Newsdesk – September 5

The extra energy trapped by the atmosphere is expressing itself every second of every hour, usually quietly; you may not notice it, but eventually a downpour turns into a flood.Photograph by Eric Thayer / Getty

How Fast Is the Climate Changing?: It’s a New World, Each and Every Day. Every once in awhile, it’s worth stepping back and reminding ourselves what’s actually going on, silently, every hour of every day. And what’s going on is that we’re radically remaking our planet, in the course of a human lifetime. Hell, in the course of a human adolescence. The sun, our star, pours out energy, which falls on this planet, where the atmosphere traps some of it. Because we’ve thickened that atmosphere by burning coal and gas and oil—in particular, because we’ve increased the amount of carbon dioxide and methane it contains—more of that sun’s energy is trapped around the Earth. About three-fourths of a watt of extra energy per square meter, or slightly less than, say, one of those tiny white Christmas-tree lights. But there are a lot of square meters on our planet—roughly five hundred and ten trillion of them, which is a lot of Christmas-tree lights. It’s the heat equivalent, to switch units rather dramatically, of exploding four Hiroshima-sized bombs each second. With temperatures warming, unless there are increases in precipitation or atmospheric moisture to compensate, our fuels are going to get drier,” the University of Alberta fire scientist Mike Flannigan. Fuels, in this case, means grass, brush, and trees, and they dry out at a predictable pace, which becomes much faster in a heat wave. For almost all of human history, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide stuck at about two hundred and seventy-five parts per million, meaning that the planet’s energy balance was essentially unchanged. The physical world worked in predictable ways. But there’s around twenty-five parts per million more CO2 in the air now than there was a decade ago: That’s more change in ten years than over all the millennia from the invention of agriculture to the start of the Industrial Revolution. What if a tree burns in the forest and everyone sees it on TV, but no one says why it caught on fire? Noting that it’s been 15 years since Hurricane Katrina left its mark on New Orleans, and news outlets are still failing to discuss the links between fossil fuel pollution, climate change, and extreme weather. Polling makes it clear that even amid the pandemic and resulting recession, public interest in the climate is unabated. Sixty-eight percent of Americans want the government to do more to deal with climate change; a quarter of the country feels that the issue is very important to them personally – The New Yorker

  • Extinction Rebellion: rights experts say peaceful protest in UK under threat – The Guardian
  • Mexico’s president nods to environment but favors state energy firms – Reuters
  • Why Los Angeles Might Make Transit Free – Bloomberg CityLab
  • ‘Bold action is a winning message’: climate advocates hail Ed Markey win – The Guardian
  • What I Learned From a Week of Responding to My Haters – Eearhter Gizmodo
  • Oil industry lobbies US to help weaken Kenya’s strong stance on plastic waste – The Guardian
  • Americans Back Tough Limits on Building in Fire and Flood Zones – The New York Times 
  • Unesco urged to oppose ‘alarming’ changes to Australian environment laws – The Guardian
Photo © | Shams

How do Climate Change, Migration and a Deadly Disease in Sheep Alter Our Understanding of Pandemics?  For thousands of years, an unknown virus lingered quietly among the wild ruminants of South Africa. The kudu. The giraffes. The Cape buffalo. Spread by a genus of biting midges,  the virus lived in harmony with its hosts, rarely causing disease, until the late 18th century, when farmers began importing purebred merino sheep from Europe.  Unlike their native counterparts, however, these newcomers hadn’t had the chance to evolve any resistance. The disease persisted, year after year, decade upon decade, flaring up in new flocks every summer. In 1905, James Spreull, a government veterinarian stationed in Grahamstown, South Africa, published the first major study of what shepherds were then calling “bluetongue.” In 1943, the virus broke loose in Cyprus. In 1956, it swept across the Iberian Peninsula. In the mid-1960s, the World Organisation for Animal Health classified bluetongue as a “List A” transmissible disease, fearing its spread across southern Europe. Then it spread across southern Europe and the Mediterranean, from the Greek Islands to at least nine other previously uninfected countries. The virus had jumped to a native midge, too, spreading the disease far wider than any of the climate models could predict. A series of compulsory vaccination programs across Europe finally quashed the spread by 2010, but just five years later, bluetongue reemerged in France and later, Germany, Switzerland, and more.  Every species carries with it a number of ancestral traits, and those same traits are inherited by other related species. This is fortunate for pathogens because while they are indeed specialists, they specialize on the trait itself, not the specific host. If a distant but related host (say merino sheep) is suddenly thrust into a pathogen’s environment (say South Africa) the pathogen is more than capable of making do. African swine fever. West Nile. Dengue. Influenza. Avian influenza. Zika. Ebola. MERS. Cholera. Anthrax. Wheat rust. Lyme disease. Malaria. Chagas. SARS. And now, with a price tag of at least US$9 trillion and nearly a million lives, Covid-19. In July 2019, Daniel Brooks, a senior research fellow of the Harold W. Manter Laboratory of Parasitology at the University of Nebraska State Museum. and two other parasitologists published The Stockholm Paradigm: Climate Change and Emerging Disease. Emerging Infectious Diseases already cost roughly US$1 trillion annually, the authors note, major pandemics like Covid-19 notwithstanding, and they’re becoming more frequent all the time. “It’s so easy,” Brooks says. “With this combination of climate change and human beings pushing into the wildlands and the wildlands pushing back, and then global travel and global trade — boom, it goes really fast” – Ensia

In August 2020, the RAS Institute of Oil and Gas Problems, supported by the local Yamal authorities, conducted a major expedition to the new crater. Skoltech researchers were part of the final stages of that expedition
Credit: Evgeny Chuvilin

Massive mystery holes appear in Siberian tundra — and could be linked to climate change. A Russian TV crew flying over the Siberian tundra this summer spotted a massive crater 30 meters (100 feet) deep and 20 meters wide — striking in its size, symmetry, and the explosive force of nature that it must have taken to have created it.  Scientists are not sure exactly how the huge hole, which is at least the ninth spotted in the region since 2013, formed.  While now scientists believe the giant hole is linked to an explosive buildup of methane gas — which could be an unsettling result of warming temperatures in the region — there is still a lot the researchers don’t know. “It is possible they have been forming for years, but it is hard to estimate the numbers. Since craters usually appear in uninhabited and largely pristine areas of the Arctic, there is often no one to see and report them,” Chuvilin said who is a lead research scientist at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology’s Center for Hydrocarbon Recovery and visited the site of the newest crater to study its features.  Permafrost, which amounts to two-thirds of the Russian territory, is a huge natural reservoir of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and recent hot summers. including in 2020,  in the region may have played a role in creating these craters. Chuvilin and his team are among the few scientists who took samples of permafrost soil, ground, and ice from the rim of a hole — known as the Erkuta crater — during a field trip in 2017 after it was discovered by biologists who were in the area observing falcon nesting. “The main issue with these craters is how incredibly fast, geologically, they form and how short-lived they are before they turn into lakes,” Chuvilin said. “Finding one in the remote Arctic is always a stroke of luck for scientists.” The study, which was published in June, showed that gases, mostly methane, can accumulate in the upper layers of permafrost from multiple sources — both from the deep layers of the Earth and closer to the surface. The accumulation of these gases can create pressure that is strong enough to burst through the upper layers of frozen ground, scattering earth and rocks and creating the crater – CNN