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Environment - New Scientist

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Plants love carbon dioxide, but too much could be bad for them

Most plants were expected to grow more as CO2 levels rise, but a 20-year experiment suggests that the extra CO2 is somehow stunting plant growth, which could make climate change worse

Why climate engineers are targeting Earth’s last pristine spots

Some of the last great wildernesses are being considered as likely candidates for geoengineering. It's a sad reflection of climate failings, says Olive Heffernan

Most UK plants will flower at once in short ‘condensed spring’

Plants in the UK are set to blaze into flower virtually simultaneously, because flowering has been delayed two weeks by the unusually cold weather

World’s biggest bird feeder will use 500 tonnes of shellfish

A crucial feeding ground for migrating birds has been almost destroyed by pollution and a bad winter, but help is at hand in the form of an all-you-can-eat buffet

A melting ice shelf can cause rapid ice loss 900 kilometres away

If one part of an ice shelf starts to thin, it can trigger rapid ice losses in other regions as much as 900 kilometres away – contributing to sea level rise

Carbon-free shipping is possible, so why aren’t we doing it?

New UN-agreed limits on carbon emissions from shipping don’t go far or fast enough, especially as we already have the tech to make shipping carbon-free

The Antarctic is melting even in the middle of subzero winter

Warm mountain winds are causing extensive winter melting on the surface of the Larsen C ice shelf, which could contribute to its breakup

What to expect from this Saturday’s March for Science

The March for Science on 14 April will involve rallies in more than 200 cities, as a sequel to last year’s inaugural march in protest of president Donald Trump

Hawaii tops the list of beach destinations at risk of tsunami

The world’s first ranking of tsunami risks for major tourist beaches shows popular spots like Hawaii and Bali are most in danger

2017 was the year of the biggest fire storms ever seen

The record-breaking 2017 wildfires in the US generated massive thunderstorms that pumped as much smoke into the stratosphere as a volcanic eruption

The Nile river is at least 30 million years old

Sediment deposits reveal when the longest river in the world started flowing from Ethiopia to the Mediterranean

Antarctica still losing ice despite big rise in snowfall

A 10 per cent rise in snowfall in Antarctica is adding more ice to the continent each year, but the ice sheets are still shrinking because it's being lost faster too

Ancient finger bone may reveal humanity’s path out of Africa

A single bone found in the Saudi Arabian desert is at least 85,000 years old, and may shed light on the route early humans took out of Africa

David Attenborough: It’s time we humans came to our senses

From the plastic age, to the tripling of our population and the destruction of the natural world, David Attenborough has seen it all, and issues a call to arms

A simple mathematical rule shapes the behaviour of Arctic ponds

Understanding Arctic ponds can help us predict how fast the ice is melting. Their formation is governed by the simple maths of drawing overlapping circles

Spending on renewables in rich countries has halved in six years

Spending on renewables in developed countries has halved since 2011, with investment levels in Europe falling back below the 2006 level

Congestion charge can cut childhood asthma attacks by half

A congestion charge in Stockholm not only cut levels of air pollution, it halved the number of children admitted to hospital with asthma attacks

Virtuoso bowhead whales constantly make up new songs

Bowhead whales are such talented singers they can make two sounds simultaneously, and they invent new songs every year

Just half a degree less global warming would avert food shortage

Governments are dithering over whether to limit climate change to 1.5°C or 2°C, but it seems the stricter target would avoid food shortages and major economic losses

Refusing to accept GM food is safe is like climate change denial

Environmentalist Mark Lynas, who once destroyed GM crops and then made headlines by ending his opposition, is stepping up his call for reason to triumph  

Shrimp and lobster are as bad for the climate as eating beef

Fish and seafood are normally fairly environmentally friendly, but it takes so much fuel to catch some species that their carbon footprint is as big as that of red meat

Real colour of money: business wants profit and green cred

A strange alliance of corporates and environmental groups thinks profits and green credentials can be aligned. But there's some angry pushback

The frogs bouncing back after almost being wiped out by disease

A few amphibian species in Panama are recovering from near-extinction, after apparently evolving resistance to the deadly chytrid fungus

Earth had water even before the collision that made the moon

Comparing moon rocks to volcanic ones from the ocean floor shows that Earth’s water may have stuck around even through the giant impact that formed the moon

Why the UK’s plastic bottle deposit plan doesn’t go far enough

The UK government’s plan to introduce a refundable deposit on plastic bottles is a good start, but producers must pay the entire cost of dealing with waste

Lost villages from centuries ago found in the Amazon rainforest

Even some of the more remote parts of the Amazon rainforest, far from major rivers, were once densely populated – centuries before the arrival of Europeans

Neanderthals ambushed cave bears as they awoke from hibernation

Our extinct cousins the Neanderthals seem to have targeted cave bears, which were normally intimidating foes, while they were sleepy and weak from hibernating through the winter

Much of nature is near collapse and that means society is too

An assessment of Earth’s biodiversity predicts catastrophic losses within decades, with severe knock-on effects for human civilisation like shortages of food

A very pregnant female ray had to fend off four courting males

Giant devil rays have been filmed courting for the first time, and it turns out the males do not even wait for the females to give birth

Heavy metal poisoning may be changing birds’ personalities

Great tits exposed to toxic metals like cadmium and lead alter their behaviour, becoming less exploratory and more cautious, suggesting their personalities have been reshaped

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is gobbling up ever more plastic

There's at least four times as much plastic floating in the Pacific as we thought, and a lot of it may have floated over from Japan after the 2011 Tohoku tsunami

Weird Antarctic ice may explain how life endured on frozen Earth

A strange discovery, made by polar explorer Robert Scott a century ago, might explain how complex life survived when the planet froze over into “Snowball Earth”

Medicine for sick koalas turns out to actually kill them

Koalas are often given antibiotics to treat a lethal strain of chlamydia, but the medicines often kill the koalas by wiping out friendly bacteria in their guts

Huge Australian bushfire was caused by unseasonal freak weather

A fire in New South Wales has destroyed 69 homes, even though Australia’s fire season is over – climate change may be a factor

Craft beer may get cheaper thanks to GM yeast with hoppy flavour

A genetically engineered yeast makes beer that tastes of hops, without using any hops – and it could make beer cheaper and more environmentally friendly

Five billion people face water shortages by 2050, warns UN

Billions more will go thirsty unless we increase use of forests and soils to capture and recycle water

US and Russia will soon face mega-heatwaves from climate change

In the coming decades Russia will experience worse heatwaves than the 2010 event, which killed 55,000 people, while the US will bake in the West and Great Lakes regions

The Arctic is sending us signals of impending climate chaos

The immediate disasters of The Day After Tomorrow remains wild exaggeration, but melting ice could yet cause dramatic climate changes by altering ocean currents

How concrete and condoms could turn a greenhouse gas green

We need to suck CO2 from the air to solve the climate crisis, but what do we do with it? A budding industry is turning the gas into useful stuff

These searing hot chilli peppers are in danger thanks to snakes

The donne’ sali chilli is a major feature of the cuisine of the Mariana Islands, but thanks to an invasive snake this pepper faces an uncertain future

Polar melt may shut down the Atlantic current that warms Europe

Melting Arctic ice flooding into the Atlantic could put the ocean circulation that warms Europe in danger, triggering dramatic sea-level rise and drought

US climate report warns nation will lose out if it doesn’t act

A draft of a US government report argues that the country could reap huge economic and health benefits by cutting greenhouse gas emissions

Polar melt may shut down the Atlantic current that warms Europe

Melting Arctic ice flooding into the Atlantic could put the ocean circulation that warms Europe in danger, triggering dramatic sea level rise and drought

Ancient birds couldn’t sit on their eggs without smashing them

The first birds to evolve had hip bones that forced them to lay small, weak eggs that could not support the adult bird’s weight

A cracking idea: The radical way to open up frozen seas

Arctic routes are getting busier and some ships get trapped in the ice. Rather than smash them out with brute force, there is a more elegant way to free them

Deep sea discovery suggests world’s oldest fossils misunderstood

Stromatolites represent some of the oldest fossils on Earth but the assumption that they formed in sun-drenched seas has now been challenged

Record low Arctic ice linked to freak weather in US, Europe

The unusually cold and snowy conditions hitting the US now, and experienced last week across Europe, may be a direct consequence of the Arctic's warmer winter

Leopards that live in cities are protecting people from rabies

Wild leopards wander into the Indian city of Mumbai to prey on feral dogs – and in doing so they stop the dogs biting people and passing on the rabies virus

Parts of San Francisco are sinking faster than the sea is rising

Rising seas are already boosting the flood risk in places like San Francisco, but the problem is even worse than that because land is also subsiding

A deadly predator could save the UK’s threatened red squirrels

Britain’s native red squirrels have been retreating for decades in the face of invasive grey squirrels, but predators called pine martens could help save them

Drones reveal huge colonies of 1.5 million penguins on islands

Two massive colonies of Adélie penguins have been discovered on the Danger Islands off the coast of Antarctica, bringing the global population to 8 million

A weird underground plant has been rediscovered after 151 years

A species of subterranean plant was only seen once, in 1866, and was assumed to be extinct – until researchers stumbled across living specimens in Borneo

Don’t panic – homes in the UK won’t run out of gas for heating

Demand is expected to exceed supply on Thursday and possibly Friday too, but that just means some factories will have to use less gas

Newly-discovered fungi turn luckless ants into kamikaze zombies

Fifteen more species of “zombie ant fungus” have been discovered, and they all force their hosts to die in creative ways to further their own life cycle

Arctic hit by record high temperatures as rest of Europe shivers

The extreme warmth is likely to slow or prevent the formation of Arctic sea ice, which has been shrinking for decades due to climate change.

North Atlantic right whales didn’t have a single calf this year

The failure of the breeding season bodes ill for endangered North Atlantic right whales, which are down to a population of just 430

These strange lines of cloud are seeded by pollution from ships

Much as an aeroplane leaves contrails, streaks of white cloud condense onto the tiny particles thrown into the air by the exhausts of travelling ships

Green is the new black: Redesigning clothes to save the planet

The clothes on your back are responsible for huge amounts of pollution – but lab-grown fabrics and changes to our fashion habits can make a big difference

When it comes to climate change, a tantrum is just what we need

We can’t wait for the next generation to solve the problem of climate change but today’s kids can still be a big force for change, says Michael E. Mann

Rock dusting on farms could cool the climate, so let’s try it

Crushed basalt applied to agricultural land could soak up billions of tons of carbon dioxide and boost crops. Let's put it to the test, says Olive Heffernan

Huge underwater landslides and tsunamis may be caused by ooze

Layers of ooze in the seabed may be responsible for submarine “megaslides” that dwarf ordinary landslides and can cause tsunamis

Cyclone Gita hits New Zealand after hammering Tonga

New Zealand has declared a state of emergency as Cyclone Gita struck the city of Christchurch, just days after causing devastation on the island nation of Tonga

Mystery honeycombs in rock may be created by water and salt

Many rocks are covered with circular hollows that look like honeycomb, and now we may finally understand how these strange formations come into existence

We all need to take our heads out of the sand

The fact we are running out of something so seemingly limitless as sand is a potent symbol of humanity's destructiveness. We must all strive to do better

Mute male crickets are still trying to serenade females

Male Hawaiian crickets that have lost the ability to chirp still go through the motion of “singing”, even though females can’t hear them

World without sand: The race to save a precious resource

From electronics to concrete, modern life depends on sand. With supplies running low and mines harming the environment, it’s time to use it smarter

Shampoo is causing air pollution, but let’s not lose our heads

In Western cities, household products like deodorants and paints are a bigger source of air pollution than vehicle exhausts – so here’s what we need to do

People are slaughtering orangutans and wiping them out

The population of Bornean orangutans fell by almost half in just 16 years, and it was not a sad by-product of deforestation: many apes were killed deliberately

How a bat’s hairy tongue lets it suck up nectar like a sponge

If you're a greedy bat, it helps to have a hairy tongue. The hairs will ensure that you can slurp as much nectar as possible from flowers into your mouth

Expedition to uncover hidden life in mystery Antarctic realm

In July 2017 a huge iceberg broke away from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf, revealing a marine world that was concealed for thousands of years

The survivors: Is climate change really killing polar bears?

Rapid global warming is said to be ringing the death knell for polar bears, by melting their icy hunting grounds. But the reality is more complex

Australia’s deadly 1800s storms help us predict future extremes

Meteorologists cannot currently predict the monster storms that occasionally strike Australia, but decades of newspaper accounts suggest there may be a pattern

Oldest dog burial suggests prehistoric humans loved dogs as pets

A dog that was buried with its owners 14,000 years ago was chronically ill throughout its life, yet its owners repeatedly nursed it back to health – suggesting a deep bond of friendship

Deep-sea fish lay eggs near hydrothermal vents to keep them warm

Pacific white skate lay their eggs onto the sizzling hot rocks of hydrothermal vents in the depths of the sea, possibly because the heat speeds up their development

The worst mass extinction may have begun with mass sterilisation

There seems to have been a surge in ultraviolet radiation during the Permian extinction 252 million years ago, and it might have left plants infertile rather than kill them

The US agency that guards the environment is going to be hobbled

Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has talked up his mission to scale back its powers. It's so shortsighted, says Ian Graber-Stiehl

Beetles escape alive after almost 2 hours in a toad’s stomach

Bombardier beetles sometimes get eaten by toads, but they can squirt hot, toxic jets of liquid from their backsides so the toads often vomit them right back up

Ancient rock art rewrites the natural history of Arabia

The archaeological record suggests few large animals lived in Arabia in the last few thousand years, but prehistoric rock art from the area depicts a host of big beasts

It may be impossible to live comfortably without trashing Earth

A study of 151 nations shows that the ones that do the most damage to the planet also give their citizens the best lives. Does this mean modern life is unworkable?

Tropical plants are blooming as they gorge on our pollution

We are pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, heating the planet, but some plants are using the excess carbon dioxide to make more flowers

Polar bears waste lots of their energy and it could be a problem

We thought polar bears had neat tricks for conserving energy in lean periods, but it turns out they are not that thrifty, which could cause them trouble in the future

Wave of massive volcanoes created Earth’s first supercontinent

2.2 billion years ago, a huge build-up of pressure inside the Earth triggered vast volcanic eruptions, which formed the first ever supercontinent

Sound waves may be able to trigger earlier tsunami warnings

When an earthquake sets off a tsunami, it releases speedy sound waves that could give us early warning. But they still can’t predict the size of the tsunami  

People are using mosquito nets for fishing and that’s a bad idea

In many tropical countries mosquito nets are handed out to help stop the spread of malaria, but it seems they are often being repurposed as fishing nets

Renewables made more electricity than coal in Europe in 2017

The amount of electricity generated by renewables in Europe has for the first time outpaced that coming from coal sources, according to new analysis of official figures

London has already reached air pollution limits for 2018

It has taken the capital longer to break the air pollution limit this year than last, when legal levels were passed less than a week into January

Ancient jawbone suggests humans left Africa 50,000 years earlier

We thought that Homo sapiens were confined to Africa until 120,000 years ago, but a jawbone from an Israeli cave reveals an exodus over 170,000 years ago

These are the worst ready-made sandwiches for the climate

Producing ready-made sandwiches can generate twice as much carbon dioxide as simply making them at home, and one particular filling is egregiously bad

Chimps are now dying of the common cold and they are all at risk

The deaths of five Ugandan chimpanzees have been traced to a human cold virus, and DNA tests suggest all African chimps are vulnerable

Our best way to geoengineer the climate may well trash Earth

A key plan to reduce global warming is to grow crops for fuel then capture and bury the carbon released when it's burned. This risks ecocide, says Olive Heffernan

The origin of insect wings has been revealed by gene editing

Wings have helped insects to dominate the skies for 400 million years, and now CRISPR is revealing exactly how the first wings evolved

Deadly heat: How to survive the world’s new temperature extremes

Australia’s latest sizzling summer presages a global future – but we’re beginning to understand heat’s impacts on the human body, and how to combat them

Australia’s A$60 million plan for Great Barrier Reef won’t work

The Australian government has pledged millions of dollars in extra funding to protect the Great Barrier Reef, but none of it will go to tackling the biggest threat

Huge volcano eruption in the Philippines forces mass evacuation

More than 50,000 villagers were forced to flee their homes after the most active volcano in the Phillipines, Mount Mayon, spewed lava and ash plumes

Tsunami warning for US west coast after magnitude-7.9 earthquake

A tsunami alert was issued for the US west coast, and then cancelled, after a major earthquake struck at sea off the coast of Alaska

Spy balloons flying 40km up track drug smugglers on the ground

The US military are testing uncrewed balloons filled with helium that can keep watch over a small area by catching different winds in the stratosphere

Cute cats the size of kittens are seeing their homes destroyed

Güiñas are the smallest cats in the Americas, smaller than most domestic cats, and they are becoming increasingly rare

Ruptured Tibetan glaciers triggered massive speedy avalanches

In 2016, a pair of glaciers suddenly collapsed and sent huge chunks of ice hurtling downhill. The events suggest such disasters are more common than we thought

No, the worst-case climate change futures haven’t been ruled out

A single study has been hailed for narrowing the range of possible climate change scenarios, but figuring out how the world will warm is more complicated than headlines suggest

Deadly solar flares may have helped seed life on Mars and beyond

High-energy particles that can strip away planetary atmospheres and cause biological damage might also forge the complex organic molecules that give rise to life