Blog Archives

Cutting back on harmful chemicals is definitely healing the ozone layer

Global warming is on the tip of everyone’s tongue these days, and with good reason, but it wasn’t long ago that the biggest environmental talking point was the depletion of Earth’s ozone layer. Scientists worked hard to prove that certain chemicals, namely CFCs (chlorofluorocarbon), were rapidly eating away at our planet’s protective shield, and eventually lawmakers took notice, initiating a worldwide effort to ban their use.

Now, a few decades since those agreements were galvanized, scientists believe that the ozone layer will indeed completely heal itself. It’s going to be a few more decades before it can complete its self-repairs, but all signs point to the annual hole in the ozone layer which regularly forms over Antarctica shrinking.

In a new report from the United Nations, scientists from around the world reveal their collective findings. The planet-wide effort to eliminate CFCs and similar chemicals has indeed helped a great deal, and the natural processes that replenish the ozone layer are slowly patching up the damage humans did prior to and including much of the 1980s.

If the healing continues at its current rate, researchers expect that the hole will be fully healed by sometime around 2060. That’s pretty remarkable news, and it’s also definitive proof that mankind can indeed achieve world-changing progress when we all agree to work together to solve the problem. In fact, the fight over the ozone layer in the mid-to-late 1980s somewhat mirrors the current debates surrounding global warming.

Global warming, also called “climate change,” is a huge problem that mankind must work together to solve. Scientists have amassed more than enough evidence to prove that human activity is responsible for the gradual warming of the globe, but, just like the shortsighted naysayers who pushed back against bans against CFCs decades ago, there are people who still refuse to believe that humans are responsible for something bad happening to the planet.

Embracing green energy while cutting back on emissions from fossil fuels is a challenge that needs to be tackled, and the clock is ticking.

Geoengineering could stop warming but comes with side of sea-level rise

Simulation of one way of shading the planet has some surprising side-effects.

A hurricane literally wiped this tiny Hawaiian island off the map

When a hurricane rolls ashore here in the United States we see devastation in the form of buildings toppled, incredible flooding, and the collapse of infrastructure. Depending on the strength of the storm, the severity of the damage ranges from being a mild nuisance to an utter catastrophe, but there’s always land left to rebuild on. That’s unfortunately not the case for Hawaii’s tiny East Island.

The pint-sized stretch of sand and foliage has been claimed by the sea after being run over by Hurricane Walaka as it powered pasted Hawaii a few weeks ago. As the Guardian reports, newly-released satellite images reveal that there’s literally nothing left of the island.

The island, which measured approximately 11 acres, wasn’t settled by humans but it did serve as a remote oasis for a number of different animal groups including some endangered species. As you can see, any animals living there will now need to find somewhere else to go:

The island was indeed tiny, but it stuck around for a long while prior to its unfortunate brush with the hurricane. Researchers believe the island formed at least a thousand years ago, perhaps much longer, but it’s all gone now.

It’s incredibly unlucky for scientists who were hoping to monitor its status as worldwide sea levels rise due to human-caused climate change. Speaking with the Guardian, University of Hawaii processor of earth sciences Chip Fletcher was dismayed.

“We wanted to monitor the island so we are disappointed it has gone, but on the other hand we have learned these islands are far more at risk than we thought,” Fletcher said. “I thought the island would be around for a decade or two longer, but it’s far more fragile than I appreciated. The top, middle and bottom of it has gone.”

It’s an incredibly unfortunate development but the island can be seen as a canary in the coal mine, so to speak. We know that big storms on Earth are getting stronger over time and the increase in intensity has been linked to global warming. Constantly rebuilding coastal communities when storms wipe them out is a taxing endeavor, and if we don’t curb our impact on the environment those storms will continue to do more and more damage over a wider area, potentially pushing their destructive might farther inland than we have ever seen before.

Science stunt aborted after 15 hours because plants couldn’t save a man from himself

Raising awareness about climate change and mankind’s impact on the Earth is a noble cause, and there’s plenty of ways to go about it. Locking yourself in a plastic box with a bunch of plants is, well, apparently not the best option, and one Canadian man found that out this week when he was forced to abort a planned three-day stay in a homemade plastic enclosure when CO2 levels reached dangerous levels.

Kurtis Baute, who describes himself as a “whimsical scientist,” entered his homemade plastic cube on Tuesday, planning to remain inside for three days. The idea was that the approximately 200 plants that he placed inside the enclosure would be enough to filter out his CO2 output and allow him to breathe easy during his stay.

Things didn’t work out that way.

Roughly 15 hours after entering the cube, Baute was forced to exit. CO2 levels being tracked inside had reached the “abort” level, according to a report from the BBC, and the stunt came to an abrupt end.

But why didn’t it work as planned? In hindsight, Baute realized that the cloudy skies were limiting the ability of the plants to perform photosynthesis, the process by which they convert CO2 into breathable oxygen. With no sun shining down, the cube gradually filled with more and more CO2 because the plants couldn’t do anything with it.

“Plants are great at soaking up CO2, they love the stuff,” Baute said in a tweet. “But they can only handle so much, and since it isn’t a bright and sunny day (its overcast) they aren’t getting the light they need… Which means CO2 just keeps rising.”

Ultimately the experiment came to a disappointing end, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good reminder of the plight humans will face if we can’t keep emissions under control. Gradual worldwide temperature increases are already stressing plants out, and if we reach a point (and we likely will soon) where Earth’s flora just can’t take it anymore we might be left struggling to breath just like Baute was in his plastic cube.

New York officially sues Exxon Mobil for misleading investors on climate change

The state says Exxon used erroneous proxy pricing to pump profits.