Tag: Climate Change

California Governor Newsom Officially Phases Out Gas-Powered Cars by 2035

by Arun

This past week, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he will phase out gasoline-powered cars in order to reduce fossil fuel demand. By this executive order, all sales of passenger vehicles must be zero-emission by the year 2035. This move came with the intention of shifting the state away from being fossil fuel dependent and exposed to renewable energy.

Though the ruling seems extreme, it appears to be proportionally justified. In California, the transportation sector is responsible for more than half of all carbon pollution, 80 percent of smog pollution, and 95 percent of toxic diesel emissions (Source: gov.ca.gov). Banning the sale of these pollution-causing vehicles is a surefire way to reduce what is responsible for half of California’s pollution.

In wake of this ruling and with the rising share of electric vehicle (EV) companies, many car manufacturers like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ford, among others, are embracing this change and are involved in the design and production of electric vehicles to meet the new market. With the regulation set in place for 15 years from now, it gives companies plenty of time to master and mass produce these electric vehicles to make them both convenient and affordable.

It is key to note, however, the fine print of this ruling. The ruling bans the sale of passenger cars, but not the use of cars. Cars purchased after 2035 must be electric, though existing cars can remain. With the extended lifetime of cars with the help of modern technology and maintenance, it will be a while until we truly see a zero-emission landscape.

It is ambitious, though Governor Newsom states that it “is the most impactful step our state can take to fight climate change.” In addition to providing support from the effect climate change has been having on California in the wake of the wildfires that have devastated the state and surrounding regions, Governor Newsom states that “cars shouldn’t make wildfires worse – and create more days filled with smoky air. Cars shouldn’t melt glaciers or raise sea levels threatening our cherished beaches and coastlines.”

Through this order, California joins the 15 other countries that have committed to phasing out gasoline-powered cars that pollute their nations. The regulations set rules and standards that other states can follow to address climate change on a large scale. With incentivizing and promoting renewable energy instead of fossil fuels, Governor Newsom shows his commitment to the environment among recent events that have devastated areas of California.

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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.

The Climate Crisis You Haven’t Heard Of— The Melting of Himalayan Ice Sheets

by Saarang Kashyap

Everyone knows what’s happening in the North and South pole: the ice caps are melting. Ask a little more and they might tell you that this phenomenon is due to runaway climate change. They may also mention that at some point in the following decades, sea levels will rise and low-lying places like Florida and Venice will disappear. However, not many know about the Hindu Kush Himalayan Ice Sheet, better known as the Third Pole, and how this third of the huge ice fields in Asia’s towering mountain chain is diminishing rapidly.  

According to a landmark report, the melting of this ice sheet will have serious consequences for almost 2 billion people. Even if carbon emissions are dramatically and rapidly cut and succeed in limiting global warming to 1.5C, 36% of the glaciers along in the Hindu Kush and Himalaya range will have been gone by 2100. If emissions are not cut, the loss soars to two-thirds, the report found. As stated in the TheGuardian, The glaciers are a critical water store for the 250 million people who live in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya (HKH) region, and 1.65 billion people rely on the great rivers that flow from the peaks into India, Pakistan, China, and other nations.

Since the 1970s, about 15% of the ice in the HKH region has disappeared as temperatures have risen. But the HKH range is 3,500km long and the impact of warming is variable. Some glaciers in Afghanistan and Pakistan are stable and a few are even gaining ice, most probably due to increased cloud cover that shields the sun in addition to changing winds that bring more snow. But even these glaciers will start crumbling with future warming.

Political tensions between neighboring nations such as India and Pakistan could add to the difficulties. “There are rocky times ahead for the region. Because many of the disasters and sudden changes will play out across country borders, conflict among the region’s countries could easily flare up,” said Eklabya Sharma, the deputy director general of Icimod.

The report also highlights how vulnerable many mountain people are, with one-third living on less than $1.90 a day and far away from help if a climate disaster strikes. We can support the native people who rely on the Himalayan Ice Sheet by educating ourselves on how we, in our own communities, can mitigate climate change.

Global Response to COVID-19 Not Enough to Delay Climate Change

by Saarang Kashyap

While emissions of CO2 have plummeted during the lockdown, concentrations of the long-lasting gas have continued to rise in the atmosphere. The period from 2016 to 2020 will likely be the warmest five years on record, a new study reports.

The United in Science report, as mentioned in BBC News, brings together experts from a large number of international organizations, including the UN and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), to give an updated snapshot of the state of the global climate. The study shows that global lockdowns had a significant and immediate impact on emissions of greenhouse gases, with daily levels in April 2020 falling by 17% compared with 2019.

Similar upward trends in CO2 have been observed from other parts of the world. At the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, the amount of CO2 measured in air samples has increased from 411 parts per million (ppm) in July 2019 to 414ppm in July this year. Similarly, at Cape Grim monitoring station in Tasmania, concentrations were also up from 407 to 410ppm in the year to July.

Additionally, global sea levels are rising much faster than previously recorded. Between 2016 and 2020, the rate of increase was 4.8mm per year, an increase over the 4.1mm recorded between 2011 and 2015. The extent of sea-ice in the Arctic has continued to decline, at a rate of 13% per decade.Why might the rise of climate change be a much bigger problem than COVID-19? As stated in GatesNotes, “Within the next 40 years, increases in global temperatures are projected to raise global mortality rates by the same amount—14 deaths per 100,000. By the end of the century, if emissions growth stays high, climate change could be responsible for 73 extra deaths per 100,000 people. In a lower emissions scenario, the death rate drops to 10 per 100,000.” These numbers prove that climate change, although initially illusive, is a dangerous threat when you consider it on a long term scale.

Climate Change’s Hand in the Cause of Hurricane Laura and the California Wildfires

by Kaushal Kumar

In August of 2020, the United States has faced some of the most powerful weather systems that it has ever run into. Hurricane Laura struck the Southern Coast with storm surges over 20 feet tall, with reports claiming that in hotspots the storm would be “unsurvivable.” On the other side of the United States, we see roaring wildfires displacing thousands and covering the Silicon Valley with a thick layer of smoke. All of this while the world faces the Coronavirus pandemic, which has taken the lives of more than 180,000 Americans in less than a year. Climate scientists believe these patterns are here to say and the growing impact of climate change is partially to blame for the unprecedented wildfires and hurricanes.

When Hurricane Laura touched ground in the US it was classified as a Category 4 hurricane, with the potential of storm surges of over 20 feet and winds over 150 mph. It is expected to be one of the 10 greatest hurricanes to ever reach American land according to CNN. Hurricane Laura forced the evacuation of thousands of residents living on the southern coast and left another 400,000 Americans in the Southern Louisiana-Texas region without power.

With the increasing temperature of our globe scientists expect record-setting storms like Laura to become more common. The warmer weather and water are like “recharging batteries” for hurricanes and will cause future storms to be stronger than the ones in the past. Scientists also believe that the change in climate will cause more rain during the storms, which could lead to increased flooding and damages.

But climate change is not only affecting hurricanes, it also may be partially to blame for the extent of the wildfires scorching Northern California, which have burned close to a million acres of forest and still are not close to being fully contained.

Wildfires have always been a part of the Californian ecosystem, but recently fires have been becoming stronger and creeping into areas where fires rarely go. This is due to the heat and reduced moisture that we are seeing in the air and the forests in the state, greatly due to global warming. Becky Bolinger, Colorado’s assistant state climatologist explained, “When you have warmer temperatures and you’re lengthening the warm season, you’re also lengthening the time when wildfires have a chance to start and grow.”

These unusual and dangerous weather patterns seem to be just the tip of the iceberg on what may become the new normal if the world does not begin to take serious action against climate change.

The Impacts of Climate Change on the Healthcare Sector

by Anna Subbanna

Older generations have always thought of the effects of climate change as an abstract idea that will occur far in the future. Apologies for the wake-up call, but the future is now. Many different sectors have already seen the negative consequences of climate change and are calling for immediate action. 

The Immediate Effects of Climate Change

As global temperatures continue to rise, emergency medicine sees an increase in cases, especially among the older generations. Cases of heat strokes have been spiking in areas that experience unusually high temperatures. In many cooler areas, patients do not consider heat strokes a possibility and consequently do not make it to the hospital in time. Moreover, the increased pollutants and pollen in the air lead to increased respiratory illnesses, such as asthma or severe allergies. The WHO approximated 250,000 annual deaths from 2030 to 2050 that could be attributed to “climate change-related increases in heat exposure in elderly people, as well as increases in diarrheal disease, malaria, dengue, coastal flooding, and childhood stunting” (Haines, Andy, and Kristie, “The Imperative for Climate Action to Protect Health”).

How Rising Temperatures Affect Medical Care

One of the most prominent sectors affected by climate change is healthcare. As global temperatures rise, natural disasters, such as forest fires and hurricanes (Climate Change and Law Collection), see a significant increase. Many states, like California, shut off electricity in high-risk areas to prevent wildfires. However, around 250 Californian hospitals have had their power shut off due to this practice (Salas, “The Climate Crisis and Clinical Practice). Vital medical equipment such as ventilators, MRIs, and electrical oxygen tanks have to rely on backup generators to operate properly. Thus, a blackout puts all patients that are dependent on these kinds of technology at risk. It is especially harmful to limited-resource hospice patients that get medical treatment in their houses, as most of them do not have access to a backup generator and must find other ways to ensure their survival. Additionally, the increased hurricanes can lead to destructions of hospitals and more power shortages across the impacted area. Although it may not be discernible to the naked eye, if one looks further, climate change is very harmful to physicians ability to care for at-risk patients 

The effects of climate change are far-reaching and have already begun to metastasize into different parts of the medical sector. The noticeable consequences are only the tip of the iceberg. Hopefully, policies will change before the medical community experiences the rest.

The Ocean Is Warming Faster Than Ever and There Is No Denying It

by Sudhit Rao

Water is an integral part of life on Earth and as global warming becomes more prominent, the Earth’s oceans are taking a huge hit. Studies conducted at the end of 2019 concluded that the oceans are now warmer than ever before. This could prove deadly to marine life which in turn would affect the marine ecosystem. 

Scientists estimate that the ocean is about 0.075 degrees Celsius(~0.135 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the average ocean temperature from 1981 to 2010. Many might think that a 0.075-degree increase is negligible, especially over a couple of decades, but scientists conclude that this increase in temperature is similar to the heat of 5 atomic bombs expelled into the ocean every second. This can be accredited to the immense volume of the ocean, as the oceans combined have a volume of 1.35 billion cubic kilometers (~320 million cubic miles). To increase the temperature by a figure smaller than a tenth of a degree, it would take 228 sextillion Joules of heat. That is 228 followed by 21 zeros! The total number of Hiroshima explosions it would take to reach that number is 3.6 billion. To put that number in perspective, it would take 28,000 years for 7.1 billion people (the world’s population) to utter one sextillion words. 

Ocean warming threatens the life of marine animals and has enormous impacts on the marine ecosystem. For example, coral reefs experience coral bleaching, where the corals expel the surrounding algae, causing the corals to turn white. This adds a lot of stress to the corals, which in turn increases the mortality rate. Other marine life such as fish, seabirds, and marine mammals experience mass migration due to the warm waters and their search for more favorable breeding areas. 

The recent increase in the ocean’s temperature has been proven deadly to the environment and the lives of marine animals. The true scale to which the ocean has warmed up is immense and reversing this effect is key in saving marine life and the underwater ecosystem. 

Amazon Mogul Jeff Bezos Silently Creates New Company to Fight Climate Change

by Daanyal Raja

Jeff Bezos, the current CEO of Amazon and its original founder, recently created a new company to implement his $10 billion pledge to fight climate change and global warming. The Amazon founder started Fellowship Ventures LLC, a limited liability company that applied for a trademark, with Bezos’ signature, for the “Bezos Earth Fund” in July.

Fellowship Ventures LLC is the largest and most significant philanthropic act by Bezos, who is currently the world’s richest man. However, ever since Bezos announced the pledge in mid-February, few details have been released to journalists and the public. In this case, details are extremely important, as they would answer questions ranging from over how much time Bezos will give the money to how it will be used. 

Furthermore, if Bezos does use Fellowship Ventures LLC to fulfill his pledge, transparency would be greatly limited since LLCs aren’t required to file tax documents that are available to the public. The LLC could also end up owning the “Bezos Earth Fund” name and have the donations go through a more transparent and structured method, such as a traditional philanthropic foundation.

Either way, Bezos and his team aren’t giving us any details for now. The Amazon founder did say he would begin making grants to climate change organizations and groups this summer, but we have yet to see anything. When Recode approached Amazon, the technology giant declined to comment on the Fellowship Ventures LLC. Moreover, the trademark for Fellowship Ventures was filed in Jamaica first, a tactic that is sometimes used by companies to prevent others from gaining information about their plans, according to trademark experts.

Billionaires, especially people like Jeff Bezos, who is worth almost $200 billion, have the potential to rid the world of many problems ranging from homelessness, world hunger, and climate change. Once people like Bezos donate and strive to make a progressive change that benefits us all, our planet will become a much better place. The actions of a few wealthy individuals have the ability to change the world for all of us, the least we can do is encourage them to do the right thing.

Agriculture Is New Primary Source of Sulfur In USA Environment, Passing Fossil Fuels

by Arun

New studies are showing that agriculture – specifically pesticide applications to croplands – have the highest output of sulfur to the environment, beating fossil fuels. The study now shows farmers, who have long been protected in the fight against climate change, may actually be contributing negatively to the cause.

How does Sulfur affect the environment?

Surprisingly, much is not known regarding the effects that sulfur has on the environment. The study of these topics is often overlooked in favor of carbon dioxide, methane, or mercury, though increasing sulfur pollution at agricultural mainlands is warranting a continuation regarding the understanding of the effects of sulfur pollution. However, scientists hypothesize that an increase in sulfur levels can correlate with increased levels of mercury in wetlands, soil degradation, and higher risks of asthma for residents in these areas. In addition, the sulfur in the air can react with the native oxygen and form sulfur dioxide, an often studied substance, which has proven to have negative impacts on the respiratory system, including lung function (asthma, pulmonary edema, and chest tightness).

Regardless of the negative implications, it is important to still consider the necessity of sulfur in the environment. In moderation, sulfur is an important plant nutrient that helps with the uptake of nitrogen and assists with the creation of fertilizer and pesticides. Sulfur also plays a key role in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, both in developing and maintaining the health of the ecosystem. The key is moderation– with excess levels, however, the consequences are currently unforeseen.

For the past hundred years, coal-fired plants have been the primary source of sulfur emissions, leading to acid rain and the degradation of forests and the aquatic ecosystem in the late 1900s. After scientific research into the topic, the Clean Air Act was passed to mitigate the emissions to the pre-industrial levels. However, this new uptick in sulfur emissions from agriculture is puzzling scientists as they scramble to study the long-term risks for this increase in pollution.

With the implications currently unknown, it is imperative that research on the effects of excess sulfur in the environment is continued and synthesized to a measurable conclusion. As the necessity of agriculture increases and farmers are stretched, it is inevitable that the use of pesticides will continue, ultimately increasing agriculture’s sulfur footprint. With a lot currently up in the air, only time – and research – will tell what the potential short-term and long-term consequences of this pollution will be.

Climate Change Increases Thawing of Frozen Peatlands

by Saarang Kashyap

Right now, huge amounts of carbon are stored in boggy, often frozen regions stretching across the northern parts of the world. Over many millennia, these regions, commonly referred to as peatlands, have played a key role in cooling the global climate. As the world progressively warms up however, thawing of permafrost and the peat inside it is expected to release huge amounts of CO2, leading to devastating consequences on the climate.

As stated in UnEnvironment, “peatlands are characterized by a thick layer of dead plant remains, or peat. The water-saturated, oxygen-free, and permafrost conditions prevent peat from full decay and allow it to accumulate over thousands of years. The intricate relationships between peat, vegetation, water, and ice maintain the delicate balance of permafrost peatlands.” It’s estimated that the northern hemisphere’s frozen soils and peatlands hold about 1,700 billion tons of carbon, four times more than humans have emitted since the industrial revolution, and twice as much currently present in the atmosphere.

Using data compiled from more than 7,000 field observations, the authors of a new study were able to generate the most accurate maps to date of the peatlands, their depth, and the amount of warming gas they contain. They show that the boggy terrain covers 3.7 million sq kilometers (1.42 million sq miles). The researchers say the northern peatlands store around 415 gigatonnes of carbon. That’s roughly equivalent to 46 years of current global CO2 emissions.

What has contributed to the breakdown of peatlands? Climate Breakdown is not the only factor directly influencing the changes in permafrost peatlands. Any disturbance to the surface soil can lead to permafrost degradation, including natural processes such as forest or tundra fires, and human activity, such as industrial and urban infrastructure development as well as mining, tourism, and agriculture. The removal of trees and shrubs leads to more solar heat input, permafrost collapse, and wetter conditions. Open water accumulates summer heat and acts as a heat source in winter, affecting the distribution of permafrost.

Even though the situation looks grim, scientists believe in the restoration of the bogs through investment efforts. Experts also mention that as frozen peat thaws out,  it starts to become capable of growing plants and storing warming gases.