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Climate Change

12 Years to Halt Climate Change Catastrophe, Warns UN

A landmark report published on Monday by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that dramatic measures must be taken to keep global warming temperatures at a maximum of 1.5C within 12 years.

If global warming temperatures exceed just half a degree, the risk for major natural disasters such as floods, droughts and extreme heat will significantly increase. Maintaining 1.5C is essential in preventing the extinction of coral reefs, and will ease pressure on an already buckling Arctic, say researchers.

The world currently sits at 1C warmer than preindustrial levels. The IPCC sates that, with an increase in hurricanes in the Carolinas, flooding and record drought in South Africa’s Cape Town, global warming is already a very real threat. The study says that maintaining the 1.5C target will mean “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”

Debra Roberts, co-chair of the IPCC’s working group on impacts said, “It’s a line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now.

“This is the largest clarion bell from the science community and I hope it mobilises people and dents the mood of complacency.”

The report was commissioned by policymakers at the Paris Climate talks in 2016. The Paris Climate Agreement is an important agreement between member countries of the UNFCCC to combat climate change. Since then, however, president Donald Trump has pledged to withdraw the US from the Accord while Jair Bolsonaro—presidential candidate in Brazil—has pledged to follow suit, worryingly widening the gap between politics and science.

What’s next for climate change?

If global warming temperatures reach even 2C, the IPCC suggests that the global sea level will rise by approximately four inches, potentially exposing 10 million people to the risk of flooding.

Kaisa Kosonen at Greenpeace said, “We are already in the danger zone at one degree of warming.

“Both poles are melting at an accelerated rate; ancient trees that have been there for hundreds of years are suddenly dying; and the summer we’ve just experienced—basically, the whole world was on fire.”

Member of the IPCC, professor Jim Skea, said of the urgency of combatting climate change that, “They [world governments] really need to start work immediately. The report is clear that if governments just fulfil the pledges they made in the Paris agreement for 2030, it is not good enough.”

Further reading: Climate Change Fears as Arctic temperature Rises

Dangerous Selfies

259 Deaths Caused by Dangerous Selfies

A new global study, Selfies: A boon or bane?, published in the US National Library of Medicine found that 259 people were killed in the quest for ‘extreme’ selfies between 2011 and 2017. Researchers found that this number is also on the rise; the actual death toll may be much higher since ‘selfie death’ is not typically recorded as the cause of death.

News stories associated with death caused by dangerous selfies were analyzed by researchers to compile the data in the study. They found that selfie-related deaths were most prominent in India, Russia, the US and Pakistan. They also found that a high 75 percent of those reported were men.

“It is believed that selfie deaths are underreported and the true problem needs to be addressed,” says the report.

“Certain road accidents while posing for selfies are reported as death due to Road Traffic Accident.

“Thus, the true magnitude of the problem is underestimated. It is therefore important to assess the true burden, causes, and reasons for selfie deaths so that appropriate interventions can be made.”

Researchers at the US National Library of Medicine suggest that ‘no selfie zones’ should be introduced at tourist locations around the world considered dangerous to help reduce accidental deaths.

Tomer Frankfurter is among the number of those who died as a result of dangerous selfies. The Israeli teen fell 250 meters while trying to take a selfie in the Yosemite National Park in California this September.

In June 2018, Prabhu Bhatara tried to take a selfie next to a wounded bear in India, and was mauled to death as a result.

In November 2017, 20-year-old Toni Kelly died attempting to take a selfie near a second-storey window in London, UK. She suffered brain injuries as a result of the fall.

In 2015, a report published by Mashable claimed that more people died attempting dangerous selfies than from shark attacks.

Canadian Arctic

Subglacial Lakes Found in the Canadian Arctic

Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada have discovered two isolated subglacial lakes located 550 to 750 meters of ice beneath the Devon Ice Cap, one of the largest ice caps in the Canadian Arctic.

These lakes have been considered to be the first hypersaline (containing four to five times more salt than normal sea water) subglacial lakes in the world.

Anja Rutishauser, the PhD student who made the discovery during an analysis of radar data, said, “We weren’t looking for subglacial lakes. The ice is frozen to the ground underneath that part of the Devon Ice Cap, so we didn’t expect to find liquid water.

“We saw these radar signatures telling us there’s water, but we thought it was impossible that there could be liquid water underneath this ice, where it is below -10C”.

According to Science Daily, there are more than 400 known subglacial lakes in the world which can largely be found in Antarctica and Greenland. These are the first subglacial lakes found in the Canadian Arctic. All previously found subglacial lakes are believed to contain freshwater, these in the newest discovery are thought to consist of hypersaline water.

Professor Martin Siegert from the Imperial College of London said, “To my knowledge, this is a unique lake system. Of the [more than] 400 subglacial lakes in Antarctica, all of them are thought to comprise fresh water. Hence, whatever might be living in it may also be unique.”

The discovery is special in that it is a potential host to microbial life and is similar to the saline conditions of the subsurface ocean found on Europa, Jupiter’s moon. The lakes’ conditions may help researchers and scientists to further understand the possibility of life existing on Europa.

Dr Claire Cousins from the University of St Andrews said, “While the chemistry of these lakes nay be somewhat different to ocean environments on icy moons such as Europa, their otherwise extreme conditions will help us understand the habitability of hypersaline sub-ice environments.”

Dr Alison Murray of Nevada’s Desert Research Institute told the BBC that further research on the subglacial lakes found in the Canadian Arctic could provide “a key to understanding the life-supporting nature of such systems which may occur in the icy and ocean worlds of the solar system and beyond.”

Further reading: Climate Change Fears as Arctic Temperature Rises

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking Dies Aged 76

Stephen Hawking, the visionary physicist, has died aged 76.

His family released a statement in the early hours of Wednesday morning confirming his death at his Cambridge home in England.

The statement was released by his children, Lucy, Robert and Tim.

It said: ‘We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today.

‘He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.

‘His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humour inspired people across the world.

‘He once said, “It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.”

‘We will miss him forever.’

The family are asking for privacy at this difficult time but added their thanks to ‘everyone who has been by Professor Hawking’s side and supported him—throughout his life.’

Hawking was a pioneer of science who inspired generations of young scientists.

After he was diagnosed with a rare form of motor neuron disease at age 22 in 1964, Hawking was given just a few years to live.

But the determined young man defied his debilitating illness to far outlive those doctors’ gloomy predictions.

Known for his work on black holes, Hawking contributed to the academic community for years.

He brought his unparalleled expertise and unique insight to offer solutions to some of the world’s most complex scientific conundrums.

His extraordinary life and work inspired the 2014 film The Theory of Everything for which Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for his portrayal of the English professor.

In a display of his humoristic spirit, Hawking performed cameos in the US sitcom The Big Bang Theory as well as The Simpsons.

But in between those acting stints, his incredible mind continued to tackle everything from the universe’s origins, the possibility of time travel and the enigma of the solar system’s black holes.