In today's On the News segment: Ending plastic waste would also have the added benefit of slowing climate change; Denmark has set another world record for wind power; snow absorbs a high level of pollution from the air; and more.
Thom Hartmann here - on the best of the rest of Science and Green news ...
You need to know this. People on the East Coast may have finally dug out from last month's blizzard, but the Republicans' selective ignorance on climate science is just getting warmed up. So we should get used to saying these next words: Snow in winter does not disprove global warming. In fact, extreme weather like blizzards is actually made worse because of our changing climate. Warmer oceans actually contribute to record-breaking snowfall from winter storms. In an interview with the ThinkProgress blog, one of our nation's top climate scientists explained that when you mix excess moisture in the atmosphere with "a cold Arctic outbreak, you get huge amounts of energy and moisture, and monster snowfalls." And that's exactly what the East Coast experienced with the recent blizzard. As Joe Romm explained in that ThinkProgress article, "Like a baseball player on steroids, our climate system is breaking records at an unnatural pace." And just as you wouldn't ask if one particular home run was caused only by a baseball player being on steroids, you can't say one particular weather event is caused only by global warming. No one can dispute that when water gets hot enough it evaporates, and all of that vapor needs to go somewhere. When our atmosphere is saturated with moisture because of all that extra evaporation, it means storms will release more moisture in the form of snow, rain and sleet. However, what seems like common sense to most of us is conveniently misunderstood by Congresspeople who are funded by Big Oil. And it's in their best financial interest to misinform the public and pretend like there is still any real debate about our climate crisis. It's winter time and we're probably going to have more snow storms, so let's get ready to refute the storm of deceptive anti-science talking points that are likely to rain down from our Republican lawmakers.
The world is being threatened by discarded plastic, but until now, little has been done to help. A new study shows that with scientific breakthroughs and more public awareness, we can do something to reverse our plastic problem. That new study is called "The New Plastics Economy," and it says that although it may take years to fix the problem, the time to act is now. One of the problems researchers looked at is the fact that oceans, by 2050, will have more plastic than fish if measured by weight. Birds and marine life are eating plastic and dying by choking, intestinal blockages and starvation. Ending plastic waste would also have the added benefit of slowing climate change given that the entire plastic industry is expected to account for a fifth of the oil production by 2050, and 15 percent of the annual global carbon production of the entire globe. This may surprise you, but about one-third of all plastic packaging ends up in the oceans, so we better work quickly at coming up with a plastic solution.
As it turns out, snow absorbs a ton of pollution from the air. According to a team of scientists from McGill University in Canada, those beautiful geometric snowflakes may not be as clean as we once thought. Dr. Parisa Ariya, who led the research, said, "snowflakes are ice particles with various types of surfaces, including several active sites, that can absorb various gases or particular pollutants." To study the snow's pollution levels, the researchers looked at how snow interacts with exhaust-derived particles and pollutants. After snowing for an hour, the snow's concentration of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene all dramatically increased. These researchers concluded that the combination of snow and exhaust fumes are a public hazard. So, while we may all enjoy some sledding, you may want to think twice before rolling in snow or eating it. It's just not as clean as we'd like to believe.
The University of Leicester says that intensive exercise in short intervals may be "more effective." Short bursts of intense exercise allow a more "time-efficient" and easier way to prevent conditions like type II diabetes and obesity. According to typical guidelines for weight loss, 200 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity are needed to lose weight. But research has found that less than 5 percent of people in many industrialized nations will follow through with that recommendation. So this study researched high-intensity interval training, aka HITT, as an alternative to standard guidelines. And according to their findings, when it comes to preventing type II diabetes, "time-efficient exercise intervention that may bring about similar benefits to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise." In other words, short bursts of intense exercise may have similar benefits to long periods of moderate activity. Researcher Charlotte Jelleyman said: "We have demonstrated that HIIT conveys benefits to cardio-metabolic health, which in the cases of insulin resistance and aerobic fitness may be superior to the effect of traditional continuous training." So if you don't have time to commit to a long exercise routine, science says that a high-intensity interval program might work for you.
And finally ... According to Energinet, Denmark's transmissions systems operator, that nation set another world record for wind power. In 2015, Denmark produced 42 percent of their power from wind, despite two of their major wind farms being offline. That's the highest wind production on record, and it even beat their own record from 2014. In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Denmark's Ministry for Energy, Utilities & Climate said, "Hopefully, Denmark can serve as an example to other countries that it is possible to have both ambitious green policies with a high proportion of wind energy and other renewables in the energy supply, and still have a high security of supply and competitive prices on electricity." Officials at Energinet say that a pretty windy year helped them set this new record, and that production would have topped 43.5 percent if the two other wind farms had been functioning. Denmark is on track to reach their goal of making 50 percent of all electricity from wind by 2050. They may be a much smaller nation that the United States, but they are proving that it's possible to provide electricity and keep dangerous fossil fuels in the ground.
And that's the way it is for the week of February 1, 2016. I'm Thom Hartmann on Science and Green News.