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In 2020 Climate Science Needs To Hit The Reset Button, Part One

In a remarkable essay last week titled, “We’re Getting a Clearer Picture of the Climate Future — and It’s Not as Bad as It Once Looked,” David Wallace-Wells of New York Magazine wrote, “the climate news might be better than you thought. It’s certainly better than I’ve thought.” The essay was remarkable because Wells, a self-described “alarmist,” is also the author of The Uninhabitable Earth, which describes an apocalyptic vision of the future, dominated by “elements of climate chaos.”

According to Wallace-Wells, his new-found optimism was the result of learning that much discussion of climate change is based on extreme but implausible scenarios of the future where the world burns massive amounts of coal. The implausibility of such scenarios is underscored by more recent assessments of global energy system trajectories of the International Energy Agency and United Nations, which suggest that carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels will be relatively flat over the next several decades, even before aggressive climate policies are implemented.

Scenarios of the future have long sat at the center of discussions of climate science, impacts and adaptation and mitigation policies. Scenario planning has a long history and can be traced to the RAND Corporation during World War 2 and, later (ironically enough) Shell, a fossil fuel company. Scenarios are not intended to be forecasts of the future, but rather to serve as an alternative to forecasting. Scenarios provide a description of possible futures contingent upon various factors, only some of which might be under the control of decision makers.

The climate community got off track by forgetting the distinction between using scenarios as an exploratory tool for developing and evaluating policy options, and using scenarios as forecasts of where the world is headed. The scenario (or more precisely, the set of scenarios) that the climate community settled on as a baseline future for projecting future climate impacts and evaluating policy options biases how we think about climate impacts and policy responses. The point is not that climate analysts should have chosen a more realistic future as a baseline expectation, but rather, they should never have chosen a particular subset of futures for such a baseline.

The desire to predict the future is perfectly understandable. In climate science, scenarios were transformed from alternative visions of possible futures to a subset of predicted futures through the invention of a concept called “business as usual.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change explains that “business as usual” is “synonymous” with concepts such as “baseline scenario” or “reference scenario” or “no-policy scenario.” The IPCC used of the concept of “business as usual” (and equivalencies) in the 1990s, and then explicitly rejected it in the 2000s. It has returned with a vengeance in the 2010s. A reset is needed for the 2020s.

According to the IPCC, a “baseline” scenario refers to “the state against which change is measured” and for climate impacts and policy, is “based on the assumption that no mitigation policies or measures will be implemented beyond those that are already in force and/or are legislated or planned to be adopted.” The use of such a baseline is far more important for research on climate impacts and policy than it is for most research on the physical science of climate, as the latter need not necessarily be tied to socio-economic scenarios.

The IPCC warns, quite appropriately, “Baseline scenarios are not intended to be predictions of the future, but rather counterfactual constructions that can serve to highlight the level of emissions that would occur without further policy effort.

Typically, baseline scenarios are then compared to mitigation scenarios that are constructed to meet different goals for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, atmosphereic (sic) concentrations, or temperature change.” Cost-benefit and effectiveness analyses in particular lend themselves to using a fixed baseline against which to evaluate an alternative, creating an incentive for the misuse of scenarios as predictions.

The IPCC warns against treating scenarios as predictions because they reach far into the future – for instance to 2100 and even beyond, and “the idea of business-as-usual in century-long socioeconomic projections is hard to fathom.” Humility in socio-economic prediction is also warranted because our collective track record in anticipating the future, especially when it comes to energy, is really quite poor.

It may seem confusing for the IPCC to recommend the use of baseline scenarios as a reference point for evaluating counterfactual futures and its parallel warning not to use reference scenarios as forecasts. The way for analysts to reconcile these two perspectives is to consider in research a very wide range of counterfactual futures as baselines.

The instant an analyst decides that one particular scenario or a subset of scenarios is more likely than others, and then designates that subset of possible futures as a baseline or “business as usual,” then that analyst has started crossing the bridge to predicting the future. When a single scenario is chosen as a baseline, that bridge has been crossed.

There is of course generally nothing wrong with predicting the future as a basis for decision making. Indeed, a decision is a form of prediction about the future. However, in some contexts we may wish to rely more on decision making that is robust to ignorance and uncertainties (and thus less on forecasts), that might lead to desired outcomes across all scenarios of the future. For instance, if you build a house high on a bluff above a floodplain, you need not worry about flood predictions. In other settings, we may wish to optimize decisions based on a specific forecast of the future, such as evacuation before an advancing storm.

Climate science – and by that I mean broadly research on physical science, impacts, economics as well as policy-related research into adaptation and mitigation —- went off track when large parts of the community and leading assessment bodies like the IPCC decided to anoint a subset of futures (and one in particular) as the baseline against which impacts and policy would be evaluated.

This is best illustrated by a detailed example.

The U.S. National Climate Assessment (NCA) is a periodic report on climate science and policy required in law.  The most recent report was published in two parts in 2017 and 2018. Those reports were centered on anointing a specific scenario of the future as “business as usual” (despite the NCA warning against doing exactly that). That scenario has a technical name, Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5.

In his climate epiphany, David Wallace-Wells warned, “anyone, including me, who has built their understanding on what level of warming is likely this century on that RCP8.5 scenario should probably revise that understanding in a less alarmist direction.” The climate science community, broadly conceived, is among those needing to revise their understandings.

To illustrate how the USNCA came to be centered on RCP8.5, let’s take a quick deep dive into how the report was created. It’s use of scenarios was grounded in research done by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and specifically a project called Climate Change Impacts and Risk Analysis. That project is described in two reports.

The first report, in 2015, explained that its methodology was based on two scenarios, a “business as usual” or “reference” scenario that projected where the world was heading in the absence of climate policies and a “mitigation” scenario representing a future with emissions reductions. In that report EPA created its own scenarios (with its BAU scenario equated to an equivalent RCP8.6 scenario). The report explained that the benefits of mitigation policy were defined by the difference between the BAU scenario and the mitigation scenario.

In its subsequent report in 2017, EPA decided to replace its scenarios with several of the RCP scenarios used by the IPCC. In that report it dropped the phrase “business as usual” and adopted RCP8.5 as its “baseline” scenario fulfilling that role. It adopted another scenario, RCP4.5 as representing a world with mitigation policy. The USNA relied heavily on the results of this research, along with other work using RCP8.5 as a “baseline.”

The USNCA defined the difference in impacts between the two RCP scenarios as representing the benefits to the United States of mitigation policy: “Comparing outcomes under RCP8.5 with those of RCP4.5 (and RCP2.6 in some cases) not only captures a range of uncertainties and plausible futures but also provides information about the potential benefits of mitigation.” But such a comparison was warned against by the creators of the RCP scenarios: “RCP8.5 cannot be used as a no-climate-policy reference scenario for the other RCPs.” Yet, there it was at the center of the most authoritative climate science report in the United States.

Reports are written by committees, and elsewhere the US NCA warned that RCP8.5 “is not intended to serve as an upper limit on possible emissions nor as a BAU or reference scenario for the other three scenarios.” But that warning was not heeded at all. RCP8.5 is used as a reference scenario throughout the report and is mentioned more than 470 times, representing about 56% of all references to RCP scenarios.

It was the USNCA misuse of RCP8.5 that appeared on a page one New York Times story that warned, “A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end.”

It is not just the USNCA that has centered its work on RCP8.5 as a reference scenario to evaluate climate impacts and policy, the 2019 IPCC report on oceans and ice also adopted RCP8.5 as a reference scenario to compare with RCP2.6 as a mitigation scenario: “Under unmitigated emissions (RCP8.5), coastal societies, especially poorer, rural and small islands societies, will struggle to maintain their livelihoods and settlements during the 21st century.” That report referenced RCP8.5 more than 580 times representing more than 56% of all scenario references in the report.

Across the IPCC 5th assessment report, published in 2013 and 2014, RCP8.5 comprised 34% of scenario references. Dependence on RCP8.5 has increased in the reports of IPCC. And as an indication of where research may be heading, in the abstracts talks given at the 2019 meeting of the American Geophysical Union earlier this month, of those that mentioned RCP scenarios, 58% mentioned RCP 8.5, with RCP4.5 coming in second at 32%. If these abstracts indicate the substance of future scientific publications, then get ready for an avalanche of RCP8.5 studies.

The climate science community, despite often warning itself to the contrary, has gotten off track when it comes to the use of scenarios in impact and policy research. There can be little doubt that major assessments and a significant portion of the underlying literature has slipped into misusing scenarios as predictions of the future.

Why this has happened will no doubt be the subject of future research, but for the immediate future, the most important need will be for the climate science community to hit the reset button and get back on track. Climate change is too important to do otherwise.

Part two will discuss what this reset might look like.

Follow me on Twitter @RogerPielkeJr

I have been on the faculty of the University of Colorado since 2001, where I teach and write on a diverse range of policy and governance issues related to science, innovation, sports. I have degrees in mathematics, public policy and political science. My books include The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics published by Cambridge University Press (2007), The Climate Fix: What Scientists and Politicians Won’t Tell you About Global Warming (2010, Basic Books) and The Edge: The War Against Cheating and Corruption in the Cutthroat World of Elite Sports (Roaring Forties Press, 2016). My most recent book is The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change (2nd edition, 2018, Consortium for Science, Policy & Outcomes).

Source: In 2020 Climate Science Needs To Hit The Reset Button, Part One

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Stella Wiedemeyer has channelled her mounting frustration surrounding the lack of action from the powers that be in relation to the climate crisis into organising School Strike 4 Climate actions in Melbourne. Through her grassroots engagement, she was selected to join federal political candidates at panel discussions including by Oxfam and is delighted to bring a youthful perspective to an at times demoralising issue. She is working currently to inspire environmental awareness through her personal actions, school community and new found platform within the youth climate justice movement. “I’m looking forward to challenging people to consider their position in our climate and recognise what obligations and privileges we have to create long-lasting, systemic change.” Stella Wiedemeyer is a current year 11 student who has channelled her mounting frustration surrounding the lack of action from the powers that be in relation to the climate crisis into organising School Strike 4 Climate actions in Melbourne. Through her grassroots engagement, she was selected to join federal political candidates at panel discussions including by Oxfam and is delighted to bring a youthful perspective to an at times demoralising issue. She is working currently to inspire environmental awareness through her personal actions, school community and new found platform within the youth climate justice movement. “I’m looking forward to challenging people to consider their position in our climate and recognise what obligations and privileges we have to create long-lasting, systemic change.” This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

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Deadly Volcanic Explosion Rocks New Zealand: Here’s Everything You Need To Know

A powerful volcanic eruption has rocked New Zealand’s White Island, a small uninhabited volcano sticking up out of the sea in the Bay of Plenty, 50 kilometres offshore of the country’s North Island.

Although details remain a little sparse, the New Zealand police force suspect that fewer than 50 people were present on the island when the eruption took them by surprise. At the time of writing, several people have been injured, some reportedly with serious burns, and some have been evacuated to the mainland. At least one person is critically injured.

A number of people on the island are currently unaccounted for. Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims told a press conference that at least one person has died, and that they are unlikely to be the sole casualty.

Plenty of news reports will focus on those injured by the eruption, and understandably so. Here, you’ll find some scientific information that should provide some background as to why this took place. As ever, I’ll update this as more information comes in, when I can.

So, what happened?

On Monday December 9th at 14:11pm in New Zealand’s time zone, (late at night on Sunday, Eastern Time), one took place on White Island, also known by its Māori name Whakaari. It has been described by GeoNet – an official scientific initiative that’s a collaboration between the New Zealand government’s Earthquake Commission and New Zealand-based geoscience institute GNS Science – as an impulsive, short-lived event that affected the crater floor. The activity, they say, appears to have diminished since the eruption.

The event generated an ash plume that rose 3,700 metres or so above the vent. As seen by webcam images, ash blanketed the crater floor, and ashfall seems to be more or less confined to the island.

                                   

So far, reports suggest that 20 people or so have been injured out of a possible 100 on the island at the time. Tourists can get boats or helicopters to the island, a near constantly restless volcano, to peer at its hyperactivity. It’s a small island, just 2,400 metres across at its longest, with its 321-metre-high summit simply the high point of the crater rim, which is open and exposed.

                                    

What kind of eruption was this?

It’s too early to tell, but the short time span of the main event, the fact that there have been injuries and the temporary ash plume that fell mostly back onto the island suggests that this was a type of volcanic explosion. It’s difficult to say what kind of blast it was at this stage, but it could either be one that unleashed fresh volcanic debris or one that didn’t, one that involved external water or one that didn’t.

Being so close to the sea, external water may have infiltrated White Island’s magma supply. When mixed in an appropriate manner and with the right magma-to-water ratio, you can get an explosive vaporization of the water which sets of a rapid chain reaction of violent depressurization events – i.e., an explosion. If this just releases steam and no new magmatic products, it is technically not an eruption, but a hydrothermal blast. If it does unleash novel volcanic debris, it is referred to as a phreatomagmatic eruption.

External water doesn’t necessarily have to be involved. Perhaps the blast was more like the one that recently took place at Italy’s Stromboli volcano, where a gloopy, gas-rich lump of magma high up the volcano’s throat (known as its conduit) managed to rush up to the surface via its own natural buoyancy, where the gas rapidly expanded and flung lava and ash into the sky. The Strombolian eruption style, named after the eponymous Sicilian volcanic isle, can be observed at volcanoes all over the world, but each eruption at each individual volcano can vary in intensity.

In any of these cases, people standing inadvertently too close to a powerful enough explosion can be harmed by all kinds of things, from the shockwave of the explosion itself causing damage to their internal organs to heavy, hot and sometimes molten debris being flung out by the blast.

                                  

The ash can also cause health hazards; it is toxic and glassy, so breathing it in can damage respiratory systems. The risk for harm is far greater for those with pre-existing breathing conditions than those who are otherwise healthy.

What kind of volcano is White Island?

It is the summit of a submarine volcano that is 16 by 18 kilometres across, one that erupted enough volcanic debris long ago to rise from the waves and prevent itself being reclaimed by them. According to the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program, it is made of two overlapping stratovolcanoes (steep, mountain-shaped volcanoes) that have a somewhat gloopy magmatic consistency – and, as a result, prone to trapping gas and causing explosive eruptions.

It is highly active, and its eruptions can sometimes produce topographic changes. In the 19th and 20th centuries, new vents have opened up, putting holes in the crater floor. Some of the crater wall catastrophically failed and collapsed in 1914, creating a debris avalanche that smothered buildings and workers at a sulphur mine.

What are its past eruptions like?

Māori legends have spoken of the eruptive fury of the volcano for some time now. Since 1826, observers have recorded a mixture of phreatomagmatic and strombolian eruption styles.

Most of the island’s eruptions rank as a 2 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index or VEI, which takes into account the amount of fresh volcanic debris ejected, the height of the ash plume, and some additional details. A 2 is classified as “explosive”, producing a 1-5-kilometre-high ash plume, and unleashes no more than 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools’ worth of fresh volcanic debris.

Sometimes, there have been eruptions ranking as a 3 on the VEI, which are described as “catastrophic”, producing a plume of ash up to 15 kilometres high and can make 4,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools’ worth of fresh volcanic debris. Each eruption, though, has its own characteristics and behaviours that the VEI doesn’t describe; the index is just used as a proxy for the explosivity and volume of debris involved in the eruption, with higher numbers being far less common around the world over time than the lower numbers.

In any event, this latest event certainly sounds like a 2 or 3 on the VEI. Even a 1 can injure or kill people; it depends where they were in relation to the eruption or blast when it took place.

Why wasn’t this eruption forecast?

For volcanoes that are well monitored, like White Island, scientists can look at an array of data – seismic signals that indicating magma cracking through rock as it rises, gas emissions at the surface that suggest magma is just below, the deformation of the ground as magma moves about, and so on – to forecast what may happen next in various timeframes. Although it is difficult to say with any certainty or precision when an eruption may happen and what kind of eruption it will be, for some volcanoes, volcanologists can get advanced notice that something may be about to happen. It could be an eruption, but it could also just be magma moving about and then going quiet.

Each volcano is idiosyncratic, though. They may all play by the same rules, but each player is different: some volcanoes are more hyperactive, others take a long time to erupt and spend most of their lifetime doing very little. There are many grey areas; Italy’s Stromboli volcano often coughs up some lava several times per day, and that is expected; every few years, though, it can engage in an explosive convulsion that sends debris shooting all over the place, just like it did earlier this year. Those rarer blasts are harder to predict, and often don’t give off any warning signs.

Similarly, the explosion at White Island was fairly spontaneous; a violent sneeze if you will, one that wouldn’t have given New Zealand’s scientific instrumentation any warning signs until the moment it took place, or perhaps immediately before. The volcano had been rumbling a little more than its background level over the past few weeks, so the authorities had raised the alert level a little, but there was no way they could have foreseen this sort of paroxysm.

There was little anyone could have done, I suspect – this was just bad luck on the part of those tourists.

What happens next?

There is a chance that this explosion may have helped unleash magma trapped beneath the surface, leading to a more prolonged eruption or perhaps a few more similarly sized explosions. It’s also possible that this was an isolated explosion, and the volcano was “clearing its throat” and nothing more. Only time will tell, but I’m sure for some time now tourists won’t be allowed near the island.

Is this related to the Ring of Fire or any other volcanic eruptions taking place right now?

Well, it is related to the Ring of Fire in that this volcano sits on it. This term described a conveniently shaped network of major tectonic boundaries that are continuously shifting around in very complex ways. Thanks to these behaviours, this network is responsible for 75 percent of the world’s volcanic activity, or thereabouts (and a staggering 90 percent of the planet’s earthquakes).

The underlying causes may be similar, but any eruptions that occur here happen independently of each other. There’s pretty much no evidence that volcanic eruptions can trigger other volcanic eruptions, (although there’s an ongoing healthy debate as to whether earthquakes, in some circumstances, can initiate volcanic eruptions nearby). What you are seeing here is just White Island doing its own thing.

On average, 40 volcanoes around the world are erupting at any one time. Sometimes, White Island is among them. This is par for the course, and not a sign of some sort of impending volcanological apoclaypse.

What can I do to help?

As always, don’t spread information whose veracity you are unsure of. Only used trusted, well-cited journalistic sources (hello!) or go to the official government or scientific networks, like GeoNet.

The spread of misinformation, accidental or intentional, will distract scientists and aid workers from their life-saving work, and it will sow erroneously founded seeds of panic in the minds of those affected by the disaster. If you see anyone doing this, politely but firmly tell them to stop; if they don’t, report them.

Follow me on Twitter.

Robin George Andrews is a doctor of experimental volcanology-turned-science journalist. He tends to write about the most extravagant of scientific tales, from eruptions

Source: Deadly Volcanic Explosion Rocks New Zealand: Here’s Everything You Need To Know

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This short video gives a break-down of New Zealand’s volcanic history, Subscribe to our YouTube Channel and stay up to date about What’s On at Auckland Museum. https://www.youtube.com/aucklandmuseum Visit our Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AucklandMuseum/ or our website http://www.aucklandmuseum.com/ Housed in one of New Zealand’s finest heritage buildings, Auckland Museum is the cultural and spiritual touchstone for the many races that inhabit this beautiful land, and the first stop for anyone wishing to gain an insight into New Zealand and its peoples. Priceless Māori treasures, amazing natural history, Māori cultural performances three times daily.

The Century’s Strongest Super-Typhoon Hagibis Is About To Hit Japan—1,600 Flights Canceled

The streets of Tokyo outside my window are currently getting a little quieter, but there is absolutely no sense of panic in Japan’s capital. Typhoons are common-place in Japan, and the infrastructure has been built to withstand regular storms each year.

There are two major sporting events in Japan this weekend; the Rugby World Cup which has now canceled two games. England versus France and Scotland versus Japan. The other major event is the Japanese Grand Prix, who have moved qualifying to Sunday, with the race going ahead almost immediately afterwards.

24-Hour Travel Disruption

The biggest impact will likely be on flights. The eye of the storm is 55 miles wide alone, and satellite imagery shows the entire storm is currently larger than the entire nation of Japan. Hagibis will be one of the strongest typhoons to directly hit the island nation in decades.

Today In: Lifestyle

All Nippon Airways have now canceled all domestic flights departing from Tokyo on Saturday. The capital looks set to receive a direct hit from the storm but no one in the capital seems to be too concerned at this point. Although the Meteorological Agency has classified the storm as “violent”—the highest strength categorisation—rail operators have so far only warned that there may be cancellations.

With a storm this size, or any major storm, safety is paramount, however, Japanese authorities seem confident with their planning preparations. Japan Airlines have followed ANA’s example and canceled 90% of domestic flights, yet both airlines are optimistic of early morning departures on Saturday which remain scheduled until 8am. Additionally, both airlines are hopeful that some international flights will resume by late Saturday evening.

Tokyo airports have been worst affected by the disruption, with both major Japanese carriers, ANA and JAL, canceling 558 and 540 flights respectively. Flight cancellations are being seen around the globe to and from Tokyo, with British Airways scraping flights from London, and flights to North America also being affected. Almost every major airline around the world has been impacted by one of the largest storms to ever hit Japan directly, but the feeling on the ground here is that disruption shouldn’t last beyond a 24-hour window.

What Makes Typhoon Hagibis Different?

The Size:

Storm Hagibis’ has a diameter that covers an immense 1,400km. Until the very last moment, no-one or nowhere in vast areas of Japan is safe from this expansive storm.

The Time Of The Month: This weekend is a full moon, meaning that sea levels are higher than average. With potential storm surge and waves being predicted to be up to 13m in some areas, coastal flooding could be devastating.

Force: With wind gusts predicted to be over 240km/h, and a direct hit to Tokyo looking increasingly likely over the next few hours, Typhoon Hagibis could be one of the strongest storms to hit Japan in decades.

In terms of pressure, Hagibis could also be the strongest on record, ever. With a current pressure of 900 hPa, this is already lower than hurricane Dorian which devastated the Bahamas earlier this year, clocking in at a pressure of 910 hPa. The strongest Tropical Cyclone ever recorded was Typhoon Tip which reached 870 hPa and made landfall in the Philippines in 1979. All Japanese airlines suggest checking their websites before travelling tomorrow.

I spend 360 days a year on the road traveling for work discovering new experiences at every turn, trying out the best and the worst airlines around the world. I set the Guinness World record for being the youngest person to travel to all 196 countries in the world by the age of 25, and you could perhaps say I caught the travel bug over that 6-year journey. I now take over 100 flights every year and I am still discovering many new places, both good and bad, whilst writing about my experiences along the way. In addition to rediscovering known destinations, I visit some of the World’s least frequented regions such as Yemen to highlight untold stories. Join me on an adventure from economy to first-class flights, the best and worst airports, and from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

Source: The Century’s Strongest Super-Typhoon Hagibis Is About To Hit Japan—1,600 Flights Canceled

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Japan is bracing for what is expected to be the most powerful storm in decades. Typhoon Hagibis is advancing north towards Japan’s main island of Honshu, with damaging winds and torrential rain. Subscribe to our channel here: https://cna.asia/youtubesub Subscribe to our news service on Telegram: https://cna.asia/telegram Follow us: CNA: https://cna.asia CNA Lifestyle: http://www.cnalifestyle.com Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/channelnewsasia Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/channelnews… Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/channelnewsasia

This Is Why We Don’t Shoot Earth’s Garbage Into The Sun

Imagine our planet as it was for the first 4.55 billion years of its existence. Fires, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, asteroid strikes, hurricanes and many other natural disasters were ubiquitous, as was biological activity throughout our entire measured history. Most of the environmental changes that occurred were gradual and isolated; only in a few instances — often correlated with mass extinctions — were the changes global, immediate, and catastrophic.

But with the arrival of human beings, Earth’s natural environment has another element to contend with: the changes wrought upon it by our species. For tens of thousands of years, the largest wars were merely regional skermishes; the largest problems with waste led only to isolated disease outbreaks. But our numbers and technological capabilities have grown, and with it, a waste management problem. You might think a great solution would be to send our worst garbage into the Sun, but we’ll never make it happen. Here’s why.

The very first launch of the Falcon Heavy, on February 6, 2018, was a tremendous success. The rocket... [+] reached low-Earth-orbit, deployed its payload successfully, and the main boosters returned to Cape Kennedy, where they landed successfully. The promise of a reusable heavy-lift vehicle is now a reality, and could lower launch costs to ~$1000/pound. Still, even with all these advances, we won't be launching our garbage into the Sun anytime soon.

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Today In: Innovation

At present, there are a little more than 7 billion humans on the planet, and the previous century saw us at last become a spacefaring civilization, where we’ve broken the gravitational bonds that have kept us shackled to Earth. We’ve extracted valuable and rare minerals and elements, synthesized new chemical compounds, developed nuclear technologies, and produced new technologies that far exceed even the wildest dreams of our distant ancestors.

Although these new technologies have transformed our world and improved our quality of life, there are negative side-effects that have come along for the ride. We now have the capacity to cause widespread damage and destruction to our environment in a variety of ways, from deforestation to atmospheric pollution to ocean acidification and more. With time and care, the Earth will begin self-regulating as soon as we stop exacerbating these problems. But other problems just aren’t going to get better on their own on any reasonable timescale.

Nuclear weapon test Mike (yield 10.4 Mt) on Enewetak Atoll. The test was part of the Operation Ivy.... [+] Mike was the first hydrogen bomb ever tested. A release of this much energy corresponds to approximately 500 grams of matter being converted into pure energy: an astonishingly large explosion for such a tiny amount of mass. Nuclear reactions involving fission or fusion (or both, as in the case of Ivy Mike) can produce tremendously dangerous, long-term radioactive waste.

National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office

Some of what we’ve produced here on Earth isn’t merely a problem to be reckoned with over the short-term, but poses a danger that will not significantly lessen with time. Our most dangerous, long-term pollutants include nuclear by-products and waste, hazardous chemicals and biohazards, plastics that off-gas and don’t biodegrade, and could wreak havoc on a significant fraction of the living beings on Earth if they got into the environment in the wrong way.

You might think that the “worst of the worst” of these offenders should be packed onto a rocket, launched into space, and sent on a collision course with the Sun, where at last they won’t plague Earth anymore. (Yes, that was similar to the plot of Superman IV.) From a physics point of view, it’s possible to do so.

But should we do it? That’s another story entirely, and it begins with considering how gravitation works on Earth and in our Solar System.

The Mercury-bound MESSENGER spacecraft captured several stunning images of Earth during a gravity... [+] assist swingby of its home planet on Aug. 2, 2005. Several hundred images, taken with the wide-angle camera in MESSENGER's Mercury Dual Imaging System (MDIS), were sequenced into a movie documenting the view from MESSENGER as it departed Earth. Earth rotates roughly once every 24 hours on its axis and moves through space in an elliptical orbit around our Sun.

NASA / Messenger mission

Human beings evolved on Earth, grew to prominence on this world, and developed extraordinary technologies that our corner of the cosmos had never seen before. We all have long dreamed of exploring the Universe beyond our home, but only in the past few decades have we managed to escape the gravitational bonds of Earth. The gravitational pull exerted by our massive planet is only dependent on our distance from Earth’s center, which causes spacetime to curve and causes all objects on or near it — including humans — to constantly accelerate “downwards.”

There’s a certain amount of energy keeping any massive object bound to Earth: gravitational potential energy. However, if we move fast enough (i.e., impart enough kinetic energy) to an object, it can cross two important thresholds.

  1. The threshold of a stable orbital speed to never collide with Earth: about 7.9 km/s (17,700 mph).
  2. The threshold of escaping from Earth’s gravity entirely: 11.2 km/s (25,000 mph).

It takes a speed of 7.9 km/s to achieve "C" (stable orbit), while it takes a speed of 11.2 km/s for... [+] "E" to escape Earth's gravity. Speeds less than "C" will fall back to Earth; speeds between "C" and "E" will remain bound to Earth in a stable orbit.

Brian Brondel under a c.c.a.-s.a.-3.0 license

For comparison, a human at the equator of our planet, where Earth’s rotation is maximized, is moving only at about 0.47 km/s (1,000 mph), leading to the conclusion that we’re in no danger of escaping unless there’s some tremendous intervention that changes the situation.

Luckily, we’ve developed just such an intervention: rocketry. To get a rocket into Earth’s orbit, we require at least the amount of energy it would take to accelerate that rocket to the necessary threshold speed we mentioned earlier. Humanity has been doing this since the 1950s, and once we’ve escaped from Earth, there was so much more to see occurring on larger scales.

Earth isn’t stationary, but orbits the Sun at approximately 30 km/s (67,000 mph), meaning that even if you escape from Earth, you’ll still find yourself not only gravitationally bound to the Sun, but in a stable elliptical orbit around it.

The Dove satellites, launched from the ISS, are designed for Earth imaging and have numbered... [+] approximately 300 in total. There are ~130 Dove satellites, created by Planet, that are still in Earth's orbit, but that number will drop to zero by the 2030s due to orbital decay. If these satellites were boosted to escape from Earth's gravity, they would still orbit the Sun unless they were boosted by much greater amounts.

NASA

This is a key point: you might think that here on Earth, we’re bound by Earth’s gravity and that’s the dominant factor as far as gravitation is concerned. Quite to the contrary, the gravitational pull of the Sun far exceeds the gravitational pull of Earth! The only reason we don’t notice it is because you, me, and the entire planet Earth are in free-fall with respect to the Sun, and so we’re all accelerated by it at the same relative rate.

If we were in space and managed to escape from Earth’s gravity, we’d still find ourselves moving at approximately 30 km/s with respect to the Sun, and at an approximate distance of 150 million km (93 million miles) from our parent star. If we wanted to escape from the Solar System, we’d have to gain about another 12 km/s of speed to reach escape velocity, something that a few of our spacecraft (Pioneer 10 and 11, Voyager 1 and 2, and New Horizons) have already achieved.

The escape speed from the Sun at Earth's distance is 42 km/s, and we already move at 30 km/s just by... [+] orbiting the Sun. Once Voyager 2 flew by Jupiter, which gravitationally 'slingshotted' it, it was destined to leave the Solar System.

Wikimedia Commons user Cmglee

But if we wanted to go in the opposite direction, and launch a spacecraft payload into the Sun, we’d have a big challenge at hand: we’d have to lose enough kinetic energy that a stable elliptical orbit around our Sun would transition to an orbit that came close enough to the Sun to collide with it. There are only two ways to accomplish this:

  1. Bring enough fuel with you so that you can decelerate your payload sufficiently (i.e., have it lose as much of its relative speed with respect to the Sun as possible), and then watch your payload gravitationally free-fall into the Sun.
  2. Configure enough fly-bys with the innermost planets of our Solar System — Earth, Venus and/or Mercury — so that the orbiting payload gets de-boosted (as opposed to the positive boosts that spacecraft like Pioneer, Voyager, and New Horizons received from gravitationally interacting with the outer planets) and eventually comes close enough to the Sun that it gets devoured.

The idea of a gravitational slingshot, or gravity assist, is to have a spacecraft approach a planet... [+] orbiting the Sun that it is not bound to. Depending on the orientation of the spacecraft's relative trajectory, it will either receive a speed boost or a de-boost with respect to the Sun, compensated for by the energy lost or gained (respectively) by the planet orbiting the Sun.

Wikimedia Commons user Zeimusu

The first option, in reality, requires so much fuel that it’s practically impossible with current (chemical rocket) technology. If you loaded up a rocket with a massive payload, like you might expect for all the hazardous waste you want to fire into the Sun, you’d have to load it up with a lot of rocket fuel, in orbit, to decelerate it sufficiently so that it’d fall into the Sun. To launch both that payload and the additional fuel requires a rocket that’s larger, more powerful and more massive than any we’ve ever built on Earth by a large margin.

Instead, we can use the gravity assist technique to either add or remove kinetic energy from a payload. If you approach a large mass (like a planet) from behind, fly in front of it, and get gravitationally slingshotted behind the planet, the spacecraft loses energy while the planet gains energy. If you go the opposite way, though, approaching the planet from ahead, flying behind it and getting gravitationally slingshotted back in front again, your spacecraft gains energy while removing it from the orbiting planet.

The Messenger mission took seven years and a total of six gravity assists and five deep-space... [+] maneuvers to reach its final destination: in orbit around the planet Mercury. The Parker Solar Probe will need to do even more to reach its final destination: the corona of the Sun. When it comes to reaching for the inner Solar System, spacecraft are required to lose a lot of energy to make it possible: a difficult task.

NASA/JPL

Two decades ago, we successfully used this gravitational slingshot method to successfully send an orbiter to rendezvous and continuously image the planet Mercury: the Messenger mission. It enabled us to construct the first all-planet mosaic of our Solar System’s innermost world. More recently, we’ve used the same technique to launch the Parker Solar Probe into a highly elliptical orbit that will take it to within just a few solar radii of the Sun.

A carefully calculated set of future trajectories is all that’s required to reach the Sun, so long as you orient your payload with the correct initial velocity. It’s difficult to do, but not impossible, and the Parker Solar Probe is perhaps the poster child for how we would, from Earth, successfully launch a rocket payload into the Sun.

Keeping all this in mind, then, you might conclude that it’s technologically feasible to launch our garbage — including hazardous waste like poisonous chemicals, biohazards, and even radioactive waste — but it’s something we’ll almost certainly never do.

Why not? There are currently three barriers to the idea:

  1. The possibility of a launch failure. If your payload is radioactive or hazardous and you have an explosion on launch or during a fly-by with Earth, all of that waste will be uncontrollably distributed across Earth.
  2. Energetically, it costs less to shoot your payload out of the Solar System (from a positive gravity assist with planets like Jupiter) than it does to shoot your payload into the Sun.
  3. And finally, even if we chose to do it, the cost to send our garbage into the Sun is prohibitively expensive at present.

This time-series photograph of the uncrewed Antares rocket launch in 2014 shows a catastrophic... [+] explosion-on-launch, which is an unavoidable possibility for any and all rockets. Even if we could achieve a much improved success rate, the risk of contaminating our planet with hazardous waste is prohibitive for launching our garbage into the Sun (or out of the Solar System) at present.

NASA/Joel Kowsky

The most successful and reliable space launch system of all time is the Soyuz rocket, which has a 97% success rate after more than 1,000 launches. Yet a 2% or 3% failure rate, when you apply that to a rocket loaded up with all the dangerous waste you want launched off of your planet, leads to the catastrophic possibility of having that waste spread into the oceans, atmosphere, into populated areas, drinking water, etc. This scenario doesn’t end well for humanity; the risk is too high.

Considering that the United States alone is storing about 60,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste, it would take approximately 8,600 Soyuz rockets to remove this waste from the Earth. Even if we could reduce the launch failure rate to an unprecedented 0.1%, it would cost approximately a trillion dollars and, with an estimated 9 launch failures to look forward to, would lead to over 60,000 pounds of hazardous waste being randomly redistributed across the Earth.

Unless we’re willing to pay an unprecedented cost and accept the near-certainty of catastrophic environmental pollution, we have to leave the idea of shooting our garbage into the Sun to the realm of science fiction and future hopeful technologies like space elevators. It’s undeniable that we’ve made quite the mess on planet Earth. Now, it’s up to us to figure out our own way out of it.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website or some of my other work here.

Ethan Siegel Ethan Siegel

I am a Ph.D. astrophysicist, author, and science communicator, who professes physics and astronomy at various colleges. I have won numerous awards for science writing since 2008 for my blog, Starts With A Bang, including the award for best science blog by the Institute of Physics. My two books, Treknology: The Science of Star Trek from Tricorders to Warp Drive, Beyond the Galaxy: How humanity looked beyond our Milky Way and discovered the entire Universe, are available for purchase at Amazon. Follow me on Twitter @startswithabang.

Source: This Is Why We Don’t Shoot Earth’s Garbage Into The Sun

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How to Stop Water Polution. In case you’re wondering what water polution has to do with a new continent discoevered in the Pacific Ocean, here’s the answer to this mystery. This new continent is an island that consists solely of garbage and plastic waste. Some countries are ready to announce an ecological disaster. Let’s see if there’s something we can all do to save the planet. TIMESTAMPS The popularity of plastic 0:26 Garbage islands 1:47 The Great Pacific Garbage Patch 2:30 Problems connected with the plastic pollution of the ocean 4:39 Bali ecological disaster 7:31 Several ways to solve problem 8:26 #newcontinent #garbageisland #ecologicalproblem Music: Butchers – Silent Partner https://www.youtube.com/audiolibrary/… SUMMARY -2 million plastic bags a minute are thrown away. As for bubble wrap, the amount produced in just one year would be enough to cover our planet around the equator. 500 billion plastic cups are used and disposed of annually. -There are 3 huge garbage islands in the world: in the central North Pacific Ocean, in the Indian Ocean, and in the Atlantic Ocean. -The size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is currently more than 600,000 square miles. According to the journal Scientific Reports, there are more than 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that have accumulated in this area. -Plastic objects in the ocean kill animals or get stuck in their bodies. Some types of plastic are toxic. In addition, plastic has the ability to absorb such poisonous substances as mercury. Birds often choke to death after trying to swallow a bright object that has caught their eye. -Indonesian authorities have recently declared a “garbage emergency.” More than 100 tons of waste brought ashore every day to beaches from Seminyak and Jimbaran to Kuta. -To solve the problem, people can find a way to remove the garbage that is already in the ocean. Another way out is to decrease pollution or stop it completely. Subscribe to Bright Side : https://goo.gl/rQTJZz —————————————————————————————- Our Social Media: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brightside/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/brightgram/ 5-Minute Crafts Youtube: https://www.goo.gl/8JVmuC —————————————————————————————- For more videos and articles visit: http://www.brightside.me/

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Why The Track Forecast For Hurricane Dorian Has Been So Challenging

Here is something that you can take to the bank. We will not see the name “Dorian” used in the Atlantic basin for any future hurricane. The names of particularly destructive or impactful storms are retired. According to the National Hurricane Center, Dorian is now tied with the 1935 Labor Day hurricane for the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall on record. In a 3 pm advisory on September 1st, the National Hurricane Center warned of gusts to 220 mph and 18 to 23 feet storm surges for parts of the Abacos.

I have been in the field of meteorology over 25 years and do not recall seeing warnings about 220 mph gusts for a hurricane. Hurricane watches have also been issued for Andros Island and from North of Deerfield Beach to the Volusia/Brevard County Line in Florida. At the time of writing, the official forecast from the National Hurricane Center is for a northward curve and no direct Florida landfall. This is dramatically different from forecasts only a few days ago.

There is still uncertainty with the forecast so coastal Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas should remain on high alert. Why has the track forecast been so challenging with Hurricane Dorian?

Historically, hurricane track forecasts have outpaced intensity forecasts. I discuss the reasons why in a previous Forbes article at this link. With Hurricane Dorian, uncertainty about the forecast track and timing of the storm forced officials to move the Florida State – Boise State football game from Jacksonville, slated for a 7 pm kickoff on Saturday, to noon in Tallahassee. I am certain that many businesses and people are questioning the move given that timing of when impacts are now expected. Unfortunately, officials and emergency managers often must make decision on the best information at the moment.

Some people may be tempted to use uncertainty with this forecast to spew vitriol or skepticism at meteorologists and our models. However, challenges with Hurricane Dorian’s track forecast do not define the legacy of weather forecasts. It would be silly to say that the NFL’s best field goal kicker is terrible based on a few misses.

So what’s going on? I asked a panel of tropical meteorology experts.

Today In: Innovation

Speed of motion of Hurricane Dorian has been a significant challenge. Professor John Knox, a recent recipient of the American Meteorological Society’s Edward Lorenz Teaching Award, offers an important lesson. The University of Georgia atmospheric sciences professor pointed out:

Before you bash the meteorologists for being stupid: one reason the forecasted track has changed is because the forecasts of the forward speed of Dorian have slowed it down more and more. If it had chugged along as originally forecast, it likely would have hit east-central Florida and then maybe gone into the Gulf, before the high pressure above us in the Southeast would break down. But, because it’s moving more slowly, the high-pressure break down is opening the gate, so to speak, for Dorian to go more northward and eastward. So, the change in forecast is tied tightly to the arrival timing.

Professor John Knox, University of Georgia

Dr. Phillippe Papin is an Atmospheric Scientist and Associate Postdoctoctor Scientist at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Papin also points to the high pressure as being a factor. He wrote:

the ridge to the north of Dorian has been steering Dorian off to the west the last few days….But there is a weak trough that is swinging into the eastern US that is going to erode the strength to the ridge enough so that a gap forms to the north of Dorian and it begins to move further to the north.

Dr. Phillippe Papin, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

The timing of when that weakness develops and on how far Dorian makes it west in the meantime has been the source of uncertainty in the model guidance for the last 2-3 days according to Papin. At the time of writing, there is still some spread in the model solutions.

Dr. Michael Ventrice is a tropical weather expert with IBM and The Weather Company. He has been concerned about the storm environment and how well the models are capturing the rapidly evolving situation. He told me:

I believe the uncertainty is derived from how the models are resolving Dorian, locally. The recent intensification of the storm today is not being resolved by the models properly at the time of the 12z initialization. The interaction with the Bahamas, how that interaction might alter the mesoscale structure of the Hurricane, if that interaction induces a wobble, are all valid questions at this point in time

Michael Ventrice — IBM/The Weather Company

A hurricane of this size and intensity can certainly modify its environment and be modified by that environment. Sam Lillo, a doctoral candidate at the University of Oklahoma, tweeted an interesting point on the afternoon of September 1st about how worrisome the rapid intensification and track uncertainty of Hurricane Dorian has been:

The track uncertainty in NWP at under 3-day lead-time is very uncomfortable, especially considering proximity to land. This would be uncomfortable for any hurricane. But then make it a category 5.

Sam Lillo, doctoral candidate in meteorology at the University of Oklahoma

Our best models have oscillated (and in some cases continue to do so) within the past 24-36 hours on just how close Dorian will get to Florida before curving northward. Lillo offers some further insight into what Dr. Ventrice was alluding to about the environment:

As Dorian strengthened faster than expected, diabatic outflow developed an upper level anticyclone to the southwest, adding southerly and westerly components to the steering flow. The westerly component in particular slowed the forward motion of the hurricane, and now its track across the Bahamas coincides with a trough that sweeps across the Mid Atlantic and Northeast on Monday. This trough cuts into the ridge to the north of Dorian, with multiple steering currents now trying to tug the hurricane in all different directions. The future track is highly sensitive to each of these currents, with large feedback on every mile the hurricane jogs to the left or right over the next 24 to 48 hours.

Sam Lillo, doctoral candidate in meteorology at the University of Oklahoma

Lillo offers a nice meteorological explanation. In a nutshell, he is saying that the rapid intensification perturbed the near-storm environment and now there may be other steering influences besides the ridge of high pressure that the models are struggling to resolve.

In a previous Forbes piece last week, I mentioned that forecasts in the 5+ day window and beyond can have errors of 200 miles and that the information should be used as “guidance” not “Gospel.” Because there is still uncertainty with the models and Dorian is such a strong storm, residents from coastal Florida to the Carolinas must pay attention and be prepared to act. I have complete confidence in my colleagues at the National Hurricane Center, and they should always be your definitive source with storms like this. They still maintain an eventual curve northward before the storm reaches the Florida coast. However, the issuance of hurricane watches in Florida also indicates that they know the margin of error is razor thin.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website.

Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd, a leading international expert in weather and climate, was the 2013 President of American Meteorological Society (AMS) and is Director of the University of Georgia’s (UGA) Atmospheric Sciences Program. Dr. Shepherd is the Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor and hosts The Weather Channel’s Weather Geeks Podcast, which can be found at all podcast outlets. Prior to UGA, Dr. Shepherd spent 12 years as a Research Meteorologist at NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center and was Deputy Project Scientist for the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission. In 2004, he was honored at the White House with a prestigious PECASE award. He also has received major honors from the American Meteorological Society, American Association of Geographers, and the Captain Planet Foundation. Shepherd is frequently sought as an expert on weather and climate by major media outlets, the White House, and Congress. He has over 80 peer-reviewed scholarly publications and numerous editorials. Dr. Shepherd received his B.S., M.S. and PhD in physical meteorology from Florida State University.

Source: Why The Track Forecast For Hurricane Dorian Has Been So Challenging

National Hurricane Center director Ken Graham provides an update on Hurricane Dorian. RELATED: https://bit.ly/2NFZCak Dorian’s slow crawl, estimated at about 7 mph on Sunday afternoon, placed it within 185 miles of West Palm Beach, Florida. But forecasters remained unsure of whether, or where, it might make landfall in the U.S. after it makes an expected turn to the north.

That left millions of people from South Florida to North Carolina on alert and preparing for the worst. » Subscribe to USA TODAY: http://bit.ly/1xa3XAh » Watch more on this and other topics from USA TODAY: https://bit.ly/2JYptss » USA TODAY delivers current local and national news, sports, entertainment, finance, technology, and more through award-winning journalism, photos, videos and VR. #hurricanedorian #dorian #hurricanes

Massive Sinkhole Leaks Radioactive Water Into Florida’s Aquifer – Trevor Nace

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A massive sinkhole recently collapsed nearby Mulberry, Florida, draining approximately 215 million gallons of radioactive and contaminated water into Florida’s aquifer. The sinkhole was located directly below a wastewater storage pond used by Mosaic, the largest phosphate fertilizer producer in the world. There is local outcry that the event in fact took place three weeks before the local community was notified, despite the fact that this is Florida’s largest and primary aquifer for potable water…….

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2016/09/23/massive-sinkhole-leaks-radioactive-water-into-floridas-aquifer/?fbclid=IwAR3n9mATbQzjTfq0I1Rra5iCO__arO_L74Mfupci8GKD9Tc8O7zib-R8vxs#652ad5f15ed8

 

 

 

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The Ocean Cleanup System Begins Removing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – Sead Fadilpasic

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A Dutch non-profit organization announced they were working on advanced technologies in an attempt to remove the plastic waste from the world’s oceans. The Ocean Cleanup launched in September the cleanup system called “System 001” from the San Francisco Bay. On October 16, the system reached a location 240 nautical miles offshore, known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, to begin the operation on its removal. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the world’s largest accumulation zone of ocean plastic pollution. It contains 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, covering an area twice the size of Texas……

Read more: https://techacute.com/the-ocean-cleanup-system-removes-plastic-from-oceans/

 

 

 

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The World’s Largest Ocean Cleanup Has Officially Begun -Trevor Nace

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Ambitious dreams have now become a reality as the Ocean Cleanup deploys its $20 million system designed to clean up the 1.8 trillion pieces of trash floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Check out another Forbes piece on how Ocean Cleanup aims to reuse and recycle the ocean plastic. The floating boom system was deployed on Saturday from San Francisco Bay and will undergo several weeks of testing before being hauled into action. The system was designed by the nonprofit Ocean Cleanup, which was founded in 2013 by 18-year-old Dutch inventor Boyan Slat. Their mission is to develop “advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic…..

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2018/09/10/the-worlds-largest-ocean-cleanup-has-officially-begun/#c5a9f622738c

 

 

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Floating Trash Collector Set to Tackle Pacific Garbage Patch – Laura Parker

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The campaign to rid the world’s oceans of plastic trash marks a turning point on Saturday as a giant, floating trash-collector steams out of San Francisco on a mission to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Over the course of the next year, the device will undergo the ultimate tests and face some tough questions: Can technology prevail over nature? Did the engineers at The Ocean Cleanup in the Netherlands invent the first feasible method for extracting large amounts of plastic debris from the sea…..

Read more: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/09/ocean-cleanup-plastic-pacific-garbage-patch-news/

 

 

 

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These Cultural Treasures Are Made of Plastic. Now They’re Falling Apart – XiaoZhi Lim

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LOS ANGELES — The custodians of Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit at the National Air and Space Museum saw it coming. A marvel of human engineering, the suit is made of 21 layers of various plastics: nylon, neoprene, Mylar, Dacron, Kapton and Teflon.

The rubbery neoprene layer would pose the biggest problem. Although invisible, buried deep between the other layers, the suit’s caretakers knew the neoprene would harden and become brittle with age, eventually making the suit stiff as a board. In January 2006, the Armstrong suit, a national treasure, was taken off display and stored to slow the degradation……

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/28/science/plastics-preservation-getty.html

 

 

 

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