A solar farm surrounded by greenery and blue sky which is one of the topics covered in this week's eco-friendly news issue.
May 7, 2024
weekly eco news

The Creative New Solar Project In France and the Effects of Climate Inaction on Kenya - 24th Issue

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Deadly East African Floods Caused by Climate Change

A flooded home located in East Africa demonstrating the detrimental affects of climate change.

Over the last seven days, over 220 people in East Africa have died due to unprecedented flooding caused by torrential rainfall, with Kenya and Tanzania bearing the brunt of the devastation. Another 212,000 have lost their homes.

Although the region experiences a short rain season from April to May, the downpour increased exponentially due to global warming. The increased temperatures over the Indian Ocean result in extreme weather patterns known as a dipole. This phenomenon causes above-average rainfall on either the West or East of the Ocean, one of the most devastating effects of climate inaction.

Scientists Develop Plastic Pollution "Fingerprint" to Aid Global Cleanup Efforts

Large amount of plastic waste washed up on shore by ocean waves demonstrating the plastic pollution consequences.

Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed a revolutionary framework for quantifying plastic pollution, mirroring the existing approach for tracking greenhouse gas emissions. This technique promises to identify significant plastic pollutants locally and nationally, paving the way for more effective worldwide reduction measures.

Using Toronto as a testing ground, the researchers estimated that the city released 4,000 tonnes of plastic pollution in a year. Littering toppled the list as the main culprit, while artificial turf was responsible for the most significant microplastic emissions. 

"That's roughly the equivalent of 400 garbage trucks' worth of plastic leaking into the environment annually," adds primary author Alice Zhu. "This framework assigns responsibility for pollution, allowing us to pinpoint major sources and implement targeted measures to curb them."

Zhu emphasizes the importance of having inventories of plastic pollution emissions for a successful worldwide pact. Applying this concept to towns, provinces, and countries worldwide will provide a thorough understanding of plastic pollution types and their environmental impact.

Antarctic Ice Shelves: Fractured by the Weight of Their Own Meltwater

Antarctica covered in snow and ice during a Penguin migration with a large lateral ice shelve fracture.

Rising temperatures in Antarctica are causing glaciers to melt, resulting in meltwater lakes on ice shelves. For the first time, researchers discovered that these lakes do more than just bend the ice; they also fracture it. This research, led by CIRES scientists, highlights a vital role in ice shelf collapse, which could accelerate sea level rise.

"Ice shelves act like dams, holding back land-based glaciers," lead author Alison Banwell says. "Scientists predicted that meltwater lakes could fracture them, but until now, no one had witnessed it directly."

Banwell and her crew traveled to Antarctica's George VI Ice Shelf to investigate this occurrence. They found a depression in which meltwater was anticipated to accumulate and installed monitoring equipment such as GPS stations, water pressure sensors, and a timelapse camera.

This discovery sheds light on the abrupt collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in 2002, which coincided with the presence of several meltwater lakes that quickly drained.

From Flooded Cemetery to Solar Powerhouse: A French Town's Innovative Project

A solar farm located in a green field surrounded by blue skies demonstrating the scope of the project discussed in this section.

Saint-Joachim, France, is embarking on a one-of-a-kind solar project: a solar panel canopy over its cemetery. This unique solution addresses two issues: recurrent flooding and the community's need for sustainable energy.

The solar panels will create electricity and collect rainwater, preventing flooding in the cemetery. Interestingly, the electricity generated will be distributed equally among the town's population, making this a community-driven enterprise. This effort has received substantial local support, with over 400 registered residents.

While the graveyard setting is unconventional, the idea focuses on functionality and sustainability. The solar canopy will be semi-transparent, allowing light to reach the gravestones. This project can serve as a model for other municipalities by fostering renewable energy and community involvement.

The Hidden Culprit Behind Worsening Wildfires

A firefighter on duty surrounded by wildfires in Californian hills.

Forget blaming just heat and drought for the massive wildfires sweeping throughout the world. A new study by UC Riverside sheds light on a surprising culprit: rising CO2 levels. 

We all know that plants require CO2 for photosynthesis, and as CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere rise due to fossil fuel use, their growth rate accelerates. The rise in CO2 concentrations results in a considerable increase in biomass, fueling wildfires. 

While heat and drought continue to play a role in drying plants and making them more sensitive to burning, the study reveals that increased fuel load significantly affects the overall intensity of wildfires.

By isolating CO2 in their models, the researchers demonstrated how it directly affects wildfire activity, even during non-peak fire seasons, as illustrated by the record-breaking Texas wildfire in February.