Day: May 19, 2021

GSK launches fully recyclable toothpaste tubes, will reach more than 1 billion tubes by 2025

Read the full story in ESG Today.

GSK Consumer Healthcare (GSKCH) announced today that it will launch fully recyclable toothpaste tubes across its oral health brands, including Sensodyne, parodontax and Aquafresh. The company expects to produce over 1 billion of the recyclable toothpaste tubes per year by 2025.

The new U.S. Climate Normals are here. What do they tell us about climate change?

Annual U.S. temperature compared to the 20th-century average for each U.S. Climate Normals period from 1901-1930 (upper left) to 1991-2020 (lower right).
Annual U.S. temperature compared to the 20th-century average for each U.S. Climate Normals period from 1901-1930 (upper left) to 1991-2020 (lower right). (NOAA NCEI)

Read the full story from NOAA. See also the story in the Washington Post.

Every 10 years, NOAA releases an analysis of U.S. weather of the past three decades that calculates average values for temperature, rainfall and other conditions.  

That time has come again.

Known as the U.S. Climate Normals, these 30-year averages — now spanning 1991-2020 — represent the new “normals” of our changing climate. They are calculated using climate observations collected at local weather stations across the country and are corrected for bad or missing values and any changes to the weather station over time before becoming part of the climate record.

Simply stated: The Normals are the basis for judging how daily, monthly and annual climate conditions compare to what’s normal for a specific location in today’s climate. 

BMW makes major CO2 reduction commitment, ramping circular economy initiatives

Read the full story at ESG Today.

Automotive manufacturer BMW Group announced today a new goal to avoid more than 200 million tonnes of CO2 emissions by 2030, an amount equivalent to more than 20 times the annual emissions of a city with over a million inhabitants, according to the company. BMW’s announcement comes as the company’s entire production will become completely net carbon neutral from 2021.

Poorer communities hardest hit by toxic pollution incidents

Read the full story from Lancaster University.

Research shows toxic pollution hits poorer populations hardest as firms experience more pollutant releases and spend less money on waste management in areas with lower average incomes.

Illinois invests $15 million to fuel two downstate manufacturing programs

Read the full story from the State Journal-Register.

Gov. JB Pritzker announced Wednesday the state was distributing funds to two downstate Illinois community colleges for electric vehicle manufacturing and renewable energy generation training programs.

Illinois, Nebraska scientists propose improvements to precision crop irrigation

Read the full story from the University of Illinois.

With threats of water scarcity complicating the need to feed a growing global population, it is more important than ever to get crop irrigation right. Overwatering can deplete local water supplies and lead to polluted runoff, while underwatering can lead to sub-optimal crop performance. Yet few farmers use science-based tools to help them decide when and how much to water their crops.

A new study led by University of Illinois researchers identifies obstacles and solutions to improve performance and adoption of irrigation decision support tools at the field scale.

TVA to retire coal fleet by 2035, CEO says, with renewables, gas and nuclear on the table as replacements

Read the full story at Utility Dive.

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) plans to phase out its aging fleet of coal plants within the next 15 years because the plants, like most coal plants, are becoming uneconomical to operate.  

For TVA, all replacement options, including natural gas and nuclear, are on the table as it tries to meet the Biden administration’s power sector decarbonization goals and its own mandate to deliver low cost and reliable power to its ratepayers, Jeffrey Lyash, TVA president and CEO, said on Wednesday during an Atlantic Council conference. The federally-owned utility has retired about 60% of its coal generation, he said at the event.

Coal plant replacement options and the TVA’s carbon reduction goals will be discussed at next Thursday’s board of directors meeting, TVA spokesperson Jim Hopson said, and officials expect the federal utility to open up a new integrated resource plan (IRP) process.

UN launches the first artificial intelligence tool for rapid natural capital accounting

Read the full story from the UN Environment Programme.

An innovative artificial intelligence (AI) tool that will make it easier for countries to measure the contributions of nature to their economic prosperity and well‑being was launched today by the United Nations and the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3).

Developed by the Statistics Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and BC3, the new tool can vastly accelerate implementation of the new ground-breaking standard for valuing the contributions of nature that was adopted by the UN Statistical Commission last month.

The tool makes use of AI technology using the Artificial Intelligence for Environment and Sustainability (ARIES) platform to support countries as they apply the new international standard for natural capital accounting, the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) Ecosystem Accounting.

The new open-source and user-friendly digital tool, called the ARIES for SEEA Explorer, enables rapid and standardized yet customizable ecosystem accounting anywhere on Earth.

SEIA issues new protocol to foster ethical solar supply chains

Read the full story at PV Tech.

The US Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has unveiled a new tool to make it easier for solar developers to trace where their modules and technologies are made and ensure an ethical supply chain.

Called the Solar Supply Chain Traceability Protocol, it is a 41-page document that lists a set of guidelines to show solar companies how to meet compliance obligations and reassure their customers that the products they use were made without unethical labour practices.

At the same time, SEIA has also updated its Solar Commitment document, which defines common labour, health and safety, environmental, and ethical standards and expectations for solar companies, to include guidance on safety in the workplace and ethical labour practices.

Watching a coral reef die as climate change devastates one of the most pristine tropical island areas on Earth

This story is part of Oceans 21, The Conversation’s series on the global ocean, which opened with five in-depth profiles. Look for new articles on the state of our oceans in the lead-up to the U.N.‘s next climate conference, COP26. The series is brought to you by The Conversation’s international network.

by Sam Purkis (University of Miami)

The Chagos Archipelago is one of the most remote, seemingly idyllic places on Earth. Coconut-covered sandy beaches with incredible bird life rim tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, hundreds of miles from any continent. Just below the waves, coral reefs stretch for miles along an underwater mountain chain.

It’s a paradise. At least it was before the heat wave.

When I first explored the Chagos Archipelago 15 years ago, the underwater view was incredible. Schools of brilliantly colored fish in blues, yellows and oranges darted among the corals of a vast, healthy reef system. Sharks and other large predators swam overhead. Because the archipelago is so remote and sits in one of the largest marine protected areas on the planet, it has been sheltered from industrial fishing fleets and other activities that can harm the coastal environment.

But it can’t be protected from climate change.

A diver carries a plastic pipe for measuring while swimming over a variety of corals
A diver documents the coral reefs in the Chagos Archipelago. Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation

In 2015, a marine heat wave struck, harming coral reefs worldwide. I’m a marine biologist at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and I was with a team of researchers on a 10-year global expedition to map the world’s reefs, led by the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, wrapping up our work in the Chagos Archipelago at the time. Our report on the state of the reefs there was just published in spring 2021.

As the water temperature rose, the corals began to bleach. To the untrained eye, the scene would have looked fantastic. When the water heats up, corals become stressed and they expel the tiny algae called dinoflagellates that live in their tissue. Bleaching isn’t as simple as going from a living coral to a bleached white one, though. After they expel the algae, the corals turn fluorescent pinks and blues and yellows as they produce chemicals to protect themselves from the Sun’s harmful rays. The entire reef was turning psychedelic colors.

Two bright pink coral mounds
Just before they turned white, the corals turned abnormally bright shades. Phil Renaud/Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation

That explosion of color is rare, and it doesn’t last long. Over the following week, we watched the corals turn white and start to die. It wasn’t just small pieces of the reef that were bleaching – it was happening across hundreds of square miles.

What most people think of as a coral is actually many tiny colonial polyps that build calcium carbonate skeletons. With their algae gone, the coral polyps could still feed by plucking morsels out of the water, but their metabolism slows without the algae, which provide more nutrients through photosynthesis. They were left desperately weakened and more vulnerable to diseases. We could see diseases taking hold, and that’s what finished them off.

We were witnessing the death of a reef.

Rising temperatures increase the heat wave risk

The devastation of the Chagos Reef wasn’t happening in isolation.

Over the past century, sea surface temperatures have risen by an average of about 0.13 degrees Celsius (0.23 F) per decade as the oceans absorb the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, largely from the burning of fossil fuels. The temperature increase and changing ocean chemistry affects sea life of all kinds, from deteriorating the shells of oysters and tiny pteropods, an essential part of the food chain, to causing fish populations to migrate to cooler water.

Corals can become stressed when temperatures around them rise just 1 C (1.8 F) above their tolerance level. With water temperature elevated from global warming, even a minor heat wave can become devastating.

In 2015, the ocean heat from a strong El Niño event triggered the mass bleaching in the Chagos reefs and around the world. It was the third global bleaching on record, following events in 1998 and 2010.

Bleaching doesn’t just affect the corals – entire reef systems and the fish that feed, spawn and live among the coral branches suffer. One study of reefs around Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific found that about 75% of the reef fish species declined after the 1998 bleaching, and many of those species declined by more than half.

Most corals are brown or green. Fish and anemones bring color to the reefs. 
Most corals are brown or green. Fish and anemones bring color to the reefs. Ken Marks/Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation
Noduled sea stars are among the reef’s diverse species.
Noduled sea stars are among the reef’s diverse species. Ken Marks/Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation

Research shows marine heat waves are now about 20 times more likely than they were just four decades ago, and they tend to be hotter and last longer. We’re at the point now that some places in the world are anticipating coral bleaching every couple of years.

That increasing frequency of heat waves is a death knell for reefs. They don’t have time to recover before they get hit again.

Where we saw signs of hope

During the Global Reef Expedition, we visited over 1,000 reefs around the world. Our mission was to conduct standardized surveys to assess the state of the reefs and map the reefs in detail so scientists could document and hopefully respond to changes in the future. With that knowledge, countries can plan more effectively to protect the reefs, important national resources, providing hundreds of billions of dollars a year in economic value while also protecting coastlines from waves and storms.

We saw damage almost everywhere, from the Bahamas to the Great Barrier Reef.

Some reefs are able to survive heat waves better than others. Cooler, stronger currents, and even storms and cloudier areas can help prevent heat building up. But the global trend is not promising. The world has already lost 30% to 50% of its reefs in the last 40 years, and scientists have warned that most of the remaining reefs could be gone within decades.

Table corals bleaching in the Chagos Reef
Table corals bleaching in the Chagos Reef. Derek Manzello/Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation
Diver with large sea turtle swimming over corals.
The author, Sam Purkis, dives near a hawksbill turtle in the Chagos Archipelago. Derek Manzello/Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation

While we see some evidence that certain marine species are moving to cooler waters as the planet warms, a reef takes thousands of years to establish and grow, and it is limited by geography.

In the areas where we saw glimmers of hope, it was mostly due to good management. When a region can control other harmful human factors – such as overfishing, extensive coastal development, pollution and runoff – the reefs are healthier and better able to handle the global pressures from climate change.

Establishing large marine protected areas is one of the most effective ways I’ve seen to protect coral reefs because it limits those other harms.

Fish swimming amid coral
Coral reefs are fish nurseries and feeding grounds. They also protect coastlines from storms and waves. Stephan Andrews/Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation
Fish swimming amid coral
Some of the diversity of the Chagos Reef. Derek Manzello/Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation
The Chagos marine protected area covers 640,000 squar

The Chagos marine protected area covers 640,000 square kilometers (250,000 square miles) with only one island currently inhabited – Diego Garcia, which houses a U.S. military base. The British government, which created the marine protected area in 2010, has been under pressure to turn over control of the region to the country of Mauritius, where former Chagos residents now live and which won a challenge over it in the International Court of Justice in 2020. Whatever happens with jurisdiction, the region would benefit from maintaining a high level of marine protection.

A warning for other ecosystems

The Chagos reefs could potentially recover – if they are spared from more heat waves. Even a 10% recovery would make the reefs stronger for when the next bleaching occurs. But recovery of a reef is measured in decades, not years.

So far, research missions that have returned to the Chagos reefs have found only meager recovery, if any at all.

The Chagos Archipelago is home to some 800 species of fish, including rays, skates and dozens of varieties of shark. Phil Renaud/Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation

We knew the reefs weren’t doing well under the insidious march of climate change in 2011, when the global reef expedition started. But it’s nothing like the intensity of worry we have now in 2021.

Coral reefs are the canary in the coal mine. Humans have collapsed other ecosystems before through overfishing, overhunting and development, but this is the first unequivocally tied to climate change. It’s a harbinger of what can happen to other ecosystems as they reach their survival thresholds.

Sam Purkis, Professor and Chair of the Department of Marine Sciences, University of Miami

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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