May 2023

1.  Wide-ranging health impacts from plastics

Philip Landrigan, “The Minderoo-Monaco Commission on Plastics and Human Health,” Annals of Global Health (March 2023). bit.ly/3KoN849

See also, Melissa Davey, “Plastics cause wide-ranging health issues from cancer to birth defects, landmark study finds,” The Guardian (28 March 2023).  bit.ly/3TODvhW

“First analysis of plastics’ hazards over life cycle – from extraction to disposal – also shows ‘deep societal injustices’ of impact.

Plastics are responsible for wide-ranging health impacts including cancers, lung disease and birth defects, according to the first analysis of the health hazards of plastics across their entire life cycle – from extraction for manufacturing, through to dumping into landfill and oceans.”

2.  Status of world population bomb

Callegari B., Stoknes P.E., “People and Planet: 21st-century sustainable population scenarios and possible living standards within planetary boundaries.” Earth4All, March 2023, version 1.0   bit.ly/40oXruv

See also, Jonathan Watts, “World ‘population bomb’ may never go off as feared, finds study,” The Guardian (27 March 2023). bit.ly/3zehzU7

“The long-feared “population bomb” may not go off, according to the authors of a new report that estimates that human numbers will peak lower and sooner than previously forecast.

The study, commissioned by the Club of Rome, projects that on current trends the world population will reach a high of 8.8 billion before the middle of the century, then decline rapidly. The peak could come earlier still if governments take progressive steps to raise average incomes and education levels.

The new forecasts are good news for the global environment. Once the demographic bulge is overcome, pressure on nature and the climate should start to ease, along with associated social and political tensions.

But the authors caution that falling birthrates alone will not solve the planet’s environmental problems, which are already serious at the 8 billion level and are primarily caused by the excess consumption of a wealthy minority.

Declining populations can also create new problems, such as a shrinking workforce and greater stress on healthcare associated with an ageing society, as countries like Japan and South Korea are finding.

3.  More poor air quality in Ireland from solid fuel than road traffic

AIR POLLUTION AND MORTALITY ON THE ISLAND OF IRELAND: Estimating Local All-Cause and Circulatory Mortality Burdens Associated with Fine Particulate Matter Pollution in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  bit.ly/3nfh3CR

See also, Kevin O’Sullivan, “Poor air quality having a detrimental impact on health and deaths in Ireland, report finds: Solid fuel, rather than traffic, mostly to blame for premature deaths, Irish Heart Foundation found,” The Irish Times (30 March 2023).  bit.ly/3nzP7cJ

A cross-Border assessment published on Thursday reveals around 2,600 premature deaths a year can be attributed to air pollution – 1,700 in the Republic and 900 in Northern Ireland.

Tiny pollutants known as particulate matter from solid fuel burning are most to blame, rather than pollution from road traffic in urban areas.

The report was commissioned by the IHF and British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland with research carried out by scientists based at Queen’s University Belfast and Technological University Dublin.

4.  Forever chemicals and infertility in women

Nathan J. Cohen, et al., “Exposure to perfluoroalkyl substances and women’s fertility outcomes in a Singaporean population-based preconception cohort,” Science of the Total Environment (15 May 2023). bit.ly/3MpbDiV

See also, Damian Carrington, “‘Forever chemicals’ linked to infertility in women, study shows,” The Guardian (6 Apr 2023). bit.ly/3miFkr8

“Women with higher levels of so-called “forever chemicals” in their blood have a 40% lower chance of becoming pregnant within a year of trying to conceive, according to the first known study on the effect of PFAS on female fertility.

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, have been found in almost everyone tested for them, with 99% of people in the US contaminated. The research was conducted in Singapore, where contamination levels are lower, but the scientists still found a strong correlation with reduced fertility.

PFAS are a group of chemicals that are water- and oil-resistant, and are used in a vast array of products, from non-stick cookware and food containers to clothing and furnishings. They are often called forever chemicals because they are very slow to break down in the environment and are now widely found in water and soil. They have been increasingly linked to health damage, including cancers and liver, kidney and thyroid disease.”

5.  GHGs rising further into unchartered levels

NOAA, Greenhouse gases continued to increase rapidly in 2022: Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide rise further into uncharted levels, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (5 Apr 2023).  bit.ly/3mkMRG4

See also, Nina Lakhani, “Greenhouse gas emissions rose at ‘alarming’ rate last year, US data shows,” The Guardian (6 Apr 2023).   bit.ly/40SkJJp

‘Record temperatures, devastating floods and superstorms are causing death and destruction across the planet but humans are failing to cut greenhouse gas emissions fueling the climate emergency, new US data shows.

Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide – the greenhouse gases emitted by human activity that are the most significant contributors to global heating – continued to increase rapidly during 2022, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).

Carbon dioxide levels rose by more than two parts per million (ppm) for the 11th consecutive year: the highest sustained rate of CO2 increases since monitoring began 65 years ago. Before 2013, scientists had never recorded three consecutive years of such high CO2 growth.

Atmospheric CO2 is now 50% higher than pre-industrial levels…

Methane levels in the atmosphere are now more than two and a half times their pre-industrial level…

Levels of nitrous oxide, the third-most significant anthropogenic greenhouse gas, are now 24% higher than pre–industrial levels, following a 1.25ppb rise last year…’

6.  Ice sheets retreating 2,000 feet per day

Christine L. Batchelor, et al., “Rapid, buoyancy-driven ice-sheet retreat of hundreds of metres per day,” Nature (5 April 2023). go.nature.com/4181Py4

See also, Bob Berwyn, “Global Warming Could Drive Pulses of Ice Sheet Retreat Reaching 2,000 Feet Per Day: New research of seafloor formations near Norway includes findings that keep climate scientists awake at night,” Inside Climate News (5 April 2023). bit.ly/3mjvm99

A new study of the seafloor near the coast of northern Norway brings an ominous warning from the past, showing that some of the planet’s ice sheets retreated in pulses of nearly 2,000 feet per day as the oceans warmed at the end of the last ice age.

The international research team documented that rate of retreat by mapping and measuring what they called “corrugation ridges” spread across about 11,000 square miles of the seabed. The ridges are generally less than 8 feet high and are spaced between about 80 and 1,000 feet apart. They were formed about 20,000 years ago, as the retreating ice sheet moved up and down with tidal rhythms, floating free at high tide and pushing sediments into a ridge at the point where the ice meets the seafloor at every low tide.

7.  How the rich are driving urban water crises

Elisa Savelli, et al., “Urban water crises driven by elites’ unsustainable consumption,” Nature Sustainability (10 April 2023).  go.nature.com/40WAWx3

“Abstract:  Over the past two decades, more than 80 metropolitan cities across the world have faced severe water shortages due to droughts and unsustainable water use. Future projections are even more alarming, since urban water crises are expected to escalate and most heavily affect those who are socially, economically and politically disadvantaged. Here we show how social inequalities across different groups or individuals play a major role in the production and manifestation of such crises. Specifically, due to stark socioeconomic inequalities, urban elites are able to overconsume water while excluding less-privileged populations from basic access. Through an interdisciplinary approach, we model the uneven domestic water use across urban spaces and estimate water consumption trends for different social groups. The highly unequal metropolitan area of Cape Town serves as a case in point to illustrate how unsustainable water use by the elite can exacerbate urban water crises at least as much as climate change or population growth.”

See also, Damian Carrington, “Swimming pools of the rich driving city water crises, study says,” The Guardian (10 Apr 2023).  bit.ly/43qeAWi

8.  How droughts have begun to intensify more rapidly since the 1950s and flash droughts have become more common over much of the world

Xing Yuan, et al., “A global transition to flash droughts under climate change,” Science (13 APR 2023).  bit.ly/417YeAj

Abstract: Flash droughts have occurred frequently worldwide, with a rapid onset that challenges drought monitoring and forecasting capabilities. However, there is no consensus on whether flash droughts have become the new normal because slow droughts may also increase. In this study, we show that drought intensification rates have sped up over subseasonal time scales and that there has been a transition toward more flash droughts over 74% of the global regions identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Extreme Events during the past 64 years. The transition is associated with amplified anomalies of evapotranspiration and precipitation deficit caused by anthropogenic climate change. In the future, the transition is projected to expand to most land areas, with larger increases under higher-emission scenarios. These findings underscore the urgency for adapting to faster-onset droughts in a warmer future.

9.  Because of coal, we’re moving towards 3° of warming

Vadim Vinichenko et al., “Phasing out coal for 2 °C target requires worldwide replication of most ambitious national plans despite security and fairness concerns,” Environmental Research (11 Jan 2023). bit.ly/3KYMGJU

See also, “Moving towards 3 degrees of warming – the phasing out of coal is too slow,” Chalmers University of Technology (6 April 2023).   cisn.co/41gvrty

“The research group has also developed scenarios that they consider to be the most realistic. These scenarios indicate that Earth is moving towards a global warming of 2.5–3 degrees.

“The countries’ commitments are not sufficient, not even among the most ambitious countries. In addition, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may prevent some countries from phasing out coal as they promised”, says Jessica Jewell, Associate Professor at the Division of Physical Resource Theory at Chalmers University of Technology.

The study shows that the 72 countries’ commitments to phase out coal power are similar to each other and in line with historical data for how quickly coal power was phased out in the past.”

10.  UK continuing failure to cut methane emissions

Lian Hardy and Dustin Benton, “ Global Methane Pledge:  How the UK can meet its commitment,” Green Alliance (Nor 2022).  bit.ly/3A5XZtH

See also, Fiona Harvey, “UK still well off track on pledge to cut methane emissions, study says,” The Guardian (12 Apr 2023).  bit.ly/3KFBvEH

“The UK is still well off track on meeting its international commitments to cut methane emissions, analysis has shown, despite moves to stop cows from belching out so much of it.

Ministers unveiled a host of initiatives to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions in the government’s “green day” of energy announcements more than a week ago, including plans to introduce methane-suppressing feed for livestock from 2025, and to stop biodegradable waste going to landfill from 2028.

But these did not go far enough to reduce Britain’s methane emissions by 30% by 2030, the target agreed under the global methane pledge that the UK signed before the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in 2021, according to analysis by the Green Alliance thinktank.”

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