Stay Current with GSS

The GSS email list (google group) receives “Stay Current” articles (excerpts and links to the source articles). To receive them email gssmail@berkeley.edu with subject line “Join GSS”. Please give your city, state, country, and your school (if you’re a teacher). See also “Stay Current” links in each book’s Contents table. Some news sources limit the number of articles one person can read. You can “divide and conquer” with different students reading and reporting to the class on different articles.

See updates from 2023 -|- 2022 -|- 2021

CURRENT YEAR (2024) UPDATES

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2024-05-25. ‘New Territory’ for Americans: Deadly Heat in the Workplace. By Coral Davenport and Noah Weiland, The New York Times. Excerpt: For more than two years, a group of health experts, economists and lawyers in the U.S. government has worked to address a growing public health crisis: people dying on the job from extreme heat. In the coming months, this team of roughly 30 people at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is expected to propose a new rule that would require employers to protect an estimated 50 million people exposed to high temperatures while they work. They include farm laborers and construction workers, but also people who sort packages in warehouses, clean airplane cabins and cook in commercial kitchens. …Last year was the hottest in recorded history, and researchers are expecting another record-breaking summer, with temperatures already rising sharply across the Sun Belt. The heat index in Miami reached 112 degrees Fahrenheit last weekend, shattering daily records by 11 degrees. …An estimated 2,300 people in the United States died from heat-related illness in 2023, triple the annual average between 2004 and 2018. Researchers say all those figures are probably undercounts, in part because of how causes of death are reported on death certificates…. Full article at https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/25/climate/extreme-heat-biden-workplace.html. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-05-18. Mexico City Has Long Thirsted for Water. The Crisis Is Worsening. By James WagnerEmiliano Rodríguez Mega and Somini Sengupta, The New York Times. Excerpt: A system of dams and canals may soon be unable to provide water to one of the world’s largest cities, a confluence of unchecked growth, crumbling infrastructure and a changing climate. The groundwater is quickly vanishing. A key reservoir got so low that it is no longer used to supply water. Last year was Mexico’s hottest and driest in at least 70 years. And one of the city’s main water systems faces a potential “Day Zero” this summer when levels dip so much that it, too, will no longer provide water. …Mexico City, once a water-rich valley that was drained to make way for a vast city, has a metropolitan population of 23 million, among the top 10 largest in the world and up from 15 million in 1990. It is one of several major cities facing severe water shortages, including Cape TownSão Paulo, Brazil; and Chennai, India…. Full article at https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/18/world/americas/mexico-city-water.html. For GSS Population Growth chapter 5.

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2024-05-TEMPLATE. . By . Excerpt: . Full article at URL. For GSS chapter .

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2024-05-24. Stripey stick insects show evolution can repeat itself—predictably. By CATHERINE OFFORD, Science. Excerpt: Does evolution repeat itself? The answer to this long-standing question may be one step closer thanks to research on the crawly living twigs known as stick insects. Based on an analysis of decades of data from tens of thousands of walking sprigs in California, researchers report today in Science Advances that the prevalence of certain camouflage patterns rises and falls in predictable cycles across different populations. Some research has indeed found organisms evolving the same traits over and over. Studies of sticklebacks, for example, have shown that different populations that moved from salt to freshwater consistently underwent the same morphological and physiological changes to organs such as their kidneys, with genetic changes to match. Lab experiments in bacteria have found that microbes exposed to certain antibiotics hit on the same genetic changes to help them survive. …“It’s really observing evolution before our very eyes.” Full article at https://www.science.org/content/article/stripey-stick-insects-show-evolution-can-repeat-itself-predictably. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 3.

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2024-05-24. New Dutch right-wing coalition to cut research, innovation, and environmental protections. By MARTIN ENSERINK, Science. Excerpt: The far right’s stunning victory in the Netherlands’s parliamentary elections last fall will upset far more than the country’s immigration policies. An agreement by the four parties aiming to form a new government, presented on 16 May and debated in the House of Representatives on 22 May, also calls for cuts in science and innovation funding, rollbacks of environment and climate policies, and restrictions on the influx of foreign students. …[Geert] Wilders, who ardently denies climate science, called in his election platform for putting all climate policies and agreements “through the shredder,” but he conceded in Parliament that won’t happen. The governing agreement leaves most climate “nonsense” in place, he said. A proposed carbon dioxide tax for industry and a plan to speed up the introduction of heat pumps in homes have both been abandoned, however…. Full article at https://www.science.org/content/article/new-dutch-right-wing-coalition-cut-research-innovation-and-environmental-protections. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9.

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2024-05-24. These Teens Adopted an Orphaned Oil Well. Their Goal: Shut It Down. By Delger Erdenesanaa, The New York Times. Excerpt: As many as 3.9 million abandoned and aging oil and gas wells dot the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The reasons for abandonment vary, but at least 126,000 of these wells are orphans, meaning there’s no longer an owner or company that state regulators can hold responsible for them. And many of the wells leak methane, a greenhouse gas that’s nearly 30 times as powerful as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a period of 100 years, …. The E.P.A. estimates that abandoned wells collectively released 303,000 metric tons of methane in 2022, roughly equivalent to how much carbon dioxide 23 gas-burning power plants might release in one year. …The 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocated $4.7 billion to states, tribes and federal agencies to plugorphaned wells, but given their sheer number and the enormous geographic area they cover, these federal funds will not be enough. …After completing his Advanced Placement environmental science class, Mr. De La Rocha, 18, said he realized that the methane from these abandoned wells was an issue in which individual people could potentially make a difference. He invited his friends and classmates Sebastian Ng and Lila Gisondi to join him. They call themselves the Youth Climate Initiative. …When a well is no longer being used to pump oil and gas, it’s supposed to be closed off with cement in a process called capping or plugging. But many have been left open, often in disrepair, polluting groundwater and leaking toxic gases like hydrogen sulfide into the air. The wells can be extremely dangerous for people nearby. After more research, the trio connected with a nonprofit organization called the Well Done Foundation that plugs orphaned wells. The organization was founded by Curtis Shuck, a veteran of the oil and gas industry who came across his first abandoned well in 2019. The students in North Carolina agreed to sponsor the 45th, an orphaned oil well on the horse farm in Ohio, near Cuyahoga Valley National Park…. Full article at https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/24/climate/orphan-wells-capping-methane-leaks.html. For GSS Climate Change chapter 3.

2024-05-24. Virginia Has the Biggest Data Center Market in the World. Can It Also Decarbonize Its Grid? By Sarah Vogelsong. Inside Climate News. Excerpt: This March, Loudoun County, a suburb of Washington, D.C. in Northern Virginia that is home to the greatest concentration of data centers in the world, made an unexpected move: It rejected a proposal to let a company build a bigger data center than existing zoning automatically allowed.  “At some point we have to say stop,” said Loudoun Supervisor Michael Turner during the meeting, as reported by news site LoudounNow. “We do not have enough power to power the data centers we have.” County supervisors would later reverse the decision, approving a smaller version of the project. But the initial denial sent ripples throughout Virginia, where concern over the rapid growth of data centers and what that means for the state’s ambitious decarbonization goals is growing. …said Tim Cywinski, a spokesperson for the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, …“The data center industry is about 2 percent of global carbon emissions….” …Dominion Energy, Virginia’s largest electric utility, has …pledged it will decarbonize its Virginia grid by 2045, in line with the Virginia Clean Economy Act passed by the state legislature in 2020, …. “We are 100 percent committed to achieving the goals of the VCEA. We are not taking our foot off the accelerator with renewables,” said Aaron Ruby, a spokesperson for Dominion. But, he added, “…The inescapable reality is we are experiencing unprecedented growth in electric demand.” …Companies have also set their own goals: Google aims to operate its data centers on carbon-free energy by 2030, while Amazon is pushing for net-zero carbon emissions by 2040…. Full article at https://insideclimatenews.org/news/24052024/virginia-data-center-market-electricity-demand/.

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2024-05-24. ‘Kitty cat’ storms hitting US heartland are growing threat to home insurance. By Jake Bittle, The Guardian. Excerpt: The rising cost of homeowner’s insurance is now one of the most prominent symptoms of the climate crisis in the US. Major carriers such as State Farm and Allstate have pulled back from offering fire insurance in California… and dozens of small insurance companies have collapsed or fled from Florida and Louisiana following recent large hurricanes. The problem is fast becoming a crisis that stretches far beyond the nation’s coastal states. …insurers have raised premiums higher than ever and dropped customers even in inland states such as Iowa. …so-called “severe-convective storms” are large and powerful thunderstorms that form and disappear within a few hours or days, often spinning off hailstorms and tornadoes as they shoot across the flat expanses of the central United States. The insurance industry refers to these storms as “secondary perils” – the other term of art is “kitty cats”, …smaller than big natural catastrophes…. Losses from severe convective storms increased by about 9% every year between 1989 and 2022, according to the insurance firm Aon. Last year these storms caused more than $50bn in insured losses combined…. No single storm event caused more than a few billion dollars of damage, but together they were more expensive than most big disasters…. Full article at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/article/2024/may/24/hail-storm-tornadoes-midwest-home-insurance. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-05-20. Earth’s Subduction May Have Been Triggered by the Same Event That Formed the Moon. By Rachel Fritts, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The giant impact that formed the Moon may also have led to extrastrong mantle plumes that enabled the first subduction event, kick-starting Earth’s unique system of sliding plates. In a new study, Yuan et al. find evidence tracing the first subduction event to the same impact that created our Moon. …Yuan’s team explored postimpact mantle convection using both 2D and 3D thermomechanical modeling. They found that the increase in temperature at the core-mantle boundary after the giant impact could have led, over time, to strong mantle plumes—phenomena still seen today that can sometimes lead to volcanic activity far from plate boundaries…. Full article at https://eos.org/research-spotlights/earths-subduction-may-have-been-triggered-by-the-same-event-that-formed-the-moon. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 3.

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2024-05-20. Warm ocean tides are eating away at ‘doomsday glacier’ in Antarctica. By ELI KINTISCH, Science. Excerpt: Ocean tides are burrowing beneath a thick sheet of Antarctic ice—dubbed the “doomsday glacier” for its threat to global sea levels—and melting it from below. The daily intrusions of seawater, detected by satellites, mean the Thwaites Glacier may be disintegrating “much faster” than previously thought, scientists say in a study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Melting at Thwaites, an expanse of ice bigger than Florida that stores enough water to raise sea levels by 0.6 meters, already accounts for 4% of global sea level rise. Because the glacier rests on bedrock that dips inland into a deep basin, its underbelly is vulnerable to relatively warm seawater, which melts the ice and, by loosening it from bedrock, hastens its flow into the ocean. And because other West Antarctic glaciers drain into the same basin, scientists believe Thwaites acts as a keystone. Its removal could accelerate the other glaciers’ collapse, potentially unleashing more than 3 meters of global ocean rise in coming centuries. In 2021, researchers noticed fissures on the floating ice at the ocean foot of the glacier, suggesting its crackup may already be underway…. Full article at https://www.science.org/content/article/warm-ocean-tides-are-eating-away-doomsday-glacier-antarctica-satellites-detect-daily. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-05-20. Carbon Offset Programs Underestimate the Threat of Hurricanes. By Sierra Bouchér, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: New England is one of the most heavily forested areas in America: Roughly 15 million metric tons of carbon is stored there every year. These projects account for disasters that can kill trees and release their stored carbon. However, a new study published in Global Change Biology suggests that they may be underestimating the destructive power of hurricanes. A single hurricane in New England could release at least 121 million metric tons of carbon from downed trees, the study showed, the equivalent of the energy use of almost 16 million homes in 1 year. Many carbon offset programs reforest in the region. …When a company buys a carbon credit, it buys a slight surplus of offset, allowing offset programs to plant slightly more trees to take in more carbon than is being emitted. That way, if trees are lost to drought, fire, disease, or other disasters, the program stays carbon neutral. …As of 2020, 7% of California’s Cap-and-Trade Program carbon was stored in New England forests, and 3% of that carbon was set aside for storm damage. A single storm could take out that buffer pool…. Full article at https://eos.org/articles/carbon-offset-programs-underestimate-the-threat-of-hurricanes. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-05-17. Climate Change Is Likely to Slash Global Income. By Katherine Bourzac, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: A new study estimates that climate change could cost $38 trillion per year, but emissions mitigation and adaptation strategies could limit future damages. Worldwide income may fall by 19% by 2049 because of changes in climate… according to a new study published in Nature. Poorer countries in the tropics that have historically contributed the least to greenhouse gas emissions will experience the greatest economic burden, researchers said. The “huge” $38 trillion annual price tag of climate-related damages is 6 times greater than the cost of mitigating emissions to meet the targets in the Paris Agreement, said Anders Levermann, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and one of the study’s authors. …Poorer countries will experience 61% more income loss than richer countries will. And the effects will also fall disproportionately on those that have contributed relatively little to climate change: Countries with historically low emissions will face 40% more lost income than those whose emissions have been high…. Full article at https://eos.org/articles/climate-change-is-likely-to-slash-global-income. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-05-16. Distant Stars Spotlight Mini Moons in Saturn’s Rings. By Katherine Kornei, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Using data from the Cassini spacecraft, researchers studying one of the rings recently uncovered gaps just a few tens of meters wide that they believe surround unseen mini moonlets. …In addition to capturing more than 450,000 images of the Saturnian system, the spacecraft inadvertently tracked distant stars poking through Saturn’s rings. …The researchers spotted dozens of places in Saturn’s C ring—one of its innermost rings—that appeared to be 100% transparent. …Their elongated geometry was a tip-off to their potential identity—similarly shaped structures, albeit much larger, have been spotted in the outer regions of Saturn’s A ring. Known as propellers [resembling airplane propellers], those features are big enough to show up in Cassini imagery rather than just occultation data, Jerousek said. …Scientists believe that propellers exist because of unseen moonlets measuring, at most, several hundred meters in diameter…. Full article at https://eos.org/articles/distant-stars-spotlight-mini-moons-in-saturns-rings. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7.

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2024-05-17. Clean Energy Is Driving ‘a New Era in American Manufacturing’ Across the Midwest. By Kristoffer Tigue, Inside Climate News. Excerpt: The Midwest is emerging as a major manufacturing hub for the clean energy transition as federal incentives and falling prices for renewables spur companies to invest tens of billions of dollars into new factory operations across the country. In August 2022, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides generous tax credits for projects and purchases related to clean energy. Since then, Midwestern states have received about $30 billion dollars in private investments to boost domestic production of electric vehicles, batteries and equipment for solar and wind farms, according to a monthly tally of funding announcements kept by energy think tank E2. Michigan, Indiana and Ohio have received $11.6 billion, $7.8 billion and $7 billion respectively, the E2 analysis said, placing them among the top 10 states nationwide to receive the most private investments for clean energy projects between August 2022 and April of this year…. Full article at https://insideclimatenews.org/news/17052024/midwest-clean-energy-manufacturing/. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9.

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2024-05-17. Economic damage from climate change six times worse than thought – report. By Oliver Milman, The Guardian. Excerpt: The economic damage wrought by climate change is six times worse than previously thought, with global heating set to shrink wealth at a rate consistent with the level of financial losses of a continuing permanent war, research has found. A 1°C increase in global temperature leads to a 12% decline in world gross domestic product (GDP), the researchers found, a far higher estimate than that of previous analyses. The world has already warmed by more than 1°C (1.8°F) since pre-industrial times and many climate scientists predict a 3°C (5.4°F) rise will occur by the end of this century due to the ongoing burning of fossil fuels, a scenario that the new working paper, yet to be peer-reviewed, states will come with an enormous economic cost. A 3°C temperature increase will cause “precipitous declines in output, capital and consumption that exceed 50% by 2100” the paper states. This economic loss is so severe that it is “comparable to the economic damage caused by fighting a war domestically and permanently”, it adds. “There will still be some economic growth happening but by the end of the century people may well be 50% poorer than they would’ve been if it wasn’t for climate change,” said Adrien Bilal, an economist at Harvard who wrote the paper with Diego Känzig, an economist at Northwestern University…. Full article at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/article/2024/may/17/economic-damage-climate-change-report. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-05-15. Sunlight-trapping device can generate temperatures over 1000°C. By Chen Ly, NewScientist. Excerpt: Engineers have developed a device that can generate temperatures of over 1000°C (1832°F) by efficiently capturing energy from the sun. It could one day be used as a green alternative to burning fossil fuels in the production of materials such as steel, glass and cement. …“About half of the energy we use is not actually turned into electricity,” says Emiliano Casati at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. “It’s used to produce many of the materials that we need in our daily lives and our industries.”…. Full article at https://www.newscientist.com/article/2431224-sunlight-trapping-device-can-generate-temperatures-over-1000c/. See also original article Solar thermal trapping at 1,000°C and above. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-05-15. Human ancestors may have hunted cave bears 300,000 years ago. By ANDREW CURRY, Science. Excerpt: For Stone Age hunters armed with little more than wooden spears, cave bears must have been a daunting foe. Adult members of Ursus spelaeus weighed upward of 750 kilograms, half again as big as modern grizzly bears. Standing upright, they towered more than 3 meters. …paleozoologist Susanne Münzel found …a stone spear tip embedded in a cave bear vertebra, evidence of a hunt 29,000 years ago. …Münzel and her colleagues have found dozens of additional signs pointing to cave bear hunting across Germany, as they report in the June issue of Quaternary Science Reviews. …At site after site, beginning about 300,000 years ago, the researchers found similar patterns: slice marks on paw bones and skulls where hides would have been cut free, bones cracked open to extract nutritious marrow, and scrapes on long bones showing they were carefully and thoroughly stripped of every last scrap of meat. …In the earliest caves, bones with marks made by Neanderthals and their immediate predecessor, known as Homo heidelbergensis, were often found intermingled with untouched cave bear bones—a sign that plenty of these bears died natural deaths. That may mean early hominins hunted cave bears only occasionally, not routinely. …Starting 40,000 years ago, things changed. Almost all the cave bear bones in caves occupied by modern humans were modified, suggesting hunting had become more systematic. During the last glacial maximum—an intense cold spell that began about 27,000 years ago and lasted more than 7000 years—cave bears would have been an especially tempting target. The animals could dependably be found hibernating in caves, making them a reliable and vulnerable food source during frigid winters. …This rise in cave bear hunting may have played a role in their eventual extinction—but it wasn’t the only factor. Humans weren’t just hunting these animals, they were competing with them for habitat, particularly the caves both species relied on for winter shelter. That put U. spelaeus on a collision course with Homo sapiens, particularly as human populations grew along with warming temperatures about 20,000 years ago…. Full article at https://www.science.org/content/article/human-ancestors-may-have-hunted-cave-bears-300-000-years-ago. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 1.

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2024-05-15. As sea levels rise, DeSantis signs bill deleting climate change mentions from Florida state law. By Ella Nilsen, CNN. Excerpt: As Florida copes with rising seas and record temperatures, lawmakers are going to exceptional lengths to delete many mentions of climate change from state laws in a new bill that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law on Wednesday, according to his official X account. The wide-ranging law makes several changes to the state’s energy policy – in some cases deleting entire sections of state law that talk about the importance of cutting planet-warming pollution. The bill would also give preferential treatment to natural gas and ban offshore wind energy…. The bill deletes the phrase ‘climate’ eight times – often in reference to reducing the impacts of global climate change …or directing state agencies to buy ‘climate friendly’ products when they are cost-effective and available. The bill also gets rid of a requirement that state-purchased vehicles should be fuel efficient. …DeSantis and state lawmakers have poured over $1.1 billion into increasing community resilience to flooding and storms…. Florida has also accepted millions of dollars in federal funding to help reconstruct a state highway in Miami Beach – elevating the pavement and installing new pump stations to help clear the road of water during flooding events. When it comes to other federal climate and clean energy funding, however, the state hasn’t been eager to accept. DeSantis vetoed over $29 million dollars in federal energy rebates and energy efficiency grants from the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Florida was one of five states that declined to compete for $4.6 billion in federal climate grants…. Full article at https://www.cnn.com/2024/05/15/politics/desantis-bill-climate-change-florida/index.html. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9.

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2024-05-14. New Rules to Overhaul Electric Grids Could Boost Wind and Solar Power. By Brad Plumer, The New York Times. Excerpt: Federal regulators on Monday approved sweeping changes to how America’s electric grids are planned and funded, in a move that supporters hope could spur thousands of miles of new high-voltage power lines and make it easier to add more wind and solar energy. The new rule by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission …which was two years in the making, requires grid operators around the country to identify needs 20 years into the future, taking into account factors like changes in the energy mix, the growing number of states that require wind and solar power and the risks of extreme weather. Grid planners would have to evaluate the benefits of new transmission lines, such as whether they would lower electricity costs or reduce the risk of blackouts, and develop methods for splitting the costs of those lines among customers and businesses…. Full article at https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/13/climate/electric-grid-overhaul-ferc.html. For GSS Energy Use chapter 5.

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2024-05-14. 2023 summer warmth unparalleled over the past 2,000 years. By Jan EsperMax Torbenson & Ulf Büntgen, Nature. Abstract: Including an exceptionally warm Northern Hemisphere (NH) summer, 2023 has been reported as the hottest year on record. Contextualizing recent anthropogenic warming against past natural variability is nontrivial, however, because the sparse 19th century meteorological records tend to be too warm. Here, we combine observed and reconstructed June-August (JJA) surface air temperatures to show that 2023 was the warmest NH extra-tropical summer over the past 2000 years exceeding the 95% confidence range of natural climate variability by more than half a degree Celsius. …Although 2023 is consistent with a greenhouse gases-induced warming trend that is amplified by an unfolding El Niño event, this extreme emphasizes the urgency to implement international agreements for carbon emission reduction. Full article at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-024-07512-y. For GSS Climate Change chapter 7.

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2024-05-13. The biggest disturbance of Earth’s magnetic field in more than 20 years dazzled onlookers the world over. By MICHAEL GRESHKO, Science. Excerpt: Earth got its bell rung this past weekend, sucker-punched by the Sun itself in the biggest geomagnetic storm in more than 2 decades. The storm—triggered when the magnetic fields in blobs of plasma from the Sun collided with Earth’s magnetic field—not only yielded once-in-a-generation aurorae at latitudes as low as the Florida Keys, but also took scientists’ breath away with its power. …This weekend’s fireworks began with Active Region 3664, a giant cluster of sunspots, more than 15 times wider than Earth, where the Sun’s magnetic field is highly concentrated. The magnetic field lines twisted and eventually snapped, causing the cluster to fling off a series of enormous, billion-ton blobs of plasma toward Earth, each embedded with strong magnetic fields. The detection of at least five of these expulsions, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), caused U.S. forecasters to issue a “severe” G4 watch—its first since 2005—on 9 May, the day before the blobs struck Earth. …as they moved toward Earth, they coalesced into a single complex mass. …The storm was upgraded to an extreme G5. …Geomagnetic storms that approach this weekend’s severity occur about four times per 11-year solar cycle, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The last G5 resembling this weekend’s event, the so-called “Halloween storms” of 2003, caused power outages in Sweden and blew out transformers in South Africa. Another G5 storm in 1989 knocked out power for 6 million people in Quebec in Canada….. Full article at https://www.science.org/content/article/extreme-solar-storm-generated-auroras-and-surprise. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 4.

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2024-05-12. Solar storms made GPS tractors miss their mark at the worst time for farmers. By Wes Davis, The Verge. Excerpt: Farmers had to stop planting their crops over the weekend as the strongest solar storms since 2003 battered the GPS satellites used by self-driving tractors, according to 404 MediaAnd the issues struck just days ahead of a crucial date for planting corn, one of the US’s biggest crops. …Organic farmer Tom Schwarz …said he uses the centimeter-level accuracy of the GPS system to plant his rows so close to his tractor’s path that a human being can’t “steer fast enough or well enough to not kill the crop.” …The recent storms are some of the worst to hit the Earth since 2003, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), having reached G5, the NOAA’s highest severity rating. That can mean major power grid and communications disruptions…. Full article at https://www.theverge.com/2024/5/12/24154779/solar-storms-farmer-gps-john-deer. See also New York Times article, Solar Storm Crashes GPS Systems Used by Some Farmers, Stalling Planting. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 5.

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2024-05-10. A (mostly) scientific ranking of takeout containers – from worst to best for the environment. By Amanda Schupak, The Guardian. Excerpt: …Here’s our (mostly) scientific ranking, from worst to best. 7. [worst] Compostable serveware. …6. Some plastic and paperboard packaging …Some plastics used in food service containers, such as number 6 (polystyrene), generally are not recyclable. Nor are soft plastics, like film labels and straws…. 5. Clear, rigid plastic boxes, cups and clamshells The same goes for classic Chinese takeout boxes and similar containers, since they’re coated with plastic to prevent leaking. …But among different types of plastics, those with a number 1 (PET or PETE) or 2 (HDPE) inside the chasing arrows …are more valuable to recyclers than plastics with higher numbers. Widely used number 5 (polypropylene or PP) plastics are becoming more recyclable and valuable, too. …4. Recycled containers …Containers made from recycled materials are better than ones that aren’t. …3. Aluminum boxes …there’s a robust market for recycled aluminum …The tops add a trickier dimension. Number 1 or 2 plastic lids are recyclable, whereas a cardboard lid that’s white on top and metallic on the bottom probably isn’t, by dint of being made of two materials that are impossible to separate. …2. Paper and foil wraps, pizza boxes …(Pro tip: if your [pizza] leaked a lot of oil, rip off the top for recycling and put the greasy [cardboard] in the trash.) …1. Reusable containers …The break-even point could be as little as two uses, or more than 100…. Full article at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/article/2024/may/10/best-sustainable-food-containers. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 7.

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2024-05-09. What are the most powerful climate actions you can take? By Damian Carrington, The Guardian. Excerpt: …the most effective action individuals can take …Most experts (76%) backed voting for politicians who pledge strong climate measures, where fair elections take place. …The second choice for most effective individual action, according to the experts, was reducing flying and fossil-fuel powered transport in favour of electric and public transport. …Globally it is a small minority of people who drive aviation emissions, with only about one in 10 flying at all. Frequent-flying “super emitters” who represent just 1% of the world’s population cause half of aviation’s carbon emissions, with US air passengers having by far the biggest carbon footprint among rich countries. …Meat production has a huge impact on the environment. Most people in wealthy countries already eat more meat than is healthy for them and more than 60% of the scientists said they had cut their own meat consumption. Almost 30% of the experts said eating less meat was the most effective climate action, while a similar proportion backed cutting emissions from heating or cooling homes, by installing heat pumps…. Having fewer children was backed by 12% of the experts but many made further suggestions. …Shifting savings or pension funds away from fossil fuel investments and towards green ones was also mentioned by multiple experts…. Full article at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/article/2024/may/09/what-are-the-most-powerful-climate-actions-you-can-take. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-05-08. A meta-analysis on global change drivers and the risk of infectious disease. By Michael B. Mahon et al, Nature. Abstract: Anthropogenic change is contributing to the rise in emerging infectious diseases, which are significantly correlated with socioeconomic, environmental and ecological factors. Studies have shown that infectious disease risk is modified by changes to biodiversity, climate change, chemical pollution, landscape transformations and species introductions. However, it remains unclear which global change drivers most increase disease and under what contexts. Here we amassed a dataset from the literature that contains 2,938 observations of infectious disease responses to global change drivers across 1,497 host–parasite combinations, including plant, animal and human hosts. …reducing greenhouse gas emissions, managing ecosystem health, and preventing biological invasions and biodiversity loss could help to reduce the burden of plant, animal and human diseases, especially when coupled with improvements to social and economic determinants of health. Full article at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-024-07380-6. See also New York Times article, Environmental Changes Are Fueling Human, Animal and Plant Diseases, Study Finds. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-04-30. Megadrought forces end to sugarcane farming in parched Texas borderland. By Lela Nargi, The Guardian. Excerpt: …In February, the [Rio Grande Valley Sugar Growers] cooperative announced that it would close its 50-year-old sugarcane processing mill, the last remaining in the state, by the end of this spring. …Ongoing megadrought meant there wasn’t enough water to irrigate co-op members’ 34,000 acres of sugarcane, and that effectively puts an end to sugarcane farming in the south Texas borderlands. …In 2022, drought decimated Texas cotton and forced California growers to idle half their rice fields. Water disputes are also on the rise as decreased flows in the Colorado River and other vital waterways pit state against statestates against native nations and farmers against municipalities…. Full article at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2024/apr/30/texas-sugarcane-farming. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-05-11. The latest on the massive solar storm. By Angela Fritz, Elise Hammond and Chris Lau, CNN. Excerpt: A series of solar flares and coronal mass ejections have created dazzling auroras that may be seen as far south as Alabama and Northern California — but could also disrupt communications on Earth over the weekend…. [See photos too.] Full article at https://www.cnn.com/weather/live-news/geomagnetic-solar-storm-northern-lights-05-10-24/index.html. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 5.

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2024-05-10. Renewables are meeting 95% of Portugal’s electricity needs. How did it become a European leader? By Euronews Green. Excerpt: Portugal has made huge progress in renewable power, up from 27 per cent in 2005 and 54 per cent in 2017. Portugal generated an ‘historic’ 95 per cent of its electricity from renewables in April, according to the network operator REN. …Solar might not have been the star of the show in REN’s new stock take. A third of the way through the year, the renewable made up 7 per cent of Portugal’s electricity mix, behind wind at 30 per cent and hydroelectric plants at 48 per cent. However, “the solar component continues to grow substantially,” REN says. April saw the “highest monthly significance ever recorded” for solar – when it covered 10.5 per cent of the country’s electricity consumption. …Portugal had the third highest share of wind energy in its electricity mix last year at 29 per cent, behind Ireland (36 per cent) and Denmark (58 per cent)…. Full article at https://www.euronews.com/green/2024/05/10/renewables-are-meeting-95-of-portugals-electricity-needs-how-did-it-become-a-european-lead. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-05-10. This country has become the first in modern history to lose all of its glaciers. By Angela Symons, Euronews.green. Excerpt: Venezuela has lost its last glacier, making it the first nation in modern history to hold this unenviable record. At least five other glaciers have disappeared in the South American country within the last century as climate change drives up temperatures in the Andes. The country lost 98 per cent of its glacial area between 1952 and 2019, research shows. …Temperatures are warming faster at the Earth’s higher elevations than in lowlands. This has caused Venezuela’s last glacier to decline more quickly than anticipated. Back in 2019, scientists predicted that the Humboldt could be gone within two decades, but it has already reportedly shrunk to less than two hectares…. Full article at https://www.euronews.com/green/2024/05/10/this-country-has-become-the-first-in-modern-history-to-lose-all-of-its-glaciers. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-05-10. First New U.S. Aluminum Smelter in 45 Years Could Cut Production Emissions by 75%. By Maddie Stone, Grist. Excerpt: Aluminum is a crucial raw ingredient in the fight against climate change. But to ensure the transition off fossil fuels is a clean one, the industry needs a serious makeover. A new federally funded “green smelter” could help make that happen. …aluminum manufacturers are responsible for about 1.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year. …In March, the agency announced $6 billion in funding for “industrial demonstration” projects that showcase promising strategies for reducing the climate impact of heavy industry. …The beneficiaries of the government’s cleanup effort include Century Aluminum Company, which could receive up to half a billion dollars to build the nation’s first new aluminum smelter in 45 years. The facility, dubbed the Green Aluminum Smelter, could double the amount of virgin, or primary, aluminum the country produces while emitting 75 percent less CO2 than older smelters, thanks to increased efficiency and the use of renewable electricity…. Full article at https://gizmodo.com/first-new-u-s-aluminum-smelter-in-45-years-could-cut-p-1851469454. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-05-07. Cracking Soils Could Accelerate Climate Change. By Elise Cutts, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: …Researchers already knew separately that drought can enhance soil cracking, that soil cracks can enhance greenhouse gas emissions, and that climate change is predicted to make drought more intense and frequent in many arid parts of the world. “What this paper does is put all that together,” said soil scientist Kelly Caylor of the University of California, Santa Barbara, who was not involved in the new study. It shows how drought-driven changes to the physical structure of soils—in this case, cracking—could contribute to climate change, too, he added. …Soils are the planet’s greatest stockpile of terrestrial carbon. …Vahedifard and his colleagues published their study in Environmental Research Letters.… Full article at https://eos.org/articles/cracking-soils-could-accelerate-climate-change. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-05-07. Giant Batteries Are Transforming the Way the U.S. Uses Electricity. By Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich, The New York Times. Excerpt: They’re delivering solar power after dark in California and helping to stabilize grids in other states. And the technology is expanding rapidly. …Solar power is plentiful during the day but disappears by evening, just as people get home from work and electricity demand spikes. …Since 2020, California has installed more giant batteries than anywhere in the world apart from China. They can soak up excess solar power during the day and store it for use when it gets dark …Between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. on April 30, …batteries supplied more than one-fifth of California’s electricity and, for a few minutes, pumped out 7,046 megawatts of electricity, akin to the output from seven large nuclear reactors. …Over the past three years, battery storage capacity on the nation’s grids has grown tenfold, to 16,000 megawatts. This year, it is expected to nearly double again, with the biggest growth in Texas, California and Arizona…. Full article at https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/05/07/climate/battery-electricity-solar-california-texas.html. For GSS Energy Use chapter 4.

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2024-05-06. Deadly Pacific ‘blobs’ tied to emission cuts in China. By WARREN CORNWALL, Science. Excerpt: Starting in late 2013, the first in a handful of record-shattering heat waves struck the north Pacific Ocean near Alaska. Temperatures in these warm “blobs,” which have occurred four times in the past decade, sometimes reach more than 2°C above normal. …Research has implicated climate change, which can supercharge natural fluctuations in ocean heat. But now, scientists are pointing to another surprising contributor: China’s success in stemming air pollution. A steep decline in aerosols—tiny airborne particles such as sulfates—emitted by Chinese factories and power plants in the 2010s appears to have amplified a string of extreme heat waves on the other side of the Pacific, driving up to 30% of the temperature increase during these heat waves, scientists report today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. …Aerosols can act like tiny mirrors, reflecting sunlight back into space and reducing the amount that reaches Earth’s surface. Eliminate them and the world warms. Scientists last month reported that cleaner air might be responsible for 40% of the increase in heat driving global warming between 2001 and 2019…. Full article at https://www.science.org/content/article/deadly-pacific-blobs-tied-emission-cuts-china. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-05-06. Hellish Venus may have lost its water quickly. By JONATHAN O’CALLAGHAN, Science. Excerpt: With surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead, Venus today is a veritable hellhole, despite being similar in size to Earth and orbiting in the habitable zone of the Sun. Yet studies suggest the planet may have once hosted oceans and even conditions suitable for life. Explaining how all that water disappeared has been a problem. A study published today in Nature offers a solution, identifying a new water-loss mechanism operating high in Venus’s atmosphere that could have doubled the rate of water loss. Speedier drying could have allowed oceans to exist until later in Venus’s history—implying the planet might have been habitable for longer. …At 96% carbon dioxide, its atmosphere traps so much heat that surface temperatures reach more than 450°C. Yet spacecraft and telescopes have seen faint hints of water vapor in the atmosphere, and in the late 1970s, NASA’s Pioneer Venus orbiter detected a sign of long-vanished oceans: an enrichment of heavy hydrogen, deuterium. …The authors of the new study say they have identified new water-loss chemistry that can resolve the problem. …some 150 kilometers above the surface, sunlight would not only split water vapor but also carbon dioxide, creating hydrogen and carbon monoxide that would combine into an unstable ion called HCO+ …[that] would break apart to shed excess energy. …“The hydrogen uses the carbon monoxide molecule as a launchpad to escape to space,” explaining how the last “dregs” of venusian water could have been lost even after hydrodynamic loss ceased. …Venus may have held onto its oceans until much more recently, perhaps 2 billion to 3 billion years ago…. Full article at https://www.science.org/content/article/hellish-venus-may-have-lost-its-water-quickly. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7.

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2024-05-02. How Mantle Movements Shape Earth’s Surface. By Rachel Fritts, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The movement of tectonic plates shapes the rocky features of Earth’s surface. Plates’ convergence can form mountain ranges or ocean trenches, and their divergence can form oceanic ridges. But it’s not just the plates themselves that influence Earth’s topography. The mantle layer underneath exerts its own subtle influence, which can be seen even in places located far from tectonic plate edges, and is referred to as residual topography. …To better understand how the mantle affects topography, Stephenson et al., building on previous work focused on the oceans, created two new databases. One compiles 26,725 measurements of crust thickness around the globe, the largest such database to date, along with estimates of seismic velocity. The other contains laboratory analysis of seismic velocity as a function of temperature, density, and pressure. …The researchers found that differences in the temperature and chemical structure of the mantle can cause swells and basins in the landscape distinct from those that form at the edges of tectonic plates. These features can rise or fall by up to 2 kilometers and stretch for hundreds to thousands of kilometers—all within the interior of plates. Some of the highest swells (about 2 kilometers), which are thought to correspond to locations where the mantle is particularly hot, can be found in the Afar–Yemen–Red Sea region, western North America, and Iceland. Some of the deepest basins (deeper than about 1.5 kilometers), where the mantle is thought to be cooler, are in areas near the Black, Caspian, and Aral seas, as well as in the East European Plain. Full article at https://eos.org/research-spotlights/how-mantle-movements-shape-earths-surface. …Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earthhttps://doi.org/10.1029/2023JB026735, 2024. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 3.

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2024-05-03. Florida sees thriving future if climate resilience managed, research finds. By Richard Luscombe, The Guardian. Excerpt: Climate predictions in Florida, for the most part, make pretty grim reading. Rising oceans threaten to submerge most of the state by the end of the century, and soaring temperatures could make it too hot to live here anyway. But new research by a coalition of prominent universities paints a more upbeat picture of Florida’s future as a thriving state for humans and wildlife, with natural resources harnessed to mitigate the worst effects of the climate emergency generally, as well as extreme weather events such as hurricanes and floods. Such a prosperous tomorrow, the authors say, can only follow essential preparatory work today. One key element, an 18m-acre swath of protected land called the Florida wildlife corridor, is already mostly in place, and will spearhead Florida’s climate resilience if properly managed and allowed to evolve, the researchers believe…. Full article at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/may/03/florida-climate-future. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-05-03. What a Philippine court ruling means for transgenic Golden Rice, once hailed as a dietary breakthrough. By DENNIS NORMILE, Science. Excerpt: Golden Rice seemed to be on the cusp of fulfilling its promise. Decades ago, researchers created the genetically modified (GM) rice variety to combat vitamin A deficiency, a scourge of the developing world that can cause blindness and even lead to death. But for more than 20 years activists opposed to GM crops kept Golden Rice confined to laboratories and test plots. But in 2021, the government of the Philippines granted a permit allowing the commercial planting of Malusog Rice, a Golden Rice variety tailored for local conditions and tastes. Farmers began to grow limited amounts of the grain in 2022. Officials hoped to have the variety comprise 10% of the nation’s rice harvest within 8 years, enough to meet the needs of all vitamin A deficient households. On 17 April, however, a Philippine Court of Appeals revoked the permit, bringing that plan to a halt. Ruling on a lawsuit brought by Greenpeace and other groups, the court concluded that in the absence of a scientific consensus on the safety of Golden Rice it should not be commercially cultivated. The nation’s constitution, the judges found, required the government to follow the so-called precautionary principle of waiting to approve new crops and activities until scientists reach a consensus that they are safe for humans and the environment. …the decision also blocks new field testing in greenhouses or open fields, crimping research until an approved monitoring scheme is in place. …Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States have all approved Golden Rice for consumption although there is little if any cultivation of the crop…. Full article at https://www.science.org/content/article/what-philippine-court-ruling-means-transgenic-golden-rice-once-hailed-dietary. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 4.

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2024-05-03. Nuclear energy continues to help power N.Y. grid as renewables lag. By Molly Burke, Times Union. Excerpt: New York’s four reactors generate 22 percent of the state’s electricity, while fossil fuels continue to power nearly 50 percent. …The energy the plant produces — which does not emit any greenhouse gasses — will not contribute toward New York’s fast-approaching goal to transition 70 percent of the electrical grid to renewable sources by 2030 under mandates by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. Nuclear energy, while low-carbon, is produced from finite materials and is nonrenewable. …While renewable energy projects have faltered, including two offshore wind projects off the coast of Long Island being scrapped in mid-April, nuclear energy in New York has continued steadily for a number of years. The cancellations of the wind projects …underscore the variables and cost challenges facing efforts in New York and the nation to develop coastal wind as a major energy source. Full article at https://www.timesunion.com/state/article/new-york-renewables-face-climb-reach-approaching-19420209.php. For GSS Energy Use chapter 4.

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2024-05-02. Court strikes down youth climate lawsuit on Biden administration request. By Dharna Noor, The Guardian. Excerpt: The lawsuit, Juliana v United States, was filed by 21 young people from Oregon who alleged the federal government’s role in fueling the climate crisis violates their constitutional rights. The Wednesday order from a panel of three Trump-appointed judges on the ninth circuit court of appeals will require a US district court judge to dismiss the case for lack of standing, with no opening to amend the complaint. …[said Julia Olson, attorney and founder of Our Children’s Trust, the non-profit law firm that brought the suit] “…the full ninth circuit can correct this mistake.”…. Full article at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/article/2024/may/02/youth-climate-lawsuit-juliana-appeals-court. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9.

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2024-05-02. Cheap catalyst could help turn carbon dioxide into fuels. By ROBERT F. SERVICE, Science. Excerpt: Molybdenum compound offers an efficient way to make carbon monoxide—a building block of chemicals and fuels. Imagine if carbon dioxide (CO2)—the primary cause of global warming—could be collected from smokestacks and turned back into fuel. Now, chemists report the discovery of a potentially cheap and stable catalyst that can efficiently split CO2 into carbon monoxide (CO), a molecular starting point for plastics, diesel, and jet fuels. Because renewable electricity can power these reactions, the catalyst could help make commodity chemicals without burning fossil fuels. It could also help create a market for the vast amounts of CO2 that companies are planning on capturing not just from smokestacks, but from the ocean and air…. Full article at https://www.science.org/content/article/cheap-catalyst-could-help-turn-carbon-dioxide-fuels. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-05-02. Can Forests Be More Profitable Than Beef?. By Manuela Andreoni, The New York Times. Excerpt: The residents of Maracaçumé, an impoverished town on the edge of the Amazon rainforest, are mystified by the company that recently bought the biggest ranch in the region. How can it possibly make money by planting trees, which executives say they’ll never cut down, on pastureland where cattle have been grazing for decades? …The new company …is a forest restoration business called Re.green. Its aim, along with a handful of other companies, is to create a whole new industry that can make standing trees, which store planet-warming carbon, more lucrative than the world’s biggest driver of deforestation: cattle ranching. …About a fifth of the great rainforest is already gone. And scientist warn that rising global temperatures could push the entire ecosystem, a trove of biodiversity and a crucial regulator of the world’s climate, to collapse in the coming decades unless deforestation is halted and an area the size of Germany is restored. …Re.green plans to restore native trees in deforested areas and sell credits that correspond to the carbon they lock away. …many conservationists worry that carbon credits could easily be abused by companies that want to appear environmentally conscious while sticking with fossil fuels. …A brutal drought fueled by climate change and deforestation has recently dried out much of the grass that ranchers there use as feed. And, after decades of pounding by hooves, millions of acres across the region have become so degraded they can’t nourish much of anything. …fewer than half of the ranches registered with the city have any cattle on them…. Full article at https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/02/climate/amazon-reforestation.html. For GSS A New World View chapter 5.

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2024-05-01. Steel industry emissions are a big contributor to climate change. Can it go green? By WARREN CORNWALL, Science. Excerpt: Steelmaking, the fiery process that undergirds modern life, comes with a huge cost to the climate. Greenhouse gases gush from the burning fossil fuels that drive 1600°C blast furnaces and melt raw iron ore. Purifying the molten ore by mixing it with refined coal, or coke, releases a second, bigger surge of carbon dioxide. A third stream comes when the resulting pig iron is turned into steel by cooking it a bit further—baking off most of the remaining carbon—and alloying it with additives such as chromium or titanium. In the end, the emitted greenhouse gases weigh roughly twice as much as the steel itself. Nearly 2 billion tons of steel is produced worldwide each year, accounting for about 7% of human greenhouse gas emissions, more than Russia or the entire European Union. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is now hoping to change that. In March, DOE announced $1.5 billion in grants for low-carbon ironmaking, and last month, the agency’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) announced another $28 million in grants for more cutting-edge, speculative approaches…. Full article at https://www.science.org/content/article/steel-industry-emissions-big-contributor-climate-change-can-go-green. For GSS Energy Use chapter 6.

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2024-05-01. China’s Electric Cars Keep Improving, a Worry for Rivals Elsewhere. By Keith Bradsher, The New York Times. Excerpt: Better batteries and falling costs underpin China’s push in electric cars. CATL, based in southeastern China and the world’s largest manufacturer of electric car batteries, announced last week at the Beijing auto show that a 10-minute charge of its newest battery would give a range of 370 miles. A 30-minute full charge would give a range of 620 miles, the company said…. Full article at https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/01/business/china-electric-vehicles.html. For GSS Energy Use chapter 9.

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2024-04-30. Ancient crystals suggest early Earth had land and freshwater. By ELISE CUTTS, Science. Excerpt: Hardy zircon minerals found in Australian rocks suggest conditions for life existed 4 billion years ago …“We found evidence for two things: There was land above sea level and, at the same, that this land interacted with freshwater,” says Hamed Gamaleldien, a geochemist at Khalifa University who presented the results this month at a conference of the European Geosciences Union. “This means you start to have the hydrological cycle, and you started to have the recipe for the start of life.” If Gamaleldien and his colleagues are right…the late Hadean might have been habitable long before the appearance of the first fossils. Not all hypotheses for the origins of life require dry land. But some invoke freshwater hot spring environments. Gamaleldien hopes his discovery will spark renewed interest in a search for life before 4 billion years. “Whether there’s life or not, we don’t know,” he says. “But you had the recipe.”…. Full article at https://www.science.org/content/article/ancient-crystals-suggest-early-earth-had-land-and-freshwater. For GSS Life and Climate chapter 4.

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2024-04-29. Where Seas Are Rising At Alarming Speed. By Chris MooneyBrady DennisKevin Crowe and John Muyskens, The Washington Post. Excerpt: One of the most rapid sea level surges on Earth is besieging the American South, forcing a reckoning for coastal communities across eight U.S. states, a Washington Post analysis has found. At more than a dozen tidegauges spanning from Texas to North Carolina,sea levels are at least 6 inches higher than they were in 2010 — a change similar to what occurred over the previous five decades. …The Gulf of Mexico has experienced twice the global average rate of sea level rise since 2010, a Post analysis of satellite data shows. …As waters rise, Louisiana’s wetlands — the state’s natural barrier against major storms — are in a state of “drowning.” Choked septic systems are failing and threatening to contaminatewaterways. Insurance companies are raising rates, limiting policies or even bailing in some places,casting uncertainty over future home values in flood-prone areas. …Roads increasingly are falling below the highest tides, leaving drivers stuck in repeated delays, or forcing them to slog through salt water to reach homes, schools, work and places of worship. In some communities, researchers and public officials fear, rising waters could periodically cut off some people from essential services such as medical aid…. Full article at https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/interactive/2024/southern-us-sea-level-rise-risk-cities/. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-04-29. Climate modelers grapple with their own carbon emissions. By PAUL VOOSEN, Science. Excerpt: Over the decades, supercomputer simulations of Earth’s climate have yielded unprecedented insights into how the interplay of atmosphere, ocean, and land shapes the planet’s response to rising levels of greenhouse gases. But as these climate models have grown in complexity, researchers have started to worry the simulations have a substantial climate footprint of their own. Running them can take weeks or longer on a supercomputer, consuming megawatts of electric power—some of it likely from fossil fuels. …Nearly 50 modeling centers worldwide contributed to the last round of [Coupled Model Intercomparison Project], which ended in 2022, simulating hundreds of thousands of years and creating 40 petabytes of data. …centers accounted for nearly 1700 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) released to the atmosphere, according to a study published this month in Geoscientific Model Development led by Mario Acosta, a climate modeler at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center…. Full article at https://www.science.org/content/article/climate-modelers-grapple-their-own-carbon-emissions. For GSS Climate Change chapter 7.

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2024-04-23. A hunk of space junk crashed through his roof in Florida. Who should pay to fix it? By Bill Chappell, NPR. Excerpt: Alejandro Otero was out of town on vacation last month when his son called from their house in Naples, Fla., to tell him …he heard an extremely loud crash — and realized it came from inside the house. …the object wasn’t a meteorite. It was cylindrical, and while one end was melted by the heat of reentry, the other had a smooth round shape with a circular indentation. …[It was] a large battery pallet from the International Space Station that NASA released for an uncontrolled reentry, three years ago. …”The location of the reentry was predicted by the 18th Space Defense Squadron to be in the Gulf of Mexico,”. …”We are in the process of sending NASA our claim which will include the insurance and non-insurance damages,” he says, adding that his lawyer has been in touch with NASA’s legal counsel. …”It will depend on whose module of the space station that came from,” said Sundahl, who is the director of the Global Space Law Center at Cleveland State University. “We have an international convention on liability for damage caused by outer space objects …from 1972. …But, Sundahl added, if the object in question turns out to be part of a U.S. module, “then the international law no longer applies. It becomes a domestic legal issue, and a homeowner would have to bring a tort action against the federal government.”…. Full article at https://www.npr.org/2024/04/23/1243676256/space-station-junk-hits-florida-home-liability. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7.

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2024-04-25. New rule compels US coal-fired power plants to capture emissions – or shut down. By Associated Press/The Guardian. Excerpt: Coal-fired power plants would be forced to capture smokestack emissions or shut down under a rule issued on Thursday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). …The power plant rule marks the first time the federal government has restricted carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. The rule also would force future electric plants fueled by coal or gas to control up to 90% of their carbon pollution. The new standards will stave off 1.38bn metric tons of carbon pollution through 2047, equivalent to the annual emissions of 328m gas cars, the EPA said, and will provide hundreds of billions of dollars in climate and health benefits, measured in fewer premature deaths, asthma cases, and lost work or school days. …Rich Nolan, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, said that through the latest rules, “the EPA is systematically dismantling the reliability of the US electric grid”. …Coal provided about 16% of US electricity last year, down from about 45% in 2010. Natural gas provides about 43% of US electricity, with the remainder from nuclear energy and renewables such as wind, solar and hydropower…. See article at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/apr/25/new-rule-compels-us-coal-fired-power-plants-to-capture-emissions-or-shut-down. For GSS Energy Use chapter 4.

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2024-04-24. America’s plastic catastrophe – China stopped taking our plastic waste. Now we’re drowning in it. By Taylor Dorrell, Business Insider. Excerpt: …what do we do with the 40 million tons of plastic waste we produce annually? …For years, the answer was simple: Make a lot of it, dump most of it in the landfill, and make the rest of it someone else’s problem — the US regularly exported 7 million tons a year to China alone. Some of it was melted into lesser plastic; the rest was incinerated or buried. But then, in 2018, China cut off plastic imports. Now, America is coming to terms with a hard truth: Plastic was never designed to be recycled and there’s no profitable way to recycle 91% of it. The environmental impacts have been disastrous. About 430 million tons of plastic are produced globally every year, accounting for 14% of global oil demand. …While the US, the UK, and other European countries responded to China’s ban by sending their waste to places like Thailand and Malaysia, those countries then followed China in cutting off waste imports. The message was clear: The Global South would no longer be a dumping ground for the West. …America is now scrambling to find alternatives. One approach peddled by oil corporations like Chevron and Exxon has been to turn plastic into crude oil, which they say extends the life of plastic that would’ve otherwise ended up in a landfill. …Plastic went from being practically nonexistent in 1940 to being consumed at a rate of 30 pounds a person each year by 1960. …A 2022 report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found only 9% of all plastic ever produced had been recycled; 72% ended up in landfills or the environment. …In the plastic-recycling industry, pyrolysis is seen as a well funded but failing experiment. … See article at https://www.businessinsider.com/plastic-recycling-problem-america-waste-pyrolysis-big-oil-china-2024-4. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 7.

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2024-04-23. IRA’s Solar for All Program Will Install Nearly 1 Million Systems in US. By Dan Gearino, Inside Climate News. Excerpt: For people who have spent their careers trying to expand access to rooftop solar energy, the announcement on Monday of $7 billion worth of project support from the Biden administration is almost unfathomable in its size and scope. Money from the Solar for All program, which is part of the Inflation Reduction Act, will go to 60 recipients that include state and Tribal governments and nonprofit organizations. Its goal is to help lower-income and otherwise disadvantaged households obtain the financial and environmental benefits of solar. “It’s a good day,” said Erica Mackie, CEO and co-founder of GRID Alternatives, an Oakland, California-based nonprofit that will receive two grants totaling more than $310 million and is involved with a third grant of $62.3 million. …GRID Alternatives started in 2004 with the installation of two solar systems and has grown to about 500 employees who provide job training for solar installers and set up solar systems for qualifying low-income households…. Full article at https://insideclimatenews.org/news/23042024/inflation-reduction-act-solar-for-all/. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9.

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2024-04-22. Oldest ever ice offers glimpse of Earth before the ice ages. By ELISE CUTTS, Science. Excerpt: Samples of eerie blue glacial ice from Antarctica are a staggering 6 million years old, scientists announced last week, doubling the previous record for Earth’s oldest ice. The ice opens a new window on Earth’s ancient climate—one that isn’t exactly what scientists expected. The ice opens a new window on Earth’s ancient climate—one that isn’t exactly what scientists expected. The results are preliminary, stresses Ed Brook, a geochemist at Oregon State University (OSU) and leader of the U.S. Center for Oldest Ice Exploration (COLDEX), which presented the discovery last week here in multiple talks at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly. But if even a tiny drop in CO2 can kick off a major climate change, Brook adds, “you know, we probably care about that.”…. Full article at https://www.science.org/content/article/oldest-ever-ice-offers-glimpse-earth-ice-ages. For GSS Life and Climate chapter 10.

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2024-04-22. Three Places Changing Quickly to Fight Climate Change. By Delger Erdenesanaa, The New York Times. Excerpt: To mark Earth Day (and to try to reach young, environmentally-minded voters) President Biden is promoting a new national program to train and employ people in climate-related jobs, and reminding voters of the clean-energy investments underway following the Inflation Reduction Act. …Uruguay, a nation of 3.4 million people wedged between Argentina and Brazil, generates nearly all its electricity from renewable sources. In 2008, the government set a goal of transforming the electric grid, which had come to depend on imported oil. …Between 2013 and 2018, wind generation grew sharply from almost nothing to about a quarter of Uruguay’s electricity mix. By the end of 2022, the most recent year data is available, Uruguay generated more than 90 percent of its power from renewables, with wind and solar growing even as hydropower declined. …Transportation is the second biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Electric car sales have grown exponentially over the past decade, and China is by far the largest market for these vehicles. About 7.3 million battery electric vehicles were sold around the world in 2022, according to the International Energy Agency. More than half of these cars, about 4.4 million, were sold in China. …The most popular electric car in China is currently the Hongguang Mini, a tiny two-door model that costs about $5,000. …In 2021, officials in Paris announced a plan to make their city “100 percent cycle-friendly” in the next five years. …Between 2001 and 2018, the number of car trips taken in Paris fell by 60 percent. Over that same period, public transit trips increased by 40 percent and bicycle trips by 20 percent…. See article at https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/22/climate/earth-day-climate-change.html. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-04-18. Swift Quakes Caused by Stomping Feet, Not Booming Beat. By Carolyn Wilke, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: When 70,000 fans bounced up and down to Taylor Swift last year, the ground pulsed with them, making distinct spikes in seismic signals that many referred to as Swift quakes. Scientists have now analyzed the tremors to learn about their source. …Tepp jumped up and down next to the sensor and the speaker. “It gave a very nice harmonic signal,” she said, suggesting that the motion of jumping fans produced the curious seismic signals. The researchers published their findings in Seismological Research Letters. …The concert data also revealed that the most intense seismic signals came during Swift hits “Shake It Off,” “You Belong with Me,” and “Love Story.”… See article at https://eos.org/articles/swift-quakes-caused-by-stomping-feet-not-booming-beat. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 2.

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2024-04-17. How Are Deep Soils Responding to Warming? By Fabrizzio Protti SánchezAvni MalhotraMichael W. I. SchmidtCornelia Rumpel and Margaret S. Torn, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Soil ecosystems play fundamental roles in sustaining food and fiber production, improving water quality and availability, sequestering carbon, and providing other societal needs. Climate warming affects the ability of soils to provide these ecosystem services, likely posing broad consequences for food security and the stability of ecosystems belowground and aboveground. To predict and manage these consequences effectively, it is crucial to understand how soil processes respond to rising temperatures. Scientists worldwide have been conducting deep-soil-warming experiments, in which soil layers are deliberately heated to observe how plants, soils, and microbes respond. Recently, though, researchers have recognized the importance of comparing and integrating findings from these experiments to help reveal new insights. The global DeepSoil 2100 network emerged from conversations among soil scientists convened in 2020 by one of us (M.W.I.S.) in response to this need for coordination…. See article at https://eos.org/science-updates/how-are-deep-soils-responding-to-warming. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 5.

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2024-04-18. Controversial wolf killing appears to help caribou, but concerns persist. By WARREN CORNWALL, Science. Excerpt: Some worry the findings will stall efforts to halt logging—the root cause of declining caribou populations. Since 2015, a slaughter has unfolded in the mountains of British Columbia, all in the name of saving southern mountain caribous, classified as threatened in Canada. Each winter, sharpshooters hired by the provincial government kill hundreds of wolves from low-flying helicopters, sometimes using a tracking collar attached to a “Judas wolf” that leads them to other pack members. Nearly 2200 of the predators have been killed, including 248 in the most recent winter. The policy has provoked lawsuits and protests from conservation groups and dueling papers in scientific journals about whether the carnage benefits caribou herds. This week, in Ecological Applications, a research team looking at 51 years of population trends and conservation actions offers the most complete analysis yet of the divisive issue. Even critics of the culling say it offers compelling data that, at least in the short term, killing wolves is one of the few actions that aids ailing caribou populations. …There is little disagreement about the root cause of the caribou’s plight. Logging of old growth forests has cut away at habitat preferred by southern mountain caribou—a type of woodland caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) that occupies swaths of south and central British Columbia and Alberta and, until recently, parts of northern Idaho and Washington state. The shrubs that grow back in these logged mountainous areas attract moose and deer, which in turn draw more wolves. The numbers of southern mountain caribou in North America have dwindled from roughly 10,000 animals in 1991 to a little more than 4700 in 2023…. See article at https://www.science.org/content/article/controversial-wolf-killing-appears-help-caribou-concerns-persist. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 1.

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2024-04-18. Drilling on the Edge. By CHRISTIAN ELLIOTT, Science. Excerpt: The helicopter hovered overhead, whipping up snow. …One trip down, 17 more to go, thought [Peter] Neff, a polar glaciologist at the University of Minnesota (UM) Twin Cities. …Neff and his team would have just 10 days to drill ice cores on Canisteo, a peninsula on the west coast of Antarctica—and a blizzard was already looming. …Scientists usually target sites deep in the continent’s interior, where the weather is calmer and they can spend years collecting kilometers-long ice cores that record hundreds of thousands of years of climate history. Neff needed just a couple hundred years of history, and he only needed to drill 150 meters deep to get it. But his chosen location was exceptionally remote and stormy. He was there because of …the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, which jut into the Amundsen Sea as frozen shelves tens of kilometers wide. These glaciers act as corks in the bottle of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, which …stores enough water to raise sea level by 3 to 5 meters. Global warming is loosening the corks. Because Pine Island and Thwaites rest on bedrock that sits below sea level, incursions of warm seawater are melting their foundations, undermining them and speeding their flow. Around the end of the century, if global warming continues unabated, “we’ll see a big increase in the flow of ice delivery to the ocean and the pace of sea level rise: the beginning of a total collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet,” says Ted Scambos, principal investigator for the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration…. See article at https://www.science.org/content/article/daring-james-bond-mission-drill-antarctic-ices-cores-could-reveal-future-sea-level-rise. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-04-17. Where did Earth’s oddball ‘quasi-moon’ come from? Scientists pinpoint famed lunar crater. By DANIEL CLERY, Science. Excerpt: Astronomers suspect an unusual near-Earth rocky object is not a typical escapee from the Solar System’s asteroid belt, but is instead a chunk of the Moon blasted into space eons ago by a spectacular impact. Now, a team of researchers has modeled what sort of lunar impact could have ejected such a gobbet of Moon and deposit it in a stable, nearby orbit. Surprisingly, only one strong candidate emerged: the asteroid strike that created the famous Giordano Bruno crater, the youngest large crater on the Moon, the group reports today in Nature Astronomy. …The odd asteroid, known as 469219 Kamo‘oalewa, was discovered in 2016 …measures between 40 and 100 meters across and rotates particularly fast—once every 28 minutes. It follows an elliptical orbit around the Sun that moves in sync with Earth, giving the impression that the asteroid orbits Earth, even though it is outside the planet’s gravitational influence. The asteroid’s curious orbit and small size led to it being chosen as the first target for China’s sample return mission Tianwen-2, set for launch in 2025. …Interest in the asteroid heightened in 2021, when studies by the Large Binocular Telescope Observatory in Arizona first suggested its composition more closely resembles a Moon rock than a typical asteroid. The spectrum of the light reflected off Kamo‘oalewa revealed silicates more typical of a lunar sample…. See article at https://www.science.org/content/article/where-did-earth-s-oddball-quasi-moon-come-scientists-pinpoint-famed-lunar-crater. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7.

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2024-04-16. Giant planets ran amok soon after Solar System’s birth. By PAUL VOOSEN, Science. Excerpt: In its youth, the Solar System underwent a momentous upheaval: Gravitational tugs between the giant planets threw them off track, causing Jupiter’s orbit to jump closer to the Sun, while Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune were flung outward. The gravity of the rampaging giants scattered Pluto and other icy bodies to the Kuiper belt, shepherded the asteroid belt into its current location, and sent countless bodies crashing into the inner Solar System. For many years, researchers believed this “giant planet instability” occurred 600 million years after the Solar System’s birth 4.57 billion years ago, based on the ages of impact craters mapped on the Moon. Recently, evidence has mounted that it occurred much earlier. And now, some researchers are homing in on a more precise date, just 60 million years after the Solar System’s formation, based on an analysis of rare meteorites derived from an ancient asteroid family, published today in Science. Other recent work seems to corroborate the date: the impact history captured in common meteorites, the formation history of the icy dwarf planet Haumea, and the earliest known mineral crystals found in Moon rocks retrieved by Apollo astronauts. “When you put it all together, that’s a lot of evidence for impacts all right around 60 million years,” says Steven Desch, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University…. See article at https://www.science.org/content/article/giant-planets-ran-amok-soon-after-solar-system-s-birth. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7.

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2024-04-15. Methane Emissions from the Oil and Gas Industry Are Triple Current Estimates. By Nathaniel Scharping, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The U.S. oil and gas industry is responsible for emitting 3 times more methane than current government estimates, according to a new study. Those emissions cost $9.3 billion annually because of their effects on global warming and air quality, the authors estimated. The study, published in Nature, used aerial surveys to track methane emissions from oil and gas fields, pipelines, processing facilities, and more in six fossil fuel–producing regions of the United States. It adds to a growing body of evidence indicating that methane emissions are far higher than previously thought.. See article at https://eos.org/articles/methane-emissions-from-the-oil-and-gas-industry-are-triple-current-estimates. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, often calculated to be 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide (though some studies say it could be even more powerful), and is responsible for around a third of human-caused global warming to date. Curtailing these emissions has been a focus of recent regulatory efforts, such as the Global Methane Pledge, signed by more than 150 countries that agreed to reduce methane emissions by 30% by 2030. The U.S. EPA also recently unveiled new rules, set to take effect in May, that aim to cut 58 million tons of methane emissions over the next 15 years…. See article at https://eos.org/articles/methane-emissions-from-the-oil-and-gas-industry-are-triple-current-estimates. For GSS Energy Use chapter 3.

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2024-04-15. Northern Permafrost Region Emits More Greenhouse Gases Than It Captures. By Saima May Sidik, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Permafrost underlies a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere. A comprehensive analysis shows that the area may have shifted from a sink to a source of greenhouse gases, bringing a longtime prediction to fruition. Permafrost underlies about 14 million square kilometers of land in and around the Arctic. The top 3 meters contain an estimated 1 trillion metric tons of carbon and 55 billion metric tons of nitrogen. Historically, the northern permafrost region has been a sink for carbon, as frozen soils inhibit microbial decomposition. But rising temperatures contribute to thawing permafrost and enhance the biogeochemical activities that exacerbate climate change by releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O). …Ramage et al. synthesized greenhouse gas measurements of the northern permafrost region between 2000 and 2020 to provide a carbon balance for the region, as well as the first comprehensive assessment of the quantities of greenhouse gases the area takes up and emits. The researchers’ work, done as part of the Regional Carbon Cycle Assessment and Processes (RECCAP2) project, used a bottom-up approach, focusing on estimating emissions based on specific source categories. Their results suggest that the area has already shifted from a sink to a small source of carbon…. See article at https://eos.org/research-spotlights/northern-permafrost-region-emits-more-greenhouse-gases-than-it-captures. For GSS Climate Change chapter 3.

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2024-04-15. Deadly marine ‘cold spells’ could become more frequent with climate change, scientists warn. By WARREN CORNWALL, Science. Excerpt: In March 2021, a grisly scene materialized on the beaches of South Africa. Giant bat-winged manta rays sprawled belly up on rocks. Hulking bull sharks lay dead in the sand. Puffer fish littered shorelines like deflated footballs. Such fish kills are usually triggered by hot water, low oxygen, or toxic algae blooms. But this time it was a surprising culprit. In the middle of the southern summer, these fish died of cold—a phenomenon that may be linked to climate change, according to a new paper. At a time when global warming is driving ocean temperatures to record-setting highs and marine heat waves are striking around the globe, it might seem paradoxical that climate change could be linked to the underwater equivalent of a cold snap. But researchers now say that in some parts of the world, incidents like the 2021 cold spell appear to be getting more common as currents change, with potentially lethal consequences for marine life…. See article at https://www.science.org/content/article/deadly-marine-cold-spells-could-become-more-frequent-climate-change-scientists-warn. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-04-14. Why Heat Pumps Are the Future, and How Your Home Could Use One. By Hilary Howard, The New York Times. Excerpt: Heat pumps, which both warm and cool buildings and are powered by electricity, have been touted as the answer to curbing greenhouse gas emissions produced by homes, businesses and office buildings, which are responsible for about one-third of the emissions in New York State. …A heat pump moves heat. …During warm weather, a pump works just like an air-conditioner by rerouting indoor heat outdoors. When it’s cold outside, the process is reversed: Heat from the chilly outdoor air is extracted and delivered indoors with the help of refrigerants and a compressor. …The devices are highly efficient, which should help limit the growing burden on the grid, said Rohit T. Aggarwala, the [New York] city’s climate chief. …In New York City, Con Ed customers have completed more than 30,000 installations since 2020. And across the state, nearly 23,000 heat pump projects were installed in 2022, a threefold increase from the year before…. See article at https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/14/nyregion/heat-pumps-climate-change.html. For GSS Energy Use chapter 8.

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2024-04-14. Should We Change Species to Save Them? By Emily Anthes, The New York Times. Excerpt: Australia has also become a case study in what happens when people push biodiversity to the brink. Habitat degradation, invasive species, infectious diseases and climate change have put many native animals in jeopardy and given Australia one of the worst rates of species loss in the world. In some cases, scientists say, the threats are so intractable that the only way to protect Australia’s unique animals is to change them. Using a variety of techniques, including crossbreeding and gene editing, scientists are altering the genomes of vulnerable animals, hoping to arm them with the traits they need to survive. …in this human-dominated age — in which Australia is simply at the leading edge of a global biodiversity crisis — the traditional conservation playbook may no longer be enough, some scientists said…. See article at https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/14/science/australia-wildlife-assisted-evolution.html. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 4.

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2024-04-12. The EV Battery of Your Dreams Is Coming. By Christopher Mims, The Wall Street Journal. Excerpt: In the next five years, significant upgrades to the batteries in electric vehicles should finally hit the market. In the works for decades, these changes are likely to mean that by 2030, gas vehicles will cost more than their electric equivalents; some EVs will charge as quickly as filling up at a gas station; and super long-range EVs will make the phrase “range anxiety” seem quaint. …a new kind of battery which will hold more than 20% more energy than the previous type, and charging speed and range will also improve by up to 30%, says a BMW spokesman. …In theory, a [solid] lithium metal anode can hold 10 times as many lithium ions as a graphite one [that’s in today’s lithium-ion batteries]. All other things being equal, this means the energy density of a battery using lithium metal in place of graphite could be up to 50% higher. … engineers aim to deliver to automakers a battery that can add 100 miles of range in just 3 minutes…. Source – https://www.wsj.com/business/autos/ev-battery-developments-five-years-d306be44. For GSS Energy Use chapter 9.

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2024-04-00. . By . Excerpt: . See article at URL. For GSS chapter .

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2024-04-11. Explosive levels of methane have been detected near a Berkeley landfill-turned-park. [https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2024-04-11/explosive-levels-of-methane-detected-at-cesar-chavez-park-berkeley] By Tony Briscoe, Los Angeles Times. Excerpt: Brimming with wildlife and offering panoramic views of San Francisco Bay, César Chávez Park welcomes visitors who might never suspect this stretch of shoreline was built atop a municipal landfill. But beneath the sprawling grasslands and charming hiking trails, decomposing waste continues to generate methane gas. That’s why the city of Berkeley operates an underground system that collects this flammable gas and torches it at a large mechanical flare near the center of the park. In recent years, environmental regulators have grown increasingly concerned that this equipment has fallen into disrepair and released landfill gases. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has fined Berkeley after finding explosive levels of methane leaking from at least two cracked gas collection wells in the park. Both have since been repaired. …The agency warns that ignitable levels of methane have been observed in shallow soil surrounding a nearby hotel and the Berkeley Marina…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 3.

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2024-04-10. An Oil Company Is Trespassing on Tribal Land in Wisconsin, Justice Dept. Says. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/10/climate/line-five-pipeline-amicus-brief.html] By Rebecca Halleck and Dionne Searcey, The New York Times. Excerpt: The Department of Justice has weighed in on a court battle over an oil and gas pipeline in Wisconsin, saying that a Canadian oil company has been willfully trespassing on tribal lands in the state for more than a decade…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 3.

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2024-04-10. Ocean Heat Has Shattered Records for More Than a Year. What’s Happening? [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/10/climate/ocean-heat-records.html] By Delger Erdenesanaa, The New York Times. Excerpt: The ocean has now broken temperature records every day for more than a year. And so far, 2024 has continued 2023’s trend of beating previous records by wide margins…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 4.

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2024-04-09. In Landmark Climate Ruling, European Court Faults Switzerland. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/09/world/europe/climate-human-rights.html] By Isabella Kwai and Emma Bubola, The New York Times. Excerpt: Europe’s top human rights court said on Tuesday that the Swiss government had violated its citizens’ human rights by not doing enough to stop climate change, a landmark ruling that experts said could bolster activists hoping to use human rights law to hold governments to account. In the case, which was brought by a group called KlimaSeniorinnen, or Senior Women for Climate Protection, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, said that Switzerland had failed to meet its target in reducing carbon emissions and must act to address that shortcoming…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9.

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2024-04-09. Bacteria is the new black: Scientists create microbes that make self-dyeing textiles. [https://www.science.org/content/article/bacteria-new-black-scientists-create-microbes-make-self-dyeing-textiles] By MADELINE REINSEL, Science. Excerpt: For sustainability-minded fashionistas, materials made by fast-growing, eco-friendly bacteria offer an appealing alternative to leather or faux plastic replacements such as “pleather.” Yet coloring or adding patterns to these bacterial textiles can still mean working with environmentally harmful dyes. A study published last week in Nature Biotechnology may offer a solution: genetically engineering bacteria to produce melanin pigment so the material can dye itself. …says Sara Molinari, a synthetic biologist at the University of Maryland who was not involved in the study. Bacteria-generated textiles are “a completely new approach in material manufacturing.” The leather substitute is made of cellulose, an essential structural material in plants that is also produced by several species of bacteria. In recent years, researchers and designers have started to produce textiles from bacterial cellulose as an alternative to leather and pleather, some of which are already on the market. …although bacterial cellulose textiles have fewer environmental impacts than leather or plastic, they are naturally beige. That means they are typically colored using traditional dyeing processes, which can use large amounts of water and release harsh chemicals into the environment. …Researchers from Imperial College London (ICL) …genetically engineered a cellulose-producing bacterium, Komagataeibacter rhaeticus—the same bacterium that helps ferment kombucha—by adding a gene from another bacterium that produces black melanin pigment. Melanin is what gives color to tissue throughout the natural world, including human skin, eyes, and hair…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 4.

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2024-04-09. The U.S. Urgently Needs a Bigger Grid. Here’s a Fast Solution.. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/09/climate/electric-grid-more-power.html] By Brad Plumer, The New York Times. Excerpt: One of the biggest obstacles to expanding clean energy in the United States is a lack of power lines. Building new transmission lines can take a decade or more because of permitting delays and local opposition. But there may be a faster, cheaper solution, according to two reports released Tuesday. Replacing existing power lines with cables made from state-of-the-art materials could roughly double the capacity of the electric grid in many parts of the country, making room for much more wind and solar power…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 5.

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2024-04-08. Can Green Hydrogen Production Help Bring Oceanic Dead Zones Back to Life? [https://hakaimagazine.com/news/can-green-hydrogen-production-help-bring-oceanic-dead-zones-back-to-life/] By Brian Owens, Hakai Magazine. Excerpt: Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau had met with Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, in nearby Stephenville, Newfoundland…in August 2022, the two leaders locked in Canada’s commitment to supply Germany with hydrogen gas. …Stephenville…is the site of the proposed World Energy GH2 project, a facility that will use wind power to produce hydrogen gas …reducing Germany’s reliance on Russian oil. …[Douglas] Wallace, an oceanographer at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, was tracking how dissolved oxygen moves from the Atlantic Ocean through the gulf into the St. Lawrence River, and how the dearth of oxygen in some places can lead to the development of low-oxygen dead zones. …So when he heard that Canada was set to ramp up hydrogen production—achieved by electrically splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen—he wondered: could all of that spare oxygen help bring the dead zone back to life? …As the world warms, the oceans are losing their oxygen. Since the 1950s, they’ve already lost about two percent—a figure that could hit four percent by the end of this century. …Too little oxygen in the water can reduce the diversity of marine life as animals either leave the area or die. In the Gulf of St. Lawrence—where the size of the dead zone has grown nearly sevenfold since 2003 to encompass roughly 9,000 square kilometers—dropping oxygen levels are already affecting many commercially important and at-risk species, such as cod, halibut, and northern shrimp, Wallace says. …Maybe, thought Wallace, he could take the oxygen created during hydrogen production and somehow pump it into the gulf. His calculations suggest that it could work…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-04-05. Tatooine, Trisolaris, Thessia: Sci-Fi Exoplanets Reflect Real-Life Discoveries. [https://eos.org/articles/tatooine-trisolaris-thessia-sci-fi-exoplanets-reflect-real-life-discoveries] By Kimberly M. S. Cartier, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Astronomers have discovered more than 5,000 extrasolar planets since the 1995 discovery of 51 Pegasi b. When the discoveries started pouring in, astronomers quickly realized that few exoplanets resembled anything in the solar system. …A new study led by Puranen examined how the discovery of real exoplanets has influenced portrayals of fictional ones. The researchers showed that as scientists discovered that real-life exoplanets rarely resembled Earth, sci-fi exoplanets became less Earth-like, too. …The analysis showed that “fictional exoplanets from after the real-life discovery of exoplanets were less likely to have intelligent native life and less likely to have established populations of non-native humans,” Puranen said. Sci-fi exoplanets became less Earth-like and more likely to feature nonintelligent native biospheres. These results were published in the Journal of Science Communication in March. …Star Wars familiarized folks with Tatooine decades before the 2005 discovery of HD 202206 c, the first known exoplanet orbiting two Sun-like stars…. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 8.

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2024-04-05. Clearer skies may be accelerating global warming. [https://www.science.org/content/article/clearer-skies-may-be-accelerating-global-warming] By PAUL VOOSEN, Science. Excerpt: When 2023 turned out to be the hottest year in history, it underscored the warnings of some prominent climate scientists, including James Hansen, that the pace of global warming was accelerating and had entered a dangerous new phase. A new study, published Wednesday in Communications Earth & Environment, suggests one reason for such an acceleration: Earth’s skies are getting clearer and letting in more sunshine. …a set of NASA instruments in space [the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES)] since 2001 have tracked the delicate balance of energy entering and leaving the planet…have detected a marked rise in the amount of solar energy the planet has absorbed—well beyond the warming expected from rising greenhouse gases. The readings show the planet has become less reflective, as if it recently put on a darker shirt. One reason is a drop in light-reflecting pollution because of power-plant scrubbers and cleaner fuels, the researchers say. They calculate that cleaner air could account for 40% of the increased energy warming the planet between 2001 and 2019. …However, falling pollution may not be the only reason for the brighter skies detected by CERES…. The models were unable to explain up to 40% of the extra absorbed light, and the CERES data show reflectivity falling in both hemispheres, whereas pollution has fallen the most in the north. Both of those observations suggest other factors might be reducing Earth’s reflectivity: Melting snow and ice expose darker land, and warming can cause low marine clouds to dissipate, revealing a dark ocean…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 7.

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2024-04-04. Africa’s Carbon Sink Capacity Is Shrinking. [https://eos.org/research-spotlights/africas-carbon-sink-capacity-is-shrinking] By Rachel Fritts, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The population of Africa, the second-largest continent in the world, currently sits at about 1.4 billion, but is set to exceed 2 billion by 2040. This means greater swaths of land than ever before are being used for agriculture, and livestock numbers are increasing. A new estimate of Africa’s greenhouse gas budget between 2010 and 2019 quantifies just how much these changes in land use have affected Africa’s role in the global carbon cycle. …To make their estimates, Ernst et al. …took a comprehensive look at all major potential carbon sources, including human sources such as agriculture and fossil fuel emissions and natural sources such as termites and wildfires. They also considered natural sinks: the grasslandssavannas, and forests that still cover much of the continent. The team found that between 2010 and 2019, Africa transitioned from being a slight net carbon sink to a slight net carbon source. …likely to increase if current trends continue…. For GSS Population Growth chapter 5.

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2024-04-04. White House Awards $20 Billion to Nation’s First ‘Green Bank’ Network. [https://insideclimatenews.org/news/04042024/biden-administration-green-bank-network-disadvantaged-communities/] By Kristoffer Tigue, Inside Climate News. Excerpt: The Biden administration on Thursday announced it was creating the nation’s first “green bank” network, an historic $20 billion investment aimed at making clean energy affordable to low-income and rural residents. …Under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund—also known as the country’s first national green bank—eight community development banks and nonprofit organizations will receive that federal funding to go toward rooftop solar installations, energy efficiency upgrades and other projects that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Inflation Reduction Act created the green bank in 2022 with an initial federal investment of $27 billion. …The groups, which consist of Coalition for Green Capital, Power Forward Communities, Appalachian Community Capital, Climate United, Justice Climate Fund, Opportunity Finance Network, Inclusiv and Native CDFI Network, have committed to spend $7 in private investment for every $1 of government funding. …At least 70 percent of those funds will go to low-income and disadvantaged communities, the administration said, while 20 percent will go to rural communities and more than 5 percent will go to tribal communities…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9.

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2024-04-03. Satellite signals can measure a forest’s moisture—and its ability to survive. [https://www.science.org/content/article/satellite-signals-can-measure-forest-s-moisture-and-its-ability-survive] By SEAN CUMMINGS, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The same radio signals that enable your smartphone to pinpoint your location may also reveal how much water a forest holds within its foliage. By measuring how much GPS satellite signals weakened as they passed through a forest canopy, researchers were able to estimate the canopy’s water content. Experts say the technique, which uses a simple setup of two GPS receivers, could provide a simple and affordable way to track a forest’s water content. …it could provide useful data to researchers trying to figure out how forests will fare under climate change…. For GSS A New World View chapter 6.

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2024-04-05. New York is suing the world’s biggest meat company. It might be a tipping point for greenwashing. [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/apr/05/letitia-james-jbs-meat-lawsuit-greenwashing] By Whitney Bauck, The Guardian. Excerpt: When the office of the New York attorney general, Letitia James, announced that it would be suing the world’s largest meat company, JBS, for misleading customers about its climate commitments, it caused a stir far beyond the world of food. That’s because the suit’s impact has the potential to influence the approach all kinds of big businesses take in their advertising about sustainability, according to experts. It’s just one in a string of greenwashing lawsuits being brought against large airline, automobile and fashion companies of late. “It’s been 20 years of companies lying about their environmental and climate justice impacts…,” said Todd Paglia, executive director of environmental non-profit Stand.earth. …Research suggests that citizens are increasingly demanding more sustainably produced goods, and big businesses are taking note. But rather than actually changing their practices, many instead turn to messaging that falsely implies their products are better for the Earth than they actually are in order to keep customers happy. …The legal complaint notes that “the JBS Group has made sweeping representations to consumers about its commitment to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, claiming that it will be ‘Net Zero by 2040.’” But those claims aren’t grounded in reality, the complaint goes on to argue, not only because JBS isn’t taking concrete steps toward those goals, but because as recently as September 2023, the CEO admitted in a public forum that the company didn’t even know how to calculate all of its emissions. It follows that what can’t be measured won’t be mitigated…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9.

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2024-04-05. It’s Never Too Late to Take Climate Action. [https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/its-never-too-late-to-take-climate-action/] By JAMES K. BOYCE, Scientific American. Excerpt: It’s official: this February was the hottest one on record. You may have noticed something odd when you stepped outside your door and winter was missing. It turns out the weather weirdness was worldwide. In case you missed it, this comes on top of the news that January was the hottest ever, too, and that 2023 was the hottest year we’ve experienced so far. Again and again, climate activists have warned that we have only so much time left to head off catastrophe. Soon, we are told, it will be “too late” to save the planet and ourselves. Their message rests on the assumption that fear is the most potent spur to action. This communication strategy is deeply flawed. Politically, it leads many to despair that all is lost. When the climate apocalypse fails to arrive on schedule, it leads others to seek comfort in the parable of the boy who cried wolf. Scientifically, the depiction of the climate crisis as a cliff—once we fall off the edge, it’s game over—is nonsense. Climate change does not end with a grand finale. Instead, it unleashes a cascade of mounting damages that will escalate exponentially over time…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-04-03. Here’s why the Bay Area has the perfect weather for a first-of-its kind geoengineering study. [https://www.sfchronicle.com/weather/article/geoengineering-cloud-research-alameda-19368199.php] By Anthony Edwards, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: In Alameda [CA], scientists are embarking on a novel attempt to cool the Earth — by spraying salt into clouds. The work, known as marine cloud brightening, is controversial and is just one method of geoengineering — which describes interventions meant to slow Earth’s warming. But proponents say the technology may be needed to mitigate climate change. To brighten clouds, researchers spray microscopic sea salt into the air over the ocean to boost clouds’ reflectivity. This means less sunlight is absorbed, leading to a planetary cooling effect. …Scientists hypothesize that by manually increasing the number of particles in the atmosphere, clouds will reflect more sunlight back to space, causing Earth to cool. …Scientists like Russell say that before more drastic solutions are deployed, the focus should be on reining in greenhouse gas emissions and making further investments in solar and wind power.  “Emitting particles to offset global warming is not the smartest idea … but it may be better than doing nothing,” Russell said. “Given the point we’re at with warming and climate change, we feel it’s important to know what our options are.”…. See also article in the New York Times. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-04-03. CALIFORNIA LEADS U.S. EMISSIONS OF LITTLE-KNOWN GREENHOUSE GAS. [https://hub.jhu.edu/2024/04/03/california-leads-us-emissions-of-little-known-greenhouse-gas/] By Hannah Robbins, Johns Hopkins University. Excerpt: California, a state known for its aggressive greenhouse gas reduction policies, is ironically the nation’s greatest emitter of one: sulfuryl fluoride. As much as 17% of global emissions of this gas, a common pesticide for treating termites and other wood-infesting insects, stem from the United States. The majority of those emissions trace back to just a few counties in California, according to a new study led by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. …60-85% of sulfuryl fluoride emissions in the U.S. come from California, primarily Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties…. First approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use as a pesticide in 1959, sulfuryl fluoride gained popularity after countries around the world agreed to phase out more reactive fumigants that were depleting the ozone layer, the researchers said. …the team was able to attribute the vast majority, roughly 85% of the state’s sulfuryl fluoride emissions, to structural fumigation—the practice of sealing an infested structure with an airtight tent, pumping gas into the tent to eradicate the pests, and afterward venting the gas directly into the atmosphere. Roughly 15% came from agricultural and commodities fumigation. …Once emitted, the gas spreads and stays for more than 40 years in the atmosphere, where it contributes to global warming…. …humans have been emitting the man-made gas for decades at a rate faster than it can break down naturally….. For GSS Climate Change chapter 3.

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2024-04-02. Population tipping point could arrive by 2030. [https://www.science.org/content/article/population-tipping-point-could-arrive-2030] By TYLER SANTORA, Science. Excerpt: Two point one: That’s how many children everyone able to give birth must have to keep the human population from beginning to fall. Demographers have long expected the world will dip below this magic number—known as the replacement level—in the coming decades. A new study published last month in The Lancet, however, puts the tipping point startlingly near: as soon as 2030. It’s no surprise that fertility is dropping in many countries, which demographers attribute to factors such as higher education levels among people who give birth, rising incomes, and expanded access to contraceptives. The United States is at 1.6 instead of the requisite 2.1, for example, and China and Taiwan are hovering at about 1.2 and one, respectively. But other predictions have estimated more time before the human population reaches the critical juncture. The United Nations Population Division, in a 2022 report, put this tipping point at 2056, and earlier this year, the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, a multidisciplinary research organization dedicated to studying population dynamics, forecasted 2040…. For GSS Population Growth chapter 4.

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2024-04-02. [San Francisco] Ferry Building pushes back against plan to fortify the landmark from sea level rise . [https://www.sfchronicle.com/sf/article/s-f-ferry-building-sea-level-rise-19380061.php] By Laura Waxmann, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: An ambitious government plan to protect San Francisco’s Ferry Building from flooding and sea level rise by lifting it up as much as 7 feet has at least one powerful skeptic: the developer that’s set to operate the iconic building for another four decades. San Francisco and Army Corps of Engineers officials are considering raising the 126-year-old building as part of a $13.5 billion proposal intended to protect the city’s waterfront in the coming decades. …But the Ferry Building, with its 245-foot clock tower, is more than a landmark — it’s also a “working building” that would likely see its operations interrupted for years if the plan is executed as proposed, said Hudson Pacific Properties, which runs the Ferry Building under a long-term lease with the Port of San Francisco…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-03-31. Can We Engineer Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis? [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/31/climate/climate-change-carbon-capture-ccs.html] By David Gelles, The New York Times. Excerpt: On a windswept Icelandic plateau, an international team of engineers and executives is powering up an innovative machine designed to alter the very composition of Earth’s atmosphere. If all goes as planned, the enormous vacuum will soon be sucking up vast quantities of air, stripping out carbon dioxide and then locking away those greenhouse gases deep underground in ancient stone — greenhouse gases that would otherwise continue heating up the globe. …Global temperatures are now expected to rise as much as 4 degrees Celsius, or more than 7 degrees Fahrenheit, by the end of the century. That has given new weight to what some people call geoengineering, though that term has become so contentious its proponents now prefer the term “climate interventions.” …Many of the projects are controversial. A plant similar to the one in Iceland, but far larger, is being built in Texas by Occidental Petroleum, the giant oil company. Occidental intends to use some of the carbon dioxide it captures to extract even more oil, the burning of which is one of the main causes of the climate crisis in the first place…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-03-28. AI in Africa: Basics Over Buzz. [https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.ado8276] By ROSE M. MUTISO, Science. Excerpt: When Buti Manamela visited Lengau, one of Africa’s fastest supercomputers, he had more prosaic technology in mind: electricity. South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology was at the Center for High Performance Computing in Cape Town for what should have been a showcase tour of a facility providing the country with the computing power needed to run and analyze the kinds of complex models and huge datasets that underpin artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). But Manamela was there to better understand the impact of South Africa’s rolling power blackouts on the center’s operations. Lengau, which means “cheetah” in Setswana, is one of the most important outposts in Africa’s AI infrastructure landscape; yet, it is struggling to operate at full capacity because of unreliable power. …I’ve written before on the following connection: no power, no internet, no digital transformation. The entire digital ecosystem, from home internet connections to the base stations that underpin cellular networks to the data centers that store the internet’s content, is powered by electricity. AI is just the latest manifestation of the long awaited digital revolution in Africa, only vastly more power hungry…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-03-28. Quantifying methane emissions from United States landfills. [https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.adi7735] By DANIEL H. CUSWORTH  et al, Science. Abstract: Methane emissions from solid waste may represent a substantial fraction of the global anthropogenic budget, but few comprehensive studies exist to assess inventory assumptions. We quantified emissions at hundreds of large landfills across 18 states in the United States between 2016 and 2022 using airborne imaging spectrometers. Spanning 20% of open United States landfills, this represents the most systematic measurement-based study of methane point sources of the waste sector. We detected significant point source emissions at a majority (52%) of these sites, many with emissions persisting over multiple revisits (weeks to years). We compared these against independent contemporaneous in situ airborne observations at 15 landfills and established good agreement. Our findings indicate a need for long-term, synoptic-scale monitoring of landfill emissions in the context of climate change mitigation policy…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 3.

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2024-03-27. Sinking Coastal Lands Will Exacerbate the Flooding from Sea Level Rise in 24 US Cities, New Research Shows. [https://insideclimatenews.org/news/27032024/sea-level-rise-flooding-coastal-cities/] By Moriah McDonald, Inside Climate News. Excerpt: In the affected cities, as many as 500,000 people and one in every 35 properties could be impacted by the flooding, and communities of color face disproportionate effects. Flooding could affect one out of every 50 residents in 24 coastal cities in the United States by the year 2050, a study led by Virginia Tech researchers suggests. The study, published this month in Nature, shows how the combination of land subsidence—in this case, the sinking of shoreline terrain—and rising sea levels can lead to the flooding of coastal areas sooner than previously anticipated by research that had focused primarily on sea level rise scenarios. …The study combines measurements of land subsidence obtained from satellites with sea level rise projections and tide charts, offering a more holistic projection of potential flooding risks in 32 cities located along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts. …Marsh restoration, coral reefs and dunes can provide a natural barrier, said Andra Garner, an assistant professor at Rowan University…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-03-27. Black hole at center of Milky Way may be blasting out a jet. [https://www.science.org/content/article/black-hole-center-milky-way-may-be-blasting-out-jet] By DANIEL CLERY, Science. Excerpt: The supermassive black holes at the centers of many galaxies generate powerful jets, blasting particles thousands of light-years into space. This new image of the Milky Way’s black hole, known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), suggests it may have one, too, but perhaps of a more modest nature. The image—taken with polarized light—was released today by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a worldwide array of radio telescopes that in 2019 produced the first ever image of a black hole. The new image shows light that is oriented in a particular direction, revealing magnetic field lines around the black hole. Although jets would not be visible in such a zoomed-in image, strong magnetic fields are thought to be essential in launching them…. See also European Southern Observatory press release. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 6.

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2024-03-26. When Natural Gas Prices Cool, Flares Burn in the Permian Basin. [https://insideclimatenews.org/news/26032024/permian-basin-methane-flaring/] By Martha Pskowski, Inside Climate News. Excerpt: As the new federal methane rule enters the home stretch, stranded gas in the Permian Basin could contribute to more flaring this year. [Sharon] Wilson documented widespread flaring, venting and other methane releases during a week in the Texas Permian Basin this month. Natural gas prices in the Permian Basin fell below zero during March. When natural gas prices are low, companies are more likely to vent or flare methane. Pipeline capacity to transport the gas out of the Permian Basin is currently limited, which can also result in more flaring. That’s bad news for efforts to fight climate change. Natural gas is mostly made up of methane and the Permian Basin is the single-largest source of methane emissions in the U.S. oil and gas industry. As a greenhouse gas, methane is about 80 times more potent at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. …The quantity of this gas in the Permian has nearly tripled since 2018, according to the Energy Information Administration. …The Environmental Protection Agency issued its final rule to reduce methane emissions under the Clean Air Act in December. The new rules, as written, will eventually prohibit routine flaring, which is currently allowed in Texas. However, the attorneys general of Texas and another two dozen states have challenged the federal rule. The legal challenges may delay implementation…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 3.

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2024-03-26. Startups aim to curb climate change by pulling carbon dioxide from the ocean—not the air. [https://www.science.org/content/article/startups-aim-curb-climate-change-pulling-carbon-dioxide-ocean-not-air] By ROBERT F. SERVICE, Science. Excerpt: …one long gray barge docked at the [Port of Los Angeles] is doing its part to combat climate change. On the barge, which belongs to Captura, a Los Angeles–based startup, is a system of pipes, pumps, and containers that ingests seawater and sucks out CO2, which can be used to make plastics and fuels or buried. The decarbonated seawater is returned to the ocean, where it absorbs more CO2 from the atmosphere, in a small strike against the inexorable rise of the greenhouse gas. After a yearlong experiment with the barge, which is designed to capture 100 tons of CO2 per year, Captura is planning to open a 1000-ton-per-year facility later this year in Norway that will bury the captured CO2 in rock formations under the North Sea. Equatic, another Los Angeles–based startup, is launching an even larger 3650-ton-per-year ocean CO2 capture plant this year in Singapore, and other companies are planning demos as well. …Proponents say capturing CO2 from the ocean should be easier and cheaper than a seemingly more direct approach: snagging it directly from the air. Direct air capture, which relies on fans to sweep air past absorbent chemicals, currently costs between $600 to $1000 per ton of CO2 removed, largely because atmospheric CO2 is so dilute, making up less than 0.05% of the air by volume. Earth’s oceans, in contrast, hold the gas at a concentration nearly 150 times higher, and absorb roughly 30% of all CO2 emissions each year…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-03-25. Statement on the historic $6 billion for industrial decarbonization in the U.S. [https://climateworks.org/press-release/statement-on-the-historic-6-billion-for-industrial-decarbonization-in-the-u-s/] By ClimateWorks Foundation. Excerpt: Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) took a huge step to accelerate industrial decarbonization and transform polluting heavy industries to clean production. The $6 billion investment is the largest ever made in industrial climate solutions. …In the U.S., the industrial sector emits 30% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This funding will accelerate emissions reductions in all of the most polluting industries: steel, cement, chemicals, aluminum, and food processing. The new technologies that come out of these investments will be used across the country and around the world. In addition, heavy industry is a leading cause of health-harming air and water pollution. Many of the projects receiving DOE funding will also dramatically reduce this pollution and improve the health of all Americans…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 6.

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2024-03-25. US awards record $6 billion to back industrial emissions reduction projects. [https://www.reuters.com/sustainability/sustainable-finance-reporting/us-awards-record-6-bln-back-industrial-emissions-reduction-projects-2024-03-25/] By Andrea Shalal and David Shepardson, Reuters. Excerpt: The U.S. Energy Department on Monday announced $6 billion in federal funding to subsidize 33 industrial projects in 20 states to cut carbon emissions, saying the investment would support well-paying union jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will unveil the awards during a visit to a Cleveland-Cliffs Steel Corp (CLF.N), opens new tab facility in Middletown, Ohio, which will receive up to $500 million to install two new electric arc furnaces and hydrogen-based technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1 million tons. …Together, the projects are expected to eliminate 14 million metric tons of pollution each year, equivalent to taking some 3 million gas-powered vehicles off the road, she said. The Portland Cement Association, an industry group, said the funding “is a welcome acknowledgement from the government that America’s cement manufacturers are taking ambitious and significant steps toward reaching carbon neutrality.” …Production of cement, the main ingredient of concrete, accounted for 7% of global CO2 emissions in 2019, the International Energy Agency estimates. …Granholm said the projects would slash emissions from industries such as iron and steel, cement, concrete, aluminum, chemicals, food and beverages, pulp and paper, which account for about a third of U.S. carbon emissions…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9.

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2024-03-22. How Do You Paddle a Disappearing River?. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/22/travel/texas-big-bend-rio-grande-boat.html] By Daniel Modlin, The New York Times. Excerpt: The Rio Grande is in peril: Its water is being depleted by farmers and cities, while a climate-change-induced megadrought that has desiccated the American Southwest for more than two decades is threatening hopes of its recovery. In 2022, the river ran dry in Albuquerque for the first time in four decades. In the same year, the picturesque Santa Elena Canyon, one of the most popular sights in Big Bend, also ran dry for the first time in at least 15 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. …For the West Texan river guides, it’s simply another precarious reality of life in the Chihuahuan Desert. “In my lifetime, I expect river trips to no longer be feasible,” said Charlie Angell of Angell Expeditions, a tour guide service based in Redford, Texas. …“We think the river has changed, but really, we have changed the river,” Dr. Sandoval-Solis, the U.C. Davis associate professor, told me months later, when I was back home among my creature comforts, adding that he believed it was still possible to return the river to its once powerful state through proper water management practices. “The river has a much better memory than we do.”… For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-03-06. ‘Explosive growth’ in petrochemical production poses risks to human health. [https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2024/mar/06/increase-fossil-fuel-pollution-health-risk-report] By Carey Gillam, The Guardian. Excerpt: Chemical pollution tied to fossil fuel operations poses serious risks to human health, warns a new analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday. Citing data from dozens of studies, the report points to an alarming rise in neurodevelopmental issues, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and certain cancers in young people taking place amid what the paper’s author calls “explosive growth” in the petrochemical industry. Between 1990 and 2019, rates of certain cancers in people under 50 increased dramatically. Meanwhile, fossil fuel use and petrochemical production have increased fifteen-fold since the 1950s, according to the report…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-03-19. The heat index — how hot it feels — is rising faster than temperature. [https://news.berkeley.edu/2024/03/19/the-heat-index-how-hot-it-feels-is-rising-faster-than-temperature] By Robert Sanders, Berkeley News. Excerpt: Texans have long endured scorching summer temperatures, so a global warming increase of about 3 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 Celsius) might not sound like much to worry about. But a new study concludes that the heat index — essentially how hot it really feels — has increased much faster in Texas than has the measured temperature: about three times faster. That means that on some extreme days, what the temperature feels like is between 8 and 11 F (5 to 6 C) hotter than it would without climate change. The study, using Texas data from June, July and August of 2023, highlights a problem with communicating the dangers of rising temperatures to the public. The temperature alone does not accurately reflect the heat stress people feel. Even the heat index itself, which takes into account the relative humidity and thus the capacity to cool off by sweating, gives a conservative estimate of heat stress, according to study author David Romps, a professor of earth and planetary science at the University of California, Berkeley. …This leads people to underestimate their chances of suffering hyperthermia on the hottest days and of their chances of dying. Texas is not an outlier. …”I mean, the obvious thing to do is to cease additional warming, because this is not going to get better unless we stop burning fossil fuels,” Romps said. “That’s message No. 1, without doubt. …additional burning of fossil fuels…that’s gotta stop and stop fast.”…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 4.

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2024-03-19. Barren Fields and Empty Stomachs: Afghanistan’s Long, Punishing Drought. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/19/world/asia/afghanistan-drought-photos-climate-change.html] By Lynsey Addario and Victoria Kim, The New York Times. Excerpt: In a country especially vulnerable to climate change, a drought has displaced entire villages and left millions of children malnourished…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-03-18. Wind turbines have little effect on US property values. [https://nature.berkeley.edu/news/2024/03/not-my-backyard-wind-turbines-have-little-effect-us-property-values] By Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. Excerpt: The values of houses in the United States within a wind turbine’s viewshed drop only slightly and temporarily due to the disrupted view, a new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows. The effect is smaller the further away the recently installed turbines are and fades over time. …“The impact of wind turbines on house prices is much smaller than generally feared: In the U.S., it’s about one percent for a house that has at least one wind turbine in a 10 km radius,” explains Maximilian Auffhammer, a professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE) at the University of California, Berkeley and co-author of the study. …scientists from the German Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), the Italian Centro Euro-Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici (CMCC) and the University of California, Berkeley analyzed the majority of home sales in the U.S. in the last 23 years. The researchers statistically analyzed data from more than 300 million home sales and 60,000 wind turbines from 1997 to 2020 to discern the impact of wind turbine visibility on home values…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-03-18. Storing Renewable Energy, One Balloon at a Time. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/18/science/renewable-energy-storage-climate.html] By Amos Zeeberg, The New York Times. Excerpt: Central Sardinia …in Ottana, …, a new technology is taking shape that might help the world slow climate change. …Energy Dome, a start-up based in Milan, runs an energy-storage demonstration plant that helps to address a mismatch in the local electricity market. …Energy Dome uses carbon dioxide held in a huge balloon… as a kind of battery. During the day, electricity from the local grid, some produced by nearby fields of solar cells, is used to compress the carbon dioxide into liquid. At night, the liquid carbon dioxide is expanded back into gas, which drives a turbine and produces electricity that is sent back to the grid…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-03-18. California proposes rule that would change how insurers assess wildfire risk. [https://www.sfchronicle.com/california/article/home-insurance-wildfire-risk-19021575.php] By Megan Fan Munce, San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: A newly proposed regulation aims to draw insurers back to the state by allowing them to anticipate future wildfire risks when raising their rates. The proposed rule change…would allow companies to submit catastrophe models for wildfires, floods and terrorism to the California Department of Insurance for approval. If approved, insurers could then use predictions from those models when requesting rate hikes for commercial or homeowners insurance…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-03-15. Three-dimensional printing of wood. [https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.adk3250] By MD SHAJEDUL HOQUE THAKURCHEN SHILOGAN T. KEARNEYM. A. S. R. SAADIMATTHEW D. MEYERAMIT K. NASKARPULICKEL M. AJAYAN, AND MUHAMMAD M. RAHMAN, Science Advances. Abstract: Natural wood has served as a foundational material for buildings, furniture, and architectural structures for millennia, typically shaped through subtractive manufacturing techniques. However, this process often generates substantial wood waste, leading to material inefficiency and increased production costs. …Here, we demonstrate an additive-free, water-based ink made of lignin and cellulose, the primary building blocks of natural wood, that can be used to three-dimensional (3D) print architecturally designed wood structures via direct ink writing. The resulting printed structures, after heat treatment, closely resemble the visual, textural, olfactory, and macro-anisotropic properties, including mechanical properties, of natural wood. Our results pave the way for 3D-printed wooden construction with a sustainable pathway to upcycle/recycle natural wood…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 8.

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2024-03-15. The Zombies of the U.S. Tax Code: Why Fossil Fuels Subsidies Seem Impossible to Kill. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/15/climate/tax-breaks-oil-gas-us.html] By Lisa Friedman, The New York Times. Excerpt: As a candidate in 2020, Joseph R. Biden Jr. campaigned to end billions of dollars in annual tax breaks to oil and gas companies within his first year in office. It’s a pledge he has been unable to keep as president. …Mr. Biden’s wish is opposed by the oil industry, Republicans in Congress and a handful of Democrats. …The oil and gas industry enjoys nearly a dozen tax breaks, including incentives for domestic production and write-offs tied to foreign production. …The Fossil Fuel Subsidy Tracker, run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, calculated the total to be about $14 billion in 2022. …The oldest, known as “intangible drilling costs,” was created by the Revenue Act of 1913 and was aimed at encouraging the development of U.S. resources. The deduction allows companies to write off as much as 80 percent of the costs of drilling, …. Another subsidy, dating from 1926 and known as the depletion allowance, initially let oil companies deduct their taxable income by 27.5 percent, a number that seemed strangely specific. “We could have taken a 5 or 10 percent figure, but we grabbed 27.5 percent because we were not only hogs but the odd figure made it appear as though it was scientifically arrived at,” Senator Tom Connally, the Texas Democrat who sponsored the break and who died in 1963…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-03-14. Python farming as a flexible and efficient form of agricultural food security. [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-024-54874-4] By D. NatuschP. W. AustC. CaraguelP. L. TaggartV. T. NgoG. J. AlexanderR. Shine & T. Coulson, Nature – Scientific Reports. Abstract: Diminishing natural resources and increasing climatic volatility are impacting agri-food systems, prompting the need for sustainable and resilient alternatives. Python farming is well established in Asia but has received little attention from mainstream agricultural scientists. We measured growth rates in two species of large pythons (Malayopython reticulatus and Python bivittatus) in farms in Thailand and Vietnam and conducted feeding experiments to examine production efficiencies. …In terms of food and protein conversion ratios, pythons outperform all mainstream agricultural species studied to date. The ability of fasting pythons to regulate metabolic processes and maintain body condition enhances food security in volatile environments, suggesting that python farming may offer a flexible and efficient response to global food insecurity…. For GSS Population Growth chapter 5.

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2024-03-00. . [template] By . Excerpt: . For GSS chapter .

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2024-03-11. Amazing diversity of today’s ants tied to rise of flowering plants. [https://www.science.org/content/article/amazing-diversity-today-ants-tied-rise-flowering-plants] By ELIZABETH PENNISI, Science. Excerpt: As spring’s first buds emerge in the Northern Hemisphere, there’s fresh evidence of the evolutionary importance of angiosperms, better known as flowering plants. Their rise some 150 million years ago, a study concludes, powered the amazing diversification and spread of ants, helping more recent ant species survive, while changing conditions drove earlier forms to extinction. The research, reported today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, combines extensive ant fossil and DNA data to validate a nearly 2-decade-old idea that flowering plants had been central to the insects’ success. …As the climate changed and ferns and conifers declined the specialist stem ants began to go extinct, but the models suggest the generalists could tap new food sources provided by flowering plants. “The rise of angiosperms shaped ant diversity in two ways, by favoring diversification and buffering against extinction,” says Rachelle Adams, an evolutionary biologist at Ohio State University…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 3.

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2024-03-09. Rains Are Scarce in the Amazon. Instead, Megafires Are Raging. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/09/climate/amazon-rainforest-fires.html] By Ana Ionova and Manuela Andreoni, The New York Times. Excerpt: By this time of the year, rain should be drenching large swaths of the Amazon rainforest. Instead, a punishing drought has kept the rains at bay, creating dry conditions for fires that have engulfed hundreds of square miles of the rainforest that do not usually burn. …The fires in the Amazon, which reaches across nine South American nations, are the result of an extreme drought fueled by climate change, experts said. …If deforestation, fires and climate change continue to worsen, large stretches of the forest could transform into grasslands or weakened ecosystems in the coming decades. That, scientists say, would trigger a collapse that could send up to 20 years’ worth of global carbon emissions into the atmosphere, an enormous blow to the struggle to contain climate change…. For GSS A New World View chapter 5.

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2024-03-07. Can the Belt and Road Go Green? [https://eos.org/features/can-the-belt-and-road-go-green] By Mark Betancourt, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: China’s global infrastructure investments could tip the scales on climate change, but its relationship with partner countries is complicated. …The Cauchari Solar Plant, which came online in 2019, can generate up to 300 megawatts of power at a time, making it the largest solar park in South America. …China has emerged as a dominant force behind Argentina’s engineering infrastructure, partly because Western banks have been hesitant to support the country, …. China, on the other hand, has poured more than $26 billion into Argentina’s infrastructure since 2005. …the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) …Xi announced that China would no longer build new coal power plants abroad, signaling a major shift to green infrastructure that could bend billions of dollars toward slowing climate change. …It remains to be seen how aggressively China will pursue renewable power, but more than 40% of the country’s investment in BRI energy projects was in wind and solar during the first half of 2023, up from only 20% in 2021. …Because China also brought its considerable manufacturing might to bear on scaling up the industry, streamlining the mass production of renewable technology from solar cells to wind turbines, …China dominates the global market, supplying more than 80% of solar power equipment worldwide. Its investments in research and development have made solar cells both cheaper and more efficient…. See also New York Times article How China Came to Dominate the World in Solar Energy. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-03-07. Peering into the past to identify the species most at risk from climate change. [https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.adj5763] By Erin Saupe, Cooper Malanoski, et al, Science. Excerpt: A polar bear floating on a tiny piece of sea ice has become the iconic image of the extinction risks of climate change. But not all threats to species from our warming planet are so easy to see. That’s why paleobiologist Erin Saupe, Ph.D. student Cooper Malanoski, and their colleagues turned to the fossil record. By understanding which species fell victim to climactic fluctuations in the past, they aimed to get a better sense of which organisms might be most vulnerable now. “Despite the threat that climate change poses to biodiversity, we do not yet fully understand how it causes animals to go extinct,” Saupe and Malanoski explain in an article for The Conversation. So, the team examined data from nearly 300,000 marine invertebrate fossils from the last 485 million years, using statistics to examine how traits of the animals and their environment link to their likelihood of extinction. “Alarmingly, our research has, for the first time, identified climate change as a significant predictor of extinction,” the pair write. Species that experienced local climate changes of 7°C or greater were more likely to perish, regardless of any specific traits, they report in the most recent issue of Science. [Climate change is an important predictor of extinction risk on macroevolutionary timescales] …The best predictor of extinction was a small geographic range, but smaller bodies and a narrow temperature tolerance added to a species’ odds of dying out. For GSS Life and Climate chapter 6.

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2024-03-07. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef hit once more by mass coral bleaching. [https://edition.cnn.com/2024/03/07/australia/mass-coral-bleaching-event-great-barrier-reef-intl-hnk-scn/index.html] By Helen Regan, CNN. Excerpt: Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is suffering another mass bleaching event, the reef’s managers confirmed Friday, the result of soaring ocean temperatures caused by the global climate crisis and amplified by El Niño. This is the seventh mass bleaching event to hit the vast, ecologically important but fragile site and the fifth in only eight years…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7.

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2024-03-03. It Just Got Easier to Visit a Vanishing Glacier. Is That a Good Thing? [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/03/travel/chamonix-france-glaciers-climate-change.html] By Paige McClanahan, The New York Times. Excerpt: …The term last-chance tourism, which has gained traction in the past two decades, describes the impulse to visit threatened places before they disappear. Studies have found that the appeal of the disappearing can be a powerful motivator. But in many cases, the presence of tourists at a fragile site can accelerate the place’s demise…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-03-03. Out with the animal cruelty. In with … mushrooms? These farmers are leaving factory farming behind. [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/mar/03/factory-farming-transition-mushrooms-vegetables] By Whitney Bauck, The Guardian. Excerpt: [Tom] Lim’s predicament is an increasingly common one for farmers in the US, where about a quarter of all farm operations are in debt and family farms are increasingly bought up by large agribusinesses. Many of the small farms that do remain are like Lim’s, running operations where growers take their orders from multinational agriculture companies, which often prioritize the bottom line over the health and wellbeing of growers, their animals, and the water and land they depend on. …Lim is one of a number of farmers transitioning away from industrial animal agriculture in favor growing vegetables and mushrooms. …Lim and his wife, Sokchea, are currently in the process of converting their former chicken barns into greenhouses where they can grow vegetables, and they’ve already converted an old refrigerated truck bed into a specialty mushroom-growing chamber. …Lims had help through an organization called Transfarmation, which provides farmers with technical support and small grants of $10,000 to $20,000 on their journey to transition away from factory farming. …Transfarmation is a project of the animal rights advocacy group Mercy for Animals, and arose from the relationship of its president, Leah Garces, with farmer Craig Watts, a whistleblower who made national news after 20 years of contract poultry farming for Perdue…. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 7.

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2024-03-06. New Data Details the Risk of Sea-Level Rise for U.S. Coastal Cities. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/06/climate/sea-level-rise-east-coast-sinking-land-flooding.html] By Mira Rojanasakul, The New York Times. Excerpt: A new study of sea-level rise using detailed data on changes to land elevation found that current scientific models may not accurately capture vulnerabilities in 32 coastal cities in the United States. The analysis, published Wednesday in Nature, uses satellite imagery to detect sinking and rising land to help paint a more precise picture of exposure to flooding both today and in the future. Nearly 40 percent of Americans live along the coasts, where subsidence, or sinking land, can add significantly to the threat of sea-level rise. While the Gulf Coast experiences many of the most severe cases of subsidence — parts of Galveston, Texas, and Grand Isle, La., are slumping into the ocean faster than global average sea levels are rising — the trend can be found all along the United States shoreline…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-03-05. The Anthropocene is dead. Long live the Anthropocene. [https://www.science.org/content/article/anthropocene-dead-long-live-anthropocene] By PAUL VOOSEN, Science. Excerpt: …a panel of two dozen geologists has voted down a proposal to end the Holocene—our current span of geologic time, which began 11,700 years ago at the end of the last ice age—and inaugurate a new epoch, the Anthropocene. …Few opponents of the Anthropocene proposal doubted the enormous impact that human influence, including climate change, is having on the planet. But some felt the proposed marker of the epoch—some 10 centimeters of mud from Canada’s Crawford Lake that captures the global surge in fossil fuel burning, fertilizer use, and atomic bomb fallout that began in the 1950s—isn’t definitive enough. …The Anthropocene backers will now have to wait for a decade before their proposal can be considered again. ICS has long instituted this mandatory cooling-off period, given how furious debates can turn, for example, over the boundary between the Pliocene and Pleistocene, and whether the Quaternary—our current geologic period, a category above epochs—should exist at all…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-03-04. Why It’s So Challenging to Land Upright on the Moon. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/04/science/moon-landing-sideways-gravity.html] By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times. Excerpt: When the robotic lander Odysseus last month became the first American-built spacecraft to touch down on the moon in more than 50 years, it toppled over at an angle. …Just a month earlier, another spacecraft, the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, sent by the Japanese space agency, had also tipped during landing, ending up on its head. …people pointed to the height of the Odysseus lander — 14 feet from the bottom of the landing feet to the solar arrays at the top — as a contributing factor for its off-kilter touchdown. …Philip Metzger, a former NASA engineer who is now a planetary scientist at the University of Central Florida, explained the math and the physics of why it is more difficult to remain standing on the moon. …“The side motion that can tip a lander of that size is only a few meters per second in lunar gravity.” …Odysseus was supposed to land vertically with zero horizontal velocity, but because of problems with the navigation system, it was still moving sideways when it hit the ground…. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 2.

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2024-03-02. Why Mainers Are Falling Hard for Heat Pumps. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/02/climate/heat-pumps-maine-electrification.html] By Cara Buckley, The New York Times. Excerpt: Unlike a space heater, a heat pump extracts heat from outside air, even in subzero temperatures, and then runs it through a compressor, which makes it even hotter, before pumping it indoors. In the summer, it can operate in reverse, pulling heat from inside a building and pumping it outside, cooling the indoor spaces. In 2023 heat pumps outsold gas furnaces in the United States for the second year running, a climate win. Electrical heat pumps are the cheapest and most energy efficient ways to heat and cool homes, and they do not emit the carbon pollution that is overheating the planet. No state has adopted them faster than Maine. That northeastern place of hardy types and snowbound winters is quickly going electric, installing electric heat pumps three times faster than the national average, according to Rewiring America, a nonprofit that promotes widespread electrical adoption. Last September, Maine met its goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps in households two years ahead of schedule, and is aiming to install another 175,000 by 2027. Maine’s rapid adoption is being spurred by a combination of state rebates on top of federal incentives and a new cadre of vendors and installers, as well as mounting frustrations over the high cost of heating oil…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 8.

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2024-02-29. Recycling process produces microplastics. [https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.ado1473] By MICHAEL J. STAPLEVAN AND FAISAL I. HAI , Science. Excerpt: Potentially harmful microscopic plastics (microplastics) have been identified in flora, fauna, and humans (12), and their volume and impact in the environment are difficult to quantify. The most effective microplastics mitigation strategy is to pinpoint their sources and prevent their release. Many industries, including textiles, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals, have been linked to the release of microplastics into the environment (35). However, one counterintuitive source has been overlooked: the plastic recycling industry. …Researchers need to work with the recycling industry to find ways to effectively contain the microplastics that facilities emit. In addition, environmental regulatory agencies should implement and enforce wastewater emission standards that specifically target microplastics as a contaminant of concern, similar to the policies the European Commission has proposed (12)…. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 7.

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2024-02-27. Our Breathing Earth: A Review of Soil Respiration Science. [https://eos.org/research-spotlights/our-breathing-earth-a-review-of-soil-respiration-science] By Aaron Sidder, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The ground beneath our feet is exhaling. Steadily and without pause, through a process called soil respiration, plant roots and microbes release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. The amount of COthat passes from the soil to the air is significant—almost an order of magnitude greater than human emissions. Computing this flow for the whole planet, and understanding how it may be changing, is complicated and uncertain because of gaps in observational data. Yet the calculation is essential for understanding the global carbon cycle and climate change feedbacks. In a new review paper, Bond-Lamberty et al. summarize the past 2 decades of progress in soil respiration science. In one cited study, researchers evaluated how respiration responds to soil wetted by rainfall. In another, researchers girdled trees, or removed their outer layers, to mimic the effects of insects and tracked how tree stress influenced respiration…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 5.

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2024-02-22. The Paradox Holding Back the Clean Energy Revolution. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/22/opinion/vegas-sphere-energy-efficiency.html] By Ed Conway, The New York Times guest essay. Excerpt: In the 1990s, when multicolor LED lights were invented by Japanese scientists after decades of research, the hope was that they would help to avert climate catastrophe by greatly reducing the amount of electricity we use. It seemed perfectly intuitive. After all, LED lights use 90 percent less energy and last around 18 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Yet the amount of electricity we consume for light globally is roughly the same today as it was in 2010. That’s partly because of population and economic growth in the developing world. But another big reason is …Instead of merely replacing our existing bulbs with LED alternatives, we have come up with ever more extravagant uses for these ever-cheaper lights, …. As technology has advanced, we’ve only grown more wasteful. …There’s an economic term for this: the Jevons Paradox, named for the 19th-century English economist William Stanley Jevons, who noticed that as steam engines became ever more efficient, Britain’s appetite for coal increased rather than decreased…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-02-29. A.I. Frenzy Complicates Efforts to Keep Power-Hungry Data Sites Green. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/29/business/artificial-intelligence-data-centers-green-power.html] By Patrick Sisson, The New York Times. Excerpt: Artificial intelligence’s booming growth is radically reshaping an already red-hot data center market, raising questions about whether these sites can be operated sustainably. …The carbon footprint from the construction of the [data] centers and the racks of expensive computer equipment is substantial in itself, and their power needs have grown considerably. …Just a decade ago, data centers drew 10 megawatts of power, but 100 megawatts is common today. The Uptime Institute, an industry advisory group, has identified 10 supersize cloud computing campuses across North America with an average size of 621 megawatts. …The data center industry has embraced more sustainable solutions in recent years, becoming a significant investor in renewable power at the corporate level. Sites that leased wind and solar capacity jumped 50 percent year over year as of early 2023, to more than 40 gigawatts, capacity that continues to grow. Still, demand outpaces those investments. …A.I. is only a small percentage of the global data center footprint. The Uptime Institute predicts A.I. will skyrocket to 10 percent of the sector’s global power use by 2025, from 2 percent today…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-02-28. These Cities Aren’t Banning Meat. They Just Want You to Eat More Plants. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/28/climate/plant-based-treaty-climate.html] By Cara Buckley, The New York Times. Excerpt: Amsterdam … Los Angeles …are signatories to the Plant Based Treaty, which was launched in 2021 with the aim of calling attention to the role played by greenhouse gases that are generated by food production. …Anita Krajnc …and other activists modeled the Plant Based Treaty after the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, which calls on governments to stop new oil, gas and coal projects. …The first municipality to sign on was Boynton Beach, Fla., in September 2021…. Twenty-five other municipalities have since joined, including Los Angeles, Amsterdam and more than a dozen cities in India. …Globally, food systems make up a third of planet-heating greenhouse gasses, with the environmental toll of the meat and dairy industries being particularly high. Livestock accounts for about a third of methane emissions, which have 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the short term. It’s also a water intensive industry. It takes 2,110 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, 520 gallons of water to produce one pound of cheese and 410 gallons of water to produce one pound of chicken. By comparison, protein-rich lentils require 190 gallons of water per pound. …A 2023 study from the University of Oxford found that, compared to diets heavy in meat, vegan diets resulted in 75 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions, 54 percent less water use and 66 less biodiversity loss…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-02-26. El Niño May Have Kicked Off Thwaites Glacier Retreat. [https://eos.org/articles/el-nino-may-have-kicked-off-thwaites-glacier-retreat] By Grace van Deelen, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier is currently losing significant mass, contributing to around 4% of all global sea level rise. Now, new research suggests that the start of Thwaites’s current retreat aligns with that of the nearby Pine Island Glacier, which is also losing mass rapidly. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, indicate that the mass loss was more likely spurred by regional conditions, such as an El Niño event, …. Scientists have observed accelerating ice loss from Thwaites since the 1970s, mostly via satellite data. …Thwaites likely began to retreat around the 1940s, coinciding with the beginning of a retreat phase at neighboring Pine Island Glacier that had been determined by previous research. …a prolonged El Niño that occurred from 1939 to 1942 could have spurred the retreat of both glaciers, according to the authors. El Niño events tend to bring warmer-than-average temperatures to the Southern Ocean and cause warm water to flow onto the continental shelf upon which the Thwaites Glacier sits, according to the authors. …Why the glaciers did not quickly recover from the 1940s perturbations is an open question, according to Wellner. …said Wellner… “Because we know these two glaciers are retreating in conjunction with each other, we are looking for external drivers. And the external drivers that happen around the right time are increased anthropogenic warming,” she said. But directly pinpointing the cause of the retreat is a “step farther” than what the new paper shows, she said…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-02-26. Tired of diesel fumes, these moms are pushing for electric school buses. [https://apnews.com/article/electric-school-buses-diesel-exhaust-environmental-justice-4263455c7d55e34acd6f35dceb6db7c0] By ALEXA ST. JOHN, Associated Press. Excerpt: Areli Sanchez’s daughter, Aida, used to be one of 20 million American kids who ride a diesel bus to school each day. Aida has asthma. When she was little, she complained about the smell and cloud of fumes on her twice-daily trip. “When she would come home from school or be on the bus, she got headaches and sick to her stomach. …Research shows diesel exhaust exposure can cause students to miss school and affect learning. …Diesel exhaust from school buses potentially affects one-third of U.S. students… according to federal data. It’s a known carcinogen plus it contains harmful nitrogen oxides, volatile gases and particles that exacerbate lung issues. It also contributes to global warming. …A few years after her daughter started having problems, Sanchez saw the opportunity to get involved in the nascent movement for electric buses. They don’t smell. They aren’t noisy. They cost more up front, but cost less to run and can meaningfully reduce emissions, making them a climate change solution. …a national field manager for the grassroots group Moms Clean Air Force…, [Liz] Hurtado appeals to school districts to buy electric buses. She schedules events for community members to see and drive electric vehicles, hosts webinars and meetings and teaches others how to reach out to legislators…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 9.

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2024-02-19. Los Angeles Just Proved How Spongy a City Can Be. [https://www.wired.com/story/los-angeles-just-proved-how-spongy-a-city-can-be/] By MATT SIMON, Wired. Excerpt: …A long band of moisture in the sky, known as an atmospheric river, dumped 9 inches of rain on the city over three days—over half of what the city typically gets in a year. It’s the kind of extreme rainfall that’ll get ever more extreme as the planet warms. The city’s water managers, though, were ready and waiting. Like other urban areas around the world, in recent years LA has been transforming into a “sponge city,” replacing impermeable surfaces, like concrete, with permeable ones, like dirt and plants. It has also built out “spreading grounds,” where water accumulates and soaks into the earth. With traditional dams and all that newfangled spongy infrastructure, between February 4 and 7 the metropolis captured 8.6 billion gallons of stormwater, enough to provide water to 106,000 households for a year. …Long reliant on snowmelt and river water piped in from afar, LA is on a quest to produce as much water as it can locally. …Centuries of urban-planning dogma dictates using gutters, sewers, and other infrastructure to funnel rainwater out of a metropolis as quickly as possible to prevent flooding. Given the increasingly catastrophic urban flooding seen around the world, though, that clearly isn’t working anymore, so now planners are finding clever ways to capture stormwater, treating it as an asset instead of a liability…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-02-22. Dramatic shift in ice age rhythm pinned to carbon dioxide. [https://www.science.org/content/article/dramatic-shift-ice-age-rhythm-pinned-carbon-dioxide] By PAUL VOOSEN, Science. Excerpt: Roughly 1.5 million years ago, Earth went through a radical climatic shift. The planet had already been slipping in and out of ice ages every 40,000 years, provoked by wobbles in its orbit. But then, something flipped. The ice ages began to grow stronger and longer, with durations of 100,000 years, and overall, the planet grew cooler. And nothing about Earth’s orbit could explain it. The cause of this Mid-Pleistocene Transition (MPT), as it’s known, has been a major mystery for decades. A new compilation of global temperatures covering the past 4.5 million years, published this week in Science, points a finger at a familiar molecule: carbon dioxide. It suggests that a strengthening of an ocean pump in the waters around Antarctica sucked carbon dioxide out of the air and sent it plunging to the abyss, cooling the planet and intensifying the ice ages. The study even suggests the climate, then and now, could be more sensitive to carbon dioxide than modelers expect. “The power of the [carbon dioxide] control knob on the climate system really comes out of this work,” says Ruth Mottram, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute…. For GSS Life and Climate chapter 10.

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2024-02-22. Stellar remains of famed 1987 supernova found at last. [https://www.science.org/content/article/stellar-remains-famed-1987-supernova-found-last] By DANIEL CLERY, Science. Excerpt: When a nearby star exploded in 1987, it created the first supernova visible to the naked eye in 4 centuries and became one of the most intensely studied objects in space. Now, after more than 35 years of searching, researchers have finally discovered the cinder left behind. Using NASA’s new giant space telescope JWST, astronomers spotted glowing gas at the center of the blast that can only have been energized by something hot and compact inside it, they report this week in Science. They believe a neutron star, all that remains of the shattered star, is responsible…. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 6.

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2024-02-19. Return of Trees to Eastern U.S. Kept Region Cool as Planet Warmed. [https://e360.yale.edu/digest/eastern-us-reforestation-climate-change] By YaleEnvironment360. Excerpt: Over the 20th century, the U.S. as a whole warmed by 1.2 degrees F (0.7 degrees C), but across much the East, temperatures dropped by 0.5 degrees F (0.3 degrees C). A new study posits that the restoration of lost forest countered warming, keeping the region cool. “This widespread history of reforestation, a huge shift in land cover, hasn’t been widely studied for how it could’ve contributed to the anomalous lack of warming in the eastern U.S., which climate scientists call a ‘warming hole,’” said lead author Mallory Barnes, of Indiana University. “That’s why we initially set out to do this work.”…. For GSS A New World View chapter 6.

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2024-02-17. In Wyoming, Sheep May Safely Graze Under Solar Panels in One of the State’s First “Agrivoltaic” Projects. [https://insideclimatenews.org/news/17022024/in-wyoming-sheep-may-safely-graze-under-solar-panels-in-one-of-the-states-first-agrivoltaic-projects/] By Jake Bolster, Inside Climate News. Excerpt: The elevated photovoltaic panels can actually improve grazing conditions, a novelty that could help make solar projects more land-efficient and accepted in the ranching-heavy state. Converse County is one of the most welcoming areas in Wyoming when it comes to clean energy. For roughly every 20 residents, there is one wind turbine, the highest ratio in the state. At a recent County Commissioners meeting, it took another step in diversifying its energy infrastructure, signaling its intent to issue its first solar farm permit to BrightNight. The global energy company has proposed to build more than 1 million solar panels, a battery storage facility and a few miles of above-ground transmission lines on a 4,738 acres of private land run by the Tillard ranching family near Glenrock. The Dutchman Project, as it is called, is notable neither for its generation nor its storage capacity but for the creatures moseying beneath its panels. The base of each sun-tracking panel will be several feet off the ground, allowing enough room for the Tillard’s sheep to continue grazing. In a state whose ranching industry predates its inclusion in the union, pairing solar generation with livestock grazing or other agricultural practices, a technique called “agrivoltaics,” could forge an unlikely alliance between two industries—one ancient; the other, high tech— that typically compete for resources…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-02-15. Broadwater County judge rules against developers in ‘landmark’ water ruling. [https://montanafreepress.org/2024/02/15/judge-rules-against-developers-in-landmark-water-ruling/] By Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press. Excerpt: A Broadwater County judge ruled this week in favor of a small coalition of landowners and water rights holders who challenged a subdivision proposed for an area already grappling with water supply and quality issues. In a sprawling, 85-page order, Broadwater County District Court Judge Michael McMahon chastised the Broadwater County Commission for authorizing preliminary plat approval of the Horse Creek Hills subdivision near Canyon Ferry, despite an “abjectly deficient” environmental assessment that failed to take into account impacts to water quantity, water quality, public safety and wildlife…. For GSS Population Growth chapter 5.

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2024-02-15. Conflation of reforestation with restoration is widespread. [https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.adj0899] By CATHERINE L. PARR , MARISKA TE BEEST, AND NICOLA STEVENS, Science. Excerpt: Across Africa, vast areas of nonforest are threatened by inappropriate restoration in the form of tree planting. …To understand the potential scale of tree planting in savannas and grasslands, we examined restoration pledges under the African Forest Restoration Initiative (AFR100) and on-the-ground projects, finding that tree planting is widespread across nonforest systems. …Our analysis revealed that for 18 out of 35 countries, the pledged area exceeds that of forest area … nearly a fifth of the total area pledged for forest landscape restoration (25.9 million ha) covers eight countries with no forest cover (Burkina Faso, Chad, Lesotho, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, The Gambia)…. Many countries that have forest cover have pledged an area greater than forest area available…. For GSS A New World View chapter 6.

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2024-02-15. What Does a Solar Eclipse on Mars Look Like? New, Breathtaking Images, Caught by NASA’s Perseverance Rover, Give Us an Idea. [https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/what-does-solar-eclipse-mars-look-like-new-breathtaking-images-caught-nasa-perseverance-rover-idea-180983795/] By Carlyn Kranking, Smithsonian Magazine. Excerpt: The robot recently observed each of the Red Planet’s moons passing across the sun in the Martian sky [see photo in this article]. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7.

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2024-02-14. The United States Has an Updated Map of Earthquake Hazards. [https://eos.org/articles/the-united-states-has-an-updated-map-of-earthquake-hazards] By Caroline Hasler, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Almost 15% of the U.S. population is “somewhat likely” to experience a damaging earthquake in the coming decades, according to the recently published U.S. National Seismic Hazard Model (NSHM). The model, created by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), synthesizes seismic and geological data to identify which regions of the country are at risk of strong shaking. …First, earthquakes induced by mining, wastewater injection, or other human activities were removed from the catalog; the hazard map depicts only natural hazards. Aftershocks were also removed because they occur as a result of a main shock and cause a particular hazard to be overrepresented. The researchers used the resulting data set to estimate the rate at which earthquakes occur across the United States. They calculated the strength of ground shaking for all earthquakes with magnitudes greater than 5.0, which are likely to cause damaging shaking.… For GSS Energy Flow chapter 2.

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2024-02-14. A Collapse of the Amazon Could Be Coming ‘Faster Than We Thought’. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/14/climate/amazon-rain-forest-tipping-point.html] By Manuela Andreoni, The New York Times. Excerpt: Up to half of the Amazon rainforest could transform into grasslands or weakened ecosystems in the coming decades, a new study found, as climate change, deforestation and severe droughts like the one the region is currently experiencing damage huge areas beyond their ability to recover. Those stresses in the most vulnerable parts of the rainforest could eventually drive the entire forest ecosystem, home to a tenth of the planet’s land species, into acute water stress and past a tipping point that would trigger a forest-wide collapse, researchers said. While earlier studies have assessed the individual effects of climate change and deforestation on the rainforest, this peer-reviewed study, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, is the first major research to focus on the cumulative effects of a range of threats…. For GSS A New World View chapter 5.

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2024-02-14. A new satellite will use Google’s AI to map methane leaks from space. [https://www.technologyreview.com/2024/02/14/1088198/satellite-google-ai-map-methane-leaks/] By James O’Donnell, MIT Technology Review. Excerpt: A methane-measuring satellite will launch in March that aims to use Google’s AI to quantify, map, and reduce leaks. The mission is part of a collaboration with the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, and the result, they say, will be the most detailed portrait yet of methane emissions. It should help to identify where the worst spots are and who is responsible. With methane responsible for roughly a third of the warming caused by greenhouse gases, regulators in the United States and elsewhere are pushing for stronger rules to curb the leaks that spring from oil and gas plants. MethaneSAT will measure the plumes of methane that billow invisibly from oil and gas operations around the globe, and Google and EDF will then map those leaks for use by researchers, regulators, and the public…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 3.

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2024-02-15. Seeking clear skies and quiet, astronomers put telescopes on U.S. Moon lander. [https://www.science.org/content/article/seeking-clear-skies-and-quiet-astronomers-put-telescopes-u-s-moon-lander] By DANIEL CLERY, Science. Excerpt: Small scopes on IM-1 mission would be first optical and radio observatories on the lunar surface. …Astronomers have long eyed the Moon as a good spot to do their work. Its far side, protected from Earth’s hectic radio noise, is perfect for picking up faint signals from the distant universe. To see infrared signals … Put the telescope into one of the deep craters at the lunar poles that never receive any sunlight and its sensors will benefit from the crater’s permanent chill…. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 2.

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2024-02-15. A River in Flux—Amazon River may be altered forever by climate change. [https://www.science.org/content/article/amazon-river-may-altered-forever-climate-change] By DANIEL GROSSMAN, Science. Excerpt: Extreme flooding and droughts may be the new norm for the Amazon, challenging its people and ecosystems. MANAUS, BRAZIL …In the previous 4 months, only a few millimeters of rain have fallen in this city of 2 million at the confluence of the Negro and Amazon rivers. Normally it gets close to a half a meter during the same period. …Making matters worse, the drought coincided with a series of weekslong heat waves. In September and October, withering conditions persisted across the Amazon, and temperatures here peaked at 39°C, 6°C above normal. …Schöngart and other researchers expect such changes to intensify as global climate warms. The current drought provided a grim preview, killing river dolphins and fish, and threatening livelihoods for communities along the river…. For GSS A New World View chapter 5.

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2024-02-15. New biosecurity group aims to prevent biotech disasters. [https://www.science.org/content/article/new-biosecurity-group-aims-prevent-biotech-disasters] By ROBERT F. SERVICE, Science. Excerpt: Biosecurity experts today launched a new international nonprofit designed to prevent modern biotechnology from causing harm. Known as the International Biosecurity and Biosafety Initiative for Science (IBBIS), the group aims to develop technological and policy guardrails to reduce the risk that biotech tools, such as the ability to synthesize and edit DNA, are accidentally or deliberately used to create deadly toxins and pathogens. …in recent years, researchers have also shown they can build dangerous viruses and other microbes from scratch…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 4.

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2024-02-15. After Shutting Down, These Golf Courses Went Wild. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/15/climate/golf-courses-conservation-nature.html] By Cara Buckley, The New York Times. Excerpt: Most defunct golf courses get paved over, but a number are getting transformed into ecological life rafts for wildlife, plants — and people…. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 5.

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2024-02-12. The Escalating Impact of Global Warming on Atmospheric Rivers. [https://eos.org/research-spotlights/the-escalating-impact-of-global-warming-on-atmospheric-rivers] By Saima May Sidik, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Climate change is set to intensify atmospheric rivers and exacerbate extreme rainfall worldwide.Zhang et al. used a suite of climate models called Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) to examine how the prevalence of atmospheric rivers has already changed and will continue to change in a warming world from 1980 to 2099. Rising surface temperatures will continue to increase moisture content in the air, leading to a rise in atmospheric rivers overall, …these events will increase by 84% between December and February and 113% between June and August under continued heavy fossil fuel use…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-02-11. The Planet Needs Solar Power. Can We Build It Without Harming Nature? [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/02/11/climate/climate-change-wildlife-solar.html] By Catrin Einhorn, The New York Times. Excerpt: For pronghorn, those antelope-like creatures of the American West, this grassland north of Flagstaff is prime habitat. …But for a nation racing to adopt renewable energy, the land is prime for something else: solar panels. …Animals need humans to solve climate change. …The good news for wildlife is that there are ways for solar developers to make installations less harmful and even beneficial for many species, like fences that let some animals pass, wildlife corridors, native plants that nurture pollinators, and more. …“We’re faced with two truths: We have a climate change crisis, but we also have a biodiversity crisis,” said Meaghan Gade, a program manager at the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-02-10. How One of the Nation’s Fastest Growing Counties Plans to Find Water in the Desert. [https://insideclimatenews.org/news/10022024/how-one-of-the-nations-fastest-growing-counties-plans-to-find-water-in-the-desert/] By David Condos, KUER (NPR Utah). Excerpt: Like many places across the West, two things are on a collision course in Utah’s southwest corner: growth and water. Washington County’s population has quadrupled since 1990. St. George, its largest city, has been the fastest-growing metro area in the nation in recent years. …The region has essentially tapped out the Colorado River tributary it depends on now, the Virgin River. …The district’s 20-year plan comes down to two big ideas: reusing and conserving the water it already has…. For GSS Population Growth chapter 5.

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2024-02-09. Atlantic Ocean circulation nearing ‘devastating’ tipping point, study finds. [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/feb/09/atlantic-ocean-circulation-nearing-devastating-tipping-point-study-finds] By Jonathan Watts, The Guardian. Excerpt: …researchers developed an early warning indicator for the breakdown of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (Amoc), a vast system of ocean currents that is a key component in global climate regulation. They found Amoc is already on track towards an abrupt shift, which has not happened for more than 10,000 years and would have dire implications for large parts of the world. Amoc, which encompasses part of the Gulf Stream and other powerful currents, is a marine conveyer belt that carries heat, carbon and nutrients from the tropics towards the Arctic Circle, where it cools and sinks into the deep ocean. This churning helps to distribute energy around the Earth and modulates the impact of human-caused global heating. But the system is being eroded by the faster-than-expected melt-off of Greenland’s glaciers and Arctic ice sheets, which pours freshwater into the sea and obstructs the sinking of saltier, warmer water from the south. Amoc has declined 15% since 1950 and is in its weakest state in more than a millennium, according to previous research that prompted speculation about an approaching collapse. The new paper, published in Science Advances, has broken new ground by looking for warning signs in the salinity levels at the southern extent of the Atlantic Ocean between Cape Town and Buenos Aires…. See also Washington Post article Why this is one of the planetary shifts scientists are most worried about. For GSS Climate Change chapter 7.

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2024-02-08. Rat poison threatens Italy’s growing wolf population. [https://www.science.org/content/article/rat-poison-threatens-italy-s-growing-wolf-population] By GENNARO TOMMA, Science. Excerpt: …results, published online last month in Science of the Total Environment, revealed that the rodenticide threat could be “far higher than previously thought,” the authors write. Overall, 61.8% of 186 wolf carcasses recovered from 2018 to 2022 and tested carried traces of at least one poison, and 42% carried traces of two or more. The testing couldn’t reveal how a wolf had ingested the chemicals or whether they had caused its death. But some animals showed signs of internal bleeding, a hallmark of rodenticides. A statistical analysis indicated wolves living closer to urban areas faced a greater risk…. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 6.

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2024-02-08. Gusher of gas deep in mine stokes interest in natural hydrogen. [https://www.science.org/content/article/gusher-gas-deep-mine-stokes-interest-natural-hydrogen] By ERIC HAND, Science. Excerpt: Researchers have discovered a massive spring of hydrogen, bubbling out of a deep mine in Albania. Although it may not be economical to exploit, the surprisingly high flow of the gas is likely to raise interest in the emerging field of natural hydrogen, the overlooked idea that Earth itself could be a source of the clean-burning fuel…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-02-08. Jury rules for climate scientist Michael Mann in long-running defamation case. [https://www.science.org/content/article/jury-rules-climate-scientist-michael-mann-long-running-defamation-case] By PAUL VOOSEN, Science. Excerpt: A jury found today that Michael Mann, a prominent climate scientist, was defamed by the writers of two blog posts 12 years ago that compared his work on global warming to child molestation. …At the heart of Mann’s lawsuit are two 25-year-old scientific papers that he led. The studies combined historical records with tree rings and other temperature proxies going back 1000 years to show that temperatures stayed largely flat until the past century, when they rose sharply. A key chart from the papers, dubbed the “hockey stick” because of its shape, was used in a 2001 U.N. climate report. …One of those attacks was written in 2012 by Simberg, then a blogger at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, following the arrest of Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky, a serial child molester who coached football at the school. Simberg likened the case to the university’s investigation of Mann, saying Mann “molested and tortured data” to reach his conclusions on the hockey stick. Steyn then quoted Simberg’s post in a blog hosted by the National Review, calling Mann’s work “fraudulent.”… For GSS Climate Change chapter 4.

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2024-02-07. European Parliament votes to ease regulation of gene-edited crops. [https://www.science.org/content/article/european-parliament-votes-ease-regulation-gene-edited-crops] By ERIK STOKSTAD, Science. Excerpt: Europe has long been a bastion of skepticism about genetically engineered organisms, but today the European Parliament voted to lessen regulatory oversight of crops created through one type of DNA manipulation: gene editing. …[Oana] Dima says several factors have lessened the resistance recently. The success of messenger RNA vaccines for COVID-19 has improved the reputation of biotechnology, she notes. …Although the Parliament is now supportive of greenlighting gene-edited crops, some members want to prohibit patents on NGTs, arguing this would help keep costs low for farmers. Conventionally bred plants in Europe cannot be patented in Europe. Dima says the issue of patent protection should be discussed apart from the NGT legislation, and within the EU’s patent regulatory framework. …The Parliament also wants all NGT plants to be labeled when sold to consumers, whereas the Commission thinks biotech crops exempt from the GMO regulation should only have seeds labeled, so that farmers can be sure of what they are planting…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 4.

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2024-02-07. After mass coral die-off, Florida scientists rethink plan to save ailing reefs. [https://www.science.org/content/article/after-mass-coral-die-off-florida-scientists-rethink-plan-to-save-ailing-reefs] By WARREN CORNWALL, Science. Excerpt: Four years ago, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) unveiled a $100 million coral moonshot. Over 2 decades, nearly half a million hand-reared coral colonies would be planted on seven ailing reefs in southern Florida, in a bid to revive them. …Today, the project looks as ailing as the coral it was meant to save. A record-breaking underwater heat wave that swept the Caribbean and southern Florida in 2023 killed most of the transplanted colonies…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7.

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2024-02-07. Does Saturn’s Deathstar Moon Harbor an Ocean? [https://skyandtelescope.org/astronomy-news/does-saturns-death-star-moon-harbor-an-ocean] By MONICA YOUNG, Sky & Telescope. Excerpt: Mimas, the moon that orbits just clear of Saturn’s rings, …looks suspiciously like the “Death Star” from Star Wars. Fittingly, this Death Star moon also appears geologically dead. Unlike Saturn’s other icy moons, whose surfaces are slashed with cracks and fissures that spew evidence of subsurface oceans, Mimas is covered in craters. Now, in the February 8th Nature, Valery Lainey (Paris Observatory) and colleagues report evidence that Mimas does have a subsurface ocean after all. It’s just that it’s so new, having formed only between 2 and 25 million years ago, that it hasn’t had time yet to impact the surface…. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7.

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2024-02-06. Poorer Countries Face Heavier Consequences of Climate Change. [https://eos.org/articles/poorer-countries-face-heavier-consequences-of-climate-change] By atherine Kornei, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Forest biomes are on the move because of climate change, and nations from Albania to Zimbabwe will experience shifts in economic production and ecosystem-provided benefits as vegetation cover relocates—or disappears entirely. …An ongoing poleward shift in vegetation, likely to persist into the future, has implications for natural resources such as timber, said Bernie Bastien-Olvera, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. “As forests migrate towards higher latitudes, many countries are losing forest cover.” …“Tropical forests will replace temperate forests, temperate forests will replace boreal forests, and boreal forests will grow where there is right now only permafrost.” …Bastien-Olvera and his collaborators furthermore showed that poorer countries were harder hit: The poorest 50% of countries shouldered 90% of GDP losses…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-02-06. Massive solar farms could provoke rainclouds in the desert. [https://www.science.org/content/article/massive-solar-farms-could-provoke-rainclouds-desert] By PAUL VOOSEN, Science. Excerpt: The heat from large expanses of dark solar panels can cause updrafts that, in the right conditions, lead to rainstorms, providing water for tens of thousands of people. “Some solar farms are getting up to the right size right now,” says Oliver Branch, a climate scientist at the University of Hohenheim who led the work, published last week in the journal Earth System Dynamics. “Maybe it’s not science fiction that we can produce this effect.”…. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 6.

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2024-02-05. Oceans May Have Already Seen 1.7°C of Warming. [https://eos.org/articles/oceans-may-have-already-seen-1-7c-of-warming] By Kimberly M. S. Cartier, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Sponges from the Caribbean retain a record of ocean temperatures stretching back hundreds of years. These newly revealed paleoclimate records suggest that sea surface temperatures (SSTs) began rising in response to industrial era fossil fuel burning around 1860. That’s 80 years earlier than SST measurements became common and predates the global warming start date used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). On the basis of these new sponge records, scientists think that temperatures are currently 1.7°C warmer than preindustrial levels. The study’s researchers argue that the world has already surpassed the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit atmospheric warming to less than 1.5°C above preindustrial temperatures and that we could reach 2°C of warming before 2030. …These results were published in Nature Climate Change…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 4.

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2024-02-05. We’ve Already Seen Category 6 Hurricanes—Now Scientists Want to Make It Official. [https://eos.org/articles/weve-already-seen-category-6-hurricanes-now-scientists-want-to-make-it-official] By Grace van Deelen, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Five tropical cyclones in the past 9 years have hit wind speeds far above the category 5 threshold, causing thousands of fatalities and billions of dollars of damage. Such ultrastrong, highly destructive hurricanes are becoming more likely as climate change increases the amount of energy available to storms. In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, scientists suggest that the growing intensification of tropical cyclones may necessitate adding a sixth category to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Doing so could be one useful tool not only to indicate hurricane risk but also to convey the increasing dangers of climate change…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-02-05. The Fingerprints on Chile’s Fires and California Floods: El Niño and Warming. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/05/climate/california-floods-chile-wildfires-global-warming.html] By Somini Sengupta, The New York Times. Excerpt: Two far-flung corners of the world, known for their temperate climates, are being buffeted by deadly disasters. Wildfires have killed more than 120 people as they swept the forested hillsides of Chile, and record-breaking rains have swelled rivers and triggered mudslides in Southern California. Behind these risks are two powerful forces: Climate change, which can intensify both rain and drought, and the natural weather phenomenon known as El Niño, which can also supersize extreme weather. In California, …rains began over the weekend and several counties were under a state of emergency. By Monday, officials warned that the Los Angeles area could be deluged by the equivalent of a year’s rainfall in a single day. In the southern hemisphere, Chile has been reeling from drought for the better part of a decade. That set the stage for a hellish weekend, when, amid a severe heat wave, wildfires broke out. The president has since declared two days of national mourning and warned that the death toll from the devastating blazes could “significantly increase.” Both the floods and the fires reflect the extreme weather risks brought on by a dangerous cocktail of global warming, which is principally caused by the burning of fossil fuels, and this year’s El Niño, a cyclical weather phenomenon characterized by an overheated Pacific Ocean near the Equator…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-02-05. An electrifying new ironmaking method could slash carbon emissions. [https://www.science.org/content/article/electrifying-new-ironmaking-method-could-slash-carbon-emissions] By ROBERT F. SERVICE, Science. Excerpt: Making iron, the main ingredient of steel, takes a toll on Earth’s delicate atmosphere, producing 8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Now, a team of chemists has come up with a way to make the business much more eco-friendly. By using electricity to convert iron ore and salt water into metallic iron and other industrially useful chemicals, researchers report today in Joule that their approach is cost effective, works well with electricity provided by wind and solar farms, and could even be carbon negative, consuming more carbon dioxide (CO2) than it produces. …The world mines 2.5 billion tons of iron every year, and reducing it to iron emits as much CO2 as the tailpipes of all passenger vehicles combined. So, scientists are looking for economically viable ways to produce metallic iron that don’t generate greenhouse gases. …If it all works out, ironmaking could someday put a little less burden on the climate…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-02-05. Lightning during volcanic eruptions may have sparked life on Earth. [https://www.newscientist.com/article/2415697-lightning-during-volcanic-eruptions-may-have-sparked-life-on-earth/] By Michael Le Page, New Scientist. Excerpt: An analysis of volcanic rocks has revealed large quantities of nitrogen compounds that were almost certainly formed by volcanic lightning. This process could have provided the nitrogen required for the first life forms to evolve and thrive. …nitrogen-fixing bacteria didn’t exist when life first evolved, says Slimane Bekki at Sorbonne University in Paris, so there must have been a non-biological source early on. …The lightning from thunderstorms is one possible origin. This produces a relatively small amount of nitrates today but might have been important early in Earth’s history. …Bekki and his colleagues have shown that another source could have been the lightning that occurs in ash clouds during some volcanic eruptions. When they collected volcanic deposits from Peru, Turkey and Italy, the researchers were initially surprised to find large quantities of nitrates in some layers. An isotopic analysis of these nitrates showed that they were atmospheric in origin and hadn’t been emitted by the volcanoes. But Bekki says that the quantities were too large to have been created by lightning during thunderstorms. “It was the amount that was really surprising,” he says. “It is really massive.” That means the nitrates were probably generated by volcanic lightning…. For GSS Life and Climate chapter 4.

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2024-02-02. Could a Giant Parasol in Outer Space Help Solve the Climate Crisis?. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/02/02/climate/sun-shade-climate-geoengineering.html] By Cara Buckley, The New York Times. Excerpt: The idea is to create a huge sunshade and send it to a far away point between the Earth and the sun to block a small but crucial amount of solar radiation, enough to counter global warming. Scientists have calculated that if just shy of 2 percent of the sun’s radiation is blocked, that would be enough to cool the planet by 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 2.7 Fahrenheit, and keep Earth within manageable climate boundaries. …To block the necessary amount of solar radiation, the shade would have to be about a million square miles, roughly the size of Argentina, Dr. Rozen said. A shade that big would weigh at least 2.5 million tons — too heavy to launch into space, he said. So, the project would have to involve a series of smaller shades. They would not completely block the sun’s light but rather cast slightly diffused shade onto Earth, he said. …The sunshade idea has its critics, among them Susanne Baur, …. A sunshade would be astronomically expensive and could not be implemented in time, given the speed of global warming, she said. In addition, a solar storm or collision with stray space rocks could damage the shield, resulting in sudden, rapid warming with disastrous consequences…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-02-01. The Coral Chronicles. [https://www.science.org/content/article/remote-pacific-island-clues-el-ninos-future-preserved-ancient-reefs] By PAUL VOOSEN, Science. Excerpt: …The El Niño event, now at its peak, is driving weather extremes not just in Vanuatu, but all over the planet. Drought has struck Australia, as well as the Amazon, where intolerably hot waters have suffocated endangered pink dolphins. Rains have drenched Peru, spreading dengue, while warm waters intruding near its coast have disrupted the world’s largest anchovy fishery and forced the nation to cancel a lucrative fishing season. Those same warm waters accelerated Hurricane Otis, which devastated Acapulco and Mexico’s Pacific coast in October 2023. The effects have been truly global: By suppressing the Pacific’s ability to absorb heat from the atmosphere, El Niño helped make 2023 the hottest year in history by a huge margin. …TWENTY THOUSAND YEARS AGO, at the peak of the last ice age, Earth was 6°C cooler than today. Glaciers buried the northern continents. But in the tropical Pacific, things wouldn’t have looked so different, with one exception: Every island would have been much, much taller. With the planet’s water locked up in ice sheets, sea levels were 120 meters lower. .Corals continued to grow around these towering islands, capturing the swings of El Niño and La Niña events as chemical signals within their skeletons much like tree rings. Later, when the ice sheets melted, the reefs at Vanuatu and elsewhere were submerged, putting their ancient records of El Niño and La Niña out of reach. …Ancient corals can capture the climatic effects of El Niño and La Niña events that occurred thousands of years ago. But most reefs from the last ice age are submerged by more than 100 meters of water. On the island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu, however, tectonic forces have lifted ancient corals back to the surface…. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 8.

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2024-01-31. Planets around dead stars offer glimpse of the Solar System’s future—after the Sun swallows us up. [https://www.science.org/content/article/planets-around-dead-stars-offer-glimpse-solar-system-s-future-after-sun-swallows-us] By JONATHAN O’CALLAGHAN, Science. Excerpt: In about 5 billion years the Sun will balloon up into a red giant, consuming Mercury, probably Venus, and maybe even Earth. But even if the outer planets avoid being swallowed up, they might eventually get pulled in or ejected from the Solar System. A new discovery suggests they can survive intact. Using NASA’s JWST space telescope, astronomers have for the first time directly imaged planets on Solar System–like orbits around white dwarfs, the dead stars left after Sun-like stars swell into red giants and subside. The planets follow orbits resembling those of the giant planets in the outer Solar System—big enough for them to have escaped the inferno…. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 1.

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2024-01-31. Is the world 1.3°C or 1.5°C warmer? Historical ship logs hold answers. [https://www.science.org/content/article/world-1-3%C2%B0c-or-1-5%C2%B0c-warmer-historical-ship-logs-hold-answers] By PAUL VOOSEN, Science. Excerpt: Last month’s announcement that 2023 was the hottest year in history was no surprise. But it came with one: No one knows exactly how much the world has warmed. One group of climate scientists found the planet has warmed 1.34°C over the 1850–1900 average, whereas another found temperatures had risen 1.54°C. …the current disagreement is not over present temperatures, but rather the past. The warmth of the ocean in the late 19th century is a key part of the baseline against which the warming of the planet is measured—and figures are at odds. …No estimate of global temperature is possible without including the oceans, which cover 70% of the planet’s surface. …But ocean temperature records in the 19th century were few and far between. A global record began in the 1850s thanks to a controversial figure, Matthew Fontaine Maury, a superintendent at the U.S. Naval Observatory who avidly supported slavery and would go on to serve the Confederacy. …he encouraged merchant sailors to collect weather observations, including measurements of water temperature from buckets heaved to the deck; if captains shared the data with the government, they would receive naval charts in return. …Today, two organizations maintain these historical sea surface temperature records: the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.K.’s Met Office. They both catalog the same underlying data, but differ in how they approach a key question. “How to correct the bucket temperature?” …. NOAA does so by cross-checking the bucket temperatures with air temperatures taken at the same place and time, whereas the Met Office relies on a “bucket model” to estimate the water’s temperature before it was scooped up. …after the 1930s, temperature measurements from Japanese ships tended to be 0.35°C colder than those from other countries. This wasn’t because of any oddity in Japanese data collecting. Rather, when the U.S. Air Force was digitizing these records after World War II, putting them on punch cards, it dropped the decimal to save space. “They floored everything to the whole degree,” Chan says. A staggering number of logbooks have yet to be digitized, says Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading. The U.K.’s National Archives has 6 million pages that are so far untouched, for example. “We could at least double the quantity of data we have available,” Hawkins says…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 4.

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2024-01-31. Unlikely Allies Want to Bar a Brazilian Beef Giant From U.S. Stock Markets. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/31/climate/jbs-ipo-nyse.html] By Manuela Andreoni and Dionne Searcey, The New York Times. Excerpt: A giant Brazilian meatpacking company is facing persistent opposition to its plans for a listing on the New York Stock Exchange because of concerns about corruption settlements, accusations of Amazon deforestation and its growing market share in the United States. The proposed listing by JBS, the world’s biggest meatpacker, has brought together American beef producers, environmentalists and politicians from both major parties in a rare common cause. …a dozen British lawmakers urged the Securities and Exchange Commission to reject the share listing to “send a clear message that the United States stands firm in its commitment to combating climate change.” …Research suggests about 80 percent of deforestation in the Amazon is connected to the beef industry. Global meat consumption is expected to grow 14 percent by 2030 as the world’s population grows and incomes generally rise, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, which has called for eating a more plant-based diet to help reduce carbon emissions…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9.

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2024-01-29. Shallow Seawater Chemistry May Make Reefs More Resistant to Ocean Acidification. [https://eos.org/research-spotlights/shallow-seawater-chemistry-may-make-reefs-more-resistant-to-ocean-acidification] By Sarah Stanley, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: …As carbon emissions increase, the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide. This causes a chain of chemical reactions that results in the formation of carbonic acid and overall ocean acidification. …Now, research from Palacio-Castro et al. sheds new light…. The researchers analyzed the carbonate chemistry of seawater collected at 38 different locations within the Florida Coral Reef system multiple times per year from 2010 to 2021. They found that seawater acidity increased …, specifically in reefs located somewhat deeper and farther from shore. …shallower inshore reefs, however, …often coexist with seagrass beds, and the new findings align with prior research suggesting that the effects of seagrass on carbonate chemistry could help protect reefs from acidification…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7.

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2024-01-29. How Dangerous Is Mexico’s Popocatépetl? It Depends on Who You Ask. [https://eos.org/features/how-dangerous-is-mexicos-popocatepetl-it-depends-on-who-you-ask] By Katherine Kornei, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The stratovolcano in central Mexico presents a rich case study of risk perception, science communication, and preparedness surrounding natural hazards. …Reports frequently use words and phrases such as “threatening” and “booming eruptions” to describe the active stratovolcano 70 kilometers southeast of Mexico’s capital. …A research team led by Ivan Sunyé Puchol recently estimated that the volcano has erupted explosively more than 25 times over the past 500,000 years. …Popocatépetl’s last explosive eruption of significant size occurred roughly 1,100 years ago. However, the volcano rumbled to life again in late 1994 with a series of small eruptions …that produced a 7-kilometer-high column of ash. …light brown ash has repeatedly dusted nearby towns like Tetela del Volcán and even more outlying cities like Puebla and Mexico City. Mudflows of pumice and ash known as lahars have coursed down the volcano’s nearly vertical slopes. Pyroclastic density currents, clouds of hot gas and volcanic debris that race downslope at hundreds of kilometers per hour, have also been reported at Popocatépetl. “Ash falls, lahars, and pyroclastic density currents are, in my opinion, the real hazards today,” said Sunyé Puchol…. For GSS Energy Flow chapter 2.

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2024-01-26. Measuring Methane Stemming from Tree Stems. [https://eos.org/research-spotlights/measuring-methane-stemming-from-tree-stems] By Aaron Sidder, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Wetland tree stem emissions have emerged as a significant contributor to the global methane budget. A new study tracks how they vary by season, location, and hydrological conditions. The recent rise in atmospheric methane (CH4) has drawn increased attention to the potent greenhouse gas, which is approximately 45 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. About 60% of global methane emissions are anthropogenic, primarily from fossil fuel burning and other activities in the transportation and agriculture sectors. The remainder of the methane budget comes from natural ecosystem processes. Tropical wetlands are the largest natural source of methane, …. For GSS Climate Change chapter 3.

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2024-01-24. Trump, Haley Tell Voters: Economic Prosperity Requires Fossil Fuels. [https://eos.org/articles/trump-haley-tell-voters-economic-prosperity-requires-fossil-fuels] By Grace van Deelen, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Both Republican front-runners promise a better economy via oil and gas production. But crude and natural gas production reached record numbers under the Biden administration, and ties between fossil fuel production and economic prosperity are less clear than the candidates make them seem, said energy policy experts…. For Climate Change chapter 9.

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2024-01-19. New type of water splitter could make green hydrogen cheaper. [https://www.science.org/content/article/new-type-water-splitter-could-make-green-hydrogen-cheaper] By ROBERT F. SERVICE, Science. Excerpt: To wean itself off fossil fuels, the world needs cheaper ways to produce green hydrogen—a clean-burning fuel made by using renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Now researchers report a way to avoid the need for a costly membrane at the heart of the water-splitting devices, and to instead produce hydrogen and oxygen in completely separate chambers. As a lab-based proof of concept, the new setup—reported this month in Nature Materials—is a long way from working at an industrial scale. But if successful, it could help heavy industries such as steelmaking and fertilizer production reduce their dependence on oil, coal, and natural gas. …Any successes in eliminating electrolyzer membranes could be a boon to efforts to decarbonize parts of industry most dependent on fossil fuels, he says. “I can not overstate how big of an advantage that is.”…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-01-26. Panama Canal Drought Slows Cargo Traffic. [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/01/26/climate/panama-canal-drought-shipping.html] By Mira Rojanasakul, The New York Times. Summary: The lake that allows the Panama Canal to function recorded the lowest water level ever for the start of a dry season this year, which means that vastly fewer ships can pass through the canal. The extreme drought, exacerbated by an ongoing El Niño that is affecting Gatún Lake and the whole region appears likely to last into May. The Panama Canal Authority has reduced daily traffic through the narrow corridor by nearly 40 percent compared with last year. Many ships have already diverted to longer ocean routes, which increases both costs and carbon emissions, while the global shipping company Maersk recently announced they will shift some of their cargo to rail. …In previous droughts, weight restrictions were imposed because heavier boats risk running aground in the shallower water. The canal typically handles an estimated 5 percent of seaborne trade, including 46 percent of the container traffic between the East Coast of the United States and Northeast Asia. But last summer, the Panama Canal Authority began taking the drastic measure of reducing traffic. Toll revenues have dropped by $100 million per month since October. …Panama’s population has quadrupled since the 1950s, and more than half the country relies on the canal’s reservoirs — Gatún Lake and the smaller Alajuela — for clean drinking water. “Before it was a very small percentage of total water use, and now it’s the equivalent of four or five lockages per day,” said Gloria Arrocha Paz, a meteorologist at the Panama Canal Authority…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-01-25. Water Batteries. [https://www.science.org/content/article/how-giant-water-batteries-could-make-green-power-reliable] By ROBERT KUNZIG, Science. Excerpt: The machines that turn Tennessee’s Raccoon Mountain into one of the world’s largest energy storage devices—in effect, a battery that can power a medium-size city—are hidden in a cathedral-size cavern deep inside the mountain. But what enables the mountain to store all that energy is plain in an aerial photo. The summit plateau is occupied by a large lake that hangs high above the Tennessee River…. At night, when demand for electricity is low but TVA’s nuclear reactors are still humming, TVA banks the excess, storing it as gravitational potential energy in the summit lake. The pumps draw water from the Tennessee and shoot it straight up the 10-meter-wide shaft at a rate that would fill an Olympic pool in less than 6 seconds. During the day, when demand for electricity peaks, water drains back down the shaft and spins the turbines, generating 1700 megawatts of electricity—the output of a large power plant, enough to power 1 million homes. The lake stores enough water and thus enough energy to do that for 20 hours. Pumped storage hydropower, as this technology is called, is not new. Some 40 U.S. plants and hundreds around the world are in operation. …Pumped storage, however, has already arrived; it supplies more than 90% of existing grid storage. China, the world leader in renewable energy, also leads in pumped storage, with 66 new plants under construction, according to Global Energy Monitor. …In the Alps, where pumped storage was invented in the late 19th century, Switzerland opened a plant in 2022 called Nant de Drance that can deliver 900 megawatts for as long as 20 hours…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-01-25. Industry reports drastically underestimate carbon emissions. [https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.adj6233] By MEGAN HE et al, Science. Excerpt: The Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, Canada represent the world’s largest deposit of crude bitumen—a dense, extremely viscous form of petroleum. Extracting oil from these deposits generates harmful carbon emissions, which have a significant impact on air quality. Although companies are often required to monitor and report these emissions, new research suggests these reports contain major gaps—and that the true amount of pollution is much higher than previously thought. …Using an aircraft belonging to the National Research Council of Canada, scientists directly measured carbon concentrations in the air above multiple facilities in the Athabasca oil sands. Their analyses suggested that the region emits more carbon than all the cars in Los Angeles each year—and the same amount as all other Canadian emission sources combined. Most notably, the aircraft-based measurements exceeded industry-reported values by 1900% to over 6300%, which implies that current methods of monitoring emissions are in desperate need of an overhaul…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 3.

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2024-01-24. Multicellularity came early for ancient eukaryotes. [https://www.science.org/content/article/microbes-gave-rise-all-plants-and-animals-became-multicellular-1-6-billion-years-ago] By ELIZABETH PENNISI, Science. Excerpt: A new study describing a microscopic, algalike fossil dating back more than 1.6 billion years supports the idea that one of the hallmarks of the complex life we see around us—multicellularity— is much older than previously thought. Together with other recent research, the fossil, reported today in Science Advances, suggests the lineage known as eukaryotes— which features compartmentalized cells and includes everything from redwoods to jellies to people—became multicellular some 600 million years earlier than scientists once generally thought…. For GSS Life and Climate chapter 4.

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2024-01-24. Plan to allow wolf hunting in Europe to spare livestock could backfire, some scientists say. [https://www.science.org/content/article/plan-allow-wolf-hunting-europe-protect-livestock-could-backfire-some-scientists-say] By GENNARO TOMMA, Science. Excerpt: Late last month, the European Commission released a proposal to weaken protections for wolves living in the 27 nations of the European Union, drawing criticism from environme On 20 December 2023, the Commission responded by releasing a proposal to downgrade the wolf’s protection status from “strictly protected” to “protected.” The change would allow EU nations to cull wolves at scale for the first time in 4 decades, although countries would still be obligated to ensure that wolves maintain a “favorable” conservation status. ntal groups. Just days later, environmentalists persuaded a court in Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU, to partially block a new government plan to kill up to 70% of the nation’s wolf population. After centuries of hunting, only small and scattered populations of wolves survived in Europe by the 1970s, but recent studies estimate some 20,000 animals now roam the continent. The rebound is largely due to protections provided to wolves and other large carnivores under the Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, a 40-year-old conservation agreement. As the number of wolves has increased, however, so has predation on domestic livestock. Every year wolves kill 65,000 farm animals, mainly sheep, according to the Commission. Although this amounts to just 0.07% of the continent’s sheep, farm groups across Europe have lobbied officials to weaken rules against killing wolves…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 6.

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2024-01-24. Zapping ‘red mud’ in plasma turns mine waste into valuable iron. [https://www.science.org/content/article/zapping-red-mud-plasma-turns-mine-waste-valuable-iron] By ERIK STOKSTAD, Science. Excerpt: Over the years, mining for aluminum has left behind billions of tons of the caustic sludge called red mud. But today in Nature, scientists report that a simple chemical process can extract another useful metal, iron, from this waste and render the remainder into a mostly benign substance useful for making concrete. If the process can be scaled up and proves cost-effective, it could help manufacturers convert waste into climate-friendlier steel, the researchers say…. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 7.

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2024-01-23. To Slash Carbon Emissions, Colleges Are Digging Really Deep. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/23/climate/geoexchange-climate-colleges-heat.html] By Cara Buckley, The New York Times. Excerpt: …Princeton University … is using the earth beneath its campus to create a new system that will keep buildings at comfortable temperatures without burning fossil fuels. The multimillion dollar project, using a process known as geoexchange, marks a significant shift in how Princeton gets its energy, and is key to the university’s plan to stop adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere by 2046. …the more than 2,000 boreholes planned for the campus will be undetectable, despite performing an impressive sleight of hand. During hot months, heat drawn from Princeton’s buildings will be stored in thick pipes deep underground until winter, when heat will be drawn back up again. The change is significant. Since its founding in 1746, Princeton has heated its buildings by burning carbon-based fuels, in the form of firewood, then coal, then fuel oil, then natural gas. …Among the colleges where geoexchange or geothermal systems are being tested, installed or are in use: Smith, Oberlin, Dartmouth, Mount Holyoke and William & Mary. Cornell University has dug a two-mile test geothermal borehole at its Ithaca campus, and is using geoexchange at one of its buildings on Roosevelt Island in New York City’s East River. Brown University drilled test boreholes to gauge heat conductivity this past fall, and Columbia University secured a special state mining permit to drill an 800-foot test bore on its New York City campus…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-01-22. Is NASA too down on space-based solar power?. [https://www.science.org/content/article/nasa-too-down-space-based-solar-power] By DANIEL CLERY, Science. Excerpt: This month, NASA cast a shadow on one of the most visionary prospects for freeing the world from fossil fuels: collecting solar energy in space and beaming it to Earth. An agency report found the scheme is feasible by 2050 but would cost between 12 and 80 times as much as ground-based renewable energy sources. Undaunted, many government agencies and companies are pushing ahead with demonstration plans. Some researchers say NASA’s analysis is too pessimistic…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-01-21. As Switzerland’s Glaciers Shrink, a Way of Life May Melt Away. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/21/world/europe/switzerland-glaciers.html] By Catherine Porter, Photographs and Video by George Steinmetz, The New York Times. Excerpt: For centuries, Swiss farmers have sent their cattle, goats and sheep up the mountains to graze in warmer months before bringing them back down at the start of autumn. Devised in the Middle Ages to save precious grass in the valleys for winter stock, the tradition of “summering” has so transformed the countryside into a patchwork of forests and pastures that maintaining its appearance was written into the Swiss Constitution as an essential role of agriculture. It has also knitted together essential threads of the country’s modern identity: alpine cheeses, hiking trails that crisscross summer pastures, cowbells echoing off the mountainsides. In December, the United Nations heritage agency UNESCO added the Swiss tradition to its exalted “intangible cultural heritage” list. But climate change threatens to scramble those traditions. Warming temperatures, glacier loss, less snow and an earlier snow melt are forcing farmers across Switzerland to adapt. …Switzerland has long been considered Europe’s water tower, the place where deep winter snows would accumulate and gently melt through the warmer months, augmenting the trickling runoff from thick glaciers that helped sustain many of Europe’s rivers and its ways of life for centuries. Today, the Alps are warming about twice as fast as the global average, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In the past two years alone, Swiss glaciers have lost 10 percent of their water volume — as much as melted in the three decades from 1960 to 1990…. For GSSClimate Change chapter 8.

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2024-01-18. The global distribution of plants used by humans. [https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.adg8028] By S. PIRONON et al, Science. Abstract: Plants sustain human life. Understanding geographic patterns of the diversity of species used by people is thus essential for the sustainable management of plant resources. Here, we investigate the global distribution of 35,687 utilized plant species spanning 10 use categories (e.g., food, medicine, material). Our findings indicate general concordance between utilized and total plant diversity, supporting the potential for simultaneously conserving species diversity and its contributions to people. Although Indigenous lands across Mesoamerica, the Horn of Africa, and Southern Asia harbor a disproportionate diversity of utilized plants, the incidence of protected areas is negatively correlated with utilized species richness. Finding mechanisms to preserve areas containing concentrations of utilized plants and traditional knowledge must become a priority for the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 1.

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2024-01-10. Small solar sails could be the next ‘giant leap’ for interplanetary space exploration. [https://engineering.berkeley.edu/news/2024/01/small-solar-sails-could-be-the-next-giant-leap-for-interplanetary-space-exploration] By Marni Ellery, Berkeley Engineering. Interview excerpt: …a team of Berkeley researchers […proposed] to build a fleet of low-cost, autonomous spacecraft, each weighing only 10 grams and propelled by nothing more than the pressure of solar radiation. These miniaturized solar sails could potentially visit thousands of near-Earth asteroids and comets, capturing high-resolution images and collecting samples. …They describe their work, the Berkeley Low-cost Interplanetary Solar Sail (BLISS) project, in a study published in the journal Acta Astronautica. The BLISS project brings together researchers from the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences and the Department of Mechanical Engineering, as well as the Berkeley Sensor and Actuator Center and the Space Sciences Laboratory. Their work builds on other small spacecraft projects, including CubeSatsChipSats and the Breakthrough Starshot Initiative, while seeking to improve solar sail maneuverability and further reduce fabrication costs by using low-mass consumer electronics. …Solar sails use a non-consumable propulsion force. They are propelled by sunlight, similar to how a sailboat is propelled by wind. So, unlike other spacecraft, solar sails can travel around the galaxy, or, more specifically, our solar system, without having to carry any fuel or worry about refueling. …this lightbulb went off in my brain. All the work we do in my group is focused on miniaturizing things, and I thought we could miniaturize a solar sail spacecraft. Seeing that you can tack against light pressure made me realize that we could make spacecraft [weighing] 10 grams with almost all off-the-shelf technology. And our latest study provides evidence that this is feasible…. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 2.

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2024-01-19. New type of water splitter could make green hydrogen cheaper. [https://www.science.org/content/article/new-type-water-splitter-could-make-green-hydrogen-cheaper] By ROBERT F. SERVICE, Science. Excerpt: To wean itself off fossil fuels, the world needs cheaper ways to produce green hydrogen—a clean-burning fuel made by using renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Now researchers report a way to avoid the need for a costly membrane at the heart of the water-splitting devices, and to instead produce hydrogen and oxygen in completely separate chambers. As a lab-based proof of concept, the new setup—reported this month in Nature Materials—is a long way from working at an industrial scale. But if successful, it could help heavy industries such as steelmaking and fertilizer production reduce their dependence on oil, coal, and natural gas. …Any successes in eliminating electrolyzer membranes could be a boon to efforts to decarbonize parts of industry most dependent on fossil fuels, he says. “I can not overstate how big of an advantage that is.”…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-01-19. JAPAN’S “SNIPER” MISSION PINPOINTS LANDING ON THE MOON. [https://skyandtelescope.org/astronomy-news/japans-sniper-mission-pinpoints-landing-on-the-moon/] By DAVID DICKINSON, Sky & Telescope. Excerpt: Today, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (SLIM) spacecraft pitched over in its lunar orbit, and began its long descent to the Moon’s surface. Touchdown occurred at 10:20 a.m. EST / 15:20 UT; NASA’s Deep Space Network in Madrid picked up the lander’s signal shortly afterward, but problems have ensued. …SLIM was designed to test the innovative “smart eyes” landing technology, which involves image-matching to aid navigation. The mission was also designed to demonstrate a pinpoint landing, that is, within 100 meters of the target, on a 6- to 8-degree slope. SLIM has a Multi-Band Camera camera on board and, if it is able to, it will deploy two baseball-size rovers on the lunar surface named Lunar Exploration Vehicle 1 and 2. These will hop and roll along the lunar surface, imaging with cameras of their own. If the solar cells are able to charge, SLIM could last about 11 days on the lunar surface. The Sun will set over the landing site on January 30th…. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7.

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2024-01-17. Dogged by climate change and human hunters, a mammoth’s life is written in her tusks. [https://www.science.org/content/article/dogged-climate-change-and-human-hunters-mammoth-s-life-written-her-tusks] By MICHAEL PRICE, Science. Excerpt: …the 14,000-year-old woolly mammoth whose tusks were found in 2009 near Fairbanks, Alaska, …, Elma (for short) needed a life story, which a detailed analysis of the tusks has now provided. Her travels are giving Combs and colleagues a rare glimpse into the ways of her species at the end of the last ice age—and insight into how pressure from a changing climate as well as hunting by early humans may have helped spur mammoths’ extinction…. For GSS Life and Climate chapter 10.

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2024-01-17. Are You a Super Driver? Some States Want to Help You Go Electric. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/17/climate/electric-vehicles-high-mileage-drivers.html] By Brad Plumer, The New York Times. Excerpt: A small share of motorists [who drive, on average, about 110 miles per day] burns about a third of America’s gasoline, a study found. If more of those drivers switched to electric vehicles from gasoline-powered models, it would make a major dent in greenhouse gases from transportation, which have so far been slow to decline, according to a new analysis published on Wednesday by Coltura, an environmental nonprofit group based in Seattle. While the average American driver travels about 13,400 miles per year, people who buy electric vehicles today tend to drive them less than that, limiting the climate benefits of switching to a cleaner car. By contrast, the top 10 percent of motorists in the United States drive an average of about 40,200 miles per year and account for roughly one-third of the nation’s gasoline use. Persuading more of these “gasoline superusers” to go electric would lead to a much faster reduction in emissions, the Coltura report found. …That includes people like Pedro Jimenez, 40, who …can “easily” travel around 150 to 200 miles per day to different job sites…. He …typically spends around $200 to $300 per week on gas…a quarter or more of his pay. …Mr. Jimenez said he recently started thinking about buying an electric pickup truck as a way to save money. …Around 21 million Americans account for 35 percent of the nation’s gasoline use from private light-duty vehicles — cars, pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, vans and minivans. That’s more gasoline than is burned each year in Brazil, Canada and Russia combined…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 9.

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2024-01-16. Can Submerging Seaweed Cool the Climate? [https://eos.org/features/can-submerging-seaweed-cool-the-climate] By Saima May Sidik, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Running Tide is one of many organizations asking whether submerging seaweed could be part of an effective strategy for mitigating climate change. When these algae photosynthesize, they turn carbon dioxide from the upper ocean into biomass. In some parts of the ocean, submerging that biomass below thousands of meters of water could lock its carbon away for hundreds or even thousands of years, drawing down levels of carbon in the atmosphere. …But major questions remain. For example, if growing seaweed depletes the pool of nutrients available for other forms of ocean life, then will it actually increase the ocean’s net carbon storage? What happens to ocean bottom ecosystems if humanity creates giant, underwater seaweed landfills? And how will companies monitor the effects of sending tons of seaweed to a watery grave?…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-01-15. Can foreign coral save a dying reef? Radical idea sparks debate. [https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-024-00102-y] By Heidi Ledford, Nature. Excerpt: Corals in the Caribbean have been dying off for decades — and a devastating heatwave there last summer made matters worse. Researchers are now considering something that was once unthinkable: is it time to give up on native species, and transplant hardier corals from other oceans to struggling Caribbean reefs? It is a radical proposal that could leave the region forever changed. But it is important to explore the possibility now, because the region’s reefs are running out of time, said coral geneticist Mikhail Matz in a presentation at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology annual meeting in Seattle, Washington, on 4 January. …In the oceans of the Indo-Pacific region, many corals are continuing to thrive. Several coral species there are considered ‘super-recruiters’ because of how readily their larvae attach to and colonize reefs. Dominant coral species in the Caribbean, by contrast, are poor recruiters, hindering their ability to recovery from calamity1. …For years, conservation groups have focused on restoring barren reefs by planting thousands of young, native corals in the hope that they would flourish. For the most part, they have not, says Carlos Prada, a coral evolutionary biologist at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 7.

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2024-01-12. Scientists “Astonished” at 2023 Temperature Record. [https://eos.org/articles/scientists-astonished-at-2023-temperature-record] By Grace van Deelen, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: NASA’s and NOAA’s analyses, as well as a report from climate research nonprofit Berkeley Earth, all released Friday, concur that 2023 was a scorcher. NASA and NOAA scientists found that average temperatures were 0.15°C–0.16°C (0.27°F–0.29°F) warmer than temperatures in 2016, the previous hottest year ever recorded. That’s a huge jump, because most records are set on the order of hundredths of degrees Celsius, said Russell Vose, a climate scientist at NOAA and an author on the agency’s analysis, at a press conference. …“We’re still continuing to put greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” Schmidt said. “As long as we continue to do that, temperatures will rise.”…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 7.

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2024-01-11. Comprehensive conservation assessments reveal high extinction risks across Atlantic Forest trees. [https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abq5099] By RENATO A. F. DE LIMA et al, Science. Editor’s summary: Efforts to set conservation priorities and evaluate protection activities often depend on assessments of species’ conservation statuses, such as the International Union for Conservation’s Red List of Threatened Species. Assessments require detailed data, considerable time, and expertise. de Lima et al. used an automated, quantitative method to assess species based on the Red List criteria and applied it to nearly 5000 tree species from the Atlantic Forest, a relatively data-rich biodiversity hotspot in South America. They classified over 80% of endemic species as threatened and 13 species as possibly extinct. Data to estimate population reductions, which are not available in many tropical areas, were key to assessing threatened status for many species. —Bianca Lopez. For GSS A New World View chapter 5.

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2024-01-10. Scientists Investigate How Heat Rises Through Europa’s Ocean. [https://eos.org/research-spotlights/scientists-investigate-how-heat-rises-through-europas-ocean] By Rebecca Owen, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Europa, one of Jupiter’s many moons, may be capable of supporting life because its icy surface likely obscures a deep, salty ocean. Europa’s ocean is also in direct contact with its mantle rocks, and interactions between rock, water, and ice could provide energy to sustain life. Lemasquerier et al. examined the way heating from Europa’s mantle could drive ocean circulation under the icy crust. The researchers modeled Europa’s ocean to further understand how heating patterns from deep inside the moon may affect the thickness of its icy surface. …Mantle heat …comes in two forms. Radiogenic heating is caused by the decay of radioactive materials in the mantle, and tidal heating is caused by the deformation Europa undergoes as it orbits Jupiter and experiences its strong gravitational pull. Tidal heating is uneven; it’s higher at Europa’s poles and lower at the points of the moon that are opposite and facing Jupiter. …if tidal heating is dominant in the mantle, …affecting ice thickness and leaving it thinnest at the poles. However, if radiogenic heating is the dominant type of heating in the mantle, then the ocean would have a relatively small impact on ice thickness. The 2024 Europa Clipper mission could help confirm these model findings…. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 7.

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2024-01-08. US to invest $1bn in plan to move from diesel to electric school buses. [https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2024/jan/08/us-school-buses-diesel-electric] By Aliya Uteuova, The Guardian. Excerpt: The US has announced nearly $1bn in grants to replace diesel-powered school buses with electric and lower-emitting vehicles. The Environmental Protection Agency will disburse funds to 280 school districts serving 7 million children across the country in an effort to curb harmful air pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. …Diesel emissions have been linked to higher rates of asthma, cancer and school absenteeism. Communities of color and people living in low-income neighborhoods are more likely to suffer from higher rates of air pollution. Eighty-six per cent of grant recipients are in school districts that serve low-income, rural and tribal communities, according to the EPA. The new funds mean so far nearly $2bn has been awarded to add about 5,000 clean buses to schools across the country. The program draws from the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law that carved out $5bn to equip schools with clean buses over five years, and is part of a broader federal strategy that aims to spend 40% of investments in environmental justice communities…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 9.

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2024-01-11. Shark kills rise to more than 100 million per year—despite antifinning laws. [https://www.science.org/content/article/shark-kills-rise-more-100-million-year-despite-antifinning-laws] By SEAN CUMMINGS, Science. Excerpt: Two decades ago, public outrage boiled over around shark finning—the practice of cutting off shark fins for traditional medicine and cuisine and casting the mutilated animals back into the water to die. A global onslaught of legislation followed to limit shark catch-and-eliminate finning, widely regarded as a cruel and wasteful fishing method. But fishing-related shark deaths have continued to climb since then, reaching more than 100 million per year in 2019, researchers report today in Science—a trend that could spell trouble for the already-imperiled marine animals…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 1.

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2024-01-11. Shark kills rise to more than 100 million per year—despite antifinning laws. [https://www.science.org/content/article/shark-kills-rise-more-100-million-year-despite-antifinning-laws] By SEAN CUMMINGS, Science. Excerpt: Two decades ago, public outrage boiled over around shark finning—the practice of cutting off shark fins for traditional medicine and cuisine and casting the mutilated animals back into the water to die. A global onslaught of legislation followed to limit shark catch-and-eliminate finning, widely regarded as a cruel and wasteful fishing method. But fishing-related shark deaths have continued to climb since then, reaching more than 100 million per year in 2019, researchers report today in Science—a trend that could spell trouble for the already-imperiled marine animals…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 1.

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2024-01-11. Pattern found in world’s rainforests where 2% of species make up 50% of trees. [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/jan/11/pattern-found-in-worlds-rainforests-where-2-of-species-make-up-50-of-trees] By Patrick Greenfield, The Guardian. Excerpt: Just 2% of rainforest tree species account for 50% of the trees found in tropical forests across Africa, the Amazon and south-east Asia, a new study has found. Mirroring patterns found elsewhere in the natural world, researchers have discovered that a few tree species dominate the world’s major rainforests, with thousands of rare species making up the rest. Led by University College London researchers and published in the Nature journal, the international collaboration of 356 scientists uncovered almost identical patterns of tree diversity across the world’s rainforests, which are the most biodiverse places on the planet. The researchers estimate that just 1,000 species account for half of Earth’s 800 billion trees in tropical rainforests, with 46,000 species making up the remainder. “Our findings have profound implications for understanding tropical forests. If we focus on understanding the commonest tree species, we can probably predict how the whole forest will respond to today’s rapid environmental changes,” said the lead author, Declan Cooper, from the UCL centre for biodiversity and environment research. “This is especially important because tropical forests contain a tremendous amount of stored carbon, and are a globally important carbon sink.”…. For GSS A New World View chapter 5.

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2024-01-11. Take a Look at the First Major Offshore Wind Farm to Power U.S. Homes. [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2024/01/11/nyregion/ny-wind-farm-south-fork.html] By Patrick McGeehan, The New York Times. Excerpt: More than 30 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, the first colossal steel turbines have started spinning at South Fork Wind, turning offshore breezes into electricity that lights homes on Long Island. The rest of the wind farm’s 12 towering turbines are set to be assembled and connected to New York’s power grid early this year. The arrival of this moment in the nation’s transition to renewable energy may seem sudden. But it has come after more than 20 years of contentious debates over its cost, appearance and effect on wildlife…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-01-11. Drought Touches a Quarter of Humanity, U.N. Says, Disrupting Lives Globally. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/11/climate/global-drought-food-hunger.html] By Somini Sengupta, The New York Times. Excerpt: Olive groves have shriveled in Tunisia. The Brazilian Amazon faces its driest season in a century. Wheat fields have been decimated in Syria and Iraq, pushing millions more into hunger after years of conflict. The Panama Canal, a vital trade artery, doesn’t have enough water, which means fewer ships can pass through. And the fear of drought has prompted India, the world’s biggest rice exporter, to restrict the export of most rice varieties. The United Nations estimates that 1.84 billion people worldwide, or nearly a quarter of humanity, were living under drought in 2022 and 2023, the vast majority in low- and middle-income countries. …The many droughts around the world come at a time of record-high global temperatures and rising food-price inflation, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, involving two countries that are major producers of wheat, has thrown global food supply chains into turmoil, punishing the world’s poorest people…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-01-10. US oil lobby launches eight-figure ad blitz amid record fossil fuel extraction. [https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2024/jan/10/oil-ads-lights-on-energy] By Dharna Noor, The Guardian. Excerpt: The American oil lobby has launched an eight-figure media campaign this week promoting the idea that fossil fuels are “vital” to global energy security, alarming climate experts. “US natural gas and oil play a key role in supplying the world with cleaner, more reliable energy,” the new initiative’s website says. The campaign comes amid record fossil fuel extraction in the US, and as the industry is attempting to capitalize on the war in Gaza to escalate production even further, climate advocates say. Launched Tuesday by the nation’s top fossil fuel interest group, the Lights on Energy campaign will work to “dismantle policy threats” to the sector, the American Petroleum Institute (API) CEO, Mike Sommers, told CNN in an interview this week…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 7.

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2024-01-10. Why Humans Are Putting a Bunch of ‘Coal’ and ‘Oil’ Back in the Ground. [https://www.wired.com/story/why-humans-are-putting-a-bunch-of-coal-and-oil-back-in-the-ground/] By Matt Simon, Wired. Excerpt: Startups are processing plant waste into concentrated carbon to be buried or injected underground. It’s like fossil fuels, but in reverse. In a roundabout way, coal is solar-powered. Millions of years ago, swamp plants soaked up the sun’s energy, eating carbon dioxide in the process. They died, accumulated, and transformed over geologic time into energy-dense rock. This solar-powered fuel, of course, is far from renewable, unlike solar panels: Burning coal has returned that carbon to the atmosphere, driving rapid climate change. But what if humans could reverse that process, creating their own version of coal from plant waste and burying it underground? That’s the idea behind a growing number of carbon projects: Using special heating chambers, engineers can transform agricultural and other waste biomass into solid, concentrated carbon. Like those ancient plants captured CO2 and then turned into coal, this is carbon naturally sequestered from the atmosphere, then locked away for (ideally) thousands of years…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-01-09. California grizzlies weren’t as giant and threatening as people once thought. [https://www.science.org/content/article/california-grizzlies-weren-t-giant-and-threatening-people-once-thought] By RODRIGO PÉREZ ORTEGA, Science. Excerpt: More than a century ago, grizzly bears roaming California’s coasts and forests had gained a fearsome reputation for attacking European settlers’ livestock. In 1912, for example, a rancher in Kern County claimed a grizzly bear killed some 200 sheep in a single night. The conflict grew so tense some counties offered bounties to kill the bears. Eventually, California grizzlies—a subspecies of brown bear—were hunted, poisoned, and trapped to local extinction. A new study, however, shows that people’s perceptions of these iconic predators didn’t always match reality: In fact, these bears were mostly herbivores, and weren’t as big or dangerous as many once believed. The work, published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, compared historical descriptions of the size and diet of California grizzly bears with new paleontological data of these traits. …The last California grizzly bear (Ursus arctos californicus) was seen in the wild in 1924…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 1.

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2024-01-09. How CRISPR could yield the next blockbuster crop. [https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-024-00015-w?et_rid=40179168&et_cid=5059475] By Michael Marshall, Nature. Excerpt: In the space of just a few years, Jiayang Li is trying to achieve something that once took people centuries. He wants to turn a wild rice species into a domesticated crop by hacking its genome. And he is already part of the way there. …Li and his co-workers sequenced the [Oryza] alta genome and compared it with that of domestic rice, searching for genes similar to those that control important traits in the conventional crop, such as stem diameter, grain size and seed shattering. They then targeted these genes with customized gene-editing tools, trying to recapitulate some of the genetic changes that make domesticated rice easy to farm1. All the traits improved to some degree, says Li, although the plants still drop their grains too soon. …The modification of this rice is one of a growing number of efforts to rapidly domesticate new crops using genome editing. Through this process, known as de novo domestication, transformations that took the world’s early farmers millennia could be achieved in just a handful of years. The work might improve the resilience of the global food supply: many wild relatives of staple crops have useful traits that could prove valuable when climate change puts stress on global agriculture. …But the technical challenges of de novo domestication are immense. …Targeted gene editing, using tools such as CRISPR–Cas9, is a powerful approach, but it cannot fully replicate the thousands of mutations that have fine-tuned modern domestic crops for growing and harvest…. For GSS Losing Biodiversity chapter 4.

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2024-01-09. 2023 was the hottest year on record—and even hotter than expected. [https://www.science.org/content/article/even-warmer-expected-2023-was-hottest-year-record] By PAUL VOOSEN, Science. Excerpt: …2023 was the hottest year in human history. Average surface temperatures rose nearly 0.2°C above the previous record, set in 2016, to 1.48°C over preindustrial levels, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service reported today. …Humanity’s unabated burning of fossil fuels is the dominant driver of the long-term trend, but it is insufficient to explain 2023’s sudden spike, says Michael Diamond, an atmospheric scientist at Florida State University. …One exacerbating factor was the end of a La Niña climate pattern, which from 2020 to 2022 stirred up an increased amount of deep cold water in the eastern Pacific Ocean that absorbed heat and suppressed global temperatures. In 2023, the pattern flipped into an El Niño event, which blanketed the equatorial Pacific with warm waters and began to boost global temperatures. …But the flip is not enough to explain 2023’s record, Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote in a blog post last week. …Perhaps the best explanation for the extra warming is the continued drop in light-blocking pollution as society shifts to cleaner sources of energy, says Tianle Yuan, an atmospheric physicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. In 2022, satellites began to detect this decrease from space. In 2020, new regulations from the International Maritime Organization added to the effect when ships began to cut sulfur pollution—and inadvertently curbed the light-reflecting clouds that the sulfur particles help create. …Regardless, the long-term warming pattern is certain to continue, as it has for decades—until fossil fuel burning ends…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 4.

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2024-01-09. The New Space Race Is Causing New Pollution Problems. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/09/science/rocket-pollution-spacex-satellites.html] By Shannon Hall, The New York Times. Excerpt: In the past few years, the number of rocket launches has spiked as commercial companies — especially SpaceX…and government agencies have lofted thousands of satellites into low-Earth orbit. …Satellites could eventually total one million, requiring an even greater number of space launches that could yield escalating levels of emissions. …scientists worry that more launches will scatter more pollutants in pristine layers of Earth’s atmosphere. …Already, studies show that the higher reaches of the atmosphere are laced with metals from spacecraft that disintegrate as they fall back to Earth. …By the time a rocket curves into orbit, it will have dumped in the middle and upper layers of the atmosphere as much as two-thirds of its exhaust, which scientists predict will rain down and collect in the lower layer of the middle atmosphere, the stratosphere. The stratosphere is home to the ozone layer, which shields us from the sun’s harmful radiation …is extremely sensitive: Even the smallest of changes can have enormous effects on it — and the world below. …scientists are concerned that black carbon, or soot, that is released from current rockets will act like a continuous volcanic eruption, a change that could deplete the ozone layer and affect the Earth below. …any hydrocarbon fuel produces some amount of soot. And even “green rockets,” propelled by liquid hydrogen, produce water vapor, which is a greenhouse gas at these dry high altitudes. “You can’t take what’s green in the troposphere and necessarily think of it being green in the upper atmosphere,” Dr. Boley said…. For GSS Ozone chapter 9.

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2024-01-08. Researchers Develop Mexico’s First Comprehensive Greenhouse Gas Budget. [https://eos.org/research-spotlights/researchers-develop-mexicos-first-comprehensive-greenhouse-gas-budget] By Rachel Fritts, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Mexico’s greenhouse gas emissions are the second highest among Latin American countries, trailing only Brazil according to the World Bank. But until now, no one had leveraged the full spectrum of available scientific data to make an estimate of sources (such as fossil fuel burning and agriculture) and sinks (such as healthy forests and soils) of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Calculating the country’s greenhouse gas budget could help policymakers develop effective emissions reduction strategies. Murray-Tortarolo et al. calculate Mexico’s first comprehensive greenhouse gas budget based on estimates from multiple data sources of greenhouse gas fluxes in the country between 2000 and 2019. …different sources of data broadly told the same story about anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from sources including fossil fuel burning and agriculture. However, there were discrepancies when it came to natural emissions sources such as wetlands and natural sinks such as forests and soils. In particular, the researchers found that studies may be overestimating the role that land ecosystems play in removing carbon from the atmosphere…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 9.

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2024-01-08. Strong monsoons may have carved a path for early humans out of Africa. [https://www.science.org/content/article/strong-monsoons-may-have-carved-path-early-humans-out-africa] By BRIDGET ALEX, Science. Excerpt: More than 140,000 years ago, East Asia was a much colder, drier place than today—a landscape that likely deterred many African creatures, humans among them, from venturing into the region. Then, some 100,000 years ago, roving members of our species may have reached East Asia and found a rain-soaked, verdant landscape. What changed? According to a new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a strengthening monsoon—and the lushness it lent—helped attract the region’s first Homo sapiens. …Evidence from fossils, artifacts, and DNA has established that H. sapiens evolved in Africa by roughly 300,000 years ago. About 60,000 years ago, the lineage that led to people alive today began to disperse across all of Earth’s habitable lands. …One climatic phenomenon that would have impacted early migrants is the Asian monsoon. Today, this seasonal shift in winds dumps torrential summer rain that nourishes forests and farms across Asia. In winter, Siberian winds bring dry, cold conditions. Paleoclimate records …indicate the monsoon’s intensity has waxed and waned over the millennia, but …. How wet Asia gets, the researchers learned, varies with multiple factors, including greenhouse gas concentrations, the amount of ice covering the Northern Hemisphere, and the intensity of sunlight reaching Earth, ultimately governed by the planet’s tilt, wobble, and solar orbit. Between 125,000 and 70,000 years ago, …East Asia had spells of 27.5°C summers with more rain than the present day—an enticing environment for mammals and the hunter-gatherers tracking them. …Meanwhile, over the same time span, climate in southeastern Africa worsened, the authors found, perhaps pushing humans to find new homelands. For GSS Life and Climate chapter 11.

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2024-01-06. Can $500 Million Save This Glacier?[https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/06/magazine/glacier-engineering-sea-level-rise.html] By on Gertner, The New York Times. Excerpt: …a glacier on Greenland’s west coast…referred to by its Danish name, Jakobshavn…situated on the edge of Greenland’s massive ice sheet, that moves 30 billion to 50 billion tons of icebergs off the island every year. …Glaciologists have identified it as one of the fastest-deteriorating glaciers in the world. …Jakobshavn alone was responsible for 4 percent of the rise in global sea levels during the 20th century. It probably contains enough ice to ultimately push sea levels up at least another foot. …at the bottom of the bay’s entrance…the warm water flows over a sill, a ridge rising several hundred feet above the ocean floor …akin to a threshold that crosses the floor of a doorway between two rooms. [British glaciologist John Moore] and his colleague Michael Wolovick published an article that proposed looking into building a sea wall 100 meters high…on the floor of Disko Bay. Raising the sill, using gravel and sand, could reduce the warm water in the fiord and allow Jakobshavn to thicken naturally and stabilize. …If the idea proved workable in the Arctic, it could be translated to Antarctica, where much larger glaciers in the Amundsen Sea, especially one known as Thwaites, threaten to raise sea levels substantially. …geoengineering seeks to reduce the impacts of climate change and to buy us more time as we transition to a zero-carbon world. …A number of glaciologists…view Moore’s idea for protecting glaciers as technically or ethically problematic. …geoengineering, in general terms…only addresses — at best — some of its impacts. Of more direct concern…seabed curtains in the Arctic might affect ecosystems and fisheries…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-01-05. Protecting and connecting landscapes stabilizes populations of the Endangered savannah elephant. [https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.adk2896] By RYAN M. HUANG , CELESTÉ MARÉROBERT A. R. GULDEMOND , STUART L. PIMM, AND RUDI J. VAN AARDEA, Science. Excerpt: African savannahs cover …almost half of the continent, of which 10% is protected (1) and …16% sustain globally Endangered savannah elephants (Loxodonta africana) (2). These savannahs are also home to half a billion people, leading to high levels of human-wildlife conflict. …conservation “fortresses,” creates relatively small, isolated habitat islands that keep elephants in and humans out. This separation reduces human-wildlife conflict (3) but limits dispersal since fences or adjacent human-dominated landscapes prevent movement. An alternative solution found throughout southern Africa is clusters of well-protected areas …that form a core area connected to less-protected buffer areas …that allow for human activities (4). …Elephant population growth rates across southern African protected areas follow several patterns: …Across sites, more strictly protected areas…hold populations that typically grow and are much less likely to show sharp declines than populations in buffer areas…. In regions with historically high incidences of poaching, protection appears to prevent population declines. Protected sites also show more consistent changes in numbers from year to year than buffer areas…. For GSS Population Growth chapter 3.

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2024-01-04. Mapping the Moon to Shield Astronauts from Radiation. [https://eos.org/articles/mapping-the-moon-to-shield-astronauts-from-radiation] By Sierra Bouchér, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: In October 1989, the Sun spit a blast of high-energy particles into the solar system. Earth’s protective magnetic field kept us safe, but the Moon received an intense dose: More than 8 times the radiation received by plant workers during the Chernobyl nuclear disaster scorched the barren lunar surface. As NASA’s Artemis III mission prepares to return explorers to the Moon in 2025, scientists are working to protect them from this kind of unpredictable outburst from the Sun and other radiation from deep space. To do this, they’re turning to the Moon’s natural barriers. By mapping the topography of the lunar surface, researchers have calculated the shielding potential of each mountain range, crater wall, and shadowed slope near the south pole—Artemis III’s target. Their work will guide decisionmaking for the landing location of this mission and beyond…. For GSS A Changing Cosmos chapter 3.

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2024-01-03. Human activity is powering ‘a new industrial revolution’ at sea, say experts. [https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/jan/03/human-activity-is-powering-a-new-industrial-revolution-at-sea-say-experts] By Karen McVeigh, The Guardian. Excerpt: Researchers using AI and satellite imagery find 75% of industrial fishing is not being publicly tracked, while wind turbines now outnumber oil platforms. For GSS Energy Use chapter 10.

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2024-01-04. Canada’s Logging Industry Devours Forests Crucial to Fighting Climate Change. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/04/world/canada/canada-boreal-forest-logging.html] By Ian Austen and Vjosa Isai, The New York Times. Excerpt: Canada has long promoted itself globally as a model for protecting one of the country’s most vital natural resources: the world’s largest swath of boreal forest, which is crucial to fighting climate change. But a new study using nearly half a century of data from the provinces of Ontario and Quebec — two of the country’s main commercial logging regions — reveals that harvesting trees has inflicted severe damage on the boreal forest that will be difficult to reverse. Researchers led by a group from Griffith University in Australia found that since 1976 logging in the two provinces has caused the removal of 35.4 million acres of boreal forest, an area roughly the size of New York State. While nearly 56 million acres of well-established trees at least a century old remain in the region, logging has shattered this forest, leaving behind a patchwork of isolated stands of trees that has created a landscape less able to support wildlife, according to the study…. For GSS A New World View chapter 6.

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2024-01-05. Why are France, Germany and England flooded – and is climate change to blame? [https://www.euronews.com/green/2024/01/05/why-are-france-germany-and-england-flooded-and-is-climate-change-to-blame] By Angela Symons with AP. Excerpt: El Nino, sea level rise and outdated defences have exposed European communities to devastating flooding. Heavy rains have pummelled Germany, France and the Netherlands over the last two weeks, causing persistent flooding and even one death in France. …Above-average ocean temperatures – partly due to the El Nino weather pattern – are causing evaporation and therefore more rain in low-lying regions. And sea level rise is causing rivers to burst their banks more frequently. In recent days, low-lying communities in northern France have faced power cuts, flooded streets and evacuations due to heavy rainfall. Rising sea levels have likely contributed to this: between 1957 and 2017, sea levels at Dunkirk rose by 9 cm. From 1966 to 2018, Calais saw a 4.4 cm rise…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 8.

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2024-01-04. In Juneau, Alaska, a carbon offset project that’s actually working. [https://grist.org/energy/in-juneau-alaska-a-carbon-offset-project-thats-actually-working/] By Taylor Kate Brown, Grist. Excerpt: When Kira Roberts moved to Juneau, Alaska, last summer, she immediately noticed how the town of 31,000 changes when the cruise ships dock each morning. Thousands of people pour in, only to vanish by evening. As the season winds down in fall, the parade of buses driving through her neighborhood slows, and the trails near her home and the vast Mendenhall Glacier no longer teem with tourists. …But Mendenhall is shrinking quickly: The 13-mile-long glacier has retreated about a mile in the past 40 years. Getting all those tourists to Juneau — some 1.5 million this summer by cruise ship alone — requires burning the very thing contributing to its retreat: fossil fuels. …In an effort to mitigate a portion of that CO2, some of those going whale watching or visiting the glacier are asked to pay a few dollars to counter their emissions. The money goes to the Alaska Carbon Reduction Fund, but instead of buying credits from some distant (and questionable) offset project, the nonprofit spends that cash installing heat pumps, targeting residents like Roberts who rely upon oil heating systems. Heat pumps are “a no-brainer” in Juneau’s mild (for Alaska) winters, said Andy Romanoff, who administers the fund. Juneau’s grid relies on emissions-free hydropower, so electricity is cheaper and less polluting than oil heat. They also save residents money — Roberts said she was paying around $500 a month on heating oil, and has seen her electricity bill climb just $30…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 10.

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2024-01-01. China Auto Giant BYD Sells More Electric Vehicles Than Ever. [https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/01/business/byd-2023-sales.html] By Claire Fu and Rich Barbieri, The New York Times. Excerpt: The Chinese corporate giant BYD said Monday that it sold three million battery-powered cars in 2023, its most ever, capping a turbulent year for China’s electric vehicle industry. …BYD last year sold 1.6 million fully electric vehicles and another 1.4 million hybrids, which are powered by both batteries and gasoline. Together that is a 62 percent increase over 2022. BYD is also making money, tripling its profit to $1.5 billion in the first half of last year. …the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers… said it expected sales in 2024 to rise again, to 11.5 million. …companies are pouring money into factories and research, often fueled by loans from state-owned banks and assistance from municipalities…. For GSS Energy Use chapter 9.

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2023-12-26. Is climate change speeding up? Here’s what the science says. [https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2023/12/26/global-warming-accelerating-climate-change/] By Chris Mooney and Shannon Osaka, The Washington Post. Excerpt: In a paper published last month, climate scientist James E. Hansen and a group of colleagues argued that the pace of global warming is poised to increase by 50 percent in the coming decades, with an accompanying escalation of impacts. …University of Pennsylvania climate scientist Michael Mann has argued that no acceleration is visible yet: “The truth is bad enough,” he wrote in a blog post. …Between 1880 and 1969, the planet warmed slowly — at a rate of around 0.04 degrees Celsius (0.07 degrees Fahrenheit) per decade. But starting around the early 1970s, warming accelerated — reaching 0.19 degrees C (0.34 degrees F) per decade between 1970 and 2023. That acceleration isn’t controversial. …some scientists believe that the temperature data is simply not yet showing an impending acceleration…. For GSS Climate Change chapter 7.

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2023-02-00. . [] By . Excerpt: … For GSS chapter .