(TMU) — As global headlines continue to be inundated by a glut of tragic and maddening stories about the coronavirus pandemic’s grim march across the globe, some very good news has seemingly slipped through the cracks: Earth’s ozone layer is healing, and scientists are making note of a major recovery thanks to international cooperation.
In fact, the progress made in reducing ozone-depleting chemicals and emissions may be proof that humans can not only disrupt and harm the environment but can also heal the damage caused by human economic activities if the political will exists, scientists say.
The ozone layer is the layer in the Earth’s stratosphere that is responsible for absorbing the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the Sun, effectively filtering out radiation that causes skin cancer among humans, destroys crops, and disrupts marine ecosystems among other devastating effects on the planet.
The ozone layer faced decades of degradation thanks to the use of harmful chemical compounds such as chlorofluorocarbons, halons, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and other organic and synthetic (human-made) ozone-depleting compounds that are commonly used in refrigerators, aerosols, and a range of industrial processes.
The damage to the ozone layer was such that a “hole” above the south pole opened up, causing the southern jet stream—the powerful wind that determines the southern hemisphere’s weather patterns and ocean currents, especially in the summer—to begin shifting southwards toward the Antarctic, affecting storms and rainfall over South America, East Africa, and Australia.
The startling decline of the ozone layer became such a sharp matter of concern that in 1987, governments agreed to the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty meant to phase out the production and use of ozone-depleting chemicals.
A new study published in the journal Nature claims that the global agreement helped address and roll back the damage to the ozone in a “profound” manner.
Study lead author Antara Banerjee, a CIRES Visiting Fellow at the University of Colorado Boulder who works in the Chemical Sciences Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said:
“This study adds to growing evidence showing the profound effectiveness of the Montreal Protocol. Not only has the treaty spurred healing of the ozone layer, it’s also driving recent changes in Southern Hemisphere air circulation patterns.
…The challenge in this study was proving our hypothesis that ozone recovery is in fact driving these atmospheric circulation changes and it isn’t just a coincidence.”
While the benefits to the ozone layer have been great, the scientists warn that complacency about other human-caused emissions, as well as human-caused climate change, could undo any positive gains.
Indeed, southern hemispheric weather patterns and the global climate in general still face further human-caused distortion due to continued industrial emissions, including carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane, Banerjee noted. She told the Guardian:
“There is a tug of war between ozone recovery and increasing CO2. That’s why we are seeing a pause. In the near future, the ozone factor could dominate and the jet stream will move back towards equator. But once the recovery is complete, CO2 could push it southwards again.”
Alexey Karpechko, who helped review the study and works for Finnish Meteorological Institute, remarked:
“This is good news, definitely. It shows our actions can stop climate change.
We can see coordinated action works. It is a strong message to us as emitters of greenhouse gases. This shows we can manipulate the climate both ways: in a wrong way and by reversing the damage we have done.”
As the pollution drastically falls over developed countries in Europe and industrial powerhouses like China due to the coronavirus lockdowns, one wonders if world leaders can or will take notice of the fact that the solution to environmental degradation and climate-disrupting pollution remains in their hands.
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.
Heat Wave Kills Over 1 BILLION Sea Creatures on Canada West Coast, Experts Say
Researchers in Canada are reporting that over 1 billion marine animals on Canada’s Pacific coast are likely to have died in last week’s record-shattering heat wave, showing how ecosystems not accustomed to such high temperatures are especially vulnerable to changing conditions.
The deadly “heat dome” that settled over British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest for five days is believed to have killed at least 500 people in Canada, and pushed temperatures to extreme temperatures of 104F (40C), sparking wildfires that are burning across the Canadian province.
Multiple experts are now saying that the heat wave also took a horrifying toll on marine life, leaving “postapocalyptic” scenes in its wake.
Marine biologist Christopher Harley of the University of British Columbia knew, when he saw the harrowing weather forecasts, that when the tide dropped the sweltering conditions would absolutely fry the mussels, barnacles and sea stars that were exposed.
When the heatwave actually struck, he was devastated by the stench of decay and the vast death toll sustained by the local ecosystem.
“The shore doesn’t usually crunch when you walk on it,” he told The Guardian. “But there were so many empty mussel shells lying everywhere that you just couldn’t avoid stepping on dead animals while walking around.”
Mussels and barnacles can typical deal with harsh temperatures as high as 113F for a few hours – but any more than that is simply not survivable.
Harley told the New York Times that the loss of mussels likely reaches into the hundreds of millions.
However, when factoring in the death of other marine animals that once lived on the shore and resided on the mussel beds – such as hermit crabs and their crustacean relatives, worms, sea cucumbers and other creatures – the number could quite easily exceed one billion.
“It just feels like one of those postapocalyptic movies,” Harley said.
Harley’s colleagues have also reported on dead sea anemones, rock fish and oysters in the region.
In neighboring Alberta, a massive number of fish also washed up on the shores, likely due to the heat wave.
Fortunately, mussels are able to regenerate over about two years. Starfish and clams, however, live for decades and reproduce much more slowly.
The domino effect of such a vast loss of marine life could be felt on other animals in the ecosystem such as sea ducks, a migratory bird that feeds on mussels in the winter before migrating to the Arctic.
The horrific loss shows that the pace of warming climate conditions is likely outstripping the ability of creatures simply to survive – a prospect that makes Harley feel saddened, but he is still trying to find hope.
“A lot of species are not going to be able to keep up with the pace of change,” he said. “Ecosystems are going to change in ways that are really difficult to predict. We don’t know where the tipping points are.”
“Eye of Fire” Blaze In Gulf of Mexico Literally Shows the Ocean Caught on Fire
A massive ring of fire exploded onto the surface of the Gulf of Mexico on Friday, creating apocalyptic imagery that enveloped social media with unbelievable imagery of the “eye of fire.”
The harrowing “fire in the sea” came following a gas leak in an underwater pipeline near a drilling platform that was owned by Mexican state-owned oil company PEMEX.
The blaze, which resembled a lava flow from a volcano took some five hours to fully contain, and was extinguished by 10:45 a.m., reports USA Today.
In footage from the scene, a hellish orange glow can be seen beneath the churning ocean as boats sprayed streams of water in hopes to put out the blaze.
One video, which seems to depict footage out of a disaster movie, has accumulated over 21 million views at the time of this writing.
User Dave Anthony said: “Never in your life forget the time humans caught the ocean on fire and then tried to put it out by spraying water on it.”
While journalist Christopher Bouzy tweeted: “I am not sure how spraying water on a fire that is literally in the ocean is going to help put it out. I need someone to make it make sense for me.”
Company workers resorted to using nitrogen to subdue the blaze.
Fortunately, there were no injuries resulting from the disaster – although it is too early to gauge the impact on the local environment.