Climate Change ☀️
Transforming atmospheric carbon into industrially useful materials
Plants are unparalleled in their ability to capture CO2 from the air, but this benefit is temporary, as leftover crops release carbon back into the atmosphere, mostly through decomposition. Researchers have proposed a more permanent, and even useful, fate for this captured carbon by turning plants into a valuable industrial material called silicon carbide (SiC) -- offering a strategy to turn an atmospheric greenhouse gas into an economically and industrially valuable material.

SiC, also known as carborundum, is an ultrahard material used in ceramics, sandpaper, semiconductors and LEDs. The Salk team used a previously reported method to transform plant material into SiC in three stages by counting carbons at each step: First, the researchers grew tobacco, chosen for its short growing season, from seed. They then froze and ground the harvested plants into a powder and treated it with several chemicals including a silicon-containing compound. In the third and final stage, the powdered plants were petrified (turned into a stony substance) to make SiC, a process that involves heating the material up to 1600°C.
Read the full article: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210506163626.htm

Gas Flaring Declined in 2020, Study Finds
While the overall drop was expected, the report offered a detailed picture of the flaring activities around the world, with steep declines in some areas, like the United States, and surprising increases in others, notably China.

Flaring occurs when the gas that emerges with crude oil is burned off rather than captured. That burning emits carbon dioxide, a gas that is the main contributor to climate change. According to World Bank officials, flaring adds roughly 400 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions to the atmosphere every year.

According to the report, Russia was responsible for more flaring overall than any other country in 2020, contributing 15 percent of the global total. But within Russia, there were areas of progress. Burning continued to decrease in the Khanty-Mansi region of Siberia, where flaring volumes have dropped by nearly 80 percent over the previous 15 years.

The other top flaring countries, according to the report, were Iraq, Iran, the United States, Algeria, Venezuela and Nigeria.

China, ranked 15th in the world in flaring volume, saw the biggest change, with flaring increasing by 35 percent despite its oil production remaining flat. The report cited testing in new oil fields in the country’s remote northwest.

The United States recorded a significant 32 percent drop in 2020 from the year before, mainly because of new infrastructure to capture gas that otherwise would have been flared.

The report, published at the end of April, relied on data collected by two satellites operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and analyzed at the Payne Institute for Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines.

In addition to contributing planet-warming carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, routine gas flaring can harm the health of people who live near gas sites. It also wastes a potentially useful energy source, a problem that is especially acute in poorer countries.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/10/climate/gas-flaring.html

Air pollution from farms leads to 17,900 U.S. deaths per year, study finds
The first-of-its-kind report pinpoints meat production as the leading source of deadly pollution

Animal agriculture is the worst emitter, researchers say, responsible for 80 percent of deaths from pollution related to food production. Gases associated with manure and animal feed produce small, lung-irritating particles capable of drifting hundreds of miles. These emissions now account for more annual deaths than pollution from coal power plants. Yet, while pollution from power plants, factories and vehicles is restricted under the Clean Air Act, there is less regulation of air quality around farms.

... This is the first major report to link air-pollution deaths to specific food items, Hill said. While greenhouse gases cause the same amount of warming no matter where on the planet they’re produced, the health effects of air pollution are dependent on atmospheric chemistry, local weather and the size and health of communities living nearby. Only with advanced new air-quality models has it become possible to pinpoint the consequences of pollution produced hundreds of miles away.


... The most insidious kinds of air pollution are known as particulate matter (PM) 2.5 — tiny particles one-thirtieth the width of a human hair, which can become lodged in lungs or absorbed into the bloodstream. Exposure to PM 2.5 can lead to asthma and other breathing problems, and over the long term increases the risk of dying of heart disease, cancer and stroke.

These particles are directly produced when farmers till fields or burn crops before harvest. They can also come in the form of dust kicked up by livestock in large animal feeding operations.

This “primary” PM 2.5 is associated with about 4,800 premature deaths per year, the study found.

But “secondary” particulate matter, which is generated when emissions from farms interact with other gases in the atmosphere, is even more problematic. This is especially true for ammonia, a highly reactive molecule released by manure and fertilizer, which can combine with other pollutants such as nitrogen and sulfur compounds to create small, hazardous particles.

... Meat production is also the most resource-intensive form of agriculture. A whopping 30 percent of Earth’s ice-free land mass is used for pasture for livestock, and red meat requires more water and carbon than any other food. If Earth’s biggest beef eaters limited their intake to 1.5 hamburgers a week, they could avoid about 5.5 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year — twice the annual emissions of India.
Read the full article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2021/05/10/farm-pollution-deaths/

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