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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2024-02-22. 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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2024-02-22. 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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2024-02-00. . [template] By . Excerpt: . For GSS chapter .

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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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2024-01-00. . [template] By . Excerpt: . For GSS chapter .

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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 .