Earth Day, A Call to Action for Our Planet

Blue Marble 2000. Credit: NASA, Image created by Reto Stockli with the help of Alan Nelson, under the leadership of Fritz Hasler. CC 2.0.

Earth Day, observed on April 22, is a global movement focused on protecting our planet. This year, as the collective acknowledgment of environmental degradation’s profound impact, we are also presented with an opportunity to champion a cause that could significantly alter the course of our environmental future—the Global Plastics Treaty.

Origins & Significance of Earth Day

Earth Day first emerged in 1970, initiated by Senator Gaylord Nelson after witnessing the catastrophic effects of an oil spill in Santa Barbara. The first Earth Day mobilized 20 million Americans and led to the creation of significant environmental policies and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Today, Earth Day engages millions of people worldwide in activities aimed at preserving our planet, underscoring the power of collective action in tackling global challenges.

Why Earth Day Matters

Earth Day is crucial for several reasons:

  • Environmental Education: It raises awareness about pressing environmental issues and promotes sustainable practices.
  • Global Solidarity: Earth Day unites people across the globe, emphasizing that environmental stewardship is a shared responsibility.
  • Action and Advocacy: The day inspires individuals and organizations to engage in activities that protect the environment, from local clean-ups to global initiatives.

Earth Day 2024: End Plastic Pollution

The theme for Earth Day 2024 is the urgent need to combat plastic pollution. Plastics, particularly single-use plastics, are a severe threat to the environment, filling our oceans, killing wildlife, and disrupting ecosystems. The focus is on reducing plastic production by 60% by 2040 and eliminating single-use plastics by 2030.

The Urgent Call for the Global Plastics Treaty

In conjunction with Earth Day’s efforts, there is a significant push for the Global Plastics Treaty, a comprehensive international agreement aimed at tackling plastic pollution globally. With over 14,905 signatures, this petition calls on the United Nations and government organizations to adopt stringent measures against plastic pollution, including:

  • Reducing fossil fuel-based plastic production by 60% by 2040.
  • Holding producers accountable for environmental and health-related damages.
  • Banning plastic waste exports and incineration.
  • Promoting innovation in alternatives to plastic.

If we do not change our current habits, we will see a rise in hormonal diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular damage linked to the production and consumption of plastics. However, this bleak future is not inevitable; we have the ability to redirect our path and avoid this looming crisis.

How You Can Help

This Earth Day, let your actions speak louder than words:

  • Sign the Global Plastics Treaty Petition: Join the global movement to push for a binding international agreement that addresses plastic pollution head-on.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Make personal changes to minimize your plastic usage.
  • Participate in Community Actions: Engage in local Earth Day events that focus on cleaning up and reducing plastics and help spread the word.

Final Thoughts

Celebrating Earth Day means committing to protect our planet continuously. By supporting initiatives like the Global Plastics Treaty, we can take significant steps towards a sustainable future free from plastic pollution. This Earth Day, let’s not just celebrate our planet; let’s take concrete steps to save it. Together, we can make a difference, but only if we act now. Join the movement, sign the treaty, and be part of the solution. We have the power to change our environmental destiny and ensure a healthier planet for future generations.

The Cleanest Air: Understanding the Pristine Air of the Southern Ocean

Fluffy clouds and blue sky background. Credit: Photo by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash.

New Study Unveils Link Between Cloud Type, Precipitation and Air Quality Over Southern Ocean

The atmosphere over the Southern Ocean (SO) is noted for being exceptionally clean, largely untouched by anthropogenic or terrestrial emissions. This quality makes the SO an ideal natural laboratory for studying pre-industrial climate conditions and the interactions between aerosols, clouds, and precipitation.

A recent study published in Nature delves into the intricacies of aerosol removal by precipitation. Researchers from Monash University, the Australian Research Council, and other institutions analyzed several years of observational data from the Kennaook/Cape Grim Observatory in Tasmania. They focused on two distinct cloud patterns: open puffy mesoscale cellular convection (MCC) and closed flat MCC. Here are the key takeaways from the study:

Key Findings

  • Cloud Type and Rainfall: The study found that open, puffy clouds produced heavier and more frequent rainfall (1.72 mm per day, occurring around 17% of the time) compared to closed, flat clouds (0.29 mm per day, occurring only 4.5% of the time).

  • Connection to Air Quality: Surprisingly, the researchers observed lower levels of tiny particles (called cloud condensation nuclei or CCN) in the air during periods when open, puffy clouds dominated (69 particles per cubic centimeter) compared to when closed, flat clouds dominated (89 particles per cubic centimeter). This suggests that the heavier rainfall from open clouds may be “cleaning out” the atmosphere through a process called wet deposition.

  • Seasonal Variations: The inverse relationship between rainfall and CCN levels held true across different seasons, with the most pristine air observed during the winter months when open clouds dominated. The study also noted that open clouds were most frequent during the winter. These cycles suggest a robust interplay between the oceanic emissions and the atmospheric conditions over the year.

  • Weather Influences: The study highlighted the crucial role played by weather factors, such as atmospheric stability and surface air pressure patterns, in influencing the cloud shape, rainfall rates, and ultimately, the observed CCN levels.

  • Daily Cycle: Interestingly, while rainfall peaked in the early morning hours, the CCN cycle was out of phase, suggesting that weather factors, rather than CCN levels, were the primary drivers of the daily rainfall cycle.

These findings underscore the complex interplay between clouds, precipitation, and aerosols in the remote Southern Ocean region. The study suggests that the heavier precipitation from open cellular cloud patterns may be removing or washing out more particles from the atmosphere.

Implications for Climate Models

The detailed observation of wet deposition mechanisms and their interaction with CCN offers valuable insights into cloud formation and precipitation processes. These insights help refine climate models, particularly in predicting the radiative balance and hydrological responses of the earth’s system under varying climatic conditions.

Final Thoughts

Understanding how aerosols, clouds, and precipitation interact over the Southern Ocean is important because it helps improve climate models, making them better at predicting weather and climate changes. This is important for humanity to enhance our ability to prepare for and adapt to future environmental changes and extreme weather events, which can have significant impacts on agriculture, water resources, and overall human well-being.

Source: Alinejadtabrizi, T., Lang, F., Huang, Y., Ackermann, L., Keywood, M., Ayers, G., Krummel, P., Humphries, R., Williams, A. G., Siems, S. T., & Manton, M. (2024). Wet deposition in shallow convection over the Southern Ocean. npj Climate and Atmospheric Science.

Exposing the Climate Giants: The Impact of Carbon Majors on Global Emissions

Pollution emitter. Photo by Marcin Jozwiak on Unsplash

Carbon Majors: 57 fossil fuel and cement producers linked to 80% of global fossil CO2 emissions since the Paris Agreement

The Carbon Majors Database: Launch Report, a new comprehensive analysis conducted by InfluenceMap sheds light on the substantial impact that a small group of carbon-producing entities has on global CO2 emissions. This enlightening study traces back to 1854, identifying 117 producers responsible for a staggering 88% of global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels and cement between 2016 and 2022. This revelation comes post-Paris Agreement, underscoring the paradox of increased fossil fuel production amidst global pledges for emission reduction.

The Carbon Majors Database

The Carbon Majors Database, initially developed by Richard Heede of the Climate Accountability Institute and now hosted by InfluenceMap, offers an astonishing look into the historical emissions of the world’s largest oil, gas, coal, and cement producers. By categorizing these entities into investor-owned, state-owned, and nation-states, the database highlights the disproportionate role these entities play in driving global CO2 emissions.

Top 10 entities global fossil CO2 emitters historically (1854–2022) and since Paris Agreement (2016–2022). Source: The Carbon Majors Database Launch Report, April 2024 by InfluenceMap.

The database reveals that 57 corporate and state entities linked to fossil fuel and cement production are responsible for 80% of the global emissions from 2016 through 2022. This period, notably after the Paris Agreement, has seen most fossil fuel companies ramp up their production, indicating a glaring misalignment with global climate goals.

The analysis underscores a troubling trend: the majority of fossil fuel companies have increased their production post-Paris Agreement, with a notable rise in emissions from Asian and Middle Eastern producers. This contradicts the global consensus on reducing fossil fuel dependence to mitigate climate change impacts.

Accountability and Climate Change

The report’s findings have implications in legal, regulatory, and academic contexts, offering a basis for holding fossil fuel producers accountable for their climate-related impacts. It emphasizes the need for corporate entities to align their operations with climate science and contribute to global emission reduction efforts.

A key insight from the report is the shift in coal production from investor-owned to state-owned entities, contributing to an increase in global coal consumption. This shift poses challenges to global emission reduction efforts, highlighting the need for comprehensive policies to address state-owned entities’ roles in coal production.

The report provides a granular look at emissions trends across different regions, with Asia and the Middle East experiencing significant increases in fossil fuel production and emissions. Conversely, North America and Europe show a more moderate trend, reflecting diverse global approaches to energy production and climate policy.

Final Thoughts

The Carbon Majors Report is a clarion call for immediate action against the entities most responsible for the climate crisis. There is an urgent need for global cooperation to halt the expansion of fossil fuel production and ensure a just transition to renewable energy sources. It underscores the imperative of global cooperation and corporate accountability in the pursuit of a sustainable future, emphasizing the role of data-driven analysis in informing policy and advocacy efforts.

Source: The Carbon Majors Database Launch Report, April 2024 by InfluenceMap.