climate change (46)

Small Steps, Large Changes...

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A vertical shock tube at Los Alamos National Laboratory is used for turbulence studies. Sulfur hexafluoride is injected at the top of the 5.3-meter tube and allowed to mix with air. The waste is ejected into the environment through the blue hose at the tube tower’s lower left; in the fiscal year 2021, such emissions made up some 16% of the lab’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The inset shows a snapshot of the mixing after a shock has crossed the gas interface; the darker gas is SF6, and the lighter is air. The intensities yield density values.

Topics: Civilization, Climate Change, Global Warming, Research

Reducing air travel, improving energy efficiency in infrastructure, and installing solar panels are among the obvious actions that individual researchers and their institutions can implement to reduce their carbon footprint. But they can take many other small and large steps, too, from reducing the use of single-use plastics and other consumables and turning off unused instruments to exploiting waste heat and siting computing facilities powered by renewable energy. On a systemic level, measures can encourage behaviors to reduce carbon emissions; for example, valuing in-person invited job talks and remote ones equally could lead to less air travel by scientists.

So far, the steps that scientists are taking to reduce their carbon footprint are largely grassroots, notes Hannah Johnson, a technician in the imaging group at the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology in Utrecht and a member of Green Labs Netherlands, a volunteer organization that promotes sustainable science practices. The same goes for the time and effort they put in for the cause. One of the challenges, she says, is to get top-down support from institutions, funding agencies, and other national and international scientific bodies.

At some point, governments are likely to make laws that support climate sustainability, says Astrid Eichhorn, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark whose research is in quantum gravity and who is active on the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities committee for climate sustainability. “We are in a situation to be proactive and change in ways that do not compromise the quality of our research or our collaborations,” she says. “We should take that opportunity now and not wait for external regulations.”

Suppose humanity manages to limit emissions worldwide to 300 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). In that case, there is an 83% chance of not exceeding the 1.5 °C temperature rise above preindustrial levels set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, according to a 2021 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report. That emissions cap translates to a budget of 1.2 tons of CO2e per person annually through 2050. Estimates for the average emissions by researchers across scientific fields are much higher and range widely in part because of differing and incomplete accounting approaches, says Eichhorn. She cites values from 7 to 18 tons a year for European scientists.

Scientists take steps in the lab toward climate sustainability, Toni Feder, Physics Today.

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Outcomes, Language and Syntax...

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Credit: michaelmjc/Getty Images (chalkboard); Scientific American (words and design)

Topics: Biofuels, Civilization, Climate Change, Existentialism

Climate change is already disrupting the lives of billions of people. What was once considered a problem for the future is raging all around us right now. This reality has helped convince a majority of the public that we must act to limit suffering. In an August 2022 survey by the Pew Research Center, 71 percent of Americans said they had experienced at least one heat wave, flood, drought, or wildfire in the past year. Among those people, more than 80 percent said climate change had contributed. In another 2022 poll, 77 percent of Americans who said they had been affected by extreme weather in the past five years saw climate change as a major crisis.

Yet the response is not meeting the urgency of the crisis. A transition to clean energy is underway, but it is happening too slowly to avoid the worst effects of climate change. The U.S. government finally took long-delayed action by passing the Inflation Reduction Act in August 2022, much more progress is needed, and entrenched politics hamper it. The partisan divide largely stems from conservatives’ perception that climate change solutions will involve big government controlling people’s choices and imposing sacrifices. Research shows that Republicans’ skepticism about climate change is largely attributable to a conflict between ideological values and often-discussed solutions, particularly government regulations. A 2019 study on Climatic Change found that political and ideological polarization on climate change is particularly acute in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries.

One thing we can all do to ease this gridlock is to alter the language and messages we use about climate change. The words we use and the stories we tell matter. Transforming the way we talk about climate change can engage people and build the political will needed to implement policies strong enough to confront the crisis with the urgency required.

To inspire people, we need to tell a story not of sacrifice and deprivation but of opportunity and improvement in our lives, health, and well-being—a story of humans flourishing in a post-fossil-fuel age.

The Right Words Are Crucial to Solving Climate Change, Susan Joy Hassol, Scientific American

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CEM and SEI...

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Panel A shows how the native SEI on Li metal is passivating to nitrogen, which means that no reactivity with Li metal is possible. Panel B shows that a proton donor like Ethanol will disrupt the SEI passivation and enable Li metal to react with nitrogen species. Panel C describes 3 potential mechanisms through which the proton donor can disrupt the SEI passivation. Credit: Steinberg et al.

Topics: Applied Physics, Battery, Chemistry, Climate Change, Environment

Ammonia (NH3), the chemical compound made of nitrogen and hydrogen, currently has many valuable uses, for instance, serving as a crop fertilizer, purifying agent, and refrigerant gas. In recent years, scientists have been exploring its potential as an energy carrier to reduce global carbon emissions and help tackle global warming.

Ammonia is produced via the Haber-Bosch process, a carbon-producing industrial chemical reaction that converts nitrogen and hydrogen into NH3. As this process is known to contribute heavily to global carbon emissions, electrifying ammonia synthesis would benefit our planet.

One of the most promising strategies for electrically synthesizing ammonia at ambient conditions is using lithium metal. However, some aspects of these processes, including the properties and role of lithium's passivation layer, known as the solid electrolyte interphase (SEI), remain poorly understood.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of California- Los Angeles (UCLA), and the California Institute of Technology have recently conducted a study closely examining the reactivity of lithium and its SEI, as this could enhance lithium-based pathways to electrically synthesize ammonia. Their observations, published in Nature Energy, were collected using a state-of-the-art imaging method known as cryogenic transmission electron microscopy.

Using cryogenic electron microscopy to study the lithium SEI during electrocatalysis, Ingrid Fadelli, Phys.org

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Kindred and Us...

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Image source: Carter Matt dot com

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Climate Change, Existentialism, Star Trek

Note: Apologies for the late and last 2022 blog post. My laptop has had its own mind lately.

My "Rotten Tomatoes" review:

"I've been a fan of Octavia Butler since reading my first novel by her, "Mind of My Mind," about a vampiric telepath named Doro: an immortal from Africa that devours your soul, so he can essentially be immortal at the cost of what makes you "you": your mind and soul. Butler makes us, through fiction, look at race, class, gender, and the impact of a hierarchical society whose behaviors reflect our slavery past in America. Notice that no other nation has our domestic violence problems: the Second Amendment was specifically designed for quelling slave rebellions. The fact that the first African American president was elected re-elected, and the response was a vaudevillian reality TV pretend billionaire, Kindred, could not be more timely. We need more from her, NK Jemison, and other speculative BIPOC writers. It's been a long time coming."

My wife and I watched it on Hulu, and like "The Handmaid's Tale," she was immediately hooked. She had never been a fan of science fiction, but I corrected her by saying that Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler are speculative fiction writers:

A type of story or literature that is set in a world that is different from the one we live in or that deals with magical or imagined future events:She tells readers that she writes "speculative fiction," defined as "fiction in which impossible things happen."Her speculative fiction novel is set in the near future. Cambridge Dictionary

I'm a Trekkie, but in Kindred, the protagonist, Dana, time travels (a popular science fiction trope) to the antebellum south, where she meets two of her ancestors: a black woman and her slave owner obsessed with her. Her technology isn't going at superluminal speeds and whipping around the sun: her tech is the terror of thinking she's going to die, which pulls her back to Rufus Weylan, and Alice, his father's slave. Butler doesn't explain the mechanism of how this is done (like, do we really know how warp drive would work?), but the writing by Butler and the 21st Century adaptors of her fiction pulls you into the story. Dana is going back in time to ensure the (in this case) "grandmother paradox" favors her being born.

Terror as a tech: the United States, the John Winthrop self-professed "shining city on a hill," has been at war 93% of the time since 1776. Assaulting the indigenous inhabitants and kidnapping an uncompensated labor force from the African continent: the only way you can keep such a psychopathic system in some semblance of "functionality" is with violence. That terror pulls Dana through the corridors of time from 2016 to the 19th Century, where her interracial relationship with Kevin could not be seen as possible or desirable. Her travels aren't with Industrial Light and Magic special effects and light shows: it is raw, guttural fear, shrieks, and screams audible to her neighbors that remind you of Mrs. Kravitz and her patient husband Abner from the TV series "Bewitched," which I'm sure inspired Butler when she wrote the characters. Dana is repelled by the rigid codes that don't respect her autonomy and compelled by the need to rescue Rufus at several key epochs where he could have perished, and she would thereby cease to exist.

America prides itself on being E Pluribus Unum: out of many, one people. Yet the stratification of our society into classes, types, and colors frame our politics, our discourse, our understanding of history, our rejection of facts, and our nostalgia for a halcyon era where we were "great": sequestered on reservations, enslaved, segregated, closeted, miserable, except for the dominant culture at the top of the Great Seal Pyramid.

Selfish desires are burning like fires.

Among those who hoard the gold

As they continue to keep the people asleep

And the truth from being told

Racism and greed keep people in need

From getting what's rightfully theirs

Cheating, stealing, and double-dealing

As they exploit the people's fears

Now, Dow Jones owns the people's homes

And all the surrounding land

Buying and selling their humble dwelling

In the name of the Master Plan.

E Pluribus Unum, The Last Poets, Genius Lyrics

And this framework keeps us at each other's throats, clawing for scraps on a planet that surpassed 8 billion humans last month. Every structure of violence has within it the kernel of resource allocation: who gets WHAT. When you define yourselves at the top of the pyramid, you must convince the rest of society that this evolved or divine position is correct, "logical," and "rational." Your progeny inherit this "superiority" in perpetuity. Anyone disagreeing with you is met with violence, even unto death.

The Myth of Race, Robert Wald Sussman; The Emperor's New Clothes, The Race Myth, Joseph L. Graves, Jr.; Racism, Not Race, Alan M. Goodman, Joseph L. Graves, Jr., all give credible, anthropological, biological data pointing to that we are all humans sharing the same planet with 8 billion other humans. Even if we could accelerate a rocket to near-light speed, we're parsecs from anything resembling the current planet on which we've evolved. Climate change is a real dilemma we currently face that threatens our survival. Due to laws of physics and causality, time travel and warp speed have yet to materialize. We can face the future by reconciling with our past. The future is rocky and uncertain if we don't.

Despite the gaslighting, we are Kindred.

I invite you to stream the Hulu series, write a review online, and treat one another like we're related: because, ultimately, we are. This will also support getting a Season 2.

"God has made of one blood all peoples of the earth" - Acts 17:26

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Permafrost Zombies...

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(Credit: Tatiana Gasich/Shutterstock)

Topics: Biology, Biosecurity, Climate Change

Thirteen viruses from tens of thousands of years ago have been recovered and reactivated, according to a preprint paper published in BioRxiv. These threats had been idling in the Siberian tundra for approximately 30,000 to 50,000 years before being brought back.

Thanks to climate change, the thawing of the frozen terrain could revive an assortment of ancient pathogens, creating a potential threat that these viral “zombies” could pose.

“Zombie” Viruses

Permafrost — the frigid terrain that stays frozen throughout the year — comprises over 10 percent of our planet’s surface and substantial swaths of the Arctic, a circumpolar area containing Alaska, Scandinavia, and Siberia. But the Arctic’s temperatures are warming almost four times faster than the average worldwide, and the permafrost there is fading fast, freeing all sorts of frozen organisms, including microbes and viruses from thousands of years ago.

An abundance of research has delved into the diversity of microbes that the thawing of the permafrost has freed, but far fewer researchers have described the viruses. In fact, though these threats can sometimes resume their activity following their thaw, scientists have studied this process of viral recovery and reactivation only two other times, in 2014 and in 2015.

'Zombie' Viruses, Up to 50,000 Years Old, Are Awakening, Sam Walters, Discovery Magazine

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Caveat Emptor...

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National Ignition Facility operators inspect a final optics assembly during a routine maintenance period in August. Photo credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Topics: Alternate Energy, Applied Physics, Climate Change, Energy, Global Warming, Lasers, Nuclear Fusion

After the heady, breathtaking coverage of pop science journalism, I dove into the grim world inhabited by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on their take on the first-ever fusion reaction. I can say that I wasn’t surprised. With all this publicity, it will probably get the Nobel Prize nomination (my guess). Cool Trekkie trivia: the National Ignition Facility was the backdrop for the Enterprise's warp core for Into Darkness.

*****

This week’s headlines have been full of reports about a “major breakthrough” in nuclear fusion technology that, many of those reports misleadingly suggested, augurs a future of abundant clean energy produced by fusion nuclear power plants. To be sure, many of those reports lightly hedged their enthusiasm by noting that (as The Guardian put it) “major hurdles” to a fusion-powered world remain.

Indeed, they do.

The fusion achievement that the US Energy Department announced this week is scientifically significant, but the significance does not relate primarily to electricity generation. Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s National Ignition Facility, or NIF, focused the facility’s 192 lasers on a target containing a small capsule of deuterium–tritium fuel, compressing it and inducing what is known as ignition. In a written press release, the Energy Department described the achievement this way: “On December 5, a team at LLNL’s National Ignition Facility (NIF) conducted the first controlled fusion experiment in history to reach this [fusion ignition] milestone, also known as scientific energy breakeven, meaning it produced more energy from fusion than the laser energy used to drive it. This historic, first-of-its-kind achievement will provide the unprecedented capability to support [the National Nuclear Security Administration’s] Stockpile Stewardship Program and will provide invaluable insights into the prospects of clean fusion energy, which would be a game-changer for efforts to achieve President Biden’s goal of a net-zero carbon economy.”

Because of how the Energy Department presented the breakthrough in a news conference headlined by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, news coverage has largely glossed over its implications for monitoring the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile. Instead, even many serious news outlets focused on the possibility of carbon-free, fusion-powered electricity generation—even though the NIF achievement has, at best, a distant and tangential connection to power production.

To get a balanced view of what the NIF breakthrough does and does not mean, I (John Mecklin) spoke this week with Bob Rosner, a physicist at the University of Chicago and a former director of the Argonne National Laboratory who has been a longtime member of the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board. The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for readability.

See their chat at the link below.

The Energy Department’s fusion breakthrough: It’s not really about generating electricity, John Mecklin, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Editor-in-Chief

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Death by Whataboutism...

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MODUS TROLLERANDI PART 2: WHATABOUTISM

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Climate Change, Environment, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights

Nikolas Cruz was sentenced in the Parkland Shooting to life without the possibility of parole, torpedoing his request to die by the state executioner.

Alex Jones owes a bucketload of money to the Sandy Hook families who have had to endure his lies by grift of his gullible Internet followers, mocking the verdict in a dual screen that "good luck! Ain't no more money," while petitioning the rubes to go to his site.

The January 6th Committee held what was possibly its last hearing yesterday if past precedent favors republicans in the midterms (except for the unforced error of overturning Roe vs Wade, and the promise if given power, they will make it a nationwide ban). If Nancy Pelosi is Speaker after the elections, the committee issued a subpoena to Generalisimo Insurrectionist. He'll wage a pitched legal battle, raise a lot of money, and hope the other crimes he's guilty of in New York and Georgia don't wind him up in a jumpsuit to match his complexion.  Women are registering for the midterms in record numbers; the unrest in Iran over the "morality police" is a microcosm of a constituency fed up with octogenarians making rules for them.

The person at the center of the January 6th Committee's focus has established a cult of personality for his followers and personal convenience for his enablers. Despite the recordings of Kevin McCarthy expressing abject terror, despite his, Mitch McConnell's, and Lindsey Graham's castigation of him on the House and Senate floors, they read the political tea leaves, realizing the conspiratorial dragon they benefitted from through Reich Wing talk radio, television, websites is a Frankenstein beyond their control. They hope to ride the crazy wave to "power," which at this time means a position with little relation to actual governing power, and hope their violent followers don't retaliate on them if they pick up the wrong salad fork, or select the wrong channel with the remote control.

The person at the center of the January 6th Committee's focus still deludes himself into that he actually won the 2020 election, still denies the loss, confesses to crimes he committed in real-time, and foments open rebellion and uncivil war if he's ever held accountable for his brazenly committed, and admitted crimes. He now demands the return of classified documents he magically declassified by telepathy (not a thing), and that the government "planted them." If you can follow that, there will be a padded cell next to his.

I was not a fan of Seinfeld. The comedy took as its theme the play by William Shakespeare: "Much Ado About Nothing." Norman Lear comedies like "All in the Family," "Good Times," "The Jeffersons," and "One Day at a Time" would often veer into sensitive topics about things like gang violence, rape, racism, and misogyny. Jerry Seinfeld and the cast made a comedy about nothing for ten years. When the final curtain went down on the show, there was "weeping and gnashing of teeth" at my Motorola office in Austin, Texas. Even in syndication where I might see an episode or two, I still don't get the attraction.

The dark side of much ado about nothing is Whataboutism: nothing matters. It makes one's sense of history and strategy for the future be temporally bound by business quarters. It explains why we can't do anything about climate change, George W. Bush summed up the attitude in his thoughts about the future asked by Bob Woodward: "we'll all be dead." I used to think he was the worst president in my lifetime until kismet said "hold my beer." The Republican platform in 2020 was reduced to Seinfeld minimalism, and they don't have one in 2022, save recycled Gingrich jibberish. Sexually assaulting women; grabbing them by the genitals doesn't matter. Railing about the sanctity of the unborn never mattered according to Dana Deloach: she just wants power in the Senate, so Herschel Walker can speak word salad about promiscuous bulls all he wants (to the chagrin of Rick Scott and Tom Cotton) as long as they gain the majority. Winning is all that matters, principle never did. There were several hundred mass shootings before Nikolas Cruz. Alex Jones started his grift before the twenty-six victims were in Rigor Mortis. Donald Trump in "Art of the Deal" explained "truthful hyperbole":

“The final key to the way I promote is bravado. I play to people’s fantasies. People may not always think big themselves, but they can still get very excited by those who do. That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts. People want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular. I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration—and a very effective form of promotion.”

“I Call It Truthful Hyperbole”: The Most Popular Quotes From Trump’s “The Art of the Deal”, Emily Price, Fast Company, April 4, 2017

In other words, brazen lying.

He played to people's fantasies that he was a successful businessman, despite six bankruptcies and being in hock up to his eyeballs to Deutsche Bank and the Russian Federation. He saw the reaction to the one and only black president and like a wolf, he pounced. He and his father were charged with violating the Fair Housing Act by the NIXON administration. Orly Taitz is a forgotten name and evidence education does not equate to intelligence. He took over the birther issue, poured kerosene, and lit a match. As Michael Cohen said, he never meant to win the election, it was a publicity stunt, which is why he had nothing he was passionate about to improve people's lives other than the rich like himself (richer than he since he's probably not on paper a billionaire). He could have repitched The Apprentice to NBC, still pulled down a check from the network, and still laundered money for Russian oligarchs, but no. Donny got out over his skis, got a taste of real power, and now like an 80s crack addict, can't get enough of it.

He's Pookie in [orange] face.

That’s why a little hyperbole never hurts.

It does hurt. It can kill a republic.

On the page where McHenry records the events of the last day of the convention, September 18, 1787, he wrote: “A lady asked Dr. Franklin Well Doctor what have we got a republic or a monarchy – A republic replied the Doctor if you can keep it.” Then McHenry added: “The Lady here alluded to was Mrs. Powel of Philada.”

“A republic if you can keep it”: Elizabeth Willing Powel, Benjamin Franklin, and the James McHenry Journal
January 6, 2022, by Josh Levy, Library of Congress

44 "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” John 8:44-47

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Himalayas...

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The Shisper Glacier in April 2018, left, and April 2019, right. The surging ice blocked a river fed by a nearby glacier, forming a new lake. YALE ENVIRONMENT 360 / NASA

Topics: Civilization, Climate Change, Environment, Existentialism, Global Warming

Everything about Earth and the organization of human civilization is about the control of resources.

We’ve come up with arbitrary “rules” about who is worthy of those resources, and how much they can horde, or obtain. Pharaohs, priests, secret societies, and guilds all have “knowledge” they jealously guard, or it may be as simple as caste or color. Every society with billionaires, emperors, kings, oligarchs, potentates, and sheiks all have a designated group to blame for the ills of poor planning and sadistic resource management: indigenous, or imported servants by force, they are the easy go-to designated pariahs. It is a cynical way to get rich, but a poor method of species survival. A resource we all need, from billionaires to pariahs, is potable water to drink. Jackson, Mississippi is a foreshadowing of what we might expect.

This continual differentiation of mankind by caste, color, station, and monetary wealth has brought us to this rolling train wreck catastrophe. Climate refugees occurred in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Climate refugees occurred after the flooding in Pakistan. Climate refugees will occur in the aftermath of future superstorms. Lest we think ourselves immune, we may all be seeking higher ground, leaving homes and businesses for something we could have solved decades ago except for avarice.

The permafrost is melting, and that will release viruses that haven't seen the light of day for several millennia, and we have no vaccines for what will likely be carried on the wind and zoonotically transferred between animals and humans.

Starships are as real as magic carpets, genies, Yetis, and mermaids.

There is no “planet B,” life, or wealth on a nonfunctional planet.

Warmer air is thinning most of the vast mountain range’s glaciers, known as the Third Pole because they contain so much ice. The melting could have far-reaching consequences for flood risk and for water security for a billion people who rely on meltwater for their survival.

Spring came early this year in the high mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan, a remote border region of Pakistan. Record temperatures in March and April hastened melting of the Shisper Glacier, creating a lake that swelled and, on May 7, burst through an ice dam. A torrent of water and debris flooded the valley below, damaging fields and houses, wrecking two power plants and washing away parts of the highway and a bridge connecting Pakistan and China.

Pakistan’s climate change minister, Sherry Rehman, tweeted videos of the destruction and highlighted the vulnerability of a region with the largest number of glaciers outside the Earth’s poles. Why were these glaciers losing mass so quickly? Rehman put it succinctly. “High global temperatures,” she said.

Just over a decade, ago, relatively little was known about glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayas, the vast ice mountains that run across Central and South Asia, from Afghanistan in the west to Myanmar in the east. But a step-up in research in the past 10 years — spurred in part by an embarrassing error in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, which predicted that Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035 — has led to enormous strides in understanding.

Scientists now have data on almost every glacier in high-mountain Asia. They know “how these glaciers have changed not only in area but in mass during the last 20 years,” says Tobias Bolch, a glaciologist with the University of St Andrews in Scotland. He adds, “We also know much more about the processes which govern glacial melt. This information will give policymakers some instruments to really plan for the future.”

As Himalayan Glaciers Melt, a Water Crisis Looms in South Asia, VAISHNAVI CHANDRASHEKHAR, Yale Environment 360

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Solar Lilly Pads...

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A floating artificial leaf – which generates clean fuel from sunlight and water – on the River Cam near King's College Chapel in Cambridge, UK. (Courtesy: Virgil Andrei)

Topics: Climate Change, Energy, Environment, Materials Science, Solar Power

Leaf-like devices that are light enough to float on water could be used to generate fuel from solar farms located on open water sources. This avenue hasn’t been explored before, according to researchers from the University of Cambridge in the UK who developed them. The new devices are made from thin, flexible substrates and perovskite-based light-absorbing layers. Tests showed that they can produce either hydrogen or syngas (a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide) while floating on the River Cam.

Artificial leaves like these are a type of photoelectrochemical cell (PEC) that transforms sunlight into electrical energy or fuel by mimicking some aspects of photosynthesis, such as splitting water into its constituent oxygen and hydrogen. This differs from conventional photovoltaic cells, which convert light directly into electricity.

Because PEC artificial leaves contain both light harvesting and catalysis components in one compact device, they could, in principle, be used to produce fuel from sunlight cheaply and simply. The problem is that current techniques for making them can’t be scaled up. What is more, they are often composed of fragile and heavy bulk materials, which limits their use.

In 2019 a team of researchers led by Erwin Reisner developed an artificial leaf that produced syngas from sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. This device contained two light absorbers and catalysts, but it also incorporated a thick glass substrate and coatings to protect against moisture, which made it cumbersome.

Floating artificial leaves could produce solar-generated fuel, Isabelle Dumé, Physics World

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Cooling Centers...

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Projected temperature change for mid-century (left) and end-of-century (right) in the United States under higher (top) and lower (bottom) emissions scenarios. The brackets on the thermometers represent the likely range of model projections, though lower or higher outcomes are possible. Source: USGCRP (2009)

Topics: Climate Change, Environment, Existentialism

The heat index in Jefferson County reached 105 degrees by noon Monday — and it’s only getting hotter.

More than 50 million Americans face scorching temperatures as a heatwave spreads over most of the country this week. Louisville could see heat indices as high as 115 degrees, putting many residents at risk of heat illnesses.

Every year, more than 600 people die from extreme heat. Dizziness, muscle cramps, and vomiting are telltale signs it’s time to cool down, according to Zach Harris, medical director of emergency services at Norton Hospital.

“If you’re so hot that you start to not feel good, that’s the right time to go inside or find some shade or some way to cool down,” Harris said.

Older adults, young children, and people with chronic illnesses are most at risk, but even healthy adults can experience heat-related illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cooling centers are open to help Louisville residents beat the heat, Michael J. Collins, 89.3 WFPL

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - The death toll from the devastating flooding in eastern Kentucky continues to rise.

Eastern Kentucky flood relief: Ways you can donate

Governor Andy Beshear confirmed Monday evening that the death toll has risen to at least 37. The governor says refrigerator trucks are serving as mobile morgues to hold bodies as they are flown to the medical examiner’s office in Frankfort.

4 siblings among dead in Kentucky flooding

Beshear says the number of missing is in the hundreds. He says Search and rescue crews are still running into areas where it’s difficult to get to.

Beshear says the flooding death toll has risen to at least 37, WKYT New Staff

Future temperature changes

We have already observed global warming over the last several decades. Future temperatures are expected to change further. Climate models project the following key temperature-related changes.

Key global projections

Increases in average global temperatures are expected to be within the range of 0.5°F to 8.6°F by 2100, with a likely increase of at least 2.7°F for all scenarios except the one representing the most aggressive mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.

Except under the most aggressive mitigation scenario studied, the global average temperature is expected to warm at least twice as much in the next 100 years as it has during the last 100 years.

Ground-level air temperatures are expected to continue to warm more rapidly over land than in oceans.

Some parts of the world are projected to see larger temperature increases than the global average.

Maybe like, Kentucky?

Future of Climate Change, EPA.gov

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ARDP...

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The design concept of BWXT Advanced Nuclear Reactor. BWX Technologies

Topics: Applied Physics, Alternate Energy, Climate Change, Nuclear Power

According to the US Energy Information Administration, the US uses a mixture of 60.8% fossil fuel sources to generate 2,504 billion kilowatt hours of energy. Our nuclear expenditure is a paltry 18.9%. The totality of renewable sources (wind, hydropower, solar, biomass, and geothermal) is a little higher: 20.1%. This is the crux of the "Green New Deal."

Though I long for the cleaner, neater version of nuclear power in fusion, it's kind of hard to mimic the pressures and magnetic fields necessary to spark essentially a mini sun on the planet. I think the resistance to nuclear fission is cultural: from the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer quoting the Bhagavad-Gita at the first successful testing, a classic "what have we done" trope. Popular fiction emphasizes doomsday scenarios and radioactive zombies. Honorable mention: Space 1999, which like zombies I doubt could ever happen, but it kept my attention in my youth. There are also genuine concerns about Chernobyl (still in Ukraine), Three-Mile Island, and Fukushima Daichi that come to the public's mind.

The reason the percentages on fossil fuels are so high is that they release extreme amounts of energy to superheat water for turbines to turn magnets superfast in copper coils. That is how most of the electricity we consume is made.

France currently generates 70% of its energy from nuclear power plants, with plans to reduce this to 50% as they mix in renewables. This is proportional to the percentage the US already has in renewables. My only caveat is an obsolescence plan for solar panels (they have to be implanted with caustic impurities to MAKE them conductive, and after twenty years, could end up in a landfill near humans). Battery-operated vehicles are fine, but Lithium has to be mined, it requires a lot of water, typically the indigenous peoples near the mines don't make a profit, and their land and resources are spoiled.

If we truly are going to transition from fossil fuels to "cleaner energy," I think we should realize that power plant designs have improved greatly since the aforementioned disasters.

As an engineer, I always tried to follow this edict from my father: "Experience isn't the best teacher: other people's experiences are the best teacher." In short, learn from others' mistakes, and try to not repeat them. It works in other nontechnical areas of life as well.

I (fingers crossed) assume nuclear power plant design engineers follow something similar to improve on future designs for safety, and as we've been exposed to with the war in Ukraine, global energy security.

I'm proposing an "everything on the table strategy," not Pollyanna. By the way, our "carbon footprint" appears to be a boondoggle by the industries that caused our current malaise.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program commonly referred to as ARDP, is designed to help our domestic nuclear industry demonstrate its advanced reactor designs on accelerated timelines. This will ultimately help us build a competitive portfolio of new U.S. reactors that offer significant improvements over today’s technology.

The advanced reactors selected for risk-reduction awards are an excellent representation of the diverse designs currently under development in the United States. They range from advanced light-water-cooled small modular reactors to new designs that use molten salts and high-temperature gases to flexibly operate at even higher temperatures and lower pressures.

All of them have the potential to compete globally once deployed. They will offer consumers more access to a reliable, clean power source that can be depended on in the near future to flexibly generate electricity, drive industrial processes, and even provide potable drinking water to communities in water-scarce locations.

5 Advanced Reactor Designs to Watch in 2030, Alice Caponiti, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Reactor Fleet and Advanced Reactor Deployment, Office of Nuclear Energy

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Counting in Counties...

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Credit: Amanda Montañez; Source: “Political Environment and Mortality Rates in the United States, 2001-19: Population-Based Cross-Sectional Analysis,” by Haider J. Warraich et al., in BMJ, Vol. 377. Published online June 7, 2022

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Civilization, Climate Change, Existentialism, Politics

Reality literally bites.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the link between politics and health became glaringly obvious. Democrat-leaning “blue” states were more likely to enact mask requirements and vaccine and social distancing mandates. Republican-leaning “red” states were much more resistant to health measures. The consequences of those differences emerged by the end of 2020 when rates of hospitalization and death from COVID rose in conservative counties and dropped in liberal ones. That divergence continued through 2021 when vaccines became widely available. And although the highly transmissible Omicron variant narrowed the gap in infection rates, hospitalization and death rates, which are dramatically reduced by vaccines, remain higher in Republican-leaning parts of the country.

But COVID is only the latest chapter in the story of politics and health. “COVID has really magnified what had already been brewing in American society, which was that, based on where you lived, your risk of death was much different,” says Haider J. Warraich, a physician and researcher at the VA Boston Healthcare System and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

In a study published in June in The BMJ, Warraich and his colleagues showed that over the two decades prior to the pandemic, there was a growing gap in mortality rates for residents of Republican and Democratic counties across the U.S. In 2001, the study’s starting point, the risk of death among red and blue counties (as defined by the results of presidential elections) was similar. Overall, the U.S. mortality rate has decreased in the nearly two decades since then (albeit not as much as in most other high-income countries). But the improvement for those living in Republican counties by 2019 was half that of those in Democratic counties—11 percent lower versus 22 percent lower.

People in Republican Counties Have Higher Death Rates Than Those in Democratic Counties, Lydia Denworth, Scientific American

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Dilemma...

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Animation by Erik English

Topics: Civilization, Climate Change, Environment, Global Warming

Humans can survive up to 108.14 F, or 42.3 C before our brains and constitutions (bodies) start turning to mush. As a species, we're going to have to decide if enriching a handful of global oligarchs is more important than survival. Wealth cannot be measured on a dysfunctional planet.

Nobody in Ashish Agashe’s seven-story apartment building in Thane, a suburb of Mumbai, had air conditioning 20 years ago. Today, his apartment is one of only two of the 28 units without it.

“Once you make peace with sweating,” says Agashe, “it is easy to survive this weather.” He decided against air conditioning because it gives him a “faux feel,” and he doesn’t believe his income should determine his lifestyle choices. Later, he was “chuffed” to learn that his choice is better for the planet.

Unlike Agashe, many Indians are adopting air conditioning to deal with more frequent and more intense heat waves. Earlier this year, temperatures in parts of India and Pakistan surpassed 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

At age 37, Agashe hopes temperatures do not rise high enough in his lifetime to require air conditioning in Mumbai, a humid and densely populated city on India’s west coast that today rarely sees temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). But even if the climate stopped changing, he worries that the heat produced by all the air conditioners in his building, which spills in through his open window, may force him to install air conditioning, too.

The cold crunch: How to cool people without overheating the planet, Dawn Stover, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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Perovskite and Maxima...

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The effective mass of the electrons can be derived from the curvature around the maxima of the ARPES measurement data (image, detail). (Courtesy: HZB)

Topics: Alternate Energy, Applied Physics, Battery, Chemistry, Civilization, Climate Change

A longstanding explanation for why perovskite materials make such good solar cells has been cast into doubt thanks to new measurements. Previously, physicists ascribed the favorable optoelectronic properties of lead halide perovskites to the behavior of quasiparticles called polarons within the material’s crystal lattice. Now, however, detailed experiments at Germany’s BESSY II synchrotron revealed that no large polarons are present. The work sheds fresh light on how perovskites can be optimized for real-world applications, including light-emitting diodes, semiconductor lasers, and radiation detectors as well as solar cells.

Lead halide perovskites belong to a family of crystalline materials with an ABXstructure, where A is cesium, methylammonium (MA), or formamidinium (FA); B is lead or tin; and X is chlorine, bromine, or iodine. They are promising candidates for thin-film solar cells and other optoelectronic devices because their tuneable bandgaps enable them to absorb light over a broad range of wavelengths in the solar spectrum. Charge carriers (electrons and holes) also diffuse through them over long distances. These excellent properties give perovskite solar cells a power conversion efficiency of more than 18%, placing them on a par with established solar-cell materials such as silicon, gallium arsenide, and cadmium telluride.

Researchers are still unsure, however, exactly why charge carriers travel so well in perovskites, especially since perovskites contain far more defects than established solar-cell materials. One hypothesis is that polarons – composite particles made up of an electron surrounded by a cloud of ionic phonons, or lattice vibrations – act as screens, preventing charge carriers from interacting with the defects.

Charge-transport mystery deepens in promising solar-cell materials, Isabelle Dumé, Physics World

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Caveat Colonizing...

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(Credit: Evgeniyqw/Shutterstock)

Topics: Astronautics, Climate Change, Environment, Futurism, Global Warming, Mars, Spaceflight

When Elon Musk founded SpaceX in 2002, he envisioned a greenhouse on Mars, not unlike the one later depicted in the 2015 blockbuster The Martian. Soon, his fantasy grew from a small-scale botanical experiment into a vision for a self-sustaining Martian city. In a speech at the 67th International Astronautical Congress in 2016, he argued his point. “History is going to bifurcate along with two directions. One path is we stay on earth forever and then there will be some eventual extinction event,” Musk says. “The alternative is to become a space-faring civilization and a multi-planet species, which, I hope you would agree, is the right way to go.”

Though Musk later clarified that the extinction event he referenced may take place millennia (or even eons) in the future, the conditions on earth today are becoming increasingly dangerous for human beings. Deadly heatwaves, food insecurity, and catastrophic natural disasters are a few of the hazards that we face as the planet continues to warm. Unfortunately, the Red Planet is a very long way from becoming a viable alternative home. While we measure carbon dioxide concentrations in parts per million on earth, Mars’ atmosphere contains 96% CO2, just one of a litany of logistical nightmares that Martian colonists would have to overcome.

In a perfect world, Musks’ dreams of extraterrestrial civilization could coexist with the eco-forward values that have driven ventures like Tesla’s solar program. But while SpaceX’s aspirations are in space, its operations have an undeniable impact at home. Unlike a Tesla sports car, SpaceX’s rockets aren’t propelled by electricity — they burn kerosene

Carbon emissions from space launches are dwarfed by other sources of greenhouse gasses, but they could have an outsized impact on climate. The reason for this stems from one particular product of rocket propulsion: black carbon. These tiny chunks of crystalline carbon atoms are short-lived in the atmosphere, but highly absorptive of sunlight. On the Earth’s surface, black carbon from diesel, coal, and wood combustion poses a threat to environmental and public health, particularly in developing countries. But in the upper atmosphere, rocket engines are the sole source of black carbon. For years, scientists have warned that these emissions could have unpredictable effects on climate. Still, research on the topic has been frustratingly slow.

“We identified the issue with black carbon in 2010,” says Darin Toohey, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder. “The story comes and goes, but the basic players remain the same.”

Efforts to Colonize Mars Could Have a Negative Impact on Global Health, Gabe Allen, Discover Magazine

 

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Forging Ahead...

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Clean energy sources like wind turbines are part of Argonne’s decades-long effort to create a carbon-free economy. (Image by Shutterstock/Engel.ac.)

Topics: Battery, Biofuels, Climate Change, Existentialism, Global Warming

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions and removing them from the atmosphere is critical to the global fight against climate change. Called decarbonization, it is one of the focal points in the nation’s strategy to ensure a bright future for our planet and all who live on it.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has been at the forefront of the quest to decarbonize the U.S. economy for decades.

Argonne scientists are developing new materials for batteries and researching energy-efficient transportation and sustainable fuels. They are expanding carbon-free energy sources like nuclear and renewable power. Argonne researchers are also exploring ways to capture carbon dioxide from the air and from industrial sources, use it to produce chemicals, or store it in the ground.

The ultimate goal? To reduce the greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the planet.

An overview of Argonne’s lab-wide effort to create a carbon-free economy, Beth Burmahl, Argonne National Laboratory

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Racing Green...

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Fast physics Formula E has created huge advances in electric vehicles off the racing circuit as well as on, but they still have drawbacks. (Courtesy: Luis Licona/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Topics: Alternate Energy, Battery, Biofuels, Climate Change, Global Warming

Cars – and in particular racecars – might seem the villains in a world grappling with climate change. Racing Green: How Motorsport Science Can Change the World hopes to convince you of exactly the opposite, with science journalist Kit Chapman showing how motorsports not only pioneers new, planet-friendlier machines and materials, but saves lives on and off the track too.

The first part of Chapman’s argument tracks the historical development of cars and competition. His stories show how, from its start, racing has served as a research lab and proving ground for new technologies. The first organized motor races were competitions to encourage innovation, akin to today’s X-Prizes. In 1894 Le Petit Journal offered a purse for the first car to make it from Paris to Rouen, while later races emphasized pure speed or, like the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans, endurance. Chapman provides a whirlwind tour through the development of the internal combustion engine-powered car and its damning limitations, including the copious greenhouse-gas emissions and the inability to ever achieve more than 50% thermal efficiency.

He then introduces us to new racing series like Formula E and Extreme E, which have changed electric cars “from an eccentric folly to the undisputed future of the automotive industry”. Chapman highlights the advantages of electric vehicles without glossing over their drawbacks: recycling challenges, the potential for difficult-to-extinguish fires resulting from thermal runaway, and ethical/sustainability issues surrounding the materials used. Throughout this section, he links motorsport advances with “real-life” applications. For example, the same flywheels that enabled Audi’s hybrid racecars to take all three podium spots at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2012 made London buses more energy efficient. Some connections are a little more tenuous than others, but they are uniformly fascinating.

Racing to save the planet, Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, author of The Physics of NASCAR and runs the blog buildingspeed.org, Physics World

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Thermo Limits

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A radical reimagining of information processing could greatly reduce the energy use—as well as greenhouse gas emissions and waste heat—from computers. Credit: vchal/Getty Images

Topics: Climate Change, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Global Warming, Semiconductor Technology, Thermodynamics

In case you had not noticed, computers are hot—literally. A laptop can pump out thigh-baking heat, while data centers consume an estimated 200 terawatt-hours each year—comparable to the energy consumption of some medium-sized countries. The carbon footprint of information and communication technologies as a whole is close to that of fuel used in the aviation industry. And as computer circuitry gets ever smaller and more densely packed, it becomes more prone to melting from the energy it dissipates as heat.

Now physicist James Crutchfield of the University of California, Davis, and his graduate student Kyle Ray have proposed a new way to carry out computation that would dissipate only a small fraction of the heat produced by conventional circuits. In fact, their approach, described in a recent preprint paper, could bring heat dissipation below even the theoretical minimum that the laws of physics impose on today’s computers. That could greatly reduce the energy needed to both perform computations and keep circuitry cool. And it could all be done, the researchers say, using microelectronic devices that already exist.

In 1961 physicist Rolf Landauer of IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., showed that conventional computing incurs an unavoidable cost in energy dissipation—basically, in the generation of heat and entropy. That is because a conventional computer has to sometimes erase bits of information in its memory circuits in order to make space for more. Each time a single bit (with the value 1 or 0) is reset, a certain minimum amount of energy is dissipated—which Ray and Crutchfield have christened “the Landauer.” Its value depends on ambient temperature: in your living room, one Landauer would be around 10–21 joule. (For comparison, a lit candle emits on the order of 10 joules of energy per second.)

‘Momentum Computing’ Pushes Technology’s Thermodynamic Limits, Phillip Ball, Scientific American

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Breadbaskets and War...

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Image Source: Hub Pages

Topics: Biology, Civics, Civil Rights, Climate Change, Democracy, Existentialism, Politics

The cornucopia’s history lies in Greek mythology. There are a lot of different stories it might have originated from, but the most common one tells the story of the lightning god, Zeus. As an infant, Zeus was in great danger from his father, Cronus. Zeus was taken to the island of Crete and cared for and nursed by a goat named Amalthea. One day, he accidentally broke off one of her horns, and in order to repay her, he used his powers to ensure that the horn would be a symbol of eternal nourishment, which is where we get the idea that the cornucopia represents abundance.

The History Behind the “Horn of Plenty”, Winnie Lam, Daily Nexus

*****

Russia’s war highlights the fragility of the global food supply — sustained investment is needed to feed the world in a changing climate.

Six boxes of wheat seed sit in our cold store. This is the first time in a decade that my team has not been able to send to Ukraine the improved germplasm we’ve developed as part of the Global Wheat Program at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Texcoco, Mexico. International postal and courier services are suspended. The seed had boosted productivity year on year in the country, which is now being devastated by war.

Our work builds on the legacy of Norman Borlaug, who catalyzed the Green Revolution and staved off famine in South Asia in the 1970s. Thanks to him, I see how a grain of wheat can affect the world.

Among the horrifying humanitarian consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are deeply troubling short-, medium- and long-term disruptions to the global food supply. Ukraine and Russia contribute nearly one-third of all wheat exports (as well as almost one-third of the world’s barley and one-fifth of its corn, providing an estimated 11% of the world’s calories). Lebanon, for instance, gets 80% of its wheat from Ukraine alone.

Broken bread — avert global wheat crisis caused by invasion of Ukraine, Alison Bentley, Nature

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M.A.D...

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Image Source: Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences, John A. Dutton, e-Education Institute

Topics: Alternate Energy, Battery, Biofuels, Climate Change, Environment, Politics

Want another reason to loathe Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? Just look at how it may completely doom the Paris climate accords — and our planet.

According to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the problem of climate change — which he admitted was “not solved” during the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow at the end of 2021 — “is getting worse” as Russia invades Ukraine.

As if things weren’t bad enough, Guterres insisted that the conflict is making climate change much worse, given how it’s disrupted fossil fuel supply chains in Europe.

“Countries could become so consumed by the immediate fossil fuel supply gap that they neglect or knee-cap policies to cut fossil fuel use,” Guterres said in a speech to The Economist‘s Sustainability Summit, his first climate change-focused addressed since COP26, continuing: “This is madness. Addiction to fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction.”

UN: Ukrainian War Fossil Fuel ‘Madness’ Might Destroy The Planet, Noor Al-Sibai, Futurism

"How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" John Kerry, C-SPAN, as spokesman for Veterans Against the Vietnam War, now the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.

Paraphrased, "how rich are you as the last richest man on a dead planet?"

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