Archive for the ‘climate change’ Category

Beautiful Yet Unnerving Photos of the Arctic Getting Greener

November 30th, 2020
Using tricked-out drones, scientists are watching vegetation boom in the far north. Their findings could have big implications for the whole planet.

Posted in climate change, science, Science / Environment | Comments (0)

Want to offset your carbon footprint? Here’s what you need to know

November 25th, 2020
Want to offset your carbon footprint? Here’s what you need to know

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church offered indulgences, letting people exchange donations for slips of paper that promised reduced time in purgatory after their death. Less controversially, today someone who over-indulges in the office tea supply might feel obliged to pay for a replacement box. Do carbon offsets more closely resemble the former or the latter?

There are many reasons why you might seek to offset part of your carbon footprint, whether it’s to assuage a general feeling of guilt for your lifestyle, to precisely cover the estimated emissions of a flight, or just to do something beneficial for the environment. Regardless of motivation, all these efforts are predicated on the belief that the money you paid truly will result in the removal of the promised amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. Otherwise, you’re paying for a lie—or at least getting a smaller box of tea than you ordered.

Finding out whether you've been lied to is genuinely difficult. Here’s what you need to know.

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Posted in carbon offset, climate change, Features, greenhouse gas emissions, negative emissions, science | Comments (0)

Newest climate models shouldn’t raise future warming projections

November 17th, 2020
Newest climate models shouldn’t raise future warming projections

Enlarge (credit: Brunner et al./ESD)

One notable storyline in the climate system over the past year or two has been the effort to make sense of the latest generation of climate models. In service of the next Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, the world’s climate models have submitted their simulations to the latest database, known as CMIP6. These submissions showed that updates to a number of models had made them more sensitive to greenhouse gases, which means they project greater amounts of future warming.

Apart from diagnosing the behavior responsible for that change, climate scientists have also wrestled with the implications. Should we be alarmed by the results, or are they outliers? Climate models are only one tool among many for estimating Earth’s true “climate sensitivity,” so their behavior has to be considered in the full context of all the other evidence.

For a number of reasons, research is converging on the idea that the high temperature projections are outliers; these hotter models seem to be too hot. That will present a challenge for the scientists working on the next IPCC report: how much influence should these outliers have on projections of future warming?

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Posted in climate change, climate models, Earth science, science | Comments (0)

US left the Paris Agreement Wednesday—here’s how it could get back in

November 4th, 2020
A photograph of the Eiffel Tower.

Enlarge (credit: Gary Campbell-Hall / Flickr)

Midway through 2017, President Donald Trump announced that the United States intended to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, an international accord to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But the structure of the Paris Agreement meant that the withdrawal couldn’t take place until late 2020. On Wednesday, the US officially exited the agreement, abandoning its pledges.

President Trump’s stated reason for withdrawing—he claimed it was too expensive and unfair to the United States—didn’t really jibe with the design of the agreement, which was based on voluntary pledges that could be updated over time. (He also exaggerated the agreement’s costs and downplayed its benefits.) Of course, he has repeatedly dismissed the science of climate change, which certainly influenced his decision.

But is this the end of US involvement in the Paris Agreement? That still depends entirely on the outcome of the election. But rejoining the agreement is much easier than quitting it.

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Posted in climate change, paris agreement, science | Comments (0)

Is It Better to Plant Trees or Let Forests Regrow Naturally?

October 31st, 2020
Nations are pledging to plant billions of trees. But a new study shows that we've underestimated the power of natural forest regrowth to fight climate change.

Posted in climate change, science, Science / Environment | Comments (0)

Australia’s Koalas Are ‘Sliding Towards Extinction’

October 3rd, 2020
The species is among 28 animals being assessed for potential upgrade of their threat status as their numbers plummet following sweeping bushfires.

Posted in climate change, science, Science / Environment | Comments (0)

By 2035, new trucks and cars sold in California must be emissions-free

September 23rd, 2020
The words Mad Gas 2035 are printed in a Mad Max Fury Road typeface.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

On Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order requiring that all new passenger cars and trucks sold in the state from 2035 be zero-emissions vehicles. Additionally, all drayage trucks—the ones that move containers around at places like the Port of Los Angeles—must also go emissions free by this date, as well as off-road vehicles and equipment. Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles get an extra decade to comply, but by 2045 these too must ditch internal combustion engines.

Although this is the first such ICE ban in the United States, Governor Newsom is following in the footsteps of policymakers in Europe, China, and elsewhere. In 2016, Paris, Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City announced bans on new diesel vehicles from 2025. The same year, Germany's Bundesrat voted to outlaw new ICE vehicles from 2030, although this was not a binding resolution.

The following year, France announced that new ICE vehicles would be banned from 2040. The UK also picked 2040 as the end of new gasoline and diesel vehicles within its borders, a timeline that in February was brought forward by five years to 2035, then this past Monday it was brought forward another five years, to 2030. And China is also phasing out internal combustion vehicles, albeit over a longer timeline.

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Posted in California, California air resources board, cars, climate change, diesel, gasoline, Policy, Zero-emissions vehicle | Comments (0)

What’s in wildfire smoke, and how dangerous is it?

September 19th, 2020
Juniper Hills, CA, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020 - A fire engine drives into air thick with smoke along Juniper Hills Rd. as the Bobcat Fire advances North into the Antelope Valley.

Enlarge / Juniper Hills, CA, Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020 - A fire engine drives into air thick with smoke along Juniper Hills Rd. as the Bobcat Fire advances North into the Antelope Valley. (credit: Robert Gauthier | Getty Images)

The West Coast’s wildfire crisis is no longer just the West Coast’s wildfire crisis: As massive blazes continue to burn across California, Oregon, and Washington, they’re spewing smoke high into the atmosphere. Winds pick the haze up and transport it clear across the country, tainting the skies above the East Coast.

But what are you breathing, exactly, when these forests combust and waft smoke near and far? Charred trees and shrubs, of course, but also the synthetic materials from homes and other structures lost in the blazes. Along with a variety of gases, these give off tiny particles, known as PM 2.5 (particulate matter 2.5 microns or smaller), that weasel their way deep into human lungs. All told, the mixture of solids and gases actually transforms chemically as it crosses the country, creating different consequences for the health of humans thousands of miles apart. In other words, what you breathe in, and how hazardous it remains, may depend on how far you live from the Pacific coast.

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Posted in anthropogenic climate change, climate change, science, wildfires | Comments (0)

What’s Causing the Mass Bird Die-Off in the Southwest?

September 19th, 2020
Thousands of migrating birds have died, perhaps starved by drier conditions related to climate change or by having to fly inland to avoid wildfire smoke.

Posted in climate change, science, Science / Environment | Comments (0)

Why Amazon is backing this former Tesla executive’s recycling startup

September 17th, 2020
Empty phone batteries are sorted by the company Accurec Recycling GmbH.

Enlarge / Empty phone batteries are sorted by the company Accurec Recycling GmbH. (credit: Ina Fassbender | Getty Images)

Tesla cofounder JB Straubel has been funded by Amazon for Redwood Materials, a start-up aiming to extract lithium, cobalt and nickel from old smartphones and other electronics for reuse in new electric batteries.

Redwood is one of five companies Amazon is investing in as part of its $2 billion Climate Pledge Fund, announced this year.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, said in a statement that this first batch of companies were “channelling their entrepreneurial energy into helping Amazon and other companies reach net zero by 2040 and keep the planet safer for future generations.”

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Posted in amazon, batteries, cars, climate change, Policy, recycling, science | Comments (0)