Category: Environmental Science

Researchers Find that Air Pollution Reduces Life Expectancy in Utah

by Arun

Since the beginning of the industrial age of America sparked by the Industrial Revolution, the country’s air quality has begun to worsen significantly. Recently, these issues have been brought to light as the issue of climate change is now being brought into the political light. A recent study done at Brigham Young University (BYU) highlights the pressing nature of the need to address the current climate crisis, as they found that the state’s poor air quality affects both the state’s economy and its residents’ longevity. 

The study, led by graduate student Isabella Errigo, concluded that air pollution in Utah has resulted from anywhere between 2,500 and 8,000 premature annual deaths, in addition to reducing the median life expectancy from a range of 1.1 to 3.6 years. To reach these results, the study employed an approach called “expert assessment,” which goes through freely available and cited research from scientific studies in conjunction with expert opinions to make a conclusion. From their analysis, the researchers were able to identify both the diseases and economic damage that came as a result of the poor air quality.

What was surprising, however, was the startling economic impact of the poor air quality. The researchers found that anywhere from $750 million to $3.3 billion were lost due to poor air conditions as a primary result of crop damage, health care expenses, and lost tourism.

The state has been at work to combat these issues, as outlined in the Utah Roadmap to Clean Air, which outlines regulations that will save the state approximately $500 million annually as soon as 2030.

Poor air quality has been on the rise across the country, and it is clear that it is having both severe economic and health impacts. Utah is working to address these issues, and as more states follow, the future of carbon neutrality for America looks to be happening sooner than later.

Image: https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/GettyImages-687918212.jpg

Global Warming is Threatening the Survival of UK Wildlife

by Arun

The ongoing climate crisis is having an effect on all facets of life, such as politics, business, and daily lifestyle, and global leaders have taken notice of their trend and are starting to prioritize the fight against global warming in their agenda. Beyond humans and Earth-preservation, the largest victim group of human-induced climate change is perhaps the wildlife. This is exemplified in the United Kingdom (UK), where new research shows that warming temperatures have outpaced wildlife adaptation time and the survival of several wildlife species is now on the edge of extinction.

According to The Guardian, research suggests that “researching and connecting species-rich wild habitat across 30% of Britain’s land and sea by 2030 could save a fifth of species from climate-driven habitat loss, decline, or extinction.” Furthermore, organizations have common together to support the cause and help fight back against the at-risk wildlife by relocating them to cleaner areas. However, these organizations observe that large scale and sustained impact is impossible without lasting and extended support, which is not all-so-present currently.

One of these organizations, Rewilding Britain, “is proposing a network of rewilding areas in native forests, peat bogs, moorlands, heaths, grasslands, saltmarshes, and living reefs, without any loss of productive farmland.” Through this process, the organization hopes to make existing land without a more densely populated wildlife, in a manner that does not coincide with human processes.

The steps made by British organizations are clearly in the right direction as the country is working together and carrying out tangible tasks in an effort to effectively mitigate global warming and support the preservation of wildlife. The outcomes are promising, but the organizations can not do it alone. Widespread support and action, they say, are the keys to effectively combat global warming. Without everyone coming together, global warming simply can not be addressed.

Image: https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/41ad05733a4fa73aa73fb2c24c54e95d6a567464/0_155_3200_1919/master/3200.jpg?width=620&quality=45&auto=format&fit=max&dpr=2&s=ed5f244a8deed8e18b5a8884aa44806c

US Department on Energy makes Statement Regarding Emissions of Electric Vehicles

by Kaushal Kumar

Recently, the US Department of Energy put to bed the myth that electric vehicles are worse, or not any better for the environment than gasoline-powered vehicles. This statement was made in response to a mass internet campaign claiming that due to the amount of energy and resources needed to form batteries for electric vehicles and the complications that come with disposing of them or re-using them, and that electric vehicles are not any better for the environment than gasoline power vehicles. An example of this campaign is a Facebook post, claiming that a 1000 pound electric battery requires 500,000 pounds of raw material to create, therefore making the vehicle it is placed in just as damaging to the environment. However, this claim has recently been proven false. The US Department of Energy recently compared the lifecycle emissions of fully-electric, hybrid, and gasoline-powered vehicles, finding that electric vehicles do, in nearly all cases, have fewer emissions than a gasoline-powered car. 

However, this barrage of misinformation does not only include internet memes and popular Facebook posts. In 2019, a German study claimed that the Tesla Model 3, a fully electric car, emitted just as much CO2 into the atmosphere as a Mercedes C-Class vehicle with a diesel engine. This was recently proven to be false with the co-author of the new study, Auke Hoekstra explaining, “A Tesla Model 3 currently emits 65% less CO2 than a Mercedes C-Class.” 

The disinformation regarding electric vehicles is an obstacle that will forever be a challenge to the renewable energy automobile industry. Critics and skeptics will continue to attack these new vehicles with factless claims and arguments. As the popularity of electric vehicles increases, so will the volume of this slander. 

Even the idea that the US Department of Energy felt that they had to make a statement on this proves the difficulty of our battle against climate change. A fact that seemed so obvious is something that people are willing to discredit and lie about. The fight against climate change is very much one about the battle for truth, with one side claiming they have the truth and the other side proving that they do. Ultimately, it is the role of the reader to sift through the lies and exaggerations of the deniers and find for themselves what the science supports.

Image: https://www.wuwm.com/sites/wuwm/files/styles/x_large/public/202002/AdobeStock_79753939.jpeg

European Union Votes for 60% Cut in Emissions by 2030

by Nakul

This past week marked a landmark event in the European Union’s attempt to strive towards a greener Europe. The member countries by 60% in the European Parliament unanimously voted in favor of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its 2 comparisons to 1990. The proposal won the support of 392 Members of European Parliament (MEPs), with 161 MEPs voting against and 142 MEPs abstaining, as The Guardian reported. Previously, the goal had been set for a 40% emission reduction, and the European Commission recommended a maximum decrease of 55%. However, the EU simply rejected this suggestion, with the environmental committee leader Pascal Canfin explaining, “Having the parliament supporting 60% helps the progressive countries in the council to drive ambition upwards”. 

Support for the Decision

Evidently, many individuals were heavily in favor of the outcome of the vote, and many gave public statements to express their sentiments. Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout stated, “This vote shows that the European Parliament is listening to the science…”. Similarly, Swedish MEP Jytee Guteland explained, “The adoption of the report sends a clear message to the Commission and the Council, in light of the upcoming negotiations. We expect all member states to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest and we need strong interim targets in 2030 and 2040 for the EU to achieve”. Imke Lübbeke of WWF supported the decision but also explained that “[The] 60% result needs to be taken up by Member States so we can take real steps towards a green economic recovery and a planet that thrives.”

Opposition to the Decision

Right-wing politicians of many member countries were not impressed by the vote, to say the least. German politician and member of Parliament Peter Liese stated, “I regret that the majority in the European Parliament did not support the European Commission’s Climate Law proposal but voted for the overambitious 60%”. Liese was in favor of the 55% recommended cut in emissions, but felt that the 60% cut risked too many jobs. French MEP Agnes Evren concurred, saying “Going beyond 55% would endanger jobs. Let’s not be ideological”. Canfin responded to these claims, arguing, “There is no trade-off between prosperity and climate action. On the contrary, the cost of inaction is much higher than the cost of action”.
Ultimately, this vote by the European Union indubitably displays its authentic attempts to work towards establishing a more eco-friendly environment. Whether the member countries will accept this ambitious decision remains to be seen; as of now, there is not majority support among the member states of the 60% vote.

Image: https://euobserver.com/opinion/140843

Protecting Peat Bogs Can Avert Global Warming Effects

by Anshul Dash

According to European researchers, preserving and restoring peat bogs is crucial in combatting climate change.

These researchers recently conducted a study of the peat bogs at the molecular level. They discovered that wetlands contain carbon in the form of vegetation that is decaying. This vegetation has been building up over centuries, which is why there are large amounts of carbon in these wetlands. Peat bogs can help to achieve climate change goals set out by the Paris Agreement. One of those goals was to limit industrial warming to 2º C. Without guaranteed protection of these bogs, however, reaching these goals will be extremely difficult.

There are peat bogs all over the world. Although peat bogs make up just 3 percent of the Earth’s landmass, their inner layers have twice as much carbon as the biggest forests. The carbon is intact and wet in moisturized bogs, but it starts to oxidize when these bogs are dry. As a result, carbon dioxide is formed and released, aggravating the effects of global warming. Scientists have stated that current estimates of carbon dioxide emissions from peat bogs match that of global air travel emissions. This emission process can also be accelerated due to fires, thus playing a huge risk to global warming.

Dry peat bogs can be restored through the addition of water, which moisturizes the bogs. The decaying vegetation will then be saturated, preventing the carbon from oxidizing. This can also prevent the bogs from catching on fire since they’re damp from the water. Scientists have predicted that most counter-climate change pathways, such as agriculture and forests, store more carbon than the amount released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, thus slowing the effects and process of global warming. Scientists also calculate that protecting wet peat bogs and moisturizing 60 percent of the dry ones will help with this process.

There have been many conservational efforts to protect peat bogs because of their role in climate change. If left to degrade and dry up, peat bogs can work against our favor and accelerate the effects of climate change. However, through simple acts such as adding water to these bogs and protecting them, climate change can be mitigated to a huge extent.

Image: https://c.pxhere.com/photos/94/36/high_hires_iwate_wetlands_resolution_5d_hi_res-792753.jpg!d

Antarctic Melting Will Threaten the Lives of Millions in the Near Future

by Kaushal Kumar

During the world’s current battle against climate change, we always hear the impacts that global warming is having on the Arctic. We hear the concerns of environmental scientists on the melting of large amounts of ice in the North and the ramifications that come with it like rising oceans and the release of gas that has been trapped within the ice for centuries, but a recent study shows that global warming may also create “practically irreversible” melting in the Antarctic as well.

According to this report, climate change has and will continue to impact the speed at which the ice at the South Pole will melt. Experts claim, however, that not all warming will lead to the loss of ice, but actually, a small amount of warming will lead to an increase in the amount of ice in the South. This is caused because the increased temperature will speed up the evaporation of seawater, adding more moisture to the air. This extra moisture will create more snowfall in the Antarctic and this increase in snowfall will actually overpower the impact that the small amount of warming has on the speed that the ice melts. 

However, this does not hold up for many more than a small amount of temperature gain. Scientists believe that any more than a rise in temperature of 2 degrees Celsius will have major impacts on the rate that the ice in the Antarctic will melt. With a change of only 2 degrees, they expect sea levels to rise by 2 meters, which the globe is on track to hit by 2100. Even worse heating of 6-9 degrees Celsius could cause ocean levels to rise by as much as 40 meters just from the melting of the ice sheets in the Antarctic alone.

While 2 meters may not seem like much, the impacts that this will have on human life are immense. Today, an estimated two-thirds of the entire human population lives at least 100km from a coast. More than 600 million people live on land that is below 30 feet above sea level and two-thirds of the world’s largest cities (populations over 5 million) are also in these regions. A rise of only 7 feet could displace tens of millions of people, and cause trillions of dollars in damage. With the rate of the warming of the globe only rising, scientists are unsure if we will beat the clock or be forced to adapt to the quickly rising oceans.

Image: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/Travel/2020/January/budget-bucket-antarctica-(1).jpg

Take Down the Climate Crisis Countdown Clock

by Anna Subbanna

Recently, Union Square’s midnight countdown clock has been changed to a climate crisis countdown clock. Sprawled across the facade of the building facing the square, are large numbers constantly reminding the people walking by that there are only seven years left to save the planet from climate change. However, during a time of mass anxiety due to the pandemic, rising unemployment, and political struggles, is it wise to add a sense of impending doom to that? 

The citizens that truly care about environmentalism are taking measures to reduce their carbon footprint including putting pressure on their local legislature to pass environmental protection laws. Around 67% of adults believe that their government is not doing enough to protect them from climate change and 63% of Americans are ready to deal with the cost of implementing stricter policies (Funk, Pew Research Center). To curb climate change is to reduce carbon emissions, chemical effluent, and waste production. Only one hundred companies are responsible for 71% of global carbon emissions (Riley, The Guardian). In fact, just twenty of those companies produce one-third of the world’s emissions (Taylor, The Guardian). It is the responsibility of businesses to reduce carbon emissions enough to stop the dire consequences of climate change. Moreover, other damaging practices such as oil spills and improper toxic waste burials cannot be stopped by everyday people. Putting up a countdown in Union Square for hundreds of New Yorkers to see and thousands of Americans to read about is not appropriate when looking at those responsible. Americans know that protecting the environment is increasingly important, now it is up to the companies and legislators to act. 

How do we hold companies responsible? 

Most companies will not change their environmental policies on a whim, they need to be told to do so by the government. This can be done in a myriad of ways, but the most efficient ways will be monetary consequences (The Sanders Institute). For example, increasing penalties on pollution will force companies to be more responsible for their production and transportation methods. If an oil company does have a major spill, like Deepwater Horizon’s spill in the Gulf of Mexico, they need to be held fully accountable for the direct impact and indirect impact of their mistake.  They should pay for the cleanup of the oil and restoration of habitats impacted by it. Harsh and decisive legal action is the only way to stop climate change, not a countdown clock in the middle of a busy city.

Image: https://www.democracynow.org/images/headlines/73/54573/full_hd/h13-climate-activists-unveil-climate-clock-nyc-ahead-global-climate-strike.jpg

Hundreds of Protestors Break into German Mine in their fight Against Coal

by Saarang Kashyap

Hundreds of anti-coal protesters entered a mine in western Germany on Saturday to protest the continued extraction and use of fossil fuels.

Environmentalists object to the German government’s decision to allow the mining and burning of coal in the country until 2038, a deadline the activists say is too late to effectively tackle climate change. As stated by The Independent, “ The Garzweiler mine and nearby power plants have been a focus of protests for several years. Environmentalists say they are among the biggest sources of harmful pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in Europe.”

The big problem with moving away from coal is the lack of alternative economic opportunities. Although tens of thousands of mining jobs have been cut since the 1990s, most available employment in the region is still tied to coal. Mainstream German parties still support the industry, and as in other parts of Europe, the impact of green policies on traditional or left-behind communities has become a convenient agenda for populists and far-right politicians to latch on to.

Brown coal, or lignite, is the most polluting fuel in the world, and it still powers 14 % of Germany’s energy, which is a higher reliance than any other EU country. Additionally, the environmental impact of Germany’s reliance on coal is gruesome. Germany’s lignite mines have destroyed 175,000 hectares of the country’s landscape. Soil is considered dead since nothing grows in it afterward. Once the mine shuts and the pumps regulating the water levels are turned off, the ground becomes waterlogged.For Wiebke Witt, a brown coal expert for the NGO Klima Allianz Deutschland, Germany’s 2038 closure timeline fails to honor the 2015 Paris climate agreement on ending coal energy production.“When the end date for coal was negotiated, talks revolved around the amount of energy produced from coal and not for instance the impact it continues to have on the climate,” Witt says. This situation highlights an important statement: we must consider climate change as a significant factor during the conception of new rules and regulations, so people may be both positively economically and environmentally impacted.

Image: https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/hundreds-of-anti-coal-protesters-break-into-german-mine-1.5121407

Disaster Strikes at SoCal Gender Reveal Party

by Nakul

During Labor Day weekend, one Southern California family attempted to create at an eye-catching, noticeable gender reveal display – they ended up drawing quite a bit of attention for their efforts – but for all the wrong reasons.

The family’s reveal display, which consisted of a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device”, ignited four-foot-tall grass at El Dorado Ranch Park. The family attempted to extinguish the fire by using water bottles, but as expected, this attempt to put out the rapidly spreading fire was more hopeful than practical. The San Bernardino National Forest Service revealed that the fire has consumed over 20,000 acres since September 5th. The fire significantly injured over 13 firefighters, and unfortunately, on September 25, the first and only fatality as of now occurred – Charles Edward Morton, a firefighter battling the El Dorado fire, died while actively operating to suppress the fire. 

While the fire is over 83% contained now, the immense damage has already been done. The fire destroyed numerous residential structures and other buildings, injured many and resulted in the aforementioned fatality, and destroyed thousands of acres of land. As CNN reported, as of September 7: “Because of the El Dorado Fire, the communities of Oak Glen, Yucaipa Ridge, Mountain Home Village, and Forest Falls have been ordered to evacuate. 

As for the family that caused the fire – according to authorities – have been cooperative, according to investigator Bennet Milloy. Milloy also added that we need to be cautious as over 80% of fires are caused by humans. He also discussed the consequences of this perilous event for the family that caused it, explaining that criminal charges were being considered, but whether the relevant individuals would be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony would be determined once the fire is fully extinguished. However, the family could be held accountable for the cost required to fight the fire, as well as the colossal costs of covering the damages of the fire itself.

It is essential for as humans, as Milloy explained, to be aware of our surroundings and act in a responsible, wise manner. Doing so is only beneficial towards upholding the safety of ourselves as well as others, and in this case, preserving the beauty and conditions of our beloved Earth.

Image: https://content.fortune.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/gettyimages-451848638.jpg

Tech Industry Plays Growing Role in Fight Against Climate Change

by Anshul Dash

The tech industry has played a significant role in the fight against climate change through many actions, such as following zero-carbon footprints and pushing for use of data to encourage efficiency of energy.

The tech industry has a huge influence on most people. It currently dominates areas in politics, the economy, and culture. Because of this, the industry’s role in climate change could have huge, positive impacts. Big tech giants such as Amazon and Shopify have recently invested $2 billion and 5$ billion, respectively, into environmental companies such as CarbonCure Technologies, which stores CO2 in concrete, and Pachama, which uses artificial intelligence to save and preserve forests. Through these investments, tech giants are earning credibility for contributing to the fight against climate change.

However, big tech companies are receiving criticism from the public regarding their own carbon footprints, which are very high numbers. Tech giants are also receiving backlash for partnering with major oil and gas companies, which contributes to the overall carbon footprint through the extraction of fossil fuels. Based on the criticism, many of these companies are reforming their policies. For example, Microsoft partnered up with oil company BP to reduce its oil/gas emission. Google proclaimed that it aims to run all of its data centers on carbon-free power by 2030. 

Out of the fight against climate change, an association called the Digital Climate Alliance was formed. The Alliance aims to include digital solutions as a part of climate policy. The Alliance, led by Johnson Controls and Intel, will try to negotiate with Congress to add a digital title into their developing climate policy. According to the organizers of the group, at least one oil company is likely to join. 

One way that the tech industry is planning to become environmentally friendly is to shift web searches and data centers to places where electricity is wasted. It also plans to further assess emissions up close by studying specific fossil fuels and buildings. Digitizing data can have a hugely positive effect on cutting carbon emissions.