sequoia’s surface is a small part of a far grander story that ties together all of life on Earth. Scientists know this as Deep Time. It’s not just on the scale of centuries, millennia, epochs, or periods, but the ongoing flow that goes back to the origins of our universe, the formation of the Earth, and the evolution of all life, up through this present moment. It’s the backdrop for everything we see around us today, and it can be understood through techniques as different as absolute dating of radioactive minerals and counting the rings of a prehistoric tree. Each part informs the whole.

In decades past, the Smithsonian’s fossil halls were known for the ancient celebrities they contained. There was the dinosaur hall, and the fossil mammal hall, surrounded by the remains of other extinct organisms. But now all of those lost species have been brought together into an integrated story of dynamic and dramatic change. The sequoia is an invitation to begin thinking about how we fit into the vast timescale that includes everything from fossils of armored amoebas called forams to the great Tyrannosaurus rex.

Exactly how the sequoia fossil came to be at the Smithsonian is not entirely clear. The piece was gifted to the museum long ago, “before my time,” Wing says. Still, enough of the tree’s backstory is known to identify it as a massive tree that grew in what’s now central Oregon about 16 million years ago. This tree was once a long-lived part of a true forest primeval. There are fossils both far older and more recent in the recesses of the Deep Time displays. But what makes the sequoia a fitting introduction to the story that unfolds behind it, Wing says, is that the rings offer different ways to think about time. Given that the sequoia grew seasonally, each ring marks the passage of another year, and visitors can look at the approximately 260 delineations and think about what such a time span represents.

Wing says, people can play the classic game of comparing the tree’s life to a human lifespan. If a long human life is about 80 years, Wing says, then people can count 80, 160, and 240 years, meaning the sequoia grew and thrived over the course of approximately three human lifespans—but during a time when our own ancestors resembled gibbon-like apes. Time is not something that life simply passes through. In everything—from the rings of an ancient tree to the very bones in your body—time is part of life.

The record of that life—and even afterlife—lies between the lines. “You can really see that this tree was growing like crazy in its initial one hundred years or so,” Wing says, with the growth slowing as the tree became larger. And despite the slab’s ancient age, some of the original organic material is still locked inside. “This tree was alive, photosynthesizing, pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, turning it into sugars and into lignin and cellulose to make cell walls,” Wing says. After the tree perished, water carrying silica and other minerals coated the log to preserve the wood and protect some of those organic components inside. “The carbon atoms that came out of the atmosphere 16 million years ago are locked in this chunk of glass.”

And so visitors are drawn even further back, not only through the life of the tree itself but through a time span so great that it’s difficult to comprehend. A little back of the envelope math indicates that the tree represents about three human lifetimes, but that the time between when the sequoia was alive and the present could contain about 200,000 human lifetimes. The numbers grow so large that they begin to become abstract. The sequoia is a way to touch that history and start to feel the pull of all those ages past, and what they mean to us. “Time is so vast,” Wing says, “that this giant slab of a tree is just scratching the surface.”

(Riley Black is a freelance science writer specializing in evolution, paleontology and natural history who blogs regularly for Scientific American.)

Tamil Nadu College Student’s Electric Cycle Offers 50 Kms Ride In Just Rs 1.50

When the fuel prices are at an all-time high, a Madurai college student, Dhanush Kumar has designed a unique solar-powered electric cycle.The college student from Madurai in Tamil Nadu who designed a solar-powered electric cycle. His story has now prompted people to share all sorts of appreciative comments. The bicycle is powered by a 24 volt and 26 ampere battery. The bicycle can run for up to 50 km continuously with the help of solar panels. A rider can travel more than a 20 kms after the electric charges reduce to the downline. Dhanush hailing from Madurai, an II-Tier city in Tamil Nadu, claimed that this design is his own and is apt for cities like Madurai as it can be driven in with a maximum speed of 40 Kms.

When asked about the working of the electric cycle, he said, “The cost of electricity used for this battery is very low compared to the price of petrol. It costs Rs 1.50 to travel up to 50 km. This bike can run at a speed of 30-40 km. This speed is enough to drive this bike inside an II-tier city like Madurai.” When the petrol and diesel prices are skyrocketing in the country, an electric designed cycle would be a respite for people finding it tough to commute.

ANI took to Twitter to share about the student named Dhanush Kumar. “Madurai college student, Dhanush Kumar designs solar-powered electric cycle. The bicycle can run for up to 50 km continuously with the help of solar panels. A rider can travel more than a 20 kms after the electric charges reduce to the downline,” they wrote. They also shared a few images of the student and his creation.

While replying to their own post, they shared a quote from the creator talking about the bicycle. “The cost of electricity used for this battery is very low compared to the price of petrol. It costs ₹1.50 to travel up to 50 km. This bike can run at a speed of 30-40 km. This speed is enough to drive this bike inside a city like Madurai, says Dhanush Kumar,” reads the tweet.

Thoovanam Waterfalls In Kerala – A Hidden Attraction

A waterfall that reveals itself to only those willing to undertake a 4 km long trek through a verdant jungle – that is Thoovanam waterfalls in Idukki district. Nestled inside Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, it cascades from a height of 84 feet and fascinates Nature lovers and trekkers alike.

The trekking to the waterfalls, which is around 8 km from Marayoor near Alampetty on Marayoor-Udumalpet state highway, is arranged by the forest department. The guided trek from Alampetty checkpost offers a perfect opportunity to witness rare wildlife amid the lush green forests of Chinnar. If you are lucky enough, you can spot elephants, langurs, giant grizzled squirrels (Chinnar is famous for them) and numerous types of butterflies and birds. This part of the sanctuary is a rain-shadow region with a climate that is different from that what is experienced in the other parts of the state.

As you reach near the end of the trekking trail, you will hear the rumblings of the waterfalls. The sight of the waterfalls from a distance itself takes away the fatigue from the long trek. Originating from the Pambar River, the waterfalls amid captivating surroundings offer one of the most beautiful sights of Nature. The view is so stunning that many travellers prefer to slouch there for hours, enjoying the natural beauty and soaking in the serenity of the place.

If you are planning to spend one or two days in the sanctuary, there are accommodation options at tree houses, jungle cottages and dormitories. In association with eco-development committees formed by tribal communities, the forest department offers various other treks at Chinnar. To have a preview of the waterfalls, check the following video https://www.keralatourism.org/ecotourism/video-gallery/thoovanam-falls-chinnar/814

Getting there:
Nearest railway station: Ernakulam, about 130 km away; Aluva, about 110 km away
Nearest airport: Cochin, about 150 km away; Coimbatore, about 110 km away

Contact
The Wildlife Warden
Munnar P.O, Idukki – 685 612
Phone: +91 4865 231587
Email: [email protected]

Making Seawater Drinkable In Minutes

Newswise — According to the World Health Organization, about 785 million people around the world lack a clean source of drinking water. Despite the vast amount of water on Earth, most of it is seawater and freshwater accounts for only about 2.5% of the total. One of the ways to provide clean drinking water is to desalinate seawater. The Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) has announced the development of a stable performance electrospun nanofiber membrane to turn seawater into drinking water by membrane distillation process. Membrane wetting is the most challenging issue in membrane distillation. If a membrane exhibits wetting during membrane distillation operation, the membrane must be replaced. Progressive membrane wetting has been especially observed for long-term operations. If a membrane gets fully wetted, the membrane leads to inefficient membrane distillation performance, as the feed flow through the membrane leading to low-quality permeate.

A research team in KICT, led by Dr. Yunchul Woo, has developed co-axial electrospun nanofiber membranes fabricated by an alternative nano-technology, which is electrospinning. This new desalination technology shows it has the potential to help solve the world’s freshwater shortage. The developed technology can prevent wetting issues and also improve the long-term stability in membrane distillation process. A three-dimensional hierarchical structure should be formed by the nanofibers in the membranes for higher surface roughness and hence better hydrophobicity.

The co-axial electrospinning technique is one of the most favorable and simple options to fabricate membranes with three-dimensional hierarchical structures. Dr. Woo’s research team used poly(vinylidene fluoride-co-hexafluoropropylene) as the core and silica aerogel mixed with a low concentration of the polymer as the sheath to produce a co-axial composite membrane and obtain a superhydrophobic membrane surface. In fact, silica aerogel exhibited a much lower thermal conductivity compared with that of conventional polymers, which led to increased water vapor flux during the membrane distillation process due to a reduction of conductive heat losses.

Most of the studies using electrospun nanofiber membranes in membrane distillation applications operated for less than 50 hours although they exhibited a high water vapor flux performance. On the contrary, Dr. Woo’s research team applied the membrane distillation process using the fabricated co-axial electrospun nanofiber membrane for 30 days, which is 1 month.

The co-axial electrospun nanofiber membrane performed a 99.99% salt rejection for 1 month. Based on the results, the membrane operated well without wetting and fouling issues, due to its low sliding angle and thermal conductivity properties. Temperature polarization is one of the significant drawbacks in membrane distillation. It can decrease water vapor flux performance during membrane distillation operation due to conductive heat losses. The membrane is suitable for long-term membrane distillation applications as it possesses several important characteristics such as, low sliding angle, low thermal conductivity, avoiding temperature polarization, and reduced wetting and fouling problems whilst maintaining super-saturated high water vapor flux performance.

Dr. Woo’s research team noted that it is more important to have a stable process than a high water vapor flux performance in a commercially available membrane distillation process. Dr. Woo said that “the co-axial electrospun nanofiber membrane have strong potential for the treatment of seawater solutions without suffering from wetting issues and may be the appropriate membrane for pilot-scale and real-scale membrane distillation applications.”

The Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT) is a government sponsored research institute established to contribute to the development of Korea’s construction industry and national economic growth by developing source and practical technology in the fields of construction and national land management. This research was supported by an internal grant (20200543-001) from the KICT, Republic of Korea. The outcomes of this project were published in the international journal, Journal of Membrane Science, a renowned international journal in the polymer science field (IF: 7.183 and Rank #3 of the JCR category) in April 2021.

Does The Universe Expand?

Newswise — Our universe is expanding, but our two main ways to measure how fast this expansion is happening  have resulted in different answers. For the past decade, astrophysicists have been gradually dividing into two camps: one that believes that the difference is significant, and another that thinks it could be due to errors in measurement. If it turns out that errors are causing the mismatch, that would confirm our basic model of how the universe works. The other possibility presents a thread that, when pulled, would suggest some fundamental missing new physics is needed to stitch it back together. For several years, each new piece of evidence from telescopes has seesawed the argument back and forth, giving rise to what has been called the ‘Hubble tension.’

Wendy Freedman, a renowned astronomer and the John and Marion Sullivan University Professor in Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, made some of the original measurements of the expansion rate of the universe that resulted in a higher value of the Hubble constant. But in a new review paper accepted to the Astrophysical Journal, Freedman gives an overview of the most recent observations. Her conclusion: the latest observations are beginning to close the gap.   That is, there may not be a conflict after all, and our standard model of the universe does not need to be significantly modified.

Universal questions

The rate at which the universe is expanding is called the Hubble constant, named for UChicago alum Edwin Hubble, SB 1910, PhD 1917, who is credited with discovering the expansion of the universe in 1929. Scientists want to pin down this rate precisely, because the Hubble constant is tied to the age of the universe and how it evolved over time. A substantial wrinkle emerged in the past decade when results from the two main measurement methods began to diverge. But scientists are still debating the significance of the mismatch.

One way to measure the Hubble constant is by looking at very faint light left over from the Big Bang, called the cosmic microwave background. This has been done both in space and on the  ground with facilities like the UChicago-led South Pole Telescope. Scientists can feed these observations into their ‘standard model’ of the early universe and run it forward in time to predict what the Hubble constant should be today; they get an answer of 67.4 kilometers per second per megaparsec.

The other method is to look at stars and galaxies in the nearby universe, and measure their distances and how fast they are moving away from us. Freedman has been a leading expert on this method for many decades; in 2001, her team made one of the landmark measurements using the Hubble Space Telescope to image stars called Cepheids. The value they found was 72.  Freedman has continued to measure Cepheids in the years since, reviewing more telescope data each time; however, in 2019, she and her colleagues published an answer based on an entirely different method using stars called red giants. The idea was to cross-check the Cepheids with an independent method.

Red giants are very large and luminous stars that always reach the same peak brightness before rapidly fading. If scientists can accurately measure the actual, or intrinsic, peak brightness of the red giants, they can then measure the distances to their host galaxies, an essential but difficult part of the equation. The key question is how accurate  those measurements are. The first version of this calculation in 2019 used a single, very nearby galaxy to calibrate the red giant stars’ luminosities. Over the past two years, Freedman and her collaborators have run the numbers for several different galaxies and star populations. “There are now four independent ways of calibrating the red giant luminosities, and they agree to within 1% of each other,” said Freedman. “That indicates to us this is a really good way of measuring the distance.”

“I really wanted to look carefully at both the Cepheids and red giants. I know their strengths and weaknesses well,” said Freedman. “I have come to the conclusion that that we do not require fundamental new physics to explain the differences in the local and distant expansion rates. The new red giant data show that they are consistent.”  University of Chicago graduate student Taylor Hoyt, who has been making measurements of the red giant stars in the anchor galaxies, added, “We keep measuring and testing the red giant branch stars in different ways, and they keep exceeding our expectations.”

The value of the Hubble constant Freedman’s team gets from the red giants is 69.8 km/s/Mpc—virtually the same as the value derived from the cosmic microwave background experiment. “No new physics is required,” said Freedman.The calculations using Cepheid stars still give higher numbers, but according to Freedman’s analysis, the difference may not be troubling. “The Cepheid stars have always been a little noisier and a little more complicated to fully understand; they are young stars in the active star-forming regions of galaxies, and that means there’s potential for things like dust or contamination from other stars to throw off your measurements,” she explained. To her mind, the conflict can be resolved with better data.

Kicking the tires

Next year, when the James Webb Space Telescope is expected to launch, scientists will begin to collect those new observations. Freedman and collaborators have already been awarded time on the telescope for a major program to make more measurements of both Cepheid and red giant stars. “The Webb will give us higher sensitivity and resolution, and the data will get better really, really soon,” she said. But in the meantime, she wanted to take a careful look at the existing data, and what she found was that much of it actually agrees. “That’s the way science proceeds,” Freedman said. “You kick the tires to see if something deflates, and so far, no flat tires.”

Some scientists who have been rooting for a fundamental mismatch might be disappointed. But for Freedman, either answer is exciting.  “There is still some room for new physics, but even if there isn’t, it would show that the standard model we have is basically correct, which is also a profound conclusion to come to,” she said. “That’s the interesting thing about science: We don’t know the answers in advance. We’re learning as we go. It is a really exciting time to be in the field.”

Collisions Between Neutron Star And Black Hole Discovered

On Jan. 5, 2020, astrophysicists heard a chirp from a distant part of the cosmos, some 900 million light-years away. The fleeting sound was unlike any they’d heard before and was caused by a great ripple in space-time — a gravitational wave — that spread out across the universe from over 900 million light-years away, washing over the Earth and pinging detectors. Chirp.  Then, 10 days later, they heard another, similar sound. A cosmic twin. Gravitational waves had once again pinged Earth’s detectors. Chirp.

After careful analysis, the two signals have been identified as emanating from extreme, never-before-seen events in deep space: the collision between a black hole and a neutron star. The pair of collisions (or, less poetically, “mergers”) are detailed in a new study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters on Tuesday, featuring over 1,000 scientists from the LIGO/Virgo and KAGRA collaborations, a multinational effort to hunt for gravitational waves. The two newly described events are named GW200105 and GW200115, for the dates they were discovered, and provide the first definitive evidence of an elusive merger.

Prior to the dual detection, astronomers had only found black holes merging with black holes and neutron stars merging with neutron stars.”We’ve been waiting and expecting, at some stage, to detect a system with one of each,” said Susan Scott, an astrophysicist at Australian National University and a member of OzGrav and the LIGO collaboration. Now they have. Over the last two years, there had been suggestions that a collision between a neutron star and a black hole may have been spotted — but one of the objects appeared a little unusual. It was too big to be a neutron star and too small to be a black hole. The unknown object remains a mystery, which means GW200105 and GW200115 will go down in history.

“These are the first really confident detections of the merger of a neutron star with a black hole,” adds Rory Smith, an astrophysicist at Monash University in Australia and a member of the LIGO collaboration. There is huge excitement among scientists with the first confirmed detection of a neutron star-black hole (NS-BH) collision being reported. This ground breaking discovery of gravitational waves from a pair of NS-BH mergers was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters on Tuesday. Professor SomakRaychaudhury, Director of Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), told the media that the development was expected for a long time but was not confirmed. A new analysis was done to reconfirm this discovery which has now been published in the international journal, said Raychoudhury.

Until now, the LIGO-Virgo collaboration (LVC) of gravitational waves detectors has only been able to observe collisions between pairs of black holes or neutron stars. For the first time, in January 2020, the network of detectors made the discovery of gravitational waves from a pair of NS-BH mergers. According to the IUCAA director, the technique used here to detect the signal is called matched filtering. “This was also used for the first discovery of gravitational waves. It may be recalled that this was developed at IUCAA in the 1990s by Sanjeev Dhurandhar and others,” he said. “Basically, we have been detecting binary black hole mergers and binary neutron star mergers (until now). This is a hybrid collision,” according to scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, India (LIGO-India).

When contacted, DrTarunSouradeep, spokesperson of LIGO-India, said that researchers from LIGO-India have contributed to this major discovery. “This is an ongoing effort and the reason to make the detector network stronger is to discover a newer kind of phenomenon,” said Souradeep. This is a clear indication of neutron star and black hole merger, Prof Rajesh Nayak from the Center of Excellence in Space Sciences, IISER, Kolkata said.

Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss Are A Single Problem

UNITED NATIONS (IPS) – Earth is in the throes of multiple environmental crises, with climate change and the loss of biodiversity the most pressing. The urgency to confront the two challenges has been marked by policies that tackle the issues separately. Now, a report by a team of scientists has warned that success on either front is hinged on a combined approach to the dual crises. It is the result of the first collaboration between the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

“This has the potential to be game-changing both in terms of the way research is done and to highlight the synergies between these topics. Oftentimes, because we work in silos, we tend to forget that there is such a strong interconnection between these systems and clearly between climate and biodiversity,” co-author ShobhaMaharaj told IPS. Maharaj is a lead author on the small islands chapter of the IPPC’s 6th Assessment Report on the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change and 1 of 50 leading climate and biodiversity scientists who met virtually in December 2020, to explore the complex connections between the two fields. Their workshop report was presented to the media on Thursday.

Among its arguments for addressing global warming and species loss simultaneously is evidence of some narrowly-focused climate fixes that inadvertently accelerate the extinction of plant and animal species. According to the report, the scientific community has been working on synergies, or actions to protect biodiversity that contribute to climate change mitigation. “There are some measures that people have been taking that are considered to be climate mitigation, but when done on a large scale can be harmful,” Maharaj said. For example, if you plant trees on a savannah grassland this can harm an entire ecosystem. We always need to step back and look at the big picture and this is becoming more integrated into the current dialogue between climate change and biodiversity, so it is definitely headed in the right direction.”

Maharaj says the findings can be instructive for regions like the Caribbean, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. While the area boasts endemic species, rich land and marine ecosystems, for some countries limited land for economic development results in natural habitat degradation and deforestation, which is exacerbated by climate change. “Something as simple as the development of a regional protected area, rather than each island having its own protected area would go a long way in terms of highlighting, developing and growing the synergies and dealing with the trade-offs between biodiversity and climate change,” she told IPS.

The IPPC’s 6th Assessment Report on the state of scientific, technical and socio-economic knowledge on climate change calls for an increase in sustainable agriculture and forestry, better-targeted conservation actions. Credit: Alison Kentish/IPS The peer-reviewed report comes ahead of two major climate meetings this year; the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, known as COP15, in October and the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November. Co-Chair of the IPBES-IPCC Scientific Steering Committee, Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner said a sustainable future for people and nature remains attainable, but requires ‘rapid and far-reaching’ action.

“Solving some of the strong and apparently unavoidable trade-offs between climate and biodiversity will entail a profound collective shift of individual and shared values concerning nature – such as moving away from the conception of economic progress based solely on GDP growth, to one that balances human development with multiple values of nature for a good quality of life, while not overshooting biophysical and social limits,” he said. The report lists measures to combat both climate change and biodiversity loss.

It cites ecosystems restoration as one of the cheapest and fastest nature-based climate mitigation solutions. Mangrove restoration, in particular, meets multiple global biodiversity and climate goals. It also calls for an increase in sustainable agriculture and forestry, better-targeted conservation actions and an end to subsidies that support activities that are detrimental to biodiversity such as deforestation and over-fishing. But it warned that just as climate change and biodiversity are inseparable, nature-based climate mitigation measures can only succeed alongside ambitious reductions in human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

“Land and ocean are already doing a lot, absorbing almost 50 percent of carbon dioxide from human emissions, but nature cannot do everything,” said Ana María Hernández Salgar, Chair of IPBES. The 2019 Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the first of its kind in a decade, stated that the rate of global change in nature in the last half-century was unprecedented in history. It warned that the ruthless demand for earth’s resources had resulted in one million plant and animal species facing extinction within decades, with implications for public health.

Meanwhile, a recent World Meteorological Organisation ‘State of the Global Climate Report,’ found that concentrations of the major greenhouse gases increased, despite a temporary reduction in emissions in 2020, due to COVID-19 containment measures. The report also noted that 2020 was one of the 3 warmest years on record. This week’s IPBES-IPCC Co-Sponsored Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Climate Change underscores that action is needed on both the climate change and biodiversity front – but going forward, must be addressed as 2 parts of 1 problem.

Radhika Fox Confirmed By US Senate To Lead Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water

The US Senate voted 55-43 to confirm Radhika Fox as head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water on June 16th. The confirmation comes five weeks after Fox testified before the EPW Committee during her nomination hearing. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., in remarks on the Senate floor, praised Fox’s record and highlighted the organizations endorsing her for the position, according to a report from The Hill. These include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Family Farm Alliance and the U.S. Water Alliance, where Fox previously served as chief executive, the report said.

“What those organizations have said — again and again — about Radhika Fox is that she is an exceptional leader who will work day and night to come up with practical solutions to our country’s serious water challenges,” Carper said June 16, according to the report. “Moreover, Ms. Fox will make sure everyone’s point of view is heard and taken into account when EPA acts to protect our country’s precious water resources.” Seven Republicans crossed the aisle and joined every Democrat present to vote in favor of Fox’s nomination: Sens. Susan Collins of Maine; Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker of Mississippi; Richard Burr of North Carolina; Kevin Cramer of North Dakota; and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

According to her bio, Fox is the CEO of the U.S. Water Alliance, a national nonprofit organization advancing policies and programs that build a sustainable water future for all. The Alliance educates the nation on the value of water, accelerates the adoption of one water policies and programs, and celebrates innovation in water management. Fox also serves as director of the Value of Water Coalition, a national campaign dedicated to educating and inspiring people about how water is essential, invaluable, and needs investment.

The Indian American has over 20 years of experience in developing policies, programs, and issue-based advocacy campaigns. She previously directed the policy and government affairs agenda for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which is responsible for providing 24/7 water, wastewater, and municipal power services to 2.6 million Bay Area residents. She also served as the Federal Policy director at PolicyLink, where she coordinated the organization’s policy agenda on a wide range of issues, including infrastructure investment, transportation, sustainable communities, economic inclusion, and workforce development. Fox holds a B.A. from Columbia University and a masters degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of California at Berkeley where she was a HUD Community Development Fellow.

Longest Day In The Northern Hemisphere

Summer’s officially here! Longest day in the Northern Hemisphere is June 21st. Technically, the summer solstice occurs when the sun is directly over the imaginary Tropic of Cancer, or 23.5°N latitude. It’s also known as the northern solstice because it occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere. This year, it occurred at 9:02 am IST on June 21st.Zenith Furthest Away from the Equator. A solstice happens when the sun’s zenith is at its furthest point from the equator. On the June solstice, it reaches its northernmost point and the Earth’s North Pole tilts directly towards the sun, at about 23.4 degrees.

“Solstice” (Latin: “solstitium”) means sun-stopping. The point on the horizon where the sun appears to rise and set, stops and reverses direction after this day. On the solstice, the sun does not rise precisely in the east, but rises to the north of east and sets to the north of west, meaning it’s visible in the sky for a longer period of time. Although the June solstice marks the first day of astronomical summer, it’s more common to use meteorological definitions of seasons, making the solstice midsummer or midwinter.

Solstices in Culture

Over the centuries, the June solstice has inspired countless festivals, midsummer celebrations and religious holidays. One of the world’s oldest evidence of the summer solstice’s importance in culture is Stonehenge in England, a megalithic structure which clearly marks the moment of the June solstice. In the Southern Hemisphere, where the June solstice is known as the shortest day of the year, it marks the first day of astronomical winter, but the middle of winter in meteorological terms.

Midnight Sun or Polar Night?

On the June solstice, the midnight sun is visible (weather permitting) throughout the night, in all areas from just south of the Arctic Circle to the North Pole.

Sunrise and Sunset Times

On the other side of the planet, south of the Antarctic Circle there’s Polar Night, meaning no Sunlight at all, on the June solstice.

Solstice Dates Vary

Even though most people consider June 21 as the date of the June solstice, it can happen anytime between June 20 and June 22, depending on which time zone you’re in. June 22 solstices are rare – the last June 22 solstice in UTC time took place in 1975 and there won’t be another one until 2203. The varying dates of the solstice are mainly due to the calendar system – most western countries use the Gregorian calendar which has 365 days in a normal year and 366 days in a Leap Year.

A tropical year is the time it takes the Earth to orbit once around the Sun. It is around 365.242199 days long, but varies slightly from year to year because of the influence of other planets. The exact orbital and daily rotational motion of the Earth, such as the “wobble” in the Earth’s axis (precession of the equinoxes), also contributes to the changing solstice dates. The 23.4° tilt in the Earth’s axis causes varying amounts of sunlight to reach different regions during its year-long orbit around the Sun. Today, the North Pole is tipped more towards the Sun than on any other day of the year. However, that does not mean more heat or that the Earth is any closer to the Sun, per common misconceptions.

Summer solstices happen twice each year (once in each hemisphere). Summer solstice for the Northern Hemisphere = Winter solstice for the Southern Hemisphere, and vice-versa. Also, during Equinoxes (vernal and autumnal), the Sun shines directly on the Equator and the length of day and night are nearly equal in either hemisphere. More key dates for 2021 (Northern Hemisphere): Autumn Equinox: Thursday, September 23, Winter Solstice: Tuesday, December 21.

Underwater Robot Offers New Insight Into Mid-Ocean “Twilight Zone”

Newswise — Woods Hole, MA — An innovative underwater robot known as Mesobot is providing researchers with deeper insight into the vast mid-ocean region known as the “twilight zone.” Capable of tracking and recording high-resolution images of slow-moving and fragile zooplankton, gelatinous animals, and particles, Mesobot greatly expands scientists’ ability to observe creatures in their mesopelagic habitat with minimal disturbance. This advance in engineering will enable greater understanding of the role these creatures play in transporting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the deep sea, as well as how commercial exploitation of twilight zone fisheries might affect the marine ecosystem.

In a paper published June 16 in Science Robotics, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) senior scientist Dana Yoerger presents Mesobot as a versatile vehicle for achieving a number of science objectives in the twilight zone.  “Mesobot was conceived to complement and fill important gaps not served by existing technologies and platforms,” said Yoerger. “We expect that Mesobot will emerge as a vital tool for observing midwater organisms for extended periods, as well as rapidly identifying species observed from vessel biosonars. Because Mesobot can survey, track, and record compelling imagery, we hope to reveal previously unknown behaviors, species interactions, morphological structures, and the use of bioluminescence.”

Co-authored by research scientists and engineers from WHOI, MBARI (Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute), and Stanford University, the paper outlines the robot’s success in autonomously tracking two gelatinous marine creatures during a 2019 research cruise in Monterey Bay. High-definition video revealed a “dinner plate” jellyfish “ramming” a siphonophore, which narrowly escaped the jelly’s venomous tentacles. Mesobot also recorded a 30-minute video of a giant larvacean, which appears to be nearly motionless but is actually riding internal waves that rise and fall 6 meters (20 feet). These observations represent the first time that a self-guided robot has tracked these small, clear creatures as they move through the water column like a “parcel of water,” said Yoerger.

“Mesobot has the potential to change how we observe animals moving through space and time in a way that we’ve never been able to do before,” said KakaniKatija, MBARI principal engineer. “As we continue to develop and improve on the vehicle, we hope to observe many other mysterious and captivating animals in the midwaters of the ocean, including the construction and disposal of carbon-rich giant larvacean ‘snot palaces.’”

Packaged in a hydrodynamically efficient yellow case, the hybrid robot is outfitted with a suite of oceanographic and acoustic survey sensors. It may be piloted remotely through a fiberoptic cable attached to a ship or released from its tether to follow pre-programmed missions or autonomously track a target at depths up to 1,000 meters (3,300 feet). This autonomous capability will one day enable Mesobot to follow a target animal for over 24 hours without human intervention, which is enough time to observe its migration from the midwater twilight zone to the surface and back. Future studies with Mesobot could provide researchers with valuable insight into animal behavior during diel vertical migration, known as “the greatest migration on Earth” because of the vast number and diversity of creatures that undertake it each night.

“By leveraging the data we’ve collected using Mesobot, and other data that we’ve been curating for 30-plus years at MBARI, we hope to integrate smarter algorithms on the vehicle that uses artificial intelligence to discover, continuously track, and observe enigmatic animals and other objects in the deep sea,” Kakani said. The design, construction, and initial testing for Mesobot was funded by the U.S. NSF program for Ocean Technology and Interdisciplinary Coordination (OTIC). The research in this paper was supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and WHOI’s Ocean Twilight Zone (OTZ) Project, funded as part of The Audacious Project housed at TED.

See more Mesobot here: https://youtu.be/5hjZtBvsmVY

Youth Demand Action on Nature, Following IUCN’s First-Ever Global Youth Summit

On the occasion of World Environment Day, 5 June 2021, IPS features and opinion editorials focusing on Environment and Youth. Theunn reproduces the voices by youth at the UN Youth Summit on Environment

Following almost two weeks of talks on issues such as climate change, innovation, marine conservation and social justice, thousands of young people from across the globe concluded the first-ever International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN)One Nature One Future Global Youth Summit with a list of demands for action on nature.Under three umbrella themes of diversity, accessibility and intersectionality, they are calling on countries and corporations to invest the required resources to redress environmental racism and climate injustice, create green jobs, engage communities for biodiversity protection, safeguard the ocean, realise gender equality for climate change mitigation and empower underrepresented voices in environmental policymaking.

“Young people talk about these key demands that they have and most of the time, they are criticised for always saying ‘I want this,’ and are told ‘but you’re not even sure you know what you can do,’” Global South Focal Point for the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) SwethaStotraBhashyam told IPS. “So we linked our demands to our own actions through our ‘Your Promise, Our Future’ campaign and are showing world leaders what we are doing for the world and then asking them what they are going to do for us and our future.”

Bhashyam is one of the young people dedicated to climate and conservation action. A zoologist who once studied rare species from the field in India, she told IPS that while she hoped to someday return to wildlife studies and research, her skills in advocacy and rallying young people are urgently needed. Through her work with GYBN, the youth constituency recognised under the Convention on Biological Diversity, she stated proudly that the network has truly become ‘grassroots,’ with 46 national chapters. She said the IUCN Global Youth Summit, which took place from Apr. 5 to 16,gave youth networks like hers an unprecedented platform to reach tens of thousands of the world’s youth.

“The Summit was able to create spaces for young people to voice their opinions. We in the biodiversity space have these spaces, but cannot reach the numbers that IUCN can. IUCN not only reached a larger subset of youth, but gave us an open space to talk about critical issues,” she said. “They even let us write a blog about it on their main IUCN page. It’s called IUCN Crossroads. They tried to ensure that the voice of young people was really mainstream in those two weeks.”

The United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, JayathmaWickramanayake, told IPS that the Summit achieved an important goal of bringing institutions and political conversations closer to young people. During her tenure, Wickramanayake has advocated for a common set of principles for youth engagement within the UN system, based on rights, safety and adequate financing. She said it is important for institutions to open their doors to meaningful engagement with young people.“I remember in 8th or 9th grade in one of our biology classes, we were taught about endangered animal species. We learned about this organisation called IUCN, which works on biodiversity. In my head, this was a big organisation that was out of my reach as a young person.

“But having the opportunity to attend the IUCN Summit, even virtually, engage with its officials and engage with other young people, really gave me and perhaps gave other young people a sense of belonging and a sense of taking us closer to institutions trying to achieve the same goals as we are as youth advocates.”The Youth Envoy said the Summit was timely for young people, allowing them to meet virtually following a particularly difficult year and during a pandemic that has cost them jobs, education opportunities and raised anxieties.

“Youth activists felt that the momentum we had created from years of campaigning, protesting and striking school would be diluted because of this uncertainty and postponement of big negotiations. In order to keep the momentum high and maintain the pressure on institutions and governments, summits like this one are extremely important,” Wickramanayake said.Global Youth Summit speakers during live sessions and intergenerational dialogues. Courtesy: International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Other outcomes of the Global Youth Summit included calls to:

  • advance food sovereignty for marginalised communities, which included recommendations to promote climate-smart farming techniques through direct access to funding for marginalised communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and extreme events,
  • motivate creative responses to the climate emergency, and
  • engineer sustainable futures through citizen science, which included recommendations to develop accessible education materials that promote the idea that everyone can participate in data collection and scientific knowledge creation.

The event was billed as not just a summit, but an experience. There were a number of sessions live streamed over the two weeks, including on youth engagement in conservation governance, a live story slam event, yoga as well as a session on how to start up and scale up a sustainable lifestyle business. There were also various networking sessions.Diana Garlytska of Lithuania represented Coalition WILD, as the co-chair of the youth-led organisation, which works to create lasting youth leadership for the planet.

She told IPS the Summit was a “very powerful and immersive experience”. “I am impressed at how knowledgeable the young people of different ages were. Many spoke about recycling projects and entrepreneurship activities from their own experiences. Others shared ideas on how to use different art forms for communicating climate emergencies. Somehow, the conversation I most vividly remember was on how to disclose environmental issues in theatrical performances. I’m taking that with me as food for thought,” Garlytska said.For Emmanuel Sindikubwabo of Rwanda’s reforestation and youth environmental education organisation We Do GREEN, the Summit provided excellent networking opportunities.

“I truly believe that youth around the world are better connected because of the Summit. It’s scary because so much is going wrong because of the pandemic, but exciting because there was this invitation to collaborate. There is a lot of youth action taking place already. We need to do better at showcasing and supporting it,” he told IPS.Sindikubwabo said he is ready to implement what he learned at the Summit. “The IUCN Global Youth Summit has provided my team and I at We Do GREEN new insight and perspective from the global youth community that will be useful to redefine our programming in Rwanda….as the world faces the triple-crises; climate, nature and poverty, we made a lot of new connections that will make a significant positive change in our communities and nation in the near future.”

The Global Youth Summit took place less than six months before the IUCN World Conservation Congress, scheduled forSep. 3 to 11. Its outcomes will be presented at the Congress.Reflecting on the just-concluded event, the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth is hoping to see more of these events. “I would like to see that this becomes the norm. This was IUCN’s first youth summit, which is great and I hope that it will not be the last, that it will just be a beginning of a longer conversation and more sustainable conversation with young people on IUCN… its work, its strategies, policies and negotiations,” Wickramanayake said.

(Picture & Caption By IPS: The United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, JayathmaWickramanayake, told IPS that the Summit achieved an important goal of bringing institutions and political conversations closer to young people. Clockwise from top left: JayathmaWickramanayake, SwethaStotraBhashyam, Emmanuel Sindikubwabo, DianaGarlytska. Courtesy: International Union for Conservation of Nature)

Economic Toll Of Climate Crisis ‘Will Be Like Two Pandemics A Year’

The world’s biggest industrialized economies will shrink by twice as much as they did during the coronavirus pandemic if they do not tackle rising greenhouse gas emissions, according to research. Oxfam and the Swiss Re Institute have warned that the G7 countries will lose 8.5% of GDP a year, the equivalent of nearly $5tn, within 30 years if temperatures rise by 2.6C (36.68F), as they are predicted to. During Covid-19, G7 economies shrank by an average of about 4.2%. The research forecasts economic losses from the climate crisis by 2050 would be roughly equivalent to enduring a similar crisis to the pandemic twice a year, reports the environment correspondent Fiona Harvey.

According to Oxfam’s analysis of research by the Swiss Re Institute, human and economic impact on low-income nations will be much worse. Oxfam warned on Monday that the loss in GDP is double that of the COVID-19 pandemic, which already caused G7 economies to shrink by an average of 4.2%.The worst affected country in the G7 would be Italy, which stands to lose 11.4%. The US would be hit with a 7.2% loss by 2050, with Japan set to lose 9.1%, Germany 8.3%, France 10%, and Canada 6.9%. The UK economy would lose 6.5% a year by 2050 on current policies and projections, compared with 2.4% if the goals of the Paris climate agreement are met.

Although economies are expected to recover from the short-term effects of the current health crisis, the effects of climate change will be seen every year, the research said. Oxfam is calling on G7 leaders, who are meeting in the UK later this week, to reduce carbon emissions more quickly and steeply.Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam GB chief executive, called on the UK to “strain every diplomatic sinew” to drive more climate ambition from fellow G7 nations at the upcoming G7 summit. “The UK government has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to lead the world towards a safer, more liveable planet for all of us,” he said.

Swiss Re modelled how climate change is likely to affect economies through gradual, chronic climate risks such as heat stress, impacts on health, sea level rise and agricultural productivity. All of the 48 nations in the study are expected to see an economic contraction, with many countries predicted to be hit far worse than the G7.The data showed that by 2050, India, which was invited to the G7 summit, is projected to lose 27% from its economy, while Australia, South Africa and South Korea are projected to lose 12.5%, 17.8%, and 9.7% respectively.The Philippines is projected to lose 35% and Colombia is projected to lose 16.7%.It follows a recent study by the World Bank that suggested between 32 million and 132 million additional people will be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 as a result of climate change.

Oxfam added that G7 governments are also collectively failing to deliver on a pledge to provide $100bn per year to help poor countries respond to climate change. Only two G7 countries have said they will increase climate finance from current levels. France decided to maintain its current level of climate finance while Canada, Germany, Japan and Italy have yet to state their intentions, the charity said,Oxfam estimates their current commitments amount to $36bn in public climate finance by 2025, with only a quarter ($8-10 billion) of that for adaptation. “The economic case for climate action is clear ―now we need G7 governments to take dramatic action in the next nine years to cut emissions and increase climate finance,” Max Lawson, head of inequality policy at Oxfam, said.

“The economic turmoil projected in wealthy G7 countries is only the tip of the iceberg: many poorer parts of the world will see increasing deaths, hunger and poverty as a result of extreme weather. This year could be a turning point if governments grasp the challenge to create a safer more liveable planet for all.”All G7 governments have unveiled new climate targets ahead of the UN COP26 climate summit in November, with most falling short of what is needed to limit global warming below 1.5°C. The projections used in this press release assume high stress factors and global warming of 2.6°C by mid-century, which is a level of warming that could be reached based on current policies and climate pledges from all countries.

The conference, which is being held between 1 and 12 November, will be the largest summit the UK has ever hosted. It will have dozens of world leaders in attendance and bring together representatives from nearly 200 countries, including experts and campaigners.It was originally scheduled for November 2020 but was delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. It has been described as the most significant climate event since the global Paris Agreement was secured in 2015.

Jerome Haegeli, group chief economist at Swiss Re, said: “Climate change is the long-term number one risk to the global economy, and staying where we are is not an option – we need more progress by the G7. That means not just obligations on cutting CO2 but helping developing countries too, that’s super-important.” He also added that vaccines for COVID-19 were also a key way to help developing countries.

India May Have Lost 3% Of Its GDP Due To Global Warming

Titled The Costs of Climate Change in India, the report states that India is already experiencing the consequences of 1 degree C of global warming. India may have already lost 3% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on account of global warming of 1 degree Celsius over pre-industrial levels, and risks losing 10% of its GDP in the extreme scenario of a 3 degree Celsius increase, which would lead to a rise in sea levels, a decline in agricultural productivity, and increased health expenditure, according to a report by London think tank ODI.

Some of the studies cited by the report make direr predictions. Citing a research paper published last year by Oxford Economics, and authored by economist James Nixon, the ODI report says India’s GDP would currently be around 25% higher were it not for the costs of global warming, and predicts that, with 3 degree C of warming it is likely to be 90% lower by the end of the century than it would have been otherwise.

“India is already feeling the costs of climate change, with many cities reporting temperatures above 48 degree C in 2020 and a billion people facing severe water scarcity for at least a month of the year. If action is not taken to cut emissions to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degree C, the human and economic toll will rise even higher,” said Angela Picciariello, senior research officer at ODI. Average temperatures across India rose by 0.62 degree C over the last 100 years, rising at a slower rate than the global average, but the impact of the climate crisis is felt almost every year. Between 1985 and 2009, western and southern India saw 50% more heatwave events than in the previous 25 years.

ODI researchers recommend that India set more ambitious CO2 emission mitigation targets. “First, higher levels of global warming will have devastating human and economic costs. Second, a more climate-smart development trajectory would potentially yield a range of benefits, including cleaner air, higher rates of job creation and greater energy, food and water security. These considerations are shifting domestic narratives around climate change policy, including high-level debates about whether or not to commit to carbon neutrality by mid-century.”

“Stronger emission targets do not need to compromise India’s development aspirations,” the report added. ODI recommends ending public support for coal and improving the performance of electricity distribution systems, supporting economic diversification in regions that heavily depend on coal for jobs and revenues, and focusing on clean energy generation which could create millions of jobs.“Climate disasters can reverse the progress that has been made on reducing poverty and disrupt the lifelines of a growing economy… Investing in green sectors like renewable energy, public transport and land restoration can create new jobs, stimulate economic growth. It can lead to massive savings in fuel costs,” said UlkaKelkar, director, Climate Program at World Resources Institute.

Rising Global Temperatures ‘Inexorably Closer’ To Climate Tipping Point: UN

The WMO report predicts an increased chance of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean, that Africa’s Sahel and Australia will likely be wetter, and that the southwest of Northern America is likely to be drier.

There is now a 40% chance that global temperatures will temporarily reach 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels in the next five years — and these odds are rising, a U.N. report said on Wednesday.This does not yet mean that the world would already be crossing the long-term warming 1.5-degree threshold set by the Paris Climate Accord, which scientists warn is the ceiling to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change. The Paris Accord target looks at temperature over a 30-year average, rather than a single year.

But it does underscore that “we are getting measurably and inexorably closer” to that threshold, said U.N. World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a statement. Taalas described the study as “yet another wakeup call” to slash greenhouse gas emissions.Every year from 2021 through 2025 is likely to be at least 1℃ warmer, according to the study. The report also predicts a 90% chance that at least one of those years will become the warmest year on record, topping 2016 temperatures.

In 2020 – one of the three warmest years on record – the global average temperature was 1.2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial baseline, according to an April WMO report.”There’s a little bit of up and down in the annual temperatures,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City. “But these long term-trends are unrelenting.””It seems inevitable that we’re going to cross these boundaries,” Schmidt said, “and that’s because there are delays in the system, there is inertia in the system, and we haven’t really made a big cut to global emissions as yet.”

Almost all regions are likely to be warmer in the next five years than in the recent past, the WMO said. The WMO uses temperature data from multiple sources including NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).Weather that was once unusual is now becoming typical. Earlier this month, for example, NOAA released its updated “climate normals,” which provide baseline data on temperature and other climate measures across the United States. The new normals — updated every 10 years — showed that baseline temperatures across the United States are overwhelmingly higher compared with the past decade.

Temperatures shifts are occurring both on average and in temperature extremes, said Russell Vose, chief of the climatic analysis and synthesis branch at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Over the next five years, these extremes are “more likely what people will notice and remember,” he said.Warming temperatures also affect regional and global precipitation. As temperatures rise, evaporation rates increase and warmer air can hold more moisture. Climate change also can shift circulation patterns in the atmosphere and ocean.

The WMO report predicts an increased chance of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean, that Africa’s Sahel and Australia will likely be wetter, and that the southwest of Northern America is likely to be drier.The projections are part of a recent WMO effort to provide shorter-range forecasts of temperature, rainfall and wind patterns, to help nations keep tabs on how climate change may be disrupting weather patterns.Looking at marine and land heat waves, ice sheets melting, ocean heat content rising, and species migrating toward colder places, “it’s more than just temperature,” Vose said. “There are other changes in the atmosphere and in the ocean and in the ice and in the biosphere that all point to a warming world.”

40% Chance Earth To Be Hotter Than Paris Goal Soon

There’s a 40% chance that the world will get so hot in the next five years that it will temporarily push past the temperature limit the Paris climate agreement is trying to prevent, meteorologists said. A new World Meteorological Organization forecast for the next several years also predicts a 90% chance that the world will set yet another record for the hottest year by the end of 2025 and that the Atlantic will continue to brew more potentially dangerous hurricanes than it used to.For this year, the meteorologists say large parts of land in the Northern Hemisphere will be 1.4 degrees (0.8 degrees Celsius) warmer than recent decades and that the U.S. Southwest’s drought will continue.

The 2015 Paris climate accord set a goal of keeping warming to a few tenths of a degree warmer from now. The report said there is a 40% chance that at least one of the next five years will be 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than pre-industrial times — the more stringent of two Paris goals. The world is already 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than pre-industrial times. Last year, the same group forecasted a 20% chance of it happening.

The doubling of the odds is due to improvements in technology that show it has “actually warmed more than we thought already,” especially over the lightly-monitored polar regions, said Leon Hermanson, a climate scientist at the United Kingdom’s Met Center who helped on the forecast. “It’s a warning that we need to take strong action,” Hermanson said.

Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann, who wasn’t part of the report, said he is “almost certain” the world will exceed that Paris warming threshold at least once in the next few years. But he said one or two years above 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) isn’t as worrisome as when the overall trend of temperatures stays above that level. Mann said that won’t happen probably for decades and could still be prevented.

Germany Is Becoming Ground Zero For The Challenges Of Deep Decarbonization

Global climate politics in 2021 is focused on generating more ambitious climate pledges from member countries of the Paris Agreement before the Conference of the Parties meeting in November. With the addition of the United States, about two-thirds of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from countries that have committed to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century. These countries must now adopt policies to deliver those emissions reductions; a complete reworking of the of the world’s energy system in just three decades. With a recent court ruling, Germany has become ground zero for this challenge, as German law will now require an extremely ambitious schedule for change.

Climate as an issue of intergenerational equity

For most of history, successive generations have been better off than those that preceded them. The march of technology has provided benefits to humanity, giving people more goods to choose from, conveniences, and options in living and working.But climate change threatens to change that. The Earth’s climate is changing faster than anytime in human history, and we may soon be living in a vastly different environment. Some of the strongest voices in today’s climate movement come from youth, who claim that the changing climate is robbing them of their future.

For years, governments have tended to “kick the can” on climate policy, putting off action while the concentration of GHGs in the atmosphere continues to climb. Climate is exactly the kind of problem that humans are terrible at dealing with — a tragedy of the commons that pits future generations against the present and developing countries against the wealthy world. Nevertheless, the costs of inaction are becoming clearer, and in recent years many countries have become more serious about cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

German high court’s landmark ruling

Against this backdrop, on April 29, 2021, the German Federal Constitutional Court made history, ruling that Germany’s Climate Action Law does not sufficiently protect the freedoms of the youth and future generations. The 2019 law obliged Germany to cut GHG emissions 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. It also set out annual limits for emissions from sectors including energy, transport, buildings, and agriculture.

The court’s decision is based on a 1994 amendment to Article 20 of the German Basic Law, which added protection of the environment to the fundamental principles of constitutional order (democracy, federalism, rule of law, etc.) It states: “Mindful also of its responsibility toward future generations, the state shall protect the natural bases of life by legislation…” The German constitutional lawyer Christian Calliesscommented that the court’s ruling had “kissed awake” Article 20 and turned it into a benchmark for judging the sufficiency of legislative action. The court argued: “One generation must not be allowed to consume large portions of the CO2 budget while bearing a relatively minor share of the reduction effort if this would involve leaving subsequent generations with a drastic reduction burden and expose their lives to comprehensive losses of freedom.” Essentially, the ruling relies on the carbon budget theory of emissions, which states that spending too much of the budget now will leave an insufficient budget for the future, causing undue hardship.

The ruling opens new ground about intergenerational equity in climate law. This finding goes further than a case decided in the Netherlands in late 2019, which was the first to order a state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, on the basis that inadequate action on climate change can violate human rights. However, this case did not involve goals after 2020 and did not focus on the issue of intergenerational equity. Likewise, the current climate court cases in the United States focus on companies that produce fossil fuels rather than on government response to the climate challenge.

The Merkel government responds with ambitious pledge

German politicians are now playing a blame game. The various parties are blaming each other that the 2019 law did not go further, in a country that cares deeply about the climate with federal elections coming up in late September. However, there is some revisionist history here. The law was a delicate compromise achieved after months of debate that split the ruling coalition of the Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD). The environment minister, a member of the SPD, pushed hard for a stringent law with sector-specific emissions reductions. Members of the more conservative CDU/CSU complained during the negotiations that the sector-specific provisions aimed to harm industries overseen by ministries under their parties’ control. The opposition Green Party leader in the parliament complained that the law didn’t go further, saying that, “You have failed in humanity’s task of protecting the climate.” Ever the pragmatist, Chancellor Angela Merkel noted, “Politics is what is possible.”

Just two weeks after the ruling, Merkel’s government approved an update to the Climate Action Law that aims for a 65% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2045, five years earlier than the previous goal. If approved by the parliament, these would be among the world’s most ambitious goals, with only the U.K. aiming for greater reductions — 68% by 2030 and 78% by 2035, on the way to net-zero by 2050.

There may be no example of a government legally bound to achieve a more difficult task. Americans like to compare reducing GHG emissions to the moon landing. President John F. Kennedy announced in September 1962 that the United States would put a man on the moon within the decade and that goal was achieved in July 1969. However, the task that Germany is taking on is far more difficult, involving changing the basis of the entire German economy within a decade rather than a Herculean effort by a group of engineers. Plus, the moonshot goal was not legally binding.

A victory for climate action, but the devil is in the details

Ambitious goals are one thing, but achieving those goals is another. Germany has a long history of investing in renewable power as part of its “Energiewende,” literally meaning “energy transition or turnaround.” However, the Energiewende also includes a phase-out of German nuclear power, with the last nuclear plants scheduled to close at the end of 2022. The German public also opposes carbon capture and storage. These two technologies are expected to be important in U.S. efforts to decarbonize but are largely off the table in Germany. In conversations over the past months, government, industry, and NGO representatives alike have focused on renewable power and green hydrogen (produced from renewable power) as the path forward. These are great technologies, but the timeframe for implementing them at scale is longer than the court ruling and the updated Climate Action Law allow, especially in the important German steel, chemical, and transportation industries.

What if Germany misses its goals? In that case, the federal government must buy emissions allowances from other countries, the responsible ministry must establish an emergency program to reach future targets, and the government will then establish remedial measures. The remedial measures needed to achieve such ambitious goals could be very harsh indeed. Will German politicians be able to implement them? Will the German public accept them? European governments generally have more ambitious climate policies than those in the United States, but we have seen backlash when they affect citizens’ everyday lives — the yellow vest protests that erupted in France in late 2018 after a fuel tax increase provide a good example. Policies to achieve Germany’s climate goals will likely test the resolve of German society.

The climate ruling could affect other equity issues as well. A rapid transition to a zero-carbon economy will require vast investment in buildings, transportation infrastructure, and industrial processes. Government support will be needed for some of these processes. For example, the German steel industry intends to transition to using hydrogen in its process. This change will be expensive and will require government support for both capital and operating expenditures, even though today’s steel production faces a European carbon price of more than €50 per ton. Large government expenditures will require debt financing, which also has implications for future generations. Germany has a “debt brake” in its Constitution that caps the federal government’s borrowing at 0.35% of GDP. The debt brake can be suspended in times of crisis, but will investing in decarbonization be considered a crisis? Or will the concept of intergenerational equity in the recent court ruling work against such investments, as it will leave future generations saddled with more debt? There are no easy answers to these questions.

Scientists and activists pushing for very fast emissions reductions are running headfirst into the reality of how difficult this task can be, especially once the easier emissions reductions in the power and light transportation sector are achieved. The climate ruling makes Germany a key test case in the transition, with very rapid reductions now enshrined in law. Godspeed and good luck.

What Causes The Deep Earth’s Most Mysterious Earthquakes?

Newswise — Washington, DC– The cause of Earth’s deepest earthquakes has been a mystery to science for more than a century, but a team of Carnegie scientists may have cracked the case.New research published in AGU Advances provides evidence that fluids play a key role in deep-focus earthquakes–which occur between 300 and 700 kilometers below the planet’s surface. The research team includes Carnegie scientists Steven Shirey, Lara Wagner, Peter van Keken, and Michael Walter, as well as the University of Alberta’s Graham Pearson.

Most earthquakes occur close to the Earth’s surface, down to about 70 kilometers. They happen when stress builds up at a fracture between two blocks of rock–known as a fault–causing them to suddenly slide past each other.However, deeper into the Earth, the intense pressures create too much friction to allow this kind of sliding to occur and the high temperatures enhance the ability of rocks to deform to accommodate changing stresses. Though theoretically unexpected, scientists have been able to identify earthquakes that originate more than 300 kilometers below the surface since the 1920s.

“The big problem that seismologists have faced is how it’s possible that we have these deep-focus earthquakes at all,” said Wagner. “Once you get a few tens of kilometers down, it becomes incredibly difficult to explain how we are getting slip on a fault when the friction is so incredibly high.”

Ongoing work over the past several decades has shown us that water plays a role in intermediate-depth earthquakes–those that occur between 70 and 300 kilometers below Earth’s surface. In these instances, water is released from minerals, which weakens the rock around the fault and allows the blocks of rock to slip. However, scientists didn’t think this phenomenon could explain deep-focus earthquakes, largely because it was believed that water and other fluid-creating compounds couldn’t make it far enough down into the Earth’s interior to provide a similar effect.This thinking changed for the first time when Shirey and Wagner compared the depths of rare deep-Earth diamonds to the mysterious deep-focus earthquakes.

“Diamonds form in fluids” explained Shirey, “if diamonds are there, fluids are there.”The diamonds themselves indicated the presence of fluids, however, they also brought samples of the deep-Earth to the surface for the scientists to study. When diamonds form in the Earth’s interior, they sometimes capture pieces of mineral from the surrounding rock. These minerals are called inclusions and they may make your jewelry less expensive, but they are invaluable to Earth scientists. They are one of the only ways scientists can study direct samples of our planet’s deep interior.

The diamond’s inclusions had the distinct chemical signature of similar materials found in oceanic crust. This means that the water and other materials weren’t somehow created deep in the Earth’s interior. Instead, they were carried down as part of a sinking oceanic plate.Said Wagner: “The seismology community had moved away from the idea that there could be water that deep. But diamond petrologists like Steve were showing us samples and saying ‘No, no, no. There’s definitely water down here’ So then we all had to get together to figure out how it got down there.”

To test the idea, Wagner and van Keken built advanced computational models to simulate the temperatures of sinking slabs at much greater depths than had been attempted before. In addition to the modeling, Walter examined the stabilities of the water-bearing minerals to show that under the intense heat and pressures of the Earth’s deep interior, they would, indeed, be capable of holding on to water in certain conditions. The team showed that even though warmer plates didn’t hold water, the minerals in the cooler oceanic plates could theoretically carry water to the depths we associate with deep-focus earthquakes.

To solidify the study the team compared the simulations to real-life seismological data. They were able to show that the slabs that could theoretically carry water to these depths were also the ones experiencing the previously unexplained deep earthquakes.This study is unusual in applying four different disciplines–geochemistry, seismology, geodynamics, and petrology–to the same question, all of which point to the same conclusion: water and other fluids are a key component of deep-focus earthquakes.

“The nature of deep earthquakes is one of the big questions in geoscience,” said Shirey. “We needed all four of these different disciplines to come together to make this argument. It turned out we had them all in-house at Carnegie.”The authors thank the Carnegie Institution for Science and the University of Alberta for continuing support. Diamond research is supported by the Deep Carbon Observatory and the U.S. National Science Foundation.

The Carnegie Institution for Science (carnegiescience.edu) is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., with three research divisions on both coasts. Since its founding in 1902, the Carnegie Institution has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research. Carnegie scientists are leaders in the life and environmental sciences, Earth and planetary science, and astronomy and astrophysics.