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July was the Earth's hottest month on record in any year dating back to 1880

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 11:21

One of the most notable weather headlines around the globe in July was the record-shattering heat wave that spread across Europe late in the month.


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Scientists confirm July set new global heat record

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 11:15

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday that July was 0.95 degrees Celsius (1.71 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than the 20th century average of 15.8 C (60.4 F) for the month. The results had been expected after several European countries including France, Belgium and Germany reported that July smashed previous national temperature records. The record temperatures notched up in July were accompanied with other major landmarks.


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EU water bombers join battle against Greek island wildfire

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 09:53

Greece deployed Thursday nearly 400 firefighters backed by EU water bombers to battle a massive wildfire on the island of Evia, burning through a pristine pine forest for a third day. "The situation is better but the (mountain) terrain is very challenging," fire department spokesman Vassilis Vathrakogiannis told AFP. The wildfire has caused inestimable damage to the local 550-hectare mountain wildlife sanctuary of Agrilitsa and surrounding pine forests.


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Microplastics in Arctic snow point to widespread air contamination

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 08:17

Minute microplastic particles have been detected in the Arctic and the Alps, carried by the wind and later washed out in the snow, according to a study that called for urgent research to assess the health risks of inhalation. The new study, conducted by scientists at Germany's Alfred Wegener Institute and Switzerland's Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, found that microplastic particles can be transported tremendous distances through the atmosphere. "It's readily apparent that the majority of the microplastic in the snow comes from the air," said Melanie Bergmann, lead author of the paper published in Science Advances on Wednesday.


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Wet winter doesn't end climate change risk to Colorado River

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 07:42

Snow swamped mountains across the U.S. West last winter, leaving enough to thrill skiers into the summer, swelling rivers and streams when it melted, and largely making wildfire restrictions unnecessary. Climate change means the region is still getting drier and hotter. "It only demonstrates the wide swings we have to manage going forward," James Eklund, former director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, an interstate agency that ensures river water is doled out properly, said earlier this year.


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'Punch in the gut' as scientists find micro plastic in Arctic ice

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 07:26

Tiny pieces of plastic have been found in ice cores drilled in the Arctic by a U.S.-led team of scientists, underscoring the threat the growing form of pollution poses to marine life in even the remotest waters on the planet. The researchers used a helicopter to land on ice floes and retrieve the samples during an 18-day icebreaker expedition through the Northwest Passage, the hazardous route linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. "We had spent weeks looking out at what looks so much like pristine white sea ice floating out on the ocean," said Jacob Strock, a graduate student researcher at the University of Rhode Island, who conducted an initial onboard analysis of the cores.


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It’s Official: July Was the Hottest Month In ALL of Recorded Human History

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 07:23

The world just lived through the hottest month of the year ever recorded in human history.According to new data just released by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), July 2019 has broken all records for the hottest month, with temperatures 1.71 degrees Fahrenheit (0.95 degrees Celsius) above the 20th century average.NOAA’s calculations confirm the findings of three other recently released data sets. Independent findings from the Copernicus Climate Change Service (a European climate agency), Japan Meteorological Agency, and Berkeley Earth all show that last month was the warmest on Earth since record-keeping began.According to data from Berkeley Earth, for instance, last month was 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.22 degrees Celsius) above pre-industrial levels, just shy of the Paris Agreement’s aspirational target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees.In a statement following the release of the Copernicus data, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said, “We have always lived through hot summers. But this is not the summer of our youth. This is not your grandfather’s summer.”If this year’s unprecedented heat continues, it will likely result in 2015-2019 being the hottest five years on record. The previous hottest month ever recorded was July 2016 — and nine of the 10 hottest Julys ever have all happened since 2005.“July has re-written climate history, with dozens of new temperature records at local, national and global level,” Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization, said in a statement earlier this month.Indeed, the summer of 2019 will be remembered for Arctic fires, melting Antarctic sea ice, and dangerous heat waves across several continents.Iceland, for instance, officially lost its first glacier to climate change. Scientists will be installing a plaque this month to commemorate the sombre milestone. It reads: “In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it.”And over the course of July, Greenland’s ice sheet melted dramatically — 197 billion tons of water from the glaciers flowed into the North Atlantic. This is enough to raise global sea levels by 0.02 inches (0.5 millimeters).These events follow last year’s summer which was similarly filled with rare but devastating late-season hurricanes and historic, deadly wildfires — all trends scientists say can be expected in a warming world.Kyla Mandel is the editor for the climate team at Think Progress. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, Mother Jones, and Vice. She has a master's degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, specializing in science, health, and environment reporting. You can reach her at kmandel@thinkprogress.org.This first appeared in Think Progress here. Image: NOAA.


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NASA scientists fly over Greenland to track melting ice

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 07:12

NASA scientists are crisscrossing Greenland on a mission to track melting ice. Greenland has been melting faster in the last decade and this summer, it has seen two of the biggest melts on record since 2012. Global warming is the chief culprit, but scientists want to know how this is happening.


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Genetic study implicates humans in demise of prehistoric cave bear

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 07:01

Genetic research that reconstructed the past population dynamics of the cave bear, a prominent prehistoric denizen of Europe, implicates Homo sapiens rather than climate cooling in the Ice Age extinction of these brawny plant-loving beasts. Scientists said on Thursday they obtained genome data from 59 cave bears from bones unearthed at 14 sites in France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Serbia, Spain and Switzerland. Using this, they detected a population downturn roughly 50,000 years ago coinciding with the arrival of our species in eastern Europe and then a dramatic decline starting about 40,000 years ago coinciding with the spread of Homo sapiens throughout Europe.


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A bacon-and-eggs keto diet may not be good for long-term health, but a Harvard nutrition expert says there’s an oily alternative

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 07:00

Harvard nutrition expert Walter Willett was one of the first to point out that fat won't make us fat. But the types of fat we eat regularly matter.


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Moleculin Completes Enrollment in Early-Stage Cancer Study

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 05:55

Moleculin (MBRX) reaches enrollment target in a clinical study evaluating its p-STAT3 inhibitor, WP1220, as a treatment for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a form of skin cancer.


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U.S. scientist to file whistleblower complaint after agency halts his climate work

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 04:16

A climate scientist for the Trump administration's health protection agency who was ordered to drop work on climate issues will file a whistleblower complaint this week with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, his lawyers said on Wednesday. George Luber, who ran the climate and health program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is an expert on the health impacts of climate change including risks to hospitals and public health infrastructure and of diseases borne by mosquitoes and ticks as they increasingly move into northern regions as temperatures rise. Luber has been a contributor to U.S. government reports including the National Climate Assessment, which last year warned that climate change could cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars.


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Could Restoring Soil Help Halt Climate Change?

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 02:46

leolintang/GettyBy David R. Montgomery, Professor of Earth and Space Sciences, University of WashingtonIt’s time to take soil seriously. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states with very high confidence in its latest report, land degradation represents “one of the biggest and most urgent challenges” that humanity faces.The report assesses potential impacts of climate change on food production and concludes that rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will reduce crop yields and degrade the nutritional quality of food.To avert climate catastrophe, the report warns, people need to make changes in agriculture and land use. In other words, it’s no longer enough to wean society off of fossil fuels. Stabilizing the climate will also require removing carbon from the sky. Rethinking humanity’s relationship to the soil can help on both scores.Soils under stressHealthy, fertile soils are rich in organic matter built of carbon that living plants pulled out of the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Carbon-rich organic matter helps fuel the soil organisms that recycle and release mineral elements that plants take back up as nutrients.But soils release carbon too. And the frequent tillage and heavy fertilizer use that underpin modern conventional agriculture have accelerated degradation of soil organic matter, sending more carbon skyward—a lot, it turns out.The new IPCC report concludes that globally, cropland soils have lost 20-60 percent of their original organic carbon content. North American farmland has lost about half of its natural endowment of soil carbon. On top of those losses, modern agriculture consumes a lot of fossil fuels to pull plows and manufacture the synthetic nitrogen fertilizers that farmers rely on to coax large harvests from degraded soils.Land management choices also affect the amount of carbon stored in trees, plants and soil. The new IPCC report estimates that serious changes in forestry and agriculture to curtail deforestation and improve soil management could reduce global emissions by 5 percent to 20 percent. While this won’t solve the climate problem, it would represent a significant down payment on a global solution.Farming for carbonInvesting in soil regeneration would also deliver other benefits. One key takeaway from the IPCC report is that conventionally tilled soils erode more than 100 times faster than they form. This troubling conclusion echoes and amplifies what I found a decade ago, after compiling global data on rates of soil formation and loss. My book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations tells how soil degradation undermined societies around the world, from the ancient Greeks and Romans to the U.S. Dust Bowl of the 1930s.Today humans have degraded roughly one-third of the world’s topsoil, and about 3.2 billion people—more than a third of humanity—already suffer from the effects of degraded land. Continuing down this path does not bode well for feeding a growing world population.But what if it was possible to reverse course, regenerate soil organic matter and reduce farmers’ need for diesel fuel and chemical fertilizers made with fossil fuels? This would make it feasible to stash more carbon in the soil and reduce the amount that’s sent skyward in the process of growing food.I saw the potential for regenerative agriculture to restore soil organic matter in both developed and developing countries when I researched Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life, my book about how regenerative farming practices allow farmers to reduce their use of costly fertilizers and pesticides.All of the farmers I interviewed shared three things in common. They had switched from plowing to no-till methods that minimized soil disturbance, planted cover crops, and grew a diverse mix of cash and cover crops. Some had even adopted regenerative grazing practices that put livestock to work rebuilding carbon-rich soil. Their results showed me that when farming and ranching practices build soil health, they can reverse soil degradation rapidly and profitably.Worth the transitionBarriers to adopting regenerative farming systems include force of habit, lack of knowledge about new practices and real and perceived economic risk during the transition. But the benefits of rebuilding healthy, fertile soil are clear.According to a 2018 U.N. report that reviewed global land degradation, the economic benefits of land restoration average 10 times the costs. Rebuilding fertile soil is also one of the most promising ways to address hunger and malnutrition in Africa, where the costs of failing to combat land degradation are typically three times the cost of addressing the problem.Restoring soil health would help mitigate the effects of climate change. Increasing the amount of organic matter in soil enhances its ability to hold water. And improving soil structure would let more rainfall sink into the ground, where it can better sustain crops—especially during drought-stressed years—and help reduce flooding downstream. In addition to benefiting the climate, less fertilizer use will reduce off-farm water pollution.Regenerative practices that focus on soil building bring other benefits too. For example, one 2006 study surveyed low-input, resource-conserving agricultural practices in 286 development projects across Latin America, Africa and Asia that employed cover crops for nitrogen fixation and erosion control and integrated livestock back into farming systems. It found that for a wide variety of systems and crops, yields increased an average of almost 80 percent. Results like these indicate that investing in soil-building practices would help feed a warming world.When President John F. Kennedy called for a national effort to go to the Moon, the U.S. managed to do the unthinkable in under a decade. I believe it’s time now for a global “soilshot” to heal the land. Rebuilding healthy fertile soil on the world’s agricultural lands would require fundamental changes to agriculture, and a new agricultural philosophy. But consider who stands to lose from such a shift: corporate interests that profit from modern agrochemical-intensive farming and factory-farm livestock production. Who stands to gain? Everyone else.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.


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Novartis Suspended Top Scientists Before FDA Disclosure

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 02:45

(Bloomberg) -- Novartis AG placed a pair of top scientists on administrative leave weeks before informing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about problematic data concerning a drug the two men had helped develop, a person familiar with the matter said.The drug, a cutting-edge gene therapy called Zolgensma, was being reviewed by the agency at the time and was eventually approved. Novartis told the FDA in June that it had discovered the potential manipulation of animal-testing data related to the medication, weeks after the $2.1 million-a-dose treatment had hit the U.S. market.Novartis is under fire from U.S. lawmakers who say that the company should have told regulators about the data irregularities before the drug’s approval in May, rather than waiting to conclude an internal investigation. The FDA is continuing to assess the situation, and has said that civil or criminal penalties are possible.Brian Kaspar, a founder of AveXis who had remained the business’s chief scientific officer after Novartis bought the company last year, hasn’t been involved in the unit’s operations since early May, the Swiss drugmaker said in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday. His role, along with that of his brother Allan Kaspar, who led research and development for AveXis, was taken over on Aug. 5 by Page Bouchard, a 10-year Novartis veteran, according to the statement.Zolgensma is used to treat a rare and acutely debilitating disease known as spinal muscular atrophy in very young children. Despite the the animal-testing data issue, the FDA said the safety and effectiveness of Zolgensma isn’t in question, and the therapy remains on the market.Novartis has said that it learned of the data manipulation on March 14 and alerted the FDA about a month after the drug gained U.S. approval. That timeline has created an outcry among doctors and ethicists and in Washington, where a recent focus on soaring drug costs has put the actions of pharmaceutical companies and regulators under intense scrutiny.Last week, in the wake of the data-manipulation disclosure, Novartis Chief Executive Officer Vas Narasimhan said a small number of AveXis scientists were departing the company, though he didn’t identify any of them by name.Renewed FuryThe episode has stirred up renewed fury over pharmaceutical-industry business practices and raised questions about the accelerated approval of genetic therapies by U.S. regulators. It has also returned questions about Novartis’s culture to the fore after the drugmaker had faced scrutiny last year over payments to Michael Cohen, the former lawyer for President Donald J. Trump.Since taking the helm two years ago, Narasimhan has taken steps to raise standards and manage risk at Novartis and named a new ethics head.Narasimhan has also sought to refashion Novartis as an agile maker of breakthrough drugs. The company unloaded its stake in a consumer-health joint venture with the U.K.’s GlaxoSmithKline Plc in March 2018 and then bought AveXis for $8.7 billion just weeks later. At the time, Narasimhan said that Novartis was building “a medicines company powered by data and digital.”Brian Kaspar led the development of the gene-therapy program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where he ran a basic and translational neuroscience laboratory with a focus on neuromuscular disease. AveXis, then known as BioLife, licensed the program from Nationwide and The Ohio State University in 2013. Kaspar was the scientific founder, while co-founder John Carbona served as the chief executive officer.Brian Kaspar didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Attempts to reach Allan Kaspar were unsuccessful.Washington BacklashSenate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, has demanded records related to Novartis’s testing data, while Democratic presidential contenders Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have asked for an investigation.Senator Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat, wrote a letter to FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless last week asking that the agency explain why it decided to withdraw a rule that would have required clinical-trial sponsors to promptly report suspected data falsification to the FDA.“This scandal smacks of the pharmaceutical industry’s privilege and greed, and Americans are sick of it,” Durbin wrote in the Aug. 9 letter.Novartis shares were little changed Thursday morning in Zurich. The stock has gained 18% this year.(Updates with lawmakers’ criticisms in third paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected the spelling of the therapy name in the fourth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Anna Edney.To contact the reporters on this story: Michelle Fay Cortez in Minneapolis at mcortez@bloomberg.net;John Lauerman in London at jlauerman@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Drew Armstrong at darmstrong17@bloomberg.net, Timothy AnnettFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


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EU water bombers join Greek firemen to douse island wildfire

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 02:19

Greece deployed Thursday nearly 400 firefighters backed by EU firebombers to try to put out a massive wildfire on the island of Evia burning through a pristine pine forest for a third day. "We are more optimistic today because the winds have died down," Yiorgos Kostopoulos, civil protection supervisor for Evia, told state TV ERT. Firefighters managed to contain the fire in a ravine near the village of Platana, backed by nearly 100 vehicles, nine helicopters and 12 planes, including two from Italy and one from Spain.


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Climate change threatens US West river despite wet winter

Wed, 08/14/2019 - 23:56

Snow swamped mountains across the U.S. West last winter, leaving enough to thrill skiers into the summer, swelling rivers and streams when it melted, and largely making wildfire restrictions unnecessary. Climate change means the region is still getting drier and hotter. "It only demonstrates the wide swings we have to manage going forward," James Eklund, former director of the Upper Colorado River Commission, an interstate agency that ensures river water is doled out properly, said earlier this year.


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Mexican start-up fights air pollution with artificial trees

Wed, 08/14/2019 - 20:02

Trees are one of the best things we have to clean the Earth's air, but they have certain drawbacks: they need time and space to grow. Enter the BioUrban, an artificial tree that sucks up as much air pollution as 368 real trees. "What this system does, through technology, is inhale air pollution and use biology to carry out the natural process (of photosynthesis), just like a tree," says Jaime Ferrer, a founding partner in BiomiTech, the company behind the invention.


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1st US ethnic studies plan called anti-Semitic, faces update

Wed, 08/14/2019 - 16:50

California's effort to write the nation's first ethnic studies curriculum for public schools has united liberals and conservatives: They think it's terrible. Jewish lawmakers complained that the proposed lessons are anti-Semitic, while a conservative critic says capitalism is presented as a "form of power and oppression." The clash comes as a law requires the state to adopt ethnic studies, which view history through the lens of diverse cultures. State Superintendent Tony Thurmond said Wednesday that he will recommend changes to better reflect the contributions of Jewish Americans and remove sections that the California Legislative Jewish Caucus finds objectionable.


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Keeping a Diary Might be the Secret to Happiness, Study Suggests

Wed, 08/14/2019 - 16:10

Your thoughts are actually worth a lot on paper.


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U.S. scientist to file whistleblower complaint after agency halts his climate work

Wed, 08/14/2019 - 15:33

A climate scientist for the Trump administration's health protection agency who was ordered to drop work on climate issues will file a whistleblower complaint this week with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, his lawyers said on Wednesday. George Luber, who ran the climate and health program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is an expert on the health impacts of climate change including risks to hospitals and public health infrastructure and of diseases borne by mosquitoes and ticks as they increasingly move into northern regions as temperatures rise. Luber has been a contributor to U.S. government reports including the National Climate Assessment, which last year warned that climate change could cost the U.S. economy billions of dollars.


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