February 2023

1.  Seaweed forests can act as a vital buffer against the climate crisis, absorbing carbon dioxide from seawater and the atmosphere

Albert Pessarrodona, et al., “Global seaweed productivity,” Science Advances  (14 Sept 2022).   bit.ly/3IzVkxZ

See also, Lucy Sherriff, “The hidden underwater forests that could help tackle the climate crisis,” The Guardian (2 Jan 2023).  bit.ly/3GdpNix

 Despite being one of the fastest growing plants on Earth, kelp has historically been difficult to map because of the difficulties of measuring ocean depths with satellites. However, research published in September found that seaweed forests are far more extensive than previously realised.

An international group of scientists from eight countries, led by Dr Albert Pessarrodona from the University of Western Australia, manually sifted through hundreds of studies – including local plant data records, online repositories and citizen science initiatives – to model the global distribution of ocean forests. They found that underwater forests cover between 6m and 7.2m sq km – an area comparable to the Amazon rainforest basin and twice the size of India.

Seaweed forests can act as a vital buffer against the climate crisis, absorbing carbon dioxide from seawater and the atmosphere. Ocean forests may store as much carbon as the Amazon rainforest, according to one analysis.

Yet there is still a sizeable gap in understanding of seaweed’s long-term ability to sequester carbon, because it lacks a root system to lock the carbon into the ground, unlike other marine plants such as mangroves and seagrass. Whether carbon stays locked up also depends on what happens to the seaweed, and there is still scientific debate on how effective it is at storing the element.

2. The increasing disappearance of global glaciers

David R. Rounce, “Global glacier change in the 21st century: Every increase in temperature matters,” Science (5 Jan 2023). bit.ly/3Izb5VS

See also, Phoebe Weston, “Half of glaciers will be gone by 2100 even under Paris 1.5C accord, study finds,” The Guardian (5 Jan 2023).  bit.ly/3WVtgcn

“Researchers found 49% of glaciers would disappear under the most optimistic scenario of 1.5C of warming. However, if global heating continued under the current scenario of 2.7C of warming, losses would be more significant, with 68% of glaciers disappearing, according to the paper, published in Science. There would be almost no glaciers left in central Europe, western Canada and the US by the end of the next century if this happened.

This will significantly contribute to sea level rise, threaten the supply of water of up to 2 billion people, and increase the risk of natural hazards such as flooding. The study looked at all glacial land ice except for Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.”

3.  A survey on displacements in the US by natural disasters

Mike Schneider, “Survey: 3.3 million US adults displaced by natural disasters,” AP ( 5 Jan 2023).

“More than 1.3% of the adult population in the U.S. was displaced by natural disasters in the past year, with hurricanes responsible for more than half of the forced relocations…

The Household Pulse Survey results said that 3.3 million U.S. adults were displaced by either hurricanes, floods, fires, tornados or other disasters…

Some states were impacted more than others. In Florida, nearly 1 million people, or about 1 in 17 adult residents, were displaced in a state that was ravaged by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole in the fall. More than 409,000 people — or almost 1 in 8 residents — were displaced in Louisiana…

Of the 3.3 million displaced adults, more than a third were out of their homes for less than a week. About 1 in 6 residents never returned to their homes, according to the survey.”

4.  The healing hole in the ozone layer

World Meteorological Organization, United Nations Environment Programme, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration and European Commission Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion: 2022. bit.ly/3Qy60z2

See also, Oliver Milman, “Earth’s ozone layer on course to be healed within decades, UN report finds,” The Guardian (9 Jan 2023). bit.ly/3Zm2Sdu

“The hole in the Earth’s ozone layer, once the most feared environmental peril facing humanity, is set to be completely healed over most of the world within two decades following decisive action by governments to phase out ozone-depleting substances, a new UN assessment has found.

The loss of the ozone layer, which risked exposing people to harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun, is on track to be completely recovered by 2040 across the world, aside from the polar regions, according to the report. The poles will take a little longer – the ozone layer will fully bounce back by 2045 over the Arctic and by 2066 over the Antarctic.

Following alarm over the loss of ozone in the 1980s, the ozone layer has been steadily improving in the wake of the 1989 Montreal protocol, an international agreement that has helped eliminate 99% of ozone-depleting chemicals, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that were used as solvents and refrigerants.”

5. Climate crisis worsening extreme weather

American Meteorological Society, Explaining Extreme Events in 2021 and 2022 from a Climate Perspective (Jan 2023).  bit.ly/3X3RFwK    

See also, Oliver Milman, “Relentless rain, record heat: study finds climate crisis worsened extreme weather,” The Guardian (9 Jan 2023).  bit.ly/3VTAv3q

“Relentless drought in California, extreme rainfall in the UK, record heat in China – some of the most severe weather events that have occurred around the world in the past few years were made far more likely due to the climate crisis, new research has found.

The analysis of extreme events in 2021 and 2022 found that many of these extremes were worsened by global heating, and in some cases would have been almost impossible in terms of their severity if humans had not altered the climate through the burning of fossil fuels.”

6.  The relentless rise of ocean heat and its implications

Lijing Cheng, et. al, “Another Year of Record Heat for the Oceans,” Advances in Atmospheric Sciences (2023). bit.ly/3irdgjG

See also, Bob Berwyn, “Relentless Rise of Ocean Heat Content Drives Deadly Extremes: The heat of global warming will keep penetrating deeper into the oceans for centuries after greenhouse gas emissions cease,” Inside Climate News (11 Jan 2023). bit.ly/3CERwaU

“Ocean heat content reached a new record high for the fourth year in a row, scientists said Wednesday as they released their annual measurements of ocean heat accumulating down to a depth of more than a mile.

The findings published in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Science show that just in the past year, the planet’s seas absorbed about 10 Zetta joules of heat—equivalent to 100 times the world’s total annual electricity production.

The scientists found that the warmth keeps working its way deeper into the ocean, as greenhouse gases have trapped so much heat that the oceans’ deeper waters will continue to warm for centuries after humans stop using fossil energy.”

7.  Weedkillers and cancer biomarkers in urine

Vicky C. Chang, et al., “Glyphosate Exposure and Urinary Oxidative Stress Biomarkers in the Agricultural Health Study,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute (11 Jan 2023). bit.ly/3J7bFdB

See also, Carey Gillam, “People exposed to weedkiller chemical have cancer biomarkers in urine – study,” The Guardian (20 Jan 2023). bit.ly/3GYzmlB

New research by top US government scientists has found that people exposed to the widely used weedkilling chemical glyphosate have biomarkers in their urine linked to the development of cancer and other diseases.

The study, published last week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, measured glyphosate levels in the urine of farmers and other study participants and determined that high levels of the pesticide were associated with signs of a reaction in the body called oxidative stress, a condition that causes damage to DNA.

Oxidative stress is considered by health experts as a key characteristic of carcinogens.

8.  Surface and basal freezing/thaw cycles in the Arctic Ocean

Long Lin, et. al., “Changes in the annual sea ice freeze–thaw cycle in the Arctic Ocean from 2001 to 2018,” The Cryosphere (5 Dec 2022).  bit.ly/3kJoIba

See also, Charlie Miller, “New Study Reveals Arctic Ice, Tracked Both Above and Below, Is Freezing Later,” Inside Climate News (23 Jan 2023).  bit.ly/3JbZhZZ

“Scientists have known for years that the Arctic is warming faster than the rest of the world—nearly four times faster, according to a recent study. Tracking that warming is critical to understanding climate change not just in the Arctic but around the world. New data and analysis are crucial…

“Now, an international team of scientists has compiled data from 2001 to 2018 to explore both surface and basal freezing/thaw cycles and uncover the mechanisms behind them. These findings could improve our understanding of changes in the atmosphere–ice–ocean system and the balance of sea ice in the Arctic…

“The study looks at both the surface ice, which is measured primarily by satellites, and the ice underneath, which is measured by sonar and by acoustic doppler profilers, which use sound waves to measure the speed of currents around the water column and other data. Cables extended from surface buoys into the below-ice water feed sonar data to the buoys and reveal important information about the freeze-thaw cycle, including timing…

“The study looked at the buoy results in the context of the satellite results, which agree really well. That’s a really powerful finding,” said Perovich…

“And, as it turns out, the surface and under-ice measurements are different. The surface ice forms earlier than the ice underneath because the water’s temperature, which is warmer than the atmosphere, freezes later in the season.”

9.  Achieving Zero Emissions with More Mobility and Less Mining of Lithium

Thea Riofrancos et al., “Achieving Zero Emissions with More Mobility and Less Mining,” Climate & Community Project (Jan 2023).  bit.ly/3XRyF4m

See also, Blanca Begert & Lylla Younces, “A zero emissions future without the mining boom: A new report finds that the U.S. can reduce lithium demand by up to 90 percent,” Grist (24 Jan 2023). bit.ly/3wzht80

“The effort to shift the U.S. economy off fossil fuels and avoid the most disastrous impacts of climate change hinges on the third element of the periodic table…

“The problem is, lithium comes with its own set of troubles: Mining the metal is often devastating for the environment and the people who live nearby, since it’s water intensive and risks permanently damaging the land. The industry also has an outsized impact on Native Americans, with three-quarters of all known U.S. deposits located near tribal land…

 “A new report from the Climate and Community Project, a progressive climate policy think tank, offers a fix. In a paper out on Tuesday, the researchers estimated that the U.S. could decrease lithium demand up to 90 percent by 2050 by expanding public transportation infrastructure, shrinking the size of electric vehicle batteries and maximizing lithium recycling. They claim that this report is the first to consider multiple pathways for getting the country’s cars and buses running on electricity and suppressing U.S. lithium demand at the same time.”

10.  Fossil fuel for electricity has peaked and is headed for decline

Kingsmill Bond, et al., “Peak Fossil Fuel Demand for Electricity: It’s all over except the shouting,” RMI  bit.ly/3R8n1jy

“The latest installment of The Peaking Series shows demand for fossil fuels has peaked in the electricity sector. It will plateau for a few years and be in clear decline by the second half of the decade.

The key driver of change is the rapid growth of solar and wind electricity generation on typical S-curves, driven by low costs, a shift of global capital, and the rising ceiling of what is possible.

In 2022, solar and wind will produce 600–700 TWh of new electricity. Added to the 100–200 TWh from other clean sources makes it enough to meet projected global electricity demand growth of around 700 TWh.

The story just gets better and better as solar and wind advance further up the S-curve. Solar and wind generation will increase at least threefold by the end of the decade, pushing fossil fuel electricity into terminal decline.”


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