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Science

Scientists Accidentally Develop 'Mutant' Enzyme That Eats Plastic

Researchers in the UK and the U.S. have inadvertently engineered an enzyme that eats up plastic.

The enzyme is able to digest PET (polyethylene terephthalate)—the same material used in the ubiquitous plastic bottle that's clogging up landfills, coastlines and oceans around the world.

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muhammadiqbaldar / Flickr

UK Pledges £61.4 Million to Fight Ocean Plastics

In a speech Sunday night, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced her government would earmark £61.4 million towards cleaning the world's oceans of plastics, Resource reported Monday.

The announcement came the night before the start of the 2018 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting from April 16 to 20. May hoped to encourage other Commonwealth countries to join the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance (CCOA) through which the funds will be directed.

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Science
Goddard Media Studios / NASA

Slow Motion Ocean: Why Are North Atlantic Currents Weakening?

By Alex Kirby

The Gulf Stream is slowing, the North Atlantic is cooling. An international scientific study has found new and harder evidence that one of the planet's key heat pumps, the currents which exchange warmth between the tropics and the Arctic, are weaker today than at any time in the last thousand years.

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Climate
Record-setting bloom of toxic algae in North Pacific in 2015. NOAA

Marine Heatwaves Now Longer, Hotter and More Intense

It's not just land-based heatwaves that have become more intense and frequent. Marine heatwaves are similarly on the rise as a direct result of warming oceans, according to a new international study.

The research, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, shows that from 1925-2016, the frequency of marine heatwaves increased on average by 34 percent and the length of each heatwave increased by 17 percent. In all, the number of marine heatwave days has increased 54 percent per year.

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Animals
Plastic bag or jellyfish? Sea turtles looking for food can have trouble telling the difference. Saving The Waves / Instagram

Plastic Bag Bans Actually Work, Study of European Waters Shows

If you ever feel like the world's plastic nightmare might never end, a new study shows proof that plastic pollution legislation actually works.

There are significantly fewer plastic bags on the seafloor ever since a number of European countries introduced fees on the items, according to a 25-year study from the UK government's Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS).

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Wikimedia Commons

Antarctica Lost a London-Sized Area of Underwater Ice in Only 6 Years

Antarctica's ice sheet is retreating due to warm ocean water circulating beneath its floating edge, researchers from the UK Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds have found.

The study, published in Nature Geoscience, shows that the Southern Ocean melted 1,463 square kilometers of Antarctica's underwater ice between 2010 and 2016—an area roughly the size of Greater London.

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Climate
Dust storms in the Gulf of Alaska, captured by NASA's Aqua satellite. NASA

Half of Earth’s Satellites Restrict Use of Climate Data

By Mariel Borowitz

Scientists and policymakers need satellite data to understand and address climate change. Yet data from more than half of unclassified Earth-observing satellites is restricted in some way, rather than shared openly.

When governments restrict who can access data, or limit how people can use or redistribute it, that slows the progress of science. Now, as U.S. climate funding is under threat, it's more important than ever to ensure that researchers and others make the most of the collected data.

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Animals

Another 333 Minke Whales Killed by Japanese Fleet

In defiance of international protests, Japanese whaling vessels returned to port with another 333 minke whales on Saturday after its months-long hunt in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in Antarctic waters.

According to the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research, among the whales collected, 152 were male and 181 were female. About 60 percent of the males and 70 percent of the females were matured.

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Aftermath of the 2015 Benito Rodrigues dam disaster in which an iron-ore mining dam failed, leading to Brazil's largest environmental disaster. Senado Federal / Flickr

Controversial Amazon Gold Mine Close to Getting Permit, Say Activists Raising Alarm

The activist group Avaaz has launched a petition against the Canadian Belo Sun Mining Company's Volta Grande gold mine in Brazil's Amazon region, claiming that the company is close to getting the permits it needs for the controversial project, MINING.com reported March 30.

The project has already been denied a construction license more than once since 2013 for failing to adequately assess the impact of the mine on nearby indigenous communities, according to MINING.com.

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