Know Your Planet is a weekly roundup of studies, research and reports.
Here are all the latest studies, research papers and reports in case you’re looking for a little something to read as you rush to and fro to reach your holiday destinations. Give the below findings a quick perusal and you’ll be sure to impress around the dinner table in between bites of Christmas ham.
According to a New Study…
Climate scientists say 2016 is likely to be the warmest year on record. “The year-to-date temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.69 Fahrenheit (0.94 Celsius) above the 20th century average of 57.2 F,” said the NOAA report. It’s no wonder Arctic lakes are thawing earlier every year.
Fisherman can expect to catch 25 billion fewer fish per year by the end of the century — and it’s all thanks to climate change. Specifically, rapid ocean warming is to blame. The report, which was published in the journal Science, estimates the total weight of fish caught will plummet by 3.5 million tons every year, even if every country delivers on its Paris Agreement pledge.
For the first time ever, half of the UK’s energy comes from low-carbon sources. A surge in wind and solar farms, along with the shuttering of several coal power plants, has led to the spike in clean energy.
India is experiencing a renewable energy revolution, too. The country recently announced that it will exceed its Paris Agreement targets, generating 57 percent of its energy via sustainable sources by 2030, shattering its goal of 40 percent. The report also stated that there is no need to build another coal power station for the next 10 years.
Austrailia, on the other hand, quietly released data that shows its national, greenhouse-gas emissions rising. They increased by .8 percent in 2016. Even worse, emissions are expected to rise until the year 2030, topping out at 10% higher than they are now. Based on current policies, Austrailia is expected to miss 2030 emission targets.
A Reuters investigation revealed that there are more than 3,000 communities in the U.S. with lead levels twice as high as those observed in Flint, Michigan. Even more terrifying, 1,100 of those communities had lead levels four times that of Flint. Data was only available for 21 states, so national exposure could be even higher.
An odorless, invisible, tasteless, plant-based coating keeps fruits and veggies fresh 2 to 5 times longer than traditionally packaged produce. It’s called Edipeel, and was developed by a startup called Apeel Sciences. The coating could prove to be an innovative tool in the fight against food waste.
The auto industry is failing to advertise electric vehicles. For example, Ford advertised the gasoline version of its Focus 4,750 times on TV, compared to only 250 instances of national TV ads for its Focus Electric. Mercedes didn’t even bother to advertise its B-Class electric model.
The Endangered Species Coalition has some wildlife conservation suggestions for Donald Trump. The alliance of environmental organizations provided the incoming administration with a list of ten species facing the threat of extinction. Elkhorn coral, gray wolves, African elephants and a rare, Mexican porpoise all made the list, in addition to several other highly threatened life forms.
Fracking may result in radioactive waste. Scientists tested drill cuttings from a 2011 gas project in Pennsylvania and found elevated levels of uranium, radium, thorium, lead and polonium. The results are specific to a single well, and point to the need to for further testing.
The spread of the Zika virus was accelerated by climate change and El Nino. “There’s a window of temperature that’s ideal, and when you look at 2015, the numbers were in the right range,” said Cyril Caminade, research associate and author of the study. Mosquito-borne diseases are extremely sensitive to changes in climate.
California’s coniferous forests are struggling to recover after major fires. These “high-severity” blazes are incinerating conifer seeds, leading to little natural regeneration. In total, 10 of the 14 burned areas studied did not meet the threshold for natural regeneration, meaning they’ll need to be seeded by the Forest Service.
Dolphins conditioned to humans risk death. Researchers tracked 1,142 bottlenose dolphins between 1993 and 2014. Dolphins that patrolled, scavenged and begged for food near humans were more likely to perish from accidents involving boats and fishing lines. “This is alarming, as conditioning could lead to a decrease in survival, which could have population-level consequences,” the report said.
Ring-tailed lemurs are headed toward extinction. Hunting, trapping and deforestation by sapphire hunters are to blame. Lemurs are the most threatened vertebrates on Earth, but ring-tailed lemurs were once thought to be the heartiest of the bunch. But now there are less than 2,500 individuals remaining, mostly in small populations.
Palm-oil expansion into Africa is threatening the world’s great apes. The report concluded that the palm-oil industry will have to engage in conservation efforts to prevent Africa’s gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees from going the way of the Sumatran orangutan. To start, the authors recommend implementing “no-go” zones — areas that should be left alone because they support thriving populations of apes.
Archaeologists at Washington State University are looking deep into history to find solutions to climate change. By using computers models to link ancient climate and archaeological data, researchers are able to identify disease- and drought-tolerant crops, for example. “For every environmental calamity you can think of, there was very likely some society in human history that had to deal with it,” said Kohler, emeritus professor of anthropology at WSU. “Computational modeling gives us an unprecedented ability to identify what worked for these people and what didn’t.”
The Galapagos Islands developed their unique ecology approximately 1.6 million years ago. Researchers arrived at this conclusion by calculating the age of one particular part of the archipelago responsible for the islands’ famous biodiversity.
A whopping 22 million pounds of plastics enter the Great Lakes every year. This includes pollution from both the U.S. and Canda. Lake Michigan alone accumulates the equivalent of 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of plastic pollution every year. “This study is the first picture of the true scale of plastic pollution in the Great Lakes,” said Matthew Hoffman, an assistant professor in RIT’s School of Mathematical Sciences who used computer simulations to create the data.
Another dust bowl would pretty much destroy U.S. agriculture. Despite advances in technology and growing practices, America’s bread basket is no less susceptible to extreme drought. “We expected to find the system much more resilient because 30 percent of production is now irrigated in the United States, and because we’ve abandoned corn production in more severely drought-stricken places such as Oklahoma and west Texas,” said researcher Joshua Elliot. “But we found the opposite: The system was just as sensitive to drought and heat as it was in the 1930s.”