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Environment - New Scientist

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A capsized oil tanker is releasing invisible toxins into the sea

The slick of oil condensate from a stricken tanker in the East China Sea is a threat to all marine life, not least because it is invisible

Spectacular light pillars rise up in frozen North America

The same cold weather that has caused frozen sharks to wash up on the US East Coast has given us a light show more often seen in polar regions

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

Tiny individual decisions really could help avert climate chaos

A new computer model has shown individual decisions can massively influence how bad global warming might get. Time to take the human factor seriously, says Adam Corner

Mount Etna may not really be a ‘proper’ volcano at all

Italy’s famous volcano Mount Etna may be fed mostly by hot water and carbon dioxide, with only a small dose of molten rock to make it resemble a classic volcano

Even a small cut in global warming will help slow sea level rise

Limiting climate change to 1.5 °C instead of 2 °C, even if we overshoot at first and then bring temperatures back down, will ease the rise in sea levels

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

UK’s plastic bag ban is a pitiful attempt at a greener future

Talk of cutting plastic pollution has grabbed the headlines, but the UK’s long-awaited 25-year plan for the environment consists almost entirely of vague aspirations and vacuous promises

If the sea floor is sinking, are we safe from sea level rise?

The first study to calculate how much the ocean floor is sinking due to the extra weight of meltwater going into the sea has been widely misrepresented

Storm waves can move boulders heavier than the Statue of Liberty

Extreme storm waves at sea have shifted a boulder weighing 620 tonnes, explaining why huge rocks are sometimes mysteriously found on high cliffs

Ban on plastic microbeads comes into force in the UK

A UK-wide ban on the manufacture of products containing tiny pieces of plastic has come into force - but the ban on selling such products won't come in until July

Extreme weather in US and Australia may be due to climate change

The eastern US has shivered through freezing temperatures while Australia has sweltered in a colossal heatwave, and both events may be linked to climate change

Otherworldly ‘earth pyramids’ make the Alps look alien

You don't need a space ship to see alien landscapes up close. Just take a hike to these Piramidi di terra in the South Tyrol of northern Italy

Tackle UK’s killer toxic air before waging war on ocean plastic

If only environment secretary Michael Gove's enthusiasm to curb plastic pollution extended to more pressing environmental issues, says Olive Heffernan

Baby skeleton from Alaska reveals origins of Native Americans

DNA from an infant girl who died 11,500 years ago reveals where America’s first human settlers came from and when they arrived

‘Thrill-seeking’ genes could help birds escape climate change

Some birds may escape extinction if their genes favour exploring newer, more hospitable habitats

Iconic tree from Twin Peaks threatened by climate change

The Douglas fir is one of the most ecologically and economically vital species in the Pacific Northwest, but global warming may pose a serious threat to it

Bright skies at night: The riddle of the nocturnal sun

Before artificial lights blinded our sight, reports of nights as bright as day were common. What lay behind the phenomenon was a mystery – until now

England’s soggy place names could predict the climate future

Anglo-Saxon England was unusually warm and stormy. Place names coined then could hold clues to how the weather will get wetter and wilder as the climate changes

Genital parasite crabs are struggling to find sex partners

Parasitic crustaceans called castrator pea crabs spend most of their lives hiding in the sex organs of limpets, and that makes it difficult to find a mate

Cocktail umbrellas can save Earth from the Anthropocene

On the fourth day of Christmas, we explore the links between artist Mark Dion, Aristotle and how multiple perspectives are needed to solve our problems

Plants use sand armour to break teeth of attacking caterpillars

Some plants are coated in sand, and it seems the sand grains act like medieval armour that protects these “psammophorous” plants from munching caterpillars

Our lust for tastier chocolate has transformed the cocoa tree

Ever since we domesticated the cocoa tree over 3000 years ago, we have been breeding them to make tastier chocolate – but in the process we have made them vulnerable

’Sno substitute: The ecological cost of fake flakes on the piste

As temperatures rise, resorts are turning to artificial snow to make the champagne powder ski nuts desire. But that could be making climate change worse

China tackles climate change with world’s largest carbon market

The Chinese state hopes to use market forces to encourage energy-hungry firms to seek cleaner alternatives, but simply telling them what to do may be more effective

Hardy Antarctic tardigrades may be threatened by climate change

Tardigrades can famously survive almost anything, including being sent into space, but the Antarctic species could face problems as a result of climate change

Good news: Demand for coal is plummeting towards a record low

The global demand for coal has fallen 4.2 per cent over the last two years, one of the biggest drops on record

The sparkling ice hummocks of the world’s biggest lake

Temperature and pressure differences in the water of Russia’s Lake Baikal cause cracks to form, and great transparent slabs of ice rise off the surface

Great tits avoid bad food after seeing grossed-out friends

If a great tit eats something nasty, it will disgustedly wipe its beak on a branch – and other great tits watch and learn

Young female monkeys use deer as ‘outlet for sexual frustration’

Adolescent female Japanese macaques mount deer and rub on their backs, perhaps as a way to practise sexual behaviour before they are old enough to mate

Venice may be almost 200 years older than anyone thought

Two peach stones found in sediment beneath Saint Mark’s Basilica could extend the history of Venice by 180 years

Why 2018 is gearing up to be a tipping point for climate action

What will next year hold for global temperatures, carbon dioxide levels, the electric car revolution and Trump's coal dream, wonders Owen Gaffney

California’s wildfires are driven by climate and human error

Six separate wildfires are raging in California. They are driven both by hotter, drier climate and by human activities such as planting “alien” trees

‘Scary’ spider photos on Facebook are revealing new species

When people see a big spider they often post a photo on Facebook – and those images have now revealed up to 30 new species

Ancient microbes caused Earth’s first ever global warming

Over 3 billion years ago, the sun was faint so our planet should have been a snowball. But it wasn’t – and microorganisms may have been what kept it warm

Waterworlds: How should we protect our most precious resource?

As new politics of protecting natural resources emerges, what does that mean for water? And who writes the rules? Three new books explore

Faltering carbon capture needs more investment not doubt

The world's first full-scale power plant carbon capture project has stumbled, but we can't let that risk the future of a technology we need, says Olive Heffernan

Will wildfires finally change Rupert Murdoch’s climate stance?

The media-mogul's Santa Monica vineyard was saved from wildfire destruction, but the world may yet burn thanks to his climate views, says Richard Schiffman

Africa’s giraffes are being slaughtered by Joseph Kony’s army

Elephants, giraffes, giant elands and chimpanzees are being decimated by poachers linked to violent militias in a lawless region of central Africa

Earth’s climate will warm 15 per cent more than we thought

Climate models have always offered a range of possible temperature rises, but it turns out the ones that best fit what’s happened so far all predict even greater warming

Japan’s refusal to stop ivory trade undermines bans elsewhere

Even though other countries are clamping down on illegal ivory, the unconstrained trade in Japan may offer loopholes for criminals to keep selling ivory – fuelling elephant poaching

Sumatran tigers fall 17 per cent and have just two strongholds

There are now only two viable populations of Sumatran tigers left in the wild, so if the cats are to be saved those areas have to be protected

Scorching hot springs house extreme life and a future ocean

Three tectonic plates are gradually pulling apart at the Danakil depression in Ethiopia, creating a hot, acid environment that could provide clues to life on Mars

Tasty tomatoes could be sacrificed in drive to cut food waste

People are up in arms over new UK food labelling guidelines that advise storing tomatoes in the fridge. Does flavour have to lose out to reduce spoilage?

The fashion industry can only go green by becoming unfashionable

Fashion is facing up to how wasteful it is, but its impact on the environment goes far beyond fast fashion and ever-changing trends

‘Super-spreader’ coral could restore trashed Great Barrier Reef

Most of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef may well be destroyed in the next few decades, but hubs of resilient coral could make larvae to restore it all

Hey, Flat Earther, no need to launch a rocket to test your ideas

Memo to Mike Hughes - there are plenty of ways to check if Earth is flat or not without building your own rocket, says Ian Whittaker

Madagascar’s lemurs close to extinction after population crash

Ring-tailed lemurs have experienced a precipitous decline over the last two decades and are now one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world

What to expect if Indonesia’s volcano erupts in a big way

Mount Agung's last big eruption was in 1963, and a major blast could create an ash cloud that disrupts air travel for weeks, and temporarily cool the global climate as well

Dan McKenzie: The man who made Earth move

50 years ago, the theory of plate tectonics was radical counterculture – until some chance happenings in the Summer of Love sent it mainstream

Russia confirms ‘extremely high’ radiation levels in toxic cloud

Earlier this month, France's nuclear safety agency said it had recorded radioactivity in the area near the Ural Mountains - and Russia has now verified the readings

Light pollution is set to double between now and 2050

The first global “light census” shows that the area affected by artificial lighting is growing by 2.2 per cent every year, posing risks to wildlife and human health

Keystone XL oil pipeline will go ahead despite last week’s spill

Last week the Keystone pipeline spilled 5,000 barrels of oil. This week Nebraska decided to allow the Keystone XL extension to be built right through the state

Latest climate talks actually made progress despite US obstinacy

While the US tried to promote “clean coal” at the COP23 Bonn climate meeting, other countries called for the dirty fossil fuel to be rapidly phased out

The exquisite marble that sculptor Michelangelo couldn’t use

Workers at the Cervaiole quarry have supplied marble to Auguste Rodin and Henry Moore. But the beautiful rock was discovered 500 years ago by Michelangelo

How a tiny fly can ‘scuba dive’ in a salty and toxic lake

Alkali flies plunge into the salty and alkaline Mono Lake, to feed and lay their eggs, but until now it has been unclear how they manage to survive

Spongy clay might create huge water deposits deep inside Earth

We might finally know how ocean-sized deposits of water hundreds of kilometres below Earth's surface are getting there: a spongy sort of clay that is bringing it underground

Why setting ‘safe’ limits for environmental damage won’t work

The boundaries set for human impacts on the planet are deeply flawed and only encourage us to keep pushing towards them, warns Stuart Pimm

Weak links in US power grid vulnerable in event of catastrophe

Largest study of 'cascading failures' finds that only a small subset of North America's power grid is at risk from domino-like electrical failure

Trump to let Americans import ivory and hunting trophies again

Donald Trump's administration is reversing a ban on the imports of elephant trophies—including ivory—from Zimbabwe and Zambia

If we only ate organic it would be an environmental disaster

Organic food production requires more land, but a study claims cutting meat eating and food waste will solve this problem. It won’t

Camera spots hidden oil spills and may find missing planes

For the first time, a polarising infrared camera – never before used on Earth – has been made small and light enough to detect concealed oil spills

Big aftershocks could well hit Iran and Iraq in next 48 hours

The magnitude 7.3 quake that struck Iran and Iraq on Monday has already killed 400 and injured thousands, and more tremors could be on the way

Climate change blamed for Arabian Sea’s unexpected hurricanes

A flurry of hurricane-strength storms struck the Arabian Sea in 2014 and 2015, and climate change seems to have played a role

Bad news: Carbon emissions have suddenly started rising again

Emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel are on the rise again. We desperately need more action to stop climate change, and that means putting a price on carbon

Human arrivals wiped out the Caribbean’s giant ground sloths

Many giant mammals in the Americas have died out but it has been hard to say whether humans or natural events were responsible. Now, in the Caribbean at least, we know

The unseen puppet masters that control life in the oceans

Trace elements have the power to give life and snuff it out. For the first time, we are getting to grips with where they come from and how they act

When it comes to climate, Donald Trump is in a club by himself

With pariah state Syria now backing the UN pact to curb global warming, the US stands against the other 195 nations of the world. What a disgrace, says Owen Gaffney

What we’re doing now will make the ocean completely unliveable

Climate change could reduce oxygen levels in the oceans by 40 per cent over the next 8000 years, leading to dramatic changes in marine life

Planting trees could mop up ten years’ worth of greenhouse gases

The planet is still warming inexorably, with 2017 set to be one of the three hottest years on record, but a major programme of tree-planting could help cool the world

China’s dreadful air pollution seems to have got a bit better

While China’s capital Beijing is once again suffering a severe smog, a new study suggests that nationally pollution has fallen 21 per cent over two years

Old Scientist: Why aren’t there more British Nobels?

Why did a maverick British astronomer never get the gong? New Scientists of Novembers past reveal it’s a perennial worry

Europe and the US were most responsible for deadly heatwave

A lethal heatwave that struck Argentina in 2013 was made more likely by climate change – and greenhouse gases from Europe and the US played the biggest role

The latest science reads remind us why we really do need experts

Mary Halton reflects on how books on forecasting, rock-reading and the grisly world of Victorian medicine highlight how we have always relied on those in the know

A third of animals are vanishing as roads spread through forests

The world’s forests are being criss-crossed by roads and clearings, and as a result many backboned animals are becoming less abundant

Rivers and forests need the same legal rights we grant to people

Environmental campaigners want the Colorado river to get the right to sue in US courts. It's not as crazy as it sounds, says Richard Schiffman

Freeloading mites are squatting on spider webs and stealing food

A newly-discovered species of mite sets up home on a spider’s web and nibbles away at any insects the spider catches – and the spider doesn’t seem to mind

Climate change will kill millions but you knew that already

It’s no surprise, but an analysis has predicted deadly heatwaves, more deaths from starvation, and a boom in mosquito-borne diseases thanks to climate change

We have four years fewer to slash carbon emissions than thought

Soils in cold regions may release far more carbon than expected as world warms, and that means our carbon budget is smaller than we thought it is

Ban on weedkiller glyphosate won’t save anyone from cancer

Unfounded health fears mean Europe is on the brink of banning the herbicide, risking greater soil damage and higher carbon emissions

Cataclysms: A life spent chasing planetary catastrophe

Evidence of asteroid impacts and other extreme events on Earth can prove elusive. Michael Rampino reveals what he's found in his latest book

We all get poorer every time a climate disaster strikes

Long-term economic effects of global warming could be far greater than thought, making many countries poorer and hurting even those of us spared direct impacts

La Niña forecast may mean even worse Atlantic hurricanes in 2018

The Pacific Ocean is likely to enter a La Niña state in the next few months, which could mean a more active Atlantic hurricane season next year

UN climate events are a wasted opportunity for public engagement

Even in green Germany, the UN Paris climate conference failed to catalyse greater concern among citizens. Smarter strategies are required, says Adam Corner

New York should prepare for 15-metre storm surges by 2300

Due to rapidly rising seas, floods that once struck New York City every 500 years will soon hit every five years

Dimming the sun could save corals from bleaching and hurricanes

Climate change will harm corals by overheating them and unleashing more violent hurricanes, but cooling the planet by geoengineering could reverse those effects

Steep decline of wasps and other flying nasties is a bad sign

Aphids, midges and wasps are being added to the list of rapidly vanishing insects. It’s another alarming sign of a sixth mass extinction, says Olive Heffernan

The mass extinction that might never have happened

An ecological catastrophe 201 million years ago supposedly paved the way for the rise of giant dinosaurs, but it may not have happened that way after all

A tech-destroying solar flare could hit Earth within 100 years

If the sun spews “superflares” as often as other stars, one could take down power systems, damage the ozone layer and destroy satellites in the next century

How to clean up the dirty water Puerto Ricans are drinking

Nearly a month after Hurricane Maria, many people on Puerto Rico are still without clean drinking water and have resorted to wells on a contaminated site

Ophelia shows many hurricanes could reach Europe in the future

Tropical cyclones often get to Europe but normally they have weakened by the time they get there. Not any more, thanks to climate change

The next supercontinent: Four ways Earth could reshape itself

Plate tectonics is a slow-grind drama with some dramatic plot twists – these scenarios show how Earth might look in 250 million AD

It looks like an oxymoron, but Earth optimism is worth a try

Decades of environmental doom-mongering have fallen on deaf ears. Maybe a new environmental campaign with a message of hope is just what we need

It’s time artists woke up to the power at their fingertips

The recent Lofoten Islands biennale and The New We, a group show now on in Norway, both get artists to engage with nature – but they don't seem keen to commit

Is positive thinking the way to save the planet?

Move over doom and gloom, there is a new environmental movement in town. Earth optimists say focusing on small successes is the way forward

Air pollution blamed for 500,000 early deaths in Europe in 2014

The biggest source of harm was particulate matter from domestic stoves, but nitrogen dioxide from cars is also linked to many premature deaths

California’s wildfires powered by perfect storm of fire hazards

Low humidity, parched vegetation and warm winds have led to fires that have killed at least 17, left over 150 people missing and destroyed over 2000 homes

I want to show the courts who’s to blame for climate change

Climate modelling allows us to link extreme weather, climate change and emissions so we can use the law to hit big oil where it hurts, says Myles Allen

Cold climate may have driven ancient humans’ move out of Africa

East Africa became colder and drier around 75,000 years ago, just when modern humans were apparently migrating out of Africa

We just found nineteen new species of gecko in one tiny area

The discovery of so many closely-related vertebrate species within such a small area is unprecedented