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Climate change
September 28, 2018

The Earth is already ruined, so why bother trying to save it?

The Trump administration released a report characterizing climate change as a lost cause, arguing that aggressive steps to curb rising global temperatures aren't necessary since they won't halt catastrophic damage anyway, The Washington Post reported Friday. An environmental impact statement for a decision to freeze fuel efficiency standards predicted that we are currently on track for a 7-degree increase in average global temperatures by the end of the century.

An increase of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 4 degrees Celsius, would bring devastating and deadly consequences to most of the world. So if that's our fate, argues the report, what's the point in trying to fight it? It would be much more fun to go out with a fossil-fueled bang, since increasing greenhouse gas emissions slightly would only make a tiny difference in our inevitable heat-induced deaths, the statement suggests.

Governments would need to take drastic measures to sufficiently decrease carbon emissions, which "would require the economy and the vehicle fleet to move away from the use of fossil fuels, which is not currently technologically feasible or economically feasible," reads the report.

"The amazing thing they're saying is human activities are going to lead to this rise of carbon dioxide that is disastrous for the environment and society," scientist Michael MacCracken told the Post. "And then they're saying they're not going to do anything about it." Read more at The Washington Post. Summer Meza

September 27, 2018

A United Nations report published Thursday found that the world is "nowhere near on track" to meet goals in reducing the effects of climate change, reports The Guardian.

World governments committed to taking steps that would keep global warming in check, determining that 1.5 degrees Celsius on average is the maximum temperature increase the world can sustain before melting ice caps and deadly heatwaves bring catastrophic change to much of the globe. But "we are moving way too slowly" to avoid surpassing that limit, said Ola Elvestuen, Norway's environment minister.

The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that governments need to drastically decrease their greenhouse gas emissions. A co-author of the report, Drew Shindell, said eliminating fossil fuels like coal and quickly transitioning to solar or wind energy would help — but world leaders are way behind schedule. "While it's technically possible, it's extremely improbable, absent a real sea change in the way we evaluate risk," said Shindell. "We are nowhere near that."

Other world leaders told The Guardian that President Trump's embrace of "clean coal" and decision to exit the Paris climate agreement has made things harder on everyone. "It's a lot more difficult without the U.S. as a leader in climate change negotiations," said Elvestuen. "We have to find solutions even though the U.S. isn't there." But the president of the Marshall Islands, Hilde Heine, says other nations should follow in their footsteps and commit to zero emissions by 2050. "If we can do it," she said, "so can everyone else." Read more at The Guardian. Summer Meza

September 10, 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency could announce as early as this week its plan to roll back Obama-era regulations requiring oil and gas companies to monitor and repair methane leaks, The New York Times reports.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and it often escapes into the atmosphere from leaky oil and gas wells. The Times reviewed documents showing that the EPA will propose weakening the requirements that oil and gas drillers perform leak inspections every six months and repair any leaks detected within 30 days, making it so they only have to inspect pipes and wells every one or two years and make repairs within 60 days. The proposal also lets energy companies follow state methane standards rather than federal rules.

If this proposal is implemented, the Times reports, oil and gas companies would recoup nearly all the costs that would have been imposed by the Obama-era rule, estimated at $530 million by 2025, and save $484 million by the same year. Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance, told the Times that the Obama-era regulation "was the definition of red tape," and "it all depends on who you trust. That administration trusted environmentalists. This one trusts industry." Catherine Garcia

August 27, 2018

From flooding to wildfires to off-season storms, humans have seen many consequences of climate change. But perhaps one of the least-known repercussions is the worldwide presence of tiny specks of solid particles and liquid droplets that have infiltrated our atmosphere. Whenever you take a breath, chances are you're inhaling many of these "aerosols."

NASA last week published a telling image that will give you an idea of how bad the problem really is:

(NASA/Joshua Stevens/Adam Voiland)

This stunning visualization is based on data collected last Thursday, Aug. 23, as wildfires, cyclones, and hurricanes plagued our planet, Engadget reported Monday. Each brightly-colored area represents a worrisome concentration of aerosols in the air.

NASA modeled this map using data from the Goddard Earth Observing System, using different colors to represent different types of aerosols. Red signals carbon emissions caused by fires or vehicle emissions, blue represents the sea spray absorbed into the air during a hurricane, and purple indicates high volumes of dust particles, Inverse explained.

While it may look beautiful, the map paints a picture that has many experts worried about the quality of the air we breathe. Learn more about the map and what it represents at Engadget. Shivani Ishwar

August 15, 2018

Most people agree that climate change is a huge problem for the modern world. And for many, stopping the warming of the Earth — let alone reversing the damage that has already been done — seems impossible.

But maybe not for much longer.

A group of scientists from Trent University in Ontario, Canada, have discovered a way to use a naturally-occurring mineral to tackle one of the biggest culprits behind climate change: carbon dioxide. The buildup of it and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are what causes the Earth's temperature to rise. But the formation of magnesite, a mineral comprised of magnesium, oxygen, and carbon, has the power to take that harmful carbon dioxide back out of our atmosphere, Popular Mechanics reported.

On its own, magnesite forms incredibly slowly in nature — it can take up to hundreds or even thousands of years, Newsweek explained. But this team of researchers has created a method to form the mineral in just 72 days. The process is sustainable and "extremely energy efficient," said Ian Power, the project leader, in a statement at the Goldschmidt Conference, an international conference on the field of geochemistry.

Of course, forming magnesite in a lab is still a far cry from actually deploying it to fight climate change, Inverse reported. But reducing atmospheric carbon is seen as the single most powerful thing we can do to protect the Earth from worsening climate change — and this promising research may develop into a real strategy.

Read more about magnesite and the way it works at Popular Mechanics. Shivani Ishwar

April 19, 2018

For Earth Day, Lyft has announced that it will be putting millions towards offsetting the emissions from its cars in order to make customers' trips entirely carbon neutral, CNN reports. But the plan will last a lot longer than just Earth Day 2018: The company promises to make its trips carbon neutral for the foreseeable future as a means of fighting climate change.

In the words of co-founder John Zimmer: "With great scale comes great responsibility."

Lyft will use the make, model, and miles driven by the cars of its employees to determine exactly how much CO2 it needs to offset. The company plans to donate money to projects related to forestry, renewable energy, and landfill emissions.

"As we continue to grow the business, we continue to think about finding ways to have the most positive impact possible on the cities and people that are part of our community," Zimmer said. Jeva Lange

February 7, 2018

President Trump's Environmental Protection Agency has come down hard on rejecting the scientific consensus on climate change, even silencing a report by the Narragansett Bay Estuary Program last fall that detailed how climate change is affecting everything from precipitation to air and water temperatures. Now the EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, has gone as far as to suggest that climate change might not "necessarily" be "a bad thing."

Pruitt appeared on Nevada's KSNV on Tuesday, where he rhetorically wondered, "Is [climate change] an existential threat?" He added: "We know that humans have flourished during times of … warming trends," and said it was merely "assumptions" that "because the climate is warming that that necessarily is a bad thing."

While it is true mankind has flourished when there is not a literal ice age, researchers predict that 150,000 people could die a year in Europe from climate change-related extreme weather events by the end of the century.

Pruitt has a long history of frustrating the scientific community with his comments about climate change, such as expressing doubt over whether carbon dioxide from human activity is a driving factor behind the environmental changes being recorded. Last fall, The Lancet reported that there were more than 9 million premature deaths from pollution in 2015, and that if not addressed, pollution "threatens the continuing survival of human societies." Jeva Lange

November 4, 2017

A major federal report published by 13 agencies Friday names humans as the primary cause of global climate change.

"This assessment concludes, based on extensive evidence, that it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century," the document says. "For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence."

This runs afoul of the Trump administration's stance on the subject. A White House response highlighted a line in the report about "remaining uncertainty," noted "the climate has changed and is always changing," and promoted access to "affordable and reliable energy needed to grow economically." Bonnie Kristian

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