Newsdesk – May 1

Dr. Robin Bell has studied polar ice sheets at the lab since the early 1980s.Credit…Adrienne Grunwald for The New York Times

The Lab That Discovered Global Warming Has Good News and Bad News.  Lamont-Doherty now has the largest concentration of earth scientists on earth. Half of them are working on projects related to climate change. Even before the pandemic locked Lamont scientists out of their labs, the institution was struggling to compete with others for a steadily shrinking pot of federal dollars. “The Trump administration has hugely diminished funding for climate research,” said Dr. de Menocal. “It has gotten to the point now where you can’t even use the word ‘climate.’ You have to say ‘air quality’ or some other aspect of the environment in your research proposal.” He hopes that the virus crisis will, if nothing else, underscore the value of science. The crucial role the Lamont-Doherty lab plays in climate research all started with a brilliant and somewhat eccentric geologist named Wallace Broecker, who is credited as the first person to use the term “global warming” in a scientific paper. Dr. Broecker likened the climate system to “an angry beast” that humans were “poking with sticks.” Days before he died last year at 87, he warned that we are moving too slowly to cut greenhouse gas emissions. His suggestion for the future: Scientists should consider deploying a massive “solar shield” in Earth’s atmosphere to cool the planet by deflecting the sun’s rays. Not everyone at the lab agrees that massive, risky geoengineering schemes are the answer. One question that invariably generates a lively discussion is how rapidly climate change will progress. Dr. Bell, a geophysicist who has studied polar ice sheets at Lamont since 1982 and who has a ridge named after her in Antarctica, is trying to figure out how quickly polar ice sheets will melt, a critical factor for determining rates of sea-level rise that threaten coastal cities like New York. And her guiding principle ever since the lab was founded was that in order to predict the planet’s future, you need to understand its past. Just as Lamont scientists are feeling more energized during the Covid-19 pandemic, the lab continues losing the financial support of the government, which was once its largest source of financing. “We’ve watched the Covid-19 situation unfold at incredible speed,” Dr. de Menocal said. The virus, Dr. de Menocal said, has shown us how vulnerable we are as a society. “The laws of nature don’t care whether we believe in them or not,” he said. “The tragedy and inconvenience we’ve seen from this pandemic pale in comparison to what’s in store from climate change – The New York Times

  • Climate science deniers at forefront of downplaying coronavirus pandemic – The Guardian
  • On climate change, archaeological paper digs into the effects of colonization and maltreatment – The Washington Post 
  • Oil Slump May No Longer Be a Curse for Renewable Energy – Bloomberg Green
  • Century-old Antarctic journal reveals survival and sexed-up penguins – The Guardian
  • UN development chief calls for green shift away from ‘irrational’ oil dependence – Climate Home News 
  • Weatherwatch: thousands in lockdown rescue rainfall records – The Guardian 
  • .Four more EU nations back a green post-coronavirus recovery – Climate Home News
  • Climate change may push some species to higher elevations—and out of harm’s way –
  • Satellite images reveal huge amounts of methane leaking from U.S. oil fields – CBS News
  • Big data reveals we’re running out of time to save environment and ourselves –

California’s critical kelp forests are disappearing in a warming world. Can they be saved? “The California coast without kelp is like the Amazon without trees,” says Tom Ford, executive director of the Bay Foundation. In fact, scientists call these fast-growing underwater forests the “sequoias of the sea” for their ability to store large amounts of carbon dioxide. By absorbing CO2 in the surrounding water, seaweed decreases acidification that can kill marine life. Through photosynthesis, kelp forests boost oxygen levels in the ocean while helping protect the coast from erosion by reducing the speed and size of waves. Kelp forests also help sea otters and some 800 other marine species because they depend on them, as do fishers in the state’s abalone and red urchin industries, now devastated by a purple urchin population explosion. For decades, Honeywood cove was largely devoid of life, devastated by seaweed-eating purple urchins. And when the predators that keep their numbers in check disappear, the population booms and can quickly consume a kelp forest, creating what is called an urchin barren. The essential kelp forests can also be used as biofuel, and when fed to cows dramatically cuts planet-warming methane emissions from their burps. In California, kelp forests shape waves by absorbing some of their energy to produce optimal conditions for surfing, a multimillion-dollar business. These critically important kelp forests have been wiped out by more than 90% along a 200-mile stretch off of the California coast during 2014 and 2016 due to a marine heat wave. Laura Rogers-Bennett, a marine scientist with the University of California, Davis, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, whose research has documented this kelp die-off, acknowledged “Just like the coronavirus is requiring an interdisciplinary, multipronged attack using all our wits, I think that same mentality is going to help deal with climate change impacts, and in this case, kelp forest decline.” Individuals can donate to pay for restoration of kelp forests, mangroves, and seagrass meadows, or by purchasing products from SeaTrees’ partners. In additon, the California Ocean Protection Council’s (OPC) new strategic plan to restore kelp statewide is planned to start over the summer, though COVID-19 may slow things down. The goal is to create a network of kelp refuges that can seed other areas and to begin monitoring the coastline for changes in kelp cover – National Geographic

As emissions fall, air quality around the world is skyrocketing. The climate consequences of the coronavirus pandemic go even further.PHOTOGRAPH: NARAYAN MAHARJAN/GETTY IMAGES

How Is the Coronavirus Pandemic Affecting Climate Change? Sure, emissions have fallen. But a closer look at how the global crisis is influencing the environment reveals some surprising dynamics. In early April it’d been estimated that globally this year, emissions could fall by 5.5 percent from 2019 levels. That figure may seem low, given that fewer cars are on roads and industries have stalled, but with context, it’s stunning. Until now, emissions have been reliably increasing by a few percent year after year. “Broadly speaking, the only real times we’ve seen large emission reductions globally in the past few decades is during major recessions,” said Hausfather, the director of climate and energy at the Breakthrough Institute, which advocates for climate action. The amount of gasoline supplied in the US fell by 50 percent over the two-week period ending April 3. Interestingly, the amount of diesel supplied has remained fairly stable. That’s probably due to it being more of commercial fuel, used for the semi-trucks that are still making deliveries while the rest of us keep our cars in the garage. Carbon monoxide emissions in New York City, mostly coming from vehicles, fell by 50 percent. With that will come a dramatic improvement in public health, and at just the right time.  New research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has shown that air pollution is associated with higher Covid-19 death rates. They found that even small increases in long-term exposure to the pollutants leads to significantly higher mortality. That makes sense, since this is a disease that attacks the lungs. In March, researchers at the University of Washington and Goethe University Frankfurt published a study that quantified one of the stranger consequences of air pollution: It can actually bounce the sun’s energy back into space, thus helping cool the planet. Specifically, they looked at a phenomenon called cloud brightening, in which the particulate sulfate pollution that cargo ships spew makes its way into clouds. The sulfate particles attract water vapor, making a cloud brighter, and therefore better able to reflect sunlight – Wired