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    Page Updated:
    January 19, 2020


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    There Have Been Strong Additions
    to Our Atmospheric CO2 Levels
    January 8, 2020
    Our climate is changing, and the cause is our own emissions. To put those into perspective, new research estimates that atmospheric CO2 levels in 2021 will be 50% higher than the average value in the 18th century (the onset of the Industrial Revolution).
    The Met Office, Britain’s national weather service, estimates in a new report that average annual CO2 levels this year (as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii), will rise by roughly 2.29 ppm (parts per million) compared to 2020. That is around 150% of the concentration this gas registered in the 18th century, before industrial emissions started to output in significant quantities.
    “Since CO2 stays in the atmosphere for a very long time, each year’s emissions add to those from previous years and cause the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere to keep increasing,” said Richard Betts, lead producer of the Met Office’s annual CO2 forecast.
    The most worrying observation is that CO2 levels are still expected to rise in 2021 despite a significant drop in total emission levels due to the pandemic.
    Mauna Loa is used as a gold-standard for the measurement of CO2 levels in the atmosphere. The site has been in operation monitoring this gas since 1958. These show seasonal variation , but they’re also influenced by local factors and geography, so having a single monitoring point in operation for so long makes the readings more reliable, as they can be easily compared to past readings.
    Parting Gift to Industry
    Trump Reverses Bird Protections
    -NY Times
    January 5, 2021
    The Trump administration gutted protections for migratory birds on Tuesday, delivering the second of two parting gifts to the oil and gas industry, which has long sought to be shielded from liability for killing birds unintentionally in oil spills, toxic waste ponds and other environmental disasters.
    The move, by the Department of the Interior, came a day after the Environmental Protection Agency finalized another regulation that had long been sought by fossil fuel companies and other major polluting industries: A measure that effectively bars some scientific studies from consideration when the agency is drafting public health rules.
    The two regulations are among the last major environmental rollbacks expected from the Trump administration and will present an immediate challenge to the incoming Biden administration, which has pledged to suspend and reverse many of the last-minute rules known as midnight regulations.
    “These are definitely midnight regulations,” said Richard Revesz, an environmental law professor at New York University. “They’re 11:59 and 59 seconds regulations.”
    A senior official with the Biden transition team, speaking on background Tuesday in a briefing call with reporters, called the last-minute rollbacks an “unrelenting assault” on the environment and said rebuilding federal agencies that the Trump administration has gutted will be an enormous task.
    Microplastics Revealed in the
    Placentas of Unborn Babies
    --The Guardian
    December 23, 2020
    Microplastic particles have been revealed in the placentas of unborn babies for the first time, which the researchers said was “a matter of great concern”.
    The particles were found in the placentas from four healthy women who had normal pregnancies and births. Microplastics were detected on both the foetal and maternal sides of the placenta and in the membrane within which the foetus develops.
    A dozen plastic particles were found. Only about 4% of each placenta was analysed, however, suggesting the total number of microplastics was much higher. All the particles analysed were plastics that had been dyed blue, red, orange or pink and may have originally come from packaging, paints or cosmetics and personal care products.
    he microplastics were mostly 10 microns in size (0.01mm), meaning they are small enough to be carried in the bloodstream. The particles may have entered the babies’ bodies, but the researchers were unable to assess this.
    Red Sea Rotting Oil Tanker
    Creating the Largest Spill Ever?
    Climate Change
    December 15, 2020
    The Red Sea is at risk of becoming an oil-drenched waste, according to a new paper. It draws attention to the need of removing an abandoned, decaying tanker from the sea that holds approximately one million barrels of oil.
    The ship, named quite ironically the “FSO Safer”, was employed as a floating storage and offloading unit (FSO) for several years before being abandoned due to the Yemeni Civil War. Now it’s essentially a floating, derelict oil container. Although no longer in use, it still carries around one million barrels of oil, which is four times as much as spilled from the Exxon Valdez in the infamous 1989 spill. Removing the tanker before its current seepage can turn into a full-fledged oil spill is critical for the health of local marine ecosystems and the communities they support.
    The study follows on the coattails of an announcement on November 24th that the Yemeni Houthis will allow a United Nations (UN) team to board, inspect, and repair the vessel in the near future.
    “The time is now to prevent a potential devastation to the region’s waters and the livelihoods and health of millions of people living in half a dozen countries along the Red Sea’s coast,” says Karine Kleinhaus, MD, MPH, an Associate Professor of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) at Stony Brook University and lead author of the paper.

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