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Sparks

Can Plankton Ferry Carbon to the Bottom of the Ocean?

Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council begins three teeny experiments.

Copepods.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Scientists at England’s University of Exeter believe that masses of drifting crustaceans “may help to store enormous amounts of carbon in the ocean,” at once sucking CO2 from the atmosphere and slowing climate change, the BBC reports. Britain’s Natural Environment Research Council has funded three projects to investigate the idea that the small, H.R. Giger-looking creatures, known as copepods or zooplankton, can absorb significant amounts of carbon.

“Don’t be fooled by their size,” said University of Exeter professor Daniel Mayor. “These tiny but mighty life forms play a crucial role in regulating Earth’s climate by moving carbon out of the atmosphere and shunting it down into the deep ocean where it says for hundreds of years or more.” Dr Adrian Martin, of England’s National Oceanography Center, added, “The need to understand how the ocean stores carbon has never been stronger and we know that marine life plays an important role.”

The forthcoming research recalls the work of Running Tide, a Maine start-up that hopes to use kelp to similar ends. As Heatmap’s Robinson Meyer wrote in The Atlantic last year, kelp “absorbs a huge amount of carbon through photosynthesis. [It] could then be harvested, disposed of, or allowed to naturally drift to the bottom of the ocean.” Along with an array of other possible techniques, it seems that the ocean — and the living things within it — could play a key role in the fight against climate change.

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Jacob Lambert profile image

Jacob Lambert

Jacob is Heatmap's founding multimedia editor. Before joining Heatmap, he was The Week's digital art director and an associate editor at MAD magazine.

Beryl making landfall in Texas.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Hurricane Beryl, ahem, barreled into America’s Gulf Coast as a Category 1 storm, and whenever something like that happens the entire global energy industry holds its breath. The Gulf of Mexico is not just a frequent target and breeding ground for massive storms, it is also one of America’s — and the world’s — most important energy hubs. Texas and Louisiana contains giant oil and gas fields, and the region is home to about half of the United States’ refining capacity.

At least so far, the oil and refining industry appears to have largely dodged Beryl’s worst effects. The storm made landfall in Matagorda, a coastal town between Galveston and Corpus Christi, both of which are major centers for the refinery industry. Only one refinery, the Phillips 66 facility in Sweeny, Texas, was in the storm’s cone, according to TACenergy, a petroleum products distributor. Phillips 66 did not respond to a request to comment, but Reuters reported that the Sweeny facility as well as its refinery in Lake Charles, Louisiana were powered and operating. Crude oil prices have seen next to no obvious volatility, rising to $83.88 a barrel on July 3 and since settling around $82.84.

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Sparks

Climate Scored Some Quasi-Victories in Europe

What parliamentary elections in France and the U.K. mean for everyone else.

A voter and wind turbines.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

While America has been distracted by its suddenly-very-real upcoming election, two other important political stories have been unfolding across the pond. The results of last week’s parliamentary votes in France and the United Kingdom have the power to sway global climate policy — and they might even contain lessons for the U.S. about the rise (or fall) of the far-right.

What happened in France?

In June, French President Emmanuel Macron called snap elections, and the far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen was widely expected to achieve a majority in the country’s 577-seat National Assembly. Instead, the New Popular Front, a hastily-formed alliance between the hard left, Greens, and Socialists, came out on top in a runoff, followed by the centrist Ensemble (which includes Macron’s Renaissance party) and the National Rally in a distant third. Because no party won the 289 seats needed to gain control of the chamber, the left and center now have to form a coalition government, which means ideological compromise — something that’s distinctly un-French. “We're not the Germans, we're not the Spanish, we're not the Italians — we don't do coalitions,” one French political commentator toldSky News.

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President Biden.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

In an altogether distressing debate in which climate was far from a main focus, the two candidates did have one notable exchange regarding the Paris Agreement. The 2015 treaty united most countries around the world in setting a goal to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, with 1.5 degrees as the ultimate target.

After Trump initially dodged a question about whether he would take action to slow the climate crisis, he then briefly noted “I want absolutely immaculate clean water and I want absolutely clean air. And we had it. We had H2O.”

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