September 2023

1.  Effect of bans on ‘smoky’ coal n Ireland

Sean Lyons, et al., “The effect of ‘smoky’ coal bans on chronic lung disease among older people in Ireland,” Economics and Human Biology (August 2023). bit.ly/3DJDh4q


For a wealthy European country, Ireland has a relatively high proportion of households who use open fires for heating.

Bans on the sale and burning of “smoky” coal were expanded from cities to towns during the 2010 s.

The expansion of the ban to these towns reduced the incidence of chronic lung disease by between 0.96 and 2.5 percentage points.

There was no effect of the ban on incidence of asthma or on mortality.

2.  UK Falls behind in green power growth

Dimitris Mavrokefalidis, “UK’s green power growth falls behind global peers,” Energy Live News (16 August 2023).  bit.ly/3sj6vok

A new study reveals a 2.9% yearly increase in the UK’s renewable and nuclear electricity output from 2023 to 2030, positioning the country at the bottom among major economies

3. Living within 1 mile of fracking well has increased chance of lymphoma for children

University of Pittsburgh, Hydraulic Fracturing Epidemiology Research Studies: Childhood Cancer Case-Control Study, for Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology (3 August 2023).  bit.ly/3DZu5t0

“Conclusion:  There were no associations between unconventional natural gas development activities and childhood leukemia, brain and bone cancers, including Ewing’s family of tumors. Results indicated that children who lived within 1 mile of a well had approximately 5 to 7 times the chance of developing lymphoma, a relatively rare type of cancer, compared to children who lived in a place with no wells within 5 miles. Data suggests that those who lived closer, especially in areas with greater intensity of unconventional natural gas development activities, had the highest risk. There was also a strong dose-response relationship between the overall UNGD activities over the four phases and risk of lymphoma.  In addition, the closer the proximity of a residence to an UNGD site, the higher the risk of lymphoma, which further supports a possible link between UNGD activity and risk of childhood lymphoma.”

See also, Jon Hurdle, “Fracking Linked to Increased Cases of Lymphoma in Pennsylvania Children, Study Finds: Long awaited papers by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh looked at correlations between natural gas development and childhood cancers, asthma, and birth outcomes,” Inside Climate News (16 August 2023). bit.ly/452doch

4. Health benefits of closing coal coke plant operations

Wuyue Yu et al., “An interrupted time series analysis of the cardiovascular health benefits of a coal coking operation closure,” Environmental Research Health (31 July 2023).  bit.ly/3QH6hBH

“… we applied an interrupted time series model to test the hypothesis that the substantial reduction in air pollution induced by the closure of the Shenango, Inc. coke plant in Pittsburgh, PA during January, 2016 was followed by immediate and/or longer-term cumulative local cardiovascular health benefits. We observed a 90% decrease in nearby SO2 levels, as well as significant reductions in coal-related fine particulate matter constituents (sulfate and arsenic), after the closure. Statistically significant cardiovascular health benefits were documented in the local population, including a 42% immediate drop … in cardiovascular emergency department (ED) visits from the pre-closure mean. A longer-term downward trend was also observed for overall emergency visits at −0.14 … visits per week rate of decrease after the closure, vs. a rise of 0.17 … visits per week before. Similarly, inpatient cardiovascular hospitalizations per year showed a decrease after closure …compared with … average increase in cases/year over the prior three years). Our study provides clear evidence that this intervention lowering fossil fuel-associated air pollution benefited public health in both the short and longer term, while also providing validation of the past use of observational air pollution epidemiology effect estimates in policy analyses.

See also, Gina Jiménez, “When a Coke Plant Closed in Pittsburgh, Cardiovascular ER Visits Plunged: A recent study highlights the health benefits of particular plants closing and generally reducing exposure to fossil fuels, researchers say,” Inside Climate News (13 August 2023).  bit.ly/3sgLGKn

5.  Mountain treelines rising as result of climate crisis

Xinyue He et al., “Mountain treelines are rising in response to the climate crisis, a study has found,” Global Change Biology (June 2023).  bit.ly/3YKggrL

See also, Annalise Murray, “Mountain treelines are rising due to climate crisis, study finds,” The Guardian (19 August 2023).  bit.ly/3QMq7LK

Mountain treelines are rising in response to the climate crisis, a study has found.

Scientists from the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, used remote sensing to map the highest points of patches of tree coverage on mountains. They found that 70% of mountain treelines had moved uphill between 2000 and 2010.

On average, treelines moved upwards by 1.2 metres (4ft) a year, but the shift was greatest in tropical regions, with an average increase in elevation of 3.1 metres a year – and in all regions they found the rate of change was accelerating.

In total, the researchers tracked almost 1m km (620,000 miles) of treeline across 243 mountain regions around the world.

6.  Atlantic storms have become deadlier as the planet warms – and are disproportionately killing people of color in the US

Robbie M. Parks, et al.., “Short-term excess mortality following tropical cyclones in the United States,” Science Advances (16 August 2023). bit.ly/3YHFAyI

See also, Nina Lakhani, “Tropical storms killing more Americans as climate crisis deepens, study finds,” The Guardian (16 August 2023).  bit.ly/3skgZ78

“Atlantic storms have become deadlier as the planet warms – and are disproportionately killing people of color in the US, a landmark new study has found.

About 20,000 excess deaths – the numbers of observed rather than expected deaths – occurred in the immediate aftermath of 179 named storms and hurricanes which struck the US mainland between 1988 and 2019.

More than two thirds of the total excess death toll – and 17 of the 20 deadliest storms – have occurred during the past 15 years, as ocean-heating fossil-fuel emissions have driven increasingly intense hurricanes.

The highest death counts were in counties with majority Black, brown and Indigenous residents, suggesting historical government neglect plays a role in the loss of life in the aftermath of tropical storms… “

7.  Warming seas can make fish forgetful

Mayara M. Silveira, et al., “Impact of ocean warming on a coral reef fish learning and memory,” Peer J (August 2023).  peerj.com/articles/15729/

Abstract:  Tropical ectotherms are highly sensitive to environmental warming, especially coral reef fishes, which are negatively impacted by an increase of a few degrees in ocean temperature. However, much of our understanding on the thermal sensitivity of reef fish is focused on a few traits (e.g., metabolism, reproduction) and we currently lack knowledge on warming effects on cognition, which may endanger decision-making and survival. Here, we investigated the effects of warming on learning and memory in a damselfish species, Acanthochromis polyacanthus. Fish were held at 28–28.5 °C (control group), 30–30.5 °C (moderate warming group) or 31.5–32 °C (high warming group) for 2 weeks, and then trained to associate a blue tag (cue) to the presence of a conspecific (reward). Following 20 training trials (5 days), fish were tested for associative learning (on the following day) and memory storage (after a 5-days interval). The control group A. polyacanthus showed learning of the task and memory retention after five days, but increasing water temperature impaired learning and memory. A thorough understanding of the effects of heat stress, cognition, and fitness is urgently required because cognition may be a key factor determining animals’ performance in the predicted scenario of climate changes. Knowing how different species respond to warming can lead to better predictions of future community dynamics, and because it is species specific, it could pinpoint vulnerable/resilience species.

8.  Lost Antarctic sea ice with loss of breeding for emperor penquins

Peter T. Fretwell et al., “Record low 2022 Antarctic sea ice led to catastrophic breeding failure of emperor penguins,” Communications Earth & Environment (24 August 2023).  go.nature.com/3PcS66g

Abstract:  The spring season of 2022 saw record low sea ice extent in Antarctica that persisted throughout the year. At the beginning of December, the Antarctic sea ice extent was tracking with the all-time low set in 2021. The greatest regional negative anomaly of this low extent was in the central and eastern Bellingshausen Sea region, west of the Antarctic Peninsula where, during November, some regions experienced a 100% loss in sea ice concentration. We provide evidence of a regional breeding failure of emperor penguin colonies due to sea ice loss using Sentinel2 satellite imagery. Of the five breeding sites in the region all but one experienced total breeding failure after sea ice break-up before the start of the fledging period of the 2022 breeding season. This is the first recorded incident of a widespread breeding failure of emperor penguins that is clearly linked with large-scale contractions in sea ice extent.

See also, Delger Erdenesanaa, “For Antarctic Penquins, A Bad Year for Breeding: Many Probably Lost Chicks as Ice Melted,” The New York Times (25 August 2023).   bit.ly/3YSm4zv

9.  Deforestation carbon offset projects are significantly overestimating their impact

 Thales A. P. West, et al., “Action needed to make carbon offsets from forest conservation work for climate change mitigation,” Science (24 August 2023).  bit.ly/45sspV8

Editor’s summary:  Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) projects are intended to decrease carbon emissions from forests to offset other carbon emissions and are often claimed as credits to be used in calculating carbon emission budgets. West et al. compared the actual effects of these projects with measurable baseline values and found that most of them have not reduced deforestation significantly, and those that did had benefits substantially lower than claimed (see the Perspective by Jones and Lewis). Thus, most REDD projects are less beneficial than is often claimed. —H. Jesse Smith

See also, Keerti Gopal, “Carbon Offsets to Reduce Deforestation Are Significantly Overestimating Their Impact, a New Study Finds: A study in six countries across three continents finds that most carbon offsets aimed at avoiding deforestation are failing to keep forests standing or cut atmospheric greenhouse gases,” Inside Climate News (24 August 2023).

10.  The median level of PFAS was 88% higher for Asian Americans than non-Hispanic whites

Shelley H. Liu, “Toward Advancing Precision Environmental Health: Developing a Customized Exposure Burden Score to PFAS Mixtures to Enable Equitable Comparisons Across Population Subgroups, Using Mixture Item Response Theory,” Environ. Sci. Technol. (24 August 2023).  bit.ly/3su6FJI

See also, Tom Perkins, “Asian Americans have much higher ‘forever chemicals’ levels than other groups, study finds,” The Guardian (24 August 2023).   bit.ly/3szRnTD

The peer-reviewed study factored sociodemographic, dietary and behavioral characteristics into its algorithm, which makes it more sensitive to exposure differences among cultures than the standard methods used by the US government and most of the scientific community.

The median level of PFAS was 88% higher for Asian Americans than non-Hispanic whites, the research shows, a finding more commonly used methods miss.




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