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Environment - New Scientist

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Hot, sleepless nights will get more common with climate change

People in the US stand to lose sleep as the climate warms – and those in hotter countries will be harder hit

Governments sued over climate change, with banks and firms next

Almost 900 climate change cases have now been filed in 24 countries, and the Paris climate agreement could provide a further boost to litigation efforts

Newly-evolved microbes may be breaking down ocean plastics

There is less plastic in our oceans than expected because life is evolving the ability to biodegrade it, one team is claiming  

Nowcasting may help forecast big earthquakes in 53 major cities

Records of small quakes can help us gauge how close we are to really big ones, using a technique borrowed from economics and finance

Trump’s budget jettisons ‘irreplaceable’ marine mammals agency

The US Marine Mammal Commission, charged with restoring oceans’ mammal populations, is set for the chop in president Donald Trump’s budget proposal

Unimpeachable logic says Trump shouldn’t quit Paris climate pact

President Donald Trump should keep the US in the Paris Agreement on climate and embrace it as a great deal for his nation's economy, says Owen Gaffney

EU nations set to wipe out forests and not account for emissions

The drive for biofuels that international treaties wrongly consider to be emissions-free is driving plans to boost tree harvests in Europe, forgetting about associated emissions

Rising seas could double the number of severe coastal floods

An increase in sea level of between just 5 and 10 centimetres could make devastating weather events come every 25 years rather than every 50 years

Narwhals could help us measure melting glaciers underwater

A project off Greenland will tag whales with sensors to measure sea temperatures and ice melt in hard-to-reach places, improving predictions of sea-level rise

Remote Pacific island found buried under tonnes of plastic waste

A tiny, otherwise pristine island is smothered by our blast from the past: vast amounts of decades-old plastic from around the world

Unshackled, big auto will keep choking the world on diesel fumes

We now know diesel vehicles pollute more than they should to deadly effect everywhere, but the real scandal is government foot-dragging, says Olive Heffernan

The day Mount St Helens erupted and I should have died

But for a chance decision, Don Swanson would have been killed in the Mount St Helens eruption of 1980. That day changed his life, and volcanology, forever

Driest ten months in 100 years recorded in southern England

The last 10 months were the driest July to April for southern England in records stretching back more than 100 years, figures reveal  

Where the wind blows: Mapping our wildest gusts

A new wind atlas will help turbines avoid the doldrums – and solve some of wind's enduring mysteries

Hundreds of newly-discovered plants may yield new crops or drugs

Even as we discover promising new wild relatives of key crops and medicinal plants, some of them are already endangered by pests and climate change  

Beaver dams keeps streams cool and protect sensitive fish

We used to think that beaver dams warmed up stream waters as felling trees to build them reduces shade. Now it seems the opposite might be true

Odds on: Five scientific theories decided by wager

From the existence of black holes to the reality of climate change, over the years some big questions have been the subject of bets,  finds Michael Brooks

Diesel fumes lead to thousands more deaths than thought

Cars, lorries and buses that drive on diesel churn out far more air pollution than standard testing procedures suggest, even without any emissions cheating devices

Early Earth was covered in a global ocean and had no mountains

Some 4.4 billion years ago, soon after its formation, Earth was a much quieter and duller place than it is today, according to analysis of minerals from that time

We are on track to pass 1.5°C warming in less than 10 years

Business as usual would cause the planet to warm above the aspirational 1.5°C limit agreed at the UN Paris meeting as early as 2026

Increased cancer rate in US linked to bad environment

Around 39 in 100,000 cancer deaths could be avoided if US counties improved environment quality – a target that could be hampered by Trump's new legislation

Snowball Earth melting led to freshwater ocean 2 kilometres deep

A freshwater layer up to 2 kilometres deep floated on our planet’s oceans for some 50,000 years after the end of an extreme ice age

Industry experts may replace dismissed EPA advisory scientists

The Trump administration has dismissed several scientists from the advisory board of the US Environmental Protection Agency and may replace them with people from industry

Pink mountains light up in otherworldly view of fjord

These peaks are part of the Tracy Arm, a 43-kilometre-long fjord near Juneau, Alaska, and photographed with an infrared, ultraviolet, and visible light camera

Cutting through the smog: What to do to fight air pollution

Tackling our air problems starts with traffic control, but individual action to reduce energy use and intensive farming would also help clean our air

UK government subsidises coal sector with £356 million a year

Despite pledges to phase out coal, UK and several other EU countries still provide various tax benefits to the coal sector, according to a new report

The UK government’s attitude to air pollution stinks

Despite debate over how many "deaths" air pollution causes, it is clear bad air damages our health, so attempts to delay rules on reducing it must be resisted

UK’s plan to clean up its air is still inadequate, critics say

The government has published long-awaited plans to cut illegal pollution but critics have warned they are too weak to improve the UK's dirty air  

Cutting through the smog: How air pollution shortens your life

Don’t take alarming death toll numbers at face value – the noxious gases in the air won’t kill you outright, but they will cut your time on Earth

Cutting through the smog: 5 ways to slash your pollution intake

From cycling rather than driving to being savvy about where you walk, here are the key things that will minimise the risk pollution poses to you

Strange mantle plume under Iceland helps keep Scotland afloat

Most plumes of hot rock have a circular outline, but the plume beneath Iceland has a splatter of horizontal fingers hundreds of kilometres long below Earth’s crust

Cutting through the smog: Is pollution getting worse?

The quality of air varies from country to country and in some places pea-soupers are becoming more frequent, in others, the air is getting ever cleaner

Arctic oil and gas must remain off limits for good, Trump

The US president's executive order seeking to overturn a ban on fossil fuel exploration in Arctic waters is unsafe and irresponsible, says Owen Gaffney

Map of the underworld may let us play plate tectonics in reverse

An atlas of the ancient continents swallowed up long ago is the first to show the whereabouts of almost 100 tectonic plates that have sunk

Seabed seismic sensors would have cut 2011 Japan tsunami toll

An earthquake warning system now being installed at the source of the Tohoku quake would have alerted people much faster if it had existed in 2011

Plan to regrow receding Swiss glacier by blowing artificial snow

An ambitious plan to save a melting glacier in the Swiss Alps with showers of artificial snow will be tested this summer

Ancient carvings show comet hit Earth and triggered mini ice age

Headless human and animal symbols carved into stone in Turkey tell the story of a devastating comet impact that triggered a mini ice age more than 13,000 years ago

UK loses another court case over failure to tackle air pollution

Government must unveil revised plans on 9 May and cannot wait until after the general election as it wanted to

Seabed images show the scars icebergs carve into polar sea floor

A new atlas shows scars gouged into polar sea floors by glaciers and icebergs in unprecedented detail, which could help our understanding of how they behave

Amazon rainforest under threat as Brazil tears up protections

The political turmoil and fast-tracking of big development projects is putting deforestation gains under threat

Typhoon Haiyan’s electric spectacular in the eye of the storm

Satellites reveal that one of the strongest tropical storms on record had unusual lightning in its core – which could be used to monitor storm intensity

Marine life is rubbish… at least in these pictures

Mandy Barker produces lush, evocative images of the very material that's destroying the marine environment

UK does more to protect marine areas overseas than at home

The government is failing to designate marine protected areas off its coast as promised, says a parliamentary report

Plastic-munching caterpillars may show us how to dissolve waste

A chance discovery that honeycomb moth caterpillars can digest plastic means they could hold an enzyme that will break down some of our most persistent waste

On the ground in Washington at the March for Science

Thousands rallied and marched in the rain in the US capital to stand up for science and its place in politics

Environment chief says US should exit Paris climate agreement

The US appears to be getting closer to quitting the Paris climate agreement, with Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, saying it’s a bad deal for the country

Rocks of ages: How meteorites reveal the solar system’s history

Clever ways to find more space debris, and pinpoint where it came from, will help us rewrite what we know about the solar system's turbulent youth

Fleet of CubeSats launches to study the neglected ‘ignorosphere’

Today 28 boxy satellites blasted off for the International Space Station, on a mission to study a stubbornly inaccessible region of Earth's atmosphere

Internal migration of millions as seas rise will rattle whole US

It's not just coastal areas that will be affected by rising waters, and the US might be hopelessly underprepared unless planning starts now, says Jeff Goodell

California’s wet year eases drought but many still lack water

Don’t be fooled by the superbloom. Despite record-breaking rains, California’s drought is still ongoing in four counties, and the driest five years on record will have lasting effects

Lightning round-up: The world’s weirdest electricity

From flashes of light resembling sea monsters to vast rings of glowing red light, lightning comes in an astonishing array of mysterious flavours

Bolt from the blue: Lightning doesn’t form like we thought

It happens somewhere on Earth 100 times a second, yet we don't know how or why. Peering into the hearts of thunderstorms is starting to illuminate lightning's mysteries

It’s not too late to save Great Barrier Reef from politicians

Australia is pushing ahead with plans for a giant coal mine, despite the threat it poses to the imperilled reef and hints that the appetite for coal is waning

Life could exist up to 10 kilometres beneath the sea floor

Samples from a mud volcano contain biological signatures that suggest microbes lived in the material when it was rock several kilometres beneath the ocean floor

Public fatigue is the friend of those who would thwart science

Climate change deniers exploit disillusion brought on by often gloomy scientific findings, but evolving views on antibiotic use show it needn't be that way

Mass bleaching hits Great Barrier Reef for second year in a row

The reef’s central portion is bleaching fast this year, following huge losses in the northern part last year – and climate change is the culprit

A year on thin ice: Four seasons in a radically changed Arctic

The ice that was once rock-solid is now rotten and see-through in places, weakened by a winter of freak heatwaves. Discover the new normal at the North Pole

Record amounts of renewable energy added to the mix in 2016

Renewable energy sources added 138.5 gigawatts to global power capacity, equivalent to the total installed capacity of Canada

Flight turbulence to get three times more common because of CO2

Air travel is likely to get a lot bumpier as carbon dioxide levels rise and affect the jet streams

Neglect and drug trade led to Colombian landslide disaster

People who snort coke may have contributed to the landslide that devastated the town of Mocoa in Colombia, killing hundreds

CO2 set to hit levels not seen in 50 million years by 2050

We are pumping CO2 into the atmosphere so fast that by the middle of this century the gas could soar to its highest levels for 50 million years

US bill restricts use of science in environmental policymaking

The so-called HONEST Act promises to end secrecy in science, but will in effect cripple the EPA’s ability to develop public health regulations, say concerned scientists

Warming drives Alaskan glacier to its lowest point in 900 years

The Columbia glacier was tipped into rapid retreat by human-caused climate warming of less than 2°C, so many more glaciers might be doomed

How to snatch carbon emissions victory from US climate U-turn

Donald Trump's rollback on climate gives the rest of the world a second chance to do the unthinkable: put a price on carbon. Will we seize the opportunity?

It just got harder to deny climate change drives extreme weather

The link between human activity and unusual jet stream patterns associated with extreme weather events is getting stronger, says Olive Heffernan

Western demand for goods from China is killing 100,000 a year

Nearly a quarter of premature deaths from air pollution worldwide happen in countries that manufacture goods for export

Trump signs executive order to reverse Obama’s climate policies

The order targets the 2015 Clean Power Plan, which was meant to limit emissions from coal-fired power plants, and aims to relax fracking regulations

Geoengineering the sky is scary but we need to test it now

The world's biggest trial of cooling the planet by altering the atmosphere is being launched. It is crucial that it goes ahead, says Jamais Cascio

Changing clocks twice a year is bad for health and energy use

Are you feeling tired today? Much of the UK got up an hour earlier this morning, a change that has been linked to heart attacks and strokes in some countries

Shock mass coral die-off in Asia sounds alarm for world’s reefs

An unexpected coral bleaching event in the South China Sea shows that reefs can heat up substantially more than the surrounding ocean

7 foods you should avoid to help feed the world

We can all play a part by rethinking what we eat so that Earth’s limited resources are used more efficiently. So, which foods and drinks should we cut back on?

Quarter of California’s snowpack loss is from human-made warming

California’s reservoirs depend on the gradual melting of winter snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains, but the snowpack is dwindling and may not return

Tomorrow’s menu: Termites, grass and synthetic milk

The population is set to rise by 2.5 billion in three decades. We have plenty of ingenious ideas about how to keep us all fed, but will they be too tough to swallow?

Weather and climate extremes continue to set new records

Last year was bad, but 2017 is shaping to follow suit as carbon levels, temperatures and sea levels continue to rise, says the World Meteorological Organisation

On front line of climate change as Maldives fights rising seas

The Maldives government has decided not to abandon the sinking country and instead vowed to build new islands to keep the country – and economy – afloat

CO2 emissions from energy remain flat for third year running

Carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector have not increased for three years in a row even as the global economy grew

Indian Ocean version of El Niño behind drought in East Africa

Like El Niño, the Indian Ocean dipole involves cyclical temperature changes in the ocean, and now millions face crop failures and famine partly as a result

Metabolism may be older than life itself and start spontaneously

The discovery that the Krebs cycle, which is essential for life, can occur in the absence of enzymes suggests that life’s origins were surprisingly humble

Scott Pruitt’s climate denial may be Putin’s real prize

Did Russia back the rise of Donald Trump to see climate sceptics in power in the hope of saving its economic skin, wonders Owen Gaffney

Forget snow, rain will become main precipitation in the Arctic

By the end of the century, the Arctic will get far more rain. The vicious cycle of warming and precipitation could have serious consequences for wildlife

Trump’s assault on climate science will not make America great

Gutting the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency will leave the US more vulnerable to climate change

Green thinking in the era of Trump

In a new political reality, the rights of the individual will overshadow how the US manages its environmental resources. Two new books explain the background

EPA boss says carbon dioxide not primary cause of climate change

The statement from Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, contradicts all the scientific evidence

Plankton can save the ocean. But who will save the plankton?

It's not just warming oceans we need to worry about. Crucial plankton have been discovered behaving strangely, but they may point the way to better geoengineering

Most people don’t know climate change is entirely human-made

Even in eco-friendly Norway, only a minority of people realise that global warming is entirely due to our actions, survey of four European countries reveals

Sponge can soak up and release spilled oil hundreds of times

A new foam material could be the first good reusable method to recover spilled oil, and would be much better for the environment

Raindrops make soil bacteria take off and fly through air

When raindrops hit the ground, they throw microbes into the air in aerosols – with possible implications for the climate, agriculture and diseases

Deep cuts to environmental research in Trump’s budget proposal

US agencies doing climate research see concerning budget proposal that would eliminate funding for government science on air, energy and water within EPA, and slash satellite and coastal research at NOAA

Global greening may soak up less carbon dioxide than projected

Earth could warm slightly faster than we thought because a lack of phosphorus will prevent many plants exploiting all the extra CO2

UK’s CO2 emissions lowest since 19th century as coal use falls

Emissions of the major greenhouse gas fell almost 6 per cent year-on-year in 2016 to the lowest levels seen since 1894

First yearly CO2 forecast predicts one of biggest rises ever

The forecast suggests levels of the greenhouse gas could briefly pass 410 parts per million in May, just four years after first passing 400 ppm

Rock solid evidence of Anthropocene seen in 208 minerals we made

Human activities like mining and building have created hundreds of minerals and spread them all over the world, leaving a significant mark on the geological record

Traces in rock may be the oldest evidence of life on Earth ever

Rocks that could be just 200 million years younger than Earth carry structures and signatures reminiscent of microbial activity, but some dispute that view

Atmospheric rivers leave California dried out and then flooded

Weeks of storms have filled California’s reservoirs. A series of atmospheric river storms is to blame, and the state’s ageing dams are feeling the strain

Snow will melt more slowly in a warmer world – here’s why

Snowmelt will start earlier but happen more slowly, depriving river systems and reservoirs of the big gush of water they rely on

A loaf of bread emits half a kilo of CO2, mainly from fertiliser

Fertiliser use accounts for 40 per cent of greenhouse gases emitted to make bread, and bread production accounts for half a per cent of all UK emissions

There’s no such thing as ‘clean coal’ – it’s dirty and expensive

Australia and the US want to revive an uneconomical and polluting technology, and, worse, Australia plans to take money from a clean energy fund to do it

The EU’s renewable energy policy is making global warming worse

Independent report concludes the massive subsidies for wood energy are increasing greenhouse emissions, and are a waste of public money

Worst-ever coral bleaching event continues into fourth year

NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch is predicting that many reefs will bleach in the next three months as sea temperatures remain high despite the recent El Niño coming to an end

Alarm as climate sceptic named head of US environment agency

Scientists within the EPA say work continues as usual for now, but they worry about potential changes when Scott Pruitt – a climate change sceptic – takes charge