In today’s On the News segment: US beekeepers lost 44 percent of honey bee colonies in 2015; microplastics might be contaminating the air we breathe; an atmospheric measuring station is picking up CO2 levels that are on the verge of breaking 400 parts per million for the first time in human history; and more.
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Thom Hartmann here — on the best of the rest of Science and Green News …
We start at Cape Grim in Australia, where an atmospheric measuring station is picking up atmospheric CO2 levels that are on the verge of breaking 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. And unlike other measuring stations where concentrations fluctuate seasonally, the station at Cape Grim is in a region with stable CO2 concentrations, meaning CO2 levels in that area won’t dip below 400 parts per million once it crosses that milestone. On May 6, scientists picked up a CO2 reading at Cape Grim of 399.9 parts per million, meaning that within weeks, the reading will be permanently above 400 parts per million. This isn’t the first station to cross the 400 ppm threshold; the first station to detect CO2 levels above 400 parts per million was the Mauna Loa observatory back in 2013. CO2 concentrations at the Mauna Loa observatory fluctuate throughout the year, but soon CO2 concentrations there will be so high that they’ll never dip below 400 parts per million, either. And last March, the global monthly average using all global readings crossed 400 parts per million, which guarantees that truly dangerous global warming is inevitable. James Butler, director of the global monitoring division as the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, compared the situation to an electric blanket. He told the Guardian that, “It’s like lying in bed with your electric blanket set to three. You jack it up to seven – you don’t get hot right away but you do get hot. And that’s what we’re doing.” And that’s the problem: It’s difficult to know how much warming exactly we’ve guaranteed now that we’re crossing the 400 parts per million threshold, especially considering that scientists said years ago that to avoid catastrophic warming, we need to keep carbon concentrations below 350 parts per million. What’s clear is that yearly and monthly temperature averages have continued to break records regularly in the last couple of years — and with atmospheric CO2 concentrations at 400 parts per million — that trend will continue for years to come, even if we stopped emitting carbon completely today. The fossil fuel industry has blocked and disputed the science on climate change for so long now that now we can guarantee that the oceans will continue to acidify, warm and lose oxygen, and we can guarantee that storms will get stronger, droughts will get worse and communities will be devastated. We need to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for misleading the public for so long and for guaranteeing that a child born today will never know a planet with CO2 concentrations below 400 parts per million, and we need to go 100 percent renewable immediately.
According to environmental health experts, microplastics — the curse of beaches, oceans, waterways and aquatic life everywhere — might also be contaminating the air we breathe. The Guardian is reporting that a research team at King’s College in London is looking into this serious issue. Frank Kelly, a researcher and professor of environmental health at King’s College, at an evidence session at the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) in the UK, says, “There is a possibility, a real possibility, that some of those microparticles will be entrained into the air, and they will be carried around and we will end up breathing them. This is a horizon-scanning issue but the particles are of a size that they are [breathable], they are increasing in number in our environment and there is a question to be asked.” Marcus Eriksen of the 5 Gyres Institute also wrote that YUGE clouds of microplastics are coming from the five subtropical gyres, with an estimated 269,000 tons of plastic from 5.25 trillion particles. Alarmingly, as Eriksen pointed out, about 92 percent of that plastic is microplastic. Kelly and his colleague Dr. Stephanie Wright said in a written statement, “Microplastics have the potential to cause physical and chemical harm, as demonstrated by laboratory studies. They now present a human health risk, mainly due to their occurrence in dietary sources.” Plastics can discharge potentially harmful chemicals that can interfere with human hormones. Kelly also noted that the health repercussions of microplastics are only just being looked at.
New research reveals cancer cell growth could be halted by stopping them from getting nutrients — in another words, by starving them. This discovery came from the scientists at the Australian National University. They further point out that starving these cells can limit their growth by at least 96 percent. This leads to an important point not covered in this study: Can fasting starve cancer? A study in Science Translational Medicine discovered that five out of eight cancer types in mice responded to fasting alone. And according to senior author Valter Longo — professor of gerontology and biological sciences at the USC Davis School of Gerontology and the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences — without exception, “the combination of fasting cycles plus chemotherapy was either more or much more effective than chemo alone.”
According to the USDA, beekeepers have lost 44 percent of honey bee colonies in 2015. This week, the Bee Informed Partnership, with the Apiary Inspectors of America and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) released an annual report on honey bee losses in the US. This loss is close to the highest annual loss in the past six years, and is considered too high to be sustainable for US agriculture and the beekeeping industry. Tiffany Finck-Haynes, food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said, “These honey bee losses reinforce what sciences continues to tell us; we must take immediate action to restrict pesticides contributing to bee declines. The longer we wait, the worse the situation becomes. If we do not suspend neonicotinoid pesticides immediately, we risk losing our beekeepers and harming important ecosystem functions upon which our food supply depends.” Many states, cities, universities, businesses and federal agencies have tried to restrict the use of these pesticides in the face of delays by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). But these pesticides are still widely used. Finck-Haynes has added, “The EPA is passing the buck to states and our regulatory agencies are letting the pesticide industry pull the wool over their eyes instead of seeking solutions. The EPA, USDA and Congress must all adopt a federal, unified plan that eliminates the use of systemic pesticides to protect bees and beekeepers.”
In alarming geeky science, the super volcano Yellowstone Caldera, below the Yellowstone National Park in the United States, appears to be showing signs that it might erupt in 2016. What!? This is no joke. According to Tech Insider, the eruption of volcano poses a threat to the US. It can wipe out half of the US. The US Geological Survey stated that if the supervolcano erupts, it will affect the food and water supplies of the country. There will be massive respiratory problems because of the huge quantity of ashes it might emit. This will also cause 10 years of uninhabitable devastation, particularly the areas surrounding the park. The researchers predicted that the big eruption might happen about 10,000 years, according to the study they performed on the supervolcano earlier this year. On the other hand, recently, the behavior of caldera is alarming. There were strange seismic activities. There were fumes, and the rivers near the area were boiling. They believe that the supervolcano might explode within this year. The Express UK also released a video of the volcano, showing a steam and ash rising in the surface. This may show the gigantic magma reservoir is about to explode.
And that’s the way it is for the week of May 16, 2016, on the Science and Green News.