WHENEVER A PLASTIC bag or bottle degrades, it breaks into ever smaller pieces that work their way into nooks in the environment. When you wash synthetic fabrics, tiny plastic fibers break loose and flow out to sea. When you drive, plastic bits fly off your tires and brakes. That’s why literally everywhere scientists look, they’re finding microplastics—specks of synthetic material that measure less than 5 millimeters long. They’re on the most remote mountaintops and in the deepest oceans. They’re blowing vast distances in the wind to sully once pristine regions like the Arctic. In 11 protected areas in the western US, the equivalent of 120 million ground-up plastic bottles are falling out of the sky each year. And now, microplastics are coming out of babies. In a pilot study published today, scientists describe sifting through infants’ dirty diapers and finding an average of 36,000 nanograms of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) per gram of feces, 10 times the amount they found in adult feces. They even found it in newborns' first feces. PET is an extremely common polymer that’s known as polyester when it’s used in clothing, and it is also used to make plastic bottles. The finding comes a year after another team of researchers calculated that preparing hot formula in plastic bottles severely erodes the material, which could dose babies with several million microplastic particles a day, and perhaps nearly a billion a year. - Wired
CNN found out why. Lilly Geisler goes to a lot of trouble to recycle. So she left CNN a voicemail asking: How much of my recycling actually gets recycled? John Sutter travels to Muncie, Indiana, to find out. See more from our "Let's Talk About the Climate Apocalypse" series. (A lot of your plastic isn't being recycled.) - CNN
About half of the biggest sources of the potent greenhouse gas methane in the Permian Basin oilfield are likely to be malfunctioning oilfield equipment, according to a month-long airborne study by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the University of Arizona, and Arizona State University. - NASA
President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan proposes to spend $16 billion plugging old oil and gas wells and cleaning up abandoned mines. But there’s no authoritative measure of how many of these sites exist across the nation. In a recent study, my colleagues and I sought to account for every oil and gas well site in the lower 48 states that was eligible for restoration—meaning that the well no longer was producing oil or gas, and there were no other active wells using that site. We found more than 430,000 old well sites, with associated infrastructure such as access roads, storage areas, and fluid tanks. They covered more than 2 million acres—an area larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. - Fast Company
What if someone told you that we have everything we need to decarbonize most of the economy? We would just need to start electrifying every new car, furnace, water heater, drier, and cookstove, and industrial process starting right now. And yeah, and put solar on every roof that can handle it. If we are on a wartime footing for decarbonizing the economy, our guest, Saul, could be considered a 5-star general of the “electrify everything” movement. He founded or co-founded around a dozen companies and organizations. And he has a PhD from MIT in materials science and information theory. Saul is now trying to marshal the world around his “a defensible and believable” pathway for decarbonizing America with clean electricity. - Energy Gang
The world needs a “radical” shift towards renewables to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 and secure the 1.5C goal, says the International Energy Agency (IEA). This would see renewable energy overtake coal by 2026, passing oil and gas before 2030. By 2050, it should go on to meet two-thirds of global energy supply and nearly 90% of electricity generation. In a 227-page report, titled “Net-zero by 2050: A roadmap for the global energy sector,” the IEA calls for “a total transformation of the energy systems that underpin our economies”. It says this is a “critical year at the start of a critical decade for these efforts”, which must start turning the world’s energy system from one dominated by fossil fuels into a future “powered predominantly by renewable energy like solar and wind”. - Carbon Brief
Pollution from fossil fuels causes one in five premature deaths globally, suggesting the health impacts of burning coal, oil and natural gas may be far higher than previously thought, Parts of China, India, Europe and the northeastern United States are among the hardest-hit areas, suffering a disproportionately high share of 8.7 million annual deaths attributed to fossil fuels, the study published in the journal Environmental Research found. The new research gives the most detailed assessment of premature deaths due to fossil-fuel air pollution to date. Another study in 2017 had put the annual number of deaths from all outdoor airborne particulate matter — including dust and smoke from agricultural burns and wildfires — at 4.2 million. - Reuters
Editor's Note - I am including links to significant podcasts related to geology, energy, and the environment. The Energy Transition Show by Chris Nelder, is an excellent source of information from experts related to..well... energy transition.
Methane (natural gas) is a greenhouse gas with a much more powerful warming effect than carbon dioxide, so finding and eliminating gas leaks is an important part of addressing the climate challenge. But until now, we’ve had poor information about gas leakage within cities, as well as how to correctly attribute the leakage all along the chain from well to consumer.
We discuss a study, The Gas Index, with two of its authors. It is the first study that has provided granular estimates for life cycle methane leakage for a large number of cities, and the first to draw together recent assessments of leakage within cities, including leakage that occurs within buildings. It shows that cities’ gas systems are leaking about 72% more than had been previously estimated by the EPA. We also consider the role of natural gas in the energy transition, and some of the tradeoffs we will have to consider as we deal with the problem of methane leakage. - Energy Transition Show with Chris Nelder
Many Americans fill up a glass of water from their faucet without worrying whether it might be dangerous. But the crisis of lead-tainted water in Flint, Mich., showed that safe, potable tap water is not a given in this country. Now a study from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit advocacy organization, reveals a widespread problem: the drinking water of a majority of Americans likely contains “forever chemicals.” These compounds may take hundreds, or even thousands, of years to break down in the environment. They can also persist in the human body, potentially causing health problems. A handful of states have set about trying to address these contaminants, which are scientifically known as perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). But no federal limits have been set on the concentration of the chemicals in water, as they have for other pollutants such as benzene, uranium and arsenic. With a new presidential administration coming into office this week, experts say the federal government finally needs to remedy that oversight. “The PFAS pollution crisis is a public health emergency,” wrote Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs, in a recent public statement. - Scientific American
I started a CGCC Facebook page in May of '20 to share geo-environmental news but had concerns about FB's issues with accuracy. This page, GeoNews, is a response and partial solution, sharing a few items from reliable sources each week.