2019 Was the Second Hottest Year on Record
Last year's brutal heat waves that swept through Europe, caused wildfires in Alaska and Siberia, and have left Australia as a tinderbox registered as the second hottest year ever — 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit or 0.04 degrees Celsius cooler than 2016, according to scientists at the Copernicus Climate Change Service, an intergovernmental agency supported by the European Union, as The New York Times reported.
It was the hottest year Europe has ever endured. The report also found that the last five years and the last decade were the warmest ever recorded.
Also, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its 2019 U.S. climate report yesterday, which found that Alaska had its warmest year ever, and the continental U.S. had its second-wettest year on record, which led to flooding in the Midwest and Mississippi Delta. The Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan all had their wettest year on record in 2019, according to NOAA, as the The Weather Channel reported.
The Copernicus report out of Europe also found that global average temperatures from 2015-2019 were between 1.1 and 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, putting the planet within striking distance of the perilous threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, according to CNN. Scientists have warned that once the planet crosses 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial averages the world will face an increase in extreme weather events, flooding, wildfires, and food shortages. At that level, the world will still see a loss of 70 to 90 percent of coral reefs, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as the HuffPost reported.
"The past five years have been the five warmest on record; the last decade has been the warmest on record," Jean-Noël Thépaut, director of Copernicus services, said in a statement, as The New York Times reported. "These are unquestionably alarming signs."
In Europe, six countries — Belgium, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Luxembourg — saw record-setting temperatures in their June and July heat waves in 2019.
The Bureau of Meteorology in Australia said 2019 was the hottest and driest year on record, where temperatures were 1.52 degrees Celsius above normal, fueling the ongoing brushfires, as CNN reported.
While those spikes and new records were alarming, no place warmed more than the Arctic and Alaska when compared to 1981-2000 average temperatures. The Arctic and Alaska are critical in regulating global temperatures, as CNN reported.
The NOAA report found that for the first time on record, Alaska's annual average temperature was just above freezing at 32.2 degrees Fahrenheit, 6.2 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average. The previous record-warm year was 2016 when average temperatures were 31.9 degrees, as The Weather Channel reported.
Temperatures in 2016 were unusually high because of a powerful El Niño, where changes in sea temperatures, atmospheric pressure and winds in the equatorial Pacific led to warmer temperatures. The 2019 El Niño was far weaker than the one in 2016, according to The New York Times.
The highest average temperature in the U.S. was in Marathon in the Florida Keys, which set a new record in 2019, with an average temperature of 81.7 degrees. It was the highest annual average temperature for any one location in U.S. history, according to the The Weather Channel.
Nearby Key West and Miami also saw their warmest year on record, as the The Weather Channel reported.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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