Climate & Environment

Climate & Environment
Research: Chilli makes solar cells more effective
Research: Chilli makes solar cells more effective
Credit: unsplash.com / Possessed Photography

The plant substance capsaicin makes chilies hot and it makes solar cells more effective, as scientists from Sweden and China have now discovered: capsaicin is said to minimize power loss and make solar cells more resistant to water. They have processed capsaicin in a perovskite solar cell.

This type of solar cell is seen as the hope for a new generation of photovoltaic systems. They are easy to manufacture with inexpensive materials. Adding the chili ingredient increased the solar cell's efficiency from 19.1 to nearly 22 percent.

Climate & Environment
Study proves the impact of the Veganuary in water and CO2 savings
Study proves the impact of the Veganuary in water and CO2 savings
Credit: Courtesy of Veganuary

With the "Veganuary," more than 500,000 Internet users worldwide give up animal products for a month at the beginning of the year. Data from Harvard University shows that the campaign is very effective: Around 100,000 tons of CO2 and 6 million liters of water can be saved with the initiative.

Climate & Environment
Germany: Hamburg introduces solar obligation for new buildings
Representative image of solar panels
Representative image of solar panels Credit: unsplash.com / MICHAEL WILSON

New electricity from Hamburg's roofs: Hamburg will be the first German state to introduce mandatory photovoltaics from 2023. Starting in two years, corresponding systems must be installed on new buildings or roofs that are being fundamentally renovated. The generated solar power is expected to save over 60,000 tons of CO2 by 2030.

Climate & Environment
Earthquake hits Croatia with 6.4 magnitude
Earthquake hits Croatia with 6.4 magnitude
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4 has hit the central region of Croatia. Media reports spoke of considerable property damage in the Croatian capital as well as in the vicinity of the epicenter, which is located about 45 kilometers southeast of Zagreb. It was the second quake in a row within the past 30 hours. On Monday, earthquakes of magnitude 5.2 and 5.0 were recorded in the same area.

Climate & Environment
Russia Admits to 'World's Largest' Arctic Oil Spill
Russia Admits to 'World's Largest' Arctic Oil Spill
Credit: Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data 2020, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 IGO)

According to a Russian top emergency official the fuel spill at an Artic power station earlier in 2020 has been the largest oil spill in world history.

Near the city of Norilsk around 21,000 tonnes of oil have spilled and contaminated surrounding ground and waterways following the collapse of a diesel oil tank on May 29.

Climate & Environment
1.56b single-use face masks estimated to have entered oceans in 2020
1.56b single-use face masks estimated to have entered oceans in 2020
Credit: unsplash.com/Brian Yurasits

A study conducted by OceansAsia estimates that 1.56 billion of around 52 billion manufactured face masks in 2020 will have entered oceans this year, resulting in an additional 4,680 to 6,240 metric tonnes of marine plastic pollution.

“The 1.56 billion face masks that will likely enter our oceans in 2020 are just the tip of the iceberg,” says Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, Director of Research for OceansAsia, and lead author of the report. “The 4,680 to 6,240 metric tonnes of face masks are just a small fraction of the estimated 8 to 12 million metric tonnes of plastic that enter our oceans each year.”

Climate & Environment
Report: November 2020 was the hottest on record, by a clear margin
Report: November 2020 was the hottest on record, by a clear margin
Credit: unsplash.com / Eelco Böhtlingk

The surface air temperature in this year's November was higher than any year before on record.

The temperature anomaly was the highest in much of Siberia, the Arctic Ocean and bordering coastal seas, extending into western and northern Alaska, the far north-west of Canada, the Tibetan Plateau and East Antarctica. Temperature records were also broken in parts of Europe and heatwaves were experienced in parts of Australia.

The average temperature from December 2019 to November 2020 is almost 1.3°C above the pre-industrial level defined in the IPCC Special Report on “Global Warming of 1.5°C”.

Climate & Environment
Germany: Green electricity will cover almost half of electricity consumption in 2020
Germany: Green electricity will cover almost half of electricity consumption in 2020
Credit: unsplash.com / RawFilm

According to experts, renewable energies such as wind and solar power covered almost half of Germany's electricity consumption this year.

This means that the share of green electricity has continued to rise, compared to 42.5 percent in 2019. According to preliminary calculations by the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) and the German Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) the share of electricity from wind, photovoltaics, biomass and other renewable energy sources made up around 46 percent of gross electricity consumption.

One of the reasons for this shift, however, is the lower electricity consumption, in particular as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Climate & Environment
Ocean Panel countries commit to higher level of ocean protection
Manta Ray
Manta Ray Credit: Tchami (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

14 countries worldwide have committed themselves to the sustainable management of their national waters. The "Ocean Panel" is a body for sustainable marine management. A goal is it to place until 2030 a third of the seas under protection.

Involved are countries like Australia, Canada, Ghana, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Norway and Portugal. Together they have a marine area that is about the size of Africa.

Climate & Environment
Road bridge in Indian jungle saves animal life
Road bridge in Indian jungle saves animal life
Credit: BBC

Employees of a forestry authority in India have built a bridge made of jute ropes and bamboo planks over a road in the jungle. This should make the way to the other side safe for small animals.

Further large green bridges are being planned - the first is to be built over the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway. A total of five such green bridges are to be built by 2024.

Climate & Environment
IFRC report: Global response to climate change is failing those at risk
Logo of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Logo of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Credit: IFRC

The countries most affected by the consequences of climate change only receive a small fraction of the funding available for climate adaptation, according to the World Disasters Report 2020 by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

What makes the failure to protect those most vulnerable, especially alarming, is the steadily increasing number of weather and climate-related disasters. There was an increase of almost 35 per cent per decade in the average number of weather and climate-related disasters since the 1990s.

83 per cent of all disasters were caused by climate and weather-related events such as storms, floods, and heatwaves in the past decade. More than 410,000 people were killed, and 1.7 billion people were affected by these disasters.

Climate & Environment
Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé have been named top plastic polluters for 3rd year in a row
Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Nestlé have been named top plastic polluters for 3rd year in a row
Credit: unsplash.com / Dustan Woodhouse

The organization Break Free From Plastic has released its annual audit, stating that Coca-Cola is the number one plastic polluter in the world followed by Nestlé and Pepsi. 15,000 volunteers had previously identified littered plastic around the world. In total 346,394 pieces of plastic had been found of which 63% had a clear consumer brand on it.

In total 13,834 pieces had the Coca-Cola brand on them, 8,633 Nestlé and 5,155 Pepsi.

Climate & Environment
France introduces Repair Index
France introduces Repair Index
Credit: unsplash.com / Nikolai Chernichenko

As of January 2021, electronic devices will be marked with a repair index at the time of purchase and thus classified. The index is intended to inform buyers about the repair possibilities of the purchased item and is measured on a scale of 1 to 10 based on parameters such as ease of disassembly, as well as price and availability of spare parts.

Climate & Environment
Study: Climate impact of aviation is much greater than previously estimated
Study: Climate impact of aviation is much greater than previously estimated
Credit: unsplash.com / Stefan Fluck

A new study by the EU's aviation regulator EASA has found that "aviation emissions are currently warming the climate at approximately three times the rate of that associated with aviation CO2 emissions alone."

This is due to non-CO2 emissions, which are harder to quantify and not well studied. The new study examined the impact of these emissions, including nitrogen oxide, water vapor, oxidized sulfur and soot particles.

About 2 percent of global CO2 emissions are caused by aviation, but that does not include the non-CO2 emissions listed above.

Climate & Environment
German Bundestag votes for law banning plastic bags from 2022 on
German Bundestag votes for law banning plastic bags from 2022 on
Credit: unsplash.com / Christopher Vega

German Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze (SPD) has stated that "The plastic bag is the epitome of a waste of resources" following the decision to ban plastic shopping bags in supermarkets from 2022 on.

The ban will affect plastic shopping bags with a wall thickness of 15 to 50 micrometers - these are the standard bags usually available at the cash register. The only exceptions are the thin plastic bags that for example are found in the fruit and vegetable department.

Climate & Environment
Report: 1% of farms operate 70% of the planet's farmland, researchers warn of land inequality
Report: 1% of farms operate 70% of the planet's farmland, researchers warn of land inequality
Credit: unsplas/Noah Buscher

A new report has shown that 70% of the world's crop fields, ranches and orchards are operated by one percent of the world's farms, resulting in rising land inequality due to global farmland being increasingly dominated by a few major companies, a new research led by the International Land Coalition, alongside a group of partners including Oxfam and the World Inequality Lab, found.

"In the past, these instruments were only of concern to the markets. They didn’t affect us individually. But now they touch every aspect of our lives because they are linked to the environmental crisis and the pandemic,” so Ward Anseeuw, senior technical specialist at the International Land Coalition.

Climate & Environment
Mysterious metal monolith discovered in Utah desert
Mysterious metal monolith discovered in Utah desert
Credit: Courtesy of Utah Highway Patrol

State wildlife officials have discovered a strange metal object from the air while flying a helicopter in the wilderness of southern Utah. The men and the pilot Bret Hutchings had been out counting bighorn sheep when a biologist spotted the shimmering column hidden in a rock niche far from any civilization.

Hutchings cannot say what the thing is, but it reminds him of the moon monolith from Stanley Kubrick's famous science fiction film "2001: Space Odyssey". "I suspect that a New Wave artist set this up," he said.

Climate & Environment
UNO reports record high CO₂ concentration in the atmosphere
UNO reports record high CO₂ concentration in the atmosphere
Credit: unsplash.com / Ishan @seefromthesky

According to the annual greenhouse gas bulletin by the World Meteorological Organization directed to the UNO, the global average of 410 ppm carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) in the atmosphere has been reached for the first time in 2019 since the beginning of industrialisation in 1750.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taala stated that "The last time the Earth experienced similar CO 2 concentrations was three to five million years ago".

Climate & Environment
Top court: France has three months to show it's taking climate action
Top court: France has three months to show it's taking climate action
Credit: By Marie-Lan Nguyen - Own work / via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

France's government was hauled before the Council of State by the coastal town Grande-Synthe and has now been given a three-month deadline to show that it's taking action to meet its commitments concerning climate change. While the country "has committed itself to reduce its emissions by 40% in 2030 compared to 1990 levels, it has, in recent years, regularly exceeded the 'carbon budgets' it had set itself", as was noted by the Council.

This means that "policies must be more than nice commitments on paper," said Grande Synthe's lawyer Corinne Lepage, calling the decision "historic".

Climate & Environment
Ban on new petrol cars by 2030 on Britain roads to net-zero emissions
Ban on new petrol cars by 2030 on Britain roads to net-zero emissions
Credit: CHUTTERSNAP

Five years earlier than previously planned, as part of what Prime Minister Boris Johnson is casting as a "green revolution", Britain will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030, to cut emissions to net-zero by 2050.

In total the plan would mobilise 12 billion pounds ($16 billion) of government money, with as much as three times that amount coming from the private sector, and create and support 250,000 highly skilled green jobs by 2030, Johnson said.

Climate & Environment
Brown marmorated stink bug reaches Bavarian alpine uplands
Brown marmorated stink bug reaches Bavarian alpine uplands
Credit: Gary Bernon, USDA APHIS / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)

Due to globalization and climate change, a new vermin for gardening and agriculture has arrived in Bavarian fields and beds: The Brown marmorated stink bug originated in East Asia, menaces the harvests of fruit growers and vegetable farmers, experts warn. In the warmest regions of Germany in Baden-Wuerttemberg, the bug is already widespread for some time, now the bug has been detected nearby, in the colder Bavarian regions at the foot of the Alps.

Climate & Environment
Researchers report warmest October in Europe since 1979

According to the European Copernicus Climate Change Service the October 2020 has been the warmest since the service has started recording. The experts evaluated measurements since 1979.

Worldwide, it was the third warmest October, as the organization announced on Thursday in Reading, UK. Temperatures were well above the average from 1981 to 2010, especially over large parts of the Arctic and the Tibetan Plateau.

Climate & Environment
Putin aims to meet Paris climate goals
Putin aims to meet Paris climate goals
Credit: kremlin.ru / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

In a new decree, the Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the government to try to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement to fight climate change.

However, all measures need to ensure that Russia can show strong economic development. but stressed that any action must be balanced with the need to ensure strong economic development.

Climate & Environment
The Philippines stops accepting proposals for coal-based power plants
The Philippines stops accepting proposals for coal-based power plants
Credit: Lawrence Ruiz (Epi Fabonan III) / via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The Filipino Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has announced a moratorium on endorsements for greenfield coal-powered plants.

Instead, the government will pursue natural gas as a major source of energy, not just for power generation but also for industrial, commercial and household sectors.

However, with the coal-based projects that are already in the works and proposals already submitted to the government not covered by the moratorium, coal is set to remain the dominant power source for years to come.

Cusi stated that "We see that we have enough supply for baseload power and we're looking at a more flexible source like gas, geothermal, hydro and others,".

Climate & Environment
The U.S. formally withdraws from Paris agreement

After a three-year delay, the US has become the first nation in the world to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement formally. In the wake of the President Donald Trump announcement back in 2017, several states and businesses have pledged to continue cutting carbon and to try and make up for the Federal government's decision to walk away from the US commitment under Paris.

"The EU green deal and carbon neutrality commitments from China, Japan and South Korea point to the inevitability of our collective transition off fossil fuels," said Laurence Tubiana, one of the architects of the Paris agreement and now chief executive of the European Climate Foundation.

Climate & Environment
Turkey, Greece: 7.0-magnitude earthquake hits Aegean Sea
Turkey, Greece: 7.0-magnitude earthquake hits Aegean Sea
Credit: ApChrKey, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

On Friday, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit the Aegean Sea off the coast of Greece and Turkey. The earthquake caused buildings to crash and triggered a mini tsunami.

At least 27 people were killed – 25 in Turkey, 2 in Greece – and at least 804 people were injured. 470 aftershocks have been recorded.

Climate & Environment
Venezuelan oil tanker now under "minimal" risk to sink
Nabarima
Nabarima Credit: Twitter (Reproduction)

After taking on water and tilting to one side, a damaged Venezuelan oil tanker poses no significant risk of spilling and causing an environmental catastrophe, officials of Trinidad & Tobago said Thursday.

The Venezuelan-flagged Nabarima, a 264-meter (866-foot) long ship believed to be almost filled to its capacity of 1.4 million barrels of crude — had fallen inactive with the recent plunge in global energy demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic and to U.S. sanctions on the Venezuelan government that have scared away potential buyers of the country’s heavy crude.

Climate & Environment
Japan aims for zero emissions by 2050
Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga
Prime Minister of Japan Yoshihide Suga Credit: 内閣官房内閣広報室 (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

Japan will aim to become carbon-neutral by 2050, said Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in his first policy speech since taking office in September. The country emitted 1.24 billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gases in 2018.

Environmental groups have criticized Japan in the past for its slow progress in cutting emissions. This new commitment was commented by Greenpeace as "precisely the kind of action the world needs" while cautioning that it must be met by the policy.

Climate & Environment
South Korea commits to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050
South Korea commits to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050
Credit: unsplash.com / Shawn Ang

Following a visit by Cop26 president-designate Alok Sharma, president Moon Jae-in has announced that South Korea will commit to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. “By replacing coal power generation with renewable energy, we will create new markets and industries and create jobs,” he said.

Earlier this year, Moon presented plans for a Green New Deal investing $37 billion in clean energy, green infrastructure and electric vehicles by 2025. A further $7 billion investment in carbon-cutting measures was announced last week.

Climate & Environment
Southern Californian fires: Nearly 70,000 people under mandatory evacuation orders
Southern Californian fires: Nearly 70,000 people under mandatory evacuation orders
Credit: Pacific Southwest Forest Service, USDA from USA, via Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

As the wildfires in Southern California spread rapidly, nearly 70,000 people have been ordered to evacuate. The Silverado Fire and Blue Ridge Fire, fueled by high winds and low humidity, have been increasing since Monday and have grown to nearly 30,000 acres combined in the past 48 hours.