Climate-driven farming ‘frontiers’ pose major environmental risks

Read the full story from PLOS.

Future farming in regions that were previously unsuitable for agriculture could significantly impact biodiversity, water resources, and greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Scientists warn humanity about worldwide insect decline

Read the full story from the University of Helsinki.

Insect declines and extinctions are accelerating in many parts of the world. With this comes the disappearance of irreplaceable services to humans, the consequences of which are unpredictable. A group of scientists from across the globe has united to warn humanity of such dangers.

Small altitude changes could cut climate impact of aircraft by up to 59%

Read the full story from Imperial College London.

Altering the altitudes of less than 2% of flights could reduce contrail-linked climate change by 59%, says a new study.

Ten U.S. refineries emitted excessive cancer-causing benzene in 2019: report

Read the full story from Reuters. Download the Environmental Integrity Project’s Report, Monitoring for Benzene at Refinery Fencelines, on their website.

Ten U.S. oil refineries, including six in Texas, released the cancer-causing chemical benzene in concentrations that exceeded federal limits last year, according to government data published by the green group Environmental Integrity Project on Thursday.

Microplastics: A macro problem

Read the full story from the University of California San Diego.

Flying somewhere over the planet, there’s a plane equipped with research-grade, double-sided tape on the outside of its hull. Each time the pilot lands the plane, he removes the tape, seals it in a package, and replaces it with a new one before he takes off again. He then mails the package to Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, care of Dimitri Deheyn, Associate Researcher.

Looking at the tape under a microscope, Deheyn sees what he’s looking for: microfibers, stuck to the adhesives.

Microfibers are a subset of microplastics, tiny pieces of petroleum-based materials that break down from larger plastic pieces or are manufactured at their microscopic sizes: less than 5 millimeters across. The strands of fiber—about five times thinner than a human hair—are used in textile manufacturing; they shed from our clothes during wear, during washing and drying, flowing into waterways and drifting into the air.

Deheyn is working with Robert DeLaurentis (aka Zen Pilot) on a study that analyzes the global distribution and concentration of microfibers. He says that the best science sometimes involves the most simple technology: in this case, double-sided tape. For every part of his 30-leg flight from the North Pole to the South Pole, DeLaurentis will have a sample for Deheyn.

Do soils need a low-salt diet?

Read the full story from the Soil Science Society of America.

Doctors often tell their patients to reduce their salt intake as part of a healthy lifestyle. When we start looking at food labels, we may find salt in surprising places – like baked goods, drinks and canned foods.

While you may try to keep an eye on your personal salt intake, you have probably never given much thought to how much salt there is in the soil under your feet. As many people are finding salt creeping into their diets, scientists are seeing increased levels of salt in water sources.

“There is a significant increase in salinity in freshwater systems, including water used for irrigation,” explains Meredith Steele. Steele is an Assistant Professor of Urban Ecosystems and Watershed Biogeochemistry at Virginia Tech.

Steele thought if there is salt in irrigation water, there might be a buildup of salt in soil. High levels of salt can damage soil microbes and plants. Most research on soil salinity has focused on these situations. Steele wondered if small amounts of salt could change the chemistry or biology of soils…

Steele presented these results at the 2019 International Annual Meeting of the ASA, CSSA, and SSSA in San Antonio, Texas.  This research was supported by USDA Hatch Project #160060.

Instead of releasing this greenhouse gas, beer brewers are selling it to pot growers

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The state of Colorado and three small businesses are trying a novel approach to reduce carbon emissions that sounds like something out of the fever dreams of Willie Nelson: using carbon dioxide produced from beer brewing to help marijuana plants grow.

Water Infrastructure: Technical Assistance and Climate Resilience Planning Could Help Utilities Prepare for Potential Climate Change Impacts

What GAO Found

Four federal agencies—the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Agriculture (USDA)—provide technical and financial assistance (e.g., loans and grants), to drinking and wastewater utilities.

Technical assistance. EPA provides technical assistance to drinking water and wastewater utilities to enhance their infrastructure’s resilience to climate change. However, according to EPA officials, EPA’s program is small and cannot assist utilities nationwide. All of the selected experts GAO interviewed stated that utilities need additional technical assistance on an ongoing basis to manage climate risks, and most experts said that organizing a network of existing technical assistance providers, including federal and state agencies, universities, and industry groups, would be needed to provide such assistance. Under a presidential policy directive, EPA is to work to enable efficient information exchanges among federal agencies and to help inform planning and operational decisions for water and wastewater infrastructure. By identifying existing technical assistance providers and engaging them in a network to help utilities incorporate climate resilience into their infrastructure projects on an ongoing basis, EPA would have better assurance that climate information was effectively exchanged among federal agencies and utilities.

Financial assistance. Federal agencies have taken some actions to promote climate resilience when providing financial assistance for water infrastructure projects, but agencies do not consistently include the consideration of climate resilience when funding such projects. Most selected experts suggested that federal agencies should require that climate information be considered in the planning of water infrastructure projects as a condition of providing financial assistance. Moreover, representatives from several utilities said that such a requirement could be an effective and feasible way to help enhance utilities’ climate resilience. A requirement would ensure that utilities consider climate resilience in planning for water infrastructure projects and potentially limit future fiscal exposures. For example, from fiscal years 2011 through 2018, the federal government provided at least $3.6 billion in disaster recovery financial assistance for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure related projects.

Why GAO Did This Study

Human health and well-being require clean and safe water, according to the Water Research Foundation. The Fourth National Climate Assessment states that the potential impacts of extreme weather events from climate change will vary in severity and type and can have a negative effect on drinking water and wastewater utilities. GAO’s previous work on climate change and resilience to extreme weather and disasters has shown how the federal government can provide information and technical and financial assistance to promote and enhance climate resilience. In 2015, GAO reported that enhancing climate resilience means taking action to reduce potential future losses by planning and preparing for climate-related impacts, such as extreme rainfall.

This report examines federal technical and financial assistance to utilities for enhancing climate resilience, and options experts identified for providing additional assistance, among other things. GAO reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance from four federal agencies—EPA, FEMA, HUD, and USDA—and interviewed federal officials, representatives from 15 water utilities selected for diversity of size and geography, and 10 experts selected to represent different views.


GAO recommends that EPA identify technical assistance providers and engage them in a network to help water utilities incorporate climate resilience into infrastructure projects. Also, Congress should consider requiring that climate resilience be considered in planning for federally funded water infrastructure projects. EPA neither agreed nor disagreed. GAO believes the recommendation is still warranted.

The fastest way to cut carbon emissions is a ‘fee’ and a dividend, top leaders say

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

A group of prominent politicians, economists and corporate executives is renewing its push in Congress for a plan that would tax carbon and refund all the money to Americans in payments of approximately $2,000 a year for a family of four.

How Native Tribes Are Taking the Lead on Planning for Climate Change

Read the full story in e360.

With their deep ties to the land and reliance on fishing, hunting, and gathering, indigenous tribes are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Now, native communities across North America are stepping up to adopt climate action plans to protect their way of life.