Climate Change ☀️
Elon Musk Funds $100 Million XPrize For Pursuit Of New Carbon Removal Ideas
Elon Musk is donating $100 million to fund a competition to find new ways to remove carbon from the air or water, in a bid to help fight climate change. The race for the prize – the largest in the XPrize's history – will start on Earth Day and will run for four years, through 2025.

Winning entries will need to show an ability for their idea to scale up to gigaton levels, a benchmark that refers to a billion metric tons of carbon. For the last several years, the world's energy-related CO2 emissions have topped 30 gigatons.

The goal, XPrize says, is to tackle "the biggest threat facing humanity — fighting climate change and rebalancing Earth's carbon cycle."


XPrize announced the new competition on Monday, more than a month after Musk said on Twitter that he planned to donate $100 million to create "a prize for best carbon capture technology."

At the time, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO cited the need for large-scale removal of carbon, saying, "For now, by far the top priority is accelerating the transition to a sustainable energy economy."

Carbon capture is a longstanding idea that's seen as easing costs and other pressures during the move away from carbon-based fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. But it has been criticized on two fronts.

On one hand, some environmental groups call it a tactic for corporations or governments to counterbalance rather than reduce their emissions — including from fossil fuels such as coal. On the other hand, people who agree that the concept holds promise also acknowledge that the underlying technology is drastically undeveloped.

The new XPrize aims to close the technology gap by spurring innovation. Its backers say they're concerned the world won't be able to prevent global warming by relying solely on cutting emissions.

"For humanity to reach the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting the Earth's temperature rise to no more than 1.5˚(C) of pre-industrial levels, or even 2˚(C), we need bold, radical tech innovation and scale up that goes beyond limiting CO2 emissions," the organization says.

The top prizes include $50 million for the overall winner, along with $20 million for second place and $10 million for third. But many other groups could also get important funding and support, including 25 student teams that will vie for $200,000 in scholarships, according to the XPrize announcement.

Teams will be able to register for the competition on April 22. Some 18 months later, a panel of judges will select 15 teams to receive $1 million each, based on the strength of their submissions. XPrize will issue full guidelines and other details about the competition in April.

This is at least the second XPrize that targets carbon emissions; an earlier competition had a $20 million prize purse.
Read the full article: https://www.npr.org/2021/02/08/965372754/elon-musk-funds-100-million-xprize-for-pursuit-of-new-carbon-removal-ideas

Before Himalayan Flood, India Ignored Warnings of Development Risks
Long before the floods came, washing away hundreds of people and wiping out newly constructed dams and bridges, the warning signs were clear.

The Himalayas have been warming at an alarming rate for years, melting ice long trapped in glaciers, soil and rocks, elevating the risk of devastating floods and landslides, scientists warned. Nearby populations were vulnerable, they said, and the region’s ecosystem had become too fragile for large development projects.

But the Indian government overrode the objections of experts and the protests of local residents to blast rocks and build hydroelectric power projects in volatile areas like the one in the northern state of Uttarakhand, where disaster struck.

Officials said Monday that bodies of 26 victims had been recovered while the search proceeded for nearly 200 missing people. On Sunday a surge of water and debris went roaring down the steep mountain valleys of the Rishiganga river, erasing everything in its path. Most of the victims were workers on the power projects.


Villagers said the authorities overseeing the expensive development projects had not prepared them for what was to come, giving a false sense of confidence that nothing was going to happen.

... The devastation of the Uttarakhand floods has once again focused attention on the fragile ecosystem of the Himalayas, where millions of people are feeling the impact of global warming. The World Bank has warned that climate change could sharply diminish living conditions for up to 800 million people in South Asia. But the effects are already felt, often in deadly ways, in large parts of the Himalayan belt from Bhutan to Afghanistan.

The region has about 15,000 glaciers, which are retreating at a rate of 100 to 200 feet per decade. The melting feeds or creates thousands of glacial lakes that can suddenly break through the ice and rocky debris holding them back, causing catastrophic floods. In Nepal, Bhutan, India and Pakistan, a large number of glacial lakes have been deemed imminently dangerous by The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, an intergovernmental group.

Nepal has been particularly vulnerable, with climate change forcing entire villages to migrate to lower lands for survival from a deepening water crisis. Deadly flash floods, some caused by glacial lakes bursting, have also become more frequent.

Scientists have warned repeatedly that development projects in the region are a deadly gamble, potentially making matters worse.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/08/world/asia/india-flood-ignored-warnings.html

Achoo! Climate Change Lengthening Pollen Season in U.S., Study Shows
Among the many disasters climate change is wreaking around the world, scientists have now identified a more personal one: It’s making allergy season worse.

That is the message of a new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published on Monday. The researchers found a strong link between planetary warming and pollen seasons that will make many of us dread spring just a little bit more.

According to the new paper, the combination of warming air and higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has caused North American pollen seasons since 1990 to start some 20 days earlier, on average, and to have 21 percent more pollen. Scientists have suggested for some time that the season is getting longer and more awful, and the new research provides greater detail and estimates of just how much a warming planet is responsible for the greater misery. They concluded that climate change caused about half of the trend in the pollen season, and 8 percent of the higher pollen count. What’s more, the trend of higher pollen counts, the researchers said, is accelerating.

... “The world’s a messy place,” Dr. Anderegg said, with many potentially confounding influences, “but the really strong signal here, and the attribution to climate change, is compelling.”


The paper concluded that “a clearly detectable and attributable fingerprint of human-caused climate on North American pollen loads provides a powerful example of how climate change is contributing to deleterious health impacts through worsening pollen seasons.”

Allergies are not just a case of the sniffles, of course: they have serious effects on public health, including asthma and other respiratory conditions. Studies have shown that students do less well in school during peak pollen season, and high-pollen periods have been associated with greater susceptibility to respiratory viruses — an ominous finding in the time of the coronavirus pandemic.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/08/climate/climate-change-pollen-hay-fever.html

Climate change, periodic modification of Earth’s climate brought about as a result of changes in the atmosphere as well as interactions between the atmosphere and various other geologic, chemical, biological, and geographic factors within the Earth system.

Source: Climate change - Evidence for climate change | Britannica
Climate Change is the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment. From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production, to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of climate change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. Without drastic action today, adapting to these impacts in the future will be more difficult and costly.

Source: Climate Change | United Nations