Refreezing Earth’s Poles: Feasible and Cheap, New Study Finds

“The poles are warming several times faster than the global average,” Phys.org reminds us, “causing record smashing heatwaves that were reported earlier this year in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Melting ice and collapsing glaciers at high latitudes would accelerate sea level rise around the planet.

“Fortunately, refreezing the poles by reducing incoming sunlight would be both feasible and remarkably cheap, according to new research published Friday in Environmental Research Communications.”

Scientists laid out a possible future program whereby high-flying jets would spray microscopic aerosol particles into the atmosphere at latitudes of 60 degrees north and south — roughly Anchorage and the southern tip of Patagonia. If injected at a height of 43,000 feet (above airliner cruising altitudes), these aerosols would slowly drift poleward, slightly shading the surface beneath. “There is widespread and sensible trepidation about deploying aerosols to cool the planet,” notes lead author Wake Smith, “but if the risk/benefit equation were to pay off anywhere, it would be at the poles.”

Particle injections would be performed seasonally in the long days of the local spring and early summer. The same fleet of jets could service both hemispheres, ferrying to the opposite pole with the change of seasons.
newly designed high-altitude tankers would prove much more efficient. A fleet of roughly 125 such tankers could loft a payload sufficient to cool the regions poleward of 60 degreesN/S by 2 degreesC per year, which would return them close to their pre-industrial average temperatures. Costs are estimated at $11 billion annually — less than one-third the cost of cooling the entire planet by the same 2 degreesC magnitude and a tiny fraction of the cost of reaching net zero emissions.
Smith calls the idea “game-changing” (while also warning it’s “not a substitute for decarbonization”).

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Increase in LED Lighting ‘Risks Harming Human and Animal Health’

Blue light from artificial sources is on the rise, which may have negative consequences for human health and the wider environment, according to a study. From a report: Academics at the University of Exeter have identified a shift in the kind of lighting technologies European countries are using at night to brighten streets and buildings. Using images produced by the International Space Station (ISS), they have found that the orange-coloured emissions from older sodium lights are rapidly being replaced by white-coloured emissions produced by LEDs. While LED lighting is more energy-efficient and costs less to run, the researchers say the increased blue light radiation associated with it is causing “substantial biological impacts” across the continent. The study also claims that previous research into the effects of light pollution have underestimated the impacts of blue light radiation.

Chief among the health consequences of blue light is its ability to suppress the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep patterns in humans and other organisms. Numerous scientific studies have warned that increased exposure to artificial blue light can worsen people’s sleeping habits, which in turn can lead to a variety of chronic health conditions over time. The increase in blue light radiation in Europe has also reduced the visibility of stars in the night sky, which the study says “may have impacts on people’s sense of nature.” Blue light can also alter the behavioural patterns of animals including bats and moths, as it can change their movements towards or away from light sources.

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Impact Crater May Be Dinosaur Killer’s Baby Cousin

Researchers have discovered a second impact crater on the other side of the Atlantic that could have finished off what was left of the dinosaurs, after an asteroid known as Chicxulub slammed into what is now the Gulf of Mexico 66 million years ago. The BBC reports: Dubbed Nadir Crater, the new feature sits more than 300m below the seabed, some 400km off the coast of Guinea, west Africa. With a diameter of 8.5km, it’s likely the asteroid that created it was a little under half a kilometre across. The hidden depression was identified by Dr Uisdean Nicholson from Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, UK. […] “Our simulations suggest this crater was caused by the collision of a 400m-wide asteroid in 500-800m of water,” explained Dr Veronica Bray from the University of Arizona, US. “This would have generated a tsunami over one kilometre high, as well as an earthquake of Magnitude 6.5 or so. “The energy released would have been around 1,000 times greater than that from the January 2022 eruption and tsunami in Tonga.”

Dr Nicholson’s team has to be cautious about tying the two impacts together. Nadir has been given a very similar date to Chicxulub based on an analysis of fossils of known age that were drilled from a nearby borehole. But to make a definitive statement, rocks in the crater itself would need to be pulled up and examined. This would also confirm Nadir is indeed an asteroid impact structure and not some other, unrelated feature caused by, for example, ancient volcanism. […] Prof Sean Gulick, who co-led the recent project to drill into the Chicxulub Crater, said Nadir might have fallen to Earth on the same day. Or it might have struck the planet a million or two years either side of the Mexican cataclysm. Scientists will only know for sure when rocks from the west African crater are inspected in the lab. “A much smaller cousin, or sister, doesn’t necessarily add to what we know about the dinosaurs’ extinction, but it does add to our understanding of the astronomical event that was Chicxulub,” the University of Texas at Austin researcher told BBC News.

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Climate Change Can Make Most Human Diseases Worse

Polio is back, monkeypox isn’t slowing down, COVID-19 is still around — and now there’s more not-so-good news on the infection front: over 200 human diseases could get worse because of climate change, according to a new study. From a report: Researchers have known for a long time that the changing climate affects disease. Warmer temperatures can make regions newly hospitable to disease-carrying mosquitoes, while floods from more frequent storms can carry bacteria in their surges of water. Most research, though, only focused on a handful of threats or one disease at a time. The new study, published in Nature Climate Change, built a comprehensive map of all of the ways various climate hazards could interact with 375 documented human infectious diseases. The authors reviewed over 77,000 scientific articles about those diseases and climate hazards. They found that, of those 375 diseases, 218 could be aggravated by things like heatwaves, rising sea levels, and wildfires.

The study found four main ways climate change exacerbates diseases. First, problems happen when changes cause disease-carrying animals to move closer to people. For example, animal habitats are disrupted by things like wildfires that drive bats and rodents into new areas, increasing the likelihood they’ll transmit diseases like Ebola to people. Other research shows that climate change makes viruses more likely to jump from animals to people, as happened with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. That phenomenon also likely contributed to the 2016 Zika outbreaks.

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‘Ocean Cleanup’ Removes First 100,000 kg of Plastic From the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit trying to rid the world’s oceans of plastic, announced that it’s “officially removed more than 100,000 kg of plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP).” The impressive milestone is almost 4x as much garbage it announced it removed last October. CEO Boyan Slat writes in a press release: Since deployment in August 2021, System 002 (or “Jenny”) has now collected 101,353 kg of plastic over 45 extractions, sweeping an area of ocean of over 3000km2 — comparable to the size of Luxembourg or Rhode Island. Added to the 7,173 kg of plastic captured by our previous prototype systems, The Ocean Cleanup has now collected 108,526 kg of plastic from the GPGP — more than the combined weight of two and a half Boeing 737-800s, or the dry weight of a space shuttle!

According to our 2018 study in which we mapped the patch, the total amount of accumulated plastic is 79,000,000 kg, or 100,000,000 kg if we include the Outer GPGP. Thus, if we repeat this 100,000 kg haul 1,000 times — the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will be gone.

I’m proud of The Ocean Cleanup team for crossing this milestone, which is all the more remarkable considering System 002 is still an experimental system. Now our technology is validated, we are ready to move on to our new and expanded System 03, which is expected to capture plastic at a rate potentially 10 times higher than System 002 through a combination of increased size, improved efficiency, and increased uptime. Our transition to System 03 is starting soon.

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Extreme Temperatures In Major Latin American Cities Could Be Linked To Nearly 1 Million Deaths

Rodrigo Perez Ortega writes via Science Magazine: With climate change, heat waves and cold fronts are worsening and taking lives worldwide: about 5 million in the past 20 years, according to at least one study. In a new study published today in Nature Medicine, an international team of researchers estimates that almost 900,000 deaths in the years between 2002 and 2015 could be attributable to extreme temperatures alone in major Latin American cities. This is the most detailed estimate in Latin America, and the first ever for some cities.

To estimate how many people died from intense heat or cold, researchers with the Urban Health in Latin America project — which studies how urban environments and policies impact the health of city residents in Latin America — looked at mortality data between 2002 and 2015 from registries of 326 cities with more than 100,000 residents, in nine countries throughout Latin America. They calculated the average daily temperatures and estimated the temperature range for each city from a public data set of atmospheric conditions. If a death occurred either on the 18 hottest or the 18 coldest days that each city experienced in a typical year, they linked it to extreme temperatures. Using a statistical model, the researchers compared the risk of dying on very hot and cold days, and this risk with the risk of dying on temperate days. They found that in Latin American metropolises, nearly 6% — almost 1 million — of all deaths between those years happened on days of extreme heat and cold. They also created an interactive map with the data for individual cities.

When the team analyzed the specific cause of these deaths in the registries, they found — consistent with previous studies — that extreme temperatures are often linked to deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Extreme heat makes the heart pump more blood and causes dehydration and pulmonary stress. Extreme cold, on the other hand, can make the heart pump less blood and cause hypotension and, in some cases, organ failure. The team also found older adults are especially vulnerable to extreme temperatures, with 7.5% of deaths among them correlated to extreme heat and cold during the study period. Although the numbers varied from year to year, in 2015, for instance, more than 16,000 deaths — out of nearly 855,000 — among people ages 65 or older were attributable to extreme temperatures. Latin America’s aging population is projected to rise more quickly than other parts of the world — from 9% in 2020 to 19% in 2050, by some estimates (PDF). […] Although deaths on extremely cold days — about 785,000 — were much higher than those on extremely hot days — about 103,000 — overall there were more days with intense cold, which could explain this difference. But for some cities, such as Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Merida, heat is more deadly than cold: The researchers estimated that on very hot days, the chance of dying increases by 5.7% for every 1C increase in temperature.

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Record-Breaking Heat Wave In India Threatens Residents, Crucial Wheat Harvest

A record-breaking heat wave in India exposing hundreds of millions to dangerous temperatures is damaging the country’s wheat harvest, which experts say could hit countries seeking to make up imports of the food staple from conflict-riven Ukraine. NBC News reports: With some states in India’s breadbasket northern and central regions seeing forecasts with highs of 120 Fahrenheit this week, observers fear a range of lasting impacts, both local and international, from the hot spell. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told U.S. President Joe Biden earlier this month that India could step in to ease the shortfall created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The two countries account for nearly a third of all global wheat exports, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that the conflict could leave an additional 8 million to 13 million people undernourished by next year.

India’s wheat exports hit 8.7 million tons in the fiscal year ending in March, with the government predicting record production levels — some 122 million tons — in 2022. But the country has just endured its hottest March since records began, according to the India Meteorological Department, and the heat wave is dragging well into harvest time. The heat wave is hitting India’s main wheat-growing regions particularly hard, with temperatures this week set to hit 112 F in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh; 120 F in Chandigarh, Punjab; and 109 F in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Devendra Singh Chauhan, a farmer from Uttar Pradesh’s Etawah district, told NBC News that his wheat crop was down 60 percent compared to normal harvests.

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In California, an Army of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes Awaits Release

The U.S. government recently gave California approval to release millions of genetically engineered mosquitoes bred by British biotech company Oxitec, reports the Los Angeles Times:

Oxitec, a private company, says its genetically modified bugs could help save half the world’s population from the invasive Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can spread diseases such as yellow fever, chikungunya and dengue to humans. Female offspring produced by these modified insects will die, according to Oxitec’s plan, causing the population to collapse. “Precise. Environmentally sustainable. Non-toxic,” the company says on its website of its product trademarked as the “Friendly” mosquito.

Scientists independent from the company and critical of the proposal say not so fast. They say unleashing the experimental creatures into nature has risks that haven’t yet been fully studied, including possible harm to other species or unexpectedly making the local mosquito population harder to control….

Nathan Rose, Oxitec’s head of regulatory affairs, noted that the company found its mosquito reduced the population in a Brazilian neighborhood by 95% in just 13 weeks. So far, Oxitec has released little of its data from that experiment or from a more recent release in the Florida Keys. It hasn’t yet published any of those results in a peer-reviewed scientific journal — publications that scientists expect when evaluating a new drug or technology….

Among scientists’ concerns is that releasing the genetically modified mosquitoes into neighborhoods could create hybrids that are hardier and more dangerous to humans than the state’s current population…. An EPA spokesperson said regulators expected that mosquitoes with the corporate genes “would disappear from the environment within 10 generations of mosquitoes because they are not able to reproduce as successfully as local populations.” To prove this, the agency has required Oxitec to monitor neighborhoods for mosquitoes that have DNA from its engineered insects until none have been found for at least 10 consecutive weeks.
One bioethicist at Harvard Medical School told the Times that California has never had a case where this breed of mosquitos had actually transmitted disease, and argued that America’s Environmental Protection Agency was “not a modern enough regulatory structure for a very modern and complicated technology.”
After the U.S. government’s approval, the genetically-engineered mosquitors still face several more months of scientific evaluation from California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation.
Thanks to long-time Slashdot reader schwit1 for sharing the link

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Amazon Nears ‘Tipping Point’ Where Rainforest Could Transform Into Savanna

If deforestation continues, the Amazon rainforest could reach a critical tipping point where most of it transforms into a dry savanna, a new study warns. Live Science reports: The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggests that more than 75% of the rainforest has steadily lost “resilience” since the 2000s, meaning those portions of the rainforest now can’t recover as easily from disturbances, such as droughts and wildfires. Regions of the rainforest that show the most profound losses in resilience are located near farms, urban areas and areas used for logging, Inside Climate News reported. Climate change, rampant deforestation and burnings conducted for agriculture and ranching have left the Amazon far warmer and drier than in decades past, and since 2000, the region has endured three major droughts, The New York Times reported.

By examining satellite images taken between 1991 and 2016, the researchers determined how long the rainforest took to bounce back after such events, The Guardian reported. The researchers determined that, since the turn of the 21st century, the rainforest has been taking longer and longer to recover biomass, meaning the mass of living trees and other vegetation, after droughts and fires. “That lack of resilience shows that, indeed, there is only so much of a beating that this forest can take,” Paulo Brando, a tropical ecologist at the University of California, Irvine who was not involved in the study, told The New York Times. If the rainforests surpasses this tipping point, the ecosystem could swiftly change into a vast savanna, unleashing tens of billions of tons of carbon dioxide during the transformation, The Guardian reported.

At this point, can anything be done to prevent the Amazon rainforest from turning into the Amazon savanna? Experts say there is. “These systems are highly resilient, and the fact that we have reduced resilience doesn’t mean that it has lost all its resilience,” Brando told the Times. “If you leave them alone for a little bit, they come back super strongly.” But it requires key steps to be taken, experts said. “We have to get to zero deforestation, zero forest degradation,” Carlos Nobre, a senior scientist at the National Institute of Amazonian Research in Brazil, who was not involved in the study, told the Times. “We still have a chance to save the forest.”

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Methane Emissions From the Energy Sector Are 70% Higher Than Official Figures: IEA

New submitter Klaxton shares an excerpt from a new report released today by the International Energy Agency (IEA): Global methane emissions from the energy sector are about 70% greater than the amount national governments have officially reported, according to new IEA analysis released today, underlining the urgent need for enhanced monitoring efforts and stronger policy action to drive down emissions of the potent greenhouse gas. Methane is responsible for around 30% of the rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, and quick and sustained emission reductions are key to limiting near-term warming and improving air quality. Methane dissipates faster than carbon dioxide (CO2) but is a much more powerful greenhouse gas during its short lifespan, meaning that cutting methane emissions would have a rapid effect on limiting global warming.

The energy sector accounts for around 40% of methane emissions from human activity, and this year’s expanded edition of the IEA’s Global Methane Tracker includes country-by-country emissions from coal mines and bioenergy for the first time, in addition to continued detailed coverage of oil and natural gas operations. Methane emissions from the energy sector grew by just under 5% last year. This did not bring them back to their 2019 levels and slightly lagged the rise in overall energy use, indicating that some efforts to limit emissions may already be paying off. “At today’s elevated natural gas prices, nearly all of the methane emissions from oil and gas operations worldwide could be avoided at no net cost,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “The International Energy Agency has been a longstanding champion of stronger action to cut methane emissions. A vital part of those efforts is transparency on the size and location of the emissions, which is why the massive underreporting revealed by our Global Methane Tracker is so alarming.”

If all methane leaks from fossil fuel operations in 2021 had been captured and sold, then natural gas markets would have been supplied with an additional 180 billion cubic meters of natural gas. That is equivalent to all the gas used in Europe’s power sector and more than enough to ease today’s market tightness. The intensity of methane emissions from fossil fuel operations range widely from country to country: the best performing countries and companies are over 100 times better than the worst. Global methane emissions from oil and gas operations would fall by more than 90% if all producing countries matched Norway’s emissions intensity, the lowest worldwide.

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