If governments fail to keep global temperatures within 1.5 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels, much of the world's population could live in "lethal" levels of heat and humidity, new research finds.
Home to more than three billion people, the planet's tropical band, which includes most of South and East Asia, Central America and Central Africa, remains the most vulnerable to an unlivable climate, The New York Times reported. In these regions, populations are growing and by 2050, they could be home to half of the world's population, The Guardian reported. But if countries slash emissions now, life in the tropics could be prevented from reaching dangerous conditions, a study published Monday in Nature Geoscience suggests.
While extreme heat is indeed a major cause of concern for global populations, "humidity needs to be taken into account to estimate the health impact of extreme heat," the authors wrote, noting the importance of the wet-bulb temperature – a measure of air temperature and humidity.
"If it is too humid our bodies can't cool off by evaporating sweat – this is why humidity is important when we consider livability in a hot place," Yi Zhang, a graduate student in geosciences at Princeton University and the study's lead author, told The Guardian. "High body core temperatures are dangerous or even lethal."
If the extreme wet-bulb temperature passes 35 degrees Celsius, the human body can't cool itself. But if countries limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the wet-bulb temperature at the surface can not exceed 35 degrees Celsius, The Guardian reported.
The effects of heat and humidity on women, older people and people with chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension are more extreme, Glen Kenny, a professor of physiology at the University of Ottawa, who was not involved in the new study, told The New York Times. If sweat cannot evaporate, then "essentially the body will gain heat," Kenny said, according to The New York Times. This could stress the heart, resulting in cardiovascular issues.
Over the past 40 years, the highest wet-bulb temperature recorded in the tropics has been well below 33 degrees Celsius, according to the scientists, The Independent reported. If countries are able to limit warming within the Paris agreement's objectives, then maximum wet-bulb temperatures are unlikely to reach the point where humans are unable to cool themselves. But even just a one degree Celsius increase in extreme wet-bulb temperature "could have adverse health impact equivalent to that of several degrees of temperature increase," The Guardian reported.
The world has already warmed 1.1 degrees Celsius, despite the Paris agreement goals, and scientists warn that it could reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit before the end of the decade, The Guardian noted.
"Theoretically no human can tolerate a wet bulb temperature of above 35C, no matter how much water they have to drink," Mojtaba Sadegh, an expert in climate risks at Boise State University who was not involved in the study, told The Guardian. "If this limit is breached, infrastructure like cool-air shelters are absolutely necessary for human survival."
The research was based on the latitudes between 20 degrees north and 20 degrees south, which include countries such as Mexico, Libya, India, Brazil, Madagascar and the northern regions of Australia, The Guardian reported. "Given that much of the impacted area consists of low-income countries, providing the required infrastructure will be challenging," Sadegh told The Guardian.
But while the new research adds to the long list of reasons why countries should cut emissions to limit global temperatures, Dr. Dann Mitchell, joint Met Office chair in climate hazards at the University of Bristol, who was not involved in the study, said these findings "should be viewed cautiously," The Independent reported.
"While these heat stress thresholds are useful conceptually, especially for animals or ecosystems, we must be cautious about relating them to any particular step change in human mortality or morbidity," Mitchell told The Independent. "By construction, they do not take into account our adaptable natures."
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On a Labor Day weekend when the temperature hit 121 degrees in Los Angeles County, fire crews around California struggled to contain ongoing and growing blazes that have so far consumed more than 2 million acres this summer. That's equal to the entire state of Delaware going up in flames, according to the BBC.
The record heat coupled with dry and windy conditions is making the 22 fires in the state difficult for crews to contain. In a preventive measure, the state's power authority shut off electricity to 172,000 homes and businesses in 22 counties in Northern California. The power will not be fully restored until Wednesday evening, according to CNN.
The small mountain town of Big Creek in the Sierra Nevada mountain range saw trapped campers airlifted to safety while the fire burned through the town, destroying roughly two dozen homes, according to NBC News.
While a hydroelectric plant owned by Southern California Edison was destroyed, three propane tanks with 11,000 gallons of the flammable gas exploded and an elementary school caught fire.
The school's superintendent, Toby Wait, evacuated with his family, but his home was destroyed after they fled.
"Words cannot even begin to describe the devastation of this community," he said to The Fresno Bee, as NBC News reported.
The fire started on Friday and grew to burn nearly 80,000 acres Monday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It is zero percent contained.
"This one's in a class by itself," said U.S. Forest Service Supervisor Dean Gould during a Monday night press briefing, as CNN reported.
Farther south, Los Angeles and Ventura county are under a red flag warning as the cooling temperatures after the weekend's record heat are expected to usher in high winds, which may fan the flames of ongoing fires.
The state's fire authorities are currently battling 24 fires across the state, according to the BBC.
While the red flag warning in Los Angeles and Ventura counties is expected to last through Wednesday, the state will also see wind gusts of up to 50 mph in Northern California. Those high winds are particularly dangerous as they pose the threat of spreading flames over the dry vegetation that is parched after the weekend's heat, according to PG&E senior meteorologist Scott Strenfel, as CNN reported.
"Unfortunately, this wind event is occurring on the heels of the current heat wave and will produce critical fire potential conditions," Strenfel said, as CNN reported.
"Windy conditions, like those being forecast, increase the potential for damage and hazards to the electric infrastructure, which could cause sparks if lines are energized. These conditions also increase the potential for rapid fire spread," PG&E said in a news release on Monday.
All campgrounds across the state have been canceled in a season that has seen a record number of campers. The U.S. Forest Service said the following in a press release: "Most of California remains under the threat of unprecedented and dangerous fire conditions with a combination of extreme heat, significant wind events, dry conditions, and firefighting resources that are stretched to the limit."
According to the BBC, the Valley Fire in San Diego County has burned more than 10,000 acres near the small town of Alpine. In Angeles National Forest, the Bobcat fire has burned through nearly 5,000 acres and prompted the evacuation of the Mount Wilson Observatory.
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Throughout Texas, there are a number of solar power companies that can install solar panels on your roof to take advantage of the abundant sunlight. But which solar power provider should you choose? In this article, we'll provide a list of the best solar companies in the Lone Star State.
Our Picks for the Best Texas Solar Companies
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
- Sunpro Solar
- Longhorn Solar, Inc.
- Solartime USA
- Kosmos Solar
- Sunshine Renewable Solutions
- Alba Energy
- Circle L Solar
- South Texas Solar Systems
- Good Faith Energy
How We Chose the Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
There are a number of factors to keep in mind when comparing and contrasting different solar providers. These are some of the considerations we used to evaluate Texas solar energy companies.
Different solar companies may provide varying services. Always take the time to understand the full range of what's being offered in terms of solar panel consultation, design, installation, etc. Also consider add-ons, like EV charging stations, whenever applicable.
When meeting with a representative from one of Texas' solar power companies, we would always encourage you to ask what the installation process involves. What kind of customization can you expect? Will your solar provider use salaried installers, or outsourced contractors? These are all important questions to raise during the due diligence process.
Texas is a big place, and as you look for a good solar power provider, you want to ensure that their services are available where you live. If you live in Austin, it doesn't do you much good to have a solar company that's active only in Houston.
Pricing and Financing
Keep in mind that the initial cost of solar panel installation can be sizable. Some solar companies are certainly more affordable than others, and you can also ask about the flexible financing options that are available to you.
To guarantee that the renewable energy providers you select are reputable, and that they have both the integrity and the expertise needed, we would recommend assessing their status in the industry. The simplest way to do this is to check to see whether they are North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified or belong to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or other industry groups.
Types of Panels
As you research different companies, it certainly doesn't hurt to get to know the specific products they offer. Inquire about their tech portfolio, and see if they are certified to install leading brands like Tesla or Panasonic.
Rebates and Tax Credits
There are a lot of opportunities to claim clean energy rebates or federal tax credits which can help with your initial solar purchase. Ask your solar provider for guidance navigating these different savings opportunities.
Going solar is a big investment, but a warranty can help you trust that your system will work for decades. A lot of solar providers provide warranties on their technology and workmanship for 25 years or more, but you'll definitely want to ask about this on the front end.
The 10 Best Solar Energy Companies in Texas
With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the 10 best solar energy companies in TX.
SunPower is a solar energy company that makes it easy to make an informed and totally customized decision about your solar power setup. SunPower has an online design studio where you can learn more about the different options available for your home, and even a form where you can get a free online estimate. Set up a virtual consultation to speak directly with a qualified solar installer from the comfort of your own home. It's no wonder SunPower is a top solar installation company in Texas. They make the entire process easy and expedient.
Sunpro Solar is another solar power company with a solid reputation across the country. Their services are widely available to Texas homeowners, and they make the switch to solar effortless. We recommend them for their outstanding customer service, for the ease of their consultation and design process, and for their assistance to homeowners looking to claim tax credits and other incentives.
Looking for a solar contractor with true Texas roots? Longhorn Solar is an award-winning company that's frequently touted as one of the best solar providers in the state. Their services are available in Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio, and since 2009 they have helped more than 2,000 Texans make the switch to energy efficiency with solar. We recommend them for their technical expertise, proven track record, and solar product selection.
Solartime USA is another company based in Texas. In fact, this family-owned business is located in Richardson, which is just outside of Dallas. They have ample expertise with customized solar energy solutions in residential settings, and their portfolio of online reviews attests to their first-rate customer service. We love this company for the simplicity of their process, and for all the guidance they offer customers seeking to go solar.
Next on our list is Kosmos Solar, another Texas-based solar company. They're based in the northern part of the state, and highly recommended for homeowners in the area. They supply free estimates, high-quality products, custom solar designs, and award-winning personal service. Plus, their website has a lot of great information that may help guide you while you determine whether going solar is right for you.
Sunshine Renewable Solutions is based out of Houston, and they've developed a sterling reputation for dependable service and high-quality products. They have a lot of helpful financing options, and can show you how you can make the switch to solar in a really cost-effective way. We also like that they give free estimates, so there's certainly no harm in learning more about this great local company.
"Powered by the Texas sun." That's the official tagline of Alba Energy, a solar energy provider that's based out of Katy, TX. They have lots of great information about solar panel systems and solar solutions, including solar calculators to help you tabulate your potential energy savings. Additionally, we recommend Alba Energy because all of their work is done by a trusted, in-house team of solar professionals. They maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and they have rave reviews from satisfied customers.
Circle L Solar has a praiseworthy mission of helping homeowners slash their energy costs while participating in the green energy revolution. This is another company that provides a lot of great information, including energy savings calculators. Also note that, in addition to solar panels, Circle L Solar also showcases a number of other assets that can help you make your home more energy efficient, including windows, weatherization services, LED lighting, and more.
You can tell by the name that South Texas Solar Systems focuses its service area on the southernmost part of the Lone Star State. Their products include a wide range of commercial and residential solar panels, as well as "off the grid" panels for homeowners who want to detach from public utilities altogether. Since 2007, this company has been a trusted solar energy provider in San Antonio and beyond.
Good Faith Energy is a certified installer of Tesla solar technology for homeowners throughout Texas. This company is really committed to ecological stewardship, and they have amassed a lot of goodwill thanks to their friendly customer service and the depth of their solar expertise. In addition to Tesla solar panels, they can also install EV charging stations and storage batteries.
What are Your Solar Financing Options in Texas?
We've mentioned already that going solar requires a significant investment on the front-end. It's worth emphasizing that some of the best solar companies provide a range of financing options, allowing you to choose whether you buy your system outright, lease it, or pay for it in monthly installments.
Also keep in mind that there are a lot of rebates and state and federal tax credits available to help offset starting costs. Find a Texas solar provider who can walk you through some of the different options.
How Much Does a Solar Energy System Cost in Texas?
How much is it going to cost you to make that initial investment into solar power? It varies by customer and by home, but the median cost of solar paneling may be somewhere in the ballpark of $13,000. Note that, when you take into account federal tax incentives, this number can fall by several thousand dollars.
And of course, once you go solar, your monthly utility bills are going to shrink dramatically… so while solar systems won't pay for themselves in the first month or even the first year, they will ultimately prove more than cost-effective.
Finding the Right Solar Energy Companies in TX
Texas is a great place to pursue solar energy companies, thanks to all the natural sunlight, and there are plenty of companies out there to help you make the transition. Do your homework, compare a few options, and seek the solar provider that's right for you. We hope this guide is a helpful jumping-off point as you try to get as much information as possible about the best solar companies in Texas.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. He covers natural health, nutrition, supplements, and clean energy. His writing has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
The traditional end of summer weekend will feel more like mid-July in the West.
The National Weather Service is not mincing words about what's in store for Southern California this weekend as it warns of "dangerous heat expected Friday through Labor Day." The warning says that triple digit temperatures are expected away from the beaches with 115 degree temperatures possible in the San Fernando Valley, as well as an elevated risk of fire.
"A widespread heat wave with record high temperatures expected will bring dangerous heat and elevated fire weather conditions nearly everywhere Friday through at least Labor Day," the Weather Service says, as The Washington Post reported. "There is an exceptional risk for heat illness and power outages."
Just a couple of weeks ago, the state was seeing record-breaking heat that strained the power grid and forced rolling blackouts, as EcoWatch reported. This heat wave won't be as humid and as sticky as the last one, but it does come at a time when firefighters are still working to contain the second and third largest wildfires in state history, according to The Washington Post.
The heat will begin Friday and continue through the weekend, peaking on Sunday. The heat will also cover a large expanse of the West, with excessive heat in California, Nevada and Arizona. The temperatures in Los Angeles are expected to reach 107 degrees on Saturday and 106 in Sacramento on Sunday, according to Bloomberg.
"Bad things can happen with this kind of heat," said Joe Sirard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, to The Los Angeles Times.
The state's power grid operator ordered all work on transmissions lines to be postponed so there is enough electricity running through the system over the weekend.
"With the fires and the wear and tear on units, this weekend could be ugly," said Campbell Faulkner, senior vice president and chief data analyst at OTC Global Holdings, a commodities broker, to Bloomberg. "It's just a really difficult spot for California."
The heat will even extend up to Oregon, which is under a heat advisory.
"High pressure building in the west will contribute to temperatures being 15-20 degrees above average for much of Oregon by Thursday," the National Weather Service office in Portland said in an urgent weather message Tuesday, as NBC News reported.
The temperatures around Los Angeles may not only be the hottest for September, but may actually break a record for the hottest on record ever, according to The Washington Post.
"The heat wave building for most of the West is just plain mean for September," wrote Bill Kairns, a meteorologist for NBC News on Twitter. "More fire danger, poor air quality and record highs."
The two large wildfires that have destroyed thousands of acres near the Bay Area are still technically alive. However, recent mild weather has allowed firefighters to get them under control, so they are both now more than 70 percent contained, according to NBC News.
"With this heat coming, any new starts could create problems," said Lynne Tolmachoff, a Cal Fire spokesperson, as NBC News reported. "We're staffed up. With the holiday there's going to be a lot of people out recreating. We're asking people to stay safe and don't start new fires."
Scientists have already noticed that the vegetation in the state seems highly stressed over the last few months and conditions are near record levels of dryness. Right now, shrubs are drier than they were in 2018, when the state had record wildfires. That has raised the concern that this weekend's excessive heat could put several areas back into record levels of dryness and catalyze fires that spread rapidly and are impossible to control, according to The Washington Post.
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By Jeff Berardelli
This story was originally published on CBS News on September 9, 2020. All data and statistics are based on publicly available data at the time of publication.
Right on the heels of arguably the West Coast's most intense heat wave in modern history comes the most ferocious flare-up of catastrophic wildfires in recent memory. Meanwhile, just a few hundred miles east, a 60-degree temperature drop over just 18 hours in Wyoming and Colorado was accompanied by an extremely rare late-summer dumping of up to 2 feet of snow.
It's not coincidence, it's climate change.
These kinds of dystopian weather events, happening often at the same time, are exactly what scientists have been warning about for decades. While extreme weather is a part of the natural cycle, the recent uptick in the ferocity and frequency of these extremes, scientists say, is evidence of an acceleration of climate impacts, some of which were underestimated by climate computer models.
"This is yet another example of where uncertainty is not our friend," says Michael Mann, distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State. "As we learn more, we are finding that many climate change impacts, including these sorts of extreme weather events, are playing out faster and with greater magnitude than our models predicted."
On Wednesday NOAA released its latest State of the Climate Report, which finds that just during the month of August the U.S. was hit by four different billion-dollar disasters: two hurricanes, huge wildfires and an extraordinary Midwest derecho.
Just one such extreme event can strain emergency resources — a situation West Coast firefighters find themselves in now. However, in two dramatic cases this summer, the nation was hit simultaneously with concurrent catastrophes, some of which had no precedent in modern history. It's a concept scientists call compound events, and it is necessary to factor these confluences into future projections to properly estimate risk, response and resources.
In mid-August the West suffered through an extended heat wave which saw Death Valley surge to 130 degrees, the hottest temperature ever reliably measured on Earth. The tinderbox conditions caused by the heat, along with a rare lightning outbreak, sparked the first round of major wildfires in California this season, escalating into three of the four largest fires in state history. At about the same time a powerful derecho caused billions of dollars in damage in Iowa and Illinois, and Hurricane Laura plowed into the Gulf Coast of Louisiana as a Category 4 with 150 mph winds and 16 feet of storm surge.
Just three weeks later, and here we are again. This past weekend California experienced an even more intense heat wave, with the southern part of the state hitting 121 degrees west of the mountains for the first time in record-keeping history. Predictably, fires flared back up due to the severe heating and drying, and then went into overdrive as a wicked early-season cold front — which is also bringing heavy snow to the Rockies — brought a wind event through the mountains and valleys of the intermountain west.
In Washington state, an estimated 330,000 acres burned across the state on Monday, more than the total in each of the last 12 fire seasons. California has seen a record 2.3 million acres burn so far this year — more than 3 times the normal for an entire season (typically July through November), and 7 times the normal year to date.
If it were just this fire season, one could chalk the extremity up to mere coincidence. But scientists say this is part of an ongoing upward trend, made clear by the data and well understood by science.
"There is little doubt that we're witnessing an acceleration of fire activity in the West - be it in terms of burned area, number of large fires, fire growth, and of course direct and indirect impacts to people," explains Dr. John Abatzoglou, climate professor at the University of California Merced.
The acceleration has been dramatic. Fire season is now two to three months longer than it was just a few decades ago across much of the West. Since the 1970s, California has experienced a five-fold increase in annual burned area and an eight-fold increase in summer forest fire extent. At least 17 of California's top 20 largest wildfires have burned since 2000.
Increase in California areas burned by wildfires, 1975 to 2015. WILLIAMS, ABATZOGLOU ET AL., EARTH'S FUTURE
Abatzoglou makes clear that there are many factors — not just climate change — that contribute to the escalation of fire activity. These include the increased settlement of people in fire-prone lands and a legacy of fire suppression in many lower-elevation forests, which led to years of heavy growth of trees and brush.
"We can focus on the bad fortune of the lightning siege around the San Francisco Bay Area, or the multitude of stupid human tricks that materialized in large wildfires, but the confluence of long-term and short-term environmental factors set the table for the 2020 fire season," he said.
In other words, though climate change does not cause the heat waves or fires, it sets the stage so that when conditions are ripe, like the summer and fall of 2020, heat waves are more intense and fires burn more fiercely.
This summer has been extremely hot and dry in the West. According to NOAA, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah each had their warmest August on record. Research has found that heat waves are now larger, getting more intense and lasting longer than decades ago. Specifically in California, extreme heat waves — like the ones of recent weeks — are now 3 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer due to climate change. By 2080, that same study finds such heat waves will intensify by another 3 to 5 degrees.
This week's NOAA report also finds that the same general area in the West also experienced one of its driest Augusts on record. This short-term dry and hot pattern is mainly due to natural cycles in weather, and from season to season has the biggest impact on the amount of area burned because it determines how dry the forests and brush are.
"Across the Western U.S. forests, we find that climatic measures of fuel dryness explain about ¾ of the year-to-year variability in the burned area — highlighting that climate very strongly enables big fire seasons in warm-dry summers and inhibits widespread fire activity in cool-wet summers," explains Abatzoglou.
But over the long term, human-caused climate change has been gradually drying out the atmosphere and the fuel. "The observed changes in fuel dryness [plus the] number of days of high fire danger have been particularly stark in the American West over the past half-century," says Abatzoglou.
Since the 1970s the warm season in the West has heated up by 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit. This extra heat has increased the evaporation of moisture from the surface. While atmospheric moisture has also increased some, it has not increased nearly as fast as the temperature. That has caused a long-term "moisture deficit" and has accelerated the rate of foliage drying. This is part of the reason why, according to research, the West has entered into one of the worst megadroughts in the past 1,200 years.
A recent study, co-authored by Abatzoglou, found a direct link with nearly all of the increase in summer forest-fire area during the period from 1972–2018 driven by the increased moisture deficit. To illustrate just how impactful the moisture deficit is, right now, as unprecedented wildfires burn out of control, the deficit is at record low levels in the majority of the Western U.S.
Absurd atmospheric aridity (+ other factors) is enabling the ongoing fire outbreak – synchronized downslope winds… https://t.co/ohibdi2X5x— John Abatzoglou (@John Abatzoglou)1599605014.0
Another recent study from this spring found that the frequency of autumn days with extreme fire weather conditions has more than doubled since the 1980s, fueled by a combination of less rainfall and warmer temperatures.
But many scientists believe that there is more at play contributing to this extreme weather than simply the direct effects of warming and drying. One of those mechanisms is the indirect impacts of global warming on the most influential weather-maker on day-to-day conditions: the jet stream.
The speed and orientation of the jet stream — a river of fast-moving air currents in the atmosphere — determines the track, intensity and forward speed of most storm systems and also how cold or hot the weather is. The attributes of the jet stream at any given moment are determined largely by the placement of hot and cold air masses and the strength of the gradient between them. Because the Arctic has been warming at three times the rate of the rest of the globe, climate scientists know human-caused climate change is throwing the jet stream off-kilter. But how and to what extent is not totally understood.
A number of climate scientists believe that a warmer Arctic is slowing down the jet stream during certain times of year, resulting in a more wavy jet stream. As shown below, a wavy jet stream can catapult warm air northward into the Arctic and drive cold air far southward. This is exactly what happened during the catastrophic Midwest floods in 2019 and is also the kind of pattern we have right now, which is causing record low temperatures and extremely early season snow in the Rockies and Plains. A wavy jet stream is a normal part of nature, but climate change may be making it more amplified, resulting in more extremes.
"I think it's a triple whammy — heat and drought, which are favored by climate change, and the extra added ingredient is the slower, wavier jet stream," explains Mann. But he says the wavier jet stream isn't well resolved by current models, thus they underestimate the extremity of weather events enhanced by climate change.
As a result, when scientists dig into the causes of an extreme event, Mann says the studies underestimate the influence of human-caused climate change. "So if anything, climate attribution studies are likely to under-attribute the role that climate change is playing with these persistent extreme weather events," he said.
As for future fire seasons, Abatzoglou says we should expect extreme fires seasons like 2020's to become the rule rather than the exception.
"While the extent of the ongoing fire siege is beyond what most have seen in the West, the alignment of ingredients for such fire seasons is becoming more favorable as a result of climate change and land-use practices," he said. "We should expect, adapt, and prepare for similar years moving forward."
This story originally appeared in CBS News and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
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The Postal Service is updating its massive fleet of mail carrying vehicles, heralding a significant step toward reducing carbon pollution from its massive fleet while also helping to protect its workforce from climate impacts.
The Next Generation Delivery Vehicle, made by Oshkosh Defense of Wisconsin, will start delivering mail in 2023, the USPS announced Tuesday. The fleet will include high efficiency gasoline-powered vehicles as well as electric vehicles.
The gasoline-powered new vehicles will have the ability to be retrofitted with new electric systems in the future. Environmental advocates criticized the decision to include internal combustion-powered vehicles in the contract, which they said contradicted the Biden administration's goal to electrify the U.S. fleet. Crucially for postal workers, disproportionately Black and female, who are especially vulnerable to hyperthermia as climate-fueled extreme heatwaves become more common, the NGDV will feature air conditioning (as well as airbags and collision avoidance systems).
The majority of the current Grumman LLV (Long Life Vehicle) are between 25- and 32-years-old and get 10 miles per gallon, worse than a 2010 Hummer. In a separate hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday, Rep. Cori Bush criticized the USPS board of governors, which is composed of six white men including three investment bankers and a coal lobbyist, for looking "like a millionaire white boy's club."
For a deeper dive:
NGDV announcement: CNN, Bloomberg, AP, E&E, CBS, USA Today, The New York Times, Ars Technica, The Verge, Motor Trend; USPS demographics: The Washington Post; Climate Signals background: Extreme heat and heatwaves
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By Jeff Masters
Death Valley, California hit an astonishing 129.9 degrees Fahrenheit (54.4°C) at 3:41 p.m. PDT Sunday, August 16, 2020, which was rounded to 130 degrees Fahrenheit in the final report from NOAA.
According to weather records experts Christopher Burt, who wrote the comprehensive weather records book "Extreme Weather," and Maximiliano Herrera, who tweets under the Twitter handle Extreme Temperatures Around the World, the observation may be the hottest reliably recorded temperature in world history, breaking the 129.2 degrees Fahrenheit readings at Death Valley in 2013 and in Kuwait in 2016.
Cautions About the Record
Herrera and Burt are cautious about accepting the new record set at the Furnace Creek Visitor's Center in Death Valley. The measurement came in mid-August. But extreme high temperature records are much easier to set in July, which is the hottest month of summer. Also concerning was the fact that Sunday's temperatures at Furnace Creek showed some odd jumps during the day. (See the raw high-resolution data here by choosing a time up to six days in the past from the drop-down menu, then choosing "Decoded Data.")
However, there were some relevant wind direction changes at Furnace Creek that occurred during these temperature jumps, bolstering the idea that the temperature changes were real. The National Weather Service noted that transient high cirrus clouds may have played a role in the temperature changes. Further support for the 130 degrees Fahrenheit reading at Furnace Creek came from the nearby Stovepipe Wells site in Death Valley, which peaked at 125 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday. That site, which lies in a cooler part of the valley and is 200 feet higher in elevation, is typically three to five degrees cooler than the Furnace Creek site.
The Greenland Ranch USWB weather shelter in Death Valley, California, site of the official world record extreme temperature of 134 degrees Fahrenheit on July 10, 1913. Photo is the oldest known photograph of the weather station (circa late 1910s to as late as 1921) and is looking west. NWS Las Vegas archives via Chris Burt
The Official World Record Will Remain 134°F
"If Sunday's observation passes an investigation (instrument calibration, etc.) then, yes, this a new reliably measured global extreme heat record," Burt wrote by email.
But the observation will not count as an official world record. In 2013, the World Meteorological Organization officially decertified the official all-time hottest temperature in world history, a 136.4 degrees Fahrenheit reading from Al Azizia, Libya, in 1923. (Burt was a member of the WMO team that made the determination.) After the abandonment of the Libya record, the official world record was given to a 134 degrees Fahrenheit measurement taken at Death Valley on July 10, 1913.
However, this record has been strongly disputed by Burt and Herrera.
"The old Death Valley record from July 1913 is 100% bogus (not just 99.9% such), as are all other temperature readings of 130 degrees Fahrenheit or higher from Africa in the past," Burt said.
Burt wrote a detailed 2016 blog post at Weather Underground challenging the 1913 record at Death Valley, explaining that official readings of 134, 130, and 131 degrees Fahrenheit taken on July 10, 12, and 13, 1913 were likely the result of an inexperienced observer. In order for the 1913 Death Valley record to be decertified, though, an official World Meteorological Organization investigation committee would have to be assembled to look into the matter, a years-long process for which there is currently no motivation.
The only other temperature of at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit officially recognized by the World Meteorological Organization is a 131-degree reading at Kebili, Tunisia, set July 7, 1931, which is considered to be Africa's hottest temperature.
Burt disputed this record: "I mentioned to the WMO about the Kebili temperature of 131 degrees Fahrenheit back in 2012, when asked what I thought the next hottest temperature in Africa (after Al Azzia) might be, since that was the only temperature over 130 degrees Fahrenheit that had an actual date attached to it. However, the Kebili 'record' is even more bogus than even the Al Azzia record, and I said so. Kebili is a relatively cool spot in Tunisia (an oasis) and never since the 1930s ever again recorded a maximum temperature above 118 degrees Fahrenheit. The WMO wanted something for their 'Africa' section at that time, and somehow the 131 degrees Fahrenheit made it into the database with no consideration of its validity whatsoever. Nowhere in Africa has any reliably observed temperature been measured above 126 degrees Fahrenheit."
A Weird Weather Day in California
Another argument supporting Sunday's 130 degrees Fahrenheit measurement at Death Valley was the unusual weather setup over California.
"I'm coming around to thinking that this 129.9° reading just might be for real," Burt said. "For one thing, the weather today in California has been unique. All kinds of strange local weather occurred. In fact, the folks at most of the state's National Weather Service offices are saying there has never been a day like today in recorded history in the state: all kinds of weird dynamics at work and the models just can't handle the details."
Yale Climate Connections contributor Bob Henson had these observations on Sunday's weird weather in California: "Among the strange developments over the weekend in California were a highly unusual round of pre-dawn thunderstorms in the Bay Area on Sunday, with only scant rain but profuse lightning that started multiple new wildfires. More than 4,800 lightning strikes were recorded in California on Saturday alone. Also on Saturday, a fire-based thunderstorm (pyrocumulonimbus) in Lassen County spawned what appear to be multiple fire whirls and 'fire tornados,' as indicated by radar and documented in photos and videos. The storm prompted what is apparently the first-ever NWS tornado warning related to pyrocumulonimbus. It will take further study to establish how many vortexes developed and how many might have been fire whirls (smaller-scale, shorter-lived spin-ups akin to dust devils) versus more unusual fire tornadoes, which extend up into a pyrocumulonimbus and which can generate surface winds of more than 100 mph.
"These events are related to an infusion of moisture from the tropical northeast Pacific, some of it from ex-Hurricane Elida, coupled with one of the strongest, hottest upper-level domes of high pressure ever recorded across the western United States in August. When such air is forced to descend, it warms up even more, which can lead to record-setting temperatures at the surface."
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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While California has several microclimates that make the temperatures and weather patterns in various parts of the state wildly different from each other, few areas were left unaffected by the extreme heat that has blanketed the state.
In Southern California, triple-digit temperatures have taxed the power grid so much that utilities had to impose rolling blackouts for the first time since 2011. In Death Valley, the temperature reached 130 degrees, and in Northern California a freak lightening storm ignited small fires and stoked ongoing ones. In the northeastern part of the state, the winds and high-temperatures caused strange fire behavior, leading to "rotating columns and fire whirls," colloquially known as a "firenado."
The bizarre and rare firenado was spotted on Saturday near the Loyalton Fire in the northeastern part of the state by the Nevada border. The fire, which started in the Tahoe National Forest, had burned more than 2,000 acres by Saturday evening. Video of the firenado was posted to Twitter with the line, "Fire Tornado today outside Chilcoot and Hallelujah Junction California. This was intense and scary!!!!"
Fire Tornado today outside Chilcoot and Hallelujah Junction California. This was intense and scary!!!! @TheTXWXchaser @spahn711 @JimCantore @ReedTimmerAccu @jeffpiotrowski #CAwx #LoyaltonFire #firenado #FireSeason2020 pic.twitter.com/vfwrTKK02n— Tasha Joy (@That1GirlTasha) August 16, 2020
Firenados are very similar to regular tornados. They are formed when the rising hot air meets changing wind patterns higher in the atmosphere. Those winds shift the direction of the blazes. Unlike a regular tornado, the winds in a firenado shift smoke plumes around, making them extremely dangerous to anyone nearby, as NBC News reported.
"The big concern is that it's extremely erratic fire behavior," said John Mittelstadt, a Reno-based meteorologist with the National Weather Service, as NBC News reported. "For any of the firefighters who are working on one flank of the fire, all of a sudden, there is no way to predict what the winds are going to do or how strong they are going to be," he added.
Meanwhile, the Bay Area faced triple-digit heat for the first time ever in August. It also witnessed a rare lightning storm. While beautiful, it raised the fire threat significantly for the parched area.
On Sunday, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a red flag fire warning for "critical fire weather conditions" until Monday morning, as The Guardian reported.
"Any lightning strikes will likely lead to new fire starts given the current heat wave," the NWS forecasters said, according to The Guardian. "A secondary pulse of moisture and instability arrives later Sunday into early Monday."
Through Northern and Southern California, the power grid was so compromised by the need for energy during the weekend's extreme heat that the California Independent System Operator issued rolling blackouts for the first time since 2011. It also declared a Stage 3 emergency for the state's power grid for the first time since 2001, as CNBC reported.
While the power was restored fully over the weekend, threats still loom, as temperatures above 100 degrees are expected everyday through the end of this week in the Los Angeles area, according to The New York Times.
Meanwhile, California is seeing its number of novel coronavirus cases surge, making the heat more dangerous since people may be avoiding malls and cooling centers. Furthermore, if people stay home and blast their air conditioners, then the power grid is overworked, creating the scenario where more rolling blackouts may be needed, according to The New York Times.
The extreme heat may have set a new record in Death Valley, where the temperatures soared to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the first place on Earth to reach such a high mark in August, according to The Washington Post.
The National Weather Service reported that yesterday afternoon the temperature did hit 130 degrees. If it is verified, it would break Death Valley's previous August record by three degrees, the Weather Service tweeted. It also may be the highest temperature ever recorded on Earth, as The Washington Post reported.
"Everything I've seen so far indicates that is a legitimate observation," Randy Cerveny, who leads the World Meteorological Organization's weather and climate extremes team, wrote in an email, as The Washington Post reported. "I am recommending that the World Meteorological Organization preliminarily accept the observation. In the upcoming weeks, we will, of course, be examining it in detail, along with the U.S. National Climate Extremes Committee, using one of our international evaluation teams."
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Homes in redlined neighborhoods are 25% more likely to be flooded, according to a report from the real estate firm Redfin.
Climate change, caused by burning fossil fuels like gas, oil, and coal, is increasing U.S. flooding risk, and the report is yet another example of the compounding harms caused by racism and climate change. Overlaying current flood risk assessments with maps of which neighborhoods were excluded from public investment via New Deal-era programs because of their high Black and immigrant populations — the racist practice known as redlining for the color in which those neighborhoods were delineated on federal maps — shows how the effects of those racist policies persist today.
"The discrimination that happened in the past may seem like it happened a long time ago, but it compounds," Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather told CNN. "It's not like the historical practices that were discriminatory diminished in effect. It seems like they actually increase in effect." The populations of redlined areas today are 58.1% Black, Indigenous, and people of color compared to 40.4% in places deemed desirable by lenders, the report found. The report comes as E&E reports FEMA is beginning to evaluate not just how disasters disproportionately burden low-income people and people of color, but how disaster response has exacerbated those inequities.
As reported by Reuters:
The study's authors pointed to a number of examples where communities of color suffered the most from storms.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, four of the seven zip codes with the costliest flood damage were at least 75% Black, it said.
And as sea levels rise and flooding becomes more common - with 2020 a record-breaking year for Atlantic hurricanes - there are concerns that financial institutions like banks and insurers will raise costs for the worst-affected households.
Jesse Keenan, associate professor of real estate at the Tulane School of Architecture, calls this "bluelining."
Much like redlining, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, institutions could begin drawing their own lines around neighborhoods at environmental risk, dictating the terms and availability of mortgages.
Therefore, he said, federal investment in infrastructure is urgently needed to help mitigate these risks.
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A new study published Wednesday found that the destruction of primary forest increased by 12% in 2020, impacting ecosystems that store vast amounts of carbon and shelter abundant biodiversity.
Brazil saw the worst losses, three times higher than the next highest country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the report from Global Forest Watch (GFW) citing satellite data.
The driving factor of deforestation has been a combination of a demand for commodities, increased agriculture, and climate change.
2020 was meant to be a "landmark year" in the fight against deforestation in which companies, countries and international organizations had pledged to halve or completely stop forest loss, said the report.
What Were the Main Takeaways?
The report, which included data from the University of Maryland, study cited in the report registered the destruction of 10.4 million acres (4.2 million hectares) of primary forest.
The loss of tree cover ー which refers to plantations as well as natural forest ー was a total of 30 million acres. Australia saw a ninefold increase in tree cover loss from late 2019 to early 2020 compared to 2018 primarily driven by extreme weather.
Heat and drought also stoked huge fires in Siberia and deep into the Amazon, researchers said.
The findings did, however, show signs of hope, particularly in southeast Asia. Indonesia and Malaysia saw downward trends for deforestation after implementing regulations such as a temporary palm oil license ban — although that is set to expire in 2021.
Researchers Voice Concern
These losses constitute a "climate emergency. They're a biodiversity crisis, a humanitarian disaster, and a loss of economic opportunity," said Frances Seymour of the World Resources Institute, which is behind the
The destruction of tropical forests released vast amounts of CO2 in 2020, a total of 2.6 million tons. That equals the annual amount of emissions from India's 570 million cars, researchers said.
COVID's Impact on Deforestation
The study suggested that COVID-19 restrictions may have had an effect when it came to illegal harvesting because forests were less protected or the return of large numbers of people to rural areas.
Researchers, however, said that little had changed when it comes to the trajectory of forest destruction. They warned the worst could still be to come if countries slash protections in an attempt to ramp up economic growth, hampered by the pandemic.
If deforestation goes unchecked it could lead to a negative feedback loop ー where trees lost leads to more carbon in the air, which in turn leads to increased climate change impacts leading to more trees being lost, researchers said.
The aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic could offer and opportunity to reimagine policies and economies in a way that protects forest before it is too late, the report suggests.
Seymour said the most "ominous signal" from the 2020 data is the instances of forests themselves falling victim to climate change.
"The longer we wait to stop forestation, and get other sectors on to net zero trajectories, the more likely it is that our natural carbon sinks will go up in smoke," she said.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
A heat wave that set in over the South and Southwest left much of the U.S. blanketed in record-breaking triple digit temperatures over the weekend. The widespread and intense heat wave will last for weeks, making the magnitude and duration of its heat impressive, according to The Washington Post.
The heat wave brought temperatures that soared above 110 degrees to some parts of the South over the weekend. While it scorched that part of the country, it is expected to linger around the nation's heartland as it moves north and east over the Ohio Valley this week, according to CBS News.
Last week, the National Weather Service predicted 75 or more record-high temperatures would be approached or broken from Friday to Tuesday alone, and that number is likely to grow significantly into this upcoming week, as CBS News reported.
"The heat wave will be very long-lived, lasting multiple weeks in some areas with only a few days of near-normal temperatures during that span," said Jeff Masters, Ph.D., founder of the popular site Weather Underground and a regular contributor to Yale Climate Connections, to CBS News. "This will increase the odds of heat illness and heat-related deaths."
The high temperatures in many parts of the country were 10 degrees above normal over the weekend. Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tucson all saw temperatures over 110 degrees. Dallas, San Antonio and Lubbock all exceeded 100 degrees. In New England, Boston and Providence had a heat index of 96 degrees. Other hot locations included Orlando, Florida, Montgomery, Alabama and Columbia, South Carolina, which all saw temperatures around 95 degrees Sunday, according to CNN.
Lara Pagano, a meteorologist at the Weather Prediction Center, told The Guardian that the heatwave is being caused by high pressure over the area that is being exacerbated by unusually low monsoonal moisture.
"Typically this time of year we tend to see more monsoonal moisture moving into the south-west so that can help temper some of the higher temperatures," she said. "It's been delayed."
The Washington Post reported that by the middle of this week, a zone of high pressure coming down from southeast Canada will merge with a similar system in the west, combining into a synergistic continental-scale heat dome.
The bigger these heat domes grow, the hotter and longer-lasting heat waves become. And this will be a big one, according to CBS News. More than 80 percent of the nation — 265 million people — will see highs above 90 within a week. Another 50 million will experience triple-digit temperatures, with high-temperature alerts in every southern state from California to Florida.
That heat will also bring the possibility of moderate to severe windstorms in some parts of the country.
As the climate crisis continues to worsen, it ushers in more severe and intense heat events. A recent analysis by Climate Central found that the number of days each year with both high heat and humidity has doubled across much of the United States since 1980, according to The Washington Post.
"Another decade of global warming, combined with natural variability, should produce a July heat wave in the U.S. capable of beating most of the Dust Bowl extreme temperature records," said Masters to CBS News.
Long-term computer model projections point to a continuation of heat into the end of July.
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By Johnny Wood
What better place to build a Doomsday Vault than the remote, snow-covered islands of Norway's Arctic Svalbard? Sitting around 1,000 kilometers from the North Pole, the facility is buried in permafrost to protect the precious seed samples housed there. But a freak heatwave is causing the region's ice to melt.
Following several days of near record-breaking hot weather in July, Svalbard temperatures topped out at 21.7℃, the country's meteorological institute reported. This is the hottest ever recorded here, exceeding the previous record of 21.3℃ set over 40 years earlier and a stark contrast to the region's average of between 5-7℃ for this time of year.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault – also known as the Doomsday Vault – is a gigantic bunker, sitting deep inside a mountain surrounded by snowy wastelands. The facility stores close to 900,000 seed samples from around the world and acts as a sort of back-up plan for agriculture, should disaster render parts of the planet unlivable or the world suffer a catastrophe, such as nuclear war or extreme climate change.
It's been described as an "insurance policy for food security."
Inside the vault, temperatures are kept below minus 18℃, cold enough to keep the seed samples safe for at least 200 years, even without backup power. But climate change is causing problems for the vault.
In 2016, which was the warmest year on record according to NASA, soaring temperatures caused meltwater to breach the vault's entrance tunnel. While no seeds were damaged, the floodwater left an expensive repair bill and tarnished the vault's reputation as impregnable to natural or manmade disasters.
The Heat Is On
Warming in the islands has been underway for some time. Figures for 2017 show average temperatures are between 3-5℃ hotter than in 1971, according to the Climate in Svalbard 2100 report, with the largest increases affecting the inner fjords.
Between 2071 and 2100, average temperatures throughout the archipelago will increase by between 7-10℃, the report predicts, shortening the snow season and causing loss of near-surface permafrost.
What's happening in Svalbard is symptomatic of wider changes impacting the Arctic expanse, which is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. Parts of the Canadian Arctic are thawing 70 years earlier than predicted, scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks found, a sign that climate change could be happening faster than first thought.
As warmer-than-average summers destabilize permafrost, much of which has lain frozen for millennia, methane and other gases trapped in the ice could be released at scale, accelerating climate change. In turn, warmer temperatures would lead to further permafrost loss.
Melting ice, on land and at sea, destroys animal habitats for species like polar bears and Arctic foxes, which use their snowy white coats as camouflage either to hunt for food or avoid predators.
Climate scientist Dr Boris K Biskaborn of the Alfred Wegener Institute polar and marine research centre found Arctic continuous permafrost ground temperatures increased by 0.39℃ between 2008 and 2016. A similar trend was found in Antarctica, with increases of 0.29℃ over the same period.
Warming ground temperatures are an indication of the extent of climate change. Biskaborn predicts melting permafrost could lead to increased Arctic air temperatures of up to 0.27℃ by 2100.
Svalbard's seed bank exists to protect the world's most valuable natural resources from catastrophe. If we want to avoid making multiple withdrawals, tackling the underlying causes of climate change is a priority.
Reposted with permission from World Economic Forum.
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By Cameron Oglesby
Since 1960, about 21 percent of global agriculture production, including livestock, tree farming, and traditional crops such as corn and soybeans, has been negatively impacted by climate change, according to a new study.
In the research published Thursday in Nature Climate Change, agriculture production is defined not just as crop yields or the amount of food or livestock grown, but the overarching energy and input it takes to produce food. This includes manual labor, fertilizers, water, and land. Unsurprisingly, agriculture production worldwide has grown over the last 60 years as a result of improved technologies and greater efficiency, primarily in higher income countries.
But the new study provides the latest evidence that climate change — and the subsequent increase in droughts, flooding, and extreme heat — has held back agricultural gains and impeded global food security efforts.
"People don't yet realize that the climate has already changed," Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, a Cornell economist and lead author of the new study, told EHN. "That's not something that we often talk about, just about what the impacts will be 50 years from now."
Climate Change Wipes Out Improvements
Using models similar to those created by climatologists to predict future climate trends, Ortiz-Bobea and his team charted climate data between 1960 and 2020, and compared it to a model where human-caused climate change never occurred.
They compared the "total factor productivity" between models: how does actual agricultural productivity over time compare to what it could have been without climate change?
"Climate change has basically wiped out about seven years of improvements in agricultural productivity over the past 60 years," Ortiz-Bobea said in a statement.
In other words, if the world were to wave a magic wand and halt the planetary changes associated with greenhouse gas emissions and a warming climate, global agricultural production would have reached the level it is today back in 2013, said Ortiz-Bobea.
Ortiz-Bobea compared the situation to someone running with a strong wind at their front: As a runner attempts to make their way to the finish line, the wind is constantly pushing them back. They're making progress but it's slow compared to a windless day. In this scenario, climate change is the strong wind and the runner's progress is farm production growth.
He noted that if climate change gets worse, a growing possibility as countries fail to set commitments that meet Paris agreement targets, it's only a matter of time until agriculture production stalls. "[Climate change has] been happening for years, and as the magnitude keeps rising and rising it's going to get harder to ignore," he said
Ortiz-Bobea wasn't expecting such a significant difference in farm production between models with and without climate change. "I didn't even think that the result would be statistically significant," he said. "I was expecting something much smaller, something almost imperceptible. But no matter how we sliced the data or looked at different variations of the econometric model, it was pretty consistent that it's a substantial negative effect."
Developing Countries Suffer
The greatest climate impacts are seen in countries that are historically warmer such as those in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. As developing regions are often without the same technological advancement or management systems for agriculture, they face the greatest losses as unpredictable weather and warming events threaten crops and livestock. Ortiz-Bobea noted that this issue is as much an equity issue as it is an economic one.
The agriculture sector faces a unique problem in the way of climate change. Historically, the industry has relied on unsustainable practices that further greenhouse gas emissions. One example is in Brazil, where massive Amazon deforestation has taken place in an attempt to grow the country's economy around cattle and soybean farming. The transformation of forests, a crucial carbon sink, into crop lands also contributes to rises in atmospheric carbon levels.
In addition, increased global meat consumption and subsequent cattle production is a common source of methane emissions, a greenhouse gas about 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
So what is the best way to produce more food without contributing to a cycle of climate change?
Ortiz-Bobea said that the solution is in a mix of mitigation and adaptation. "Despite all the new, very exciting technologies that we are coming up with like CRISPR, they will still take decades to have an impact," she said. CRISPR is an increasingly popular technology that allows geneticists to modify DNA sequences and gene functions. Often touted as the solution to harmful birth defects in human genomes, conversations have arisen around the use of gene editing to increase food production for a rapidly growing population.
Ortiz-Bobea also highlighted the potential for soil-based strategies. "There are ways to increase soil health that allow soils to improve their water holding capacity, for example," he said. "And so that improves the crop yields and allows farmers to weather the storm, no pun intended there, while at the same time it helps capture carbon from the atmosphere."
Reposted with permission from Environmental Health News.
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