Global Warming Reduces Deaths from Cold Temps Much More Than It Increases Deaths From Hot Temps

(p. A15) Globally, a recent Lancet study found 4.5 million cold deaths, nine times more than global heat deaths. The study also finds that temperatures increased half a degree Celsius in the first two decades of this century, causing an additional 116,000 heat deaths annually. But warmer temperatures now also avoid 283,000 cold deaths annually. Reporting only on the former leaves us badly informed.

. . .

Even if all the world’s ambitious carbon-cutting promises were magically enacted, these policies would only slow future warming. Stronger heat waves would still kill more people, just slightly fewer than they would have. A sensible response would focus first on resilience, meaning more air conditioning and cooler cities through greenery and water features. After 2003’s heat waves, France required air conditioning in nursing homes, reducing heat deaths tenfold despite higher temperatures.

For the full commentary, see:

Bjorn Lomborg. “Adapting Will Be Key, Not Hype and Panic.” Omaha World-Herald (Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 16, 2023, and has the title “Bjorn Lomborg: Don’t panic about global warming.”)

The Lancet Planet Health study summarized in the passage quoted above is:

Qi Zhao, Yuming Guo, Tingting Ye, Antonio Gasparrini, Shilu Tong, Ala Overcenco, Aleš Urban, Alexandra Schneider, Alireza Entezari, Ana Maria Vicedo-Cabrera, Antonella Zanobetti, Antonis Analitis, Ariana Zeka, Aurelio Tobias, Baltazar Nunes, Barrak Alahmad, Ben Armstrong, Bertil Forsberg, Shih-Chun Pan, Carmen Íñiguez, Caroline Ameling, César De la Cruz Valencia, Christofer Åström, Danny Houthuijs, Do Van Dung, Dominic Royé, Eric Lavigne Ene Indermitte, Fatemeh Mayvaneh, Fiorella Acquaotta, Francesca de’Donato, Francesco Di Ruscio, Francesco Sera,, Haidong Kan Gabriel Carrasco-Escobar, Hans Orru, Ho Kim, Iulian-Horia Holobaca, Jan Kyselý, Joana Madureira, Joel Schwartz, Jouni J K Jaakkola,, Magali Hurtado Diaz Klea Katsouyanni, Martina S Ragettli, Masahiro Hashizume, Mathilde Pascal, Micheline de Sousa Zanotti Stagliorio Coélho,, Niilo Ryti Nicolás Valdés Ortega, Noah Scovronick, Paola Michelozzi, Patricia Matus Correa, Patrick Goodman, Paulo Hilario Nascimento Saldiva,, Samuel Osorio Rosana Abrutzky, Shilpa Rao, Simona Fratianni, Tran Ngoc Dang, Valentina Colistro, Veronika Huber, Whanhee Lee, Xerxes Seposo, Yue Leon Guo, Yasushi Honda, Michelle L Bell, Shanshan Li. “Global, Regional, and National Burden of Mortality Associated with Non-Optimal Ambient Temperatures from 2000 to 2019: A Three-Stage Modelling Study.” Lancet Planet Health 5 (July 2021): e415–e425.

Costly Sanctimonious Green New Skyscraper Already in Violation of Latest New York Environmental Regulations

(p. A13) One Vanderbilt, a commanding new skyscraper in the heart of Manhattan, seems to be reaching for the future. One of the world’s tallest buildings, it pierces the sky like an inverted icicle and fuses seamlessly with an expanding network of trains and other transport at its foundations.

It is also the rare skyscraper designed with climate change in mind.

. . .

But One Vanderbilt is also something else. It is already out of date.

Some of the building’s most important green features were the right answer to the climate problem in 2016, when design work was completed. “And then the answer changed,” Mr. Wilcox said.

Unlike many skyscrapers, One Vanderbilt generates much of its own electricity. This was a leap forward a decade or so ago — a way of producing power that saved money for landlords and was cleaner than the local grid.

However, One Vanderbilt’s turbines burn natural gas. And while natural gas is cleaner than oil or coal, it is falling from favor, particularly in New York City, which in recent years has adopted some of the most ambitious climate laws in the world, including a ban on fossil fuels in new buildings.

. . .

The truth is that most buildings in New York, big or small, old or new, are bad for the environment. Boilers and furnaces burning fuel in basements are the city’s single largest producer of carbon dioxide, emitting more than double the amount from millions of cars and trucks traveling its roads.

One Vanderbilt, according to its owner, is designed to be more energy-efficient than most new buildings. The structure features several design elements, some exorbitantly expensive, to minimize energy use, such as high ceilings to let in more natural light.

Yet because of the rapidly evolving energy-policy landscape, driven by increasing global concern over climate change, even the most ambitious attempts at sustainability often find themselves facing the possibility of retrofitting the moment the elevator doors open. One Vanderbilt is one such case.

. . .

Landlords such as SL Green say New York City’s new laws will force dramatic changes. Unlike energy codes of the past, one of the key laws, which restricts pollution, doesn’t merely apply to new construction: Existing buildings, no matter how small or how old, must gradually comply and retrofit as well, potentially at eye-watering cost.

For the full story, see:

Ben Ryder Howe. “Built to Be Green, Skyscraper Was Dated From the Beginning.” The New York Times (Thursday, February 16, 2023): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Feb. 16, 2023, and has the title “New Skyscraper, Built to Be an Environmental Marvel, Is Already Dated.”)

For Quick Spread of EVs, U.S. Regulators Need to Quickly Approve More Domestic Mines for Critical Minerals

(p. A6) For decades, a group of the world’s biggest oil producers has held huge sway over the American economy and the popularity of U.S. presidents through its control of the global oil supply, with decisions by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries determining what U.S. consumers pay at the pump.

As the world shifts to cleaner sources of energy, control over the materials needed to power that transition is still up for grabs.

China currently dominates global processing of the critical minerals that are now in high demand to make batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage. In an attempt to gain more power over that supply chain, U.S. officials have begun negotiating a series of agreements with other countries to expand America’s access to important minerals like lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite.

But it remains unclear which of these partnerships will succeed, or if they will be able to generate anything close to the supply of minerals the United States is projected to need for a wide array of products, including electric cars and batteries for storing solar power.

Leaders of Japan, Europe and other advanced nations, who are meeting in Hiroshima, agree that the world’s reliance on China for more than 80 percent of processing of minerals leaves their nations vulnerable to political pressure from Beijing, which has a history of weaponizing supply chains in times of conflict.

. . .

. . ., some U.S. officials argue that the supply of critical minerals in wealthy countries with high labor and environmental standards will be insufficient to meet demand, . . .

. . .

Jennifer Harris, a former Biden White House official who worked on critical mineral strategy, argued that the country should move more quickly to develop and permit domestic mines, . . .

. . .

“There’s so much that needs doing that this is very much a ‘both/and’ world,” she said. “The challenge is that we need to responsibly pull up a whole lot more rocks out of the ground yesterday.”

For the full story, see:

Ana Swanson. “The U.S. Needs Minerals for Electric Cars. So Does Everyone Else.” The New York Times (Monday, May 22, 2023): A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated May 23, 2023, and has the title “The U.S. Needs Minerals for Electric Cars. Everyone Else Wants Them Too.”)

Environmentalist President Banned Chemical Fertilizers “to Turn Sri Lanka Into ‘the Organic Garden of the World’”

(p. A6) COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — The president was cornered, his back to the sea.

Inside the dimly lit colonial mansion he had found lonely, Gotabaya Rajapaksa watched from a hastily arranged operations room as the monthslong protests demanding his ouster as Sri Lanka’s leader reached his very doorstep.

. . .

Three years after winning the election handsomely, and just two years after his family’s party had secured a whopping two-thirds majority in Parliament, Mr. Rajapaksa had become deeply resented. And the bill for his family’s years of entitlement, corruption and mismanagement, made worse by a global economic order plunged into chaos by Covid and war, had at last come due.

. . .

Even as the economic crisis deepened, the president’s focus was often elsewhere. In April 2021, he suddenly declared a ban on chemical fertilizers. His hope, his advisers said, was to turn Sri Lanka into “the organic garden of the world.”

Farmers, lacking organic fertilizer, saw their yields plummet. And a rift in the family grew: Gotabaya resisted attempts by his brother Mahinda, who was now prime minister, to change his mind on the fertilizer ban.  . . .

By the spring of 2022, long lines were forming for fuel, supermarkets were running low on imported foods, and the nation’s supply of cooking gas was almost exhausted as the government’s foreign reserves dwindled almost to zero.

The country was in free fall. And the one person who could do something about it was adrift. In meetings, the president was often distracted, scrolling through intelligence reports on his phone, according to officials who were in (p. A7) the room with him.

. . .

Gotabaya Rajapaksa eventually fled the country on a military plane, first to the Maldives and then to Singapore, before arriving in Thailand on Thursday [August 11, 2022].

For the full story, see:

Mujib Mashal, Emily Schmall and Atul Loke. “How the Middle Class In Sri Lanka Pushed A President Into Exile.” The New York Times (Saturday, August 13, 2022): A6-A7.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 12, 2022, and has the title “Showdown at the Mansion Gates: How Sri Lankans Rose Up to Dethrone a Dynasty.”)

Global Warming “Presents a Fleeting Opportunity for Glacial Archaeologists”

(p. 14) Espen Finstad was trudging through mud in the Jotunheimen mountains of eastern Norway this month when he happened upon a wooden arrow, bound with a pointed tip made of quartzite. Complete with feathers, it was so well-preserved that it looked as if it could have been lost just recently.

. . .

The find, which Mr. Finstad and his colleagues believe belonged to a reindeer hunter in the late Stone Age or early Bronze Age, is among thousands of artifacts and remains that have emerged from melting ice in recent years, as climate change thaws permafrost and glaciers around the world.

. . .

The thaw presents a fleeting opportunity for glacial archaeologists: They must find the historical treasures just as they emerge from the ice and before they are destroyed by the elements.

“We’re sort of in a race against time,” said Lars Holger Pilo, a glacial archaeologist and a colleague of Mr. Finstad’s.  . . .

For more than a decade, their team, which runs the Secrets of the Ice project, has scoured mountain passes across the country.  . . .

Since then, the team has discovered around 4,000 artifacts and remains, including a 1,000-year-old wooden whisk and Viking mitten, medieval horseshoes, Bronze Age skis and more than 150 arrows.

Similar work is taking place near Anchorage, Alaska, as well as in northeastern Siberia and Mongolia.

Among the most exciting finds have been Yuka, a 39,000-year-old baby Mammoth found in Siberia in 2010, and a 280-million-year-old tree fossil found in Antarctica in 2016. But the most famous of all is Ötzi — a 5,300-year-old iceman found in 1991 by hikers on the northern Italian border with Austria.

For the full story, see:

Livia Albeck-Ripka. “Melting Ice in Norway Reveals Ancient Arrow.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, September 24, 2023): 14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 23, 2023, and has the title “Ancient Arrow Is Among Artifacts to Emerge From Norway’s Melting Ice.”)

If Regulators Allow, Improved Photosynthesis Can Feed More of the Poor Using Less Land

(p. A13) For decades, scientists have pursued a tantalizing possibility for bolstering food supplies and easing hunger for the world’s poorest: improving photosynthesis, the biological process in plants that sustains nearly all life on Earth.

Now, researchers say that by using genetic modifications to increase the efficiency of photosynthesis, they significantly increased yields in a food crop, soybeans, providing a glimmer of potential that such methods could someday put more food on tables as climate change and other threats make it harder for vulnerable populations across the globe to feed their families.

. . .  Their methods will also have to pass muster with government regulators before crops transformed this way will ever reach farmers’ fields.

. . .

Without major changes to agriculture, governments’ targets for mitigating climate change are at risk, scientists warn. Yet addressing malnutrition and hunger in the short term might require pressing more land and other resources into service, which could accentuate warming.

That is why scientific advancements that could help us produce more nourishment without using more land, whether by improving photosynthesis or otherwise, hold such promise.

. . .

The new research in Illinois focuses on “non-photochemical quenching,” a mechanism in plants that protects them from sun damage. When plants are in bright sunlight, they often receive more light energy than they can use for photosynthesis. This mechanism helps them shed the excess energy harmlessly as heat. But after the plant is shaded again, it doesn’t stop very quickly, which means the plant wastes precious time and energy that could be put toward producing carbohydrates.

The researchers’ genetic transformations help plants adjust more quickly to shade. In multilayered plants like rice, wheat, maize and soy, this extra nimbleness could theoretically increase photosynthesis in the middle layers of leaves, which are constantly flitting between sunlight and shadow during the day.

For the full story, see:

Raymond Zhong and Clare Toeniskoetter. “Researchers Alter Genes To Refine Photosynthesis And Improve Crop’s Yield.” The New York Times (Friday, August 19, 2022): A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 18, 2022, and has the title “Scientists Boost Crop Performance by Engineering a Better Leaf.”)

European Farmers Want Climate Protected by More Innovation, Not by Less Agriculture

(p. 4) To meet climate goals, some European countries are asking farmers to reduce livestock, relocate or shut down — and an angry backlash has begun reshaping the political landscape before national elections in the fall.

. . .

Those like Helma Breunissen, who runs a dairy farm in the Netherlands with her husband, say that too much of the burden is falling on them, threatening both their livelihoods and their way of life.

For almost 20 years, Ms. Breunissen has provided the Dutch with a staple product, cow’s milk, and she felt that her work was valued by society, she said. The dairy sector in the Netherlands, which also produces cheeses like Gouda and Edam, is celebrated as a cornerstone of national pride.

But the sector also produces almost half the Netherlands’ emissions of nitrogen, a surplus of which is bad for biodiversity. Ms. Breunissen and thousands of other farmers bridle that they are now labeled peak emitters.

“I was confused, sad and angry,” said Ms. Breunissen, who manages a farm of 100 cows in the middle of the country. “We are doing our best. We try to follow the rules. And suddenly, it’s like you are a criminal.”

. . .

In the Netherlands, the government has asked thousands of farmers to scale back, move or close. The authorities set aside about 24 billion euros, about $26 billion, to help farmers put in place more sustainable solutions — or to buy them out.

. . .

For Ms. Breunissen, who is 48 and works as a veterinarian in addition to her duties on the farm, none of the government-proposed options seem feasible. She is too young to quit and too old to uproot her life, she said, and the authorities have not provided enough support and information on how to change what she now does.

“There are so many questions,” she said. “The trust in the government is completely gone.”

. . .

A host of new groups are vying to displace traditional parties. They include the Farmer Citizen Movement, known by its Dutch acronym BBB, which was established four years ago.

. . .

Caroline van der Plas, the party’s co-founder, used to be a journalist in The Hague covering the meat industry, and she has never worked in farming. But she grew up in a small city in a rural area, and she said in an interview that she wanted to be “the voice of the people in rural regions who are not seen or heard” by policymakers.

She and her party have talked down the need for drastic steps to cut emissions, saying the reductions can be achieved through technological innovation. Policies should be based on “common sense,” she said, while offering no concrete solutions.

“It’s not like science says this or that,” Ms. van der Plas said, referring to how theories can change. “Science is always asking questions.”

For the full story, see:

Monika Pronczuk and Claire Moses. “New Climate Standards Have Farmers in Europe Bristling.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023): 4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Aug. 28, 2023, and has the title “Labeled Climate Culprits, European Farmers Rebel Over New Standards.”)

Octopus Eggs Thrive in Hot Ocean Water of “Octopus Garden”

(p. 14) In 2018, Amanda Kahn, an invertebrate biologist at San Jose State University, joined an ocean expedition to scout the base of Davidson Seamount, an inactive underwater volcano off the coast of central California. She came for the sponges and corals.

But she and her colleagues stumbled across something much more astounding. As their remotely operated vehicle, which was probing the seafloor and streaming video back to their ship, rose from behind a rock, the crew gasped. In shimmering waters, they saw scores of upside-down octopuses nestled in rocky crevices with their arms clutched around their frames. A closer look revealed that they were protecting eggs, similar to the way that birds brood in a nest.

“Sometimes you recognize immediately the magnitude of something special that you’ve found,” Dr. Kahn said. “And I think that was one of those really special moments.”

When James Barry, a marine ecologist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, got a glimpse on a later expedition, he instantly wondered why so many octopuses were here. “And so we set about to figure out,” he said.

. . .

The team’s findings, detailed in a new paper published Wednesday in Science Advances, suggest that this hot spot makes the octopuses’ eggs hatch faster, which improves reproductive success.

. . .

“That’s a big deal for these eggs, because in the deep sea, one of the really big challenges is that it’s cold,” Dr. Barry said. Chilly temperatures slow down the metabolism of coldblooded animals, including rates of embryonic growth. For this species of octopus, it could have taken anywhere from five to 10 years for the eggs to fully develop in ambient waters — but in this nursery, the scientists found that they were hatching in less than two years on average.

The earlier the better, the team reasoned, when it comes to reproductive success. Less time spent as an embryo reduces the risks of being eaten by predators, or suffering infections or injuries that lead to death. Because octopuses don’t eat while brooding — and die after reproducing — they also suspect that quicker egg hatchings might make for a higher chance of survival, since the mother is less likely to lose the energy needed to sustain them.

It’s the mothers’ last hurrah, Dr. Kahn said: “They go all out in protecting those eggs.” She added that brooding near a hot spring helps ensure the mothers’ final acts are a success.

The findings make sense to Michael Vecchione, a deep-sea cephalopod biologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who was not involved in the study. Dr. Vecchione, who had seen the discovery of the garden back in 2018, had also speculated that the octopuses were using the heat to speed up embryo growth. “I’m not surprised that the warm temperature was beneficial to them,” he said. “And apparently, it’s starting to look like it’s a pretty widespread phenomenon, even though nobody had ever seen it until just a few years ago.”

For the full story, see:

Katrina Miller. “Under the Sea, an ‘Octopus Garden’ Thrives in the Shade of a Hot Spring.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023): 14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 23, 2023, and has the title “Atop an Underwater Hot Spring, an ‘Octopus Garden’ Thrives.” The online version says that the print version appears on p. 12. My national edition of the print version had the article on p. 14.)

Wind and Solar Power Prices Have Doubled Since Pandemic, Due Partly to Regulatory and Policy Challenges

(p. B1) After more than a decade of declining prices for wind and solar power, the cost of renewables has been ticking up, pushed by everything from macroeconomic forces to countries’ attempts to take control of their energy-supply chains.

The cost of large-scale solar and wind power rose as much as 20% last year versus the year before in most of the world, the International Energy Agency said in a June report. In the U.S., financial-services company Lazard’s widely watched report on the cost of power generation logged its first increase for renewables this year since it started (p. B4) tracking it nearly 15 years ago.

The whiplash has been particularly bad among renewables developers in the U.S., many of whom have rewritten contracts to stay afloat. The price they are charging long-term buyers for their electricity has doubled since the pandemic and risen nearly 30% in the past year alone, according to clean-energy marketplace LevelTen Energy.

. . .

The U.S. has . . . challenges, including policies that make it harder and more costly to import solar panels and other clean-energy components. Rising labor costs and delays in permitting or getting projects hooked up to the power grid have made building solar and wind projects more expensive.

For the full story, see:

Phred Dvorak. “Price of Green Power Is on the Rise.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Aug. 14, 2023): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date August 13, 2023, and has the title “Green Power Gets Pricier After Years of Declines.”)

“Unexpected” New Evidence of the Ubiquity and Resilience of Life on Earth

(p. D3) Off the western shores of Central and South America, there is a Lovecraftian, lava-licked realm thousands of feet beneath the ocean. There, on the seafloor, volcanically powered exhaust ports known as hydrothermal vents fire off jets of water that reach temperatures of up to 700 degrees Fahrenheit. While the surfaces and peripheries of these vents have long been known to host a diverse mosaic of life, scientists had never known animals to find a home beneath these hellish geysers.

But that changed in July [2023] when a diving robot overturned volcanic bedrock pockmarked with hydrothermal vents and revealed an explosion of animal life — including an abundance of tubeworms, bizarre creatures that resemble sentient spaghetti.

“This is the first time that animal life was found below the surface” of hydrothermal vents, said Monika Bright, an ecologist at the University of Vienna and lead scientist on the expedition.

. . .

Much about these unusual habitats is a mystery. But, like many revelations found at the bottom of the sea, this discovery once again pushes the boundaries of what scientists consider possible — perhaps even normal — for life on Earth.

Hydrothermal vents, first discovered off the Galápagos Islands, are Dalí-esque chimneys and chasms that often grow atop or close to midoceanic ridges — vast volcanic fissures in the seafloor made by the divergence of two tectonic plates. Deep below, the magmatic heat roasts percolating seawater, which jets back out into the water column as superheated, mineral-rich soups.

Despite their extreme natures, these vents are metropolises of strange critters. Common among them are tubeworms, which start life as free-swimming larvae before becoming immobile adults that grow to several feet in length and that are fed by sulfur-eating bacteria living in their guts.

Dr. Bright suspected that these wiggly weirdos could also be found beneath the vents. “It’s kind of a really crazy idea I had,” she said.

. . .

. . . for Dr. Bright, Earth is all that matters. “I’m not thinking of other planets and moons — I’m thinking that there’s so much mystery to be discovered in our Earth,” she said. “I feel like I know this place. I’ve studied this place for 30 years. And still, you can find something unexpected.”

For the full story, see:

Robin George Andrews. “Odd Creatures Found Under Oceanic Vents.” The New York Times (Tuesday, August 15, 2023): D3.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed years, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 8, 2023, and has the title “Under a Hellish Ocean Habitat, Bizarre Animals Are Lurking.”)

Threatened Red Knot Shorebirds Numbers Rebound Due to “Warm Ocean Waters” Increasing Food Source From Horseshoe Crab Eggs

(p. A13) The number of rufa red knot shore birds migrating via Delaware Bay beaches to Arctic breeding sites this spring rose to the highest level in four years, according to an independent annual survey.

The count, by land and boat, tallied about 22,000 of the robin-sized birds, an encouraging sign for a shorebird that is listed as federally threatened. The survey’s figures were the highest since 2019, and a sharp increase from a record low of 6,880 in 2021, according to Larry Niles, an independent biologist. He has been monitoring the migration of the rufa red knot, an Atlantic coast subspecies, on the Delaware Bay for the last quarter century.

Dr. Niles attributed the healthier number to the relatively warm ocean waters that aided in the spawning of horseshoe crabs, whose eggs are a crucial food source for the birds. A week or two of gorging on the crab eggs each May allows the birds to regain weight after long-distance flights from as far away as Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and to complete their migration, one of the longest in the avian world.

. . .

“I was elated to see 22,000 birds this year,” he said.

For the full story, see:

Jon Hurdle. “More Threatened Red Knot Shorebirds Are Seen on Jersey Shore Beaches.” The New York Times (Thursday, June 15, 2023): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story also has the date June 15, 2023, and has the title “Uptick Seen in Red Knots on Jersey Shore.”)