Explained | How rising sea levels threaten agriculture, rainfall, and the social fabric

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has found in a new report that the world’s sea level is rising at an unprecedented rate, portending potentially disastrous consequences for the weather, agriculture, the extant groundwater crisis, and social disparities.

The report, entitled ‘State of the Global Climate 2022’, was published last week. Along with accelerating sea-level rise, it focused on a consistent rise in global temperatures, record-breaking increases in the concentration of greenhouse gases as well as glacier loss, sustained drought-like conditions in East Africa, record rainfall in Pakistan, and unprecedented heatwaves that struck Europe and China in 2022.

“Droughts, floods and heatwaves affected communities on every continent and cost many billions of dollars. Antarctic sea ice fell to its lowest extent on record and the melting of some European glaciers was, literally, off the charts,” per a press release.

While the sea-level rise is one of several compounding disasters, it also merits individual attention for the unique crises it can precipitate, especially for coastal areas, the communities there that depend on life in the sea, and its ability to render the loss of land.

How much is the sea rising?

The press release also said, “The rate of global mean sea-level [GSML] rise has doubled between the first decade of the satellite record and the last.”

Since the 1990s, scientists have been measuring sea-level rise using satellite altimeters. These instruments send radar pulses to the sea surface and measure the time they take to get back and the change in their intensity. The higher the sea level, the faster and stronger the return signal.

Researchers are able to determine GSML by collecting this data from different points on the earth and calculating the average. To calculate the rate of change in the GSML – i.e. how fast or slow the sea level is changing – we can calculate the difference in the GSML across a few years, usually a decade, and then divide the difference by the number of years. This provides an estimate of the rate of sea-level change.

According to the WMO report, the sea level has been rising in the three decades for which satellite altimeter data is available (1993-2022). But while the rate of sea-level rise was 2.27 mm/year in 1993-2002, it shot up to 4.62 mm/year in 2013-2022.

What causes accelerated sea-level rise?

The WMO report points to the following factors as being responsible for a rising GSML: “ocean warming, ice loss from glaciers and ice sheets, and changes in land water storage”.

The report also quantifies the individual contribution of these factors to yield what researchers call the “GSML budget”. According to the report, in 2005-2019, loss of glaciers and ice sheets contributed 36% to the GSML rise. Ocean warming – the phenomenon of rising mean ocean temperatures – contributed 55%, and changes in the storage of land water contributed less than 10%.

As increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases drive global warming, 90% of the ‘extra’ heat is stored in the oceans. This leads to ocean warming. And as the ocean heats up, it undergoes thermal expansion, which in turn leads to a rise in the GSML. One measure of ocean warming is the ocean heat content (OHC). Per the report, OHC measures in 2022 touched a new record.

The report also says that the earth’s ice cover, known as the cryosphere, has thinned. The cryosphere includes the Arctic and Antarctic regions (called “sea ice”), glaciers, the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica (area of ice on land covering more than 50,000 km 2), seasonal snow cover, and permafrost (mass of land that remains below 0º C for at least two straight years).

What do the report’s findings mean?

Nehru Prabakaran, a scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, who works on the effect of sea-level change on coastal ecosystems, told The Hindu that the WMO report confirms trends that are already well-known. “They have used more or less the best possible data,” he said.

Raj Bhagat Palanichamy, a senior programme manager with WRI-India and an expert on the use of geoanalytics for urban development and transport, added that “the findings of the report are consistent with observations made by others and predictions from climate models.”

Both Dr. Prabakaran and Mr. Palanichamy told The Hindu that given the GSML is expected to continue rising, the accelerating pace is particularly worrisome.

What problems will sea-level rise cause?

One, Mr. Palanichamy said, is that the accelerated pace will cause changes in land cover, i.e., “what will be land and what will be sea”, in the future. Dr. Prabakaran added that as rising seas swallow more of the land cover, particularly in coastal areas, coastal communities will face an “acute shortage of land for human use”.

This land crunch, according to Dr. Prabakaran, will mean that those who are better off will be able to cope better than marginalised groups, leading to an increase in social disparities between people living in coastal areas.

Second, weather formations like cyclones are known to typically originate in the open seas. As the GSML continues to rise, along with a rise in ocean temperatures, the chances of cyclones could increase, affecting coastal communities and leading to large economic liabilities for tropical countries like India and South Africa, which have high population densities.

Aside: The WMO report says that South Africa was affected by five cyclones in over two months in 2022, leading to the displacement of “hundreds of thousands of people”.

Anyway, third: Mr. Palanichamy also said that as the GSML continues to rise, more seawater could seep into the ground, leading to the groundwater – which is usually freshwater – turning more and more saline. This in turn can exacerbate water crises in coastal areas as well as agriculture in adjacent regions.

How will sea-level rise affect societies?

Finally, Dr. Prabakaran said that coastal ecosystems could be “completely changed”. For example, he said that in the Sunderbans delta in West Bengal, the world’s largest mangrove area, rising sea levels and coastal erosion, due to loss of land and sediment from coastal areas, has left more islands submerged under water, and that in turn has forced members of local communities to migrate.

Since the lives of coastal communities, including their economic activities, is tied intricately with the coastal ecosystem, changes in the coastal ecosystem as a result of GSML rise – especially when it happens faster than rehabilitative policies and laws can catch up – will further endanger the socio-economic stability of these communities.

Indeed, a combination of these forces having increased child trafficking in the Sundarbans area has already been documented.

Thus, for Dr. Prabakaran, it is crucial that reports like the WMO’s ‘State of the Global Climate 2022’ continue to generate and accumulate data on climate change. “I hope it presses for global and local policy-level changes related to climate change,” he told The Hindu.

Sayantan Datta (they/them) are a queer-trans freelance science writer, communicator and journalist. They currently work with the feminist multimedia science collective TheLifeofScience.com and tweet at @queersprings.

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A quarter of Americans live with polluted air, with people of color and those in Western states disproportionately affected, report says | CNN


About 1 in 4 people in the United States – more than 119 million residents – live with air pollution that can hurt their health and shorten their lives, according to a new report from the American Lung Association. People of color are disproportionately affected, as are residents of Western cities.

Since President Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act in 1970, emissions of outdoor air pollutants have fallen 78%, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. But Wednesday’s 2023 State of the Air report, which focuses on ozone and particle pollution, shows that millions put their health on the line every time they step outside.

To capture pollution levels at the county level, researchers analyzed data collected by the EPA’s Air Quality System, a repository of ambient air quality data from more than 10,000 monitors. They characterized the hourly average ozone concentration and the 24-hour average particle pollution concentration for 2019-21 at each monitoring site and factored in year-round pollution information from the EPA.

There were significant improvements in some areas. Generally, 17.6 million fewer people were breathing unhealthy air than in last year’s report, due largely to falling levels of ozone in some regions.

Ozone pollution is the main ingredient in smog. It comes from cars, power plants and refineries. Exposure to ozone can immediately exacerbate asthma symptoms, and people with long-term exposure to higher levels face a significantly higher risk of death from respiratory diseases than those who live with cleaner air.

Around 25% more counties got an A grade in the report for lower levels of ozone pollution. Some of that improvement can be attributed to the Clean Air Act, according to Katherine Pruitt, author of the report and the American Lung Association’s national senior director for policy.

Emission controls have helped, she said, as has the country’s continuing move away from its reliance on coal for its energy needs. Even something simple as the increase in the number of people who work from home has played a role.

“The Biden administration has set themselves a good, strong to do list of things that will help with environmental justice and climate protection,” Pruitt said. “They’re moving kind of slow, though. So we’d like them to pick up the pace.”

Despite the progress, not everyone was lucky enough to live in a county with good ozone levels. More than 100 million people live in counties that get an F for ozone smog, the report says.

Western and Southwestern cities are the most ozone-polluted, with 10 of the 25 most-polluted cities in California. New York, Chicago and Hartford, Connecticut, were the only three on that list east of the Mississippi River.

The five metropolitan areas with the worst ozone pollution are Los Angeles-Long Beach, California; Visalia, California; Bakersfield, California; Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California; and Phoenix-Mesa, Arizona.

Particle pollution, the other form of pollution tracked in the report, still seems to be a significant issue for the US.

Often hard to see, particle pollution is a mix of solid and liquid droplets that may come in the form of dirt, dust, soot or smoke. Coal- and natural gas-fired power plants create it, as do cars, agriculture, unpaved roads, construction sites and wildfires.

Particle pollution is so tiny – 1/20th of a width of a human hair – that it can travel past your body’s usual defenses.

Instead of being carried out when you exhale, it can get stuck in your lungs or go into your bloodstream. The particles cause irritation and inflammation and may lead to respiratory problems. Exposure can cause cancer, stroke or heart attack; it could also aggravate asthma, and it has even been associated with a higher risk of depression and anxiety, studies show.

The new report says the number of people living in counties with failing grades for daily spikes of particle pollution was the highest it has been in a decade. Nearly 64 million live with these kind of unhealthy spikes in counties that get failing grades.

One driver of the high amounts of particle pollution are the wildfires that have consumed hundreds of thousands of acres. In 2021 alone, there were 14,407 fires, many in the West, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. There used to be a wildfire season, experts say, but now they happen year-round.

Those fires are why the regions with the highest concentrations of air pollution are largely in the West.

When the American Lung Association started producing its report in 2004, 106 counties in 30 states got failing grades for daily spikes in particle pollution. Fewer than half were in eight states west of the Rocky Mountains. Today, 111 counties in 19 states got Fs for spikes in particle pollution, and all but eight counties are in the West, the report says.

Urban centers in the Rust Belt and the industrialized East had gotten the most failing grades in the early 2000s, but many have cleaned up and now get passing grades.

Bakersfield, California, displaced Fresno as the metropolitan area with the worst short-term particle pollution, but Fresno did not suddenly develop cleaner air. That city still had the most-polluted label for year-round particle pollution, tied with Visalia, in the agricultural San Joaquin Valley.

Los Angeles is still the city with the worst ozone pollution, according to the report, as it has been for all but one of the years included in the report.

California has some of the more progressive environmental legislation in the country, but the climate crisis has not been kind to the state, said Tarik Benmarhnia, an air pollution and wildfire researcher at the University of California, San Diego, who did not work on the new report.

“All these cities like Bakersfield and Visalia are in a valley near the forests that are seeing big fires. There’s also intense agricultural and industrial work there, so they unfortunately have all the worst conditions for air pollution,” Benmarhnia said.

There are some newcomers to the list of the 25 areas with the most particle pollution, including Denver and Fargo, North Dakota. Reno, Nevada; Yakima and Spokane, Washington; and Boise, Idaho; all made the worst list this year.

San Luis Obispo, California; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle and Bellingham, Washington; all moved off the list of worst 25 cities.

Residents in the cities ranked worst for particle pollution are living with more of it, the report says. In the top 25 cities with the worst air, the average number of days residents were exposed to high levels of fine particle pollution increased to a weighted average of 18.3, up from 16.5 in last year’s report.

East of the Mississippi, Pittsburgh and Lancaster, Pennsylvania, were the two worst metropolitan areas in the country, posting more days high in fine particle pollution in this year’s report.

Not everyone experiences pollution the same way in the US. Regardless of the region, communities of color bear the brunt of the problem.

Specifically, although people of color make up 41% of the overall US population, they are 54% of the nearly 120 million people living in counties with at least one failing grade for unhealthy air. And in the counties with the worst air quality, 72% of the 18 million residents are people of color, the report said.

Other research has also shown this trend. On maps that lay out areas with high levels of air pollution and where communities were redlined – areas where Black people were forced to live – they line up perfectly, Pruitt said.

“Then, the other aspect is, when you have a community of color that is a voluntary community, people aren’t forced to live there, those are communities that tend to have less of a voice, so decision makers place polluting sources in those communities because there’s not as much howling by people with power when they do. So those communities get the highways; they get the landfills; they get the fence lines,” she said.

There’s a myth that only poor communities live with disproportionate pollution levels, says Chris Tessum, a professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department of the University of Illinois. Tessum, who was not involved in the new report, says race really is the determining factor.

“The thinking is that people with more money will buy better property, which has lower air pollution and that’s just the way of the world or whatever, but that’s just kind of emphatically not, not true,” he said.

Communities need to play a key role in making decisions to help clean air, Tessum said.

“People that have the power will use that power to benefit themselves and not the people that have been historically overburdened,” he said.

The new report says government and residents can make a difference. One suggestion is to leverage Inflation Reduction Act funding to help reduce emissions at ports and to invest in zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles and in infrastructure that would improve air quality monitoring.

States can also use the Clean Air Act authority to adopt the California zero-emissions standards for cars and trucks, the report says.

At the federal level, agencies must finalize stronger limits on air pollution to truly protect public health and advance environmental justice, the report says, including standards to move the country toward zero-emissions vehicles. The EPA also has to set stronger national standards for particle pollution and ozone, the researchers say.

Pruitt said she knows firsthand how better policies can work. She said growing up before the Clean Air Act, pollution was so high that she could see it every time she stepped outside. Today, the pollution is not nearly as visible.

“I’m in my mid-60s, and of course, air pollution was very tangible when I was young, but these days, thank goodness it isn’t. Most people don’t see it,” she said. Unless a person has a lung condition, they may not even feel it.

But just because you can’t see it or feel it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Pruitt encourages people to remember that no level of pollution is safe. The World Health Organization estimates that the combined effects of ambient air pollution and household air pollution are associated with 6.7 million premature deaths annually.

“People don’t really recognize that what they’re breathing is impacting their health,” Pruitt said.

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Global progress on phasing out coal in 2022 weighed down by China

Despite the energy crisis sparked by the Ukraine war, a phasing out of coal continued across the world in 2022, according to a new report by the NGO Global Energy Monitor. Everywhere except China, where new coal production capacity under development increased, offsetting the gains in the rest of the world.

With the spring comes a rare bit of good news in the fight against climate change. In a study published this week, Global Energy Monitor, a San Francisco-based NGO, reported that in 2022, global efforts to phase out coal, one of the most climate-damaging energy sources, continued. The “coal comeback” fears, sparked by the fallout and disruptions of last year’s Russian invasion of Ukraine, did not come to pass in the end.

That’s the good news. Now for the bad: China bucked the global trend. Worse, China’s new coal plant additions last year offset the coal plant shutdowns in the rest of the world.

In its annual report on coal production, “Boom and Bust Coal 2023”, Global Energy Monitor recorded progress everywhere in the world – except China. The number of coal-fired power plants in operation has decreased worldwide and these include retiring or converting coal plants in countries such as Peru and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

According to the study, no new coal-fired projects are under consideration in the European Union, North America or North Africa. In the Middle East, the report noted that the Tabas plant under construction in Iran could be “the region’s last new coal plant”.

The US tops the list of good performers: its coal-fired power generation fell by 13.5 gigawatts (GW). That’s half of the global decline, estimated at 26 GW by 2022.

Limited use of coal in the EU

The EU, on the other hand, recorded a decrease of only 2.2 GW. This is a low figure compared to 2021, when it reached a record retirement of 14.6 GW.

The gas crisis sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted seven countries to authorise the restarting or operation of coal-fired power plants. These include Germany and Austria, as well as the Netherlands, which reversed a law limiting the operation of power plants to 35% of their capacity.

France, on the other hand, restarted production at the Emile-Huchet power plant in the eastern Moselle region. In total, 26 coal-fired power plants in the EU that were already shut down or scheduled to be closed finally operated during the winter, according to Global Energy Monitor figures.

“It was a question of prioritising energy security, in a context of shortage fears,” explained Nicolas Berghmans, lead European affairs and energy and climate expert at the Paris-based Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI). “But in the end, these 20 or so power plants were little used and the ‘coal comeback’ that was feared did not take place.”

But while the worst did not come to pass, there were plenty of energy challenges last year, noted Berghmans. “After a historic summer drought, hydroelectricity capacities were limited and, in France, we were facing the shutdown of several of our nuclear reactors,” he explained. “The damage was limited thanks to energy saving measures that worked well, helped by a mild winter. They have reduced energy consumption both in gas and electricity during the winter,” he said.

“Beyond the results for 2022, this shows that coal is no longer considered the first response in case of crisis,” said Berghmans. “In the EU moreover, this has mostly led to a surge in investments in renewable energy, and while this was not very noticeable in 2022, it will be felt in the coming years. This is very encouraging.”

China bucks the tide

But in stark contrast to this promising trend in many parts of the world, China moved against the tide, darkening the global picture. “China’s steady new coal plant additions (26.8 GW) offset coal plant retirements in the rest of the world (23.9 GW) in 2022,” said Global Energy Monitor.

China now has 365 GW of generating capacity, compared to an average of 172 GW elsewhere. More alarmingly, China alone now accounts for 68% of coal-related projects under development worldwide, and 72% of those are in the pipeline.

“Because of its size and population, China’s energy consumption is necessarily very high,” explained Thibaud Voïta, a researcher at the Center for Energy and Climate at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI). “One of the major challenges for Beijing is to meet the energy demand that has been constantly increasing for several years.”

It was a challenge that was particularly hard to meet in 2022 due to gas price rises linked to the Ukraine war, the post-Covid economic recovery as well as repeated heat waves. The long spell of extreme hot and dry weather, that scientists called “the most severe” ever recorded in the world, led to massive use of air conditioning. This in turn saw electricity consumption soaring when hydroelectric capacity was at its lowest.

“To a certain extent, this surge is beyond Beijing’s control and is rather the work of local or provincial authorities,” said Voïta. “Developing coal-fired power plants is still seen by many as the best solution to meet short-term demand while guaranteeing the population the lowest possible electricity prices.”

This saw annual coal capacity additions for many Chinese provinces topping the capacity additions for entire countries. Citing the example of the northern Chinese province of Inner Mongolia, the report noted that, “Inner Mongolia (6 GW) surpassed India (3.5 GW) despite India being the country with the most coal commissioned in 2022 after China. In fact, Inner Mongolia nearly had more new capacity than the next two countries after China combined (India and Japan).”

>> Behind a ‘green façade’, Modi expands coal mining on India’s tribal lands

China’s bleak record however must be qualified, according to Voïta. “In 2019, coal accounted for 57.7% of China’s energy mix. In 2022, it will be 56.2%. We are therefore on a downward trend,” he noted. “Not to mention that in parallel, China is investing massively in renewable energies. They represented, with nuclear, 15.3% of the energy mix in 2019. This share has climbed to 17.4% in 2022 and the goal is to reach 20% by 2025.” That’s some reason for hope.

Zero coal target by 2040

“Today, nearly one-third of operating global coal capacity (580 GW) has a phase out date, and much of the remaining capacity (1,400 GW) is under the purview of carbon neutrality targets,” noted the report, making it a “a reality completely unthinkable a decade ago”.

Despite these advances, the pace of the global coal phase-out remains incompatible with the goal of the Paris Agreement. In order to limit global temperature rise to well to below 2°C, all existing power plants should be closed by 2030 in developed countries and by 2040 in the rest of the world.

Berghmans would like to believe the 2030 objective “remains achievable” in the EU. “On one condition: continue the massive deployment of renewable energies, this is really key,” he stressed.

“But whatever the global efforts, China will play a decisive role,” said Voïta. “Beijing has stated, on the international scene, that it wants to peak its emissions in 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2060. The only way for it to achieve this goal is to give up coal. It must now agree to start this process as soon as possible.”

(This article is a translation of the original in French)

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Fossilized eggs crack open the mysteries of the past | CNN

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Eggs have been laid on land by birds, reptiles, dinosaurs and a few oddball mammals for more than 200 million years.

And humans have been using some of these eggs as a nutritious source of food, and their shells as bowls, bottles and jewelry for most of our history on the planet.

Though they’ve often been overshadowed by skeletons and bones, fossilized eggshells are a fascinating source of information, illuminating the behavior and diet of ancient creatures, detailing changes in climate and revealing how our prehistoric relatives lived and communicated.

This Easter, here are six surprising things eggs have revealed about the past.

Did dinosaur blood run cold, like a lizard, or warm, like a bird? It’s a topic that’s long divided paleontologists.

An analysis of fossilized dinosaur egg shells suggests it’s the latter. By looking at the order of oxygen and carbon atoms in the fossilized egg shells, researchers were able to calculate a dinosaur mom’s internal body temperature. It’s a process called “clumped isotope paleothermometry.”

“Eggs, because they are formed inside dinosaurs, act like ancient thermometers,” said Pincelli Hull, an assistant professor at Yale University’s department of geology and geophysics, and a coauthor of the study, which published in 2020.

Hull and her colleagues found that the samples they tested suggested dinosaurs’ body temperatures were warmer than their surroundings would have been.

The research indicates that unlike reptiles, which rely on heat from the environment, dinosaurs were capable of internally generating heat – more like birds.

A study of fossilized eggshells revealed humans may have been hatching and raising cassowaries for more than 18,000 years.

You might think that chickens—or even ducks or turkeys—were the earliest birds to be domesticated by humans.

However, eggshell fragments found at two prehistoric sites in Papua New Guinea suggest that humans may have been raising cassowaries—often described as the world’s most dangerous birds because of a daggerlike claw they have on each foot—as early as 18,000 years ago.

Territorial, aggressive and often compared to a dinosaur in looks, the bird is a surprising candidate for domestication. But a study of more than 1,000 fossilized Papua New Guinea eggshell fragments has suggested the birds were deliberately hatched.

To reach their conclusions, the researchers first studied the eggshells of living birds, including turkeys, emus and ostriches. The insides of the eggshells change as the developing chicks get calcium from the eggshell. Using high-resolution 3D images and inspecting the inside of the eggs, the researchers were able to build a model of what the eggs looked like during different stages of incubation.

The scientists tested their model on modern emu and ostrich eggs before applying it to the fossilized eggshell fragments found in New Guinea. The team found that most of the eggshells found at the sites were all near maturity—suggesting they were hatched, not eaten.

The first oviraptor fossil—from a family of dinosaurs with parrotlike beaks—was discovered in Mongolia in the 1920s, lying near a nest of eggs thought to belong to a rival. Paleontologists at the time assumed that the animal had died while attempting to plunder the nest and named the creature “egg thief.”

It wasn’t until the 1990s that its reputation was restored when another discovery revealed that the eggs were its own. Subsequent finds, including an oviraptosaur hunched over 24 eggs made public last year, have revealed that this particular type of dinosaur was a doting parent.

At least seven of the 24 eggs preserved the bones of partial embryos found inside; it was the first time a fossil had preserved this level of detail. These embryos were at a late stage of development, and the close proximity of the parent confirmed that this dinosaur really did incubate its nest like its modern bird cousins.

The neat layout of oviraptor nests also suggested that they were brooders that sat upon eggs to hatch them—even giant oviraptors that weighed 1,500 kilograms (3,307 pounds) and laid half-meter long eggs, said Darla Zelenitsky, a dinosaur egg expert and associate professor in the department of geoscience at the University of Calgary in Canada.

“These fossils also show very precisely arranged eggs, stacked in rings, probably optimized for sitting on the eggs,” she explained.

The 2-meter-wide (6.6-foot-wide) nests of giant oviraptors were a slightly modified shape to stop them from being crushed, she added.

Dinosaurs eggs—including one with a perfectly preserved baby dinosaur curled up inside—increasingly show that birds inherited many characteristics from dinosaurs. Not all dinosaurs, however, were caring parents.

Pores on the surface of eggs allow the diffusion of water, oxygen and carbon dioxide, and the orientation, density and number of pores on the eggs of living animals can reveal whether they are laid in open nests or underground. Applying this knowledge to fossilized dinosaur eggs has shed light on their nesting behavior.

Analysis suggests that many dinosaurs, including hulking plant-eating sauropods, laid their eggs underground in burrows, more like reptiles.

A string of modern ostrich eggshell beads from eastern Africa is shown.

Ostrich eggshells are found in archaeological dig sites throughout Africa. Early humans used the large eggs as water bottles and, for tens of thousands of years, ancient humans took the remains and fashioned them into decorative beads that are still made today.

These beads have been found all over Africa—including in areas where ostriches never lived – sparking the question of how they got there.

The answer is hidden in the eggs’ geochemistry. Researchers looked at the signatures of different isotopes or variants of the element strontium in the beads—these vary depending on where the ostriches would have fed before laying the eggs.

Older rock formations including granite are found to have more strontium than younger rocks like basalt, and this is reflected in the vegetation that grows around them.

The geochemistry of the beads showed they traveled long distances. They were traded or exchanged in what was described as an early social network.

Eggs are a big part of our diet today – something that was also true in the Stone Age.

In fact, ancient Australians’ appetite for the eggs laid by the 2-meter-tall (6-foot-tall) Genyornis could have been one significant reason why the large, flightless birds went extinct 47,000 years ago.

Burn patterns on eggshell fragments of the giant bird found at around 200 sites across Australia, were created by humans discarding eggshell in and around makeshift fires, presumably made to cook the eggs.

Chemical signatures of nitrogen and carbon isotopes in fossilized egg shells can also track vegetation changes, gleaning information about past changes in climate, which can reveal ecological shifts that could impact the survival of these species over time.

A study of emu eggshells found across Australia over a 100,000-year time period do not show a massive shift in climate that researchers believe could have led to the extinction of Genyornis.

This suggested that the extinction of these giant birds was caused by humans, not ecological changes, the study said.

Fossilized penguin, ostrich and emu eggshells have revealed what the climate was like in the ancient Antarctic, South Africa and Australia. More recent egg collections are revealing how the current climate crisis is changing the natural world today.

By comparing birds’ eggs collected during the Victorian era and modern eggs held by the Field Museum and other institutions, researchers found that several bird species in the Chicago area nest and lay eggs almost a full month earlier now than they did a century ago.

Of the 72 species documented in the data, a third have been nesting earlier and earlier, the team found. Birds that changed their nesting habits laid eggs around 25 days sooner, on average.

Similar patterns are seen in insects, which many birds eat, and plants, suggesting that climate change is already changing ecosystems, the authors of the study said.

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‘Every tenth of a degree matters’: UN climate report is a call for action, not despair

The latest report by the UN’s climate advisory panel has once again highlighted the need for urgent action against human-induced climate change, noting that the tools to prevent climate catastrophe already exist. While hopes of limiting global warming at 1.5C are rapidly fading, climate experts stress that “every additional tenth of a degree matters” to mitigate the already dire consequences of our planet warming.

The 36-page “summary for policymakers”, a synthesis of nine years of research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is a stark reminder that the devastating impacts of climate change are hitting faster than expected – and that failure to take decisive action could make some of those consequences irreversible.

“Humanity is on thin ice – and that ice is melting fast,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday as he presented the report’s key findings. “Our world needs climate action on all fronts – everything, everywhere, all at once.”

The IPCC report says our planet is on course to reach 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – considered a safer limit to global warming – in little over a decade. Its dire warning comes just eight years after the COP21 climate summit in Paris made the 1.5C threshold a beacon for climate policies.

“Since the Paris Accord, the stated objective of states has been to keep global warming well below 2C above pre-industrial levels – and to step up efforts to limit it to 1.5C,” says Wolfgang Cramer, a research director at the Mediterranean Institute of Marine and Terrestrial Biodiversity and Ecology (IMBE).

“This overall objective provided a horizon and a specific target for climate policies,” adds Cramer, who co-authored the IPCC’s last major report in 2022. “But when you look at the current trajectories and the poor efforts mustered by governments, it does indeed appear highly unlikely that we can meet that second target.”

The figures speak for themselves. The IPCC says greenhouse gas emissions would need to be slashed by 45% by 2030 for there to be any chance of capping global warming at 1.5C. That would mean annual cuts equivalent to the one witnessed at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, when the world’s economies ground to a halt.

As things stand, humanity is well off the mark. According to the IPCC’s projections, our planet is on course for global heating of 2.5C by the end of the century if governments stick to their emissions pledges – and 2.8C if they stick to current policy.

The planet’s ‘fever’

While the outlook is dire, it should not be cause for fatalism and inaction, experts caution.

“Our actions right now will determine the extent of global warming in the long run. The objective is to ensure it remains as low as possible,” says Cramer, for whom the 1.5C target “is already too high” to avert major consequences for the planet.

“We’re currently at 1.2C and already we are bearing the consequences, with an increase in heatwaves, droughts and flooding,” he explains.


To understand the significance of each fraction of a degree, Cramer draws a parallel with a human suffering from fever. Add one degree Celsius to the normal body temperature of 37C and the person will feel unwell and have headache. Add 2C and the suffering increases. At 3C it becomes dangerous, particularly if the person is vulnerable.

The same goes for our planet, Cramer adds.

“The consequences will differ at each degree and in different parts of the world: they will be most severe in places that are most vulnerable,” he says. “1.5C will always be better than 1.6C, which will always be preferable to 1.7C. Every tenth of a degree matters.”

Biodiversity under threat

The consequences of this global “fever” are increasingly evident, starting with the extinction of biodiversity.

In 2015, the year of the Paris Accord, the Bramble Cay Melomy, a small rodent that lived on a speck of land off the coast of Papua New Guinea, became the first known mammal to go extinct as a result of human-caused climate change.

“Scientists have shown that its disappearance was caused by rising sea levels submerging its habitat,” Camille Parmesan, a climate and biodiversity expert at the CNRS research centre, told FRANCE 24 in an interview in December.

“We have also documented the disappearance of 92 species of amphibians, killed because of the proliferation of a fungus that developed as a result of climate change modifying ecosystems,” Parmesan added.

>> ‘Humanity is bullying nature – and we will pay the price,’ WWF chief tells FRANCE 24

Corals are another obvious casualty. At 1.5°C, 70% to 90% of reefs could disappear. At 2°C, the figure rises to 99%.

Experts at the UN-backed biodiversity agency IPBES say more than a million species are currently threatened with extinction, with climate change becoming the “most significant” menace. “The more it increases, the more ecosystems are disrupted, with consequences for wildlife,” an agency report stated in 2021.

Extreme weather

“Each additional degree will translate into increasingly frequent and severe weather events, with ever greater consequences for the 3.3 billion people who live in vulnerable areas,” adds Cramer.

For several years now, scientists have been investigating links between climate change and extreme weather events, a field known as “attribution science”. Their findings confirm that heatwaves, floods and hurricanes are increasing in intensity, magnitude and frequency as a result of global warming. Research has thus established that climate change made the devastating heatwave that hit India and Pakistan in March and April last year thirty times more likely.

In this context, “decision makers should also focus their efforts on slowing down global warming” – in addition to curbing it, says glaciologist Gerhard Krinner, one of the authors of the latest IPCC report.

“The faster climate change takes place the less time people will have to adapt,” he explains. “This in turn will increase the risk of severe shortages, famines and conflicts.”

Tipping points

Both experts flag the danger of reaching “tipping points” that would be extremely difficult to reverse, such as a destabilisation of the Antarctic ice cap.

While the likelihood of catastrophic ice-sheet melting is currently still low, “it increases as the planet warms and there is a real risk of the rise in sea levels accelerating dramatically at between 1.5C and 2C”, Cramer warns.

Should the Antarctic’s permafrost come to melt, it would release vast amounts of greenhouse gases trapped under the ice, in turn further warming the planet and accelerating ice melt. Other examples of tipping points include the Amazon rainforest turning to savannah and Greenland’s ice cap melting.

Each of these scenarios can be avoided, the experts insist, provided there is a political will to do so.

“We now have multiple solutions that are readily available to slow down and limit climate change,” says Cramer, for whom “the obstacle is no longer innovation – but politics”.

“Today’s efforts will make all the difference in the long term,” adds Krinner. “We can still spare ourselves those extra tenths of a degree.”

This article was translated from the original in French.

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Faced with summer restrictions, this is how France uses its water

Issued on: Modified:

France extracts approximately 31 billion cubic metres of fresh water from its natural sources each year. Faced with an ongoing winter drought that could lead to water restrictions this summer, FRANCE 24 looks at the different ways the country consumes water.

France experienced a historic drought in the summer of 2022, followed by an equally dry winter. Alarm bells are still ringing this year as the country braces itself for yet another arid summer. On Wednesday March 1, 2023, four French departments were already subject to restrictions: Ain, Isère, Bouches-du-Rhône and the Pyrénées-Orientales. Inhabitants of these areas are forbidden to water their lawns, fill their swimming pools, and farmers are prohibited from irrigating their crops.

“And the number [of departments facing restrictions] will inevitably grow,” warned Ecological Transition Minister Christophe Béchu on Monday evening, as he called on authorities of France’s seven major river basins to issue restriction orders “as of now” to anticipate a summer drought.

Whether in agriculture, industry or domestic use, “sobriety” and “saving water” are the current watchwords being used by the French government. FRANCE 24 decided to take stock of how water is used and consumed across the country.

>> France’s unprecedented drought shows climate change is ‘spiralling out of control’ 

Around 31 billion cubic metres of fresh water extracted yearly 

Every year, France extracts around 31 billion cubic metres of fresh water from its rivers and groundwater sources, according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition. Next to the 208 billion cubic metres of water available on average, this may not seem like much. But in order to maintain a balanced ecosystem, it’s essential for most water to stay in nature.

Add to this the fact that the renewal of water supplies can vary greatly from one year to the next, depending on the amount of rainfall. In 2019 for example, it was estimated that only 142 billion mof water were available, far from the average 208 billion. And that’s exactly what’s worrying scientists and meteorologists for the summer of 2023. According to French national meteorological service Météo-France, 15 of the past 18 months have seen rainfall deficits.

Another issue is that most water extraction takes place in the summer, when groundwater and river levels are already at their lowest. The French Ministry of Ecology estimates that 60% of all water consumption takes place between June and August.

So where does all this fresh water go? While some of it is used domestically, flowing through our taps and showerheads, the rest is used for economic purposes, primarily to cool (mostly nuclear) power plants.

How is water used in France? © Studio graphique FMM

It’s important to note that water used to cool power plants and supply water wheels comes from surface water like rivers or reservoirs, while water used for drinking, agriculture or industry comes from both surface water and groundwater.

Agriculture, main consumer of water 

It’s also important to consider that water extracted for consumption is water that will not be returned to its natural source after being used. Water sent to nuclear power plants, however, is used in an open circuit and therefore returned to nature after it is used. As for agriculture, water used for livestock is never sent back.

Between 2008 and 2019, the average amount of water extracted for consumption reached 5.3 billion cubic metres per year in France. And this time, agriculture took the lead as the main consumer of water, far ahead of power plant cooling, industry and drinking water.

Agriculture is France's main water consumer
Agriculture is France’s main water consumer © Studio graphique FMM

“In agriculture, water is mostly used to irrigate crops,” explains Sami Bouarfa, a researcher at the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (INRAE) and deputy director of the AQUA department. “Even if the share of crops that need irrigation represent only 6% of all cultivated land.”

>> Will France’s record-breaking summer of 2022 boost efforts to fight climate change? 

And the type of water use varies greatly from department to department. According to the 2021 environmental report by the Ministry of Ecology, the Adour-Garonne basin in southwest France is where most extractions for agriculture take place. The Rhône-Méditerranée basin, on the other hand, uses water in power plants and is the most water-hungry area. As for the Seine-Normandy and Picardy basins, water extracted is mainly used to produce drinking water.

A French person consumes 149 litres of drinking water daily 

In 2020, 5.5 billion cubic metres of water were pumped from natural sources and transformed into drinking water. But by the end of the year, only 3.7 billion had been consumed, according to the latest report from France’s Observatory of Public Water and Sanitation Services (SISPEA). The discrepancy is entirely due to leakages that occur in the pipes carrying our drinking water from source to tap. SISPEA estimates that 20% of all drinking water in France, or one in every five litres, is lost to leakages.

Drinking water
Drinking water © Studio graphique FMM

Asides what is wasted, a French person will consume 149 litres of drinking water per day on average, close to the European average of 200 litres, but far behind the daily consumption of a person from the US, who consumes 600 litres on average. In countries with insufficient water resources, daily consumption can drop to less than 20 litres per person.

According to the Water Information Centre, around 93% of water used in French households is dedicated to hygiene – showering, flushing the toilet or using the washing machine. The remaining 7% goes on food. Car washing uses an average of 200 litres of water, showering about 50 litres and washing clothes around 60 litres.

Main domestic uses of drinking water
Main domestic uses of drinking water © Studio graphique FMM

In addition to domestic use, there is also the collective use of drinking water in schools and hospitals.

This article was translated from the original in French. 

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‘A wake-up call for the industry’: Meat production in France under scrutiny amid climate change

As meat consumption remains the biggest contributor to food-related greenhouse gas emissions, developing more eco-responsible habits requires changes to our diets. For livestock farmers, this translates into a need to find new ways of production.

Following Neige (Snow), Idéale (Perfect) and Imminence, the new ambassador of the International Agriculture Show, which opened February 25 in Paris, isOvalie, a 5-year-old cow of the Salers breed. As usual, the star gets to have her photo printed on posters for this annual event and her official public presentation is also set to be one of the high points of the show. This tradition highlights the importance of animal husbandry in French agriculture. But as climate activists often decry the environmental impact of meat production, the show also serves as an occasion to rethink our methods of production as well as the steaks on our plates.

On a global scale, meat consumption continues to rise: It has multiplied by almost five over the past 60 years, growing from 71 million tonnes in 1961 to 339 million tonnes in 2021, according to statistics from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This production has massive consequences for climate change: The livestock sector is responsible for 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions derived from human activities and half of the emissions of the agricultural sector worldwide.

The main culprit of greenhouse gas emissions on our plates

“In France, we eat an average of 100 to 110 grams per day per person, which is the equivalent of 85 kilograms per year. Twice the global average”, noted agricultural economist Carine Barbier, researcher for the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and The International Research Centre on Environment and Development (CIRED). A mere quarter of the population describes itself as flexitarian, eating meat only occasionally, while 2.2 percent describes itself as vegetarian.

“It’s the principal cause of dietary-related greenhouse gas emissions” Barbier added. “Ultimately, the whole food industry already represents 25 percent of French emissions, this includes the entire process, from the production to our plates as well as imports. Animal farming alone represents 9 percent of total emissions.”

Due to emissions of three types of greenhouse gas – carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide and methane – into the atmosphere, animal husbandry is costing the planet dearly. “CO2 emissions come from the use of fossil fuel for transportation, namely imports, (and) the use of machinery in agriculture as well as in the food processing industry and large retail outlets,” the expert explained. Nitrous oxide (N2O), on the other hand, “comes from the use of mineral nitrogen fertilisers in fields”, and methane is produced by the digestive system of cattle. Although not as well known as carbon dioxide, the latter two gases are not less harmful: N2O reflects 300 times as much heat as CO2 while methane reflects 28 times as much.

“Therefore we have to differentiate between ruminants, swine and poultry”, Barbier said. “Due to their particular digestive system, ruminants have a larger impact on the climate.” According to the French Agency for Ecological Transition (ADEME), a kilogram of beef represents around 14 kilograms of CO2 equivalent (CO2e), which includes CO2, nitrous oxide and methane, 10 times that of poultry.

On top of its climate impact, animal farming is also responsible for detrimental effects on the environment. According to a 2015 report by the Physics Institution, livestock production accounts for 78 percent of terrestrial biodiversity loss, 80 percent of soil acidification and atmospheric pollution as well as 73 percent of water pollution.

‘It’s a wake-up call for the industry’

Facing this situation, farmers envision several solutions to reduce their environmental impact. In a press release published at the opening of the International Agriculture Show, the national inter-professional association of cattle and meat (Interbev) says it aims to reduce the beef sector’s carbon footprint by 15 percent in 2025, compared to 2015.

“It’s a wake-up call for the entire industry to the urgency of climate change,” the president of Interbev’s beef sector Emmanuel Bernard said. “As animal farmers, we are the first to suffer from global warming and its consequences.”

Barbier suggested that farmers move “towards more extensive breeding with a higher consumption of grass, and thus limiting the production of cereal used in fodder. This in turn reduces the use of fertilisers and pesticides.”

“We also have to cut down on imports of animal feed. I’m thinking of, for example, soybean meal imported from Brazil that leans heavily on transport. Currently, transportation represents more than one-fifth of the food industry’s carbon footprint,” she continued. “Why not return to crop-livestock systems in which farmers grow most of what the animals need by themselves?”

Bernard tires to heed this advice as a farmer. Thirty years ago, he took over the family ranch located in Nièvre. Today, he is accountable for 110 charolais cows à vêler (to calve), meaning they are destined to give birth to calves to be fattened before being sent to slaughterhouses. For a few years now, he has also started adding installations to make his farm more eco-friendly.

“I don’t import any soy products. My cows and calves mostly feed on grass, fodder and cereal that I grow myself, on my land. Among the 220 hectares of land, 125 hectares are meadows while 25 hectares are used for growing cereal”, he said.

Three years ago, Bernard went even further and submitted his practices for evaluation to CAP2ER, which provides a diagnosis of gas emissions. It’s a five-year process that should allow him to explore new ways to reduce his carbon footprint. “I envision, for example, cultivating meslin, which is a mix of cereal and protein crop, instead of maize.”

Adjusting herd sizes

But to make further progress in transforming large-scale farming methods, “it’s absolutely necessary to start reducing herd sizes”, Barbier insisted. These practical changes would set into motion a virtuous cycle. “For example, by cutting back on meat in our diets and decreasing cereal fodder and oil and protein crops used in animal feed, we would increase the area of arable land that we can use to grow crops for human consumption,” she added.

France has already announced its aim to reduce herd sizes via the National Low-Carbon Strategy for agriculture published in June 2021, which targets a 13 percent reduction by 2030. The target is lower than what the scientific community recommends. Nevertheless, the trend is already growing among animal farms, as the total number of lactating and milk cows declined by 8 percent between 2000 and 2019 according to the Institut de l’élevage (IDELE). The same has been noted for sheep, which saw a decrease of 8.3 percent from 2011 to 2020 while the number of sows in the swine industry have dropped by 19 percent in 10 years.

“Initiating this transition towards more sustainable agricultural practices is nowadays indispensable in order to render the farming system more resilient against climate change all the while reinsuring our food sovereignty”, Barbier emphasised, pointing to the fact that the animal husbandry sector is already in a crisis. “But to do this, we need stronger support from the European Union. We have to ensure a steady stream of income during this transition period.”

“Currently we are producing a lot of diagnosis and observations on the problems surrounding animal farming, but we struggle to implant real methods of change”, the farmer Bernard added. “And the main reason behind this is tied to finances. If we had real political support, we would be ready to make the change.”

“Without all that, we risk becoming less competitive than other countries and this would drive imports”, he stressed. “It would neither be good for us, nor the climate.”

A revolution on our plates

Meanwhile, real changes in production cannot take place without consumers, according to Barbier, who authored a study published in October establishing multiple scenarios for a carbon neutral diet by 2050. “Above all else, we need to reduce our meat consumption. That’s what will prompt farmers to transition.”

In addition to purely ecological thinking, she also advanced several nutritional arguments. “In any case, we consume too much protein, around 80 percent more than what we need,” the expert continued, pointing to oft-illustrated cardiovascular risks linked to overconsumption of meat. In 2019, a commission formed by the medical journal The Lancet estimated that Europeans should cut their red meat consumption by 77 percent while doubling fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes in order to respect the limits of Earth’s resources and to maintain their own health. “Reducing our consumption to reflect our real needs will considerably decrease the carbon footprint of our diets.”

“If we stick to the most moderate scenario, then we need to cut down two-thirds of our meat consumption and half that of mik products”, she explained. “By no means do we seek to remove meat completely from the entire population’s plates. It is a question of developing our diet and animal-farming practices to reach carbon neutrality.

Favour plant-based options

Numerous plant-based alternatives exist in order to help implement these changes to our dietary habits and progressively decrease meat portions on our plates. The first and the most obvious one is to consume more cereal and protein-rich legumes such as lentils and chickpeas.

In the last few years, supermarkets have started to push out more and more plant-based meat substitutes. Among them are “plant-based steaks”, “fake bacon bits”, and “plant-based meat strips” made from peas, tofu or soybeans that imitate the taste and texture of beef or chicken. “Nowadays, all of these options imitate meat quite well and can be a helpful way to change one’s habits”, said Tom Bry-Chevalier, an expert in alternative meats and a doctoral student at the University of Lorraine.

“This is all the better since we now know that these options have a lesser impact on climate than meat”, he said. According to a recent study, yhese plant-based substitutes emit 10 times less greenhouse gas than beef, and as much as 25 times less for tofu.

A report from Boston Consulting Group published in July estimates that the “investments in plant-based alternatives to meat” are “much more efficient in reducing greenhouse gas emissions than other green investments”. Each euro invested in these products has up to three times as much impact as it would have if placed in renovating buildings and 11 times as much as in the production of electric cars”.

“Another alternative could be the development of laboratory-grown meat, produced directly from animal cells”, Bry-Chevalier continued. Despite rapid growth with dozens of start-ups worldwide, the project remains for now at the laboratory stage.

“This option also has its limits. First of all, lab-grown meat is still tied to high emissions if the energy used to produce it is not carbon neutral”, Bry-Chevalier said. “But most importantly, we are still very far away from large-scale commercialisation while the climate crisis is an emergency. We can’t afford to wait for lab-grown meat to change our habits.”

According to Barbier, plant-based steaks and lab-grown meat – if they develop – must be seen as resources for transition. “We already have all the necessary ingredients for our daily protein needs thanks to vegetables,” she said. “Let us offer delicious vegetarian dishes in collective food halls, let people choose their meat portions there … It could really make a difference.”

This article is a translation of the original in French.

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Saving water can help us deal with the climate crisis. Here’s how to reduce your use | CNN

Editor’s Note: Sign up for CNN’s Life, But Greener newsletter. Our limited newsletter series guides you on how to minimize your personal role in the climate crisis — and reduce your eco-anxiety.


The reliability of our faucets providing water every time we turn them on can make water seem like a magical, never-ending resource.

But abusing the availability of this finite resource can contribute to water scarcity and harm our capacity to deal with the impact of the climate crisis.

“Four billion people today already live in places that are affected by water scarcity at least part of the year,” said Rick Hogeboom, executive director of the Water Footprint Network, an international knowledge center based in the Netherlands. “Climate change will have a worsening influence on the demand-supply balance,” he said.

“If all people were to conserve water in some way, that would help ease some of the immediate impacts seen from the climate crisis,” said Shanika Whitehurst, associate director of sustainability for Consumer Reports’ research and testing. Consumer Reports is a nonprofit that helps consumers evaluate goods and services.

“Unfortunately, there has been a great toll taken on our surface and groundwater sources, so conservation efforts would more than likely have to be employed long term for there to be a more substantial effect.”

Yes, businesses and governments should play a part in water conservation by, respectively, producing goods “water efficiently” and allocating water in a sustainable, equitable way, Hogeboom said.

But “addressing the multifaceted water crises is a shared responsibility. No one actor can solve it, nor is there a silver bullet,” he added. “We need all actors to play their part.”

Contrary to what you might think, the water used directly in and around the home makes up a minor portion of the total water footprint of a consumer, Hogeboom said.

“The bulk — typically at least 95% — is indirect water use, water use that is hidden in the products we buy, the clothes we wear and the food we eat,” Hogeboom said. “Cotton, for instance, is a very thirsty crop.”

Of the 300-plus gallons of water the average American family uses every day at home, however, roughly 70% of this use occurs indoors, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency — making the home another important place to start cutting your use.

Here are some ways to reduce your water footprint as you move from room to room and outdoors.

Since the kitchen involves dishwashing, cooking and one of the biggest water guzzlers — your diet — it’s a good place to start.

An old kitchen faucet can release 1 to 3 gallons of water per minute when running at full blast, according to Consumer Reports. Instead of rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, scrape food into your trash or compost bin. Make sure your dishwasher is fully loaded so you only do as many wash cycles as necessary and make the most use of the water.

With some activities you can save water by not only using less but also upgrading the appliances that deliver the water. Dishwashers certified by Energy Star, the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, are about 15% more water-efficient than standard models, according to Consumer Reports.

If you do wash dishes by hand, plug up the sink or use a wash basin so you can use a limited amount of water instead of letting the tap run.

If you plan on eating frozen foods, thaw them in the fridge overnight instead of running water over them. For drinking, keep a pitcher of water in the fridge instead of running the faucet until the water’s cool — and if you need to do that to get hot water, collect the cold water and use it to water plants.

Cook foods in as little water as possible, which can also retain flavor, according to the University of Toronto Scarborough’s department of physical and environmental sciences.

When it comes to saving water via what you eat, generally animal products are more water-intensive than plant-based alternatives, Hogeboom said.

“Go vegetarian or even better vegan,” he added. “If you insist on meat, replace red meat by pig or chicken, which has a lower water footprint than beef.”

It takes more than 1,800 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef, Consumer Reports’ Whitehurst said.

The bathroom is the largest consumer of indoor water, as the toilet alone can use 27% of household water, according to the EPA. You can cut use here by following this adage: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”

“Limiting the amount of toilet flushes — as long as it is urine — is not problematic for hygiene,” Whitehurst said. “However, you do have to watch the amount of toilet paper to avoid clogging your pipes. If there is solid waste or feces, then flush the toilet immediately to avoid unsanitary conditions.”

Older toilets use between 3.5 and 7 gallons of water per flush, but WaterSense-labeled toilets use up to 60% less. WaterSense is a partnership program sponsored by the EPA.

“There’s probably more to gain by having dual flush systems so you don’t waste gallons for small flushes,” Hogeboom said.

By turning off the sink tap when you brush your teeth, shave or wash your face, you can save more than 200 gallons of water monthly, according to the EPA.

Cut water use further by limiting showers to five minutes and eliminating baths. Shower with your partner when you can. Save even more water by turning it off when you’re shampooing, shaving or lathering up, Consumer Reports suggests.

Replacing old sink faucets or showerheads with WaterSense models can save hundreds of gallons of water per year.

Laundry rooms account for nearly a fourth of household water use, according to the EPA. Traditional washing machines can use 50 gallons of water or more per load, but newer energy- and water-conserving machines use less than 27 gallons per load.

You can also cut back by doing full loads (but not overstuffing) and choosing the appropriate water level and soil settings. Doing the latter two can help high-efficiency machines use only the water that’s needed. If you have a high-efficiency machine, use HE detergent or measure out regular detergent, which is more sudsy and, if too much is used, can cause the machine to use more water, according to Consumer Reports.

Nationally, outdoor water use accounts for 30% of household use, according to the EPA. This percentage can be much higher in drier parts of the country and in more water-intensive landscapes, particularly in the West.

If you prefer to have a landscape, reduce your outdoor use by planting only plants appropriate for your climate or ones that are low-water and drought-resistant.

“If maintained properly, climate-appropriate landscaping can use less than one-half the water of a traditional landscape,” the EPA says.

The biggest water consumers outside are automatic irrigation systems, according to the EPA. To use only what’s necessary, adjust irrigation controllers at least once per month to account for weather changes. WaterSense irrigation controllers monitor weather and landscape conditions to water plants only when needed.

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Climate change-related disasters are surging. Someone has to pay

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

On Monday, earthquakes in my country Turkey and neighbouring Syria left a trail of unprecedented devastation and a death toll surpassing 16,000 people at the last count.

We do not know for sure what triggered this horrific natural disaster, but we do know there is growing scientific evidence that climate change increases the risk of such tremors, together with tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

“If a fault is primed or ready to rupture, all that is needed is the pressure of a handshake to set if off […] Environmental changes associated with rapid and accelerating climate breakdown could easily do the job,” professor of geophysics and climate hazards at University College London Bill McGuire pointed out back in 2012.

Furthermore, NASA scientists acknowledged that glaciers retreating due to global warming have been triggering earthquakes in Alaska in the last decades.

The impact is not limited to the Arctic. As melting glaciers change the distribution of weight across the Earth’s crust, the resulting “glacial isostatic adjustment” drives changes in plate tectonics that could lead to more earthquakes, awaken volcanoes and even affect the movement of the Earth’s axis.

This particular consequence of global warming “warns us of a seismically turbulent future,” one recent study concluded.

Unfortunately, it is not just earthquakes. Climate and weather-related disasters have surged five-fold over the past five decades, killing over two million people, with 91% of the casualties in developing countries. And it is only getting worse.

Is there accountability for Big Oil’s ‘ever more invasive ways’?

Fossil fuel companies bear significant responsibility for the climate emergency yet enjoy near-total impunity. At the same time, they are consistently reaping record profits — while ordinary citizens across the globe struggle to pay their household bills.

A series of investigations and legal proceedings over the years have shown how fossil fuel giants call the shots: they use and abuse the rule of law to escape accountability for environmental pollution, resource-grabbing and cronyism. Those objecting are often silenced.

Just over the last decade, fossil fuel companies in the United States have targeted over 150 environmental activists with lawsuits. Meanwhile, dozens of US states are in the process of enacting “critical infrastructure” legislation, increasing criminal penalties against activists protesting pipelines that will wreck the planet.

One European Parliament study similarly found that EU-based mining, oil, and gas extraction companies are increasing impacts on indigenous communities in “ever more invasive ways”.

Third-party litigation funding (TPLF) is another approach exploited by Western oil and gas interests, where claimants raise funds from outside investors who take the lion’s share of the proceeds.

Since 2012, US investment fund Tenor backed the $1.4 billion (€1.3bn) claim of a Canadian mining firm against the Venezuelan government, permitting a court-ordered seizure of its Houston-based oil company.

Tenor is also targeting other developing countries and their governments, with a $4.4bn (€4.1bn) claim by Gabriel Resources Ltd against Romania and a $764 million (€712,4m) one by Eco Oro Minerals Corp against Colombia.

The curious case of ‘Sultanate of Sulu’

Another firm spearheading such cases is the London-based legal financing giant Therium. In 2021, Therium backed the UK-based Victoria Oil & Gas against the Republic of Kazakhstan on the grounds that Astana breached an agreement with the company after kicking it out of the country to take over its own oil field. Victoria Oil & Gas lost the case.

But Therium scored a victory last year by funding the descendants of the long-vanished “Sultanate of Sulu,” who received a $15bn (€13.9bn) award from a French court against the Malaysian government.

The case laid claim to profits from Malaysia’s oil and gas projects in the eastern region of Sabah, based on a defunct colonial-era treaty with the British Crown.

The claimant’s legal team also have links to oil and gas interests.

Paul H Cohen of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, who openly talks of using European courts to confiscate “specific Malaysian assets” in multiple jurisdictions, has regularly represented oil and gas clients in international arbitrations.

Elisabeth Mason, another lawyer representing the Sulu heirs, works closely with executives from tech giants Google and Facebook.

Famously, both have been accused of backing organisations involved in climate denial and making millions from ads for ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron and Shell or entities like The American Petroleum Institute — all labelled by activists as attempts at “greenwashing”.

What is more important: interests of few, or our planet and its people?

I am not suggesting a conspiracy. These cases solely go to show how fossil fuel interests still hold extraordinary clout across sectors and national borders, despite ever-increasing proof that they are among those ultimately responsible for climate change and the ongoing climate emergency.

The problem is systemic: there is a long-demonstrated preference for the interests of fossil fuel firms and their allies rather than the people and the planet.

No wonder UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently demanded that fossil fuel companies that do not set a “credible course for net zero” by 2030 “should not be in business”.

Governments must take this message seriously by joining forces to end this giant profit-making scheme against the planet.

How? Instead of being sued by them, governments should consider whether and how to hold fossil fuel firms liable for the damages their operations have caused to countless victims worldwide. The potential proceeds should be then invested in accelerating net zero.

Otherwise, we will see more tragedies like what has befallen my country.

Professor İbrahim Özdemir is a UN advisor and an ecologist teaching at Üsküdar University. He has served as Director-General at the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Turkish Ministry of Education and was a leading member in drafting the Islamic Declaration on Global Climate Change endorsed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Climate change is contributing to the rise of superbugs, new UN report says | CNN


Climate change and antimicrobial resistance are two of the greatest threats to global health, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme.

The report, titled “Bracing for Superbugs,” highlights the role of climate change and other environmental factors contributing to the rise of antimicrobial resistance. It was announced Tuesday at the Sixth Meeting of the Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance in Barbados.

Antimicrobial resistance or AMR happens when germs such as bacteria, viruses and fungi develop the ability to defeat the medications designed to kill them.

“The development and spread of AMR means that antimicrobials used to prevent and treat infections in humans, animals and plants might turn ineffective, with modern medicine no longer able to treat even mild infections,” the UN Environment Programme said in a news release.

Roughly 5 million deaths worldwide were associated with antimicrobial resistance in 2019, and the annual toll is expected to increase to 10 million by 2050 if steps aren’t taken to stop the spread of antimicrobial resistance, according to the report.

In the US, there are nearly 3 million antimicrobial-resistant infections each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Antimicrobials are commonly used in cleaning products, plant pesticides and medications to kill and prevent the spread of germs among people, animals and crops.

Drug resistance can develop naturally, but experts say the overuse of antimicrobials in people, animals and food production has accelerated the process. The microorganisms that survive these chemicals are stronger and more powerful, and they can spread their drug-resistant genes to germs that have never been exposed to antimicrobials.

The focus so far has largely been on excessive antimicrobial use, but experts say there is growing evidence that environmental factors play a significant role in the development, transmission and spread of antimicrobial resistance.

“Climate change, pollution, changes in our weather patterns, more rainfall, more closely packed, dense cities and urban areas – all of this facilitates the spread of antibiotic resistance. And I am certain that this is only going to go up with time unless we take relatively drastic measures to curb this,” said Dr. Scott Roberts, an infectious diseases specialist at Yale School of Medicine, who was not involved with the new UN report.

The climate crisis worsens antimicrobial resistance in several ways. Research has shown that increased temperatures increase both the rate of bacterial growth and the rate of the spread of antibiotic-resistant genes between microorganisms.

“As we get a more extreme climate, especially as it warms, the gradients that drive the evolution of resistance will actually accelerate. So, by curbing temperature rises and reducing the extremity of events, we can actually then fundamentally curb the probability of evolving new resistance,” Dr. David Graham, a professor of ecosystems engineering at Newcastle University and one of the UN report’s authors, said at a news conference ahead of the report’s release.

Experts also say severe flooding as a result of climate change can lead to conditions of overcrowding, poor sanitation and increased pollution, which are known to increase infection rates and antimicrobial resistance as human waste, heavy metals and other pollutants in water create favorable conditions for bugs to develop resistance.

“The same drivers that cause environmental degradation are worsening the antimicrobial resistance problem. The impacts of antimicrobial resistance could destroy our health and food systems,” Inger Andersen, the UN Environment Programme’s executive director, said at the news conference.

Environmental pressures are creating bugs that thrive in the human body, which experts say is unusual for some species.

“There’s one hypothesis from a prominent mycologist who suggests that the reason the body’s temperature is 98.6 is because that is the temperature where fungi can’t grow that well. And so, now we’re seeing Candida auris and some of the other new microbes that have come up that really grow quite well – even at temperatures of 98.6 in the human body. And so I think climate change, really selecting for these organisms to adapt to a warmer climate, is going to increase the odds that there’s infection in humans,” Roberts said.

Such opportunistic infections jeopardize medical advancements like joint replacements, organ transplants and chemotherapy – procedures in which patients have a significant risk of infection and require effective antibiotics.

Drug-resistant infections can make treatment difficult or even impossible. Roberts says that resorting to “last-ditch treatments” is “never a good scenario from the patient level because there are reasons we don’t use them up front,” such as organ toxicity and failure.

“When somebody does present with a drug-resistant bacteria or fungus and we really need to rely on one of these last-line antibiotics, it’s usually a challenge to treat from the outset. And so the patients really don’t do as well as a result,” he said. “In rare circumstances, we run out of options entirely, and in that case, there’s really nothing we can do. Fortunately, those cases remain quite rare, but I am certain that with this growing antibiotic resistance problem, we’ll see these increasing frequency over time.”

Experts say that both climate change and antimicrobial resistance have been worsened by and can be improved by human actions. One critical step is to limit antibiotic overuse and misuse.

“Antibiotics and antifungals do not work on viruses, such as colds and the flu. These drugs save lives. But, anytime they are used, they can lead to side effects and antimicrobial resistance,” the UN report’s authors wrote.

The authors also emphasize that the health of people, animals, plants and the environment are closely linked and interdependent, and they call on governments to identify policies to limit antibiotic use in agriculture and reduce environmental pollution.

Finally, experts say, steps to reduce climate change are steps to limit antimicrobial resistance.

“Whatever we can do on an individual level to kind of reduce the impact of climate change, really, that’s kind of only worsening this problem, as well as pollution and urbanization and in dense, crowded areas. Although I know from the individual level that’s a hard thing to change,” Roberts said.

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