In today’s On the News segment: Workers at the Hanford nuclear waste site in Oregon say that the public is being deceived about a “catastrophic” leak; we have shattered another climate record; the Netherlands may ban the sale of non-electric cars by 2025; and more.
Thom Hartmann here — on the best of the rest of Science and Green News …
You need to know this: We have shattered another climate record. Just like the month before it, last month was the hottest March on record, and that’s not good news for our species. According to a recent warning from the Japan Meteorological Agency, last month’s record temperatures should be “a reminder of how perilously close we now are to permanently crossing into dangerous territory.” It’s not only that last month was the warmest March since at least 1891, the average global temperatures broke that previous record by the greatest margin seen yet. In other words, March wasn’t just the hottest March on record, the temperature spike was larger than any previous jump on record. That means that our planet is heating up at a faster pace than ever before. Andrew Freedman, who writes for Mashable, said that if April continues the trend of breaking monthly temperature records, “the Earth will have had an astonishing 12-month string of record-shattering months.” At this rate, we’re getting dangerously close to hitting the 2 degree Celsius limit that scientists have warned about. Renowned climatologist Dr. Michael Mann said, “It underscores the urgency of reducing global carbon emissions.” We must take immediate action to address these global trends, but somehow we’re still fighting about whether or not action should be taken at all. If we continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, we are pretty much damning ourselves to a bleak and perilous future. For the sake of our species, we must break our fossil fuel addiction to fossil fuels and stop the cycle of record-breaking temperatures.
NASA has successfully sent an inflatable bedroom to space. Last week, the “Bigelow Expandable Activity Module” was installed on the International Space Station. That project added more square footage for the astronauts on board, and it will serve as an important test for the future. The inflatable habitat is about the size of a small bedroom, and it’s made from impact-resistant, Kevlar-like material. The material is much easier and cheaper to transport and install in space, and it should provide astronauts with better protection from solar radiation and extreme space temperatures. If the test is a success, the inflatable structure could revolutionize the way we build structures in outer space. As we attempt to reach new distances and planets in space, this technology could help us conquer the final frontier.
Workers at the Hanford nuclear waste site in Oregon say that the public is being deceived about a “catastrophic” leak at the most contaminated nuclear site in our nation. According to a recent article over at CommonDreams.org, one of the 28 underground tanks is seeping radioactive material left over from plutonium production. Earlier this month, alarms at the facility began sounding and workers discovered more than eight inches of toxic waste between the inner and outer walls of a storage tank. Although the Department of Energy maintains that there is no threat to public safety, Mike Geffre, the worker who discovered the leak, said, “this is catastrophic.” The Columbia Riverkeepers, an Oregon-based environmental group, said the leak is “another reminder of the cost of nuclear waste, and the unexpected outcomes of handling radioactive materials.” The storage tanks were never designed to hold this waste for decades, but the very nature of nuclear material makes it difficult to move and store in another location. Nuclear watchdogs are monitoring the situation closely, and they’re hoping that the public isn’t being left in the dark about even more dangerous leaks at the Hanford site.
The Dutch may do away with gas-powered vehicles. According to Katie Valentine over at the ThinkProgress blog, the Netherlands could soon ban the sale of non-electric vehicles. The lower house of the Dutch parliament has already approved a measure to ban the sale of non-electric cars by 2025, but the motion still needs approval from the Dutch Senate. If they approve the new law, the only gas-powered vehicles allowed in the country are the ones already operating on the road today. Even hybrid vehicles, which account for many of the recent car sales in that nation, would be banned under the new proposal. While here in the US, electric vehicles account for less than one percent of all car sales, in the Netherlands, EVs make up more than 20 percent of the overall market. So that nation would have a far easier time implementing such a bold clean-energy proposal. Of course, critics of the plan still say that it’s “overambitious and unrealistic.” Hopefully, the Dutch Senate agrees that it’s just the type of legislation that will be needed to break our addiction to fossil fuels.
And finally … Animals and humans may not be the only ones with giant egos. According to a recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, insects may have consciousness and self-awareness similar to people. One of the study’s authors, Colin Klein, said, “When organisms began to move freely in their environment, they faced many new challenges. They had to decide where to go next. They had to prioritize their needs. They had to interpret sensory information that changes as a consequence of their motions.” In other words, although we may think of insects as mini-robots, they must consider their actions and decide their next move in a manner that it far more similar to mini-humans. Klein explained, “In some sense, it’s very hard to understand what other people experience, much less animals! But, we think that research can reveal much about the contents of insects’ experience, as well as similarities and differences in the way that these experiences are structured.” In other words, there’s still a lot that science can learn about what exactly insects may be thinking.
And that’s the way it is for the week of April 25, 2016. I’m Thom Hartmann on Science and Green News.