Study Links Covid-19 Death Rates to Air Pollution

A study conducted recently by researchers of the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that air pollution increases the Covid-19 death rate of a region.

Using scientific methods and data collected from about 3,000 U.S. counties to build models that could forecast Covid-19 deaths in relation to levels of long-term PM2.5 exposure per county, lead authors Xiao Wu MS and Rachel C. Nethery PhD wrote that even a minimal increase in long-term exposure, can yield a large increase in COVID-19 death rate.

Their conclusion estimated that the magnitude of even a small increase in PM2.5 could be 20 times greater than what is usually observed for PM2.5 in an all-cause mortality rate. That being a scientifically proven fact, the study gives emphasis on the importance of continuing the enforcement of air pollution regulations currently in place. That way human health can be strengthened and at the same time protected during and after incidents of health crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is Particulate Matter 2.5 and How Does it Affect Human Health

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, air pollutants that scientists call Particulate Matters 2.5 or PM2.5, have long been a cause for public health concern, most especially in areas where the presence of fine particles in the air, is high.

Particulate Matters 2.5 or PM2.5 are particles of air pollutants that come in a micron size. The Departments of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Health (DOH) describe the dirt particles as so minute they can pack a single period found at the end of a sentence.

High levels of PM2.5 pollution in an area is evident when outdoor visibility is reduced while the atmosphere appears hazy. Elevated PM2.5 levels are likely to occur during days when there is no wind or when very little air mixing transpires. As part of air pollution regulations, State Departments issue a warning advisory whenever concentrations of PM2.5 are expected to reach unhealthy levels for people with sensitive health conditions.

Earlier scientific studies have already proven that fine particles come in size ranges that can travel and enter respiratory tracts, and small enough to reach the lungs. Exposure to the micron-sized pollutants can cause adverse short-term health effects like irritations in the nose, throat, lung and/or eyes. Such unhealthy effects are manifested by way of sneezing, coughing and runny nose that could lead to shortness of breath. Moreover, high levels of PM2.5 pollutants are of greater concern for people with existing medical conditions like asthma and cardiovascular disease.

The Covid-19 Crisis Provided Proof that Atmospheric Air can Improve by Eliminating Major Producers of Air Pollutants

When governments ordered lockdowns and shelter-in-place measures to prevent the exponential spread of the Covid-19 disease, the absence of vehicles on roads brought notable improvements in the atmosphere and quality of air. Such an outcome all the more strengthened the resolve of many governments, to pursue goals of replacing petrol and diesel-fueled vehicles with electrically powered vehicles in their respective region.

The development and manufacture of EVs or electric vehicles was actually spurred by the need to reduce greenhouse gases that have been identified as major drivers of global warming and its resulting climate change. The elimination of fossil fuel combustion is also seen as one of the means to reduce particulate matters polluting the air.

As an aside, I have also found the use of electric cars more economical and convenient. If in case my car runs out of electrical power before reaching a charging station, all I need to ask as roadside assistance from a tow truck service near me is to send a unit equipped with an EV battery pack charger.

New Study Focused on Electric Vehicle Policies

The Hiroshima University carried out a study on how governments can achieve the best results when implementing plans to phase out fossil-fueled vehicles. Since many countries plan to do so by year 2050, HU researchers developed different models that presented scenarios on how the phase-out plan can help battle climate change.

The study underscored the importance of using renewable energy and application of carbon policy strategies. Assistant Professor Runsen Zhang at Hiroshima University’s Graduate School for International Development and Cooperation, led the researchers in making use of economic and transportation data from 17 regions across the globe.

They then applied the data in creating six (6) different models, each of which projected a different economic and transport scenario once the Earth reaches year 2100. Every scenario provided additional information to use in devising mitigation strategies for addressing climate change and in formulating policies worldwide.

One such scenario settled at 1.80 degrees Celsius in 2100, lower than the 2 degrees Celsius target goal of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In this transportation model, countries produce and use only electric vehicles (i.e. two-wheelers, cars, small trucks, buses and the like); whilst implementing a strategy for carbon pricing.

What is Carbon Pricing?

Carbon pricing captures the costs of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, for purposes of shifting back to emitters, the costs of damages caused by GHGs. Carbon pricing policies therefore will hold responsible, those who insist on using carbon-emitting vehicles.

The carbon prices will be tied to emissions that resulted in weather disturbances that damaged crops, healthcare costs incurred in connection with drought and heat wave; as well as loss of property as damage sustained from flooding and rise in sea levels.

Professor Zang remarked that:

“A policy for electric vehicles works well for macroeconomic systems, yet the condition requires a supporting policy, either for carbon pricing or renewable energy”.

Although researchers noted that carbon pricing strategies produced more significant results, these are being criticized for potential negative impacts on economic growth; such as loss of gross domestic product (GDP). Unlike renewable energy policies that harness renewable electricity sourced from wind and solar power, implementation of such strategies not only reduce carbon emissions. It can also help maintain growth in the power industry sector.

NCSU Study Says Climate Change Effects Will Adversely Impact Recreational Fishing

The effects of climate change on the environment can impact recreational fishing. This was the findings of a recent research study conducted by the North Carolina State University. The report was published in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, in October, 2019.

Roger von Haefen, a professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University who co-authored the study reported that

“We are looking at declines in participation in recreational fishing by around 15% by the year 2080, if there are no significant efforts to curtail climate change.”

Professor von Haefen pointed out that their study focused mainly on how changes in precipitation and temperature will influence the willingness of anglers to fish from the shore. Their work did not take into consideration other factors that could affect the demand for recreational fishing, such shifts in fish population, water quality or other climate change occurrences.

The research work incorporated data into a model that simulated recreational behavior, which combined forecasts based on 132 general circulation models. Each model was designed to predict future weather conditions under scenarios with varying greenhouse gas reductions.

Based on how the simulated recreational behavior model responded to the different climate change scenarios, Steven Dundas, co-author of the study, who is an Assistant Professor of Applied Economics at Oregon State University, described the best and worst case scenarios. He reported that if the world adopts stringent mitigation efforts to arrest the effects of climate change, fishing participation will see a drop of only 2.6% by the year 2080.

If otherwise, Professor Dundas said that under a “worst-case scenario”, decline in recreational fishing participation will start at 3.4 % within the next 30 years, to drop further by as much as 9.9% by the year 2050, and eventually by 15% by the year 2080.

Still, Professor von Haefen added that in cooler areas like New England, there could be increases in fishing recreation activities, especially during spring and autumn. In contrast, hotter states such as those located in the Gulf region and in the Southeast, recreational fishing will likely see significant declines during summertime.

The results of their study also suggests that avid anglers who will still fish during hot days may make adjustments by fishing at night or in the early mornings.

Underscoring the Importance of Responsible Recreational Fishing

The findings underscores the importance of practicing sustainable fishing methods that not only protect fisheries but also help in mitigating the effects of climate change. Anglers tend to be more concerned on the gears to use to ensure success every time thy go out and fish. However, they should also have awareness of fishing habits that can negatively impacts the environment.

First and foremost is to be mindful of the fishing regulations because state governments have put them in place to protect fisheries and the environment as a whole.

Make sure the boat in use is properly maintained to avoid burning more fuel or oil than is necessary.

Practice reuse and recycle, which include throwing disposables like plastic bottles and monofilament fishing lines, in recycling bins.

Speaking of monofilament fishing lines, many do not recommend the use of monofilament as backing. Mainly because the stretch and the heat produced by monofilament as backing can do harm to one’s fly reel. Anyway, if you have experienced this and are currently looking for a replacement, you can always find the best fly reel under 200.

Dartmouth Researchers Say CO2 in the Atmosphere will Influence Plant Growth and Their Use of the Earth’s Water

Climate researchers at Dartmouth College and from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, have posed questions to the touted role of plants in future climate change scenarios. Although plants help in reducing CO2 present in the atmosphere, the new study says that the abundance of CO2 will promote massive vegetation at a rate that will outpace the soil’s ability to replenish its water content.

Author of the study, Justin S. Mankin, a climate scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and an Assistant Professor of Geography at Dartmouth, explained by likening plants to a straw that uptakes water from the soil. Since plants have an abundance of CO2 to acquire from the atmosphere during transpiration, plants are likely to grow massively. As a result,

Massive vegetation will become a massive determinant of how much fresh water will be available for human consumption”

The Dartmouth study used climate models in which future conditions will be longer and warmer; allowing plants to live longer and therefore consume much of the Earth’s water content. As a result, there will be less fresh water available for the human population, which in the future will also increase in numbers.

Three Key Plant Interactions that Would Impact Water Availability

This new study reveals findings that project potential plant responses, which will make the land drier instead of wetter, and therefore impose a massive impact on millions of people.

Inasmuch as 60 percent (60%) of the global water flux occurs by way of plant transpiration, plants will not need to release a lot of water during the process; making plants more efficient with water usage

Even if water is additionally supplied by way of rainfall, the Dartmouth scientists pointed out that plant interactions during warmer conditions and increased CO2 in the atmosphere, can impact the amount of water that will be available in the soil.

In future climate conditions where there are higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, plants do not have to release much water through its leaves in order to get the amount of CO2 they need for photosynthesis. If plants release less water, it means they will retain much of the water absorbed by their roots.

As the planet continues to warm, plants will have a longer time and better chances to grow extensively. Therefore more will cover the land and consume greater amounts of water.

As vegetation becomes more abundant, more plant roots will absorb water and leave less in the soils and streams.

The Dartmouth-led study points out that such interactions will impact regions where there is a disconnection between precipitation and the population’s demand, or usage of water. The scientists cited California as an example, since more than half of the region’s precipitation occurs only during winter, whilst needing to contend with peak demands during summer. In order to meet the demand with supply, solutions have been engineered to move water from Point A to Point B.

Professor Mankin said that in light of their findings,

“We cannot expect plants to be a universal panacea for future water availability. “It is a must therefore to assess with clarity, why and where there is a need to anticipate potential changes in water availability as those will prove crucial in preparing for the future.

Studies Reveal that Undetected Nano and Microplastic Wastes Cause Environmental Harms

Researchers from the Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials and the University of Surrey revealed that plastic wastes occurring in waste streams undergo further break down into minute particles; raising environmental concerns about the possible catastrophic impact of the tiny plastic particles on aquatic systems and human health.

Studies conducted by Dr Ludovic Dumée at Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials, and Dr Judy Lee and Marie Enfrin, both from the University of Surrey’s Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, looked into the occurrence of microplastics in water.

They found out that when undergoing waste treatment processes, plastic wastes break down into minute particles, in nano and micro sizes. The study also observed that the presence of microplastics in water impaired the performance of natural treatment plants, which as a result disparages the quality of water.

The team’s findings were published in the Journal of Water Research last September 09, 2019.

Detection of Nano and Microsized Plastics Poses an Environmental Challenge

The high point of the University of Surrey’s study is the difficulty in spotting and discerning the presence of microplastics in treatment systems.

Project leader, Dr Lee, who is also a Senior Lecturer at the University of Surrey, remarked that

“The presence and related detection of nano and microplastics in water have become major environmental challenges.” “Nano and microplastics can easily be ingested by living organisms, as well as travel along water and wastewater treatment processes”. “When occurring in large quantities, they clog up filtration units of water treatment processes, which impacts performance, as well as increase the wear and tear on elements used in water treatment units.”

Dr. Lee’s remarks were based on research that shows an approximation of about 300 million tons of plastic materials are annually produced worldwide. Up to 13 million tons of which, flow into rivers and oceans. The research team estimates that by 2025, approximately 250 million tons of plastic will have been released into oceans and rivers.

Plastic materials as we all know, are generally not degradable by way of ageing or weathering, and therefore likely to accumulate and pollute aquatic environments.

In order to address major concerns on how nano and microplastics can diminish water quality to one that does not meet safety standards, as well as the threats they pose to the Earth’s ecosystems, it is important that improved detection strategies are in place. That way, the occurrence of nano and microplastics in wastewater treatment systems and in bodies of water will be limited.

List of Adverse Effects of Climate Change as Reported by NASA

Several occurrences are likely to happen because of global warming and its resulting climate change. Some are in fact already happening in different regions, and these were the adverse effects foreseen by climate scientists years ago. Ever since climate change was detected, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been monitoring the changes that transpired in the Earth’s climate.

Checkout the list provided by AllTimeList.com below, as the previous list of adverse effects of climate change has grown longer.

List of Adverse Effects of Climate Change Reported by NASA Scientists

1. Warm Temperatures Will Continue to Rise

In all parts of the world, even in the Arctic, temperatures have already risen in different levels. Mankind has contributed more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere can process; when all that the Earth needs is just the right amount that will allow the atmosphere to disperse enough warmth throughout the planet.

Scientists have explained that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases absorb various kinds of energy, and then re-emits it in the form of heat. As it is, there is now too much carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere. Much of the heat re-emitted goes back to Earth; therefore causing the temperatures in different regions to rise.

According to recent climate change reports, the current state is that greenhouse gases have been spiking up global temperatures at an average of 0.8 Celsius. A condition that has been occurring since 1880.

It follows therefore that if mankind continues to send more heat-emitting pollutants in the atmosphere, temperatures will likewise continue to rise and for longer periods.

2. Frost-Free Season or Growing Season will Lengthen

Longer frost-free seasons are at first beneficial because such conditions will give more time for plant growth. More plants mean greater uptake of the carbon dioxide flowing in the atmosphere. CO2 absorption by plants can slow down the increase in rise of temperatures but not necessarily reverse the trend. That is because much of the carbon dioxide that has been previously sent above, had already been trapped as ground-layer ozone that continues to absorb and produce heat.

Over time, longer frost-free seasons or growing season lead to loss of soil moisture, and eventually lead to drought and/or longer fire season.

3. Altered Precipitation Patterns

Water that is present on the Earth’s surface evaporates and rises in the atmosphere in the form of gas that is taken in by the clouds. While in the clouds, condensation takes place; turning back the gases into liquid or rain water. Once the cloud is full, the resulting precipitations fall in the form of snow or temperature, depending on the climate of the region.

Inasmuch as the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere controls the level and duration of heat that will induce precipitation, patterns of precipitation will vary in different regions. Some will experience more precipitation while others will have less; dependent on the level of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases controlling the heat that goes back to Earth.

4. More Intense and Longer Periods of Drought and Heat Waves

As it is now clear that the level of heat-absorbing carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere, can impact the natural water and carbon cycles, the occurrence of droughts and heat waves could occur with greater intensity and for longer periods.

5. Stronger and More Intense Hurricanes

The frequent and stronger hurricanes are already happening and has been noted since early 1980s. If more of the heat trapping gases continue to rise, it will worsen the aforementioned climate changes. As a result, hurricanes will likewise land with greater intensity and come around more frequently.

6. Rise in Sea-Level at 1 to 4 feet by the Year 2100

Our planet has seen its sea level rising by as much as 8 inches since it was first properly monitored in 1880. Unrestrained rise in global heat that has been melting glaciers and ice shelves can cause sea levels to rise by 1 to 4 feet by year 2100.

Scientists predict that if global warming intensifies, the Arctic region will become totally ice-free.

New Low Cost and Efficient Denim Recycling Process Devised by ACS Chemical Researchers

Researchers at the American Chemical Society (ACS) have come up with a low-cost method that can efficiently convert discarded denims into viscose-like fibers, to be woven as new fabric.

Their newly devised textile recycling process can lessen the large contributions of discarded denim, and other kinds of cotton-based apparels to the wastes that go yearly into landfills. At the same time, it can lessen the demand for cotton, which requires substantial use of land and resources.

Now more than ever, with the growing population and the quickness by which changing fashion turns clothing items into wastes, an efficient and inexpensive method of textile recycling is of utmost importance. Although the current advocacy is for the promotion of circular economy, where wastes can be recycled as new products, the cost it takes to recycle wastes is now an emerging issue.

The ACS Fiber to Fiber Wet Spun Process for Recycling Denim into Cotton

Nolene Byrne and colleagues Beini Zeng, Yibo Ma, and Xungai Wang, ground into powder three types of textile samples: a multi-colored T-shirt, a blue denim fabric and a pair of red denim pants. They then dissolved the powdered cloths in a mixture of ionic liquid, methylimidazolium acetate and dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) to produce cellulose.

The cellulose will then be spun into fibers that will subsequently be woven into new fabrics. In a previous experiment, they found out that ionic liquid or salt in liquid form, was not as effective. The high viscosity of the solution made the cellulose more difficult to work on. In addition, ionic liquid is more expensive. .

In another experiment, the researchers used DMSO as co-solvent. Reducing the salt solution or ionic liquid, while using DMSO as co-solvent proved more efficient. Since viscosity was reduced, the process of spinning the resulting cellulose into new fibers became easier. In this process, the recycled waste fabric was able to retain its original color.

Furthering their experiment, the ACS researchers pre-treated the powdered textiles with a solution of sodium hydroxide. The resulting cellulose attained a white color, which means this particular process, can also produce white viscose fibers that can be spun into white textile.

Although other methods of recycling denim to produce new textile have been introduced, the processes involved are not as cost efficient.

Application of this newfound textile recycling process therefore, will allow textile manufacturers to use discarded denim and other cotton-based garments as raw materials. Aside from greatly reducing the volume of wastes contributed by discarded clothes, the new method can also reduce the amount of land and resources needed to grow cotton.

Renew Oceans : A Global Mission to Rid the Ocean of Plastic Wastes

Renew Oceans is a global undertaking that aims to tackle the lack of waste infrastructure in countries identified as having high-leakage rivers. A river is regarded as high-leakage if during its overly polluted state, the natural flow of water carries all sorts of debris, particularly plastic wastes, toward the ocean.

In one of the research reports published by the Environmental Science & Technology journal in 2017, data collected by researchers showed that rivers all over the world, sweepingly deposit from about a half, up to three million tons of plastic into the ocean every year.

Of the 57 rivers surveyed by scientists of Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, 10 were identified as high-leakage; posing as major sources of about 93% of the river-borne plastics ending up in the ocean. The ten rivers include Anur, Ganges, Hai, Indus, Mekong, Niger, Nile, Pearl, Yangtze and Yelllow Rivers.

How Will the Renew Oceans Project Address the River-Borne Plastic Wastes?

Using Renewlogy’s ReFence technology, the Renew Oceans project will divert plastic wastes carried by the 10 rivers, in order to prevent entry into oceans. The plastics collected will then create local value for the respective community, as the plastic debris will be converted into other usable materials. At the same time, waste pickers who participated in the localized project, will receive fair compensation based on the value of the plastics they collected.

India’s Ganges River, the First of Renew Oceans ‘ Mission

Renew Oceans’ first project is “Renew Ganga,” an undertaking that aims to divert, collect and convert river plastics deposited by the Ganges River. Data shows that the Ganges, annually contributes as much as 1.2 billion pounds of plastic debris, to the ocean.

“Renew Ganga” will commence this year (2019), whilst receiving support from the Alliance to End Plastic Wastes and the National Geographic.