Germany reached an agreement Thursday that will allow it to stop burning coal by 2038.
The national government struck a deal with the leaders of the country's coal-producing regions that will compensate workers, companies and regional governments more than 40 billion euros (approximately $44.7 billion), Reuters reported. Legislation finalizing the coal phaseout will be presented to parliament by the end of January.
"Germany, one of the strongest and most successful industry nations in the world, is taking huge steps towards leaving the fossil fuel era," Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said at a press conference reported by Reuters.
The deal will help Germany reach its 2030 climate goals. The country has promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55 percent of 1990 levels by 2030 after failing to meet an earlier goal to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2020, The New York Times reported in September.
However, green groups argue that the planned coal phaseout is too slow.
Christoph Bals, policy director for the environmental group Germanwatch, agreed.
"The majority of the necessary reductions are being pushed to the end of the 2020s," he told The New York Times Thursday.
Germany is currently the world's leading producer of brown lignite coal, the dirtiest type of coal. The government said it may move up its phaseout of brown coal to 2035, BBC News reported.
To make an end to coal use possible, the government has agreed to pay up to 40 billion euros to the coal-producing regions of Brandenburg, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt in the east and North-Rhine Westphalia in the west, Reuters reported. Most of that money will go towards building new infrastructure in areas reliant on coal power and retraining workers for new jobs, according to BBC News.
Companies will be compensated 4.35 billion euros (approximately $4.84 billion), according to Reuters.
Thirty coal-fired plants in Germany will need to close. The dirtiest and oldest will shutter first, starting with one in Rhineland that will close this year. But the government is also bringing a new coal-fired plant online this year, the Datteln 4 plant that is cleaner than the older plants being retired. The new plant has angered activists, who think it moves the country in the wrong direction.
"Australia's forests are burning, millions of people are demonstrating for climate protection and the German government is clearing the way for a new coal power plant,'' Martin Kaiser, the managing director of Greenpeace Germany, told Euronews. "Nothing shows more clearly than Datteln 4 that this government can't find an answer to the climate crisis.''
However, Germany isn't only working to end its coal use. It has also promised to end its reliance on nuclear energy by 2022, The New York Times reported.
In the third quarter of 2019, Germany got 14 percent of its energy from nuclear, 28 percent from coal and 42 percent from renewable energy. It aims to raise the share of its electricity generated by renewables to 65 percent by 2030, according to Euronews.
"We are the first country that is exiting nuclear and coal power on a binding basis, and this is an important international signal that we are sending,'' she told Euronews.
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In Major Win for Indigenous Rights, Supreme Court Rules Much of Eastern Oklahoma Is Still a Reservation
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
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Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.
The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.
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The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.
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A new analysis by scientists at the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that lemurs and the North Atlantic right whale are on the brink of extinction.
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By Julia Vergin
It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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Ocean scientists have been busy creating a global network to understand and measure changes in ocean life. The system will aggregate data from the oceans, climate and human activity to better inform sustainable marine management practices.
EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.
Climate models are predicting faster warming of the North Atlantic Ocean, which will shift the Gulf Stream. NASA
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