Carbon Dioxide Pollution Reaches Record High Despite Lockdown

by Arun

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization has released a report detailing that climate-heating gases have reached record highs despite the lockdowns instituted due to the widespread COVID-19 pandemic.

According to The Guardian, there is estimated to be between a 4.2% and 7.5% cut in emissions in 2020 as a result of the global lockdowns which have significantly impacted the industrial and travel industries but has also negated the need for standard commute. With all the facts pointed out, however, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) states that although these numbers have been a small dip in greenhouse gas emissions, it should not detract from the fact that there has been a continuous buildup of greenhouse gases caused by unnatural, human-influenced activities.

In 2019, the WMO reports that the increase in carbon dioxide level in 2019 has risen by more than the average increase over the last decades. Furthermore, scientists agree that in order to limit global heating to about 1.5C, global emissions must fall by 50% by 2030, a steep drop that warrants serious action. 

The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 50% higher than it was in 1750, which sparked the start of the industrial revolution, causing an increase in urbanization and a rise in factories. During the industrial revolution, pollution in the cities was described as being unbearable and filling the air as a result of the spike in modernization.

To accomplish the ambitious goals set forth by the WMO, Petteri Taalas, Secretary of the WMO, states that a “complete transformation of our industrial, energy and transport systems” would be needed. Global leaders have resonated with this idea, setting forth ambitious goals of achieving carbon neutrality within the next few decades in addition to banning many gas-emitting processes, including gasoline cars. These changes have given rise to companies across the globe that focus on the future of renewable energy, like Tesla.

As global carbon dioxide emissions continuously increase, it brings forth the need for the world to bound together to address the issue. As a result of individuals and companies alike working together to mitigate climate change, the future of a green planet seems to be bright.

Image: https://www.wallpaperflare.com/gray-and-white-factory-blue-co2-dioxide-energy-gases-greenhouse-wallpaper-zfmmv

Study Reveals How Plastic Pollution Spreads Everywhere

by Arun

Since the invention of plastic in 1907 by Belgian-American chemist Leo Baekeland, who created the first mass-produced plastic, which he called “Bakelite,” the use of plastic has astronomically increased. According to plasticoceans.org, “packaging is the largest end-use market segment [which accounts] for just over 40% of plastic usage.” Additionally, approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide annually, coming out to more than one million plastic bags every minute. The organization also claims that the average “working life,” or use for a plastic bag, is an average of 15 minutes.

With its exponential increase in usage, it is clear to see the large environmental implications plastic can have on the environment. Microplastic particles from disposable goods can be found in natural environments throughout the globe, including Antarctica. 

But how could these particles travel so far?

The answer, surprisingly, lies in soil. A recent study by Princeton University reveals a mechanism by which microplastic and pollutants can be carried and transferred over large distances by soil which also brings to light the potential implications for preventing the spread of contaminants in food and water sources. 

Assistant Professor Sujit Datta, who led the research endeavor, found that the microplastic particles are released when the rate of fluid flowing through the clog remains high enough. Additionally, the researchers showed that through the process of deposition and erosion, the breakup of these particles is cyclical, as they are broken up by fluid pressure over distance, allowing them to reform and ultimately travel over larger distances.

The findings are exciting, as it enables us to better understand the sources of contamination, working towards the ultimate goal of eventually preventing all forms of contamination. According to the organization Eurek Alert, the research can help inform mathematical models to better understand the likelihood of a particle moving over a certain distance and reaching a destination such as a river or an aquifer.

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How US President-Elect Joseph Biden plans to Combat Climate Change

by Kunaal Venugopal

With the results of the recent Presidential Election, Joseph R. Biden has been elected the 46th President of the United States, and the President-Elect has a climate plan that will go into effect as soon as he is in office. 

In a tweet, Biden outlined that he would rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in office. Limit global temperature rise by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Agreement aims to “Limit global temperature rise by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, provide a framework for transparency, accountability, and the achievement of more ambitious targets, and mobilize support for climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing nations” (NRDC). Biden’s decision reverses the action by the Trump Administration to pull out of the Paris Agreement in 2017.

Biden’s Administration proposes making US energy production carbon-free by 2035, with the ultimate goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. To do this, Biden plans to make buildings more energy-efficient, invest in public transport, and incentivize electric vehicle use. All of these implementations create new jobs for the American people, so jobs won’t be at stake even with Biden phasing fracking out.

At the end of 2019, Biden’s original climate plan received a 75/200 score, an F. Since then, Biden has taken more radical steps to create a quicker transition to cleaner energy. Sunrise Movement’s executive director Varshini Prakash said to Inside Climate News. “We forced [Biden’s advisers] to backtrack, and … he put out a comprehensive climate plan that cites the Green New Deal and names climate change as the greatest challenge facing America and the world.”

The world will have to wait and see if Biden’s plan will be effective in mitigating climate change, but for the first time in many years, the United States may have something to look forward to in respect to helping the environment; whether it works or not, it’s a change the world, and the US, needed to see.

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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

New Delhi Air Pollution Worsens

by Arun

Over the past week, the National Capital Region of New Delhi, India has had its air quality reach unprecedented levels in its history. The pollution is actually a record in Delhi – the Air Quality Index in Delhi reached as high as 735. For comparison, the Environmental Protection Agency states that a “Good” AQI is 0 to 50, and a “Moderate” AQI is 51 to 100. Clearly, the pollution in Delhi is a looming problem.

India has been known to struggle with its problem of pollution. A common image of India is the common sight of the jam-packed roads, filled with walkers and vehicles alike, moving around with no free space. Though the images have some truth to them, the pollution output of these vehicles is serious. Many of the vehicles Indian citizens use are often old and outdated, posing serious health hazards to the general public and the welfare of the people. India has recognized this issue and has made aggressive movements towards achieving carbon neutrality, but the fruit of these actions has not come to the scene yet.

The recent uptick in pollution is actually seasonal. There are three major factors responsible for the rise in hazardous air pollution. One being the abnormally high humidity. Another, the lack of surface winds which has caused pollutants to remain and not move off, causing them to be locked off in the city. Finally, in relation to the wind directions, pollutants from other cities have been blown into the capital. The current conditions in India caused a perfect storm of these events, resulting in unprecedented pollution in the capital.

On the positive, India is on the right track to combat pollution, as it seeks to modernize its economy away from fossil fuels and large factory output. However promising the future may be, there seems to be a long way to go in the path.

Norwegian Supreme Court Hears Case on Arctic Oil Drilling

by Arun

Norway is notoriously famous for its clean environment and fresh air. As a matter of fact, a section of the Norwegian Constitution states that all citizens have a right to a healthy environment. However, the economy, which is built around the oil and gas industry, seems to be contradicting the very basis of the constitution. How can Norway support a healthy environment if more than half the country’s exports contribute to an unhealthy environment? 

This question has stood for a while in Norway, but it hasn’t been until recently when the case has actually been brought up to the Norwegian Supreme Court, in which environmental groups seek to invalidate licenses for new oil exploration in the Arctic. This case marks the first time a case related to climate change has been brought up to the Supreme Court bench – consisting of 15 voting judges – under the Constitution’s environmental regulations. If the environmental organizations were to win, it would cause Norway to forfeit a large part of their economy, which is largely dependent on activities such as oil exploration.

According to Andreas Randoy, a win of this magnitude would mean “the beginning of the end of the oil age” and a shift towards modern, renewable energy. Environmental groups argue that the soil exploration plans in the Arctic had not been completely researched prior to their approval in 2016. The Norwegian government, however, claims that their arctic drilling is justified as they compensate for the negative effects of drilling by promoting a greener economy and landscape in other areas, as well as maintaining other environmental regulations.

Still, the case appears to be gaining steam. In what is largely a crowdfunded campaign to cover the legal costs of this case, the public has raised about $270,000 USD from contributors like Greta Thunberg.

In what is sure to be an interesting case of the environment versus the economy, a shift towards renewable energy as a whole seems to be looming not only in Norway but in the world.

Image: https://www.pixel4k.com/glacier-ice-snow-surface-4k-58435.html

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

Next-Gen Gaming Could Have Serious Environmental Impacts

by Arun

In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, many have been ordered to shelter in their homes, causing them to seek other forms of entertainment. For many, this entertainment has come in the form of video games. However, with the increase in business from gaming companies comes some dangerous environmental implications in the form of e-waste. Moreover, with the release of futuristic Next-Gen hardware (highlighted by the release of Sony’s Playstation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X) that promise an unparalleled gaming experience with updated hardware, comes an even more magnified risk of environmental consequences.

Though gaming companies have made significant moves to reduce e-waste by offering free recycling and reducing their carbon footprint through manufacturing in environmentally-friendly manners, there seems to be an unrealized effect as a result of a sharp increase in gaming. According to WIRED, US gaming platforms “represent 34 terawatt-hours in energy usage, associated with carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to over 5 million cars.” Additionally, with the development of gaming ecosystems, specifically in the lines of the product vision of Microsoft, gaming hardware purchases seem to be on the rise – and could be increasingly common in US households.

The hardware that comes with these new Next-Gen consoles come with a large consumer upgrade market. With the large volume, the consoles – which consist of chips, circuit boards, and plastic – will have a large impact on the e-waste that will eventually end up in a landfill. The chips in the next-gen consoles will be smaller but will require much more energy. Additionally, with standard shipping and chemical treatments, the energy used by the consoles will be tremendous, ultimately leading to a large carbon footprint.

Though these consoles appear to have negative implications for the environment, it seems that the companies behind the product are committed to environmental sustainability. Both Microsoft and Sony have set goals to be carbon neutral and carbon negative, respectively, in the near future. This is in hopes of advancements of technology that will enable such outcomes, though there doesn’t seem to be a current solution to the problem.

Ultimately, the production and usage of next-gen consoles for the average consumer will not have a great bearing on the environment. However, like anything, these additions add up. Though as consumers, we are at the mercy of manufacturers, only time will tell whether manufacturers will be able to become carbon neutral and eliminate their impact on the environment in a way that benefits our planet and the consumer.

Image: https://www.tomsguide.com/face-off/ps5-vs-xbox-series-x

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