Climate & Environment

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.

Climate & Environment
Report: Solar energy now cheapest form of electricity
Report: Solar energy now cheapest form of electricity
Credit: unsplash.com / Science in HD

International Energy Agency has reported that solar is now the cheapest form of electricity for utility companies to build.

In their report, they claim that risk-reducing financial policies around the world have benefited this development and underlines the importance of these for the future development of renewable energy sources.

Climate & Environment
September 2020 was the hottest ever recorded
September 2020 was the hottest ever recorded
Credit: unsplash.com / niklas_hamann

Globally, September 2020 had the highest temperatures since the beginning of modern weather recording. It was 0.63°C above average, which is 0.05°C hotter than even September 2019, which previously held this record.

As of now, it is virtually certain that 2020 will be among the five hottest years on record, with a 98% propability.

2020 has been accompanied by many climate disasters. The rising global temperatures have brought record-setting wildfires in the U.S. West, one of the most active hurricane seasons on record in the Atlantic and the second-lowest Arctic sea ice levels ever recorded.

Climate & Environment
Most key habitats in Europe are in poor or bad condition
Most key habitats in Europe are in poor or bad condition
Credit: R Boed (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

80% of Europe's key habitats are found to be in bad or poor condition according to the State of Nature in the EU 2013-2018 report by the European Environment Agency (EEA). About one-third of the 233 listed habitats is in an unfavourable condition and getting worse, while the condition is unfavourable but stable in about the same number of habitats.

At the same time, only a quarter of Europe's species are found to have good conservation status. Reptiles and vascular plants are faring best among species types. The situation is improving for mammals, while it's getting worse for birds and fish.

Urbanisation, pollution and lack of water are playing a role in the loss of habitats and biodiversity. But the biggest reason is intensive farming, which tends to be favoured by the EU's common agricultural policy (CAP). An upcoming CAP reform will be voted on in the European Parliament and EU council. But groupings on the political right are expected to reject most measures that would prioritise the environment. According to WWF's Jabier Ruiz, "the future of the CAP looks grim".

Climate & Environment
European Parliament about to decide over EU's Common Agricultural Policy
European Parliament about to decide over EU's Common Agricultural Policy
Credit: Tobias Nordhausen (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.0)

The European Parliament and the council of member states are about to decide over the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the years 2021-2027. With the animal farming industry in Europe emitting more CO2 than all EU cars and vans combined, this will be an important decision for the environment, biodiversity and small farms.

Until now, the CAP has mostly benefitted large agribusinesses while failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or the loss of biodiversity. Between 2005 and 2013, almost 3 million small to medium-sized had to close down. Existing ecologic measures implemented in the CAP have not proven to be effective.

In the current negotiations, a coalition of political groups in the European Parliament led by the right-wing EPP is trying to keep the CAP this way, while environmentalist groups are calling for a "greener" CAP that serves the environment, farmers and rural communities.

Climate & Environment
Research suggests Great Barrier Reef has lost 50% of its corals within three decades
Research suggests Great Barrier Reef has lost 50% of its corals within three decades
Credit: Robert Linsdell (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

According to findings by researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, the "number of small, medium and large corals on the Great Barrier Reef has declined by more than 50% since the 1990s".

Climate & Environment
UN report: Fivefold increase in disasters related to climate change
UN report: Fivefold increase in disasters related to climate change
Credit: unsplash.com / Chris Gallagher

Disasters related to weather, climate and water have increased fivefold over the past 50 years. In this time period, over 11000 disasters of these kinds have been recorded, connected to 2 million deaths and 3.6 trillion US-dollars in economic losses.

Climate & Environment
Study: Germany needs to stop CO2 emissions by 2035 to stay in line with Paris agreement
Study: Germany needs to stop CO2 emissions by 2035 to stay in line with Paris agreement
Credit: unsplash.com / Kurt Cotoaga

A new study by the Wuppertal Institute gives an overview of what has to be done if Germany wants to stay within its 1.5°C CO2-budget. The findings include the necessity to reach zero CO2 emissions by 2035 and to accelerate the expansion of renewable energies by a factor of at least 2.5.

More sector-specific findings can be read in the study. It was published today in a press conference together with activists of Fridays for Future, who had assigned the scientists with this study.

Climate & Environment
Fire has erupted on Mount Kilimanjaro
Fire has erupted on Mount Kilimanjaro
Credit: Courtesy of Twitter

On Sunday a fire has erupted on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. The fire could be observed near the middle of the mountain and "efforts to extinguish it are still ongoing" according to the Tanzania National Parks service.

According to the newspaper "The Citizen", people from neighboring communities helped to combat the fire, but because the fire broke out at a higher altitude, the extinguishing work was difficult.

Climate & Environment
IKEA ends sale of disposable batteries
IKEA ends sale of disposable batteries
Credit: Pendect (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

From October 2021, the "IKEA" Group will stop selling disposable alkaline batteries to reduce waste. According to its own information, the Swedish company sold about 300 million alkaline batteries worldwide between September 2018 and August 2019. By replacing this amount with rechargeable batteries, IKEA calculates that 5,000 tons of waste can be avoided annually.

Climate & Environment
EU climate law approved with emission reduction now aimed at 60%
EU climate law approved with emission reduction now aimed at 60%
Credit: unsplash.com / Martin Sepion

The European Parliament has ratified the latest proposals regarding environmental protection. Greenhouse gas emissions are now targeted to be reduced by 60% compared to 1990 levels. Previously adopted goals for 2030 had aimed at a 40% reduction.

Climate & Environment
New wildfires emerge in California, thousands evacuated
New wildfires emerge in California, thousands evacuated
Credit: Daniel Swain courtesy Twitter

Threatening to reach Santa Rosa, California, new wildfires have grown in size in California's wine country. One of them has burned over 1000 hectares of Napa Country on the weekend.

Evacuation warnings for the city limits of St. Helena have been issued.

Climate & Environment
General Electric announces it won't build new coal-fueled power plants
General Electric announces it won't build new coal-fueled power plants
Credit: Tedder / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)

General Electric Power CEO Russell Stokes has stated that "with the continued transformation of GE, we are focused on power generation businesses that have attractive economics and a growth trajectory".

In the future, the company won't build new coal-fueled power plants after the acquisition of Alstrom's power business for $9.5 billion has not paid off for the company.

Climate & Environment
Arctic sea ice shrank to second smallest summer size ever recorded
Arctic sea ice shrank to second smallest summer size ever recorded
Credit: Paul Gierszewski (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

The Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven announced on Thursday that, since the satellite-based observations began in 1979, the sea ice around the North Pole shrank to its second smallest extent with only 2012 being on recording with less ice.

The ice cover on the Arctic Ocean is now only 3.8 million square kilometres.

Climate & Environment
Smoke from US wildfires has reached Europe, satellite images reveal
NASA's Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of the United States on Sep. 15, 2020, showing the fires in the West, the smoke from those fires drifting over the country, several hurricanes converging from different angles, and Hurricane Sally making landfall.
NASA's Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of the United States on Sep. 15, 2020, showing the fires in the West, the smoke from those fires drifting over the country, several hurricanes converging from different angles, and Hurricane Sally making landfall. Credit: NASA

According to scientists from the European Union's Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, smoke from the wildfires in the western United States has travelled 8,000 kilometres and reached Britain and other parts of northern Europe.

Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at the Copernicus Service has stated that "the scale and magnitude of these fires are at a level much higher than in any of the 18 years that our monitoring data covers, since 2003".

Climate & Environment
United Nations members failed to reach goals to safeguard biodiversity, UN reports
United Nations members failed to reach goals to safeguard biodiversity, UN reports
Credit: Andreas Weith / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0)

According to the United Nations' Global Biodiversity Outlook report, zero of twenty goals that had been established in 2010 with the goal to preserve nature have been met fully.

Six of the 20 goals have been "partially achieved" namely preventing invasive species, conserving protected areas, access to and sharing benefits from genetic resources, biodiversity strategies and action plans, sharing information, and mobilizing resources.

The other targets only show slow progress or move in the opposite direction.

Climate & Environment
Google says its carbon footprint is now zero

Google says it has wiped out its entire carbon footprint by investing in "high-quality carbon offsets". It became carbon-neutral in 2007 and says it has now compensated for all of the carbon it has ever created.

Climate & Environment
Doctors warn that air pollution caused by wildfires could worsen Covid-19 risk
Smoke from Oregon wildfires
Smoke from Oregon wildfires Credit: Oregon Department of Transportation

Studies conducted in the US, China and Italy have shown that smoke and air pollution could increase susceptibility to viral infections as the smoke irritates lungs, can cause inflammation and affect the immune system.

Now, with wildfires ravaging the Pacific Northwest, doctors warn that the smoke caused by the fires could make people more susceptible to Covid-19.

"Multiple studies have shown a correlation between higher levels of pollution in the air and greater spread and severity of Covid-19 cases," so Dr. Brad Spellberg, chief medical officer of the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center.

Climate & Environment
Half a million people flee Oregon to escape wildfires
Oregon Wildfires, 2018
Oregon Wildfires, 2018 Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:20180811-FS-Rogue-KG-1068_(30465240178).jpg

Over half a million people – or 10+% of the state's population – are fleeing Oregon to escape the wildfires that have been raging across the Pacific Northwest.

Governor Kate Brown (D) told reporters that this most likely wasn't a "one-time event" and that the current situation was a "bellwether for the future" of "acute impacts of climate change." Brown has reported that at least four people have died, including a 12-year-old boy and his grandmother.

Climate & Environment
California wildfires turn Bay Area skies orange
Smoke from the North Complex fire settles over San Francisco, turning the daytime sky a dark orange.
Smoke from the North Complex fire settles over San Francisco, turning the daytime sky a dark orange. Credit: Christopher Michel / Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

The smoke generated by the wildfires raging across California has turned the Bay Area skies into a deep orange and has caused ash to rain down on San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland on Wednesday morning.

Wildfires are currently devasting large parts of California, Washington and Oregon.

Climate & Environment
Sudan: Ancient pyramids threatened by rising Nile water levels

Due to heavy rains, the Nile water levels have risen, threatening to damage Sudan's 2,300 year old pyramids. The Nile has reached record-breaking levels, already killed around 100 people and destroyed the homes of many. According to archaeologist Marc Maillot sandbag walls have been built and water is being pumped out to protect the pyramids.

Climate & Environment
Forest fires in California trap over 1.000 people
Forest fires in California trap over 1.000 people
Credit: EeeksterRichard E. Ellis (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0)

Local media has reported that at a campground in a Sierra Nevada National Park that about 1000 people were cut off from the surrounding area. The only access road was impassable due to a forest fire. Firefighters and rescue planes tried to gain access to the area. The campers threatened by the flames were instructed to take refuge in the water of the Mammoth Pool Reservoir, reported "The Fresno Bee", citing a spokesman for the national park.

Climate & Environment
Two typhoons heading towards Korean Peninsula
Super Typhoon Maysak 2020, Okinawa (31Aug 0000Z - 1Sep 0600Z)
Super Typhoon Maysak 2020, Okinawa (31Aug 0000Z - 1Sep 0600Z) Credit: Tropical Cyclone Radar Loops by Brian McNoldy, Univ. of Miami, Rosenstiel School

Typhoon Maysak is projected to make landfall on the southern Korean Peninsula on Wednesday night. Maysak is currently a category 4 hurricane but should weaken to a category 2. Heavy rain and strong storms are expected for Wednesday and Tuesday.

Tropical Storm Haishen will most likely turn into a typhoon in the next 24 hours and strike parts of Japan over the weekend.

The Korean Peninsula is experiencing the wettest monsoon season in recent history and countries are preparing for the storms.

Climate & Environment
USA: At least six people killed by Hurricane Laura, 1.5 million are fleeing
USA: At least six people killed by Hurricane Laura, 1.5 million are fleeing
Credit: National Hurricane Center

Following the passage of Hurricane Laura, the number of fatalities in the southern United States rose to at least six. Four of them were killed by fallen trees, the governor of the state of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, announced on Thursday. Edwards expressed fears that more casualties may be found during the search and rescue operations. Overall, however, the governor was relieved that the storm had hit his state less badly than feared.

"We have a lot to be grateful for," Edwards said in a press conference. The damage caused by Laura had not reached the "absolutely catastrophic" extent that had been expected based on the meteorologists' forecasts. Nevertheless, the damage was considerable. Thousands of Louisiana residents are affected.

Climate & Environment
Norwegian study shows black turbine blades reduced bird mortality by 72%
Smøla Wind Farm
Smøla Wind Farm Credit: Statkraft (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0)

A study led by the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research observed a reduction of 71.9% of bird deaths from turbine collisions if one of the three blades was painted black. The study was conducted at the Smøla wind farm, along the West Norwegian coast.

Bård Stokke, one of the study's lead authors, stated: "Our hope is therefore that these measures, given their positive effects on birds and the fact that they are relatively simple and low cost, will be used in future wind energy developments both in Norway and abroad."

Climate & Environment
28 trillion tonnes of ice disappeared in the last 30 years, scientists find
Easton Glacier on Mount Baker in the North Cascades of Washington taken in 2003. It shows the terminus position of the glacier in 1985 as well.
Easton Glacier on Mount Baker in the North Cascades of Washington taken in 2003. It shows the terminus position of the glacier in 1985 as well. Credit: Mauri Pelto (talk · contribs) / Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Scientists from universities in Leeds, Edinburg and London have analysed satellite images of the Earth's globes, glaciers and mountains and found that around 28 trillion tonnes of ice have disappeared since 1994. The "staggering" loss is due to rising greenhouse gas emission and global heating.

"In the past researchers have studied individual areas – such as the Antarctic or Greenland – where ice is melting. But this is the first time anyone has looked at all the ice that is disappearing from the entire planet. What we have found has stunned us," so Professor Andy Shepherd, director of Leeds University’s Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling.

Their research further warns that sea levels could rise by a metre by the end of the century and the melting could reduce our planet's ability to reflect solar radiation back into space.

"To put that in context, every centimetre of sea level rise means about a million people will be displaced from their low-lying homelands," so Shepherd.

Climate & Environment
California fires spread, over 119,000 are forced to evacuate
California fires spread, over 119,000 are forced to evacuate
Credit: unsplash.com/Joanne Francis

As the wildfires in California keep spreading, over 119,000 people have been forced to leave their homes. So far, the fires have torched over 900,000 acres of land as 12,000 firefighters fight to control the blazes. The National Weather Service’s Bay Area office has issued a warning that, with more dry thunderstorms expected over the weekend, more fires could be caused in already affected areas by lightning and wind.