"Major extinction events in Earth's history have been associated with warm climates and oxygen-deficient oceans," the analysis published in the journal Science stated.
"Under the current trajectory that is where we would be headed. But the consequences to humans of staying on that trajectory are so dire that it is hard to imagine we would go quite that far down that path," Denise Breitburg, an author of the study and researcher at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the U.S., told the Guardian.
Human activities are largely responsible for the growth of ocean dead zones. Climate change, caused by fossil fuel emissions, is behind the large-scale removal of oxygen in open waters. Open oceans have naturally low oxygen areas that typically lay west of continents due to the Earth's rotation.
Coastal zones, which provide jobs to 350 million people, are now home to at least 500 known dead zones, though that number could be much higher. According to the study, these areas have increased by an area roughly the size of the European Union since 1950, when there were 50 reported around the world.
This global map indicates coastal sites where industrial activity, including large-scale and chemical-intense farming, are suffocating ocean life. International Oceanographic Commission / Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
In coastal regions, algae blooms are the main culprits behind dead zones. Manure, sewage and fertilizers create these blooms. When the algae decomposes it sucks oxygen out of the water.
"This is a problem we can solve," Breitburg told the Guardian, pointing to the River Thames in the UK and the Chesapeake Bay in the U.S., where improved sewage and agricultural practices helped remove dead zones.
"Right now, the increasing expansion of coastal dead zones and decline in open ocean oxygen are not priority problems for governments around the world. Unfortunately, it will take severe and persistent mortality of fisheries for the seriousness of low oxygen to be realized," Robert Diaz, a professor at the Virginia institute of Marine Science who reviewed the study, told the Guardian.
"No other variable of such ecological importance to coastal ecosystems has changed so drastically in such a short period of time from human activities as dissolved oxygen," Diaz said.
Beijing successfully lowered air pollution levels following a crackdown on polluters last year, bringing China's capital in line with air quality targets, according to Chinese officials.
The announcement Wednesday by the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau followed a 2013 plan that ordered the city to reduce the yearly average concentration of particulate matter to less than 60 micrograms. According to the bureau, the capital succeeded by reducing PM2.5 concentrations to 58 micrograms per cubic meter—a reduction of 35.6 percent from 2012.
Reuters reported that the figures provided by the government agency were in line with the news agency's own estimates.
Despite meeting the target, northern China is still a ways off its official PM2.5 of 35 micrograms per cubic meter and even further off the maximum of 10 micrograms per cubic meter recommended by the World Health Organization.
"Current air pollutant levels remain a lot higher than the national air quality standard, indicating the improvement in air quality will still be a long-term process," Beijing's environment agency said.
PM2.5 is particulate matter with a length of 2.5 microns or less. Often a mix of chemicals, the microscopic cocktail of toxins from power plants, automobiles and other sources of industry harm human lungs and can cause heart problems if they enter the bloodstream.
Brought about in 2013 by public anger over frequently hazardous air pollution levels, the initiative received a late push from the government in October to ensure 2017 targets were met. The push included 27 other northern Chinese cities.
To reduce air pollution, Beijing closed nearly 2000 factories in the cement, foundry and furniture sectors and shut down coal power plants in the past five years. The city also took nearly 2 million high-emission vehicles off the road.
In north China's drive to switch to residential winter heating systems, it began phasing out coal-powered boilers to switch to gas or electric-powered equipment. It also shut down or curbed production at heavy industrial plants.
The government partly attributed the air quality improvement to drier and windier weather.
Wednesday's announcement came just two days after China announced it would suspend the production of hundreds of car models to curb air pollution.
Through net metering programs, homeowners who have installed solar energy systems can get utility credits for any electricity their panels generate during the day that isn't used to power home systems. These credits can be "cashed in" to offset the cost of any grid electricity used at night.
Where net metering is available, solar panels have a shorter payback period and yield a higher return on investment. Without this benefit, you only save on power bills when using solar energy directly, and surplus generation is lost unless you store it in a solar battery. However, net metering gives you the option of selling any excess electricity that is not consumed within your home.
Generally, you will see more home solar systems in places with favorable net metering laws. With this benefit, going solar becomes an attractive investment even for properties with minimal daytime consumption. Homeowners can turn their roofs into miniature power plants during the day, and that generation is subtracted from their nighttime consumption.
What Is Net Metering?
Net metering is a billing arrangement in which surplus energy production from solar panels is tracked by your electricity provider and subtracted from your monthly utility bill. When your solar power system produces more kilowatt-hours of electricity than your home is consuming, the excess generation is fed back into the grid.
For homeowners with solar panels, the benefits of net metering include higher monthly savings and a shorter payback period. Utility companies also benefit, since the excess solar electricity can be supplied to other buildings on the same electric grid.
If a power grid relies on fossil fuels, net metering also increases the environmental benefits of solar power. Even if a building does not have an adequate area for rooftop solar panels, it can reduce its emissions by using the surplus clean energy from other properties.
How Net Metering Works
There are two general ways net metering programs work:
- The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your utility company, and a credit is posted to your account that can be applied to future power bills.
- The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your home's electricity meter. Modern power meters can measure electricity flow in both directions, so they tick up when you pull from the grid at night and count down when your solar panels are producing an excess amount of electricity.
In either scenario, at the end of the billing period, you will only pay for your net consumption — the difference between total consumption and generation. This is where the term "net metering" comes from.
How Does Net Metering Affect Your Utility Bill?
Net metering makes solar power systems more valuable for homeowners, as you can "sell" any extra energy production to your utility company. However, it's important to understand how charges and credits are managed:
- You can earn credits for your surplus electricity, but utility companies will not cut you a check for the power you provide. Instead, they will subtract the credits from your power bills.
- If your net metering credit during the billing period is higher than your consumption, the difference is rolled over to the next month.
- Some power companies will roll over your credit indefinitely, but many have a yearly expiration date that resets your credit balance.
With all of this in mind, it is possible to reduce your annual electricity cost to zero. You can accumulate credit with surplus generation during the sunny summer months, and use it during winter when solar generation decreases.
You will achieve the best results when your solar power system has just the right capacity to cover your annual home consumption. Oversizing your solar array is not recommended, as you will simply accumulate a large unused credit each year. In other words, you cannot overproduce and charge your power company each month.
Some power companies will let you pick the expiration date of your annual net metering credits. If you have this option, it's wise to set the date after winter has ended. This way, you can use all the renewable energy credits you accumulated during the summer.
Is Net Metering Available Near You?
Net metering offers a valuable incentive for homeowners to switch to solar power, but these types of programs are not available everywhere. Net metering laws can change depending on where you live.
In the U.S., there are mandatory net metering laws in 38 states and Washington, D.C. Most states without a mandate have power companies that voluntarily offer the benefit in their service areas. South Dakota and Tennessee are the only two states with no version of net metering or similar programs.
If net metering is available in your area, you will be credited for your surplus energy in one of two ways:
- Net metering at retail price: You get full credit for each kilowatt-hour sent to the grid. For example, if you're charged 16 cents per kWh consumed, you'll get a credit of 16 cents per kWh exported. This type of net metering is required by law in 29 states.
- Net metering at a reduced feed-in tariff: Surplus electricity sent to the grid is credited at a lower rate. For example, you may be charged 16 cents per kWh for consumption but paid 10 cents per kWh exported. Feed-in tariffs and other alternative programs are used in 17 of the states where retail-rate net metering is not mandatory.
Note: This is just a simplified example — the exact kWh retail price and solar feed-in tariff will depend on your electricity plan.
The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about net metering and other solar power incentives in your state. You can also look for information about solar incentives by visiting the official websites of your state government and utility company.
Other Financial Incentives for Going Solar
Net metering policies are one of the most effective incentives for solar power. However, there are other financial incentives that can be combined with net metering to improve your ROI:
- The federal solar tax credit lets you claim 26% of your solar installation costs as a tax deduction. For example, if your solar installation had a cost of $10,000, you can claim $2,600 on your next tax declaration. This benefit is available everywhere in the U.S.
- State tax credits may also be available depending on where you live, and they can be claimed in addition to the federal incentive.
- Solar rebates are offered by some state governments and utility companies. These are upfront cash incentives subtracted directly from the cost of your solar PV system.
In addition to seeking out solar incentives available to you, you should compare quotes from multiple installers before signing a solar contract. This will ensure you're getting the best deal available and help you avoid overpriced offers and underpriced, low-quality installations. You can start getting quotes from top solar companies near you by filling out the 30-second form below.
Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Net Metering
Why is net metering bad?
When managed correctly, net metering is beneficial for electricity consumers and power companies. There have been cases in which power grids lack the capacity to handle large amounts of power coming from homes and businesses. However, this is an infrastructure issue, not a negative aspect of net metering itself.
In places with a high percentage of homes and businesses using solar panels, surplus generation on sunny days can saturate the grid. This can be managed by modernizing the grid to handle distributed solar power more effectively with load management and energy storage systems.
How does net metering work?
With net metering, any electricity your solar panels produce that isn't used to power your home is fed into your local power grid. Your utility company will pay you for this power production through credits that can be applied to your monthly energy bills.
Can you make money net metering?
You can reduce your power bills with net metering, using surplus solar generation to compensate for your consumption when you can't generate solar power at night and on cloudy days. However, most power companies will not pay you for surplus production once your power bill has dropped to $0. Normally, that credit will be rolled over, to be used in months where your solar panels are less productive.
On very rare occasions, you may be paid for the accumulated balance over a year. However, this benefit is offered by very few electric companies and is subject to limitations.
Migratory Birds Lose Protection Against Industry in Latest Trump Action Against Environmental Regulations
A legal memo by the U.S. Interior Department reverses a longstanding agency practice and last-minute ruling released by the Obama administration in January 2017. The Obama-era policy meant that oil, gas, wind and solar operators could face prosecution for accidentally killing birds.
"Christmas came early for bird killers. By acting to end industries' responsibility to avoid millions of gruesome bird deaths per year, the White House is parting ways with more than 100 years of conservation legacy," David O'Neill, the chief conservation officer for the National Audubon Society, said in response to the decision.
In a legal opinion, the Interior Department's principal deputy solicitor, Daniel Jorjani, described the federal government's application of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act—a 1918 law that officials have used to prosecute those who kill birds "incidentally"—as overreach.
The law "applies only to direct and affirmative purposeful actions that reduce migratory birds, their eggs, or their nests, by killing or capturing, to human control," Jorjani said in the Interior Department's legal memo.
Applying the law "to incidental or accidental actions hangs the sword of Damocles over a host of otherwise lawful and productive actions, threatening up to six months in jail and a $15,000 fine for each and every bird injured or killed," Jorjani wrote.
Before his post with the Trump administration, Jorjani worked for the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a project of the billionaire oil executives Charles G. and David H. Koch.
The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) praised the Interior Department's change of direction as a reasonable approach to the issue.
"Over the last few years, the management of 'take' under MBTA has been riddled with flawed decisions that have created massive uncertainty," Tim Charters, the senior director of government affairs for NOIA, told the Washington Post. "This common-sense approach ensures that lawful activities are not held hostage to unnecessary threats of criminalization."
Environmentalists expect that the policy reversal will create an environment with no accountability for the deaths of unprotected birds, Reuters noted. The prospect of legal liability fostered corporate efforts to create bird-friendly solutions.
"We just don't want to lose any incentive for the industry to come to the table and work through this with us," O'Neill told the Washington Post. "And the solutions are out there."
"The wind kills all your birds. All your birds, killed," Trump said during a rally in Pennsylvania in August 2016. "You know, the environmentalists never talk about that."
O'Neill, speaking to the Washington Post, said it's "ironic" that Trump lamented the bird-deaths then turned around to gut "one of the best tools we have to make sure the wind industry is properly siting these projects."
This move is the latest in a series of actions taken by Trump to weaken environmental protections his administration views as burdensome to industry, including shrinking of two national monuments in Utah and reconsidering protections for the Greater Sage Grouse, a Western bird whose population has dropped rapidly amid threats to its habitat.
Exact estimates are difficult to come by, but it's estimated that oil waste pits kill between a half million and 1 million birds each year, according to one study. Meanwhile, power lines kill up to 175 million birds per year, according to Audubon.
- Migratory Birds Are Being Driven Northward by Climate Change ›
- Federal Judge Strikes Down Trump Admin Rollback of Law Protecting Migratory Birds - EcoWatch ›
Indian officials have just rolled out their newest weapon to fight air pollution—an "anti-smog gun."
The $40,000 vehicle-mounted cannon sprays fine water droplets at extremely high speeds. Its manufacturers say this will flush out deadly airborne pollutants in one of the world's smoggiest capitals. Delhi's government tested the cannon this week in Anad Vihar, one of the most polluted parts of the city.
But environmentalists are skeptical.
"This is a temporary local measure, not a long-lasting solution to the problem," Anumita Roychowdhury of the Center for Science and Environment in Delhi told Arab News. "It will not improve the environment. Instead of looking at temporary measures, the government should focus on a comprehensive action plan for more systematic changes in the city to contain air pollution."
Since November, pollution in the city of nearly 20 million has worsened. Government officials were forced to close 6,000 schools and banned all but the most essential commercial trucks from entering the city.
Much of New Delhi's pollution comes from outside the capital. Bordered by large agrarian states, the burning of crop waste engulfs Delhi, the state that hosts the Indian capital, every year in the fall.
On Thursday, the smog inhibited visibility as the city experienced an Air Quality Index of 482. Anything above 400 is categorized as severe.
"This is not a solution to pollution. It's more tokenism and symbolism than an attempt to attack the source of the problem," Suni Dahiya of Greenpeace told Arab News.
"The whole concept of the anti-smog gun is that when you have a situation where you have to shut down schools and colleges and other important buildings, then you can use this gun to reduce air pollution," Sushant Saini of Cloud Tech, the company that manufactures the water cannon, told Arab News. "It is only for instant relief and not a long-term solution."
"The Delhi government should look at more sustainable solutions rather than creating business for a few companies," Dahiya told the Guardian.
The warning—made by Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring group—comes just more than a week before the Chinese government will ban ivory retail sales and follows the closure of ivory factories in the country last March.
"Our findings show without doubt that Japan's largely unregulated domestic ivory market is contributing to illegal trade," Tomomi Kitade, the co-author of a recent report, told the Guardian.
Between 2011 and 2016, Japan illegally exported 2.42 tons of ivory—including elephant tusks, antiques and jewelry—to China, where around 95 percent of Japan's illegal ivory exports end up.
"Continuing to allow substantial illegal exports to go to China will undermine Chinese attempts to enforce the ban on its domestic ivory trade," Kitade told the Guardian.
Online sales are fueling the problem, according to the report. Between May and June of 2017, an average of 2,447 ivory items, worth a combined $400,000, were auctioned on a major e-commerce site, according to Traffic.
Antique dealers also play a substantial role in Japan's ivory trade. Despite a Japanese law that requires ivory owners to prove that their product wasn't bought after 1989, the year the ivory trade became internationally banned, researchers found antique dealers buying unregistered elephant tusks.
Japan, however, claims the ivory products in its domestic market weren't illegally acquired. And earlier this year the government passed a law that tightened requirements and inspections for more than 8,000 ivory retailers and manufacturers in the country. Campaigners described the move as inadequate.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has called for the closure of the domestic ivory markets in its member states and bans international trade.
Ivory poaching, which fuels markets, is devastating African elephant populations. Nearly one-third of African elephants were killed between 2007 and 2014, according to the first ever continent-wide survey of the species. Conservation groups estimate 20,000 African elephants are killed each year for their tusks.
Last year, a record 40 tons of ivory was seized across the globe, triple the amount in 2007.
"Our findings show that the Japanese government has a responsibility to act quickly to end illegal exports," Kitade said.
China unveiled the details on Tuesday of what is soon to be the world's largest carbon market, two years after China's president Xi announced the initiative.
Although the market launch date wasn't revealed, observers saw today's announcement as a noteworthy step. "This is like the pyramids of Giza for climate policy," Nathaniel Keohane, the vice president of international climate at the Environmental Defense Fund, told ClimateWire.
In its early stages the carbon market will only apply to emissions from power plants producing more than 26,000 tons of carbon per year. This means nearly all of China's power plants, about 1,700 companies, will be included. An estimated 39 percent of China's total emissions come from its coal and natural gas-based electricity sector. From this sector alone, the country's carbon market will quickly outgrow Europe's emissions market—currently the world's biggest.
"It is important to bear in mind that the first phase will be embryonic," Li Shuo, a senior global policy adviser for Greenpeace East Asia, who has been briefed on some details of the plan, told ClimateWire.
Initially, the government is likely to set the cap high. This will allow most power plants to keep emitting as they have been, making emission reductions minimal. A ton of carbon is likely to incur a market cost of around $7.50 (50 yuan), according to a Chinese official who spoke to Quartz on the condition of anonymity. The official went on to say that they expected the price to gradually rise to $45 (300 yuan) per ton of carbon. Every ton of carbon dioxide emitted today will likely cause $125 worth of damage to society in the future, according to economists.
The slow start "is a sign that China is taking this seriously and wants to make sure they're doing it right," Barbara Finamore, a senior attorney and Asia director for the China program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told ClimateWire.
Market participation will require a rigorous verification process and subsequent monitoring, experts noted. For the first time the Chinese government will be able to take accurate measures from power sector emissions and analyze the data.
"It is precisely the lack of transparency that has worried investors in other Chinese markets, and carbon markets are known for being notoriously tricky," Paul Bledsoe, a former Clinton White House climate adviser, told ClimateWire
Companies are already responding to the initiative. Over the past two years, following president Xi's announcement, a number of industries have jumpstarted preparations for the carbon market. The number of Chinese companies planning for mandatory carbon markets rose from 54 in 2015 to 102 in 2017, Nicolette Bartlett, director of carbon pricing at the environmental charity CDP, told the Financial Times, citing a survey of 336 companies.
The program builds on regional test trading systems that go back to 2011 and have been running since 2013. Those regional programs for other sectors, such as steel and aluminum, will continue until the Chinese government deems they are prepared to enter the carbon market.
China's announcement comes against the backdrop of the U.S. withdrawing from its role as a global leader in climate action. Just yesterday President Trump signed a document that doesn't acknowledge climate change as a real national security threat.
In addition to failing to plan for and incorporate climate change's risks into project designs, the report found that many facilities are not consistently tracking costs incurred by extreme weather. The Defense Department has identified climate change and its effects as threats to facilities, but a gap remains between determining threats and implementing solutions, the study found.
"Planners and engineers do not have the information needed to ensure that climate change-related risks are addressed in installation plans and project designs," the study warned.
Furthermore, "military services lack the information they need to adapt infrastructure at overseas installations to weather effects associated with climate change and develop accurate budget estimates for infrastructure sustainment."
Requested by the Democrats in the Senate, the study by GAO—a nonpartisan oversight agency—visited 45 military installations around the world. Only one-third of these facilities had integrated climate change adaptation into their planning. Meanwhile, dozens of bases were exempted from a department-wide climate vulnerability assessment, including "key national security sites." The report said the Pentagon left out a number of facilities without adequate explanation—in some cases it simply stated that there was no risk, but gave no reasoning behind the judgment.
The report's authors said that officials at most of the 45 installations they visited described their particular risks of climate change. Extreme tides had flooded a missile testing range in the Pacific in 2008, while recent storms have damaged piers and buildings. In the Middle East, a U.S. military facility is experiencing more frequent extreme heat days that suspend all non-essential physical training and exercises.
The GAO concluded the study with a series of recommendations, including that the DoD should:
- require overseas installations to systematically track costs associated with climate impacts;
- re-administer its vulnerability assessment survey to include all relevant sites;
- integrate climate change adaptation into relevant standards; and
- include climate change adaptation in host-nation agreements.
The GAO's report included a DoD response signed by Lucian Niemeyer, the Trump-nominated assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment. He pushed back against some of the study's assertions and claimed that blaming infrastructure damage on climate change is "speculative at best."
"Associating a single event to climate change is difficult and does not warrant the time and money expended in doing so," Niemeyer asserted.
Many climate experts have praised the Pentagon for past steps to assess and warn of climate change's impacts on national security. Earlier this year in his confirmation hearing for defense secretary, James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that climate change would make the world less stable. Ashton Carter, Mattis' predecessor, said that climate change was a top strategic challenge for the U.S., on the level of terrorism and North Korea's nuclear program.
"DoD recognizes the reality of climate change and the significant risk it poses to U.S. interests globally," a 2015 Pentagon report stated.
According to a report from the National Academy of Sciences, a three-foot rise in sea level will hamper the operations of more than 128 military sites in the U.S. By 2100, it's possible that many of the at-risk bases will be submerged, the National Academy of Sciences' report found.
Climate change also imperils the Navy's largest base, Naval Station Norfolk. A 2014 report by the Army Corps of Engineers noted that about 1.5 feet of sea level rise is the "tipping point" for the Virginia base. After that point, risk to infrastructure will jump dramatically. But the base has no plan to address the threat.
"The effects of a changing climate—such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others—impact our security situation. I will ensure that the department continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future," Mattis stated in March 2017.
Wednesday's report, however, suggests that the Pentagon has much more work to do.
The Trump administration violated the law by withholding funds from an Energy Department program that supported research and development of advanced energy technologies, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported on Tuesday.
The GAO said the Trump administration had violated the Impoundment Control Act by not spending $91 million that was intended for the Energy Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). Administration officials planned to cancel half of the unspent $91 million and use the other half to shut down the program.
"When Congress provides money for the executive branch, the President must spend that money," Emmanuelli Perez, the GAO's deputy general counsel, said in a statement. "An agency violates the law if it intentionally slows down or halts spending in response to legislative proposals to reduce or eliminate a program. Agencies generally cannot halt a program because an administration doesn't support the program."
Although the administration has since released the funds, which were part of the fiscal 2017 budget, the report stokes fears that the administration could use the tactic again to target important energy and environmental programs.
The Trump administration's opposition to a federal loan guarantee program could damage efforts to commercialize cutting edge energy technologies. The loan guarantee program, originally part of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, received increased funding as part of President Obama's economic stimulus plan.
In the past, loan programs have aided the development of Tesla's electric vehicles, Ford's push for engine efficiency and renewable energy storage. It also supported five initial utility-scale solar projects, allowing them to gain investor confidence and go on to fund 43 similar-size solar projects independent of federal loan support. There are dozens of other projects awaiting approval.
The amount of electronic waste around the world grew to a record 45 million tons in 2016, according to a United Nations-backed study released on Wednesday.
To put that in perspective, the weight of last year's e-waste was equivalent to about 4,500 Eiffel Towers, according to the study by the UN university, the International Telecommunication Union and the International Solid Waste Association. The amount of e-waste—defined as anything with a plug or a battery—rose by eight percent since 2014, the time of the last assessment.
The study also found that raw materials thrown out as e-waste—metals such as gold, silver, copper, platinum and palladium— were worth $64.61 billion in 2016. But despite this economic incentive, only 8.9 million tons of e-waste were recovered.
"Only 20 percent [of e-waste] is going in the official collection and recycling schemes," Ruediger Kuehr, head of the UN University's Sustainable Cycles Programme, told Reuters. He noted that the amount of e-waste is more shocking considering that 67 countries, covering two-thirds of the world's population, has legislation for processing e-waste.
In 2016, the worldwide e-waste average was 13.5 pounds per person, or 54 pounds for a family of four. But in the U.S. or Canada the figure was 3.3 times higher. And the global trend is surging. By 2021 there will be a 17 percent increase, making e-waste the fastest growing part of the world's domestic waste stream, according to the study. Put simply, the study found that rising incomes and falling prices on electronic goods was driving the rising amount of e-waste.
Although countries widely vary in recycling capacity, nowhere in the world is equipped to deal with increasing e-waste—there isn't a country that come closes to recycling even half. Europe, at 35 percent, has the highest collection rate, while Australia and New Zealand, two countries that produce the highest e-waste per person at 38 pounds, collect and formally recycle only six percent of their electronics.
The U.S.—where 30 percent of e-waste gets landfilled, exported or recycled informally—hasn't ratified the Basel Convention, which bans the transport of e-waste due to its association with heavy metals like lead and mercury. But this problem isn't limited to the U.S.
European and North American countries, despite being signatories to the Basel Convention, often ship e-waste to poor countries as "electronics for reuse" or hidden with legitimate cargo. Though the health consequences of e-waste exposure have been poorly studied, experts suspect that contamination may carry severe risks.
The study's authors noted that ultimately the business model of electronics needs to shift from one that produces replaceable electronics to one that makes electronics easier to repair and recycle.
"Consumers are only interested in price and performance. That needs to change," Vanessa Gray, one of the study's authors, told National Geographic.
The companies announced their decision at the One Planet Summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. Coming a month after the COP23 in Bonn, Germany, the announcement puts the companies in a position similar to the "Powering Past Coal Alliance," a partnership of 26 nations founded in Bonn by Britain, France, Mexico, New Zealand, Costa Rica and the Marshall Islands.
Among the list of companies committing to the coal phase out are BT, Engie, Kering, Diageo, Marks & Spencer, Orsted and Storebrand.
The companies committed to setting targets to end the use of traditional coal from the power sector, for both consumption and electricity generation. Coal could, however, continue to be used if greenhouse emissions were captured and buried. Meanwhile, the governments in the "Power Past Coal Alliance" committed to phasing out traditional coal power by 2030 in rich nations and by 2050 in other parts of the world.
During the summit French President Macron told more than 200 global investors and 50 world leaders that the global community "is losing the battle" against climate change. "It's time to act and move faster and win this battle," Macron said.Macron's office also announced dozens of initiatives meant to stem climate change, including the World Banks's decision to stop financing oil and gas exploration and extraction after 2019. Just ahead of the summit, Macron awarded 18 scientists with grants to carry out climate research in France.
The global study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, explored the impact of temperature rises on wind energy, projecting an overall southward shift in wind power.
"There's been a lot of research looking at the potential climate impact of energy production transformations—like shifting away from fossil fuels toward renewables," Kristopher Karnauskas, lead author and researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said in a press release. "But not as much focuses on the impact of climate change on energy production by weather-dependent renewables, like wind energy."
By the end of the century, areas such as the U.S., the UK, Russia, Japan and countries along the Mediterranean will all see major changes in wind energy, in scenarios of both high and medium carbon emissions, according to the study. In light of a global fivefold jump in wind energy over the last decade, this latest research will be a significant setback for some regions. The central U.S., for example, could see the power of wind energy fall by nearly one fifth.
Japan, which is in the midst of a wind farm increase, will likely witness the largest aggregate loss of wind energy—58 kW, or about 10 percent of its total wind energy. The UK is predicted to lose 36 kW, or five percent of its wind energy.
But the Southern Hemisphere, where there is more ocean than land, may see a boost in wind energy. Brazil, West Africa, South Africa and Australia are all hotspots for likely wind power increases, the researchers found. Since land warms faster than the surrounding, much larger oceans, there will be an increased temperature gradient, which will create wind power hotspots in these areas. "The more it warms, ironically, the more it increases the wind power there," Karnauskas told the Guardian.
"Europe is a big question mark," Karnauskas added in the release. "We have no idea what we'll see there. That's almost scary, given that Europe is producing a lot of wind energy already."
In the northern mid-latitude sections of Earth, the major driver of wind is the temperature difference between the Arctic and the tropics. With the rapid warming of the Arctic, the difference between the two areas is diminishing.
As the world continues to warm, harnessing wind power will be increasingly critical for countries racing to meet their emission reduction standards set by the Paris agreement, the press release noted.
"The climate models are too uncertain about what will happen in highly productive wind energy regions, like Europe, the Central United States, and Inner Mongolia," Julie Lundquist, a professor at University of Colorado Boulder and co-author of the study, noted in the release. "We need to use different tools to try to forecast the future—this global study gives us a roadmap for where we should focus next with higher-resolution tools."
Published last week in Nature Communications, the study found that sea ice loss in the Arctic—of the proportion expected in coming years—could set off an atmospheric effect that will steer precipitation away from California. Notably, the study linked Arctic sea ice loss with the development of an atmospheric ridging system that also played a central role in the state's 2012-2016 drought.
"The recent California drought appears to be a good illustration of what the sea-ice driven precipitation decline could look like," said Ivana Cvijanovic of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the study's lead researcher, in a release.
Sea ice loss in the Arctic will push precipitation that historically headed to California and send it to Canada and Alaska. By altering convection patterns over the tropical Pacific, the loss of sea ice will drive the formation of an atmospheric ridge in the North Pacific.
In coming years, this could magnify the effect of the state's recent lack of precipitation. "On average, when considering the 20-year mean, we find a 10-15 percent decrease in California's rainfall. However, some individual years could become much drier, and others wetter," Cvijanovic said.
Arctic sea ice loss is expected to increase over the next century, and even within the next few decades, the Arctic Ocean is projected to become ice-free during the summer.
A number of other studies have posited that California's recent drought had an anthropogenic component related to rising temperatures and that such occurrences are expected to increase in the future.
"Our study identifies one more pathway by which human activities could affect the occurrence of future droughts over California—through human-induced Arctic sea ice decline," Cvijanovic said. "While more research should be done, we should be aware that an increasing number of studies, including this one, suggest that the loss of Arctic sea ice cover is not only a problem for remote Arctic communities, but could affect millions of people worldwide. Arctic sea ice loss could affect us, right here in California."