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Satellite Data Show Importance of Global Plastic Reform

Every year, an estimated 8 million tons of microplastics flow into the ocean. According to analysis from the University of Michigan, concentrations of microplastics in the ocean grow and shrink depending on the time of year. 

Using data from NASA satellites, researchers found two particular areas with high concentrations of plastics. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch between Hawaii and North America, for instance, grows and peaks in June and wanes in January. The opposite is true for the South Atlantic, South Pacific and Indian Oceans — where the concentration of microplastics grows during the months of October through December.

The ebbs and flows of concentration are a result of undersea currents that move the plastics from one place to another. Asian countries like China, for example, produce a higher amount of plastics than the West. Plastics that flow into the South China Sea and into the Pacific affect the entire ocean ecosystem. This illustrates the need for a truly global paradigm shift, and in response, some companies are limiting plastic production by turning toward alternatives like algae.

 

China and India Account for 70% of Global Coal Demand

Nearly 200 countries pledged to reduce their coal use at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, but some regions will face greater challenges transitioning from the carbon-intensive fossil fuel to greener energy sources, reports the Financial Times

The Asia-Pacific region depends on coal for almost half of its energy needs, with China and India alone accounting for 70% of global coal demand. As China and India’s economies expand, their power demands will rise — demands not yet being met by renewable energy sources in the region. 

In the U.S., use of coal as an energy source is forecast by the S&P Global Commodity Insights to fall to 12% by 2030. In Europe, the S&P predicts that climate mitigation policies will lead to less than 5% coal use by 2030 (though this may be delayed by Russian gas interruptions leading to greater dependence on coal plants). China’s use of coal is forecast to fall to 51% of power generation by 2030, while it simultaneously drives solar and wind power technology. In India, coal demand is expected to significantly increase by the end of the decade, with no present policies penalizing coal use.

U.S. Fed Hikes Interest Rates By 0.75%

Source: Reuters

The U.S. Federal Reserve has increased interest rates by 0.75% points for the second consecutive time in an effort to check inflation from its four-decade high. The hike raises the Fed’s policy rate to a range of 2.25 to 2.5% from near-zero in March — one of the fastest monetary policy changes in U.S. history. Stocks and bonds rallied after the Fed announced its rate hike on Wednesday.

Inflation is rising around the world, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the pandemic raise the prices of food and energy. In the U.S., inflation hit an annual rate of more than 9% in June. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged that economic growth has slowed as high prices cut into consumer discretionary spending.

The rate hikes come as some experts predict a potential recession. But the Fed doesn’t see an economic downturn on the horizon, in part because employers added 2.7 million jobs in the first half of this year. “I do not think that the U.S. is currently in a recession,” said Powell, adding that too many areas of the economy are doing well.

Europe Braces for Russian Gas Cutoff


Europe is bracing for a significant reduction of its main source of energy from Russia, which is angry at European sanctions. This week, Russia resumed operations for Europe’s main natural gas pipeline, but only at one-fifth of the pipeline’s normal flow.

Several EU countries, notably Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, are highly dependent on Russian gas. In response, EU energy ministers (with the exception of Hungary) agreed to a voluntary 15% reduction in gas usage over this winter. 

The EU spent roughly $105 billion on Russian energy imports last year. The EU’s sanctions against Russia, in response to its invasion of Ukraine, will ban about two-thirds of Russian oil imports.

Heat Waves Grip the Globe

Source: Joshua Stevens/NASA Earth Observatory

Global warming is causing a ripple of extreme heat waves around the world, including in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory. In some regions, temperatures have risen above 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), breaking world records.

In Europe, the heat caused wildfires across Portugal, Spain, and parts of France. The U.K. also experienced record temperatures this week that reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius). In May, deadly heat waves engulfed India and Pakistan and caused India to ban wheat exports.

Global warming is caused by greenhouse gas emissions, which climbed by a record 6.4% in 2021. “This large area of extreme (and record-breaking) heat is another clear indicator that emissions of greenhouse gases by human activity are causing weather extremes that impact our living conditions,” said Steven Pawson, chief of the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

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