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California’s battle to cut emissions with biofuels burns in new truck engines

California’s battle to cut emissions with biofuels burns in new truck engines

Renewable diesel is touted as a cleaner-burning fuel, but a recent study has shown the fuel falls short on one measure of reducing pollution from new truck engines – giving pause to California regulators who support increased production.

The state, the largest vehicle market in the country, has aggressively moved to curtail fossil fuel emissions from all vehicles while also encouraging production of renewable diesel – seen as key for reducing emissions in hard-to-electrify sources like trucking.

The efforts are part of California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS), a rule designed to decrease the carbon intensity of the state’s transportation fuel.

Renewable diesel lowers greenhouse gas emissions compared with petroleum-based diesel. The fuel has also been promoted as a way to cut emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx), a harmful pollutant that contributes to ozone deterioration and causes respiratory problems.

However, engines made more recently emit more NOx when running on renewable diesel, especially when blended with 35% biodiesel or more, compared with conventional diesel, according to a study released by California Air Resources Board (CARB) in November.

Trucks arrive to pick up containers at the Port of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake

That could affect the way regulators revise the LCFS, which spurred investment in renewable diesel, made from fats and vegetable oils.

State regulators are considering changes to the LCFS that align with a 2022 goal to bring various California regions into compliance with national air quality standards. The study means regulators could have to consider whether renewable diesel increases emissions in areas with worse air quality.

CARB said it has “identified several questions about the study results” that require further evaluation, and will be accepting public comment on the study until the end of January.

Regulators did not respond to a request for comment.

Heavy-duty vehicles are one of the largest contributors to NOx emissions – a precursor of ozone and particulate matter formation. Improved emissions control technology has helped NOx emissions fall by 60% between 1990 and 2019 nationwide, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A fuel nozzle from a bio diesel fuel pump is seen in this photo illustration taken at a filling station in San Diego, California January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Companies and regulators had previously purported that renewable diesel reduced NOx emissions by 10%, citing the results of earlier studies that examined the fuel’s performance in older engines.

But trucks with newer engines that ran renewable diesel did not meaningfully lower NOx emissions, according to the study. While these new technology diesel engines, or ‘NTDE’ engines, are present in only 43% of the state’s commercial vehicle registrations, they account for more than 75% of the miles traveled among the state’s heavy-duty fleet.

“CARB threw caution to the wind and opened the door to renewable diesel’s unlimited use without having properly studied NOx emissions impact in NTDEs,” said Pat McDuff, chief executive officer at Glendale-based California Fueling, in a public comment submitted in January.

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Hyundai Motor Group said on Tuesday it plans to offer hydrogen fuel cell versions for all its commercial vehicles by 2028 and will cut the price of fuel cell vehicles to battery electric levels two years later.


Maersk CEO Soren Skou says the International Maritime Organization should take a tip from the European auto industry by banning the construction of fossil fueled ships.

He urged California regulators to reverse regulatory changes that prohibit his company from selling fuel additives meant to decrease NOx emissions in biodiesel.

The state is trying to bring 19 regions into compliance with air quality standards enacted in 2015. In two regions – the south coast and the San Joaquin Valley Air Basin – CARB has targeted lowering NOx emissions as one way of improving air quality. In 2020 regulators adopted a new regulation to reduce NOx emissions 90% by 2027.

Renewable diesel generally cuts greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, said Tristan Brown, associate professor of energy resource economics at SUNY and advisor on New York’s Climate Action Council.

Brown noted most biodiesel blending in the United States is 20% or less. “The real question is what amount of NOx is emitted by NTDE engines at volumes of 10% and 20% biodiesel blend levels, and that is not reported by the study,” Brown said.


Laura Sanicola via Reuters

Giant canyon discovered underneath Vanderford Glacier in Antarctica, revealing history behind rising sea levels

Giant canyon discovered underneath Vanderford Glacier in Antarctica, revealing history behind rising sea levels

Australian Antarctic expeditioners have discovered an enormous, 2-kilometre-deep canyon underneath a glacier that may make it more vulnerable to warming oceans.

The discovery also indicates the Vanderford Glacier in East Antarctica once extended 60km further than it currently does and had a significant role in rising sea levels.

Voyage leader Lloyd Symons said the canyon extended at least 3.5km underneath the glacier, which might be influencing how quickly the ice was melting.

“The fact that there is such a deep canyon beneath this glacier would perhaps allow the possibility for warming waters to get underneath the glacier,” Mr Symons told the ABC.

“One of the issues for Antarctic glaciers at the moment is them being eaten away from underneath by warming waters coming down from the north.”

The Southern Ocean circulates warming waters from around the world, pushing them deep towards Antarctica where they lap against the colder ice.

Large glacier in Antarctica sits in sea
The Vanderford Glacier is slowly sliding into a warming Southern Ocean, contributing to rising sea levels.(ABC News: Henry Belot)

“If there is a deep channel underneath this glacier, then it’s possible that may not bode well for the Vanderford Glacier, but that, of course, requires further study,” Mr Symons said.

Satellite data from NASA indicates the surface height of the Vanderford Glacier has shrunk by about two metres since 2008.

East Antarctica has long been considered to be less affected by climate change than West Antarctica, which is below South America.

But recent studies of NASA satellite images indicate that is beginning to change, particularly around Vincennes Bay where the Vanderford Glacier ends.

A 3d image of a sectino of antarctica showing a long canyon in the middle in green
A 3D model of the canyon found under the Vanderford Glacier in Antarctica.(Supplied)

Trench indicates where glacier once stood

The 60km trench extending away from the glacier is likely to indicate where it once stood before melting.

“This immense canyon that we have found really just gives us a very clear indication of just how big this glacier was perhaps tens of thousands of years ago,” Mr Symons said.

The discovery was made by Australia’s new icebreaking ship, Nuyina, while testing cold water systems near the glacier and Australia’s largest research station, Casey.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley described the discovery as “stunning” and early proof that Nuyina’s acoustic technology was world leading.

“The Nuyina is demonstrating that Australia has opened the door to new levels of polar research that will help us unlock secrets of Southern Ocean maritime ecosystems, strengthen our reach inland and our understanding of the world’s climate,” Ms Ley said.

Large ship seen from above.
Expeditioners on Australia’s new icebreaking ship, Nuyina, made the discovery.(Australian Antarctic Division/Flying Focus)

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Scientists have created the first ever large-scale map of microscopic algae as they bloomed across the surface of snow along the Antarctic Peninsula coast. Results indicate that this ‘green snow’is likely to spread as global temperatures increase.


Species from around the world that are “hitching a lift” on ships threaten Antarctica’s pristine marine ecosystem.

Floyd Howard was one of the acoustics officers who mapped the canyon over a 24-hour period.

“We were using the multi-beam echosounders to map the ocean floor as we were in an area with limited charts,” Mr Howard said.

“The multi-beam sends out sound that bounces off the seabed and then it listens to the echoes — like a bat or a dolphin — and measures how long they take to return back to the ship.

“You would expect there to be a glacial trough in front of the glacier from when sea levels were lower, but we didn’t expect it to be so deep and so spectacular.”

The findings will now be shared with glaciologists and climate scientists who will be able to determine the impact this canyon is having on the glacier.


Henry Belot at ABC News

The Cost of Lab-Grown Chicken Dropped by More Than Half in 2021

The Cost of Lab-Grown Chicken Dropped by More Than Half in 2021

2021 saw significant rises in consumer prices across all sorts of goods, one of them being food. Amid supply chain complications, labor shortages, and plant closures, meat prices shot up, in some cases to double what they’d been a year prior. Chicken was no exception, with consumers and restaurants paying up to 125 percent more than the typical baseline price.

There may soon be an unexpected solution, and it’s one that comes with the added bonuses of not harming any animals and having a far smaller environmental footprint. Last week Israeli company Future Meat Technologies announced that it’s producing cultured chicken breasts at a cost of $7.70 per pound, which comes out to about $1.70 per breast.

These figures are significant for a couple reasons. First is the speed with which the company has brought down its production costs. Just six months ago, Future Meat’s cost of making cultured chicken was around $18 per pound. To be well below half that in less than a year’s time means the company’s methodology is working better than even they expected; the cost reduction actually exceeded an 18-month projection the company put out in May.

Secondly, while $7.70 per pound is still not at price parity with farmed chicken, it’s getting closer. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics listed the average price of a pound of chicken in November 2021 at $3.62. This already factors in costs like shipping and packaging, so the $7.70 figure will need to go down by more than 50 percent. But given the pace of reductions thus far, it seems reasonable to think that could happen within another year or two.

One significant factor that helped pull costs down was the company’s launch of a new factory this past June. The facility in Rehovot, Israel was the world’s first dedicated to producing cultured meat at scale, and makes burgers as well as chicken. At the time of the factory’s opening, Future Meat was producing cultured chicken breasts at a cost of $3.90 apiece, which broke a price record in the industry.

Unlike plant-based meat, which isn’t really meat at all and uses only plant-derived ingredients, cultured meat is made from animal cells. Cells are extracted from the animal’s tissue and fed with nutrients, oxygen, and moisture while being kept at the same temperature they’d be at inside the animal’s body. The cells divide and multiply then start to mature, with muscle cells joining to create muscle fibers and fat cells producing lipids.

Future Meat calls its process “media rejuvenation,” with animal cells fermenting in stainless steel vats as waste products are continuously removed to keep the physiological environment constant. The company says its method leads to yields 10 times higher than the industry standard while generating 80 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, using 99 percent less land and 96 percent less freshwater all while delivering the same nutritional value as traditional meat.

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The 3.7oz cultivated steak printed by MeaTech 3D. Photograph: Shlomi Arbiv/MeaTech 3D Ltd


MeaTech 3D created the 4oz steak using 3D printing with real bovine cells that mature into muscle and fat


A startup from Europe is joining the race to become the first big provider of lab-grown fish.

“We have consistently demonstrated that our single-cell technology and serum-free media formulations can reach cost parity faster than the market anticipates,” said Yaakov Nahmias, Future Meat’s founder and president. “We also demonstrated that our proprietary media rejuvenation technology enables cell densities greater than 100 billion cells per liter, translating to production densities 10-times higher than the industrial standard.”

It’s possible (rather, it’s likely) that the big drop in cost for chicken breast production was brought about primarily by the new factory and the scale it enabled, and cost reductions could plateau in the coming months. But Future Meat will have plenty of money to work with as it figures out how to further cut costs; last week the company announced it had raised $347 million in Series B funding, the largest investment ever made in cultured meat. Part of that will go towards starting construction on a second large-scale production facility, this one located in the US. A specific site has not yet been announced, but Future Meat plans to break ground on the new plant in 2022.

Factory farming isn’t going away anytime soon, but starting to supplement its meat with cultured meat will be a good first step towards reducing both the prices consumers pay for meat and the meat industry’s negative impact on the environment. There will still be the questions of getting regulatory approvals and waiting for consumer sentiment to catch up with cultured meat technology, but these will come with time.

Nahmias, for one, is highly optimistic. “I truly see the entire cultivated meat industry as a massive agent of change, creating a sustainable future for coming generations,” he said.


Vanessa Bates Ramirez at SingularityHub

Sahara Desert Experienced Snow For the 4th Time in 42 Years!

Sahara Desert Experienced Snow For the 4th Time in 42 Years!

The Sahara Desert is the largest hot desert in the world. It is considered to be one of the harshest environments on the planet that covers 3.6 million square miles (9.4 million square kilometers) or almost one-third of the African continent and about the size of the US, including Hawaii and Alaska.

The Sahara is most famous for its sand dune fields, which are often depicted in movies. It reaches almost 600 feet (183 meters) high but only covers 15% of the entire desert, according to Live Science. But it also has mountains, plateaus, sand- and gravel-covered plains, and many more.

With the scorching hot temperature in the desert, who would have thought that it would rain snow in one of the driest places on Earth? But it did happen over the past decades and is reportedly happening for the fourth time in 42 years this time. Although this seems to be astonishing, experts claim that the snowfall is unprecedented.

Rare Snowfall Leaves Unique Patterns on Sahara’s Sand Dunes

Last January 19, the Sahara desert was reportedly covered with snow. The snow was spotted outside the town of Ain Sefra northwest of Algeria wherein it created a unique pattern on the sand dunes. Local photographer Karim Boucheta took the photos of the sand dunes streaked with crystal ice and the unusual weather in the Sahara desert that have made headlines around the world.

The dusting marks on the sand dunes is the fourth tie that the desert experienced snow in 42 years, with previous occurrences recorded in the years 1979, 2016, and 2018. Unlike this year’s rare snowfall, previous snowfalls were a lot thicker and heavier. For instance, the 2016 blizzard dumped over 3 feet (1meter) in selected regions, while the 2018 snowfall left15 inches (40 centimeters) of snow.

According to NASA, the Sahara Desert is more likely to experience snowfall at higher altitudes, like the Atlas Mountains. The American space agency said that the 2018 snow dump was even visible from space. They added that the Moroccan side of the Atlas Mountains also saw some snowfalls in 2015 and 2012.

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Motorists spun out on whitened mountain passes and residents wielded umbrellas that flopped in the face of fierce winds as Northern California absorbed even more rain and snow on Monday, bringing the possibility of rockslides and mudslides to areas scarred by wildfires following an especially warm and dry fall across the U.S. West.


When a team of international scientists set out to count every tree in a large swathe of west Africa using AI, satellite images and one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, their expectations were modest. Previously, the area had registered as having little or no tree cover.

Why Did It Snow In the Sahara Desert?

Ain Sefra is located near the border of Algeria and Morocco. It sits about 3,800 feet (1,000 meters) above sea levels and is surrounded by the Atlas Mountains. During the summer season, the region’s temperature is usually 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).

However, Sky News reported that this January it averaged on by about 57 F (14 C). The night before the recent ethereal display of frost in the Sahara Desert, the temperature was only 27 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 degrees Celsius).

According to Paul Deanno Books, for any place to receive snowfall, it needs to have two weather factors: cold air and moisture. These factors are short in supply in Africa but not in Ain Sefra, which makes snow unusual but not impossible.

That means cold plus precipitation could result in snow even in the world’s driest place, which happened again for the fourth time in 42 years.


Erika P. at The Science Times

Could the Red Sea’s heat-resilient corals help restore the world’s dying reefs?

Could the Red Sea’s heat-resilient corals help restore the world’s dying reefs?

Corals in the Gulf of Aqaba have a unique evolutionary history that could help them survive the climate crisis. Scientists even hope to breed their resilience into other reefs.

Beneath the warm, crystal-clear waters of the Gulf of Aqaba at the northern tip of the Red Sea, lies a bustling city of colorful corals. At sunrise, fish emerge from their coral shelters, joining eels, turtles and octopuses to swim through these teeming waters. 

This vibrant scene is untouched by the mass bleaching that has plagued reefs elsewhere. Most corals can only survive within a narrow temperature range. As oceans get warmer, stressed corals evict their energy-producing algae and lose their color. When corals bleach and die, entire ecosystems can collapse with them. 

Corals, like these on the Great Barrier Reef, have already succumbed to warming waters, leaving a ghostly underwater landscape bleached of once-vibrant life

A recent study found that 14% of the world’s coral reefs were lost in less than a decade. Ravaged by global heating, pollution and habitat destruction, global coral reef cover has halved since the 1950s. Experts predict that up to 90% of corals could perish in the coming decades. 

But some hope is emerging from the northern shores of the Red Sea, as Aqaba’s corals appear unaffected by steadily warming waters. 

“We found that the corals in Aqaba could withstand temperatures far above the summer maximum of 27 degrees [Celsius],”  (80.6 degrees Fahrenheit) said Maoz Fine, a marine biology professor who led research on coral heat-resilience at The Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat, Israel.

Map of the location of Gulf of Aqaba

Hope from the Red Sea 

Fine and his team designed an aquarium system to simulate future conditions in the Red Sea and ran experiments on what makes the corals in Aqaba so resilient. 

While most corals will bleach within a degree or two above their normal range, experiments showed that Aqaba’s corals could endure temperatures up to six degrees Celsius higher than the maximum summer temperature they’re usually exposed to. 

“We tested about 20 different species of corals, and all of them showed high tolerance to thermal stress,” said Fine. “Despite rising temperatures, the corals never bleached.”

This resilience to heat is thought to be a product of how corals migrated into the Red Sea from the Indian Ocean during the last Ice Age, some 20,000 years ago.

To reach the Gulf of Aqaba, corals had to pass through the Gulf of Aden and the southern part of the Red Sea, where water temperatures are much higher. Over generations, larvae of surviving corals moved north and populated areas with significantly lower water temperatures, but they retained their heat resilience.  

The ‘Red Sea Simulator’ allows scientist to study Aqaba’s uniqely heat-resistant corals

“These corals were selected for high temperatures, but they live in temperatures about six degrees below their bleaching threshold,” said Fine. 

Although corals in other regions are adapted to warmer waters, Fine said no other corals have such a large gap between the maximum temperatures of the waters they live in and their bleaching thresholds. “This is one of the few places we know where corals will be able to survive global warming,” he said.

As coral reefs face mass destruction across the globe due to rising temperatures, researchers and conservationists hope the Gulf of Aqaba could become a refuge for the world’s remaining corals. 

Could Aqaba’s corals help other reefs? 

“Aqaba’s corals could be a source to repopulate reefs if corals die everywhere else,” according to Manuel Aranda, a marine biologist at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. 

The problem, Aranda said, is scale. 

“The Great Barrier Reef is the size of Italy. We can’t plant reefs the way we spread seeds on land,” he said, since coral plantation requires divers to go into the water and manually fix coral fragments grown in nurseries. 

Coral plantations are too costly and time-consuming, and species introductions are often very challenging. But Aranda is part of a research group at KAUST that is working to identify heat-resilient corals and cross-breed them with coral populations elsewhere to increase their heat tolerance.

Corals support a rich diversity of marine life that’s acutely vulnerable to climate change

“Usually, it takes many generations for corals to adapt,” said Aranda. But the planet is warming faster than this process of adaptation. He hopes to speed up genetic exchanges to give corals a chance of keeping up with rising temperatures: “We hope that with cross-breeding, we don’t have to plant corals, they will reproduce themselves.” 

But this method still takes time and Fine isn’t convinced it will work on a large-scale. He believes the focus should be on identifying and preserving resilient reefs, rather than trying to grow corals elsewhere. 

“What we can offer is knowledge, understanding which genes were selected down south when entering the Red Sea and what that means for thermal resilience,” Fine said.  

‘We owe it to future generations’

About 25% of all marine species live in and around coral reefs, making them among the most diverse habitats in the world. 

“The Gulf of Aqaba has a very diverse ecosystem,” said Jordanian conservationist Ehab Eid. “In Jordan, we have identified 157 species of hard corals and there are over 500 species of fish. More than half of them depend on the corals.”

In addition to providing vital habitats for marine life, coral reefs also provide food and medicines, protect shorelines, and secure the livelihoods of over 500 million people worldwide. 

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Corals are the foundation species of tropical reefs worldwide, but stresses ranging from overfishing to pollution to warming oceans are killing corals and degrading the critical ecosystem services they provide.


A “game changing” 20-year effort suggests that even severely depleted marine ecosystems can be brought back to life.

Despite their resilience to high temperatures, Aqaba’s corals are vulnerable to pollution and unsustainable urban coastal development, putting at risk the livelihoods of the many people in Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt who depend on fishing and tourism in the Gulf of Aqaba.

Fishermen in the Jordanian city of Aqaba, whose catch depends on the coral ecosystem, say fisheries aren’t as plentiful as they used to be

“The corals are essential for fish here,” said Ibrahim Riady, who has worked as a fisherman in the Jordanian city of Aqaba for over two decades. “Our livelihoods depend on them.” He and other local fishermen said their catches had declined over the last decades. 

Scientists are calling for the reef to be protected to ensure the gulf can serve as a refuge for corals that, if they survive local threats, could revive reefs elsewhere. “The Gulf of Aqaba might be one of the last reefs standing at the end of the century,” said Eid. “It’s a treasure. We owe it to future generations to preserve it.”


Marta Vidal at DW

Winter storm whipping northeast US with snow, thunderstorms

Winter storm whipping northeast US with snow, thunderstorms

A dangerous winter storm brought significant snowfall, strong thunderstorms and blustery winds to the northeastern U.S. on a holiday Monday.

The storm system dropped a foot (30 centimeters) or more of snow in parts of New York state, Ohio and Pennsylvania Sunday night through Monday morning after pummeling parts of the Southeast on Sunday.

“We’ve had a very strong area of low pressure that’s kind of moved up the coast, with pretty heavy snowfall accumulations from Tennessee, North Carolina all the way into the northeast,” said meteorologist Marc Chenard at the weather service’s headquarters in College Park, Maryland.

Forecasters in Buffalo, New York, said almost 18 inches (45 centimeters) of snow fell by 1 p.m. Monday. The city advised people not to travel if they didn’t need to on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while some surrounding towns instituted a travel ban.

“WOW! (Latest) snow measurement at 1 AM was 4.6 inches in the last hour at the Buffalo Airport!” the National Weather Service in Buffalo tweeted overnight. “And tack on another 4 inches in the last hour ending at 2 AM! Total so far since late Sun evening – 10.2 inches.”


Image 1 of 13

Snow, a four-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier runs through the snow with his companion, Marlin Rayney from Wilkinsburg in tow during his morning walk/run along Braddock Avenue Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. (Pam Panchak/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

Weather service meteorologist Alexa Maines said 15 inches (38 centimeters) or more of snow were reported in Cleveland, Ohio, and 25 inches (63 centimeters) in parts of Ashtabula County in the northeast corner of the state.

Power outages affected tens of thousands of customers in the northeast, and hundreds of flights were canceled. Many COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites had to close down.

New York City got less than an inch of snow, which was washed away by rain overnight. The weather service said spotty showers and snow showers might continue through Monday night.

Forecasters said wind gusts in New York City could top out around 45 mph (72 kph), and around 60 mph (97 kph) on Long Island.

Sleet and rain were the main threats for much of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Periods of snowfall transitioned to rain overnight. NWS meteorologists in Boston said wind gusts could reach 70 mph (113 kph).

The howling winds spread a fire that destroyed a motel and two other structures in coastal Salisbury, Massachusetts, early Monday.

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Extreme weather events – including powerful heat waves and devastating floods – are now the new normal, says the World Meteorological Organisation.

Lightning bolts descend from dark clouds in northern Alaska. Lightning tracker Vaisala reported a significant uptick in far-northern Arctic lightning in 2021.


As extreme weather wreaked havoc across the globe in 2021, a stunning change was happening in the far northern Arctic, largely out of sight but detectable by a network of sensors. Lightning increased significantly in the region around the North Pole, which scientists say is a clear sign of how the climate crisis is altering global weather.

The storm brought similar conditions Sunday to the Southeast, where thousands were still without power Monday.

Multiple states reported heavy snowfall, and two people died Sunday in North Carolina when their car drove off the road. The roof of a dormitory partially collapsed in the state at Brevard College, with officials saying it broke under the weight of snow. There were no injuries.

Severe thunderstorms in Florida spun up a tornado with 118 mph (190 kph) winds, destroying 30 mobile homes and majorly damaging 51 more. Three minor injuries were reported.

Wet roadways in the South were expected to refreeze Monday, creating icy conditions for motorists.

Plow trucks were scattered along roads and highways up the East Coast, working to clear the way for travelers. Some crashes were reported in the early morning hours, including an ambulance involved in a wreck on Interstate 279 in Pittsburgh, KDKA-TV reported. It was unclear whether anyone was injured.


Julie Walker & Karen Matthews via Associated Press

Brewing a real response to climate change

Brewing a real response to climate change

Innovative leaders in the beer industry are serving up true sustainability along with your brew.

Farming in the age of climate change is an uncertain proposition, as the hop growers in Washington’s Yakima Valley can attest. As weather patterns alter, the farmers who grow 40% of the world’s hop supply are battling one crisis after another. Violent windstorms toppled their hop trellises just before the 2020 harvest. (A similar gale drove the December 2021 fire that ripped through the outskirts of Boulder, Colorado.) An unprecedented heat dome scorched their crop during the summer of 2021. And wildfires during the autumn of 2020 ruined still more hops.

Over the past two years, these issues have played out across the beer industry supply chain. “The Colorado wildfires made the water unusable for our brewery,” says Katie Wallace, New Belgium Brewing’s director of social and environmental impact. “We also had the worst barley crop in farmers’ lifetimes due to extreme heat, and limited hop supplies because of the smoke taint. There were major supply chain disruptions during extreme weather events, like the deep freeze in February, that shut down deliveries of supplies critical to brewing and stalled production.” New Belgium’s R&D specialist Dave Glor echoes Wallace: “From fruit juices to barley, everything was impacted.”

But even as climate change batters their business, New Belgium and others in the beer industry are leading the way in adapting, offering a case study on environmental action that has real, measurable impact.

A case study in concrete action

Based in Fort Collins, Colorado, New Belgium Brewing wanted consumers to experience the flavor of climate change – so their flagship brand, Fat Tire, released “Torched Earth,” a limited-release ale incorporating smoke-tainted, drought-parched ingredients. It tasted terrible. “Being able to communicate the reality of what climate change would do to beer is really important,” says New Belgium’s Wallace. “Because if we don’t take action, it’s going to get worse.”

Fat Tire also made waves throughout the beer world in 2020, when they announced that their popular amber ale was certified carbon neutral – the first beer in the United States to achieve that status. But these initiatives are just the tips of the (rapidly melting) iceberg. The brewery is doing deep work at all levels to become as sustainable as possible, undertaking a broad portfolio of actions that consumers can see and measure.

At their peak, the solar panels atop New Belgium’s Fort Collins Packaging Hall make enough electricity to power the canning and bottling lines. Fat Tire

The effort started with a comprehensive carbon accounting process – a critical analysis of how much is emitted by the business, and where. From there, Fat Tire began buying high-quality carbon offsets for the emissions outside of their direct control, like transportation. Fat Tire’s efforts will pave the way for similar programs across all New Belgium beers, putting the business on the path to complete carbon neutrality by 2030. 

New Belgium Brewing also played a crucial role in lobbying the city council of Fort Collins to transition to 100% renewable electricity by 2030. Wallace says other companies shouldn’t hesitate to do the same. “Sometimes companies feel like they need to have their own carbon accounting in place first, but this is the low hanging fruit,” she says. “Companies should go talk to whoever leads their local utility about moving to renewables. It’s an action they can take now! Companies don’t have to have perfect internal sustainability before asking for that.”

Wallace also highlights the role of larger companies in the fight against climate change: “70% of our emissions come from 100 companies,” she says. “It’s concerning. We can break our backs over here as a medium-size business, but we need the bigger companies to do the work too.” To that end, New Belgium and Fat Tire launched a “Last Call for Climate” initiative, highlighting the sustainability efforts of Fortune 500 companies, along with Twitter links for consumers to call them out or praise them based on their sustainability plans.

New Belgium’s other actions include developing beverage company sustainability standards and launching a carbon-neutral brewery toolkit for their competitors to download and use — free of charge.

For 2022 and beyond, the company has bold goals. “We just rolled out a supplier engagement program, partnering with our suppliers to understand our climate goals,” says Wallace. “Our success will rely on them heavily.” Other items on the agenda include implementing recommendations from the energy engineer New Belgium hired to review their 2030 net-zero plan, continuing to work with their internal carbon-neutral task force, and engaging with New Belgium’s banking and insurance providers.” They have so much influence in what gets funded in the world,” Wallace says.

A ripple effect

New Belgium’s work has also paved the way for other beer companies to take action. Chase O’Malley, from Sunday Beer Co., says, “When New Belgium announced in 2020 that they had made one of their beers carbon neutral, it was the first I had heard of another brewery doing it on that scale. That was really inspiring to us.” Sunday Beer Co. quickly followed suit, making their signature lager carbon neutral, and pooling with other small businesses to purchase offsets through the non-profit Carbon Neutral. Future beers made by the company will also be carbon neutral. The brewery has now switched to fully recyclable packaging, and is reassessing the supply chain for their non-beverage merchandise. “None of us believe that buying offsets is how we’re going to solve the climate crisis,” says O’Malley. “Paying someone else not to emit is not going to solve the problem. But putting the climate first in our business decisions is the first step.”

New Belgium has also inspired Colorado-based Upslope Brewing Company. “We had been on the hunt for a free, comprehensive accounting tool for a while,” says Elizabeth Waters, who oversees sustainability efforts at Upslope. “We were thrilled when New Belgium released their carbon toolkit. It’s user-friendly and specific to the beer industry.” Upslope plans to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030, and is on track to achieve zero-waste by 2025.

Other major players in the beer world are following suit: Wallace says other large craft breweries using New Belgium’s toolkit are on track to announce their carbon-neutral plans soon. And the Yakima Valley hop farmers are doing their part, too – from implementing carbon sequestration practices and more efficient energy and water use to commissioning a first-of-its-kind lifecycle study of hops carbon footprint.

Consumers care

The response from consumers has proven that concrete climate action leads to sales. Kendall Jones, a journalist and the founder of the Washington Beer Blog, sees the trend growing. “A lot of craft beer drinkers are putting sustainability at the forefront,” he says. “One of the reasons the audience for craft beer is growing is that people who make decisions based on sustainability are seeing it as the more sustainable choice.”

New Belgium’s Katie Wallace sees this trend borne out in the data – consumer perceptions of Fat Tire have ticked sharply upwards since the ale became carbon neutral, and other data bears out the trend. “We see a lot of support from our customers around our sustainability work,” she says. “According to our Nielsen data, 84% of customers believe it’s important for a beer to be carbon neutral.”

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Winemakers must pay close attention to their soil, the rain, the heat, and the sunlight. But rodents like gophers and mice can wreak havoc on a vineyard. Rather than turning to rodenticides to deter pests, graduate students at Humboldt State University in California are testing a more natural approach by using owls.

Other brewers are seeing the same positive response. “As we’ve grown our sustainability program, an increasing number of our stakeholders have been reaching out with questions and interest in partnering,” says Elizabeth Waters from Upslope Brewing Company. O’Malley from Sunday Beer Co. also sees the impact. “We’ve received incredibly positive feedback,” he says.

Wallace says collective action is the next step in the journey. “There have been many times when we have collectively invested in our shared wellbeing,” she says. “Many of the systems we depend on today came from protecting our shared prosperity during a time of threat, like the Great Depression or World War II. Right now, the biggest threat is climate change. It’s time to come together and make sure we’re addressing that.”

As the consumer response shows, taking concrete steps in the battle against climate change can also be good business practice. This bolsters the leaders in the beer industry who are taking a stance that other sectors would do well to emulate. As O’Malley of Sunday Beer Co. puts it: “The crisis is here. We can’t just take incremental steps — we need to leap forward as an industry. Our product is so tied to agriculture and the realities of our environment. Why shouldn’t the beer industry lead the way on these bigger goals and issues?”


Grist Creative

New chief scientist wants NASA to be about climate science, not just space

New chief scientist wants NASA to be about climate science, not just space

Katherine Calvin was appointed as NASA’s chief scientist on Monday. In an interview with CNBC, Calvin explains she wants people to think of NASA as a leading voice on climate science, not just space.

Among other goals, she hopes to make climate science easier to find online.

The new top scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration wants the famed space agency to become a leading voice on climate change science, too.

“When people hear NASA, I want them to think of climate science alongside planetary science,” said Katherine Calvin, who was appointed as NASA’s chief scientist on Monday.

“All of the chief scientists of NASA have had specialty areas. Mine is climate,” Calvin told CNBC, speaking from NASA headquarters in Washington DC.

The agency already does a lot of scientific work that ties into climate change. Calvin’s role will be to connect NASA scientists with other scientists and to communicate their science outside of the agency.

“NASA is already a world leader in climate,” Calvin told CNBC. “And so I’m just communicating that science and connecting it to other agencies, to the public.”

NASA has more than two dozen satellites orbiting the Earth observing and measuring climate change variables, like changes in the oceans, clouds, and carbon dioxide levels. NASA uses this data to do climate modeling and prediction.

The agency also develops technologies that can be used to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

For example, NASA is working to make flights more efficient so they use less fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Calvin said.

Calvin’s will work to make the NASA’s climate data easier to find, so users don’t have to hop around to a bunch of different websites.

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“These are large emissions, and we see quite a lot of them on the global scale, much more than we had expected.”

The specifics are still in the works. “But the idea is to get all the information that’s relevant in a place where people can find it,” Calvin said. She particularly wants to make sure NASA’s data is accessible to underserved communities.

Calvin comes to NASA from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Joint Global Change Research Institute in College Park, Maryland, where she’s worked since 2008.

New climate technologies give her hope.

“People are innovative, we flew a helicopter on Mars,” Calvin said. “There’s a lot of smart people at NASA and elsewhere, they’re developing technologies that can help us mitigate or adapt to climate change.”


Catherine Clifford at CNBC

Australia matches its hottest day on record as Western Australia town hits 50.7C

Australia matches its hottest day on record as Western Australia town hits 50.7C

Mercury in the remote town of Onslow registers 50.7C (123.3F) , while two other sites also reach extreme temperatures

Australia has matched its hottest ever reliably recorded temperature, with Onslow airport near the remote West Australian town of Onslow registering 50.7C (123.3F)

Prior to Thursday, the 50C-mark had only been crossed three times at a standardised monitoring site including consecutive days in early 1960. Onslow’s top was reached just before 2.30pm local time.

The 50.7C reading on 2 January 1960 had stood unmatched as Australia’s hottest temperature for 62 years, with the following day almost as scorching at 50.3C, according to Bureau of Meteorology data going back nationally to 1910.

On Thursday, Onslow was joined by at least two other WA sites in breaking 50C, with both Roebourne airport and Mardie hitting 50.5C. Mardie had been there once before, on 19 February 1998 – Australia’s only other 50C-plus day among the four.

The extreme temperatures came towards the end of a searing heatwave over north-western WA in recent days.

Stonkingly hot winds from Australia’s red centre had been building, in part as a result of the movement across northern Australia of tropical cyclone Tiffany.

Now an ex-tropical cyclone, Tiffany dumped huge amounts of rain over northern Queensland and the Northern Territory, and could end up steering heavy rainfall into central and eastern Australia in coming days.

A slew of other WA towns were likely to have set temperature records for January or any time of the year.

Iron-ore export hub Karratha, also on WA’s north-west coast, reached 48.4C (119.1F) to exceed its previous high of 48.2C.

Last year was the world’s fifth-hottest year on record, according to preliminary readings, and was likely the hottest recorded year with a La Niña event in the Pacific.

La Niña years are characterised by the tropical Pacific Ocean absorbing more heat than in a neutral year.

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Extreme urban heat exposure has dramatically increased since the early 1980s, with the total exposure tripling over the past 35 years.

The scorching heat was expected to somewhat ease in Roebourne and Karratha on Friday, but another 49C day was forecast further down the coast in Onslow.

Temperatures were also well into the 40s in parts of the Goldfields and Gascoyne regions, while Perth enjoyed a mild 26C day.

A severe weather warning had meanwhile been issued for people in parts of the far-north Kimberley region, including Kununurra and Wyndham.

The bureau said the ex-tropical cyclone had weakened to a deep tropical low that was set to move across the border from the Northern Territory, bringing heavy rainfall and possible flash flooding.

Damaging wind gusts up to 100km/h were anticipated from Thursday afternoon.


Peter Hannam at The Guardian

Multi-century sea level rise may lead to unprecedented threats to coastal cities

Multi-century sea level rise may lead to unprecedented threats to coastal cities

Sea level rise projections generally focus on the second half of this century, but we all know that sea level will continue to rise for centuries or millennia into the future.

Recently a study was published where the authors combined information on long-term projections of sea level rise, coastal elevation, and population density to assess coastal flood risk at the global scale from multi-century sea level rise. They did so for different levels of global warming, ranging from 1.5 °C to 4 °C.

Long-term sea level rise

They showed that 4 °C global warming would lead to 8.9 m of global mean sea level rise somewhere between 200 and 2000 years from now. 1.5 °C global warming would lead to ‘only’ 2.9 m of global mean sea level rise. These numbers are median estimates: a central value in a range of estimates where 50% of the model results are higher and lower than this median value, respectively.

Exposure of population and built environment

It is of course impossible to estimate the population living in low-elevation coastal zones, globally, hundreds of years from now. The authors, therefore, took the current population living near the coast and calculated the extra number of people that would be exposed to coastal flooding at higher sea levels. The built environment, they argue, is largely immovable and the current situation is a good proxy for the future.

Global exposure

Currently, 2.5%–3.0% of the global population (170–200 million) lives in coastal zones that is projected to fall below the high tide line in 2100 if mean sea level were to rise by 0.48–0.73 m. Without adequate flood protection, this part of the global population may be considered vulnerable to coastal flooding by 2100. The authors estimated that 2 °C global warming, the proposed upper limit of the Paris Climate Agreement, would lead to a median 4.7 m of global mean sea level rise on the long run and threaten land now home to roughly 10% of the global population. A pessimistic – upper limit – estimate of 10.8 m of global mean sea level rise following 4 °C global warming could affect land now home to up to one billion people, or 15% of the current global population.

National exposures

East, Southeast, and South Asia face the greatest overall exposure to sea level rise both this century and later. Of all nations with a total population of at least 25 million, Asian countries make up nine of the top ten most at-risk nations. Land home to over half the populations of Bangladesh and Vietnam may become exposed to coastal flooding even if warming is limited to 2 °C.

Many smaller nations, particularly islands, will become extremely vulnerable to coastal flooding. With 2 °C global warming, more than 80% of the population of the Cocos Islands, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Cayman Islands, Tokelau, Tuvalu, and the Bahamas on the long run will be living in land threatened by flooding. With 4 °C global warming, this percentage will be over 90%.

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Greenland’s ice sheet, the biggest ice sheet in the world behind Antarctica, has melted so much in the past decade that global sea levels rose by 1 centimeter, and trends predict sea levels can rise nearly a foot higher by the end of the century.

City-level exposures

On the long run, with 4 °C global warming leading to a median projected 8.9 m of global mean sea level rise, at least 50 major cities with a population of at least one million, mostly in Asia, would need to defend against globally unprecedented levels of exposure, if feasible. About half of these cities are also threatened at 2 °C global warming. The vulnerable cities in Asia include megacities with a population over 10 million such as Haora, Shanghai, Hanoi, and Dhaka.


A study that looks hundreds of years into the future must be based on assumptions that simplify reality. Taking the current population as a constant for the multi-century scenarios is one of them. Also, the analysis assumes that global emissions do not become negative while in the long run greenhouse gases may be extracted from the atmosphere on a massive scale, reducing long-term sea level rise. On the other hand, no unstoppable collapse of major ice sheets has been included in the analysis while Antarctic ice sheet breakdown may lead to higher multi-century sea levels than projected in this study. Finally, the impact of present or future artificial coastal defenses was not considered.