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Category: News

Can dust actually help the environment?

If you read recent studies regarding air pollution in China, some would say so. It’s no news that China is one of those countries that suffers the most from air pollution. Walking through Hong Kong on a sunny day might actually not be so sunny, thanks to the thick smog. Foreigners often mistake the smog for a cloudy or misty day, when it’s in fact pollution that’s blocking out the sun.

But how does dust play a role in all of this? Well as researches have recently found out, dusts actually helps block out some of the solar radiation. The radiation from the sun is what’s causing a shift in our climate. If there’s a lot of it hitting the earth at once, wind speeds are reduced, which in turn creates large accumulations of air pollution.

Researches have found that lowered dust levels is the cause for the 13% increase in deaths in China related to air pollution.

What China will do to combat this issue is still unclear. One might argue that there’s actually not a lot to do, since manipulating dust from the deserts is almost impossible. “Right now all we can do is to watch our country get destroyed” said one terrified citizen of Hong Kong.

And we agree, it’s a shame that there’s nothing we can do to stop this. While China could affect their air quality by putting limits on cars and other vehicles using fossil fuels, there’s little to no chance of that happening the coming years.

New report says genetically manipulated food is ‘generally’ safe

A US study shows that the end product of genetically manipulated food is actually not that harmful as many people think.

On Tuesday, a well respected science board declared in their report that genetically manipulated, or GM for short, food remains safe for humans, animals and the environment. The science board, also known as The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine concluded in their latest report that just because the genetics of a certain type of food has been changed, doesn’t affect the environment. Some people like to call GM food “frankenfood”, but the science board means this is claim based upon misinformation rather than actual knowledge.

However, GM food is not as promising as many people thought. The whole reason behind GM food is to produce more for less. But the report shows that manipulated food does not actually produce much more yields than regular un-manipulated food.

In their report, they said that regulators need to shift their focus from the making procedure to the end product instead. They mean that if the end product isn’t harmful to humans, animals or the environment, it shouldn’t be such a big deal.

The report avoided to answer the hot issue of whether GM food should have a label or not. The author of the report say that labels aren’t needed for food safety, but that they could potentially be justified on social and cultural grounds. The exclusion of this got plenty of environment groups upset, meaning everyone should know what kind of chemicals they’re eating. Scientists criticized the environmental groups, saying that putting a label on a food that’s not toxic is unnecessary.

There is no real evidence of GM food affecting the environment in a negative way. But it does affect the growth rate of pesticide, some farms have developed something researches call “superweed”, a weed that has been genetically modified as a side-effect.

The most common foods that are manipulated are soybeans, corn, cotton and canola. In most cases the manipulation have made them resistant to certain insects and herbicides. But as for growth and yield rates, the GM foods were pretty much on the same level as the regular ones. The results of several experiments show that there should actually be a substantial  higher yield, but looking at data from the US Department of Agriculture shows otherwise.

Irish People Are Tired Of Having To Pay To Recycle

The organization called People Before Profit (PBP for short) say that charging the citizens of Ireland to recycle is backwards thinking and is actually damaging the environment rather than saving it.

The People Before Profit party have grown tired of this, recently they launched a campaign against the “pay-by-weight” system. A system that was introduced by Ireland’s former minister of environment, Alan Kelly, during his last days of sitting in the government.

Brid Smith, the leader of PBP said on Newstalk Breakfast: “The plan disproportionately punitive on the less well of and the charges should be abolished.”

She means that charging for the environment is backwards thinking and is actually not helping the environment in any way.”Recycling makes people make an effort.” she says. Charging people for making an effort will in the long run have a negative effect, and might scare away people who are poor but still try to recycle. Because recycling items generate their own profit, it shouldn’t be something the citizens have to pay for.

According to a statement made on the Depart of the Environment website, the removal of a flat-fee for refusal of garbage collection will “promote greater segregation of waste”, which they say will improve recycling and allow house owners to save some money.

They also claim that up to 87% of Irish house holds will save money through the new “pay-by-weight” system, which in their eyes is the most effective waste prevention mechanism.

‘Break Free’ protest the largest protest ever

Guess what, it’s not just you and me that are growing tired of fossil fuels. Thousands of people around the world have taken part in what some people call “the largest ever global civil disobedience against fossil fuels”. There have been dozens of activists arrested because they tried to shut down coalmines, rail infrastructure and a large port.

These protests have been held for over two weeks now, countries included in these protests are: UK, US, Australia, South Africa and Indonesia. The protester came with a strong and clear message, keep oil, coal and gas in the ground, not above it.

A coalition of a large variety of different environment groups, called the actions ‘break free’, and they are pushing to completely shift away from fossil fuel and use renewable energy instead.

Bill McKibben, founder of the climate group called 350.org, says: “This is the hottest year we’ve ever measured, and so it is remarkably comforting to see people rising up at different parts of the world to insist on a change”.

Around 50 or so protesters were arrested in the state of Washing for trespassing as they camped out on large railroad tracks. But these tracks weren’t just any tracks, they are mainly used for transporting oil to Shell and Tesoro refineries. The protesters action managed to close down the whole rail line over the weekend.

In Washington DC thousands of people marched in a call for Obama to call off the offshore drilling for oil and gas. At the same time, a thousand people protested against the newly planned expansion of a BP refinery in Chicago. Five people were also arrested in Albaby, New York, for attempting to stop a train transporting fossil fuel.

And it’s not just the US seeing protesters taking action. Australia had a group of kayakers using inflatable kayaks trying to shut down the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle. Around hundreds of people invaded the largest opencast coalmine in the UK, which is located in South Wales. The largest opencast mine in Europe, which is located in Germany was also attacked by protesters trying to shut it down.

More of these activities have taken place in Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa and also Canada. Some of the biggest protests took place in Indonesia and the Philippines, combined together there was an estimate of 10,000 people marching together.

Many of the protesters have expressed anger towards last year’s climate deal, which were supposed to have nations around Europe keep global temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius. But somehow the exclusion of fossil fuels were not included in this deal.

These protests couldn’t happen any time sooner, as we’ve already covered in a previous article, the global temperatures around the world have been broken 7 months in a row, with April being the hottest one ever recorded. These global temperatures were aided by a hefty El Niño, which caused the drought in Africa, corals around Australia to perish and the Arctic to experience a new low in ice.

Scientists were surprised as the 400PPM milestone was reached way sooner than expected. Sadly a large amount of warmth has already been locked in, which no future emissions cuts will help. This warmth will lead to the sea level rising, food become all more insecure and will also lead to extreme weather events around the world.

On a more positive note, global renewable energy grew by 8.3% last year, solar and wind technology are now outpacing new coal facilities. Data from the gridnetwork in the UK showed that the amount of electricity provided by coal reached zero several times last week.

The US energy information administration have however warned that fossil fuels will stay make up 75% of energy production up to 2014. The cause for this is caused by non-OECD countries like India and China.

Naomi Klein, author and climate activist says:” This is a race against time. Our movement is stronger than ever, but to beat the odds, we have to grow stronger”.

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April has been the hottest month ever recorded

You probably enjoyed the warm weather in April, and for a good reason too, it’s been the warmest April month ever recorded in history! To add to the fact, it’s also the seventh month in a row to break global temperature records.

April absolutely smashed the previous April record by the largest surplus ever recorded.

For the last three months, each month have broken the previous records by large margins. And for the last seven months the temperatures have all been at least 1 Celsius above average. It wasn’t until February earlier this year that scientists began treating this warm weather as a “climate emergency”.

Nasa released some figures that show that both the temperature of the sea and the land was about 1.11C warmer than any year recorded in history.

All assured, we can expect 2016 to be one of the hottest year ever recorded (99% that it will happen according Gavin Schmidt).

The current warmth we’ve been feeling all over the globe is the after math of a massive “El Niño“, which is a release of warm water in the Pacific ocean. Thing is that this El Niño is not the biggest recorded in history, meaning these temperatures records are not caused by warm water rather by global warming.

The director of ARC at the Climate System Science at the University of New Soutj Wales says: “The interesting thing is the scale at which we’re breaking records, it’s clearly all heading in the wrong direction. Climate scientists have been warning about this since at least the 1980s. And it’s been bloody obvious since the 2000s. So where’s the surprise?”

These high temperatures have been wreaking havoc on ecosystems all around the world. They actually started the third recorded global coral bleaching. 93% of the coral reefs in Austraila have all been affected by the bleaching. If this trend continues we can except to have coral reefs gone in a couple of years, if note even less.