• The Amazon Fires Are More Dangerous Than WMDs

    When Jair Bolsonaro won Brazil’s presidential election last year, having run on a platform of deforestation, David Wallace-Wells, writing in New York Magazine, asked, “How much damage can one person do to the planet?” Bolsonaro didn’t pour lighter fluid to ignite the flames now ravaging the Amazon, but with his policies and rhetoric, he might as well have. The destruction he inspired—and allowed to rage with his days of stubborn unwillingness to douse the flames—has placed the planet at a hinge moment in its ecological history. “It is commonplace to describe the Amazon as the ‘world’s lungs’,” Franklin Foer writes. “Embedded in the metaphor is the sense that inherited ideas about the sovereignty of states no longer hold in the face of climate change. If the smoke clouds drifted only so far as the skies of São Paulo, other nations might be able to shrug off the problem as belonging to someone else. But one person shouldn’t have the power to set policies that doom the rest of humanity’s shot at mitigating rising temperatures.”

  • Increasing Wildfires Threaten to Turn Northern Hemisphere’s Boreal Forests from Vital Carbon Stores into Climate Heaters

    Thanks in part to the carbon-hungry soils and peatlands they contain, boreal forests punch well above their weight as carbon sinks, covering 10 percent of the world’s land, but storing one-third of the land’s carbon. That stored carbon is under threat. Wildfires are becoming so frequent and intense that they are already turning some boreal forest areas from carbon sinks into net emitters.

  • Countries Most Exposed to Climate Change Face Higher Costs of Capital

    By 2030 poor countries will need to spend $140bn-300bn each year on adaptive measures, such as coastal defenses, if they want to avoid the harm caused by climate change. That estimate, from the UN Environment Program, assumes that global temperatures will be only 2°C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, which seems unlikely. Adding to the costs, research suggests that these countries face higher interest rates than similar countries less exposed to climate risks. This raises the prospect of a vicious cycle, in which the most vulnerable countries pay more to borrow, making adaptation harder and them even more exposed.

  • We Need to Ban More Emerging Technologies

    With more and more innovation, there is less and less time to reflect on the consequences. To tame this onrushing tide, society needs dams and dikes. Just as has begun to happen with facial recognition, it’s time to consider legal bans and moratoriums on other emerging technologies. These need not be permanent or absolute, but innovation is not an unmitigated good. The more powerful a technology is, the more care it requires to safely operate.

  • Study: Climate Change Could Pose Danger for Muslim Pilgrimage

    For the world’s estimated 1.8 billion Muslims — roughly one-quarter of the world population — making a pilgrimage to Mecca is considered a religious duty that must be performed at least once in a lifetime, if health and finances permit. The ritual, known as the Hajj, includes about five days of activities, of which 20 to 30 hours involve being outside in the open air. , because of climate change there is an increasing risk that in coming years, conditions of heat and humidity in the areas of Saudi Arabia where the Hajj takes place could worsen, to the point that people face “extreme danger” from harmful health effects.

  • Governments Mull “Managed Retreat” of Coastal Towns Before Rising Seas Claim Them

    More and more governments around the world are advised by experts to prepare to make a “managed retreat” from coasts as sea levels rise because of climate change. Scientists say that a decision to leave the coasts should not be “seen largely as a last resort, a failure to adapt, or a one-time emergency action.” Rather, it should be viewed as an opportunity to build better communities away from the rising waters.

  • The Big One: Back to the Future on the San Andreas Fault

    Maybe you’ve heard that the “Big One is overdue” on the San Andreas Fault. No one can predict earthquakes, so what does the science really say? Where does the information come from? And what does it mean? Earth scientists have been gathering data at key paleoseismic sites along sections of the San Andreas Fault to figure out the past timeline of earthquakes at each spot.

  • Improving Hail Forecasts with Facial Recognition Technique

    The same artificial intelligence technique typically used in facial recognition systems could help improve prediction of hailstorms and their severity. Instead of zeroing in on the features of an individual face, scientists trained a deep learning model called a convolutional neural network to recognize features of individual storms that affect the formation of hail and how large the hailstones will be, both of which are notoriously difficult to predict.

  • Climate Change to Shrink Global Economy

    Prevailing economic research anticipates the burden of climate change falling on hot or poor nations. Some predict that cooler or wealthier economies will be unaffected or even see benefits from higher temperatures. A new study, however, suggests that virtually all countries – whether rich or poor, hot or cold – will suffer economically by 2100 if the current trajectory of carbon emissions is maintained: 7 percent of global GDP will disappear by 2100 as a result of business-as-usual carbon emissions – including over 10 percent of incomes in both Canada and the United States.

  • New Model Agrees with Old: Nuclear War Between U.S. and Russia Would Result in Nuclear Winter

    Most people who lived through the nuclear age have heard of nuclear winter, in which global cooling would result from a major nuclear war. Early fears of such an outcome have been bolstered by sophisticated computer models that showed what would happen if a large number of nuclear bombs were detonated in large urban areas. The planet would grow colder due to the huge amount of smoke generated by fires ignited by the atomic blasts—the smoke would cover the entire planet for years, blocking the sun.

  • July 2019 Was Hottest Month on Record for the Planet

    Much of the planet sweltered in unprecedented heat in July, as temperatures soared to new heights in the hottest month ever recorded. The record warmth also shrank Arctic and Antarctic sea ice to historic lows. The average global temperature in July was 1.71 degrees F above the 20th-century average of 60.4 degrees, making it the hottest July in the 140-year record, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. The previous hottest month on record was July 2016. Nine of the 10 hottest Julys have occurred since 2005—with the last five years ranking as the five hottest. Last month was also the 43rd consecutive July and 415th consecutive month with above-average global temperatures.

  • Setting the Stage for U.S. Leadership in 6G

    Every day there are more headlines about China’s rise in 5G, the next generation of wireless communications technologies, and the economic and national security risks to the United States that go along with these developing technologies. These concerns, particularly the threat of critical infrastructure disruptions, are valid—but the plight of the United States is in part self-inflicted. The U.S. government waited too long to tackle the difficult issues surrounding 5G. As a result, China has unprecedented clout on the global stage regarding the deployment and diffusion of advanced communications technologies. With decisive action today, the U.S. can ensure its status as the undisputed leader in wireless technology within 10 years. In doing so, it will lock in the ability to build secure 6G infrastructure with all the accompanying economic and national security benefits.

  • The Quantum Revolution Is Coming, and Chinese Scientists Are at the Forefront

    Quantum technology — an emerging field that could transform information processing and confer big economic and national-security advantages to countries that dominate it. To the dismay of some scientists and officials in the United States, China’s formidable investment is helping it catch up with Western research in the field and, in a few areas, pull ahead. Beijing is pouring billions into research and development and is offering Chinese scientists big perks to return home from Western labs. Last year, China had nearly twice as many patent filings as the United States for quantum technology overall, a category that includes communications and cryptology devices. China’s drive has sparked calls for more R&D funding in the United States.

  • How Does USAMRIID Shut Down Impact Nation’s Bioterrorism Laboratory Response Network?

    The Laboratory Response Network (LRN) is a collaborative federal effort run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in cooperation with other federal agency and public health partners. The U.S. Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) Special Pathogens Laboratory at Fort Detrick is one of only three National Laboratories at the top of the protective umbrella of the LRN structure, along with those operated by the CDC and the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC), responsible for specialized characterization of organisms, bioforensics, select agent activity, and handling highly infectious biological agents. It begs the question then, what happens when an important component of the nation’s biopreparedness infrastructure fails to meet CDC biosafety requirements and has its Federal Select Agent certification pulled?

  • Shoppers Targeted by Face‑Recognition Cameras in “Epidemic” of Surveillance

    There is an “epidemic” of facial recognition surveillance technology at privately owned sites in Britain, campaigners say. Big Brother Watch, a civil liberties group, found shopping centers, museums, conference centers and casinos had all used the software that compares faces captured by CCTV to those of people on watch lists, such as suspected terrorists or shoplifters. Privacy campaigners have criticized trials of the technology by police in London and Wales, questioning their legal basis.