By Jennifer Ann Thomas
For the first time, researchers have developed a model capable of anticipating drought periods in the Amazon up to 18 months in advance. The study was conducted by scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), in Germany, as part of the Tipping Points in the Earth System (TiPES) project, led by physicist Catrin Ciemer and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
Average monthly sea surface temperature (in degrees Celsius, red scale) and average continental rainfall in South America (in millimeters/month, blue scale) from 1981 to 2016. Sea surface temperatures and precipitation are generally higher around the equator. On the left, the area where El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) occurs; dotted lines indicate the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) in January and July, responsible for transporting heat and humidity from the oceans around the tropics.
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By Sean Fleming
Londoners worrying about air quality can now breathe a little easier, thanks to news from the city's mayor.
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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that Japan will become country carbon neutral by 2050, Bloomberg reported.
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By Kayla Wiles
What if paint could cool off a building enough to not need air conditioning?
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="835862ffe8b025c2f0ae633c999ecb08"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/caFzYvYAUo4?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The paint would not only send heat away from a surface, but also away from Earth into deep space where heat travels indefinitely at the speed of light. This way, heat doesn't get trapped within the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. A video about this project is available on <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=caFzYvYAUo4&feature=youtu.be" target="_blank">YouTube</a>.</p><p>"We're not moving heat from the surface to the atmosphere. We're just dumping it all out into the universe, which is an infinite heat sink," said Xiangyu Li, a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who worked on this project as a Ph.D. student in Ruan's lab.</p><p>Earth's surface would actually get cooler with this technology if the paint were applied to a variety of surfaces including roads, rooftops and cars all over the world, the researchers said.</p>
An infrared camera image shows that white radiative cooling paint developed by Purdue University researchers (left, purple) can stay cooler in direct sunlight compared with commercial white paint. Purdue University image / Joseph Peoples<p>In a paper published Wednesday (Oct. 21) in the journal <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xcrp.2020.100221" target="_blank">Cell Reports Physical Science</a>, the researchers show that compared with commercial white paint, the paint that they developed can maintain a lower temperature under direct sunlight and reflect more ultraviolet rays.</p><p>Their proof is infrared camera images taken of the two paints in rooftop experiments.</p><p>"An infrared camera gives you a temperature reading just like a thermometer would to judge if someone has a fever. These readings confirmed that our paint has a lower temperature than both its surroundings and the commercial counterpart," Ruan said.</p><p>Commercial "heat rejecting paints" currently on the market reflect only 80%-90% of sunlight and cannot achieve temperatures below their surroundings. The white paint that Purdue researchers created reflects 95.5% sunlight and efficiently radiates infrared heat. </p>
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The extremely active 2020 hurricane season has another storm in store for the beleaguered Gulf Coast.
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As the days tick down to next month's presidential election, debate rages over the U.S. government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic with critics of President Donald Trump calling for his ouster due to his failure to protect the American public.
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By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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Towards the end of the final presidential debate of the 2020 election season, the moderator asked both candidates how they would address both the climate crisis and job growth, leading to a nearly 12-minute discussion where Donald Trump did not acknowledge that the climate is changing and Joe Biden called the climate crisis an existential threat.
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By Zheng Chen and Darren H. S. Tan
As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels. Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing. And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.
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Hazardous Contents<p>Batteries pose more complex recycling and disposal challenges than metals, plastics and paper products because they contain many chemical components that are both toxic and difficult to separate.</p><p>Some types of widely used batteries – notably, lead-acid batteries in gasoline-powered cars – have relatively simple chemistries and designs that make them straightforward to recycle. The common nonrechargeable alkaline or water-based batteries that power devices like flashlights and smoke alarms can be disposed directly in landfills.</p><p>However, today's lithium-ion batteries are highly sophisticated and not designed for recyclability. They contain hazardous chemicals, such as toxic lithium salts and <a href="https://www.britannica.com/science/transition-metal" target="_blank">transition metals</a>, that can damage the environment and leach into water sources. Used lithium batteries also contain embedded electrochemical energy – a small amount of charge left over after they can no longer power devices – which can cause fires or explosions, or <a href="https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/e/5/e5530917-434d-451c-8a6b-c5cdfad1b5ec/EED12407A6BF7DE6C86A4B39C25CF6A4.greenberger-testimony-07.17.2019.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">harm people that handle them</a>.</p>
<div id="007de" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="34d57a5a359e141bcf74c9b1f66eae5f"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1026491976722468865" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The dangers of disposing of lithium batteries improperly - Battery blamed for Guernsey recycling site blaze https://t.co/Xcs76DI520</div> — Daniel Kinsbursky (@Daniel Kinsbursky)<a href="https://twitter.com/kbirecycling/statuses/1026491976722468865">1533569733.0</a></blockquote></div>
Safer and Simpler<p>While it will be challenging to bake recyclability into the existing manufacturing of conventional lithium-ion batteries, it is vital to develop sustainable practices for solid-state batteries, which are a next-generation technology expected to enter the market within this decade.</p><p>A solid-state battery replaces the flammable organic liquid electrolyte in lithium-ion batteries with a nonflammable inorganic solid electrolyte. This allows the battery to operate over a much wider temperature range and dramatically reduces the risk of fires or explosions. Our <a href="http://zhengchen.eng.ucsd.edu/" target="_blank">team of nanoengineers</a> is working to incorporate ease of recyclability into next-generation solid-state battery development before these batteries enter the market.</p><p>Conceptually, recycling-friendly batteries must be safe to handle and transport, simple to dismantle, cost-effective to manufacture and minimally harmful to the environment. After analyzing the options, we've chosen a combination of specific chemistries in next-generation all-solid-state batteries that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1557/mre.2020.25" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">meets these requirements</a>.</p><p>Our design strategy reduces the number of steps required to dismantle the battery, and avoids using combustion or harmful chemicals such as acids or toxic organic solvents. Instead, it employs only safe, low-cost materials such as alcohol and water-based recycling techniques. This approach is scalable and environmentally friendly. It dramatically simplifies conventional battery recycling processes and makes it safe to disassemble and handle the materials.</p>
Rules for Battery Recycling<p>Developing an easy-to-recycle battery is just one step. Many challenges associated with battery recycling stem from the complex logistics of handling them. Creating facilities, regulations and practices for collecting batteries is just as important as developing better recycling technologies. China, South Korea and the European Union are <a href="https://www.epw.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/d/c/dc43cdc9-ef56-4f8c-b442-d325aa8acf72/D775B276380B37ABF9A49BFD581DD1A5.sanders-testimony-07.17.2019.pdf" target="_blank">already developing battery recycling systems and mandates</a>.</p><p>One useful step would be for governments to require that batteries carry universal tags, similar to the internationally recognized standard labels used for plastics and metals recycling. These could help to educate consumers and waste collectors about how to handle different types of used batteries.</p><p>Markings could take the form of an electronic tag printed on battery labels with embedded information, such as chemistry type, age and manufacturer. Making this data readily available would facilitate automated sorting of large volumes of batteries at waste facilities.</p><p>It is also vital to improve international enforcement of recycling policies. Most battery waste is not generated where the batteries were originally produced, which makes it hard to hold manufacturers responsible for handling it.</p><p>Such an undertaking would require manufacturers and regulatory agencies to work together on newer recycling-friendly designs and better collection infrastructure. By confronting these challenges now, we believe it is possible to avoid or reduce the harmful effects of battery waste in the future.</p>
By Kristie Pladson
U.S. electric carmaker Tesla has more than doubled its third-quarter profits, the company has announced, delivering a record number of electric automobiles amid a pandemic that has crippled fellow automakers.
CO2 Offset Sales Still Key<p>An uptick in demand abroad countered a drop in US car sales of nearly 10% over the last year; global deliveries increased 44% in the third quarter.</p><p>But Tesla still partly owes its success to competitor carmakers: as in past quarters, the electric car company's profits relied on the sale of CO2 credits to fellow carmakers, which allow them to offset their emissions and reach government climate targets. Valuing $331 million in the third quarter, Tesla would not have been profitable otherwise. </p>
Competition Heats Up<p>While traditional automakers are suffering in a global economy marked by a pandemic, Tesla is no longer alone in its electric ambitions.</p><p>"The company is still incredibly highly rated, as if it were working in a vacuum. But the competitors are working like mad to catch up," said analyst Craig Irwin of Roth Capital Partners, pointing to hundreds of new battery-powered vehicles that are expected to be released by 2024.</p><p>Volkswagen group is investing over €40 billion ($47 billion) into developing an electric car portfolio, and other competitors have announced similar initiatives.</p><p>"With more electric vehicle launches on the horizon, Tesla has a big red target on its back," said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for the Edmunds.com auto website.</p><p>In its letter, Tesla admitted that reaching its production targets "has become more difficult" and it will rely on of its Model Y small SUV as well as greater activity at its China plant.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday will be the latest "fireside" chat guest to join actor and activist Jane Fonda, whose Fire Drill Fridays campaign—which has resulted in the arrests of fellow notable actors—has boosted demands for urgent action to rein in the climate emergency.
<div id="7bafb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1669c4d28a3e920d9e21791ea6f8a469"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318584259825848321" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🔥FRIDAY🔥 @JaneFonda, @GreenpeaceUSA, and @FireDrillFriday are thrilled to be joined by Rep. @AOC for a critical con… https://t.co/omILPXRe9W</div> — Fire Drill Fridays (@Fire Drill Fridays)<a href="https://twitter.com/FireDrillFriday/statuses/1318584259825848321">1603209960.0</a></blockquote></div>
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Thousands of homes were evacuated Wednesday after a Colorado wildfire exploded in size, growing at a rate of 6,000 acres per hour.
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