A NASA spacecraft has successfully collected a sample from the Bennu asteroid more than 200 million miles away from Earth. The samples were safely stored and will be preserved for scientists to study after the spacecraft drops them over the Utah desert in 2023, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The asteroid is round and black and larger than the Empire State Building. It is one of the most threatening to Earth, as it has a 1-in-2,700 chance of colliding with the planet, the AP reported.
NASA's OSIRIS-REx initially lost some of the sample due to a jammed lid. The asteroid's rocks wedged an opening that allowed some of the sample to drift off into space, CNN reported.
OSIRIS-REx initially had trouble with the lid after it grabbed more asteroid material than had been required. According to the AP, scientists believe the spacecraft took about four pounds of rock when the minimum requirement was about an ounce. A significant amount of that initial haul drifted away.
"Even though my heart breaks for the loss of sample, it turned out to be a pretty cool science experiment and we're learning a lot," said lead scientist Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, the AP reported.
The mission team had to work around the clock for two days to ensure a successful sample collection and storage process. They then had to carefully calibrate the alignment of the lid and capsule to keep the sample properly sealed.
The scientists decided not to weigh the sample, but based on visual images, Lauretta estimates that at least two pounds of sample made it into the capsule, CBS News reported. "But of course, we have to wait till 2023 to open up the [capsule] and be sure," Lauretta said.
"This achievement by OSIRIS-REx on behalf of NASA and the world has lifted our vision to the higher things we can achieve together, as teams and nations," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a NASA statement. "Together a team comprising industry, academia and international partners, and a talented and diverse team of NASA employees with all types of expertise, has put us on course to vastly increase our collection on Earth of samples from space. Samples like this are going to transform what we know about our universe and ourselves, which is at the base of all NASA's endeavors."
OSIRIS-REx will now linger by Bennu until at least March 2021. Its return trip hinges on the asteroid and Earth aligning in order to maximize fuel efficiency, CNN reported.
The Trump administration announced on Thursday that gray wolves will no longer receive protection under the Endangered Species Act in the contiguous United States.
Gray wolves were on the brink of extinction when they were one of the first animals to receive protections under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. Their numbers had dropped to nearly 1,000 as farmers hunted and poisoned them since the wolves posed a threat to livestock, according to The Guardian. Now, the U.S. Department of the Interior believes the gray wolf has rebounded well enough that its protections should be left to the states and to tribes.
"Today's action reflects the Trump Administration's continued commitment to species conservation based on the parameters of the law and the best scientific and commercial data available," said Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt in a statement. "After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery. Today's announcement simply reflects the determination that this species is neither a threatened nor endangered species based on the specific factors Congress has laid out in the law."
In total, there are roughly 6,000 gray wolves living mostly in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota. There are an estimated additional 1,800 present in other states in the West, according to The Washington Post.
Biologists contend that the wolves' comeback is not complete since they occupy a small portion of the land they once roamed. Large swaths of land in Utah, Colorado and Maine that were once habitat for wolves are now completely devoid of them.
Some critics see the move as a blatantly political maneuver by Trump to wrangle support in the upper Midwest, where polls show him trailing.
"Wolves will be shot and killed because Donald Trump is desperate to gin up his voters in the Midwest," said Brett Hartl, chief political strategist at the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, in a statement, as CNN reported. "Secretary Bernhardt's nakedly political theater announcing the end to wolf protections in a battleground state days before the election shows just how corrupt and self-serving the Trump administration is."
The final rule will be officially published on Tuesday, Election Day, and then go into effect 60 days after that.
One area of concern is that scientists, tasked with a mandatory independent review, alerted the Fish and Wildlife Services to objections they had about stripping protections from the gray wolves. Four out of the five scientists on the independent review panel raised serious concerns. One reviewer told The New York Times that the Fish and Wildlife Service ignored the genetic variations within the gray wolf species, which is crucial to their ability to adapt to threats like the climate crisis.
Another reviewer told The New York Times he was concerned that the decision did not take into account how many wolves would be killed by people.
"I predict that the consequence of the inaccurate risk assessment is that gray wolves are not secure in the Western Great Lakes," wrote Adrian Treves, a professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in a follow-up memo to the federal Office of Management and Budget, "and the federal government will have to re-list them again, either by federal court mandate or after another wolf population crash."
Activists have successfully used the courts in the past to thwart previous attempts to delist the gray wolf and have vowed to do so again.
"This is no 'Mission Accomplished' moment for wolf recovery," said Kristen Boyles, an Earthjustice attorney, in a statement. "Wolves are only starting to get a toehold in places like Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, and wolves need federal protection to explore habitat in the Southern Rockies and the Northeast. This delisting decision is what happens when bad science drives bad policy — and it's illegal, so we will see them in court."
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The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Scientists found that vampire bats in the wild will socially distance when they feel sick, according to a new study published in the journal Behavioral Ecology.
Researchers had noticed that sick bats will practice social distancing in a lab setting, but wanted to know if the same thing happened in the wild. To figure out how sick bats in the wild behaved, researchers captured bats from a hollow tree in Belize and injected them with lipopolysaccharide (LPS). This made the bats feel sick without actually infecting them with a pathogen.
The researchers then affixed sensors to the sick bats and a placebo group to see how they interacted.
"The proximity sensors gave us an amazing new window into how the social behavior of these bats changed from hour to hour and even minute to minute during the course of the day and night, even while they are hidden in the darkness of a hollow tree," Simon Ripperger, co-lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at The Ohio State University, said in a statement.
The scientists found that the sick bats spent less time with other bats, including those that were more social with others. This distancing effect declined after the sick bats felt better.
Researchers also noticed that the limited interactions were not just because the sick bats were together. The sick bats avoided other sick bats more than they avoided healthy bats in the control group, MarketWatch reported. In general, bats that did not feel well tended to self-isolate. "Sickness behavior can therefore slow the spread of a pathogen that is transmitted at higher probability with higher rates of physical contact (e.g., grooming) or closer proximity," the study found.
The results confirmed what previous studies had revealed in lab situations where bats injected with LPS "slept more, moved less, engaged in social grooming with fewer partners in a flight cage, spent less time grooming neighboring bats when forced into close association, and produced fewer contact calls that attract affiliated groupmates," according to the study.
MarketWatch reported how social distancing in the animal world is commonly practiced to control infectious diseases. For example, bees will remove sick colony members and chimpanzees will ostracize other chimps who appear contagious.
Unfortunately for humans, COVID-19 social distancing protocols require avoiding others even when we feel healthy.
"Social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we feel fine, doesn't feel particularly normal," Ripperger said in a statement. "But when we're sick, it's common to withdraw a bit and stay in bed longer because we're exhausted. And that means we're likely to have fewer social encounters," he said.
Just like the bats in the study. "And it can be expected that they reduce the spread of disease as a result," Ripperger added.
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The Trump administration formalized its intention to open up Alaska's pristine Tongass National Forest, an intact temperate rainforest, to logging and development, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) first announced its intention to lift the forest's Roadless Rule last month, but it had to wait 30 days before entering its final decision into the federal register. The pre-publication notice posted Wednesday will enter the federal register Thursday and make it legal for companies to build roads and harvest timber from 9.3 million acres of the forest.
"While tropical rainforests are the lungs of the planet, the Tongass is the lungs of North America," Dominick DellaSala, chief scientist with the Earth Island Institute's Wild Heritage project, told The Washington Post. "It's America's last climate sanctuary."
The Tongass National Forest is home to centuries-old western hemlock, cedar, and Sitka spruce trees. The forest teems with life and is noted for its rich biodiversity, including the largest-known concentration of bald eagles, according to The Guardian.
"The decision to rollback the Roadless Rule on the Tongass was made in spite of, not in support of, Southeast Alaskans and our communities," Southeast Alaska Conservation Council Executive Director Meredith Trainor said in a statement. "In making this decision, the Trump Administration and the sham rulemaking process they undertook in our region ignored economic realities, environmental imperatives, and worst of all, the will of the people who actually live here."
In fact, in the public comment period, 96 percent of the comments were in favor of keeping the rule in place, according to The Guardian. The lifting of the rule also ignores the resolutions from six southeast Alaska tribes and six nearby city councils opposed to lifting protections.
Tribes involved in the planning of a compromise to open up some of Tongass withdrew from the project two weeks ago.
"We refuse to allow legitimacy upon a process that has disregarded our input at every turn," the tribal leaders wrote, according to The Washington Post.
The AP reported that a large portion of the roadless areas are wildlife habitats, as well as ice fields and glaciers "that exist nowhere else in the National Forest system," according to the U.S. Forest Service.
And yet, the USDA insists that the move to lift the Roadless Rule from the forest "can be made without major adverse impacts to the recreation, tourism, and fishing industries, while providing benefits to the timber and mining industries, increasing opportunities for community infrastructure, and eliminating unnecessary regulations," according to the AP.
Critics balked at the idea of sacrificing the forest to provide benefits to the timber and mining industries
"It's ironic that this administration is trying to tout this president's environmental record when [Trump is] unwinding environmental safeguards all over the place," said Ken Rait, project director of the Pew Charitable Trust, as The Guardian reported. "And lifting protections on the Tongass, the nation's flagship forest, is about the most egregious of all of them."
Activists insists that they will take the fight to court to try to stop any development in the Tongass National Forest.
"As sure as the sun rises in the east, with our allies, we will sue to keep these magnificent giants standing for centuries to come," said Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity, who referred to the Tongass' old-growth trees as giants, according to the AP.
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The world's largest financial institutions loaned more than $2.6 trillion in 2019 to sectors driving the climate crisis and wildlife destruction, according to a new report from advocacy organization portfolio.earth.
For some perspective, portfolio.earth notes that $2.6 trillion is more than the entire GDP of Canada. The paper, Bankrolling Extinction, found that the world's largest banks funded an acceleration toward mass extinction in 2019 without trying to limit their impact on ecosystems, Reuters reported.
The top 10 banks implicated are Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, Mizuho Financial, Wells Fargo, BNP Paribas, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, HSBC, SMBC Group and Barclays, The Guardian reported.
The authors of the report note that not only do the banks lack an internal system to limit, monitor or measure the impact of their loans on biodiversity, but the current financial system rules protect the banks from any consequences.
To determine how much money adversely affected the natural world, the researchers matched the loans and underwriting services from 50 large investment banks to areas the United Nations has identified as driving biodiversity loss, The Guardian reported. The most threatening sectors are food and agriculture, forestry, mining, fossil fuels, infrastructure, tourism, transportation and logistics.
For example, Bankrolling Extinction stressed the outsized role that industrial agriculture plays in biodiversity loss, especially when tropical forests in the Amazon and Asia are cleared to make way for cattle ranches and commodity crops.
Some banks have responded to pressure from investors and limited investments in Arctic drilling, coal and new oil exploration, The Guardian reported.
"Banks are starting to realize that if they invest in sectors that cause climate change, that will hurt their returns," Liz Gallagher, director of portfolio.earth, told Reuters. "Banks need to understand that the same holds true for destroying biodiversity."
However, The Guardian reported that an analysis by Rainforest Action Network found that the world's leading banks had not aligned their investments with the goals of the 2016 Paris climate agreement.
"This report from portfolio.earth confirms what our research also shows, that banks globally still need to step up their game and develop an approach to protect biodiversity," Peter van der Werf, senior engagement specialist at Netherlands-based asset manager Robeco, told Reuters.
If banks changed their lending patterns, that money could prevent mass extinction and tackle the climate crisis.
"Imagine a world in which projects can only raise capital when they have demonstrated that they will contribute meaningfully and positively to restoring the planet's bounty and a safe climate for all? That's the future this report envisions and builds toward," Professor Kai Chan of the Institute of Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia told The Guardian.
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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the use of products containing the weedkiller dicamba for use on cotton and soybeans Tuesday. The EPA announcement means that two products that contain the herbicide found to cause cancer can be registered for five years. It also extended the use of a third product that also has dicamba in it, according to The Hill.
The EPA said that two canceled dicamba herbicides — XtendiMax and Engenia — will now have a five-year registration. The same five-year extension was granted to the herbicide Tavium. The EPA argued that it provides relief to farmers who were unsure how they would treat their dicamba-resistant cotton and soybean crops.
"With today's decision, farmers now have the certainty they need to make plans for their 2021 growing season," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a statement. "After reviewing substantial amounts of new information, conducting scientific assessments based on the best available science, and carefully considering input from stakeholders we have reached a resolution that is good for our farmers and our environment."
The new rules around the three products are meant to address the concerns of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down a 2018 registration of dicamba products, stating that the EPA "substantially understated" some of the risks associated with the chemical's use, as The Hill reported.
The EPA's new rules seek to mitigate the risk by increasing the required downwind buffer from 110 feet to 240 feet, and up to 310 feet in areas where endangered species are located. States can still impose their own restrictions on the herbicide, but they will have to work with the EPA and file the appropriate requests, according to the EPA's statement.
Lobbying groups for big agriculture and industry insiders welcomed the decision.
"The economic damage that would result from not being able to use dicamba herbicides would be tremendous," said Ken Fountain, National Cotton Council chairman, as Ag Web reported. "We greatly appreciate EPA's timely issuance of a new five-year label for the critical crop protection product for cotton farmers."
Environmentalists and consumer advocacy organizations were predictably appalled by the decision that seems to be an end-run around the court's decision.
"Rather than evaluating the significant costs of dicamba drift as the 9th Circuit told them the law required, EPA rushed re-approval as a political prop just before the election, sentencing farmers and the environment to another five years of unacceptable damage," said George Kimbrell, legal director at the Center for Food Safety, according to Ag Web. "Center for Food Safety will most certainly challenge these unlawful approvals."
Other critics noted the damage already caused by dicamba use.
"Given EPA-approved versions of dicamba have already damaged millions of U.S. acres of crops and natural areas there's no reason to trust that the agency got it right this time," said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement, as The Hill reported.
"At this point, the EPA has shown such callous indifference to the damage dicamba has caused to farmers and wildlife alike, and has been so desperate to appease the pesticide industry, it has zero credibility when it comes to pesticide safety," Donley added.
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Typhoon Molave is expected to make landfall in Vietnam on Wednesday with 90 mph winds and heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding and landslides, according to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. To prepare for the powerful storm that already tore through the Philippines, Vietnam is making plans to evacuate nearly 1.3 million people along the central coast, as Reuters reported.
On Tuesday, hundreds of flights were grounded, and schools were closed as Molave churned over the South China Sea. When Molave hits Vietnam on Wednesday, it will be the fourth storm to strike the central region in October. Those successive storms have caused floods and landslides that killed 130 people. Many are still missing, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
"This is a very strong typhoon that will impact a large area," said Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, as Reuters reported.
Molave is moving over a part of the South China Sea with warm waters, which creates favorable conditions for the storm to strengthen, according to AccuWeather.
Vietnam has a long coastline, which makes it particularly vulnerable to storms and coastal flooding. Phuc ordered boats to be brought ashore and for security forces to ready themselves for humanitarian efforts.
"Troops must deploy full force to support people, including mobilizing helicopters, tanks and other means of transportation if needed," he said in a statement, according to Reuters.
The storm is expected to move over Vietnam quickly and weaken as it moves inland, but its heavy rainfall will likely trigger widespread flooding and weaken mountain slopes, which increases the risk for mudslides. AccuWeather predicts up to 16 inches of rain in areas of the country that have already experienced extreme rainfall and flooding since Oct. 11.
"We must keep our guard up to protect the lives of the people. That is the utmost important task to get people to safe places," Phuc was quoted as saying in a meeting with disaster response officials, as the AP reported.
People in low-lying areas, who are vulnerable to the winds and coastal flooding, will head for shelter inland, according to the AP.
Typhoon Molave blew away from the Philippines on Monday, leaving flooding and a trail of destruction in its wake. There are 13 people missing in the Philippines, including a dozen fishermen who sailed out to sea over the weekend in violation of a no-sail order, according to the AP.
The storm, which traveled south of Manila, displaced at least 25,000 villagers. Its heavy rains swamped farming villages and the winds downed trees and power lines, according to Humerlito Dolor, governor of an affected province, as Deutsche Welle reported.
"Villagers are now asking to be rescued because of the sudden wind which blew away roofs," he said, as Deutsche Welle reported.
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A pair of studies released Monday confirmed not only the presence of water and ice on the moon, but that it is more abundant than scientists previously thought. Those twin discoveries boost the prospect of a sustainable lunar base that could harvest the moon's resources to help sustain itself, according to the BBC.
Both studies were printed in Nature Astronomy. In the first study, a NASA telescope affixed to the fuselage of a 747 airplane flying at altitudes up to 45,000 feet detected the presence of water in a large crater visible from Earth. The telescope, called the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), zeroed in on the moon's surface with remarkable clarity to determine the molecular composition of the moon's face, according to a NASA statement.
Images from SOFIA allowed scientists to determine that a large portion of the hydrogen and oxygen combination they had previously noticed on a sunlit area of the moon are water, according to The New York Times.
"This discovery reveals that water might be distributed across the lunar surface and not limited to the cold shadowed places near the lunar poles," Paul Hertz, the director of NASA's astrophysics division, said during a news conference on Monday, as The New York Times reported.
In the second study, the NASA scientists suggest that water might be more widespread than they initially thought since it is likely trapped in many of the moon's shadowy surfaces, according to The Verge. Those cold areas of the moon possibly shelter water in an area over 15,000 square miles, according to the study.
The discovery is a boon to a potential lunar base since taking water to space is pricey, costing thousands of dollars per gallon. The discovery of water on the moon may mean that future astronauts will be able to hydrate and refuel their rockets, as The Washington Post reported. It also means they would be able to water plants, according to The Verge.
"Anytime we don't need to pack water for our trip, we have an opportunity to take other useful items with us," said Jacob Bleacher, chief exploration scientist for NASA's human exploration and operations directorate, to The New York Times.
Hannah Sargeant, a planetary scientist from the Open University in Milton Keynes, told the BBC that the location of the water will likely determine where a lunar base is established
Previous discoveries of water were found in craters in the moon's perpetually dark south. Temperatures there reach about -400 degrees Fahrenheit, making it impossible to reach the water with modern technology.
"They happen to be the coldest known places in the Solar System, believe it or not," Paul Hayne, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado and a lead author on the second study, told The Verge.
That makes the discovery of water deposits in less treacherous areas appealing to scientists thinking about future moon exploration, according to The New York Times.
"If we find that it's abundant enough in certain locations, it would be easier to access versus going into these very cold, very dark places," said Casey Honniball, a postdoctoral fellow at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and lead author of the first study, to The Verge.
For the next steps, NASA will send unmanned rovers to the moon's south pole in 2023 to drill for water a meter below the surface, according to The Washington Post.
"Both papers deepen the mysteries of lunar water while providing pieces of the puzzle," wrote Bethany Ehlmann, an assistant professor of planetary science at Caltech who was not involved in the research, in an email to The Washington Post. "It's exciting to think that lurking in the shadow within ten degrees of the pole are tiny reservoirs of water ice."
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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced that Japan will become country carbon neutral by 2050, Bloomberg reported.
As the world's third-largest economy, this will require a "fundamental shift" away from coal, The Washington Post reported.
Suga replaced former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last month, after he resigned due to health issues. This was Suga's first parliament policy speech since taking office.
He announced, "The Suga administration will seek to make a virtuous cycle between the economy and the environment," Bloomberg reported. "We will put all possible efforts into creating a green society."
Additionally, "Responding to climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth," The Washington Post reported from Suga's speech. "We need to change our thinking to the view that taking assertive measures against climate change will lead to changes in industrial structure and the economy that will bring about great growth."
However, Suga did not offer any details about how carbon neutrality will be achieved, although he referenced carbon recycling and next generation solar cells. The Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshi Kajiyama told reporters that more details will be presented in a report later this year, according to Bloomberg, including wind energy, hydrogen and improved battery storage.
The move follows commitments from other major economies responsible for an outsized share of greenhouse gas emissions, including the world's largest emitter, China. China has set a 2060 target for carbon neutrality. Japan is the world's fifth-largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, according to The New York Times.
Japanese policy experts believe a number of factors drove the announcement, including mounting pressure from inside Japan to tackle the climate crisis, plus international competition. It would be "somewhat embarrassing for Japan to have a net zero emissions timeline later than China," Takeshi Kuramochi, a climate policy researcher at the NewClimate Institute told The New York Times.
Sam Annesley, executive director of Greenpeace Japan, added that sustainability should also include a move away from nuclear power. "Nearly 10 years on from Fukushima we are still facing the disastrous consequences of nuclear power, and this radioactive legacy has made clear that nuclear energy has no place in a green, sustainable future," The Guardian reported.
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The plan was put forth by the Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation and released by the Bureau of Land Management. The plan calls for the start of seismic testing on millions of acres, spanning an 847.8 square mile area, on the east side of the refuge in an area where polar bears and other wildlife reside. The seismic testing will allow the Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation to detect the presence of oil in the area.
Seismic testing works in a way that is similar to ultrasound technology. It generates acoustic waves deep underground that produce a picture that can pinpoint oil deposits, according to The Hill.
The Bureau of Land Management said it would allow for 14 days of public comment before deciding if it should issue a permit, according to The New York Times.
Environmental activists have argued that the short timeframe means it is impossible to conduct an adequate environmental review of the proposal. The plan involves using heavy trucks fanned out across the area to create a grid pattern. It also requires a crew of 180 workers who would need ample supplies and mobile living quarters, according to The New York Times.
The National Wildlife Federation argues that the rushed comment period in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic ensures that public opposition will not be heard adequately.
"This is a desperate attempt to jam through a plan that could kill denning polar bears, imperil other wildlife, threaten the Gwich'in people, and cause long-lasting damage to the Arctic," said Tracy Stone-Manning, associate vice president for public lands at the National Wildlife Federation, in a statement. "By rushing this plan through while ordinary Americans are focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and their own health and safety, it's clear this administration wants to cut the public out of public lands in order to advance its dangerously myopic and misguided energy agenda."
The company intending to conduct the seismic test said it will exercise caution should it encounter any wildlife during its exploration. Environmentalists countered that it's not the interactions that worry them as much as the permanent alterations to the Arctic tundra that could upset the delicate balance of the ecosystem that polar bears and other animals depend on.
"Allowing huge thumper trucks and camps onto sacred lands where they leave deep and lasting wounds is a threat to my people, the animals, our food, and our way of life," said Bernadette Demientieff, the executive director of the Gwich'in Steering Committee, in a statement, as The Hill reported. "We have raised concerns repeatedly about this administration rushing the process and shortcutting our review."
The Wilderness Society also sees the plan as a politically motivated move that will silence the public.
"The submission of this application and BLM's choice to act on it so close to the election shows how desperate the administration is to turn over one of the nation's most sensitive landscapes to the oil industry," said Lois Epstein, director of the Arctic program for the Wilderness Society, in a statement, as The New York Times reported. "The federal government is recklessly rushing and irresponsibly denying the public adequate time to assess the application and submit comments."
The New York Times also noted that the proposal calls for the work to be carried out by Houston-based SAExploration, which declared bankruptcy, and was accused of accounting fraud earlier this month by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
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Towards the end of the final presidential debate of the 2020 election season, the moderator asked both candidates how they would address both the climate crisis and job growth, leading to a nearly 12-minute discussion where Donald Trump did not acknowledge that the climate is changing and Joe Biden called the climate crisis an existential threat.
In response to the question from moderator Kristen Welker, "How would you both combat climate change and support job growth?" Trump insisted that he loves the environment and wants clean air and water. He said that his administration has started to plant trees and there have been record drops in carbon emissions during his administration.
Trump then made a rambling remark about air pollution in India, China and Russia, before touting that he took the U.S. out of the Paris agreement, giving a false version of what the Paris agreement requires of the U.S. and insisting that it would have sacrificed "tens of millions of jobs."
By contrast, Biden noted that the climate crisis and a warming planet are "an existential threat to humanity."
"We have a moral obligation to deal with it and we're told by all the leading scientists in the world we don't have much time," he said and then pointed out that scientists say we have 8 to 10 years to tackle the crisis before we pass the point of no return, as The Washington Post reported.
He then went on to list infrastructure investments in charging stations to promote the use of electric cars, and retrofitting older buildings so they do not leak their heating and cooling. Biden said those upgrades will save millions of barrels of oil, help clean the environment and create more than 18 million jobs.
Trump, in his response, insisted that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and three other female Democratic lawmakers "know nothing about the climate." Trump then claimed the plan would cost $100 trillion, even though Biden's website says his plan will cost $2 trillion.
Biden turned his attention to the support he has received from both environmental groups and labor unions.
The moderator then asked Trump why people of color, who are disproportionately affected by pollution since their communities are often up against oil refineries and chemical plants, should give him four more years in office.
"The families that we're talking about are employed heavily and they're making more money than they've ever made," Trump replied. He then went on to claim that he saved the oil industry.
Biden replied by talking about the effect of living next to a fence line and how important it is to keep people safe by imposing restrictions on pollution.
Trump then stopped Welker from asking her final question and asked Biden if he would close down the oil industry. Biden insisted he would stop federal subsidies of fossil fuels and usher in a transition to renewable energy.
"We have to move towards a net zero emissions," Biden said.
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South Carolina has officially ended the illegal turtle trade. On Wednesday, Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill protecting native turtles, along with amphibians and reptiles. The ceremonial signing took place at Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia, S.C., WTLX in Columbia reported.
"This Native Reptiles and Amphibians bill, known as the 'Turtle Bill,' is a great one, because we discovered over the years that people were taking our wildlife elsewhere — smuggling them out, smuggling in non-native species, and we had some tools to deal with it but not enough," McMaster told WTLX. "But our legislators in the House and the Senate stepped up, recognized we needed to do this, and so they've done it; and they've made us just a little bit better, a little bit stronger, a little bit better place to live, work, and raise a family."
The bill is a hit with wildlife advocates who say that prior to its passing, South Carolina law allowed unregulated trapping and selling of several turtle species, The Post and Courier reported, including striped mud, eastern mud and eastern musk turtles. Now, poachers will no longer be able to "trap, sell, ship or remove native reptile and amphibian species from the state," the The Post and Courier added. This includes animal parts and eggs.
"We're thrilled that South Carolina has taken this meaningful step to protect its native turtles," Elise Bennett, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement. "This law will raise the state out of a morass of turtle trafficking and make it a safe haven for wild turtles. Finally South Carolina's native turtles get a fighting chance."
Bennett added that South Carolina's turtles are often caught and exported to other countries, destined to be food or pets. She told The Post and Courier that wild turtles are critical for maintaining local ecosystems. "Their eggs feed many animals on land," Bennett said.
"They're kind of like the cleanup crew, especially things like snapping turtles and larger turtles," Rick Hudson, president of the Turtle Survival Alliance based in Charleston, S.C, told The Post and Courier. "If there's dead fish and dead turtles and dead animals in the water, these animals clean it up."
The law also outlaws introducing non-native, invasive species into South Carolina's wetlands, and limits the number of native turtles people can own, The Post and Courier reported. According to WCIV, people can own up to 10 native turtles, with some exceptions: the limit is two for Eastern box turtles and diamondback terrapins. People who already own more than 10 are exempt from the new law if they register and receive a permit, WTLX reported.
"South Carolina has long been targeted as a source for wild collected reptiles and amphibians and a center for illegal wildlife trading," South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Director Robert Boyles told WCIV. "This law is an important conservation achievement that protects South Carolina's native turtles and other reptiles and amphibians. We are grateful for the support of our General Assembly, stakeholders, and the conservation community in helping to ensure a future where these species can thrive."
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