Tag: featured

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

China Looks to Achieve Carbon Neutrality by 2060

by Sudhit Rao

In a recent United Nations General Assembly, Xi Jinping, president of China, the largest polluter of greenhouse gases in the world today, announced that he plans for China to go carbon-free by the year 2060. He detailed a “green revolution,” and came out with plans to peak carbon emissions by 2030 and slowly reduce them by 2060. 

China is responsible for a large portion of pollution although it is also a global leader in renewable energy. He stated, “China will scale up its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions by adopting more vigorous policies and measures. We call on all countries to pursue innovative, coordinated, green, and open development for all.” 

Although many climate activists were excited to hear the announcement, they were more adamant that Xi lives up to his pledge and execute this decades-long plan. Jennifer Morgan, a well-known climate activist with Greenpeace International responded on Twitter saying that Xi’s plan “is an important signal that responding to the climate crisis is top of mind and top of agenda for China.”

As for the plan itself, consultancy Wood Mackenzie, detailed that the process would take an enormous investment of $5 trillion to accomplish. According to them, solar, wind, and energy storage would each have to increase tenfold by the 2050s to around 5,040 gigawatts of energy. Concurrently, coal and gas power would have to decrease by about half to get close to the goal. Moreover, Prakesh Sharma, head of markets and transitions, states how the world must change socially too saying, “The most challenging part of the shift is not the investment or magnitude of renewable capacity additions but the social transition that comes with it.”

While Xi’s plan leaves us optimistic about China, the question remains whether the US will follow in China’s steps. Fighting climate change is a global effort, and currently, there is no concrete plan by the United States detailing how US carbon emissions will reduce.

Image: https://media.wired.com/photos/5c05d69be02cdf2d57026ba4/16:9/w_2400,h_1350,c_limit/chinaemissions-625667906.jpg

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