Tag: featured

California Passes Most Aggressive Plastics Recycling Law in America

by Daanyal Raja

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed a new law that requires all plastic beverage containers to be made with more recycled materials. With its introduction, companies that produce beverages must use 15% recycled plastic in all containers by 2022, 25% recycled plastic by 2025, and 50% recycled plastic by 2030. The law is the first of its kind in the nation and aims to reduce plastic litter. 

Supporters of bill AB 793 claim it will increase demand for recycled plastics and reduce pollution and resource consumption for goods that are used to make new plastics. 

Mark Murray, the executive director of Californians Against Waste, an environmental group based in Sacramento, called the law “the most ambitious, aggressive recycled plastics content law in the world.” 

“We are doing a really good job of collecting things for recycling,” Murray said. “The difficult part has been finding an end-use market for it. This new law is about closing the loop. Now companies that manufacture the plastic bottles have to buy them back. They’ll have the responsibility.”

The bill is a welcome addition, as many companies have already been moving towards recycled plastics in their products. Naked Juice’s bottles are made of 100% recycled content for all of its products and Evian aims to make all of its water bottles from 100% recycled plastic by 2025.

Plastic waste has become a major environmental problem, especially in the Oceans, where trash heaps such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch grow larger and larger.

A study from Science Advances estimates that only 9% of all plastics sold in the United States are recycled, with 13 million metric tons of it ends up in Oceans around the world every year. Once in the ocean, plastics are ingested by sea birds, fish, turtles, seals, and many other creatures, resulting in their deaths. The study also states that half the plastic ever produced was made in the last 13 years, highlighting how important it is that we curb our plastic production.

Plastic lasts for centuries, and constantly producing new products uses up great amounts of petroleum, which directly contributes to climate change. By being the first state in the nation to reduce its plastic production, California is leading a charge against climate change and hopes to set an example for other states to follow.

Image: https://www.mercurynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/STC-L-Plastic-0912.jpg?w=780

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

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s extensive involvement on Environmental Issues as Supreme Court Justice

by Sudhit Rao

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the eldest Supreme Court Justice recently passed away at the hands of pancreatic cancer. Appointed as Supreme Court Justice in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton, she is popular for her work on gender equality. In addition to that, she has a long-lasting record of voting on cases regarding climate change and the environment. 

In 2011, she was part of the unanimous decision to protect power companies from lawsuits from the state or private companies in American Electric Power Co. Inc. v. Connecticut. She previously voted to allow the federal government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Act in Massachusetts vs EPA, in 2007. She stated, “The Act itself thus provides a means to seek limits on emissions of carbon dioxide from domestic power plants—the same relief the plaintiffs seek by invoking federal common law.”

Gina McCarthy, a well-known expert on environmental health and air quality and former EPA administrator, praises Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She says, “Through her expansive mind, sound temperament and unwavering judicial integrity, she plied the Constitution as a living instrument of American life, lending it meaning in the life of us all.” 

In addition to being a firm believer in the threat of climate change, she has also praised young Swedish Activist Greta Thunberg as one of the future leaders in the fight against climate change. She is keen on encouraging and spreading awareness amongst the younger generation, saying “The young people that I see are fired up, and they want our country to be what it should be. One of the things that makes me an optimist is young people.”

Ginsberg’s stay as Supreme Court Justice will not only be remembered for her work on gender issues, but also for fighting against climate change. She has truly been revolutionary and her legacy will be remembered for years to come.

Image: https://www.witf.io/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/gettyimages-1207414667_wide-67a7ce3b33c61ce6c29e7122ef8cd6add7e38147-1920×1080.jpg

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.

Image: https://wallpaperaccess.com/tesla-4k

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.

California Wildfires Claim the Lives of Hundreds of Thousands of Migrating Birds

by Kaushal Kumar

Last week park rangers in Albuquerque, New Mexico were startled to find hundreds of dead swallows scattered around their forests and parks. These birds were meant to be migrating from the Western United States to the tropics as a part of their biannual migration to remain in warm weather. This year, however, they didn’t make it. John Hayes explained how unusual the large amounts of deaths were when he said, ““Birds that are migrating are often stressed and exhausted. But that results in a few birds here and there dying; you don’t see thousands of them dropping dead.”

Ornithologists, scientists who focus on the study of birds, consider this mass die-off as a byproduct of the ongoing wildfires in California. They suspect that the birds were forced to divert their path to avoid the fires and thick smoke that is impacting much of Central and Southern California and pass through New Mexico. However, due to ongoing weather conditions in New Mexico, including an extreme cold front and an ongoing drought, the birds may have starved due to a lack of insects. 

The birds found in New Mexico are just the tip of the iceberg, with many other locations, including California, Colorado, and numerous Mexican States also reporting similar cases of large numbers of dead birds.  Scientists expect that the total number of deaths may be in the hundreds of thousands and that the bird population will only continue to suffer as the smoke from the wildfires begins to reach the East Coast. The effect that smoke has on birds has been closely studied and the exposure to smoke can impact a bird’s ability to reproduce and makes them more susceptible to developing respiratory illnesses.

The unsettling deaths of hundreds of thousands of birds are just another reminder of our constant battle against climate change. As the weather becomes more extreme and natural disasters like the historic wildfires in California and droughts in New Mexico become more common it is inevitable that the wildlife that depends on the climate to survive will suffer. Continued human action that speeds up climate change will continue to have an impact on not the future of people, but also the future of all living things on the planet.

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.

University of Utah Researchers Discover that Evergreens –Yes, Evergreen Trees– Can Monitor Air Pollution

by Arun

This past week, two researchers on the campus of the University of Utah (Peter Lippert and Grant Rea-Downing) who were conducting a project involving measuring magnetism of particulate matter on the needles of evergreen trees discovered that the magnetism they measured had a distinct correlation to the air quality in the area. The discovery reveals a new wave of thought processes for scientists and government officials in determining air quality and uncovers the possibility of a shift from standard air quality monitors dispersed through cities.

The findings come in wake of what has been some of the most deadly forest fires spread across the nation, concentrated on the west coast. The forest fires that mainly originated in California have now spread to 11 U.S. states, with no end in view. Air quality has severely deteriorated in the surrounding regions, with homes and loved ones being lost. With the increased focus on air quality given the recent events, these researching scientists offer a unique way of determining air quality in local regions that do not have air quality monitors.

How does it work?

As demonstrated by the scientists, the actual science behind their findings is actually less complicated than initially seems. Particulate matter, which is generally dispersed through the air (which comes as a result of natural dust, burning of fossil fuels), eventually settles on surrounding objects, namely trees. Some of these particles contain iron, which can be detected by magnetometers. From reading the magnetometer, the researchers were able to determine the amount of particulate matter present on the trees, which can offer air quality readings.

Their process works for any given tree, actually, though they chose to work with evergreens because of their abundant presence in the university’s campus, as well as for the large surface area on the needles and leaves of the evergreen tree.

The scientists are the first to admit that although they are not the first to “explore the magnetism of pine needles to monitor air quality,” they are the first to “study winter inversions in the basins of the American West.”

With their findings, the scientist carried out further research in hopes of making air quality monitors accessible to a broader audience. Trees are everywhere in the world’s landscape, and with their further research that aims to perfect and offer more insights through their measures, they aim to achieve their goal of “democratiz[ing] [their] ability to monitor air pollution across the valley… it allows us to do more with less.” Their findings are promising, and as they carry out follow-up segments of their research, the potential advancements of measuring air quality and offering it to all is an exciting thought.

Trump Blames Forest Management, Not Climate Change, for California Forest Fires

by Daanyal Raja

Within the past month, West Coast states have been dealing with one of the most dangerous wildfire seasons ever. An overwhelming majority of climate and environmental scientists attribute these fires to rising temperatures and warmer weather across the West Coast, making wildfires more common and damaging. However, President Trump, a fervent denier of man-made climate change and global warming, blames the issue on forest management.

President Trump recently visited California, one of the states that were greatly impacted by the fires, toured some of the wildfire damage, and sat down with local and state officials to discuss the matter. During one meeting, California National Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot told Trump, “We want to work with you to really recognize the changing climate, and what it means to our forests” before warning “If we ignore that science, and sort of put our head in the sand, and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed protecting Californians.” Trump responded to this by claiming that the climate “would start getting cooler,” to which Crowfoot replied, “I wish science agreed with you.” 

Trump has been more than vocal about his beliefs regarding forest management and the wildfires in the past. At one of his rallies in Pennsylvania, he said “I see again the forest fires are starting […] They’re starting again in California. I said, you gotta clean your floors, you gotta clean your forests — there are many, many years of leaves and broken trees and they’re like, like, so flammable, you touch them and it goes up,” claiming that some trees and leaves can instantaneously combust. He also said, “Maybe we’re just going to have to make [California] pay for it because they don’t listen to us,” he added. This hasn’t been the first time Trump has blamed the predominantly Democratic state and threatened to withhold money from them; he did the same in 2018 and 2019 as wildfires ravaged the state. 

However, Trump’s threats have yet to be implemented in any way. In fact, last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a new “shared stewardship” that combines forces from the U.S. Forest Service and California to work towards managing forests to reduce fire risk. Newsom also said “Wildfires don’t stop at jurisdictional boundaries. As we respond to wildfires in real-time this summer, improving coordination between the major stewards of California’s forested land will help us protect communities and restore forest health across California.”