Tag: carbon

News

As global carbon emissions surge, can China and Japan quit the coal?

Tokyo — This week the White House hosts a two-day Earth Day summit. Forty world leaders have been invited to the virtual event, during which Washington is expected to announce plans for further significant cuts in its carbon emissions.  But as an international organization warns that some nations' reliance on coal to power their economies back from pandemic lockdowns is driving the second-largest spike in carbon emissions ever, it will take more than one country's resolve to address the problem.Staving off a climate catastrophe will depend on China, Japan and other major greenhouse-gas emitters dramatically reining in their reliance on fossil fuels, especially coal.China "hanging on" to the pastChina is the country that coal built. Its provinces have been compared to Appalachia, whe...
Sci&Tech

Australia's 'Black Summer' Fires Have Left a Shocking Effect on Earth's Atmosphere

The scorching destruction of Australia's Black Summer bushfires between 2019 and 2020 provided an ominous glimpse of fire's reach in our hotter, dryer world, and the impact of the unprecedented inferno is still being measured.  Just weeks ago, scientists observed that the amount of smoke spewed from the blaze into the atmosphere rivaled that of a great volcanic eruption. Now, researchers say the giant smoke cloud was so immense, it measurably heated the stratosphere for months on end.In a new study led by first author and climate modeler Pengfei Yu from China's Jinan University, scientists simulated the plume's emergence and evolution, showing the worst documented wildfires in Australian history left a lasting impact on the region's skies."Extreme wildfires can inject smoke into the upper...
Sci&Tech

Methane-Munching Bacteria Could Be The Solution to 'Treethane' Emissions

Trees are the Earth's lungs – it's well understood they drawdown and lock up vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But emerging research is showing trees can also emit methane, and it's currently unknown just how much.  This could be a major problem, given methane is a greenhouse gas about 45 times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming our planet.However, in a world-first discovery published in Nature Communications, we found unique methane-eating communities of bacteria living within the bark of a common Australian tree species: paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia). These microbial communities were abundant, thriving, and mitigated about one-third of the substantial methane emissions from paperbark that would have otherwise ended up in the atmosphere.Because research on...
Sci&Tech

Earth Nearly Lost All Oxygen And Could Have Suffocated 2.3 Billion Years Ago

Earth's transition to permanently hosting an oxygenated atmosphere was a halting process that took 100 million years longer than previously believed, according to a new study.When Earth first formed 4.5 billion years ago, the atmosphere contained almost no oxygen. But 2.43 billion years ago, something happened: Oxygen levels started rising, then falling, accompanied by massive changes in climate, including several glaciations that may have covered the entire globe in ice.   Chemical signatures locked in rocks that formed during this era had suggested that by 2.32 billion years ago, oxygen was a permanent feature of the planet's atmosphere.But a new study delving into the period after 2.32 billion years ago finds that oxygen levels were still yo-yoing back and forth until 2.22 billion year...
Sci&Tech

EVs Are Great, But 'Active Travel' Is The Best Way to Achieve Net-Zero Cities

Globally, only one in 50 new cars were fully electric in 2020, and one in 14 in the UK. Sounds impressive, but even if all new cars were electric now, it would still take 15-20 years to replace the world's fossil fuel car fleet.  The emission savings from replacing all those internal combustion engines with zero-carbon alternatives will not feed in fast enough to make the necessary difference in the time we can spare: the next five years. Tackling the climate and air pollution crises requires curbing all motorized transport, particularly private cars, as quickly as possible. Focusing solely on electric vehicles is slowing down the race to zero emissions.This is partly because electric cars aren't truly zero-carbon – mining the raw materials for their batteries, manufacturing them, and gen...
Sci&Tech

We Finally Have Synthetic Mucus. Here's Why That Matters

The day has finally come. Scientists have finally created synthetic mucus molecules that exhibit the structure and function of the real deal.Far from being a slime crime, though, it's a discovery that could help scientists devise new treatments for infectious diseases, according to the research team behind the breakthrough.  Slippery, slimy, and oozy, mucus does seem pretty gross. However, as disagreeable as we may find it, the stuff is biologically useful: It acts as a barrier protecting and moisturizing delicate tissues, trapping microbes (for which it's also loaded with antimicrobial enzymes), and contaminants, and helping the body expel them.Our bodies produce between 1.5 and 2 liters (1.5 to 2 quarts) of mucus every day in the respiratory tract alone; it coats our airways, lungs, and...