Scientists sound alarm as growing threat looms over coastal states: ‘We are preparing for the wrong disaster’

The Cool Down

Scientists sound alarm as growing threat looms over coastal states: ‘We are preparing for the wrong disaster’

Doric Sam – May 7, 2024

Scientists have issued a stern warning over the ongoing threat of rising sea levels caused by the ever-changing climate.

What’s happening?

A detailed report by The Washington Post revealed that coastal communities across eight states in the U.S. are facing “one of the most rapid sea level surges on Earth.” Since 2010, satellite data shows that the Gulf of Mexico has experienced twice the global average rate of rising sea levels, with more than a dozen tide gauges spanning from Texas to North Carolina registering sea levels that are at least six inches higher than they were 14 years ago.

While many understandably assume that extreme weather events like hurricanes are the source of these changes, experts revealed that rising water levels face a “newer, more insidious challenge” of accumulation caused by smaller-scale weather events.

“To me, here’s the story: We are preparing for the wrong disaster almost everywhere,” said Rob Young, a professor at Western Carolina University and director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines. “These smaller changes will be a greater threat over time than the next hurricane, no question about it.”

Charleston, South Carolina recorded its fourth-highest water level since measurements began in 1899, with the city’s average rising by seven inches since 2010. Jacksonville, Florida has seen an increase of six inches during that period, but Galveston, Texas experienced a whopping eight-inch increase in 14 years.

Why is this concerning?

These rapidly increasing water levels are uncommon, and to make matters worse, experts believe they are here to stay even if the rate of the rise tapers off eventually.

“Since 2010, it’s very abnormal and unprecedented,” said Jianjun Yin, a climate scientist at the University of Arizona who has studied the changes. “It’s irreversible.”

Watch now: What’s the true environmental impact of renewable energy?

Rising global temperatures have caused warmer currents that cause water to expand. However, human-induced climate change caused by harmful gases and a lack of care for the environment have also contributed to these concerning issues.

The rising levels have particularly impacted the state of Louisiana, where wetlands that are meant to act as a natural barrier to catastrophic storms are now in a state of “drowning.” This issue would make the state more vulnerable to future major weather events.

Across the rest of the American South, failing septic systems can lead to contaminated water sources. During big storms, roads can fall below the highest tides and leave residents in the community cut off from essential services like medical care. Also, the future value of homes in flood-prone areas is being impacted by rising rates and limited policies from insurance companies.

What can be done about it?

Officials are trying to figure out ways to combat these issues. In Galveston, for example, there is a plan to install several pump stations over the next few years using funding provided through federal grants. However, it was noted that each pump is expected to cost over $60 million, which is likely to exceed the city’s annual tax revenue.

We can help by taking steps to reduce our own carbon footprint, like switching to electric vehicles, supporting local food sources, choosing native species when planting or volunteering for local cleanup projects in areas where rising sea levels pose a threat.

Join our free newsletter for cool news and cool tips that make it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

New EV tax credit rules mean cars with Chinese materials won’t qualify — but there’s a catch

Yahoo! Finance

New EV tax credit rules mean cars with Chinese materials won’t qualify — but there’s a catch

‘Impracticable-to-trace’ elements like Chinese graphite will be temporarily excluded from EV tax credit rules, a boon for US automakers.

Pras Subramanian, Senior Reporter May 6, 2024

New rules from the Treasury Department will make it harder for vehicles to qualify for the full federal electric vehicle tax credit of $7,500 if key components are sourced from China.

But the rules also offered a two-year reprieve on some materials that are mostly sourced from China.

Late last week Treasury released new rules mandating that manufacturers not use critical materials that originate from a Foreign Entity of Concern (FEOC) — including China, Russia, North Korea, or Iran — by 2025 if they want to receive the full EV tax credit.

The federal government, however, is giving automakers some important leeway in sourcing some rarer materials, like graphite.

“The final regulations also identify certain impracticable-to-trace battery materials,” the Treasury said, adding that “qualified manufacturers may temporarily exclude these battery materials from FEOC due diligence and FEOC compliance determinations until 2027.”

Currently, the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) federal EV credit requires that manufacturers ramp up sourcing of battery “critical materials” such as nickel and cobalt from the US and its trade partners and ensure that battery components are increasingly built in North America.

The White House’s goal with the mandates was to reduce the industry’s reliance on battery materials and components from China.

China’s chokehold over battery mineral production is the main concern for automakers who need to diversify supply chains and for the federal government as it looks to boost domestic production of these minerals. Morgan Stanley estimated that 90% of the EV battery supply chain originates from China, with Chinese companies like CATL and BYD dominating the space.

The “impracticable-to-trace” exemption is a boon for automakers in sourcing low-value and hard-to-trace elements like graphite, which is a critical component of a battery’s anode and comes mainly from China.

The automakers and their main trade group, the Alliance for Automotive Innovation (AAI), cheered the 2027 exemption for non-traceable elements.

“This updated guidance from the Treasury Department is something we recommended. It makes good sense for investment, job creation and consumer EV adoption,” said John Bozzella, AAI president and CEO.

This photo taken on Dec. 8, 2022 shows the graphitization process of cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries at a workshop of a company in Hegang City, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. In recent years, Hegang City has upgraded the exploitation of graphite resources and boosted the city's industrial transformation by developing graphite industry, promoting the local economic development.   Hegang is rich in graphite resources with an annual production capacity of 6 million tons of ore. (Photo by Xie Jianfei/Xinhua via Getty Images)
This photo taken on Dec. 8, 2022, shows the graphitization process of cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries at a workshop of a company in Hegang City, northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province. (Photo by Xie Jianfei/Xinhua via Getty Images) (Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images)

Bozzella also noted that the EV tax credit was hard enough to qualify for; only 20% of EVs received the credit, and on top of that, requirements will get harder next year. Currently, only 22 vehicles sold in the US qualify for the tax credit, and only 13 of them qualify for the full $7,500.

A restriction on trace or low-value minerals would have meant even fewer (if not all EVs) would no longer qualify for the credit.

“Imagine an EV that complied with all IRA eligibility requirements but is kicked out of the program because of a trace amount of a critical mineral from an FEOC,” Bozzella said. “That makes no sense — especially when you consider the massive investments automakers and suppliers are making in domestic EV manufacturing.”

Read more: Are electric cars more expensive to insure?

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., questions Education Secretary Miguel Cardona during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, to examine the 2025 budget for the Department of Education. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Sen. Joe Manchin questions Education Secretary Miguel Cardona during a hearing in Washington, on Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

“President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act has unleashed an investment and manufacturing boom in the United States,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

“I’ve seen firsthand in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky how ecosystems have developed in communities nationwide to onshore the entire clean vehicle supply chain so the United States can lead in the field of green energy.”

The White House also noted that 15 battery gigafactories have been commissioned in the US since the start of Biden’s term in office.

But critics, like Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who helped push IRA legislation through the Senate back in 2022, see this loophole as the White House “breaking the law.”

“With this final rule for the consumer credit, their creation of loopholes in the commercial vehicle credit, and their EPA tailpipe rules, the Administration is effectively endorsing ‘Made in China,'” the Democratic senator from West Virginia said in a statement, adding that the White House is “blatantly breaking the law by implementing a bill that they did not pass.”

Manchin has vowed to lead a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval for the IRA’s tax credit implementation, which could lead to the repeal of Treasury’s guidance for untraceable elements.

Pras Subramanian is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. 

Voters can’t tell between the arsonist and the fireman

Charlotte Observer – Opinion

Voters can’t tell between the arsonist and the fireman

Mark Gongloff, Bloomberg Opinion -The Tribune Content Agency May 02, 2024

US President Joe Biden presents his national statement as part of the World Leaders’ Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland on Nov. 1, 2021. (Yves Herman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images/TNS) YVES HERMAN/POOL/AFP TNS

If you were shopping for toaster ovens and your choice was between one that posed a 1% chance of setting your house on fire and a competing one that would not only 100% set your house on fire but proudly guaranteed it right on the box, then you would probably go with the 1% model.

U.S. voters face a similar choice this November when it comes to which presidential candidate will set the climate on fire. But they don’t seem to realize how much of a no-brainer that choice truly is.

President Joe Biden may not have a spotless climate record, but he has done much more to ensure a livable environment for future generations than any of his predecessors. Donald Trump, on the other hand, not only has history’s worst climate record, but he has announced, loudly and often, that his second term would be far, far worse.

Voters haven’t received the message, according to poll after poll. The latest is from CBS News, which found that 49% of Americans have heard little or nothing about what Biden has done for the climate. More alarmingly, most Americans think neither Biden’s second-term policies nor Trump’s would make any difference to the climate. That is dangerous nonsense.

The list of what Biden has already done is long and substantial, and it goes beyond the Inflation Reduction Act, easily the biggest climate bill in history. He also passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Chips and Science Act, both with significant investments in the renewable-energy transition. He rejoined the Paris accord to limit long-term warming to 2 degrees Celsius, tightened emissions standards for power plants and cars and limited oil and gas drilling and liquefied natural gas exports. To name just a few things.

Biden has frustrated environmentalists at times with compromises such as approving the Willow drilling project in Alaska and pulling some regulatory punches on emissions and corporate disclosures. But he has done these things mostly in the name of getting reelected – which may sound cynical, until you consider the person who will be elected if Biden is not.

During his first term, Trump ditched the Paris accord and loosened regulatory fetters on the fossil-fuel and other polluting industries at the worst possible moment, just as the global concentration of atmospheric carbon was reaching dangerous levels. A Trump restoration would again come at a key point, just when scientists say the window to avoid the worst effects of a chaotic climate is slamming shut.

And Trump’s advisers are vowing to wreck progress even more aggressively in a second term. The Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 lays out an agenda for Trump II that includes leaving the Paris accord again; undoing Biden’s efforts to regulate pollution; repealing the IRA or at least neutralizing it by closing the Energy Department loan office; throwing the entire country open to oil and gas exploration; and dismantling the climate-tracking National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. To name just a few things.

A second Trump term would add 4 billion extra tons of carbon to the atmosphere, according to an analysis by Carbon Brief, a nonprofit advocacy group. That’s about two-thirds of what the U.S. produces in an entire year and matches the combined annual emissions of the European Union and Japan. The global clean-energy transition has built up anti-Trump defenses in the past four years, as my Bloomberg Opinion colleague Liam Denning and I have written. But make no mistake about it: A second Trump presidency would be a disaster.

So the whole planet needs Biden to do a much better job of communicating the stark contrast between him and Trump. The first step will be overcoming the mistaken sense among his voting base that he has failed them with his compromises.

“The key voters that put Biden in office in the first place – young people, people of color, women in the suburbs – were very concerned about climate,” Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, told me in an interview. “Some of these same demographics think he’s done nothing or worse because of the Willow decision.”

Seven out of 10 Biden voters in 2020 said climate was important to their vote, according to a Pew Research Center poll. Nearly a fifth of Biden voters consider it their top priority, according to an Economist/YouGov poll. If he wants these voters back at the polls in November, then Biden must convince them early and often that staying home and giving Trump the White House would make all their worst fears come true.

The trick is that Biden may also need to win swing voters, most of whom don’t care as much about the environment and may fear (incorrectly) that there’s a trade-off between fighting global warming and growing the economy. That’s one reason Biden and his advisers spend so much time trumpeting the jobs the IRA and other climate actions create.

The good news is that the politics of this issue have shifted drastically in recent years. As evidence, Biden made his climate promises sharper for the general election campaign than during the Democratic primaries in 2020, Leiserowitz notes. Most Americans now think global warming is real and human-made and support Biden’s policies when they hear about them.

But we can’t wait for the battleship of public opinion to complete its U-turn. We don’t have another four years to waste.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners. Mark Gongloff is a Bloomberg Opinion editor and columnist covering climate change. He previously worked for, the Huffington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

Midwest tornadoes: What a decaying El Niño has to do with violent storms in the central US

The Conversation

Midwest tornadoes: What a decaying El Niño has to do with violent storms in the central US

Jana Lesak Houser, The Ohio State University – April 29, 2024

Dozens of tornadoes hit the central U.S. April 26-28, 2024, tearing through suburbs and small towns and damaging hundreds of homes from Oklahoma to Nebraska and Iowa.

Spring is tornado season in the U.S., but the tornadoes in Nebraska and Iowa were quite a bit farther north and east of what would be typical for tornadoes in late April, when tornado activity is more common in Oklahoma and Texas.

The outbreak did fit another pattern for severe weather events, however, that occur as the atmosphere transitions out of El Niño. And this is exactly what was happening in late April.

I study tornadoes and the conditions under which they form. Here’s how these storm systems develop and what El Niño has to do with it.

Map shows lines of tornadoes across Nebraska and Iowa
Preliminary reports of tornadoes and hail during severe storms on April 26, 2024, collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center. NOAA
Map shows severe storms lines from Texas to Illinois.
Preliminary reports of tornadoes and hail on April 27, 2024, collected by the Storm Prediction Center. NOAA.
The right conditions for a tornado

Two basic conditions are required to produce the rotating supercell thunderstorms that are capable of generating tornadoes:

  1. Warm moist surface conditions and cold air above.
  2. Winds that change in both speed and direction as you move up in the atmosphere, known as vertical wind shear.

Picture a kid who has a helium balloon at a party and releases it – the balloon floats upward. Like that helium balloon, the warm moist air is less dense than the surrounding colder air, so it rises, accelerating upward. This upward motion releases heat, moisture and energy, and causes thunderstorms to develop.

As with many severe weather outbreaks that occur in the U.S., the atmosphere became primed for storms as warm moist air at the surface was being transported northward from the Gulf of Mexico by a series of surface low-pressure systems.

Higher up, about halfway between the ground and where airplanes fly, atmospheric waves within and below the jet stream were transporting cold air through the middle part of the atmosphere. These waves, formally called Rossby waves and commonly referred to as troughs and ridges, also enhanced vertical wind shear.

A small atmospheric wave that moved through the Central Plains and Midwest on April 26, helped trigger the tornadoes in Nebraska and Iowa, including a large, destructive tornado in the suburbs of Omaha, Nebraska, and in the town of Minden, Iowa, about 30 miles away.

The following day, a bigger wave moved through Oklahoma, where tornadoes damaged several small towns that evening.

The two images show the short-wave trough, circled in red, and the longer wave, circled in orange, traveling behind it. On the left is April 26, with the short-wave trough moving through Nebraska. On the right, the longer wave is affecting Oklahoma and Kansas on April 27. <a href=
The two images show the short-wave trough, circled in red, and the longer wave, circled in orange, traveling behind it. On the left is April 26, with the short-wave trough moving through Nebraska. On the right, the longer wave is affecting Oklahoma and Kansas on April 27.

What was especially important was how close these parameters were to the center of the surface low-pressure system and a warm front that extended just to the east of it. The tornado-producing storms were able to tap into that instability and draw on the strong vertical wind shear generated in the vicinity of the warm front.

A chart map of wind direction and temperature shows the warm front across Nebraska and Iowa where the tornadoes developed.
Surface temperatures (colors), winds (barbs indicating direction the wind was blowing from), surface pressure (solid black contours) indicating the location of the low pressure system (L), the warm front (red line) and the region of favorable conditions (blue circle) on the evening of April, 26, 2024. Pivotal Weather

In addition to the tornadoes, the warm moist storms brought heavy rainflash flooding and large hail across parts of the central U.S.

What El Niño has to do with tornado weather

In late 2023 and early 2024, much of the world experienced above-average temperatures, likely linked to global climate change and exacerbated by El Niño. El Niño is a naturally occurring cyclical climate phenomenon that affects both the oceans and the atmosphere.

When El Niño decays, the atmospheric waves change and can become wavier, so they have a greater amplitude. That tends to enhance conditions needed for tornadoes.

The U.S. often sees more frequent tornadoes when the climate is transitioning out of El Niño. The strong El Niño of 2023-24 was decaying in April 2024, and forecasters expect it to be gone by summer.

Forecasts can save lives

The tornadoes caused severe damage in several communities as they tore apart homes and buildings. At least five people died in the storms. But early communications that warned the public of the threat for severe weather days before the storms likely saved more lives.

Weather experts are getting better at predicting tornado conditions. It is not uncommon now to know days in advance of the actual event that an elevated threat exists. Forecasters have high-resolution weather models that can anticipate storms at an appropriate spatial scale to provide a sense of the likely organization of the storms and come close to the location.

The better we understand these storms’ attributes, the better those forecasts and warnings can become.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization bringing you facts and trustworthy analysis to help you make sense of our complex world. It was written by: Jana Lesak HouserThe Ohio State University

Read more:

Jana Lesak Houser receives funding from The National Science Foundation.

An El Niño-less summer is coming. Here’s what that could mean for the US


An El Niño-less summer is coming. Here’s what that could mean for the US

Mary Gilbert, CNN Meteorologist – April 29, 2024

It may be spring, but it’s not too soon to look ahead to summer weather, especially when El Niño – a player in last year’s especially brutal summer – is rapidly weakening and will all but vanish by the time the season kicks into gear.

El Niño’s disappearing act doesn’t mean relief from the heat. Not when the world is heating up due to human-driven climate change. In fact, forecasters think it could mean the opposite.

What this summer’s weather could look like

El Niño is a natural climate pattern marked by warmer than average ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. When the water gets cooler than average, it’s a La Niña. Either phase can have an effect on weather around the globe.

By June, forecasters expect those ocean temperatures to hover close to normal, marking a so-called neutral phase, before La Niña builds in early summer, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

But the strength of El Niño or La Niña’s influence on US weather isn’t uniform and varies greatly based on the strength of the phenomena and the season itself.

The influence of El Niño or La Niña on US weather isn’t as clear-cut in the summer as it is in the winter, especially during a transition between the two phases, said Michelle L’Heureux, a climate scientist with the Climate Prediction Center.

Temperature differences between the tropics and North America are more extreme in the winter, L’Heureux explained. This allows the jet stream to become quite strong and influential, reliably sending storms into certain parts of the US.

In the summer, the difference in temperature between the two regions isn’t as significant and the obvious influence on US weather wanes.

But we can look back at what happened during similar summers to get a glimpse of what could come this summer.

In short: It’s not cool.

The summer of 2016 was one of the hottest on record for the Lower 48. La Niña conditions were in place by midsummer and followed a very strong El Niño winter.

Summer 2020 followed a similar script: La Niña conditions formed midsummer after a weak El Niño winter but still produced one of the hottest summers on record and the most active hurricane season on record.

Then there’s the fact that these climate phenomena are playing out in a warming world, raising the ceiling on the extreme heat potential.

“This obviously isn’t our grandmother’s transition out of El Niño – we’re in a much warmer world so the impacts will be different,” L’Heureux, said. “We’re seeing the consequences of climate change.”

Current summer temperature outlooks for the US are certainly bringing the heat.

CNN Weather
CNN Weather

Above-average temperatures are forecast over nearly every square mile of the Lower 48. Only portions of the Dakotas, Minnesota and Montana have an equal chance of encountering near normal, above- or below-normal temperatures.

A huge portion of the West is likely to have warmer conditions than normal. This forecast tracks with decades of climate trends, according to L’Heureux.

Summers have warmed more in the West than in any other region of the US since the early 1990s, according to data from NOAA. Phoenix is a prime example. The city’s average July temperature last year was an unheard-of 102.7 degrees, making it the hottest month on record for any US city. It was also the deadliest year on record for heat in Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located.

Forecasts also show a worrying precipitation trend for parts of the West.

CNN Weather
CNN Weather

Large sections of the West and the central US are likely to be drier than normal. This dryness, combined with above-normal heat, which only amplifies the dryness, could be a recipe for new or worsening drought.

Wetter than normal conditions are in the forecast from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast. Stormy weather could be a consistent companion for much of the East – but whether it comes from typical rain and thunderstorms or tropical activity won’t be known for months.

A brutal summer also predicted in the water

Heat isn’t the only threat to look out for.

The strengthening La Niña conditions, coupled with ocean temperatures which have been at record highs for over a year, could supercharge the Atlantic hurricane season.

A warming world generates more fuel for more tropical activity and stronger storms. La Niña tends to produce favorable atmospheric conditions to allow storms to form and hold together in the Atlantic.

Early this month, forecasters at Colorado State University released their most active initial forecast ever.

“We anticipate a well above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean,” the group said in a news release.

Which foods have the most plastics? You may be surprised


Which foods have the most plastics? You may be surprised

Sandee LaMotte, CNN – April 22, 2024

“How much plastic will you have for dinner, sir? And you, ma’am?” While that may seem like a line from a satirical skit on Saturday Night Live, research is showing it’s much too close to reality.

Ninety percent of animal and vegetable protein samples tested positive for microplastics, teeny polymer fragments that can range from less than 0.2 inch (5 millimeters) down to 1/25,000th of an inch (1 micrometer), according to a February 2024 study. Anything smaller than 1 micrometer is a nanoplastic that must be measured in billionths of a meter.

Even vegetarians can’t escape, according to a 2021 study. If the plastic is small enough, fruits and vegetables can absorb microplastics through their root systems and transfer those chemical bits to the plant’s stems, leaves, seeds and fruit.

Salt can be packed with plastic. A 2023 study found coarse Himalayan pink salt mined from the ground had the most microplastics, followed by black salt and marine salt. Sugar is also “an important route of human exposure to these micropollutants,” according to a 2022 study.

Even tea bags, many of which are made of plastic, can release enormous amounts of plastic. Researchers at McGill University in Quebec, Canada found brewing a single plastic teabag released about 11.6 billion microplastic and 3.1 billion nanoplastic particles into the water.

Rice is also a culprit. A University of Queensland study found that for every 100 grams (1/2 cup) of rice people eat, they consume three to four milligrams of plastic — the number jumps to 13 milligrams per serving for instant rice. (You can reduce plastic contamination by up to 40% by washing rice, researchers said. That also helps reduce arsenic, which can be high in rice.)

Let’s not forget bottled water. One liter of water — the equivalent of two standard-size bottled waters — contained an average of 240,000 plastic particles from seven types of plastics, including nanoplastics, according to a March 2024 study.

Dangers to human health

While microplastics have been found in the human lungmaternal and fetal placental tissueshuman breast milk and human blood, until recently there was very little research on how these polymers affect the body’s organs and functions.

A March 2024 study found people with microplastics or nanoplastics in arteries in the neck were twice as likely to have a heart attack, stroke or die from any cause over the next three years than people who had none.

Nanoplastics are the most worrisome type of plastic pollution for human health, experts say. That’s because the minuscule particles can invade individual cells and tissues in major organs, potentially interrupting cellular processes and depositing endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as bisphenolsphthalatesflame retardantsper- and polyfluorinated substances, or PFAS, and heavy metals.

“All of those chemicals are used in the manufacturing of plastic, so if a plastic makes its way into us, it’s carrying those chemicals with it,” Sherri “Sam” Mason, director of sustainability at Penn State Behrend in Erie, Pennsylvania, told CNN in a prior interview.

“And because the temperature of the body is higher than the outside, those chemicals are going to migrate out of that plastic and end up in our body,” Mason said.

“Those chemicals can be carried to your liver and your kidney and your brain and even make their way across the placental boundary and end up in an unborn child,” she said.

“There currently is no scientific consensus on the potential health impacts of nano- and microplastic particles. Therefore, media reports based on assumptions and conjecture do nothing more than unnecessarily scare the public,” a spokesperson for the International Bottled Water Association, an industry association, told CNN previously.

All types of proteins contained microplastics

In the February study, which was published in Environmental Research, researchers looked at over a dozen commonly consumed proteins, including beef, breaded and other types of shrimp, chicken breasts and nuggets, pork, seafood, tofu and several plant-based meat alternatives, such as nuggets, plant crumbles similar to ground beef and plant-based fish sticks.

Breaded shrimp contained the most tiny plastics by far, at well over an average of 300 microplastic pieces per serving. Plant-based nuggets came in second, at under 100 pieces per serving, followed by chicken nuggets, pollock fish sticks, minimally processed White Gulf shrimp, fresh caught Key West pink shrimp and a plant-based fish-like stick.

The least contaminated proteins were chicken breasts, followed by pork loin chops and tofu.

After comparing the results to consumer consumption data, researchers estimated the average exposure of American adults to microplastics could range between 11,000 and 29,000 particles a year, with a maximum estimated exposure of 3.8 million microplastics per year.

Fruits and vegetables tested high in plastics

The oceans are filled with plastics, and a number of studies have captured how those are ending up in the seafood we eat. However, fewer studies have looked at vegetables and land animal proteins, such as cattle and hogs, according to an August 2020 study.

The study, published in Environmental Science, found between 52,050 and 233,000 plastic particles under 10 micrometers — each micrometer is about the diameter of a rain drop — in a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Apples and carrots were the most contaminated fruit and vegetable, respectively, with over 100,000 microplastics per gram. The smallest particles were found in carrots, while the largest pieces of plastic were found in lettuce, which was also the least contaminated vegetable.

Plastics are everywhere

There are a staggering number of plastics in the world, today, according to a recent analysis — 16,000 plastic chemicals, with at least 4,200 of those considered to be “highly hazardous” to human health and the environment.

As these chemicals break down in the environment, they can turn into microplastics and then nanoplastics, particles so small science struggled for decades to see them.

A recent study that utilized brand new technology found the number of nanoplastics in three popular brands of water sold in the United States to be in between 110,000 and 370,000 per liter, if not higher. A liter is the equivalent of about two 16 ounce bottled waters. (The authors declined to mention which brands of bottled water they studied.)

Prior research using older technology had identified only about 300 nanoplastics in bottled water, along with bigger microplastics.

At least 16,000 plastic chemicals exist with least 4,200 of those considered to be “highly hazardous” to human health and the environment, a study found. - Lisovskaya/iStockphoto/Getty Images
At least 16,000 plastic chemicals exist with least 4,200 of those considered to be “highly hazardous” to human health and the environment, a study found. – Lisovskaya/iStockphoto/Getty Images
Ways to reduce plastic

The levels of contamination found in bottled water reinforce long-held expert advice to drink tap water from glass or stainless steel containers to reduce exposure, Mason said. That advice extends to other foods and drinks packaged in plastic as well, she added.

“People don’t think of plastics as shedding but they do,” she said. “In almost the same way we’re constantly shedding skin cells, plastics are constantly shedding little bits that break off, such as when you open that plastic container for your store-bought salad or a cheese that’s wrapped in plastic.”

While science learns more about the plastics we consume, there are things people can do to reduce their exposure, according to experts.

· Try to avoid eating anything that has been stored in a plastic container. Look for food stored in glass, enamel or foil.

· Wear clothing made from natural fabrics and buy consumer products made from natural materials.

· Don’t microwave in plastic. Instead, heat food on the stove or by microwaving in glass.

· If you can, eat as much fresh food as possible, and limit purchase of processed and ultraprocessed foods wrapped in plastic.

Drought devastates crops in southern Africa: ‘The grain I have is only enough for the next two months’

The Cool Down

Drought devastates crops in southern Africa: ‘The grain I have is only enough for the next two months’

Timothy McGill – April 27, 2024

The Africa hunger crisis, exacerbated by a climate change–amplified El Niño, is reaching a critical point. A recent Reuters report paints a grim picture, revealing that southern Africa is grappling with its most severe drought in several years.

What’s happening?

Earth saw a record $63 billion in damages from weather disasters in 2023. Many of those disasters were made worse by El Niño. Reuters cited a study from October last year that “even suggested that climate change may now be as significant a factor in triggering El Niño conditions as natural causes like sun rays.” An El Niño is an unusual warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean along and near the equator.

This year’s extreme drought has devastated crops, and now millions are hungry in southern Africa. World Vision calls it a “severe food crisis” that is “driving millions of people into a heightened risk of hunger and starvation.”

The peak of farming season in southern Africa is from October to March. Several weather disasters have struck the region since the end of 2023’s season. Tropical storm Freddy destroyed homes in Blantyre, the capital of Malawi, on March 14, 2023. This March, tropical storm Filipo brought devastating floods to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.

Drought is impacting this part of the world, with increasing global temperatures exacerbating the problem. The lack of rainfall has decimated maize crops in southern Africa. An estimated 24 million people are impacted by hunger and malnutrition. The soil is normally suitable for maize farming.

Seventy percent of southern Africa’s maize comes from South Africa. The ongoing drought has led to a 15% drop in the country’s maize production for 2023-24 compared to 2022-23.

Watch now: These futuristic gas stations could completely change what it’s like to own an EV

“The grain I have is only enough for the next two months. It is going to be hunger from here on,” farmer Mandisireyi Mbirinyu told Reuters.

What is being done?

African countries have been forced to come up with innovative ways to deal with drought. Some of these approaches include reusing rainwater, preserving humidity in fields, and promoting effective and inclusive consultation. The United Nations Sustainable Development Group suggests several ways that communities can end desertification, including “combatting soil erosion and restoring coastal ecosystems, leveraging innovation, technology, partnerships and private finance, and supporting the livelihoods of people displaced by drought.”

How can I help?

Giving to climate-friendly causes and organizations like World Vision that help communities overcome poverty and injustice are among the ways to help. Learning about the crisis and sharing the information with family and friends on social media can also help by spreading the word.

Join our free newsletter for cool news and cool tips that make it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Climate impacts set to cut 2050 global GDP by nearly a fifth


Climate impacts set to cut 2050 global GDP by nearly a fifth

Marlowe Hood – April 17, 2024

A new study shows that climate change will cause massive economic damage within the next 25 years (Frederic J. BROWN)
A new study shows that climate change will cause massive economic damage within the next 25 years (Frederic J. BROWN)

Climate change caused by CO2 emissions already in the atmosphere will shrink global GDP in 2050 by about $38 trillion, or almost a fifth, no matter how aggressively humanity cuts carbon pollution, researchers said Wednesday.

But slashing greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible remains crucial to avoid even more devastating economic impacts after mid-century, they reported in the journal Nature.

Economic fallout from climate change, the study shows, could increase tens of trillions of dollars per year by 2100 if the planet were to warm significantly beyond two degrees Celsius above mid-19th century levels.

Earth’s average surface temperature has already climbed 1.2C above that benchmark, enough to amplify heatwaves, droughts, flooding and tropical storms made more destructive by rising seas.

Annual investment needed to cap global warming below 2C — the cornerstone goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement — is a small fraction of the damages that would be avoided, the researchers found.

Staying under the 2C threshold “could limit average regional income loss to 20 percent compared to 60 percent” in a high-emissions scenario, lead author Max Kotz, an expert in complexity science at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), told AFP.

Economists disagree on how much should be spent to avoid climate damages. Some call for massive investment now, while others argue it would be more cost-effective to wait until societies are richer and technology more advanced.

– Poor countries hit hardest –

The new research sidesteps this debate, but its eye-watering estimate of economic impacts helps make the case for ambitious near-term action, the authors and other experts said.

“Our calculations are super relevant” to such cost-benefit analyses, said co-author Leonie Wenz, also a researcher at PIK.

They could also inform government strategies for adapting to climate impacts, risk assessments for business, and UN-led negotiations over compensation for developing nations that have barely contributed to global warming, she told AFP.

Mostly tropical nations — many with economies already shrinking due to climate damages — will be hit hardest, the study found.

“Countries least responsible for climate change are predicted to suffer income loss that is 60 percent greater than the higher-income countries and 40 percent greater than higher-emission countries,” said senior PIK scientist Anders Levermann.

“They are also the ones with the least resources to adapt to its impacts.”

Rich countries will not be spared either: Germany and the United States are forecast to see income shrivel by 11 percent by 2050, and France by 13 percent.

Projections are based on four decades of economic and climate data from 1,600 regions rather than country-level statistics, making it possible to include damages earlier studies ignored, such as extreme rainfall.

– A likely underestimate –

The researchers also looked at temperature fluctuations within each year rather than just averages, as well as the economic impact of extreme weather events beyond the year in which they occurred.

“By accounting for these additional climate variables, the damages are about 50 percent larger than if we were to only include changes in annual average temperatures,” the basis of most prior estimates, said Wenz.

Wenz and her colleagues found that unavoidable damage would slash the global economy’s GPD by 17 percent in 2050, compared to a scenario with no additional climate impacts after 2020.

Even so, the new calculations may be conservative.

“They are likely to be an underestimate of the costs of climate change impacts,” Bob Ward, policy director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London, commented to AFP ahead of the study’s publication.

Damages linked to sea-level rise, stronger tropical cyclones, the destabilisation of ice sheets and the decline of major tropical forests are all excluded, he noted.

Climate economist Gernot Wagner, a professor at Columbia Business School in New York who was also not involved in the study, said the conclusion that “trillions in damages are all locked in doesn’t mean that cutting carbon pollution doesn’t pay.”

In fact, he said, it shows that “the costs of acting are a fraction of the costs of unmitigated climate change”.

Global GDP in 2022 was just over $100 trillion, according to the World Bank. The study projects that — absent climate impacts after 2020 — it would be double that in 2050.

Climate change damage could cost $38 trillion per year by 2050, study finds


Climate change damage could cost $38 trillion per year by 2050, study finds

Riham Alkousaa – April 17, 2024

FILE PHOTO: French lake dries up due to winter drought, threatening farming and tourism

BERLIN (Reuters) – Damage to farming, infrastructure, productivity, and health from climate change will cost an estimated $38 trillion per year by 2050, German government-backed research finds, a figure almost certain to rise as human activity emits more greenhouse gases.

The economic impact of climate change is not fully understood, and economists often disagree on its extent.

Wednesday’s study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), which is backed by the German government, stands out for the severity of its findings.

It calculates climate change will shave 17% off the global economy’s GDP by the middle of the century.

“The world population is poorer than it would be without climate change,” Potsdam climate data researcher Leonie Wenz, a co-author on the study, said. “It costs us much less to protect the climate than not to.”

At an estimated $6 trillion, the cost of measures to limit global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) of pre-industrial temperatures by 2050 would be less than a sixth of the cost of the estimated damage caused by allowing warming to exceed that level, the report said.

While previous studies have concluded climate change could benefit some countries’ economies, PIK’s research found almost all would suffer – with poor, developing nations the hardest hit.

Its estimation of damage is based on projected temperature and rainfall trends, but does not take into account extreme weather or other climate-related disasters such as forest fires or rising sea levels.

It is also only based on emissions already released, even though global emissions continue to rise at record levels.

As well as spending too little to curb climate-warming emissions, governments are also under-spending on measures to adapt to the impact of climate change.

For the study, the researchers looked at temperature data and rainfall for more than 1,600 regions over the last 40 years, and considered which of these events were costly.

They then used that damage assessment, along with climate model projections, to estimate future damage.

If emissions continue at today’s rate – and the average global temperature climbs beyond 4C – the estimated economic toll after 2050 amounts to a 60% income loss by 2100, the findings suggest. Limiting the rise in temperatures to 2C would contain those losses at an average of 20%.

(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa, Editing by Rachel More, Katy Daigle and Barbara Lewis)

New study calculates climate change’s economic bite will hit about $38 trillion a year by 2049

Associated Press

New study calculates climate change’s economic bite will hit about $38 trillion a year by 2049

Seth Borenstein – April 17, 2024

FILE - People watch the sunset at a park on an unseasonably warm day, Feb. 25, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo. A new study says climate change will reduce future global income by about 19% in the next 25 years compared to a fictional world that’s not warming. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
People watch the sunset at a park on an unseasonably warm day, Feb. 25, 2024, in Kansas City, Mo. A new study says climate change will reduce future global income by about 19% in the next 25 years compared to a fictional world that’s not warming. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
FILE - A man buys a cool drink from a roadside vendor on a sunny day in Mahawewa, a village north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Feb. 29, 2024. A new study says climate change will reduce future global income by about 19% in the next 25 years compared to a fictional world that’s not warming. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena, File)
A man buys a cool drink from a roadside vendor on a sunny day in Mahawewa, a village north of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Feb. 29, 2024. A new study says climate change will reduce future global income by about 19% in the next 25 years compared to a fictional world that’s not warming. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena, File)

Climate change will reduce future global income by about 19% in the next 25 years compared to a fictional world that’s not warming, with the poorest areas and those least responsible for heating the atmosphere taking the biggest monetary hit, a new study said.

Climate change’s economic bite in how much people make is already locked in at about $38 trillion a year by 2049, according to Wednesday’s study in the journal Nature by researchers at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. By 2100 the financial cost could hit twice what previous studies estimate.

“Our analysis shows that climate change will cause massive economic damages within the next 25 years in almost all countries around the world, also in highly-developed ones such as Germany and the U.S., with a projected median income reduction of 11% each and France with 13%,” said study co-author Leonie Wenz, a climate scientist and economist.

These damages are compared to a baseline of no climate change and are then applied against overall expected global growth in gross domestic product, said study lead author Max Kotz, a climate scientist. So while it’s 19% globally less than it could have been with no climate change, in most places, income will still grow, just not as much because of warmer temperatures.

For the past dozen years, scientists and others have been focusing on extreme weather such as heat waves, floods, droughts, storms as the having the biggest climate impact. But when it comes to financial hit the researchers found “the overall impacts are still mainly driven by average warming, overall temperature increases,” Kotz said. It harms crops and hinders labor production, he said.

“Those temperature increases drive the most damages in the future because they’re really the most unprecedented compared to what we’ve experienced historically,” Kotz said. Last year, a record-hot year, the global average temperature was 1.35 degrees Celsius (2.43 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than pre-industrial times, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The globe has not had a month cooler than 20th century average since February 1979.

In the United States, the southeastern and southwestern states get economically pinched more than the northern ones with parts of Arizona and New Mexico taking the biggest monetary hit, according to the study. In Europe, southern regions, including parts of Spain and Italy, get hit harder than places like Denmark or northern Germany.

Only Arctic adjacent areas — Canada, Russia, Norway, Finland and Sweden — benefit, Kotz said.

It also means countries which have historically produced fewer greenhouse gas emissions per person and are least able to financially adapt to warming weather are getting the biggest financial harms too, Kotz said.

The world’s poorest countries will suffer 61% bigger income loss than the richest ones, the study calculated.

“It underlies some of the injustice elements of climate,” Kotz said.

This new study looked deeper than past research, examining 1,600 global areas that are smaller than countries, took several climate factors into account and examined how long climate economic shocks last, Kotz said. The study examined past economic impacts on average global domestic product per person and uses computer simulations to look into the future to come up with their detailed calculations.

The study shows that the economic harms over the next 25 years are locked in with emission cuts producing only small changes in the income reduction. But in the second half of this century that’s when two different possible futures are simulated, showing that cutting carbon emissions now really pays off because of how the heat-trapping gases accumulate, Kotz said.

If the world could curb carbon pollution and get down to a trend that limits warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, which is the upper limit of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, then the financial hit will stay around 20% in global income, Kotz said. But if emissions increase in a worst case scenario, the financial wallop will be closer to 60%, he said.

That shows that the public shouldn’t think it’s a financial “doomsday” and nothing can be done, Kotz said.

Still, it’s worse than a 2015 study that predicted a worst case income hit of about 25% by the end of the century.

Marshall Burke, the Stanford University climate economist who wrote the 2015 study, said this new research’s finding that the economic damage ahead is locked in and large “makes a lot of sense.”

Burke, who wasn’t part of this study, said he has some issues with some of the technical calculations “so I wouldn’t put a ton of weight on their specific numerical estimates, but I think the big picture is basically right.”

The conclusions are on the high end compared to other recent studies, but since climate change goes for a long time and economic damage from higher temperatures keep compounding, they “add up to very large numbers,” said University of California Davis economist and environmental studies professor Frances Moore, who wasn’t part of the study. That’s why fighting climate change clearly passes economists’ tests of costs versus benefits, she said.