EPA to further slash emissions from climate super-pollutants

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced plans Thursday to further cut emissions of climate super-pollutants widely used in air conditioning and refrigeration, the latest step in the United States’ effort to phase down the potent greenhouse gases.

The federal agency’s new proposed rule would set guidelines to lower the number of available allowances for the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons — chemicals that can be thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide in warming the planet — to 40 percent below historical levels starting in 2024.

Lightfoot, feds in talks over environmental racism probe

Read the full story in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration is negotiating with President Joe Biden’s housing officials over potential city reforms after federal investigators accused Chicago of environmental racist zoning and land-use practices.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has held off on making an official declaration of next steps in an almost two-year civil rights investigation. The agency could force the city to make significant and permanent changes to its planning processes or risk losing millions in federal dollars.

After Lightfoot just months ago appeared to be bracing for a fight, HUD said Thursday that the two sides are now in discussions.

Nobel prize awarded for ‘click chemistry’ – an environmentally friendly method of building molecules

Christine Olsson/EPA

by Mark Lorch, University of Hull

The 2022 Nobel prize in chemistry has been awarded to a trio for developing click chemistry, an environmentally friendly method for rapidly joining molecules to develop cancer treatments, create materials and illuminate the workings of cells.

Carolyn R. Bertozzi from Stanford University in the US, Morten Meldal from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, and K. Barry Sharpless from Scripps Research, also in the US, will share the 10 million Swedish kronor (£808,554) award “for the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry”.

Chemistry made the modern world, from drugs to synthetic materials, batteries to fuels, flat screens to fertilisers. Often these creations have caused environmental and medical problems, two obvious examples are plastic pollution and health problems associated with “forever chemicals”.

So today chemists are acutely aware of the need to consider the environment and ethical impact of their creations. This has driven scientists to carefully consider how to innovate in a green and sustainable way, while creating new compounds and materials to tackle the world’s challenges.

Building new molecules is hard. It often requires a multitude of sequential individual reactions, each one hampered by side reactions that reduce the purity of the sample. This increases the number and complexity of any further reaction steps, while producing harmful waste that needs careful and expensive disposal.

Niklas Elmehed © Nobel Prize Outreach, CC BY-NC

How it happened

A solution to this problem was conceived by Barry Sharpless at the turn of the millennium. He coined the term “click chemistry”. It’s a concept in which molecules are simply, quickly, reliably and repeatedly joined together in much the same way as a seatbelt clips into its buckle. The idea was the chemical equivalent of the flat-pack wardrobe, while everyone else was building furniture from scratch.

Sharpless also stipulated that click reactions should be carried out in water, instead of harmful solvents commonly used by synthetic chemists to dissolve their reactants. This was a fabulous concept as it would allow quick, reliable and environmentally friendly molecule creation for new products.

But the challenge was making the chemical belts and buckles. The first example of click chemistry was devised by Morten Meldal in 2008 while working on a well studied reaction between two chemicals; azides and alkynes. These are frequently used to join chemicals together, however they normally produce a mucky mess of reactants. But when copper was added to the mix, the reaction produced one, incredibly stable product.

Click Chemistry. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2022. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2022. Wed. 5 Oct 2022.

The reaction became extremely popular as it allowed chemists to rapidly change the functionality of a chemical or material. A fibre could have the chemical buckle attached during manufacturing and later extra functionality could be added. The reaction made it easy to click in anti-bacterials, UV protective compounds, or substances that conduct electricity.

In 2004, Carolyn Bertozzi took click chemistry a step further by applying the principle to a biological problem. A common technique for studying the behaviour of molecules in a cell is to attach a fluorescent, glowing label which is clearly visible under a microscope. However, connecting the label to exactly the right part of the cell is tricky.

Bertozzi realised that click chemistry offered a solution. Unfortunately copper, used in Meldal’s original click chemistry method, is toxic to living things so it could not be directly applied to Bertozzi’s problem. Instead she came up with a technique that works without the copper. She attached the azide “buckle” to a sugar molecule. This gets absorbed to the cell, incorporated, and presented on the cell’s surface. A modified alkalyne (the clip) connected to a green fluoresent molecule then gets added to the cell where it clicks to the azide sugar. Then the cell can be easily tracked under a microscope.

Bioorthogonal chemistry illuminates the cell. CC BY-NC

Bertozzi’s technique has led to insights into how tumour cells evade our immune systems and helped develop methods to track cancerous cells. It has also helped to target radiotherapies directly to cancer cells, reducing the harm to nearby healthy cells.

Click chemistry is elegant and efficient. It has allowed chemicals to be joined together almost as smoothly as clicking together two blocks of Lego. Its simplicity has seen its uses spread rapidly through the field of chemistry with applications in pharmaceuticals, DNA sequencing and materials with added functionality (such as magnetic and electrical). There is little doubt the applications of the technique will expand and be applied to the world’s most pressing issues.

Mark Lorch, Professor of Science Communication and Chemistry, University of Hull

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

When planting a tree can actually fuel global warming

Read the full story at Anthrpocene Magazine.

Planting trees has long been seen as wholesome and planet-friendly. That’s true now more than ever, thanks to their ability to suck carbon dioxide from the air.

But what if putting a new tree in the ground actually helps fuel global warming? In arid, naturally treeless parts of the world, that often appears to be the case, according to new research.

The world should fast track green energy. But not because of climate change.

Read the full story at Anthropocene Magazine.

A rapid transition to green energy is likely to save the world trillions of dollars compared to sticking with the current fossil fuel-based energy system, according to a new analysis.

The savings could amount to $12 trillion, and represent the cost of energy alone – not any benefits from curtailing climate change. “The green energy transition is going to save us money, and the faster we get on with it, the more we’ll save,” says study team member Rupert Way, a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford University in the UK.

Another Goodwill resale site launches as the market takes off

Read the full story at Retail Dive.

A group of Goodwill organizations, largely from the Midwest and West, on Tuesday launched an online resale marketplace dubbed GoodwillFinds. Net proceeds from purchases will go to the region where the item was sourced, according to the group’s press release.

GoodwillFinds is operating under license from Goodwill Industries International and joins another Goodwill-affiliated site, ShopGoodwill.com, which was created in 1999 by Goodwill of Orange County. ShopGoodwill didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

The new effort is led by former Modcloth CEO Matthew Kaness, who was briefly at Walmart after the retail giant acquired the online apparel business, and has also held roles at Urban Outfitters and Afterpay, per GoodwillFinds’ release.

‘Grocery sharing’ app Recelery lets users resell food items to help minimize waste

Read the full story at TechCrunch.

It is typical for consumers to purchase more food items than they need and then throw them away because they either forgot about them or the food expired. It is estimated that 1.3 billion tons of food items are wasted yearly, an approximate $1 trillion loss.

Recelery, a pantry tracker app and online marketplace, aims to reduce food waste with an array of features. Users can log their recent food purchases, manage grocery lists and see “virtual pantries” from other users in their area, as well as sell unused grocery items to their neighbors. Users can also invite friends and family to share what food is in their virtual pantry.

The startup hopes its app helps consumers keep track of when food in their kitchen/pantry expires and discover what food they can buy from neighbors in between grocery trips. Plus, during high inflation, the marketplace tool will potentially give everyday consumers a way to earn money on recently purchased food that would otherwise be uneaten and in the trash.

This startup is partnering with Sunrun to recycle and re-use millions of outdated solar panels

Read the full story from CNBC.

Solar panels may be the epitome of green hardware, but as the technology advances and more powerful panels take over the market, older panels are turning into harmful waste. Now one California-based startup, SolarCycle, is taking advantage of that waste by recycling components of the panels and selling them off for profit.

World’s whitest paint now thinner than ever, ideal for vehicles

Read the full story from Purdue University.

The world’s whitest paint – seen in this year’s edition of Guinness World Records and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” – keeps surfaces so cool that it could reduce the need for air conditioning. Now the Purdue University researchers who created the paint have developed a new formulation that is thinner and lighter – ideal for radiating heat away from cars, trains and airplanes.

What cities can do better to protect themselves from hurricanes and other floods

Read the full story from NPR.

NPR’s Ailsa Chang speaks with civil engineering professor Brett Sanders about what’s needed in terms of infrastructure planning to make communities more resilient to serious floods and storms.