Category : Science & Technology

(PRC) How Religion Intersects With Americans’ Views on the Environment

Most U.S. adults – including a solid majority of Christians and large numbers of people who identify with other religious traditions – consider the Earth sacred and believe God gave humans a duty to care for it, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

But the survey also finds that highly religious Americans (those who say they pray each day, regularly attend religious services and consider religion very important in their lives) are far less likely than other U.S. adults to express concern about warming temperatures around the globe.

The survey reveals several reasons why religious Americans tend to be less concerned about climate change. First and foremost is politics: The main driver of U.S. public opinion about the climate is political party, not religion. Highly religious Americans are more inclined than others to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, and Republicans tend to be much less likely than Democrats to believe that human activity (such as burning fossil fuels) is warming the Earth or to consider climate change a serious problem.

Religious Americans who express little or no concern about climate change also give a variety of other explanations for their views, including that there are much bigger problems in the world today, that God is in control of the climate, and that they do not believe the climate actually is changing. In addition, many religious Americans voice concerns about the potential consequences of environmental regulations, such as a loss of individual freedoms, fewer jobs or higher energy prices.

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Posted in Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Stewardship

(BBC) York Minster plan for solar panels as energy bills triple

Solar panels could be installed on the roof of York Minster for the first time in a bid to tackle rising energy bills.

The cathedral’s gas and electricity costs are expected to triple next year, a Minster spokesperson said.

Plans to install 199 solar panels on the roof of the South Quire Aisle have been submitted to York Council.

Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell said the Minster was “committed to taking a lead on addressing the climate emergency.”

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Posted in Church of England, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(Gallup) World Less Than Satisfied With Climate Efforts

In the remaining days of the COP27 climate summit in Egypt, nearly 200 nations are rushing to seek deals that keep climate goals alive.

If they fall short, it will likely disappoint but not surprise much of the world’s population that is already unhappy with efforts to safeguard the environment.

In 66 out of 123 countries that Gallup surveyed in 2021 and 2022, less than half of people report being satisfied with their country’s efforts to preserve the environment.

This list includes many, but not all, of the world’s cumulative top emitters of carbon dioxide, which is linked to global warming. For example, while less than half of adults in one of the biggest emitters — the U.S. — are satisfied with their country’s efforts to preserve the environment, strong majorities in other big emitters such as China (89%) and India (78%) are satisfied.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Globalization, Sociology

(SA) People With Complete Paralysis Walk Again After Nerve Stimulation Breakthrough

Using a mix of electrical stimulation and intense physical therapy, nine people with chronic spinal injuries have had their ability to walk restored.

All suffered from severe or complete paralysis as a result of damage to their spinal cord. Incredibly, the volunteers all saw improvements immediately, and continued to show improvements five months later.

A recent study by researchers from the Swiss research group NeuroRestore has identified the exact nerve groups stimulated by the therapy, using mice as a starting point.

The nerve cells that orchestrate walking are found in the section of spinal cord running through our lower backs. Injuries to our spinal cord can interrupt the chain of signals from the brain, preventing us from walking even when these specific lumbar neurons are still intact.

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Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(Bloomberg) Record-low water levels are causing major shipping jams just as the US needs to export this year’s harvest.

The Mississippi River — the immense, quiet highway that courses down the middle of America, moving critical food, wood, coal and steel supplies to global markets — is shrinking from drought, forcing traffic to a crawl at the worst possible time.

With water levels at record lows, barges have run aground, causing traffic jams as boats wait for the US Army Corps of Engineers to dredge a path through the shallows. The problem has been building for months. Summer brought meager rain to much of the Plains and Midwest. Now it’s harvest time, when farmers bring in their grains and other crops, send them to market, and lay down fertilizer before the winter snows. The shriveled Mississippi has forced them to seek alternatives, all of them more expensive, like moving soybeans by rail to the Gulf Coast or shipping everything through distant West Coast ports. That will inevitably increase pressure on global food prices at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has already sent them soaring.

The river is “low, been low and not getting filled anytime soon – so a bad situation getting worse,” said Jeremy Jack, who just harvested his crops on 11,500 acres of land in the Mississippi Delta. “We don’t have any soybean storage. Beans are in places where they shouldn’t be and losing quality.”

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Posted in Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources

(IE) Could Dementia be prevented by restoring and normalizing protein clusters?

Dementia is a disease that impairs memory and decision-making skills. The clean-up of toxic protein clumps could prevent neurodegenerative diseases, according to a new study.

The study was led by researchers from the Queensland Brain Institute. The research team discovered that focusing on the relationship between two key enzymes could prevent dementia. The proteins the researchers studied were the enzyme Fyn and the protein Tau. They studied the area of the brain that causes frontotemporal dementia, a form of brain disorder that forms when parts of the frontal and temporal lobes are damaged, affecting behavior, language and movement.

The study was published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

The research team was led by Professor Frederic Meunier and Dr. Ramón Martínez-Mármol of the Queensland Brain Institute. Researchers found that Fyn, an enzyme that plays a significant role in learning and memory, became active when it was immobilized within the synapses – a link between two nerve cells – that connected hubs between neurons, where the enzymes normally communicate.

“Using super-resolution microscopy, we can now see these enzymes individually and in real-time, moving around randomly in live neurons,” said Dr Martínez-Mármol, lead author on the study.

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Posted in Anthropology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Economist) Facebook and the conglomerate curse

In 1997, in his first letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, wrote that it was still “Day 1” for his firm. Day 2, he later explained, would mean stasis, followed by irrelevance. His rousing call to avoid complacency seems apt today. Silicon Valley’s five big tech giants, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Microsoft, have long been the bedrock of America’s stockmarket and economy, miraculously combining reliable growth and profitability. But after a torrid third quarter their market capitalisations have now collectively dropped by 37% so far this year. About $3.7trn of value has evaporated.

The law of large numbers made it inevitable that the tech giants would mature. Sales growth in the last quarter slowed to 9%—barely above inflation. As they have grown bigger, they have become tied to the economic cycle; a fact which the digital surge during the pandemic only temporarily masked. Penetration rates for smartphones, digital advertising and streaming are plateauing. With slowing core businesses, the giants are venturing onto each other’s turf, increasing competition.

Meanwhile, they are threatened by “conglomeritis”. The symptoms of this disease are bloating and egomania. Consider the recent orgy of spending on hiring, experimental ventures, vanity projects and building data centres. In March the five firms’ combined annual expenses reached $1trn for the first time, and the value of the physical plant of these supposedly asset-light businesses has reached $600bn, over triple the level of five years ago. Swollen costs and balance-sheets mean returns on capital have fallen from over 60% five years ago to 26%. Three of the five do not deign to pay dividends.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Science & Technology

(Bloomberg) Earth’s on Track to Warm Above 2C Despite Climate Action

Government plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions aren’t enough to avoid catastrophic global warming, with the planet on track to heat up between 2.1 and 2.9 degrees Celsius by the end of the century compared to pre-industrial times, according to a new report from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Despite some progress in the last year, governments need to do more by 2030 to ensure that the global temperature increase is below 2C and ideally closer to 1.5C — the goal set in the Paris Agreement reached in 2015. The UNFCCC reached its conclusions by analyzing all national climate plans, also known as nationally-determined contributions or NDCs, submitted since 2015.

“The good news — projections show emissions won’t be increasing after 2030,” UN climate change executive secretary Simon Stiell told reporters on Wednesday. “The bad news – they’re still not demonstrating the rapid downward trend scientists say is necessary this decade.”

Climate scientists estimate that human-caused greenhouse gas emissions need to halve by the end of this decade, and to be eliminated by mid-century in order to keep warming below 2C by 2100. While the consequences of planetary heating above that threshold are deemed to be catastrophic, today’s warming of 1.1C above pre-industrial times has already resulted in irreversible changes, according to the latest report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources

(NPR) Recycling plastic is practically impossible — and the problem is getting worse

The vast majority of plastic that people put into recycling bins is headed to landfills, or worse, according to a report from Greenpeace on the state of plastic recycling in the U.S.

The report cites separate data published this May which revealed that the amount of plastic actually turned into new things has fallen to new lows of around 5%. That number is expected to drop further as more plastic is produced.

Greenpeace found that no plastic — not even soda bottles, one of the most prolific items thrown into recycling bins — meets the threshold to be called “recyclable” according to standards set by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation New Plastic Economy Initiative. Plastic must have a recycling rate of 30% to reach that standard; no plastic has ever been recycled and reused close to that rate.

“More plastic is being produced, and an even smaller percentage of it is being recycled,” says Lisa Ramsden, senior plastic campaigner for Greenpeace USA. “The crisis just gets worse and worse, and without drastic change will continue to worsen as the industry plans to triple plastic production by 2050.”

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Posted in Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources

(Church Times) C of E Pensions Board joins fight to force VW to open its books on climate lobbying

The Church of England Pensions Board has joined five other pension funds to bring legal action against Volkswagen AG (VW), after it refused repeated attempts to reveal crucial information on its corporate climate-lobbying activities.

The funds, four Swedish and one Danish in addition to the C of E board, are all part of the Institutional Investment Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) and the Climate Action’s 100+ initiative. These have asked the company repeatedly to clarify its lobbying position. VW discloses trade association memberships, but does not disclose how the goals of these associations align with its own climate goals.

The boards wanted to table an agenda item at VW’s AGM, seeking publication of a report setting out how the company’s lobbying of policy-makers matched its stated ambition to support the Paris Agreement goals by becoming a net-zero company. VW refused to table the item.

The investors say that they tried over several years to get information before tabling the amendment. The case, supported by the legal charity ClientEarth, will test whether VW has the right to refuse the agenda item.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Europe, Germany, Pensions, Science & Technology, Stock Market

(Economist) Controversial new research suggests SARS-CoV-2 bears signs of genetic engineering

Erik van Nimwegen, from the University of Basel, says there are only small scraps of information and it is “hard to pull anything definitive out of that”. He adds, “one cannot really exclude at all that such a constellation of sites may have occurred by chance”. The authors of the paper concede this is the case. Kristian Andersen, a professor of immunology and microbiology, at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, described the pattern, on Twitter, as “random noise”.

Any conclusion that sars-cov-2 was engineered will be hotly contested. China denies the virus came from a Chinese lab, and has asked for investigations into whether it may have originated in America. Dr Washburne and his colleagues say their predictions are testable. If a progenitor genome to sars-cov-2 is found in the wild with restriction sites that are the same, or intermediate, it would raise the chances that this pattern evolved by chance.

Any widely supported conclusion that the virus was genetically engineered would have profound ramifications, both political and scientific. It would put in a new light the behaviour of the Chinese government in the early days of the outbreak, particularly its reluctance to share epidemiological data from those days. It would also raise questions about what was known, when, and by whom about the presumably accidental escape of an engineered virus. For now, this is a first draft of science, and needs to be treated as such. But the scrutineers are already at work.

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Posted in China, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

Photos: Mississippi River continues to sink to record lows as it passes through New Orleans

Look through them all.

Posted in Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources

Meet the Physicist Who Has Created 1600+ Wikipedia Entries for Important Female & Minority Scientists

Watch it all–hats off to her.

Posted in Blogging & the Internet, History, Science & Technology, Women

(CT) Evangelical Creation Care Expert Shares Lessons Learned from Global Tour

Can you give an example about how we have missed this message in Scripture?

The central passage I use is Colossians 1:15–20. It begins by speaking about Christ creating all things and ends with how the blood of Christ on the cross is redeeming all things. Most people read this redemption in terms of people. But if you zoom out and realize that the “all things” being redeemed are grammatically the same as the “all things” he has created, then you have a universal picture of redemption.

This is reinforced by Romans 8: how creation is waiting for the redemption that will come through the revealing of the children of God.

The church has sometimes struggled over the correct prioritizing of evangelism and social outreach. Does adding a third issue of creation care become too much for some?

Actually, it is the opposite. People working in poverty have realized for a number of years that they are on a treadmill and moving backwards. You cannot make progress in development and ministering to the poor if there are environmental problems that haven’t been addressed.

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Posted in Ecology, Evangelicals, Globalization, Religion & Culture

(Bloomberg) Americans Reclaim 60 Million Commuting Hours in Remote-Work Perk

Americans who are working from home have reclaimed 60 million hours that they used to spend commuting to an office each day. They’re now using that time to get more sleep instead.

That’s the takeaway from a research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which analyzed data from the American Time Use Survey to see what US workers spent their time on when they weren’t stuck on a crowded train or locked in traffic. The main findings: Employees spent fewer total hours working and substantially more on sleep and leisure.

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Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

(Guardian) Vaccines to treat cancer possible by 2030, say BioNTech founders

Vaccines that target cancer could be available before the end of the decade, according to the husband and wife team behind one of the most successful Covid vaccines of the pandemic.

Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci, who co-founded BioNTech, the German firm that partnered with Pfizer to manufacture a revolutionary mRNA Covid vaccine, said they had made breakthroughs that fuelled their optimism for cancer vaccines in the coming years.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Prof Türeci described how the mRNA technology at the heart of BioNTech’s Covid vaccine could be repurposed so that it primed the immune system to attack cancer cells instead of invading coronaviruses.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(Economist Leader) An obsession with control is making China weaker but more dangerous

This is evident in Mr Xi’s response to covid-19. China’s initial lockdown saved many lives. However, long after the rest of the world has learned to live with the virus, China still treats every case as a threat to social stability. When infections crop up, districts and cities are locked down. Compulsory movement-tracking apps detect when citizens have been near an infected person, and then bar them from public spaces. It goes without saying that no one thus tagged may enter Beijing, lest they start an outbreak at a politically sensitive time.

Some hope that, once the congress is over, a plan for relaxing the zero-covid policy may be unveiled. But there is no sign yet of the essential first steps to avoid mass deaths, such as many more vaccinations, especially of the old. Party propaganda suggests that any loosening is a long way off, regardless of the misery and economic mayhem that lockdowns cause. The policy has failed to adapt because no one can say that Mr Xi is wrong, and Mr Xi does not want China to be dependent on foreign vaccines, even though they are better than domestic ones.

Such control-freakery has wider implications for China and the world. At home Mr Xi makes all the big calls, and a fierce machinery of repression enforces his will. Abroad, he seeks to fashion a global order more congenial for autocrats. To this end, China takes a twin-track approach. It works to co-opt international bodies and redefine the principles that underpin them. Bilaterally, it recruits countries as supporters. Its economic heft helps turn poorer ones into clients; its unsqueamishness about abuses lets it woo despots; and its own rise is an example to countries discontented with the American-led status quo. Mr Xi’s aim is not to make other countries more like China, but to protect China’s interests and establish a norm that no sovereign government need bow to anyone else’s definition of human rights. As our special report argues, Mr Xi wants the global order to do less, and he may succeed.

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Posted in China, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(CT) Robert Tracy McKenzie reviews Bonnie Kristian’s book ‘ Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community’

In sum, we’ve always canceled social transgressors. We’ve always been drawn to simple answers to complex questions. We’ve always been susceptible to emotional manipulation. What is new is the speed with which vast volumes of information—true and false, balanced and distorted—can be generated with such astonishing ease. This trend only magnifies tendencies to which we are already prone. Gradually remade by the devices that mesmerize us, we become less and less willing to listen, less and less tolerant of dissent, less and less able to engage constructively and charitably with others in pursuit of a common good.

In recent years, writers across the spectrum have noted the detrimental effect of social media on our politics and connected political dysfunction to a larger epistemic crisis. Christian observers like Stetzer and Daniel Darling are among those examining how social media is corrupting Christian witness. What distinguishes Kristian is the sheer comprehensiveness of her examination and, above all, her demonstration that the knowledge crisis may harm the church even more than democracy.

At the heart of Untrustworthy is a clarion call for Christians to awaken to how this crisis is wreaking havoc on our churches and tarnishing our testimony. Kristian grieves over the division of churches; the estrangement of families; and, most poignantly, her pain while watching helplessly as a Christian colleague succumbed to the power of “fearmongering falsehoods.” When we can’t agree on basic facts, conversation becomes futile, intimate connection impossible, and real Christian community unattainable. “If we can’t talk to one another,” Kristian asks plaintively, “how do we worship together?”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Corporations/Corporate Life, Philosophy, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Stanford Medicine) 50 years of ethics: Scientists navigate an increasingly challenging field

It was a breakthrough discovery: a protein that cuts DNA at precise points, leaving overhanging sticky ends ready to glom onto a matching partner. Using the protein, researchers could cut and paste genetic sequences from one species into another as easily as a word processing program can rejigger a sentence.

These genetic gymnastics, first reported in 1972 by researchers at Stanford Medicine and UC San Francisco, launched a field known as recombinant DNA technology. But within months of the discovery, the research was halted — at the researchers’ request.

The technology, scientists feared, could lead to “Frankencells” that are antibiotic resistant or toxic or that incite cancer-causing proteins when the hybrid molecules were introduced into living cells. The scientists called a partial moratorium on this promising field of study — the first time researchers had voluntarily done such a thing.

“[This is] the first time that I know of that anyone has had to stop and think about an experiment in terms of its social impact and potential hazard,” said Paul Berg, PhD, the Robert W. and Vivian K. Cahill Professor of Cancer Research, Emeritus, then chair of biochemistry at Stanford Medicine. Berg, who was a leading figure in the nascent field, went on to share the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1980 for his work with recombinant DNA.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

CMU researchers discover a new type of microelectrode array which has the potential to transform how doctors are able to treat neurological disorders

Carnegie Mellon University researchers have pioneered the CMU Array—a new type of microelectrode array for brain computer interface platforms. It holds the potential to transform how doctors are able to treat neurological disorders.

3D printed at the nanoscale, the ultra-high-density microelectrode array (MEA) is fully customizable. This means that one day, patients suffering from epilepsy or limb function loss due to stroke could have personalized medical treatment optimized for their individual needs.

The collaboration combines the expertise of Rahul Panat, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Eric Yttri, assistant professor of biological sciences. The team applied the newest microfabrication technique, Aerosol Jet 3D printing, to produce arrays that solved the major design barriers of other brain computer interface (BCI) arrays. The findings were published in Science Advances.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

The Church of England calls on big tech companies to commit to verifiable transparency, industry standards and enhanced protection for children and other vulnerable groups

The Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group (“EIAG”) today published a report advising investors with Christian values how to approach investing in big technology companies. The Church’s National Investing Bodies (NIBs), which received the advice, have published a new policy in line with this guidance.

The report recommends technology companies make public commitments including:

  • a commitment to verifiable transparency
  • a commitment to promote human-centred design
  • a commitment to enable the flourishing of children and other vulnerable groups
  • a commitment to foster a tech eco-system that serves the common good.

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Posted in Children, Church of England (CoE), Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Bloomberg) Nord Stream Hit Adds to Europe’s Economic Woes in 2009 Echo

The economic damage from the shutdown of Russian gas flows is piling up fast in Europe and risks eventually eclipsing the impact of the global financial crisis.

With a continent-wide recession now seemingly inevitable, a harsh winter is coming for chemical producers, steel plants and car manufacturers starved of essential raw materials who’ve joined households in sounding the alarm over rocketing energy bills. The suspected sabotage of Germany’s main pipeline for gas from Russia underlined that Europe will have to survive without any significant Russian flows.

Building on a model of the European energy market and economy, the Bloomberg Economics base case is now a 1% drop in gross domestic product, with the downturn starting in the fourth quarter. If the coming months turn especially icy and the 27 members of the European Union fail to efficiently share scarce fuel supplies, the contraction could be as much as 5%.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia

(NYT front page) ‘They Are Watching’: Inside Russia’s Vast Surveillance State

Four days into the war in Ukraine, Russia’s expansive surveillance and censorship apparatus was already hard at work.

Roughly 800 miles east of Moscow, authorities in the Republic of Bashkortostan, one of Russia’s 85 regions, were busy tabulating the mood of comments in social media messages. They marked down YouTube posts that they said criticized the Russian government. They noted the reaction to a local protest.

Then they compiled their findings. One report about the “destabilization of Russian society” pointed to an editorial from a news site deemed “oppositional” to the government that said President Vladimir V. Putin was pursuing his own self-interest by invading Ukraine. A dossier elsewhere on file detailed who owned the site and where they lived.

Another Feb. 28 dispatch, titled “Presence of Protest Moods,” warned that some had expressed support for demonstrators and “spoke about the need to stop the war.”

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Science & Technology, Ukraine

(Economist) For business, water scarcity is where climate change hits home

The problem is not a lack of water per se. Climate change may make some places drier and others wetter. It is the uneven distribution of freshwater—of which fast-growing places like India are woefully short—that provide the conditions for a crisis. This is made worse by waste, pollution and the near-universal underpricing of water. Some governments, notably China’s, have created pharaonic projects to transport water to where it is needed. Others, such as Mr López Obrador’s, peddle the quixotic idea of moving demand to where the water is. The best outcome in the long term, on paper at least, is the simplest: that less of the stuff is used, and more of what is used is treated better. It is something the private sector is just starting to grapple with.

Industries directly affected by water shortages have got a head start. Global mining firms are using desalination plants in Chile. Beer and soft-drinks companies, existentially reliant on clean water, have targets for improving efficiency (Heineken says it uses 2.5 litres of water to make a litre of beer in Mexico, about half the global industry average). In collaboration with the wri, Cargill, an agro-industrial behemoth, recently extended the monitoring of water use from its own operations to the farmers who supply its crops. Fashion retailers, whose suppliers are often heavy users of water and dyes in dry areas, are considering similar moves, to avoid angry flare-ups by local residents who worry about being second in line to the taps.

This calls for careful stewardship.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources

(AP) Western states hit with more cuts to Colorado River water

For the second year in a row, Arizona and Nevada will face cuts in the amount of water they can draw from the Colorado River as the West endures more drought, federal officials announced Tuesday.

Though the cuts will not result in any immediate new restrictions — like banning lawn watering or car washing — they signal that unpopular decisions about how to reduce consumption are on the horizon, including whether to prioritize growing cities or agricultural areas. Mexico will also face cuts.

But those reductions represent just a fraction of the potential pain to come for the 40 million Americans in seven states that rely on the river. Because the states failed to meet a federal deadline to figure out how to cut their water use by at least 15%, they could see even deeper cuts that the government has said are needed to prevent reservoirs from falling so low they cannot be pumped.

“The states collectively have not identified and adopted specific actions of sufficient magnitude that would stabilize the system,” Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton said.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources

(FT) ‘Extreme heat belt’ to place 100mn Americans at risk in 3 decades, research shows

A quarter of the US land area, home to more than 100mn people, will be subjected to temperatures of more than 125F (52C) in three decades, including states with rapid population growth such as Texas, a report forecasts.

The “extreme heat belt”, in which heat indices exceed such temperatures, will expand from 50 counties in 2023 to more than 1,000 by 2053, according to a new report from First Street Foundation, a New York-based non-profit climate risk research group.

The findings point to an increasingly severe impact on US population centres and property markets as the planet is warmed by greenhouse gas emissions. Temperatures have risen 1.1C globally since preindustrial times.

Heatwaves have baked much of the US this summer, with record temperatures in Texas and near-record figures from the Pacific Northwest to the north-east last month, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources

(NYT front page) Arctic Warming Is Happening Faster Than Described, Analysis Shows

The rapid warming of the Arctic, a definitive sign of climate change, is occurring even faster than previously described, researchers in Finland said Thursday.

Over the past four decades the region has been heating up four times faster than the global average, not the two to three times that has commonly been reported. And some parts of the region, notably the Barents Sea north of Norway and Russia, are warming up to seven times faster, they said.

One result of rapid Arctic warming is faster melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which adds to sea-level rise. But the impacts extend far beyond the Arctic, reaching down to influence weather like extreme rainfall and heat waves in North America and elsewhere. By altering the temperature difference between the North Pole and the Equator, the warming Arctic appears to have affected storm tracks and wind speed in North America.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources

(Telegraph) Rhine close to running dry in German energy nightmare

Germany’s Rhine river will become impassable for barges carrying coal, oil and gas later this week, in a devastating blow to factories upriver.

Levels at Kaub, a key point along the waterway west of Frankfurt, are predicted to fall to below 40cm on Friday, according to the German Federal Waterways and Shipping Administration.

At that chokepoint, the river becomes effectively impassable for many barges, which use the Rhine to move a range of goods including coal, oil and gas.

Water levels will then fall further to 37cm on Saturday, officials warned.

The river runs from Switzerland through France and Germany to the Netherlands, where it joins the North Sea.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Germany, Science & Technology

(BBC) Loire Valley: Intense European heatwave parches France’s ‘garden’

The Loire Valley is known as “the Garden of France”. But the garden is withering.

France’s worst drought since records began has turned lush vegetation into arid fields of brown crops, shrivelling under what is now the fourth heatwave of the year.

In Vincent Favreau’s vegetable farm, where he produces food for a hundred families in the area, the parched earth has stunted the growth of the cabbages. His potato plants are burnt out, producing just half the crop of a normal year.

“Either the vegetables will die of thirst, or they won’t develop enough during this crucial period of growth,” he said, sifting through the dry soil, which he hasn’t been able to water since restrictions came in two weeks ago.

“With this heat and wind, we can’t compensate for what the sun is evaporating. I’ve never seen something like this in my twenty-two years here. If it doesn’t rain within two months, it’ll be a disaster.”

Read it all.

Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, France

(Bloomberg) The End of Snow Threatens to Upend 76 Million American Lives

The Western US is an empire built on snow. And that snow is vanishing.

Since most of the region gets little rain in the summer, even in good years, its bustling cities and bountiful farms all hinge on fall and winter snow settling in the mountains before slowly melting into rivers and reservoirs. That snowmelt, often traveling hundreds of miles from mountain top to tap, sustains the booming desert communities of Las Vegas, Phoenix and Salt Lake City — even coastal Los Angeles and San Francisco. A civilization of more than 76 million people, home to Silicon Valley and Hollywood alike, relies on snow.

“The snow in the mountains is this incredible gift that created California,” said Spencer Glendon, founder of climate outreach initiative Probable Futures and former director of investment research at Wellington Management. “Nobody would build all of that stuff in a climate that was on the brink of being a desert.”

Dangerously high temperatures in the Pacific Northwest and California’s deadly McKinney Fire flung the Western states’ changing climate back into the national spotlight this past week, and it only gets tougher from here. With the Southwest gripped by its worst drought in 1,200 years, there’s less precipitation of any kind these days across the region, especially the crucial frozen variety with its multi-month staying power. Rain, as desperately as it’s needed, isn’t quite the same: Unless it goes into a lake or reservoir, it won’t be available for weeks or months in the future, the way snowmelt can be. What little winter precipitation does arrive now often lands as rain and runs off, long gone by summer. The West’s mountain snowpacks have shrunk, on average, 23% between 1955 and 2022. By the end of the 21st century, California could lose as much as 79% of its peak snowpack by water volume.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources