Neel is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Prior to Heatmap, he was a science and climate reporter at Vox, an editorial fellow at Audubon magazine, and an assistant producer at Radiolab, where he helped produce The Other Latif, a series about one detainee's journey to Guantanamo Bay. He is a graduate of the Literary Reportage program at NYU, which helped him turn incoherent scribbles into readable stories, and he grew up (mostly) in Bangalore. He tweets sporadically at @neel_dhan. Read MoreRead More
A Climate Database Melts Away
On the new stove efficiency rules, a Swiss glacier, and more
Current conditions:Light snow is still falling in parts of Massachusetts after a storm brought 8 inches of snow to parts of the state on Sunday and Monday. Residents in Queensland, Australia, are evacuating as thunderstorms inundate towns on the coast. California is still waiting for an atmospheric river to dump rain on the state, which should start tomorrow.
THE TOP FIVE
1. U.S. finalizes stove efficiency rules
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Energy finalized energy efficiency rules for both gas and electric stoves that the agency says will save consumers around $1.6 billion in energy costs over 30 years, according to Bloomberg. The standards, which are scheduled to take effect in 2028, won’t ban gas stoves, but should reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 4 million metric tons over three decades.
2. A vast archive of climate data literally melts away
Glaciers are treasure troves of information for scientists studying climate change. Ice core analysis can often give researchers a detailed look at the composition of the atmosphere over time, which in turn tells us just how human-caused pollution affects the climate. The problem, of course, is that climate change also makes glaciers melt — and now one of them, the Corbassière glacier in Switzerland, has degraded so much that it’s no longer viable for research, its ice cores a muddled mess of meltwater.
“The climate archive is destroyed,” scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute wrote in a statement. “It is as if someone had broken into a library and not only messed up all the shelves and books, but also stole a lot of books and mixed up the individual words in the remaining ones, making it impossible to reconstruct the original texts.”
3. Sustainable foods could have a $10 trillion upside
Global food systems are “destroying more value than they create” and in dire need of an overhaul, according to a new assessment from the Food System Economics Commission (FSEC). By rethinking the way we approach food, the authors say, we could create up to $10 trillion in health and economic benefits around the world.
As Justine Calma writes in The Verge, that would mean both a tweak to our diets — the report doesn’t call for a worldwide shift to vegetarianism, but does advocate for a reduction in meat consumption — and a proper accounting in food prices of all the costs of production that we currently sweep under the rug. That latter bit could be an especially tough pill to swallow, and the study authors caution there would have to be institutional support for lower-income sections of society for fear of protests like the petrol price protests that gripped France in 2018, or the farmer protests ongoing in Europe.
Still, the report states, the benefits would far outweigh the costs, with undernutrition potentially eradicated by 2050, 174 million premature deaths from diet-related chronic disease prevented, and the environmental impacts bringing countries closer to their Paris Agreement goals.
4. Avian flu comes for birds of all feathers
Avian flu is devastating California’s “egg basket,” sweeping through Sonoma and Merced counties a year after a similar outbreak in the Midwest caused egg prices around the country to soar, according to the Associated Press. Over the past two months, commercial farms have had to slaughter nearly a million birds to contain the outbreak. The loss of those birds caused a temporary spike in the price of eggs in the Bay Area before more were brought in from outside the region; it remains to be seen if this outbreak will become big enough to affect prices in other parts of the country as well.
Further afield, at least two penguins in the Antarctic have died from bird flu, writes Phoebe Weston in The Guardian. One gentoo penguin is confirmed to have died from the virus, and scientists suspect it also took out one king penguin — if confirmed, that would be the first of its species to be killed by the deadly H5N1 variant. Last year, scientists warned about “one of the largest ecological disasters of modern times” if the virus reached Antarctic penguin populations; the birds are currently clustered for breeding season, which means it could soon turn into a superspreader event.
5. GoFundMe for climate disasters is helping the wealthy most
A new report analyzing post-disaster crowdfunding campaigns has found that cash raised through sites like GoFundMe disproportionately benefits the wealthy. The main reason, Christopher Flavelle writes in The New York Times, appears to be social networks: Wealthy people are more well-connected, particularly to other wealthy people, and so inevitably get more money. It’s a showcase of why we need to prioritize governmental support for disaster victims; as one of the study authors told Flavelle, “we cannot count on this form of private charity to fill funding gaps.”
Scientists have, for the first time ever, captured footage of a newborn Great White Shark. The finding means researchers could, finally, figure out where the sharks birth their young — and in turn lead to greater environmental protections in previously unprotected patches of ocean.