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First Time CO2 is Injected Below North Sea to Combat Climate Change

A recent milestone achievement in permanent offshore carbon dioxide storage demonstrates how to prevent the gas from warming the atmosphere.
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A factory spews out CO2 smoke from its chimneys
A solution to global warming: Carbon capture and storage

On March 8th, 2023, European industrial giants INEOS and Wintershall Dea and 20 partners (including startups and the Danish government) made history with the first-ever injection of carbon dioxide (CO2) under the North Sea for permanent storage. This forms part of a demonstration phase of a carbon capture and storage (CCS) operation called Project Greensand.

The Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark participated in person in the associated ceremony and the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen joined the event via video. “This is a big moment for Europe’s green transition, and for our clean tech industry. The first-ever full value chain, for carbon capture and storage in Europe,” she said.

The project, which secured the first full-scale CO2 storage permit in the Danish North Sea from the Danish Ministry, ultimately aims to be capturing and permanently storing up to 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year by 2030. This represents 40 per cent of Denmark’s total emission reduction target. The CO2, which is currently captured from a Belgian industrial plant, is being transported by ship in liquid form and stored 1,800 meters below the seabed in the disused Nini oil field.

Executives warn that the success of Project Greensand will require the cooperation of industry, government, and the public to achieve meaningful progress towards a zero-carbon future.

Some environmentalists dispute carbon capture and storage as a viable solution

The achievement of this groundbreaking milestone is said to indicate that CCS can work, offering a viable way to significantly reduce carbon emissions and help mitigate the effects of climate change.

However, the initiative has faced opposition from some environmental sectors. Helene Hage, Head of the Climate and Environmental Policy at Greenpeace Denmark, expressed the view that Project Greensand “doesn’t fix the problem and prolongs the structures that are harmful”. While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that carbon capture and storage costs more than switching to renewable energy and electric vehicles.

It is hoped that this achievement will nevertheless pave the way for further investment in and development of climate-change related projects, leading to a more sustainable future for all.

Are plastic straws really such a threat to our and our planet’s safety?

Increasing numbers of food outlets are switching to biodegradable paper straws to show they care about growing public concerns about the ecological impact of their businesses.
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Plastic pollution's secret costs: why convenience comes at a heavy price

Research has shown that plastic straws are more convenient than biodegradable paper straws which, over time, become soggy when in contact with liquid, which can affect the overall enjoyment of a beverage. Plastic straws maintain their structural strength if left in a drink. Nonetheless, increasing numbers of food outlets are opting for an ecological alternative to the single-use plastic straw in response to consumer demand.

Businesses are adapting to an environmentally-friendly customer base demanding they take responsibility for their impact on the health of humans and the planet, and plastic straws have become a symbol of the ethical fight for prioritizing people and care for the planet over convenience.

A healthy and holistic lifestyle that is conscious of the impact we have on other living beings has become a worldwide trend, particularly with younger generations. Businesses have recognized this and are responding to it. As part of the wider dialogue it is important to ask both whether paper straws are worth the inconvenience and whether society is going far enough with addressing the underlying problems to avoid this being virtue signalling.

Plastic pollution is hugely problematic. It does not biodegrade, which means it doesn’t break down into harmless parts that can take on other functions in the environment like natural materials do. This means that especially single-use plastics, used thoughtlessly like a straw and then discarded, remain almost indefinitely as an environmental problem. A lot of plastic ends up in the oceans, 8 million tons each year.

It is estimated that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish

But the problem does not end there: when the plastic does break down into tiny parts called microplastics it gets into the food chain and water system and ends up in our own bodies, where it has a disruptive and harmful effect.

With 500 million plastic straws estimated to be used by Americans alone every day, switching to more expensive paper straws, which biodegrade in two months, is a good way for business owners to signify to their consumers that they care about solving the problem of pollution. The same is true for governments banning plastic straws. There is a risk however that this single very tangible issue could lead to complacency, with business people, political leaders and even consumers feeling they have ‘done their part’ and that no more effort is needed to fix our industrial society. A deeper solution would be finding and even subsidizing cost-effective ways to make fully biodegradable polymers or plastics. With biodegradable plastic straws, we could sip conveniently and with a clean conscience.

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Public Rallies to Protect Threatened Oceans from Deep Sea Mining Impact

The global demand for essential minerals is pitting a new deep sea mining industry against environmentalists who are committed to protecting the world's ocean-life.
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Environmental and indigenous activists are challenging unsustainable underwater mining

Environmental activist group Greenpeace is taking a stand against deep sea mining, a new extractive industry that they warn has the potential to cause irreparable damage to marine ecosystems. Some of the group’s members recently staged peaceful protests against a deep sea mining research ship in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

Deep sea mining is a process of retrieving mineral deposits from the ocean floor. With the depletion of terrestrial deposits and rising demand for essential minerals, interest in this mining process is growing. The minerals extracted from the seabed include copper, cobalt, nickel, and manganese, amongst others. Advocates of deep sea mining say it has the potential to meet global demand for many minerals and could help boost the economies of developing nations.

More than 750 marine science and policy experts from 44 countries have signed an open letter calling for a pause to deep sea mining until sufficient research has been done to understand its effects. This growing wave of opposition is driven by concerns over the significant risks posed to marine life and the potential exacerbation of climate change.

Māori Indigenous activists from New Zealand have also voiced their concerns and participated in protests, stating that they do not give their consent to the extractive industry.

Despite adopting a Global Ocean Treaty on March 4th, 2023, governments worldwide have left open legal loopholes that could lead to deep sea mining starting as soon as this year.

Greenpeace is advocating for a permanent ban on deep sea mining to prevent any future harm to the oceans. The group believes that we know less about the deep seabed than we do about the Earth’s surface, and that the potential consequences of this new industry are too great to ignore.

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Alarming Global Trend: Losing Our Vital Pollinators and Other Beneficial Insects?

Insects who contribute essential ecological functions to humans and the planet are under threat globally from pesticide use and climate change.
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Indiscriminate pesticide spraying is harming beneficial insects worldwide

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 80% of the world’s top 115 food crops rely on insect pollination. This means that a substantial portion of the food that people consume, including fruits, vegetables, and nuts, depend on pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and other insects for production. While the contribution of insect pollinators to global agriculture is significant, their value for crop pollination has often been overlooked. This reliance on  insect vectors of pollen for our food supply showcases the importance of protecting pollinator populations and supporting sustainable agriculture practices.

Pesticides are widely used in agriculture to kill harmful insects that damage crops. However, the use of these chemicals has a catastrophic side effect in that they also negatively impact beneficial insects such as pollinators. For example, surfactants, used in pesticides, disrupt learning behavior in bee populations. Unintended consequences such as these threaten the crops that are reliant on insect pollination. Without abundant, healthy pollinators, plants will struggle to produce seeds and fruits, which will lead to a decline in agricultural productivity.

Insects are a type of cold-blooded creature, which means they are unable to regulate their body temperature on their own. Their metabolism, movement, and overall activity are greatly influenced by the temperature of their surroundings. This makes them particularly vulnerable to temperature changes caused by climate change. Additionally, research has shown that host plants of various insect species can also be affected by temperature changes.

The warming climate poses a significant threat to insect populations and their ecosystems

To stop climate change, humanity must embrace both adaptation and mitigation measures. Adaptation measures aim to reduce the negative impacts of climate change on the food system and ecosystems, while mitigation measures aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By adopting organic farming practices that sequester carbon into increasingly fertile soils (in the form of organic matter), society can contribute to both adaptation and mitigation efforts related to climate change. Humanity shifting to organic farming and prohibiting the use of synthetic pesticides will also help save beneficial insect populations that are vital to crop pollination. This move could minimize two major adverse effects (climate change and pesticide-use) threatening beneficial insect life on the planet.

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