Germany Rejected Nuclear Power—and Deadly Emissions Spiked

Found on Wired on Monday, 27 January 2020
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The German government quickly passed legislation to decommission all of the country’s nuclear reactors, ostensibly to keep its citizens safe by preventing a Fukushima-style disaster. But a study published last month by the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that Germany’s rejection of nuclear power was an expensive and possibly deadly miscalculation.

Altogether, the researchers calculated that the increased carbon emissions and deaths caused by local air pollution amounted to a social cost of about $12 billion per year. The study found that this dwarfs the cost of keeping nuclear power plants online by billions of dollars, even when the risks of a meltdown and the cost of nuclear waste storage are considered. “People overestimate the risk and damages from a nuclear accident,” says Akshaya Jha, an economist at Carnegie Mellon and an author of the study. “It’s also clear that people don’t realize the cost of local air pollution is pretty severe. It’s a silent killer.”

Knee-jerk reactions are rarely a good basis for long-term politics. Nuclear energy is CO2 neutral, simple as that; and as long as people use more and more electric devices for often pointless reasons, then you have an increasing basic energy demand.

Climate change: Last decade UK's 'second hottest in 100 years'

Found on BBC News on Friday, 03 January 2020
Browse Nature

Four new UK records were set last year alone, including the highest winter and summer temperatures ever recorded.

It said 2019 was provisionally the 11th warmest year on record, with a mean temperature of 9.42C, putting it just outside the top 10 - all of which have all occurred since 2002.

A government spokesman said climate change was a "national priority" and it was committed to increasing the momentum around environmental action.

As long as it's jus talk nothing will get better; and the vast majority of people will not change their own lifestyle but rely on others to fix it. So they can still receive daily parcels from online shopping with multiple delivery attempts because they are out, driving a few hundred meters to buy freshly imported oversea foods.

COP25 climate summit ends in 'staggering failure of leadership'

Found on New Scientist on Tuesday, 17 December 2019
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António Guterres, the UN secretary general, said he was disappointed with the outcome, and that leaders had missed an opportunity to be more ambitious on climate change mitigation, adaptation and finance for poorer countries. “But we must not give up, and I will not give up,” he tweeted.

The intransigence of big polluters – including China, the US, Brazil and India – at the meeting led to the European Union, small island states and members of the public expressing frustration.

So introduce a carbon tax. Imports from countries with high pollution rates get a serious percentage on top of the product price until they bring pollution down; the less pollution, the less tax. Sometimes compromises just won't work.

Young people can't remember how much more wildlife there used to be

Found on New Scientist on Wednesday, 11 December 2019
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Walking in England’s New Forest in 1892, butterfly collector S. G. Castle Russell encountered such numbers of the insects that they “were so thick that I could hardly see ahead”. On another occasion, he “captured a hundred purple hairstreaks” with two sweeps of his net.

The alternative is people losing connections to wildlife and the will to care about stopping its loss, she says. “If we don’t learn about nature from an early age, and we don’t go and experience it and recognise species, then [our collective amnesia] could just get worse and worse.”

People don't go outside as much as they used to; and when they do, it's mostly for their entertainment only with barely any attention for nature itself.

Jonathan Safran Foer: why we must cut out meat and dairy before dinner to save the planet

Found on The Guardian on Wednesday, 02 October 2019
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Our meat habit is the leading cause of deforestation, which releases carbon when trees are burned (forests contain more carbon than do all exploitable fossil-fuel reserves), and also diminishes the planet’s ability to absorb carbon.

It is hard to talk about our need to eat fewer animal products both because the topic is so fraught and because of the sacrifice involved. Most people like the taste of meat, dairy and eggs.

Or, we could start by not throwing away most of the food that is produced. Large masses of food are thrown away because it does not look pretty, or gets close to its shelf life without being actually bad.

Jakarta has sunk by up to 4 meters, forcing Indonesia to build a new capital

Found on Ars Technica on Wednesday, 28 August 2019
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Yesterday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced a plan to move the country’s capital from Jakarta to a new location in Borneo. The reason? Jakarta is bursting at the seams—and sinking.

Cities like New Orleans and Venice, to name a couple problematic examples, are sinking partly due to groundwater extraction. And Shanghai has experienced more than two meters of subsidence due to groundwater pumping and construction on compressible sediments—just like Jakarta. California’s Central Valley is famous for the incredible amount of subsidence that has occurred as the region’s agriculture has tapped the aquifers for irrigation.

Now add global warming where the ice melts and sea levels rise, and suddenly you can add a lot more cities to the list.

How Bad Is Pakistan's Plastic Bag Problem? See For Yourself

Found on NPR on Friday, 16 August 2019
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Over more than a decade, Pakistani provinces have repeatedly imposed bans on single-use plastic bags made out of polyethylene (also called polythene), but those bans have faltered.

When the ban takes effect on Aug. 14, residents may be fined about $70 for being caught using a bag — nearly a month's wages for a laborer. Manufacturers will face larger fines for making plastic bags, as will shops for distributing them.

That's an approach that would be welcomed world-wide; and really needed too.

The banana is one step closer to disappearing

Found on National Geographic on Wednesday, 14 August 2019
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Panama disease Tropical Race 4—or TR4—is an infection of the banana plant by a fungus of the genus Fusarium.

Banana agriculture is itself partly to blame for the potential of the fungus to spread. Commercial plantations grow almost exclusively one clonal variety, called the Cavendish; these plants’ identical genetics mean they are also identically susceptible to disease.

Regardless of the method used, creating just one viable replacement is not a long-term solution. “We need to deploy the rich biodiversity by generating a suite of new banana varieties, not just one,” says Kema. “Monoculture is by definition unsustainable.”

Monoculture is never a solution and will always end with a catastrophe. The more variety there is, the more stability there is. Cheap mass-production does not work as a long term business plan.

Stop abusing land, scientists warn

Found on BBC News on Monday, 05 August 2019
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Scientists are to deliver a stark condemnation of the damage being done to the land surface of the planet.

Scientists say the problem is huge. They admit it will be hard to solve, especially as conservation-style farming would involve teaching half a billion farmers to work differently.

Prof Jane Rickson from Cranfield University, UK, told us: “Increased temperatures and heavier rainfall will aggravate soil erosion, compaction, loss of organic matter, loss of biodiversity, and landslides… many of which are irreversible.

As long as more money is made by abusing nature than by saving it, nothing will change. That's what it all boils down to.

Ethiopia plants 350m trees in a day to help tackle climate crisis

Found on The Guardian on Monday, 29 July 2019
Browse Nature

The planting is part of a national “green legacy” initiative to grow 4bn trees in the country this summer by encouraging every citizen to plant at least 40 seedlings. Public offices have reportedly been shut down in order for civil servants to take part.

Ethiopia’s minister of innovation and technology, Dr Getahun Mekuria, tweeted estimates of the number of trees planted throughout the day. By early evening on Monday, he put the number at 353m.

If only the "first world nations" would do something similar, instead of just talking about it and breaking their own resolutions.