Category Archive : Environnement

Quel est le problème avec les antipaludéens et les coronavirus? Lisez ceci avant d'essayer quoi que ce soit

 

Un homme de l’Arizona est décédé , et sa femme a été hospitalisée, après avoir pris une forme de chloroquine, que le président Trump a présentée comme un traitement efficace pour COVID-19 . Le couple a décidé de se soigner lui-même avec du phosphate de chloroquine, qu’ils avaient sous la main pour tuer les parasites dans leurs poissons, après avoir entendu le président décrire le médicament comme un “changeur de jeu”.

 . .

Je suis chimiste médicinal , spécialisé dans la découverte et le développement de médicaments antiviraux, et je travaille activement sur les coronavirus depuis sept ans.

Cependant, parce que je suis un scientifique et que je m’occupe de la médecine factuelle et factuelle, je suis préoccupé par les déclarations générales du président concernant l’utilisation de la chloroquine ou de l’hydroxychlorlorine étroitement apparentée, les deux antipaludiques , comme remède pour COVID-19. Examinons donc les faits.

Que sont la chloroquine et l’hydroxychloroquine?

Ce sont deux antipaludéens approuvés par la FDA qui sont utilisés depuis de nombreuses années. La chloroquine a été initialement développée en 1934 dans la société pharmaceutique Bayer et utilisée pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale pour prévenir le paludisme.

Bien que la FDA n’ait pas approuvé son utilisation pour ces conditions, la chloroquine et l’hydroxychloroquine sont également utilisées pour traiter la polyarthrite rhumatoïde et le lupus.

Qu’est-ce qui a déclenché la discussion que ce médicament pourrait agir?

Après l’épidémie initiale de MERS en 2012, les scientifiques ont effectué des tests aléatoires de milliers de médicaments approuvés pour identifier celui qui pourrait bloquer l’infection à MERS. Plusieurs médicaments, dont la chloroquine , ont montré la capacité de bloquer les coronavirus d’infecter des cellules in vitro.

Mais ces drogues n’ont pas été intensivement recherchées car finalement elles n’ont pas montré suffisamment d’activité pour être examinées plus avant.

Lorsque le nouveau coronavirus est apparu, de nombreux médicaments qui avaient montré une promesse initiale contre les coronavirus apparentés MERS et SRAS étaient en tête de liste car dignes d’une évaluation plus approfondie que les traitements possibles.

La science est donc réelle, et un certain nombre de laboratoires dans le monde étudient actuellement ces médicaments et les testent lors d’essais cliniques aux États-Unis, France [19459016 ] et la Chine . Mais jusqu’à présent, il n’y a pas de consensus quant à savoir si les médicaments sont sûrs et efficaces pour traiter COVID-19, car il est encore très tôt dans le processus de test.

Pourquoi les antipaludiques agissent-ils sur un virus?

On ne sait toujours pas comment les chloroquines (ou tout médicament antipaludéen) agiraient contre COVID-19, qui est un virus. Le paludisme est causé par Plasmodium parasites qui se propagent par les moustiques, tandis que COVID-19 est causé par le virus SARS-CoV-2 .

Les infections virales et les infections parasitaires sont très différentes, et les scientifiques ne s’attendraient donc pas à ce que cela fonctionne pour l’un et pour l’autre. Il a été suggéré que les chloroquines peuvent modifier l’acidité à la surface de la cellule , empêchant ainsi le virus de l’infecter.

Il est également possible que les chloroquines aident à activer la réponse immunitaire . Une étude qui vient d’être publiée a testé l’hydroxychloroquine en association avec un médicament antibactérien (azithromycine), qui a mieux fonctionné pour arrêter la propagation de l’infection que l’hydroxychloroquine seule. Cependant, ce n’est qu’une étude préliminaire qui a été réalisée sur un groupe de test limité.

D’autres drogues sont-elles prometteuses?

À ma connaissance, aucun autre antipaludéen n’a montré d’activité significative contre le traitement des coronavirus. Cependant, un autre médicament potentiel est passé au premier plan.

Remdesivir, développé par Gilead Pharmaceuticals, semble être très efficace pour empêcher les virus – y compris les coronavirus tels que le SRAS et le MERS , et les filovirus tels que Ebola – de se répliquer .

Fin février, l’Institut national des allergies et des maladies infectieuses a lancé un essai clinique pour le remdesivir. Et ce mois-ci Gilead a lancé deux essais de phase III du médicament dans des centres médicaux en Asie.

Dois-je commencer à les prendre pour éloigner les coronavirus?

Absolument pas. La chloroquine et l’hydroxychloroquine n’ont pas été évaluées de manière appropriée dans les études contrôlées, sans compter qu’elles ont de nombreux et, dans certains cas, des effets secondaires très mortels .

Personne ne devrait prendre un médicament dont il n’a pas été prouvé qu’il est sûr et efficace pour une maladie ou un état pour lequel il n’est pas approuvé. Il y a tellement de problèmes qui peuvent survenir, des effets secondaires à une toxicité grave et à la mort en raison d’interactions possibles avec d’autres médicaments et d’autres problèmes de santé sous-jacents.

Donc jusqu’à ce que ces médicaments ou tout autre médicament se soit révélé efficace contre le SRAS-CoV-2 dans les essais cliniques et ait été approuvé par la FDA, personne ne devrait s’automédicamenter.

The Conversation Katherine Seley-Radtke , professeur de chimie et de biochimie et présidente désignée de la Société internationale pour la recherche antivirale, Université du Maryland, comté de Baltimore [ 19459003]

Cet article est republié de The Conversation sous une licence Creative Commons. Lisez l’article original .

Un glacier en Antarctique a battu en retraite à une vitesse étonnante, menaçant l'effondrement

 

La calotte glaciaire qui se trouve au sommet Le canyon terrestre le plus profond de la Terre se dresse sur un sol instable.

Une cartographie détaillée du glacier Denman en Antarctique oriental – le plus scrupuleux à ce jour – a révélé une fondation précaire, dont la forme pourrait laisser le cœur de ce glacier incroyablement vulnérable au changement climatique.

 

En près de trois décennies, le glacier Denman a déjà reculé d’environ cinq kilomètres (près de trois milles) et perdu plus de 250 milliards de tonnes de glace. Dans le pire des cas, les dégâts pourraient être beaucoup plus importants.

Contrairement à d’autres glaciers de l’Antarctique, Denman est particulièrement épais – assis sur un canyon à 3 500 mètres sous le niveau de la mer. De plus, il est incliné dans la direction opposée, face à l’océan plutôt que vers lui, et cela pourrait faire toute la différence.

Cela pourrait sembler contre-intuitif. Cela ne rendrait-il pas le glacier plus stable, après tout? En fait, non. Cette forme permet à l’eau de l’océan plus chaude de glisser vers le bas et d’infiltrer des parties cruciales de la fondation du glacier.

Si le point où le glacier flotte sur la mer – connu sous le nom de ligne de mise à la terre – continue de battre en retraite jusqu’au bassin sous-glaciaire d’Aurora, à environ 160 kilomètres ou 100 milles à l’intérieur des terres, la situation pourrait dégénérer contrôle.

À mesure que la ligne recule, les chercheurs affirment qu’elle rencontrera inévitablement de la glace de plus en plus épaisse, permettant à des quantités croissantes d’eau de fonte de s’écouler dans l’océan.

“En raison de la forme du sol sous le côté ouest de Denman, il existe un potentiel de retraite rapide et irréversible”, dit la géoscientifique de la NASA Virginia Brancato “, et que signifie une augmentation substantielle du niveau de la mer à l’avenir. ”

Si tout le glacier s’effondre, les auteurs prédisent que cela pourrait provoquer une élévation du niveau de la mer de 1,5 mètre (5 pieds), et ce n’est pas rien dans le grand schéma des choses.

Bien que l’Antarctique occidental soit généralement considéré comme le plus vulnérable à la fonte, ces résultats soutiennent l’idée que l’Antarctique oriental pourrait être plus vulnérable que nous ne le pensions.

“La glace dans l’Antarctique occidental a fondu plus rapidement ces dernières années, mais la taille même du glacier Denman signifie que son impact potentiel sur l’élévation du niveau de la mer à long terme est tout aussi important”, dit [ 19459003] Eric Rignot, scientifique du système terrestre, à l’Université de Californie à Irvine.

À l’aide de données satellitaires de l’Agence spatiale italienne entre 1996 et 2018, l’étude révèle une asymétrie claire dans la ligne de mise à la terre du glacier Denman.

Comparé au côté est du glacier, qui est plus étroit, le flanc ouest semble beaucoup plus vulnérable, montrant une apparence abrupte en forme de creux qui pourrait causer des problèmes de fusion rapide.

Avec un océan vigoureux continuant à chevaucher sur les bords de cette calotte glaciaire, la pente pourrait agir comme une sorte de glissement, emportant l’océan et la glace fondante de plus en plus à l’intérieur des terres effet d’emballement qui n’est pas souvent pris en compte dans les modèles de calottes glaciaires d’aujourd’hui.

“Cette étude fournit des preuves supplémentaires que, sur la base des connaissances actuelles, nous ne pouvons pas exclure au moins une légère possibilité d’élévation du niveau de la mer beaucoup plus importante que la valeur la plus probable dans les projections du [Groupe d’experts intergouvernemental sur l’évolution du climat], “Richard Alley, un glaciologue de la Pennsylvania State University qui n’a pas travaillé sur l’étude, a dit The Washington Post .

À la fin de l’année dernière , des recherches ont révélé pour la première fois que le glacier Denman couvrait le canyon terrestre le plus profond du monde – presque aussi profond que la profondeur moyenne de l’océan [ 19459003] et huit fois plus profonds que les rives de la mer Morte.

C’est la quantité de glace que nous avons à perdre, et nous venons juste de le réaliser.

L’étude a été publiée dans Geophysical Research Letters .

La couche d'ozone de la Terre guérit, apportant de bonnes nouvelles sur le mouvement mondial du vent

 

La couche d’ozone au-dessus de l’Antarctique a tellement récupéré , qu’elle a en fait empêché de nombreux changements inquiétants dans l’atmosphère de l’hémisphère sud. Si vous cherchez quelqu’un à remercier, essayez le monde dans son ensemble.

 

Une nouvelle étude suggère que le Protocole de Montréal – l’accord de 1987 pour arrêter la production de substances appauvrissant la couche d’ozone (SAO) – pourrait être responsable de l’arrêt, voire de l’inversion, de certains changements troublants dans les courants d’air autour de l’hémisphère sud .

Tourbillonnant vers les pôles de notre planète à haute altitude se trouvent des courants d’air rapides appelés jets streams . Avant le début du siècle, l’appauvrissement de la couche d’ozone avait entraîné le courant-jet sud plus au sud que d’habitude. Cela a fini par changer les régimes pluviométriques, et potentiellement les courants océaniques également.

Puis, une dizaine d’années après la signature du protocole, cette migration s’est soudainement arrêtée. C’était une coïncidence?

En utilisant une gamme de modèles et de simulations informatiques, les chercheurs ont maintenant montré que cette pause dans le mouvement n’était pas due uniquement aux changements naturels des vents. Au lieu de cela, seuls des changements dans l’ozone pouvaient expliquer pourquoi le fluage du courant-jet s’était soudainement arrêté.

En d’autres termes, l’impact du Protocole de Montréal semble avoir interrompu, voire légèrement inversé, la migration vers le sud du courant-jet. Et pour une fois, c’est en fait une bonne nouvelle.

En Australie, par exemple , les modifications apportées au courant-jet ont accru le risque de sécheresse en repoussant la pluie des zones côtières. Si la tendance s’inverse, ces pluies pourraient revenir.

“Les” bandes météorologiques “qui amènent nos fronts froids se sont rétrécies vers le pôle sud, et c’est pourquoi le sud de l’Australie a connu une baisse des précipitations au cours des trente dernières années”, dit Ian Rae, chimiste organique de l’Université de Melbourne qui n’était pas impliqué dans l’étude.

“Si la couche d’ozone se rétablit et que la circulation se déplace vers le nord, c’est une bonne nouvelle sur deux fronts (jeu de mots non prévu).”

Pourtant, nous ne fêterons peut-être pas longtemps. Bien que l’amélioration de la réduction de notre dépendance aux SAO ait certainement permis à l’ozone de se rétablir quelque peu, les niveaux de dioxyde de carbone continuent de grimper et de mettre tous ces progrès en danger.

L’année dernière, le trou d’ozone antarctique a atteint son plus petit pic annuel jamais enregistré depuis 1982, mais le problème n’est pas résolu, et ce record peut avoir quelque chose à voir avec des températures inhabituellement douces dans cette couche de l’atmosphère.

De plus, ces dernières années, il y a eu une augmentation des produits chimiques appauvrissant la couche d’ozone, provenant des régions industrielles de Chine.

“Nous appelons cela une” pause “parce que les tendances de la circulation vers les pôles pourraient reprendre, rester à plat ou s’inverser”, dit la chimiste atmosphérique Antara Banerjee de l’Université du Colorado Boulder.

“C’est le bras de fer entre les effets opposés de la récupération de l’ozone et l’augmentation des gaz à effet de serre qui déterminera les tendances futures.”

Le Protocole de Montréal est la preuve que si nous prenons des mesures globales et immédiates, nous pouvons aider à mettre en pause ou même à réparer certains des dommages que nous avons commencés. Pourtant, même maintenant, l’augmentation constante des émissions de gaz à effet de serre nous rappelle qu’une telle action n’est tout simplement pas suffisante.

L’étude a été publiée dans Nature .

A Lego Brick That Falls in The Ocean Could Still Be Found 1,000 Years From Now

The world’s oceans are awash with millions of tiny plastic Lego pieces, and these toys-turned-pollutants are not going anywhere anytime soon.

New research has found those classic Lego bricks take between 100 and 1,300 years to fully disintegrate at sea, depending on variations in the plastic’s composition and the marine weathering it experiences.

 

In 1997, nearly 5 million bits of Lego on a container ship fell overboard. Estimates also predict that over 2 million blocks have been flushed down the toilet by children, and depending on how effective waste treatment was at the time, an unknown proportion of those flushed in the 70s and 80s may be bobbing around in the waves, too.

In the past decade, voluntary organisations like the LEGO Lost at Sea Project have recovered thousands of plastic pieces from our beaches, but if these toys are really as sturdy as the new research suggests, we’ve got our work cut out for us. In all likelihood, these tiny little blocks will keep coming in waves for centuries to come.

“Lego is one of the most popular children’s toys in history and part of its appeal has always been its durability,” says Andrew Turner from the University of Plymouth, who studies the chemical properties of marine litter.

 

“It is specifically designed to be played with and handled, so it may not be especially surprising that despite potentially being in the sea for decades it isn’t significantly worn down. However, the full extent of its durability was even a surprise to us.”

Collecting 50 Lego blocks from the beaches of southwest England, researchers compared chemicals in the weathered samples to archived Lego blocks in their original condition. 

Screen Shot 2020 03 17 at 10.28.17 am(Turner et al., Environmental Pollution, 2020)

The classic Lego brick is made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), and while the company hopes to use more sustainable materials by 2030, this tough polymer has already done more than enough harm.

While weathered blocks from the beach showed various degrees of weakening, yellowing, blunting, fracturing and fouling, researchers were surprised to find the toys largely intact.

“Based on mass difference among paired samples that are about 40 years old we estimate residence times in the marine environment on the order of hundreds of years,” the authors write.

Precisely how these blocks entered the environment is unclear, but they match up with items sold in the 1970s and 80s. And despite decades at sea, they’re still doing alright, relatively speaking.

Marine life may have smoothed down their edges, dulled their plasticky shine, stunted their studs and faded their colours, but they are still more than recognisable.

1 s2.0 S0269749119364152 fx1 lrg(Turner et al., Environmental Pollution, 2020)

Plastic materials like ABS are too new for us to know what will happen to them in the long run, but studies like this give us some idea of how they’ve coped so far.

The authors say their findings compare to the life expectancy of clear plastic bottles, and judging by the weathering seen so far, they probably put sea life at similar risk.

“The pieces we tested had smoothed and discoloured, with some of the structures having fractured and fragmented, suggesting that as well as pieces remaining intact they might also break down into microplastics,” says Turner.

“It once again emphasises the importance of people disposing of used items properly to ensure they do not pose potential problems for the environment.”

The study was published in Environmental Pollution.

 

A Huge Amount of Plastic Waste Is ‘Missing’ From Our Oceans. New Study Shows Where It Is

You’ve probably heard that our oceans have become a plastic soup. But in fact, of all the plastic that enters Earth’s oceans each year, just 1 percent has been observed floating on the surface. So where is the rest of it?

 

This “missing” plastic has been a longstanding scientific question. To date, the search has focused on oceanic gyres such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the water column (the part of the ocean between the surface and the sea bed), the bottom of the ocean, and the stomachs of marine wildlife.

But our new research suggests ocean plastic is being transported back onshore and pushed permanently onto land away from the water’s edge, where it often becomes trapped in vegetation.

Of course, plastic has been reported on beaches around the world for decades. But there has been little focus on why and how coastal environments are a sink for marine debris. Our findings have big implications for how we tackle ocean plastic.

The hunt for marine pollution

Our separate, yet-to-be-published research has found around 90 percent of marine debris that enters the ocean remains in the “littoral zone” (the area of ocean within 8 kilometres of the coast). This new study set out to discover what happens to it.

We collected data on the amount and location of plastic pollution every 100 kilometres around the entire coast of Australia between 2011 and 2016. Debris was recorded at 188 locations along the Australian coastline. Of this, 56 percent was plastic, followed by glass (17 percent) and foam (10 percent).

 

The debris was a mix of litter from people and deposition from the ocean. The highest concentrations of plastic pollution were found along coastal backshores – areas towards the inland edge of the beach, where the vegetation begins. The further back from the water’s edge we went, the more debris we found.

The amount of marine debris, and where it ends up, is influenced by onshore wave activity and, to a lesser extent, wind activity. Densely populated areas and those where the coast was easily accessible were hotspots for trapped plastics.

Think about what you see on your beach. Smaller debris is often found near the water’s edge, while larger items such as drink bottles, plastic bags and crisp packets are often found further back from the water, often trapped in vegetation.

We also found more debris near urban areas where rivers and creeks enter the ocean. It could be that our trash is being trapped by waterways before it gets to the sea. We’re finding similar patterns in other countries we’re surveying around the Asia Pacific and beyond.

 

This pollution kills and maims wildlife when they mistake it for food or get tangled in it. It can damage fragile marine ecosystems by smothering sensitive reefs and transporting invasive species and is potentially a threat to human health if toxins in plastics make their way through the food chain to humans.

It can also become an eyesore, damaging the economy of an area through reduced tourism revenue.

Talking rubbish

Our findings highlight the importance of studying the entire width of coastal areas to better understand how much, and where, debris gets trapped, to inform targeted approaches to managing all this waste.

Plastic pollution can be reduced through local changes such as water refill stations, rubbish bins, incentives and awareness campaigns.

It can also be reduced through targeted waste management policies to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics. We found container deposit schemes to be a particularly effective incentive in reducing marine pollution.

This discussion is particularly timely. The National Plastics Summit in Canberra last week brought together governments, industry and non-government organisations to identify new solutions to the plastic waste challenge, and discuss how to meet targets under the National Waste Policy Action Plan.

Understanding that so much of our debris remains local, and trapped on land, provides real opportunities for successful management of our waste close to the source. This is particularly critical given the waste export ban starting July 1 at the latest.

Plastic in our oceans is increasing. It’s clear from our research that waste management strategies on land must accommodate much larger volumes of pollution than previously estimated.

But the best way to keep plastic from our ocean and land is to stop putting it in.

Arianna Olivelli contributed to this article, and the research upon which it was based.

Britta Denise Hardesty, Principal Research Scientist, Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, CSIRO and Chris Wilcox, Senior Research Scientist, CSIRO.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

Science Keeps Finding Links Between Autism And Gut Problems

Many people will associate autism with traits including atypical social interactions, repetitive behaviours, and difficulties with speech and communication.

But perhaps lesser known is the fact people with autism are more likely to experience gastrointestinal disorders than the general population.

 

One review found children with autism were four times more likely to report gastrointestinal symptoms than children without a diagnosis. A number of studies in the review reported the prevalence of gut problems was the same among boys and girls.

These symptoms can include constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, bloating, reflux and vomiting.

Gut problems like these hinder quality of life for people with autism and their families, further affecting sleep, concentration and behavioural issues.

For a long time we thought this was due to the way the brain controls the gut. Think of the “butterflies” you get in your stomach, or the need to rush to the toilet when you’re really nervous.

While the brain does influence gut function, this is only part of the story. Newer research is showing gastrointestinal symptoms in autism may be due to differences in the gut itself.

The mini brain of the gut

The gut contains its own dedicated nervous system, called the enteric nervous system, which co-ordinates digestion and the absorption of food and nutrients.

The enteric nervous system is a complex integrated network of neurons that extends along the gastrointestinal tract.

 

While structurally quite different, it contains about the same number of cells as the spinal cord and uses many of the same neurochemical messengers, receptors and proteins as the brain.

Autism has a strong genetic component. More than 1,000 gene mutations are associated with the disorder. Many of these gene mutations alter how neurons communicate in the brain.

We hypothesised some of these gene mutations may also cause neuron wiring to go awry in the gut, resulting in gastrointestinal issues in some people with autism.

Our research

To test this theory, we studied patient records of two brothers with autism, who have a single gene mutation associated with autism that affects neuron communication. We also studied mice.

Mouse models with this specific mutation, called neuroligin-3, have previously shown behaviours relevant to autism, such as altered social interactions, reduced communication and repetitive behaviours.

We found this mutation also affects the enteric nervous system of the gut in mice. Mutant mice exhibited altered gut contractions, and the speed at which food moved through their small intestine was faster than the speed for mice without the mutation.

 

Meanwhile, both brothers have gut issues including esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus) and diarrhoea.

So our work shows a gene mutation associated with autism, previously only studied in the brain, could affect the gut too.

The gut microbiota

We also found mice with the mutation had differences in their gut microbiota compared to normally developing mice.

The gut microbiota is the community of microorganisms (including bacteria, fungi and viruses) that live within the gastrointestinal tract. The largest amount of microbiota are found in the large intestine, where they digest some of the food we eat.

The mice we studied with the neuroligin-3 mutation had what’s called an altered Firmicutes:Bacteroidetes ratio.

Scientists have found this ratio is altered in people with a range of conditions including type 2 diabetes, obesity and inflammatory bowel disease.

Why is all this important?

Now that we’re beginning to understand more about the link between autism and the gut, scientists are investigating whether changing the gut microbiota could affect autism behaviours. One way we can alter the gut microbiota is using faecal transplants.

One recent study took faeces (microbiota) from boys with or without autism and transplanted the faeces into mice. The researchers then studied how the offspring of these mice behaved.

 

The offspring of mice that received microbes from boys with autism showed behaviours that could be relevant to autism (they buried more marbles in their cage bedding, potentially an indication of repetitive behaviour), compared to mice who were transplanted with microbes from typically developing children.

Another recent study assessed gut problems and behavioural traits for two years in people with autism after they received a faecal transplant. This study reported improvements in gut symptoms and behaviour. But the researchers only studied a small number of people, and didn’t control for placebo effects.

Other studies have tested if changing gut microbes by treating patients with prebiotics (food for the bacteria in your gut) or probiotics (helpful bacteria) can affect autism behaviours. But a review of these studies showed no consensus – in other words, some studies showed an effect, while others didn’t.

What does this mean for people with autism?

Many of the studies looking at the gut in autism so far have been conducted using mice. We need more research in humans to confirm the results can be extrapolated.

We need to continue to build our understanding of how gene mutations in the nervous system influence gut microbes. In the future, tweaking the gut microbiota might be one way to manage behaviours in people with autism.

This would not reverse gene mutations leading to autism, but it might tone down the effects, and improve quality of life for people with autism and their families.

In the meantime, clinicians treating people with autism should consider assessing and treating gut problems alongside behavioural issues.The Conversation

Elisa Hill, Researcher in Enteric Neuroscience and Autism, RMIT University; Ashley Franks, Senior Lecturer, Department of Microbiology, La Trobe University, and Sonja McKeown, Lecturer, Department of Anatomy & Developmental Biology, Monash University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

Here’s Why We’ve Responded to Coronavirus So Wildly Differently to Climate Change

Coronavirus has disrupted everyday life throughout the world through travel bans, flight restrictions and the cancellation of sporting and cultural events.

More than 60 million Italians have been banned from travelling, and all public events cancelled. In China, 30 million people are still under lockdown, allowed to leave their homes only every two days.

 

The Japanese prime minister has requested that all schools close for the entire month of March, while the Italian and Iranian authorities have closed all schools and universities. Despite the costs and inconveniences these actions impose, the general public is generally quiescent, even approving.

But coronavirus is not the only global crisis we face: the climate crisis, as others have noted, is expected to be more devastating. Some have observed that the response to the two crises is starkly different. As an expert in behavioural sciences, I have been giving some thought to what explains this difference.

At first glance the difference is surprising, because the climate crisis is structurally very similar to the coronavirus crisis for a number of reasons:

  1. Both are characterised by an escalating probability of disaster. In the case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, this is due to the nature of contagion: each patient can pass the disease on to more than one person and so rates of infection tend to accelerate. In the case of climate change, the increased risk of initiating feedback loops (processes which amplify the warming trend) and crossing tipping points as global temperatures rise have the same effect.

  2. Tackling either problem will disrupt our lifestyles in a number of ways, some of which are quite similar – consider the drastic rise in staycations elicited by the coronavirus crisis.

  3. In both cases there is a coordination problem: the efforts of any one individual will achieve nothing to mitigate the risk unless accompanied by efforts from many others.

  4. And in both cases, authorities acknowledge the urgency of acting. Governing administrations in 28 countries have declared a climate emergency.

 

Close to home

Given these similarities, one might think that both would evoke similar responses. But the response to the coronavirus crisis has arguably been far greater than the response to the climate crisis. Why?

Coronavirus is a recent, self-evident and rapidly escalating threat. It feels like a shock to the status quo, and the unease that shock engenders motivates action. Each day brings new evidence of the direct consequences of the outbreak, and these consequences are rapidly moving closer to home. It impresses as a clear and present danger that requires action now.

The threat of climate change, on the other hand, has been suggested for decades, and hard evidence has accumulated only gradually. Consequently, it does not evoke the same kind of unease.

While there is no doubt that present and past activities by humans have generated emissions that will have consequences for the climate, it is not wholly possible to ascribe any specific event to climate change.

The impression it makes is of a vague problem that will be encountered in the future, not something immediate.

 

There is also a sense in which the future is going to be bad regardless what steps we take now to address climate change. This can beget feelings of helplessness. With coronavirus, it feels as though today’s actions will have real and demonstrable consequences.

People are more supportive of policies if they can explain the mechanism through which the policy operates. There is a simple and intuitive mental model of how COVID-19 spreads (through people) and how we can stop its spread (keep infected people isolated).

Though we have been taught that heating our homes, driving our cars and so on contributes towards climate change, the causal chain through which this actually occurs is not intuitive.

It feels as though we are dealing with coronavirus effectively when we quarantine infected people, but it does not feel as though we are taking a concrete step towards dealing with climate change by, for instance, banning the burning of unseasoned wood.

Some hope

So, what lessons can we learn from this?

Communication appears to be key. Creating intuitive mental models and apt metaphors to explain the link between our consumer behaviour, carbon emissions and a changing climate is a tall order. But if advocacy and lobby groups can do so, it might facilitate a sense of responsibility and agency.

 

Also, it seems that the current communication around the risks and negative outcomes of climate change may be too diffuse and varied to be easily assimilated by the general public. If media outlets and governments could coordinate to clarify the nature of climate risk, coronavirus shows us that the public are more than capable of responding appropriately.

In the meantime, it might be heartening to consider some features of the coronavirus outbreak that would have been expected to inhibit action, but haven’t. The fact that most healthy adults recover from COVID-19 would be expected to induce complacency.

And we know that people are generally prone to an optimism bias: the fact that I can engage in behaviours that protect against COVID-19 makes me over-optimistic regarding my personal risk.

By contrast, climate change is universal; the healthy and wealthy do not inhabit a separate climate to the rest of us. If we get the messaging right, this universality should motivate even greater coordination than we have seen in response to coronavirus.

Also, taking steps to reduce the risk of coronavirus is always costly (such as cancelling events). By contrast, climate change mitigation still offers opportunities to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and simultaneously gain via lower energy bills, better air quality and so on.

In my research, I have focused on finding these win-wins, for instance in commuting behaviour and residential energy use. But the commitment I have observed over the past weeks in tackling the coronavirus outbreak makes me ambitious.

Instead of applying behavioural science to change individual behaviour, let’s apply it to change hearts, minds and government policies.

One final lesson that the response to coronavirus teaches is that people can still work together to do the right thing. We need hope, and trust in each other, to tackle the climate crisis. Perhaps, counter-intuitively, coronavirus will help us with this.The Conversation

David Comerford, Program Director, MSc Behavioural Science, University of Stirling.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

This Remote, Pristine Underwater Forest in South America Hasn’t Changed in Decades

Scientists have returned to a group of underwater kelp forests off the tip of South America for the first time since 1973 – and they’ve found the ecosystem virtually unchanged despite the passage of nearly half a century.

 

These seaweed forests, close to Tierra del Fuego, are something of a marine marvel; experts say we can learn some important conservation lessons from them.

Kelp forests like these are under threat from climate change and human activity, but divers found that this particular stretch had the same numbers of kelp, sea urchins and sea stars as it did in the early 1970s.

kelp f 3(Enric Sala/National Geographic)

What’s more, the researchers didn’t spot any signs of urchin barrens – this is a harmful type of unchecked sea urchin grazing that’s been spotted in other kelp forests, and which can quickly reduce kelp levels.

“The kelp forests of the extreme tip of South America are some of the most pristine on Earth and have not changed substantially since the early 1970s, when they were first surveyed,” says oceanographer Alan Friedlander, from the National Geographic Society.

“Re-examination of this remote region is incredibly valuable in this age of climate change, and gives us a better understanding of how these ecosystems function in the absence of direct human impacts.”

 

The remote location, lack of human activity in the area, and rough surrounding seas are likely to be responsible for having kept these parts of the ocean locked in their own time capsule, according to the researchers.

Besides direct observations underwater, the scientists also looked at satellite imagery from the last 20 years, noting that kelp coverage seems to move in four-year cycles based on rainfall patterns.

kelp f 2(Enric Sala/National Geographic)

In terms of fish populations, the team did find some variation: levels of different species, including pipefish, pink cusk-eel and rock cod, tended to depend on how well-sheltered the sample site was from ocean waves.

The work fills in some of the gaps in our knowledge when it comes to kelp forest protection. If scientists are going to understand how these submarine ecosystems are evolving and how they can be protected, they need to know about the ones that haven’t changed as well as the ones that have.

Kelp forests are some of the most diverse and vibrant ecosystems on the planet, cropping up extensively along shallow, rocky coasts in cold water habitats, and this particular group plays a significant role in the entire South American ecosystem. The challenge now is to make sure it remains largely unspoilt for the next 50 years.

“This region is one of the last global refuges for kelp forest ecosystems and supports large populations of seabirds [and] marine mammals, and has high biodiversity value due to high endemism and unique community composition,” conclude the researchers in their paper.

“There is therefore an urgent need to protect this region for its biodiversity values and the ecosystem services it provides.”

The research has been published in PLOS One.

 

Scientists Recommend These 4 ‘Weapons’ in Our War Against Climate Change

In 1896, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius explored whether Earth’s temperatures were influenced by the presence of heat-absorbing gases in the atmosphere. He calculated that if carbon dioxide concentrations doubled, global temperatures would rise by 5°C – even more at the poles.

 

Just over a century later, the world is on track to fulfilling Arrhenius’ prediction. If we continue on the current trajectory, Earth will warm up to 4.8°C above pre-industrial times by 2100.

We are a group of experts in physics, geology, science education, coral reefs and climate system science. We believe the lack of progress by governments in reducing global emissions means bold solutions are now urgently needed.

We must fight climate change like it’s World War III – and battle on many fronts. Here we examine four of them.

1. Plant a lot more trees

Tree-planting has enormous potential to tackle to climate crisis. Recent research calculated that worldwide 900 million hectares of additional tree cover could exist outside of already-established forests, farmland and urban areas – sufficient to store 25 percent of the current atmospheric carbon pool. Forests act to increase cloud and rainfall and reduce temperatures.

The grand vision of the Gondwana link project in Western Australia is an example of what can be done. It is reconnecting fragmented ecosystems to create a continuous 1,000 kilometre corridor of bushland.

 

Broadscale land clearing must cease and a massive program of tree planting should be implemented in all possible areas. Such a program would provide huge small business employment opportunities. It requires incentives and partnerships that could be funded through taxes on carbon emissions.

Renewable energy-powered desalination may be required in some places to provide the water needed to establish forests in drought conditions. This meshes with an important new technology: carbon mineralisation.

2. Turn carbon dioxide into rock

Carbon mineralisation involves turning carbon dioxide into carbonate minerals by emulating the way seashells and limestone are made naturally.

Many techniques have been researched and proposed. These include capturing carbon dioxide from industrial plants and bubbling it through brine from desalination plants, or capturing it from nickel mine tailings using bacteria.

Huge quantities of CO2 can potentially be captured in this way, creating useful building materials as a by-product.

Demonstration plants should now be trialled in Australia, with a view to rapid scaling up to commercialisation.

3. Make Earth’s surface more reflective

Solar radiation management describes techniques to reflect solar energy (sunlight) back to space, and so counteract planetary heating.

Changing the reflectivity of surfaces, such as by painting a dark roof white, reduces absorbed heat enormously and could cool cities. On larger scales we can dust asphalt roads with limestone, retain pale stubble on farms over summer and plant paler crops.

 

Studies suggest lighter land surfaces have good potential for cooling at a regional scale, and may lower extreme temperatures by up to 3°C.

Such methods also indirectly cut greenhouse gas emissions by reducing air-conditioner use.

4. Reimagine transport

Economic mechanisms are essential to accelerate the transition to renewable energy, energy storage and zero-emission transport.

The international shipping industry emitted about 800 megatonnes of carbon dioxide in 2015, and this figure is expected to double by mid-century.

For all ships not powered by renewable energy, research suggests speed limits could be lowered by 20 percent to reduce fuel use. Australia could lead the world by scaling berthing charges according to satellite-monitored ship speeds.

Australia should also follow the lead of Norway which offers generous financial incentives to encourage zero-emission vehicles (powered by hydrogen or electricity). These include sales tax exemption and free parking in some places. And it’s worked: almost 60 percent of new cars sold in Norway in March 2019 were reportedly entirely electric-powered.

Where to next?

The above list is by no means exhaustive. Australia’s bid to sell emissions reduction to the world as renewable hydrogen and electricity should be massively accelerated, and expanded to the scale of the Apollo mission’s race to the Moon.

We must slash emissions from agriculture, and re-establish soil carbon reservoirs lost through modern agriculture. We also suggest a major military response to bushfire, including a water-bombing air fleet and airfields within two hours of every fire risk location.

 

Finally, the war demands a central headquarters providing leadership, information and coordination – perhaps a greatly expanded version of the Greenhouse Office established under the Howard Coalition government in 1998 (but later merged into another government department). The office should provide, among other things, information on the climate cost of every item we use, both to aid consumer choice and tax climate-harming products.

Some technologies may prove too costly, too risky, or too slow to implement. All require careful governance, leadership and public engagement to ensure community backing.

But as global greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow, governments must deploy every weapon available – not only to win the war, but to prevent the terrible social cost of despair.

The full report on which this article is based is available here. The Conversation

David Blair, Emeritus Professor, ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery, OzGrav, University of Western Australia; Bruce Hobbs, , CSIRO; David Franklin Treagust, John Curtin Distinguished Professor, Professor of Science Education, Curtin University, and Malcolm McCulloch, Professor, University of Western Australia.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

 

New Evidence Shows How COVID-19 Has Affected Global Air Pollution

The COVID-19 pandemic is getting more overwhelming by the day, with increasing lockdowns, a death toll of more than 7,000 people across the world, and a direct hit to the global economy.

 

But if there’s a sliver of good news, it’s about how the spread of the new coronavirus has been decreasing air pollution, and possibly even saving lives in the process.

Back on March 8, Stanford University environmental resource economist Marshall Burke did some back-of-the-envelope calculations about the recent air pollution drop over parts of China and potential lives saved, posting it on a global food, environment and economic dynamics blog, G-FEED.

The situation has continued to unfold since then, so those numbers won’t stay current for long; but according to Burke, even conservatively, it’s very likely that the lives saved locally from the reduction in pollution exceed COVID-19 deaths in China.

“Given the huge amount of evidence that breathing dirty air contributes heavily to premature mortality, a natural – if admittedly strange – question is whether the lives saved from this reduction in pollution caused by economic disruption from COVID-19 exceeds the death toll from the virus itself,” Burke writes.

“Even under very conservative assumptions, I think the answer is a clear ‘yes’.”

The two months of pollution reduction, Burke calculates, has probably saved the lives of 4,000 children under 5 and 73,000 adults over 70 in China. That’s significantly more than the current global death toll from the virus itself. 

 

Although this might seem a little surprising, it’s something we’ve known about for quite a long time. Earlier this month, research suggested that air pollution costs us three years, on average, off our global life expectancy.

“It is remarkable that both the number of deaths and the loss in life expectancy from air pollution rival the effect of tobacco smoking and are much higher than other causes of death,” physicist Jos Lelieveld from the Cyprus Institute in Nicosia stated at the time.

“Air pollution exceeds malaria as a global cause of premature death by a factor of 19; it exceeds violence by a factor of 16, HIV/AIDS by a factor of 9, alcohol by a factor of 45, and drug abuse by a factor of 60.”

So, it’s well established that air pollution really does kill.

But Burke’s analysis was just using data from China, and was completed before there was more information about how COVID-19 has affected the rest of the world.

With the second largest number of cases occurring in Italy, and the country putting in place strict quarantine measures, satellite data over northern Italy have now shown a large drop in air pollution – specifically nitrogen dioxide, a gas mainly emitted by cars, trucks, power plants and some industrial plants.

 

Using the Tropomi instrument on the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, images taken from 1 January to 11 March 2020 showed nitrogen dioxide dropping dramatically.

You can see that happening in the video below:

“The decline in nitrogen dioxide emissions over the Po Valley in northern Italy is particularly evident,” explains Claus Zehner, ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P mission manager.

“Although there could be slight variations in the data due to cloud cover and changing weather, we are very confident that the reduction in emissions that we can see, coincides with the lock-down in Italy causing less traffic and industrial activities.”

For now, we don’t have peer-reviewed studies measuring the true health impact reduced emissions will bring, but given what we know about the dangers of widespread air pollution, it’s likely that there will be a direct benefit in the shape of fewer pollution-related deaths.  

Even such a tiny silver lining can hardly make up for the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. But these preliminary numbers demonstrate that this global health disaster is an opportunity to assess – which aspects of modern life are absolutely necessary, and what positive changes might be possible if we change our habits on a global scale.